Most Anticipated Things of 2013

01/02/2013

2013 brings with it untold riches

2013 brings with it untold riches

2013 is now underway, and although there’s more than enough to be apprehensive about, I want to start things off on a positive note.

Here’s a list I’ve compiled of the things that have me chomping at the bit to get 2013 underway. (or, at least the media-related things. My life is more than this. I swear!) It spans the gamut of literature, film, television, and music, and will hopefully cheer up those among you who really had your hearts set on that whole Mayan thing.

Anyway, meet the new year. Same as the old year. Only hopefully not.

10. SHIELD

I’m not all that much of a Marvel geek, or superhero geek, or even a comic book guy in general. I freaking loved The Avengers but even then, how often do film to TV spinoffs actually work out? Well, I mean, there’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yeah, there definitely is that, which brings me to what SHIELD has that nothing else on this list does: Joss Whedon returning to television. He’s rumored to be writing at the very least the pilot and running the show, and in case you all have short memories, he’s pretty darn good at doing both those things. Which means, come time for Avengers 2, there’s a good chance we might care way more about the faceless lackeys (Galaga guy, for instance) than the popular superheroes they’re supporting.

9. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Like every year before it, 2013 has a lot of very exciting movies lined up: Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, Spike Jonze’s Her, Boon Joon-ho’s Snow Piercer, Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, Chan-wook Park’s Stoker, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, Nicholas Windig Refn’s Only God Forgives, and Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color to name just a few. Odds are my 2013 year-end list will feature many of those films (and probably an unexpected few others) over Peter Jackson’s second entry in his thus-far not-quite-as-good-as-Lord-of-the-Rings Hobbit trilogy. But if you think for one second I don’t intend to get unjustifiably excited about another Tolkien adaptation with Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, New Zealand, and a dragon animated by Weta and voiced by Benedict Cumberpatch, then, well, you obviously don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m more than willing to chalk all An Unexpected Journey’s shortcomings (which aren’t quite as numerous or egregious as some are making them out to be) up to stiffness (it’s been nine years since Return of the King, give them some time to stretch for pity’s sake!), material (everyone KNOWS The Hobbit really picks up in the second half), and a short editing schedule (which presumably explains why they didn’t have time to cut any B-roll from the first 4 hours). With more epic subject matter, a whole year to tinker, and DRAGONS!, Jackson and his merry band should be able to pick up a little closer to where they left off a decade ago: primarily with my undiscerning teenage nerd fanaticism still intact.

8. Breaking Bad Season 6

I didn’t watch any Breaking Bad until this year. I was in college. I didn’t have AMC. There are so many great things out there to watch and read! Just please stop judging me!

Anyway, in part because of the darker subject matter, I haven’t been able to shotgun this show the way I did some of my other 2012 viewings (I spent most of the year working overnight security and downed Community, Buffy, Louie, Sherlock, The West Wing, and Battlestar Galactica with relative ease), but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t won over in a big way. I have a hard time thinking of more serious-minded, consistently awe-inspiring works in any visual medium. Season 6 is even more special because it’s the conclusion, which means that fans will get to revel in Walt’s final level of moral decline (genocide?).  I’m finishing up season 5 right now and, painful as it can be, I’m more than aware this is a special moment in TV history and glad I’ll finally be able to torment myself over what happens next one week at a time with the rest of you suckers.

7. Untitled Arcade Fire Album

I don’t want this to turn into a wishlist of vague possibilities, but with tight-lipped assurances from Wynn Butler that the band has returned to the studio, I think this pick qualifies as more of a vague foregone conclusion. Also, Arcade Fire’s been pretty good about releasing their universe-altering indie epics every three years on the dot. The results have been, if not progressively better (cuz, I mean, they started with Funeral for gosh sakes) at least progressively more ambitious. Most of you will remember the record sales, Grammy wins, and sold-out Madison Square Gardens that heralded The Suburbs, and I’m just as big a fan of the soaring (and, alright, slightly preachy) organ orgy that was Neon Bible. Are you ready to feel everything that is epic about living in suburbia, again?

6. Inside Llewyn Davis

After a three-and-a-half year hiatus — during which our greatest living filmmakers reportedly considered giving up their raison d’etre permanently — the Coen brothers released four films in four successive years and solidified their status among cinema’s finest artists ever. Then after that impressive run, including three best picture nominations and a win (not to mention one film that ranks among my all time top 10 and another that would crack my top 50), they had the audacity to take another break. For two years now there has been no No Country, no A Serious Man, no True Grit, nothing. It’s as if movies haven’t even been happening for all that time. Many years from now we’ll look back and wonder how we ever made it through this barren stretch of no Coen movies, and if by that point they’re dead then we’ll probably be wondering with guns in our mouths. But thankfully 2013 does have a Coen brothers film, and what are the details surrounding it? That it’s written and directed by the Coen brothers, of course. If you need more than that to be there on opening day, you’re doing it wrong.

5. The Fall of Arthur

It’s very easy to be cynical about these “new” releases from dead artists, especially ones that tend to coincide with the release of popular films based on their work. If I’m famous and then die and then fifty years pass, do I really want someone digging through all my old notes looking for anything of meager substance they might pawn off as a major work to be consumed at twenty-five bucks a pop by the mindless rabble of fans who’d bid on my old chewed up bubble gum if it was available? Well, yes, actually, but that’s beside the point. What makes these Tolkien releases different from all the alternate take/demo cash grabs from dead musical artists? Well — I’m glad you asked — first, Christopher Tolkien, son of our beloved mythmaker, has the utmost respect and, furthermore, appreciation for his father’s legacy. He’s served as editor on all these recent Tolkien releases, and I can at least speak for Children of Hurin being stunning. Second, many of these Tolkien works would never have found an audience before the widespread popularity of the films, making this less a blatant cash grab and more a rare opportunity for otherwise pretty inaccessible work to find a wide audience. And springing off that last point, when was the last time there was a ready-made audience for a novel-length alliterative poem in antiquated English about King Arthur? Pop culture, kneel before thy master!

4. The Other Side of the Wind

This is probably the most speculative of all the possibilities listed here, but I’m confident that this long-gestating project will finally see the light of day some time in 2013. A little background for those who are totally confused right now. The Other Side of the Wind was Orson Welles’ final film, uncompleted because he died before he was able to edit it. However, he left exact instructions for its completion with Peter Bogdanovich, a venerable filmmaker who is still very much alive. But despite the survival of Welles’ chosen successor, the raw footage has remained locked away in a vault for almost forty years, buried beneath tons of legal complications (it was partially funded by the then-soon-to-be-deposed Shah of Iran). A couple years ago there were rumors that the footage might finally see the light of day. These were confirmed last month by Bogdanovich himself, who said he’d finally been allowed to access the footage and had edited several sequences together. Twenty minutes of the film were screened for a panel of critics, and there was much rejoicing. Now, with an editor and footage, it seems another of cinema’s lost masterpieces (because what Orson Welles film isn’t a masterpiece?) might finally get an audience.

3. The Terror

It’s difficult to explain why The Flaming Lips are my favorite rock band, especially to someone who isn’t familiar with their music. On one level they’re like the Quentin Tarantino of rock; finding genuine artistic inspiration in irredeemable trash, immune to current musical trends because theirs is not our earth logic. But unlike Tarantino these guys will never truly be cool. They’ve broken into the mainstream on sheer strength of craft, but anyone who follows Wayne Coyne’s Twitter knows these are definitely the guys you didn’t want to be associated with in high school. They’re speaking for the kid who was always cramming woodchips in the school’s locks at recess and mumbling something about spaceships.

But at every point their legacy has threatened to be overwhelmed by all their indulgences (which include 24-hour songs, pot-flavored gummy brains inside actual human skulls, and arthouse Christmas films featuring aliens), they’ve followed it by raising the bar and proving even more concretely they are among our greatest musicians working today. They followed Zaireeka with The Soft Bulletin. They followed At War with the Mystics with Embryonic. They’ve found ways to resonate in an over-serious indie musical scene despite doing their darndest to undermine every possibility of their being taken seriously. And for this reason, nearly every Lips album feels like a moment of truth. Even though they’ve released three near-universally recognized masterpieces among their last four albums, people are going to see the last three years of Pink Floyd cover albums, ten part Youtube songs, record store day celebrity compilations, and controversial music videos, and demand some justification for why we call these guys geniuses and Weezer sellouts. Coyne has already declared The Terror (which arrives some time this spring) the band’s best album. If that’s true, it will also be one of the greatest albums of all time (The Soft Bulletin is, after all, the Pet Sounds of the nineties) and lord knows what kinds of ludicrous atrocities that will justify.

2. The World’s End

The trouble with having lots of talent is that other people will want to use it. When Edgar Wright released Hot Fuzz in 2007 to widespread critical acclaim and minimal commercial success, there was no reason to believe its followup wouldn’t be immediately forthcoming. But then Universal booked the poor guy to write and direct a Scott Pilgrim adaptation, and even though that exquisite opus flopped, Marvel tapped him to write Ant Man and Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson got him to work on a draft of Tintin. Meanwhile Wright’s co-writer and star Simon Pegg was brought in to lighten up the big budget Star Trek and Mission Impossible franchises and Nick Frost, the Ringo of the group, presumably just did some cameo work and had a good old time. So for six years everyone stayed pretty busy, and the conclusion of the unofficial Blood and Ice Cream trilogy started to feel as likely as any other world’s end prediction in recent years. But now we have word that it’s been written, shot, and is in the process of being edited, and there’s even an official release date. The gang’s all older and has a lot less to prove, but having recently watched my way through Spaced again, there’s nothing that could possibly dull my excitement one iota.

1. Arrested Development Season 4

Historians are already chomping at the bit to define my generation. We’re overeducated, underachieving fatalists, resigned to accept the world the way it is because there’s nothing we can do to make it any better. And on any given day they would be right.

But it is not this day.

We see things like war, disease, hunger, and the thousands of years of history that tell us humanity is inherently evil and none of this is ever going away, and we give up too easily the lifelong battles our parents took for granted.

But it is not this day!

Was change even possible within the current world order? Must democracy and capitalism crumble to ensure a brighter tomorrow? We began to ask ourselves these questions as those few things that gave us joy dissolved under the weight of mass human indifference and ignorance. As our innocence dimmed, we turned to endlessly refreshing Facebook and re-posting cat videos and illegally downloading music and creating computer viruses — all in bold defiance of those western values that failed us.

The world remains a dark and bewildering place, full of unspeakable evil and unconscionable indifference among the supposedly decent. Sometimes it seems that love, truth, and happiness are all myths and that the true definition of folly is getting up in the morning expecting anything different. Sometimes the temptation toward resignation feels almost too great to resist, and the world seems like it would continue to fade with or without us futilely trying to reignite those rare flames of immaculate beauty that rise up and then are extinguished just as suddenly. And that may soon be 100% true.

But it is not this day.

Happy 2013.

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