This week's question: What piece of pop culture are you most looking forward to in 2009?
After an off year for movies in 2008, I'm looking for pop culture's cyclical nature to kick in big time in 2009, and I'm encouraged that the very first movie to open in New York is Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light, a transcendental drama about Mexican Mennonites that has languished for well over a year without getting released. (It also features one of the great opening shots of all time.) Beyond that, I'm hoping a solid percentage of past masters will bring their A-game, including Martin Scorsese's Dennis Lehane adaptation Shutter Island, Francis Ford Coppola's Tetro (starring Vincent Gallo!), Wes Anderson's stop-motion The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Spike Jonze's already-notorious Where The Wild Things Are, Terrence Malick's The Tree Of Life, Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards, Steven Soderbergh's adaptation of the superb corporate crime book The Informant, and the Coens' latest black comedy, A Serious Man. Beyond that, I'm looking forward to exciting new discoveries and the three episodes of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse that Fox will air before its inevitable heartbreaking cancellation.
For years, Dr. Dre's fabled third solo album, Detox, has been hip-hop's Chinese Democracy. Its release has been pushed back so many times that many fans naturally assumed that it would never come out, that Dr. Dre would have the master tapes buried with him alongside blunts full of chronic, pharaoh-style. Yet after years of rumors, whispers, and false starts, the project is finally gaining momentum, and a 2009 release seems probable, even likely. I'm super-duper-extra excited about the album, even though Dre's production has gotten progressively less dense, sophisticated, and satisfying over the years. Nevertheless, Dre will undoubtedly bring his perfectionist A-game to what could very well be his last solo album. I'm particularly psyched about the central presence of newcomer Bishop Lamont on Dre's album. Bishop has been making his presence felt on the mix-tape scene for years with raps that are as wickedly funny as they are insightful and emotional. He's a shit-talker who backs up his swagger with substance. Needless to say, I'm also excited about Bishop Lamont's Aftermath debut, The Reformation, though don't be surprised if Lamont gets stuck in the same development hell that's doomed albums from other prominent one-time Aftermath artists like King T, Eve, Rakim, and Raekwon.
For the life of me, I couldn't think of anything I was particularly looking forward to in '09, aside from the door hitting W in the ass on the way out, but how could I forget Middle Cyclone, the upcoming album from Neko Case? I'm a huge fan—Fox Confessor Brings The Flood was my top album of 2006—so I'm basically counting down the days until a copy arrives at the office. I've already called dibs on doing the interview. (Suck it, Noel!) And with cover art like this, how could it not be awesome?
I'm looking forward to getting back to Sundance in a few weeks and seeing if 2009's year in film gets a better kick-start than last year's. In the multiplex, I'm eager to see Pixar's Up, the Coen brothers' new black comedy A Serious Man, and Quentin Tarantino's WWII oddity Inglorious Bastards. I'm also looking forward to being able to hear new albums as they come out, instead of sticking them on a shelf to listen to in a rush at the end of the year. (And I'm anticipating new albums by Neko Case, The Decemberists, Built To Spill, Bruce Springsteen, and Wilco.) But more than anything else in '09, I'm counting the minutes until the return of Lost. After a bar-raising season four, the fifth season has a lot to live up to, but with all the characters separated by time, distance, and circumstance, there's also a lot of potentially awesome story to tell. And ever since the Lost team started driving to the goal line at the end of season three, they haven't been hesitant to tell stories flat out, rather than hinting and insinuating. So hurry up, January 21st!
I confess that I'm counting the months until Watchmen. I don't know why. I was deeply turned off by Zack Snyder's last film, 300, with its choking quantities of overacting, slo-mo, and masturbatory, in-love-with-itself over-the-topness. And yet I couldn't argue that it was fundamentally respectful of and accurate to the graphic novel, which gives me hope that Snyder's take on Watchmen will actually have something to do with Alan Moore's book. Unlike the bitching Internet hordes, I was thrilled by the Watchmen trailers, and they gave me hope that the movie will look great on the screen. I'm trying to stifle my feelings so I don't go in with hopes held too high, but I'm also crossing my fingers that the Fox lawsuit won't delay its release for God knows how long. Also on the comics tip, I'm still enjoying the Luna brothers' The Sword more than anything else in comics; it's the only thing I get in the mail at work that I don't wait until I get home to read. They just hit the halfway point, with the series' second collected trade just now hitting shelves; if their schedule doesn't change, they should wrap up in 2009, and I can't wait. Finally, I'm hugely psyched about Coraline, the overdue return to feature filmmaking for Henry Selick, who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, then lost all the credit to Tim Burton. Written by Neil Gaiman, animated by Henry Selick… it's like people are going to great efforts to make movies solely for me, then letting the rest of ya'll in on the fun.
I don't think I've been as excited for a film première as I am for Watchmen since Star Wars: Episode I. Here's hoping things work out better this time. I'm definitely surprised at how much of a nerd boner I've been popping over the trailers for J.J. Abrams' Star Trek: The College Years, considering that's a franchise I haven't been enthusiastic about since at least Generations (again, here's hoping things work out better this time), but Chris Pine's smarm and those gratuitous tit shots aside, it seems like it could at least be a fascinating disaster. As far as music goes, I've been anticipating Antony And The Johnsons' long-delayed The Crying Light for more than a year now, and I can't wait to have his latest gloriously overwrought opus so I can annoy the hell out of my wife with it. Ditto Grizzly Bear's follow-up to Yellow House, which I've been so anxious for, I've actually drunk-texted poor Ed Droste and told him to hurry up and finish the damn thing. (Thanks for being so gracious, Ed.) But most of all, I'm really looking forward to having a president who doesn't make me feel like pop culture is just so much bread and circuses. Although that's a discussion for another forum altogether.
I'm pretty damn excited for Terminator: Salvation, and I'm hoping against hope that it won't be lame. But as someone who's firmly behind McG's interpretation of Charlie's Angels, I have cause for optimism. I read somewhere that he was hoping to reinvent it the way Christopher Nolan reinvented Batman, and that can only be a good thing. I'm a little mixed on the preview, but it promises tons of explosions, too. I'm also looking forward to the film version of The Road, though its delayed release has me a little concerned. On the music front, there's nothing super-exciting in the first quarter of the year, though the new Andrew Bird record (out in January) is pretty phenomenal.
Darwyn Cooke, my favorite comic book artist working today, is adapting Donald Westlake's Richard Stark-penned Parker novels, a combination of awesomeness that may not actually be legal in some states. Also, I hear Chinese Democracy is finally coming out! That is so going to rock.
The record I'm looking most forward to in 2009 is the same record I was looking forward to for the better half of 2008: Kid Sister's Dream Date. Originally announced under the name Koko B. Ware and slotted for summer 2008, it was rerecorded and retitled for a November release. Then a January 2009 release. Then March 2009. Now, word on the street is that it's been delayed yet again for an unspecified date, even though promo copies went out last month and a few publications have already released reviews (all positive). All this reshuffling has pretty much assured that any momentum Kid Sis might have gotten from her Kanye West-assisted single "Pro Nails"—officially released way back in April, and unofficially way before then—will have faded away completely by the time her album streets. I've caught her live three times this year—at SXSW, Lollapalooza, and a stellar headlining show at Chicago's Metro last month—every time to a progressively more rapturous audience, so hopefully all this anticipation will turn out to be a good thing. Also, Kid Sis' songs definitely have a summertime-party vibe, so perhaps a mid-year release would be more appropriate. (But I want it NOW!) In the meantime, I'll just continue playing "Get Fresh," the latest tease of a single, and keeping my fingers crossed.
It just barely counts as '09 (it comes out in January), but I look forward to spending the new year digging into and sifting through the new Animal Collective album Merriweather Post Pavilion, which is their best and most expansionist album yet. And though I can't find information to confirm this, judging by a few tour dates scheduled for the spring, and also just the simple merciful logic of passing time, it seems safe to at least guess that there might be a new Basement Jaxx album for '09. The small-to-negligible scale on which Basement Jaxx weigh in the U.S. has always been a mystifying phenomenon to me (they don't even have a label here at this point!), but they continue to be one of the acts whose new releases most excite me. They've been putting out 12-inches of some of the trackier dance-music they DJ, but it's time for an album. Please!