Sunday, 3 January 2010

Ten reasons why 2010 will smack it

1 Fewer lists

Now that the execrable 2009 is over, they’ll be a lot fewer lists cluttering up every vaguely cultural magazine and website or feature section therein. Editors (not the band) and their employees will be forced into generating ideas with a hint of originality.

Lists do have their place, albeit mostly for ensuring toilet paper is not forgotten on the trip down the supermarket. They are also good for stimulating debate among the terminally workshy on important topics like “which Elbow album is the best?” or “which Will Ferrell film most wants makes you want to kick him in the balls?”.

Yes, there is something fleetingly comforting about compiling a carefully prepared group of your favourite things and listing them in one place. But similarly there can’t be many serious or even frivolous pop culture consumers not totally jaded by the endless array of top tens, hundreds and even thousands that have been seen and heard everywhere from The Guardian to Fact to XFM.

Nick Hornby and his list-happy novel High Fidelity have a lot to answer for, even if the book is essential reading for anyone with an unhealthy pop music obsession.

My Top 5 lists:

1 Guest list – any that lets you into a place with free booze
2 Schindler's List
3 Listless – how everyone feels after reading so many fucking lists
4 Jess List – an Australian girl I once took to see Asian Dub Foundation. No joy, though, if you know what I mean
5 Listeria – Foods that can cause it include hot dogs, deli meats, raw milk, cheeses (particularly soft-ripened cheeses like feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, or Mexican-style “queso blanco”), raw and cooked poultry, raw meats, ice cream, raw vegetables, raw and smoked fish and the green lip mussel

2 World Cup 2010

For football fans on their way to South Africa in June, this is already the most anticipated part of the year. Even for those with weddings and babies due. Skint stay-at-homes who live and breathe the beautiful/ugly game are also tremendously excited. There’s more drama at the World Cup than you get in a series of 24. They'll be Dodgy refereeing decisions, unexpected and ostensibly dubious triumphs of teams normally considered to be second rate and moments of insanity that become iconic and as talked about as any footballing excellence on display. There are always moments of hilarity, too. Expect ridiculous and inane punditry from all the usual BBC suspects, bizarre own goals and winning celebrations even Mika would find OTT. Be sure to watch out for unnecessarily extravagant sartorial displays, silly dances and even sillier chants from drunken, semi-literate supporters of all creeds (and that’s just in London pubs. Boom boom).

Although it’s extremely unlikely this year’s tournament will end with anything as shocking as the Zinedine Zidane headbutt of 2006 , they’ll be plenty of other debate-worthy topics off the pitch. Chief among them being: is sub-Saharan Africa ready for a tournament of this scale? Although it would be a mean-spirited and possibly racist curmudgeon who wished South Africa anything but great success this summer, it’ll be interesting to see how this particular part of the world copes with an influx of spoiled millionaire footballers and the attendant media circus, in light of security and infrastructure questions. Whatever happens, June can't come soon enough.

3 Someone might kill that cunt in the Go Compare adverts.

4 DiCaprio leads movie charge

Leonardo DiCaprio turns up in two exciting releases from directors who’ve made careers out of delivering the goods in powerful, often influential fashion. The much-delayed asylum-set shocker Shutter Island looks to be Martin Scorsese’s first out and out psychological thriller since his underwhelming Caper Fear remake, though he and DiCaprio also tackled mental illness in The Aviator. Christopher Nolan directs Inception, a cerebral thriller apparently set within the mind. Imagine if The Matrix had been made with philosophy students rather than Pepsi Max drinkers in mind. But don’t expect to understand the film on first viewing. Aside from the obvious budgetary differences, Inception appears to have much more in common with contemporary brain/narrative-warping classic Memento than Nolan’s two fine Batman films.

The Expendables looks to be the year’s top unreconstructed action film. Stallone, Willis, Jet Li, Arnie. Surely it can’t fail? Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland should be, at the very least, visually astonishing, particularly as it will be screening in 3D. Regular Burton collaborators Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are on-board, as is Back To The Future weirdo Crispin Glover, while the Disney film will offer a tempting mix of live action and animation. It’s bound to be beguiling and odd but will it attain the heights achieved by Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Toy Story 3 is Pixar’s summer blockbuster. This too, will be in 3D, but will have to be amazing to have even a fraction of the emotional impact of the animation studio’s stunning last feature, Up.

Edgar Wright also returns with Scott Pilgrim Versus The World. It’s not the final part of the Cornetto Trilogy but should be pretty impressive. Ever since he shot Spaced Wright’s work has shown a knowledge of and passion for comic book culture, so fans of him and the original Scott Pilgrim stories should expect visceral action thrills and plenty of irony. If all that ain’t enough, The Rum Diary hits the silver screen. Hunter S Thompson's great lost novel is arguably one of the greatest books about what it means to be a man written in the 20th century and remains a pretty damn good take on what it is to be a journalist, too. Withnail and I's Bruce Robinson is directing and Johnny Depp is again playing Hunter S Thompson (or thereabouts)… It can’t, or at least shouldn’t, lose.

5 Loads of great acts returning with new albums

There’s plenty of ace new music kicking about (Washed Out springs immediately to mind as do many other acts that'll be mentioned here soon) but big names that have already made an impact look set to dominate in ’10. Literate New York indie poshos Vampire Weekend , Putney's melancholic ravers Hot Chip and Montreal marvels Arcade Fire are all set to release their latest albums.

Aside from solo albums from both members of Outkast and Nas, politicised Philly alt-rap crew The Roots and top Essex pair Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip have tunes ready to go. Fans of the short fat production whiz and the tall, fantastically-bearded poet/mc can but hope their second album will match stunning debut Angles. On a pop tip irrepressible antipodean pop princess Kylie is back, London’s finest R'n'B diva Estelle has new material waiting in the wings and Mercy singer Duffy is on her way back. In Unlikely Pairing News, there may even be some tunes on the way co-written by Tulse Hill’s own Adele Adkins and… Jack White. Finally, mentioned here alone because it is likely to be as uncategorisable as their two previous albums, Gorillaz will sling out their third record, Plastic Beach. With De La Soul making at least two guest appearances and Mos Def also joining the project, it could be among the most interesting releases of the year.

6 Election fever brightens recession-hit Britain

It’ll be almost inescapable in newspapers, on TV and online for months but ’10 is an election year. Policy announcements will race out of government at a frantic rate, with countless dusty initiatives forgotten while new ideas are conjured up relentlessly. For the first time in British politics, they’ll be a series of televised debates, in line with what voters have long experienced in the US. Political upheaval usually creates a fertile landscape for satirists, so big things should be expected from the better columnists, old standbys like Rory Bremner and hopefully Armando Iannucci. The Thick Of It is already the best thing on British TV, but it’ll be interesting to see how a major change of government influences the show.

Although feeble, desperate competitors with little chance of winning occasionally pull through to snatch victory from the jaws of ignominious defeat, Gordon Brown is unlikely to. He’s a dour, dull ballbag-looking man who has bumbled Britain through a recession as an unloved Prime Minister, after succeeding a massively unpopular nigh-on fundamentalist Christian warmonger at No 10. He was never going to be a success, really. It’s time for him to step aside, but I won’t be voting for the Conservatives. Regardless of how much the party has changed under Cameron, they’re still the party that represent power, money and privilege of the few over the many. That aside, even a few decades ago they were a racist, sexist, homophobic bunch of tossers and like all decent people I can’t abide that shit.

So Cameron will be the next Prime Minister. Working people will get stitched up a little bit more but not much more than normal as there’s so little between Labour and Tory in 2010. Still at least we’ll have someone to hate rather than just yawn at on TV.

7 Language keeps evolving (on and on)

Unfortunately, no end is in sight for the hideous linguistic trend of smashing two names, either forename and surname or two different people, together. Years after the terms Brangelina, Bennifer and - what was presumably the first celeb instance - J. Lo gained currency the UK reached a nadir with Jedward. It was bad enough that Irish X Factor losers John and Edward were so utterly hateful, but saying or typing “Jedward” was so utterly cretinous it instantly lowered the IQ of anyone who did it.

This may be a minor annoyance, but it is part of an overall brilliant trend, that of language evolution. Over the last decade "sick" and "ill" have finally joined bad as words that can be used as synonyms for good, while the word "standard" has been used euphemistically by Londoners for years. It can mean something which may or may not merely be up to an appropriate standard. Yet more often than not it is applied to something which is commonplace, but simultaneously excellent. For example, a friend might remark that he or she had a heavy session in the pub on a Friday night followed by a lengthy and energetic session of sex with their partner upon getting home. The reply? Standard.

In some circles “actually” became a euphemism for “fucking” in its adjectival sense (ie to mean “extremely” rather than “having sex”) two years ago. This has died down somewhat but there can be few ways more satisfying than expressing disbelief than saying, “Is he actually joking?”

Really, perhaps the latest word to get a linguistic update can mean anything between, “That seems mildly unlikely,” and, “Are you some sort of idiot or lying?”

It can’t be long before more old words wriggle away from linguistic orthodoxy and become used in fresh, interesting ways, even if "really" is getting somewhat stale.

8 We’re getting further away from 2009

Every single day that passes is a good one because we get further away from 2009. It was a stinking, festering, dog-raping, dozen months of unspeakable, unhappy bullshit that shouldn’t be wished upon anyone but your worst enemy ever again. It made 2007 look like the greatest year in existence. Whether or not you personally suffered, unemployment, flaccidity, an STD, weeping genital abscesses, heartbreak, loneliness, depression, the murder of a loved pet by an insane neighbour, the sudden inability to control your bodily fluids or an unforgiving combination of them all, chances are some of your friends or family did. Life is never an endless sunny parade of japes, but 2010 will have to usher in nothing less than the apocalypse to be worse than last year.

9 Sweet US TV still being broadcast

The Wire and The Sopranos have long finished but Family Guy is running until at least 2012, while Futurama and South Park will be knocking about until at least 2011. So they’ll always be something decent to watch for that time between getting in and getting busy.

10 East London back on the map

It’s been a lame old four years for anyone in south-east London wanting to go direct to east London but the bus replacement service finally jogs on into the sunset this summer. By June, lucky Dalston residents will be able to schlap down to Penge on one easy trip on the newly opened East London line extension. OK, so the merits of these two delightful neighbourhoods could be debated for literally minutes, but it can’t be denied that you meet some right wrong ‘uns in both. Serious jammers (and by that I mean people who regularly trot from one compass point to another across the capital) will be more excited about the further extension next year when it’ll be possible to go from south-west London (as far as Clapham Junction) to south-east without the hassle of taking the Northern Line up to London Bridge. But still, a public transport route connecting West Croydon and Hoxton in one move? Inspired.

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