Published on January 5th, 2014 | by Kevin Lawson
2014 Pop Culture Hotlist? Yeh Right!
The first few days of the new year on the internet are so bloody predictable. All of the websites we rely on for a steady flow of pop culture news will spend the week posting ‘best of’ lists that appeal to our cultural vanity. Kindly letting us know the TV shows, games, movies and music we should’ve liked in 2013 and going on to tell us what we’re going to like in 2014. It’s not like we can be seen not to be in-the-know can we?
Well, actually no, we couldn’t. Through our prolific use of social networks like Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook we have all put genuine pressure on ourselves to appear informed. After all, none of us want to look like a dummy in front of our friends do we? And so those us who have come to think of a Google search as the answer to all things, scour the web in search of short cuts like the BBC’s Sound Of 2014 that are selected by the journalists using three criteria, a.) Stuff they don’t hate (which is different to stuff they actually like), b.) whatever happens to have been peddled by the public relations companies in the past few months and c.) the stuff that each journalist knows will be backed by a ad budget big enough to crack the mainstream market.
At the end of this process, millions of consumers end up expecting to like the same things and when they express their opinions on Social Networks, their friends are eager to confirm their tastes as valid and everyone feels good about themselves. The trouble is that cultural products are not binary. They are not merely ‘good’ or ‘crap,’ they are not a position on a list or the score at the end of a review. Every work has some form of merit, even if it all it confirms is what you don’t like.
So with that as a preface, here is the stuff that I think I’ll end up liking in 2014, some well-known, some a little less so, just don’t think of it as gospel (there goes my own ego) and take from it what you will.
Films that are unlikely to be rubbish in 2014
A new film that reunites the Oscar winning director, Paul Thomas Anderson with Joaquin Phoenix and is based on the popular book of the same name by Thomas Pynchon which brings together such diffuse themes as the Manson Family Trial and trying to figure out if your paranoia has been caused by your situation or smoking too much pot. Although Anderson’s films are very much of the artsy variety, for anyone who considers themselves a serious film buff, they are a must-watch.
I‘m not sure what confluence of events has made it possible for the other Anderson director to have a movie coming out in 2014, given that the amazing Moonrise Kingdom was only released in 2012 and Anderson’s films normally have a three year incubation period it is a delightful surprise. Expect flawed but endearing lead characters, exceptional use of fonts, hipster clothes and the most quotable film of the year.
After the successful conclusion of his Batman Trilogy and Inception, Chris Nolan is a director who can seemingly do no wrong. So his next film, Interstellar, which is slated for release in December and fantasies mans first journey through a wormhole will probably be alright too.
Jolene: The Indie Folk Star Movie renamed to Benny & Jolene
It name have been renamed and be taking a little longer than planned to be released (it was supposed to come out in 2013) but nonetheless I think this movie has the makings of another sleeper British Film hit. With the excellent Craig Roberts (Submarine, Skins) and Fresh Meat’s Charlotte Richie in the lead roles, the movie looks to have nailed the current feel surrounding the independent music scene.
Music least likely to played on Beat’s Headphones in 2014
Right let’s get one thing straight, just because someone becomes famous on an talent show like X-Factor, or in McFall’s case The Voice, doesn’t mean they are talentless or unworthy of attention. For the diminutive singer from Northern Ireland, has not only the perfectly crafted look (somewhere between K-Pop and a hipster), but also a unique sounding voice that, with the right songs, could go onto dominate the airwaves across the world in 2014.
I went along to the Queens Social club in Sheffield in preparation for their new album, which may or may not be announced on January 7th, and was blown away by the new material. My favourite was their new set opener called Wanderlust, which you can you hear in the video.
Given that their last album, Attack On Memory, is perhaps my personal favourite (which does not mean the best) record of the last 5 years it’s fair to stay that I’m 100000% stoked at the prospect of a new record by Dylan Baldi and his new brothers in arms. If you like your rock to sound nice and lo-fi with poppy songwriting, then look no further.
Joanna Newsom’s as yet unannounced 4th album
This may or may not only exist in the dreams of hipster douchebags (I count myself amongst their number) but despite her wedding to Saturday Night Lives Andy Samberg taking up her time last year, I’d be willing to bet that we’ll be getting a new record from the Milk Eyed Mender in 2014.
Games most likely to take over your life
This has been in beta for a while now and the word is that its the best balanced card game in the ilk of ‘Magic the Gathering’ out there. That shouldn’t come as a surprise given Blizzard’s pedigree for supremely designed games, but what make this exciting is that it will be th first time that their own brand of gamecraft has been available on tablets and smartphones. It could be massive.
With the increased processing power of a new generation of consoles, procedurally generated games are (along with virtual reality via Oculus Rift) are likely to be something of a vogue in the next couple of years. One which has caught my eye is called Cube World. Drawing it’s artistic direction from the mega-popular Minecraft, the voxel (a combination of “volumetric” and “pixel” where pixel is a combination of “picture” and “element”) based game has worlds not pre-drawn by a level designer, but generated procedurally by the game using math and random numbers. The result is an endless world (nearly endless, i.e. players can’t reach the borders), so players can explore new landscapes all the time. Sounds like a sleeper hit to me.
Various Triple A games
There are a whole heap of amazing looking Triple A titles on the way out that I can’t wait to get my hands on, like Watchdogs, Dark Souls II, etc but they really don’t need my help to sell, even so here’s IGN’s handy video that shows why 2014 is going to boss for pretty much all gamers.
Things that’ll I’m likely to watch on telly (that aren’t Made In Chelsea)
With Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont at the helm, Mob City look like a fairly safe bet to fill the Breaking Bad sized space on the pop culture map. If the pilot episode is anywhere near as good as the Darabont directed first episode of the Walking Dead, we could be looking at a new watershed fro TV drama.
Imagine if the guys over at HBO turned the concept behind Capote’s In Cold Blood into a recurring TV Series and you have True Detective. The first series stars two detectives played by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey (who has somehow learned to act, seriously when did that happen?) and is about a seventeen year manhunt for a killer. Given that each series will be about new case and feature new actors. It looks most promising.