As we begin the new year — and our first full year of The AP Party — I thought it might be worth taking a look at the pop culture happenings that should make 2014 fun. This early into January, it's difficult to know everything that we'll be getting in movies, TV, books and music during the year to come. But there are many projects coming that warrant our anticipation.
Before going forward, I feel the need to say that there should probably be more music on this list. But so many of the albums that are coming out in 2014 don't have a release date attached, nor much information about their content. While we can say we're excited to get new music from the likes of U2, Adele, Frank Ocean, TV on the Radio, D'Angelo (first album since 2000!), Wilco, Kanye West and so many others, we just don't know when (or maybe even if) those albums will come out this year. So they're not on this list.
It's a bit similar with TV. Networks haven't decided what their fall schedules are yet. Some of the shows we'll see haven't even been produced yet. So we can only talk about what's coming out this winter and spring.
With those qualifiers out of the way, here are 10 pieces of pop culture to anticipate in the year to come. The list surely reflects my personal taste, rather than a wide sampling of the culture at large. But hopefully it provides a good starting point to jump into 2014 with. More than 10 items could certainly be included. What would you add?
True Detective — HBO (Jan. 12)
Telling dark, complex, character-driven stories is what great television does now. It's one reason why TV increasingly attracts film actors that previously never would've considered doing work on the small screen. There aren't two actors doing better work these days than Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, which makes this eight-episode story of two detectives investigating a ritualized murder over the course of nearly 20 years even more appealing. The series will be an anthology, so if there's a second season, we'll see a new cast with a new story.
The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia — David Stuart Maclean (Jan. 14)
When I worked at a bookstore years ago, a customer asked me to help her find a book about memory. "But I can't remember the title," she said. I waited for a moment, hoping she'd realize the humor in her statement. She did. I can't remember if I found the book for her. However, I'm hoping a bookseller somewhere enjoys a similar moment with someone looking for this memoir of amnesia. Expanding on an essay for This American Life, Maclean tells his story of waking up on a train platform in India with no recollection of who he was. Upon returning to the U.S., he had to slowly piece together his life and memories again. This is sure to be a movie, right?
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (Feb. 17)
This time, it really does appear that Jay Leno will give up The Tonight Show without a fight. Four years ago, Leno seemingly passed the baton to Conan O'Brien and took his act to a nightly 10 p.m. slot, which became one of the most infamously failed experiments in television history. With NBC's support, Leno worked his way back to NBC's coveted 11:30 p.m. time slot, sending the spurned O'Brien off to TBS. The transition looks smoother now. But will Fallon's quirky act play well an hour earlier? And will Leno start a talk show on another network?
Beck — Morning Phase (Feb. 24)
It's been six years since Beck recorded a studio album. Reportedly, the music will be mellow and contemplative, much like 2002's Sea Change. Beck described the sound to Rolling Stone's David Fricke as "California music." What does that mean? In Beck's eyes, the songs are inspired by The Byrds, Neil Young and Crosby Stills and Nash. Some of the music goes back to an album he tried to record in Nashville in 2005. A few of those songs were apparently waiting for the right time to be shared.
The Grand Budapest Hotel — Directed by Wes Anderson (March 7)
Every time I see the title to this film, I think it's a sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which portrayed a group of British retirees vacationing in India. I actually enjoyed that movie and will see the follow-up when it comes out. However, I'm more excited about Wes Anderson's new movie. I realize not everyone loves his films. They can come off as cold and often feature unlikable lead characters. But I'm always awed by Anderson's attention to detail in building the world his characters live in. No one else's films look like his, nor feature such a bone-dry sense of humor. Also, can Ralph Fiennes do comedy? I'm curious to find out.
Up, Up, and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos — Jonah Keri (March 11)
This might be better suited for our friends at The Outside Corner, but if you're familiar with Keri, Grantland's baseball columnist, you know a book about the Montreal Expos is a passion project for him. It's been 10 years since the Expos moved to Washington, D.C. and became the Nationals. It's also been 20 years since the strike that ended a season for a team that may very well have been good enough to win the World Series. Keri did a nice job with his last book, The Extra 2%, about the Tampa Bay Rays. I'm eager to see him take the same in-depth look at the figures that made the Expos such a memorable franchise.
Johnny Cash — Out Among the Stars (March 25)
A new album from Johnny Cash? This is a "lost" album, composed of material Cash recorded in 1981 and 1984. Sometimes, you find out there's a reason stuff like this hadn't previously been released. But Cash fans and completists will surely want a listen. I began reading Robert Hilburn's new biography, Johnny Cash: The Life over the holidays. You might not think there was more to say about Cash, but Hilburn tapped into a deep mine of material. Hopefully, this album accomplishes the same thing.
Godzilla — Directed by Gareth Edwards (May 16)
It's been 16 years since Roland Emmerich's failed attempt at a modernized, Americanized reboot of Japan's most fearsome monster. The big guy is long overdue to return to movie screens. Pacific Rim reminded us that giant monsters trudging through major cities and destroying them with mere footsteps is still really cool. Godzilla is a destructive force of nature that should be viewed with terror and awe. Judging from the trailers shown thus far, Edwards feels the same way.
Guardians of the Galaxy — James Gunn (Aug. 1)
Originally, I wanted to put Captain America: The Winter Soldier on this list. Yay! More Avengers! I also think it's worth noting that the second movie in Marvel's individual trilogies — Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World — haven't been very good. Captain America's sequel looks like the exception. But we've seen superhero movies before, and they just keep coming. Guardians of the Galaxy is a bold experiment from Marvel. Not just because most people don't know who these characters (which include a talking raccoon and humanoid tree) are, but because it's a step into Star Wars-type territory.
Colorless: Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage — Haruki Murakami (Aug. 12)
Murakami is an author whose work is worth reading any time he publishes a new book. But I'm especially intrigued by the premise of his latest novel. The title character, Tsukuru Tazaki, is told by his girlfriend that his angst and emotional pain may be due to his friendships that have broken over the years, especially with those he grew up with. Tazaki then visits in Nagoya and Finland to see his old friends and find out why those relationships ended badly.