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There’s Always Next Year

From another ‘Star Wars’ to Paul Thomas Anderson’s new movie, this is what we’re most excited about for what’s coming in pop culture next year

(Ringer illustration)
(Ringer illustration)

2016 had its cultural high points, culturewise: Moonlight and Arrival and Frank Ocean and both Knowles sisters. What can we look forward to in 2017? Here, Ringer staffers give the movies, TV, music, and books they’re most stoked to see, hear, and read next year.

‘John Wick: Chapter 2’

Shea Serrano: “Whoever comes, I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them all.” That’s a thing John Wick says to a bad guy in the newest trailer for John Wick: Chapter 2, which is why I am excited for John Wick: Chapter 2. A second reason I’m excited for John Wick: Chapter 2 is because in the original movie John Wick killed 76 people, and in an interview in September with Entertainment Weekly the director said that John Wick: Chapter 2 is going to have “twice as much action” as the first one. A third reason I’m excited about John Wick: Chapter 2 is because of this picture of Keanu and a pitbull from the set of John Wick: Chapter 2, which I am excited about. A fourth reason I am excited about John Wick: Chapter 2 is because it is John Wick: Chapter 2, which is exciting. John Wick: Chapter 2. John Wick: Chapter 2. John Wick: Chapter 2. John Wick: Chapter 2. Whatever comes, I’ll watch it. I’ll watch it all.

‘Blade Runner 2049’

Michael Baumann: I’m not sure getting Ryan Gosling a Denis Villeneuve–directed Blade Runner sequel makes up for losing Ryan Gosling in the Nicolas Winding Refn–directed Logan’s Run remake we were promised, but I’ll take it. And while Ridley Scott’s off repairing the damage he did to his other (and superior) legendary sci-fi thriller with Alien: Covenant, here’s what he left Villeneuve to play with:

  • Gosling, who is a cross between a man, a puppy, and a god, and whose bona fides as a taciturn, stylized ass-kicker are well established in Drive
  • A large room across which Gosling and Harrison Ford can stare at each other
  • Rain, snow, and dust storms — this movie’s going to have more weather than Twister
  • Eerie techno beats
  • Lots of leftover neon signs
  • An exchange in the trailer that might as well have been Villeneuve sending Scott a candygram with the message “Move along, old man — it’s my turn.”

Villeneuve just made an awesome movie with a whiteboard, two squids, and a 600-foot-tall almond, and now he’s stomping around the house in Ridley Scott’s old rain boots. I’m optimistic.

The ‘Ocean’s Ocho’ Trailer

Amanda Dobbins: That’s right, motherfuckers, the TRAILER. Other people anticipate movies, I anticipate two perfectly edited minutes of Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, and some other people I forgot traipsing around and ruining the Met Ball. I don’t even care if the movie’s good, just give me some GIFs I can use. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’

Ben Lindbergh: By the time The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild arrives on Wii U and the Nintendo Switch in 2017, it will have been six years, multiple delays, and an entire console life cycle since the last new, non-handheld Zelda, Skyward Sword. Skyward Sword got great reviews, but it largely relied on the series’ time-honored, dungeon/puzzle-centric structure. That’s never a bad thing, given Nintendo’s dedication to quality control, but the beloved formula felt less than fresh in the franchise’s 16th installment.

Nintendo’s slightly less linear 2013 3DS installment, A Link Between Worlds, showed that the series isn’t out of ideas, and Zelda no. 19 (following the more multiplayer-oriented 3DS title Tri Force Heroes), Breath of the Wild, appears poised to flesh out many more. Breath of the Wild won E3 with a big and beautiful playable demo that revealed only 1 percent of a map that’s 12 times larger than that of 2006’s Twilight Princess. As an open-world game focused on exploration and survival, Breath of the Wild brings the franchise forward by employing today’s pervasive sandbox design, while also staying true to its roots. Getting lost in large environments is how The Legend of Zelda started.

Nintendo often seems like a closed system that isn’t responsive to industry trends, which at best insulates it from fads and gives its games a timeless appeal, and at worst leaves it dependent on nostalgia and paralyzed by its adherence to tradition. With the 2016 releases of augmented-reality phenomenon Pokémon Go (which wasn’t primarily developed by Nintendo) and mobile platformer Super Mario Run and the forthcoming debuts of the Switch and Breath of the Wild, the 127-year-old company finally seems to be modernizing in a very welcome (albeit belated) way.

‘The Idiot,’ by Elif Batuman

Katie Baker: 2017 hasn’t garnered much positive hype, but it has surprise breakout hit potential. For one thing, each January 1 brings with it the fresh and exciting new possibility that maybe this year they’ll begin shooting the damn Emperor’s Children movie. Secondly, 2017 is the year of the Great American Eclipse!!! I’m not not thinking about traveling to a spot where I can “view the eclipse across the entire path of totality,” is all. But what I’m most excited about is the upcoming release of Elif Batuman’s first novel, The Idiot.

Batuman’s 2011 collection of essays, The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, was a hilarious, bleak insight into a world of foreign travel, arcane academia, and literary squabbling. So it makes sense that The Idiot, according to a starred Kirkus Reviews summary, includes people like “Ralph, a ridiculously handsome young man with a Kennedy fetish, and Svetlana, a Serbian from Connecticut,” or that parts of the book take place in Hungary. Batuman’s nonfiction is already rich with absurd characters, sharply observed places, and digressions about old dead Slavic men. I can’t wait to see what her fiction is like.

‘The Young Pope’

Lindsay Zoladz: One of the only things I liked about 2016 was that I’d occasionally be talking to someone who hadn’t heard of The Young Pope, so then I got to explain to them what The Young Pope was and insist to them that it was a real TV show. They would never believe me, so I’d inevitably have to email them the trailer with the subject line, “SAINT. SINNER. POPE. MAN.” Then the next time I ran into them I would regale them with my impression of James Cromwell spelling out through villainously gritted teeth the entire plot of The Young Pope in his few lines from the trailer (“I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE POPE. YOU’LL BE A TERRIBLE POPE. THE WORST!”) before this person would interrupt me and say that I’d already done that impression for them and could I please stop. Can you tell that The Young Pope is the TV show I am most excited for in 2017? I recently replaced my TV with a projector, and I’m not saying I did it because of The Young Pope, I’m just saying I’m very psyched to see Paolo Sorrentino’s lush, opulent images on a screen the size of my entire wall — as the Young Pope would himself, if he lived today. (Though: does he?) I disagree with James Cromwell; I think Jude Law will be a WONDERFUL Pope. If using mass cultural products to work through the last vestiges of my lapsed Catholicism were a meal, Spotlight would have been the nutritious main course and The Young Pope will be the cake I eat all by myself for dessert.

‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

Robert Mays: I’m not sure any director working right now could get me off my ass and to the theater faster than Martin McDonagh. Three Billboards will be McDonagh’s third full-length feature since he dove into films about a decade ago. The first (In Bruges) has spent the past eight years conniving its way into the space reserved for my favorite movies ever; the second (Seven Psychopaths) was an absurd, genre-bending trip to the desert that’s still one of the best times I’ve had at the theater in recent memory.

In the course of those two films, McDonagh has sprung Colin Farrell from his leading-man-size prison, given us Tom Waits stroking a bunny rabbit, and presented Christopher Walken recounting horror stories in a cravat. The list of actors McDonagh has already coaxed to the screen (Farrell, Walken, Ralph Fiennes, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Brendan Gleeson) is no accident. The dialogue he gives his people to chew on has plenty of meat but just enough gristle. For Billboards, the story of a woman who battles local police after her daughter’s murder, he’ll get back Rockwell and Harrelson while bringing aboard Frances McDormand and Peter Dinklage. Like any writer-director able to take an actor where he or she wants to go, McDonagh is building a universe of inherently watchable performers inhabiting compulsively watchable characters. And I’ll be first in line to see where it goes next.

Streamable ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

Alyssa Bereznak: The stoic expression of late Unsolved Mysteries host Robert Stack is etched into my childhood memories almost as vividly as the royal purple hue of my beloved Princess Diana Beanie Baby. The ’90s series became a cult favorite known for investigations of crime, supernatural phenomena, and missed connections. In each episode, a trenchcoat-clad Stack would appear in the eeriest possible location — a foggy cemetery, an echoey medieval church, the stairs of a poorly lit courthouse — to summarize the weirdo story lines they’d dug up for us that week, ranging from evidence of alien activity to conspiracy theories surrounding Tupac Shakur’s death. (They even did an episode about the Toys ‘R’ Us in my hometown that was supposedly haunted.) Then, a cast of truly horrible actors would reenact the tales. Before the internet paved the way for obsessive DIY detectives to collude over details of at-large serial killers, cold cases, and Adnan Syed’s possible innocence, Unsolved Mysteries scratched the “unsettling narratives” itch for us. It seems only appropriate that in the era of Serial and Making a Murderer, Amazon is resurrecting one of the true crime canon’s earliest televisions series. Even better is that producers will offer updated information on some of the longstanding cases the show has already covered. Here’s to hoping the new narrator can muster even a fraction of the “I’ve seen some shit” face that Stack wore so well.

New Novels From George Saunders and John Darnielle

Rob Harvilla: That’s first-ever novel for Saunders, who ranks among our most beloved living short-story craftsmen, and his mastery of brutally humane surrealism is theoretically perfect for this newly brutal and surreal era. His devotees have been waiting for him to go long for years and years; Lincoln in the Bardo finally arrives in February, not a moment too soon, hopefully injecting a little humanity back into the equation.

As mastermind/frontman for indie rock lifers the Mountain Goats, Darnielle’s wordy and equally sympathetic songs have likewise been called “novelistic” for years and years, which made his 2014 literary debut, the slim and eerie Wolf in White Van, much more than a typical rock-star vanity exercise. Round 2, Universal Harvester, is likewise out in February, and will ideally disturb and sooth you in disturbingly equal quantities. Things are getting weird out there. Read weirder books.

‘Okja’

Donnie Kwak: The best thing I learned from the Tilda Swinton–Margaret Cho kerfuffle of 2016 was that Tilda’s “colleague from Snowpiercer” Bong Joon-ho is making a monster movie for Netflix. (The second-best thing I learned? That “Tell me to fuck off if you feel like it” is a great email sign-off.)

Somehow my IMDb radar had missed Okja, which was first announced as a Netflix project in November 2015. In the film, Okja is the name of a creature that is the best friend of a Korean girl named Mija. Conflict arises when a heartless corporation tries to capture Okja on some E.T. shit. “On the surface is a story about an animal,” says the director, “but it’s essentially a story about capitalism.” Coproduced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment, and filmed in both South Korea and NYC, Okja stars Tilda, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano — and, as Tilda astutely points out, Korean American actor Steven Yeun and young Korean actress Ahn Seo-hyun. See, Margaret? Asian actors! In Asian roles!

Stateside audiences will know director Bong from Snowpiercer, but don’t sleep on the hits from his Korean-only filmography: Barking Dogs Never Bite, Memories of Murder, Mother, and his first monster allegory movie, 2006’s The Host (currently streaming on Netflix). I didn’t even watch Snowpiercer and I’m all in on Okja. Also, Jake seems real stoked about it, and if Jake’s happy, I am, too.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Kate Knibbs: Part of me thinks Hulu decided to make Margaret Atwood’s speculative fiction banger The Handmaid’s Tale into a TV show by playing some sort of feminist formula Mad Lib, plugging different options into: “[respected female author]’s dystopia about [worst-case scenarios for women in America] starring [respected female actor from prestige cable] with [respected female actor from Netflix hit] in a supporting role.” That must be how they got this show, which will star Elisabeth Moss and Samira Wiley as women enslaved in a futuristic theocracy built upon the crumbled ashes of an America seized by a deeply misogynistic boy’s club who used fear of radical Islam to consolidate power. But whatever, I’m going to watch the hell out of it.

‘The Lost City of Z’

K. Austin Collins: This is cheating, because I’ve already seen it, but maybe that’s why I can’t wait. In April, one of my favorite directors, James Gray (Two Lovers, We Own the Night), will finally release his incredibly rich adaptation of David Grann’s The Lost City of Z, about an explorer who vanishes in the Amazon. That’s the plot, anyway. The movie itself is about the search for the sublime. I’m excited for it to get out into the world — and for people to finally see how incredible Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, and Tom Holland can be.

‘Big Little Lies’

Dobbins: You up on Liane Moriarty? Here’s my pitch: Gone Girl except with likable characters, happy (except for the dead people) endings, and frequent sequels. Moriarty cranks out one of her suburban-Australia mysteries every two years or so, and they are invariably funny, engrossing, and contemptuous enough of soccer moms that I do not feel guilty about reading them. Big Little Lies is her masterpiece, and Maddie is the most perfect Reese Witherspoon role since Tracey Flick, so I am looking forward to Sunday nights for the first time since Downton Abbey ended. Also, it will be nice to find out what’s up with Shailene these days.

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7

Mallory Rubin: Season 6 of Game of Thrones gave us so much of what we’ve long wanted: We finally learned the truth of Jon’s parentage, saw Dany set sail for Westeros, heard the flesh-ripping sounds of Arya’s and Sansa’s revenge, watched Cersei take the Iron Throne, and discovered why Hodor kept saying “Hodor.” And that was just the tip of the Unsullied storytelling spear!

But are we content now that our bellies are full of plot-tastic mutton and mead? Of course not! Like Bronn, we’re ruled by lust, programmed to crave endless thrills. It’s a little scary that the showrunners blew up the chessboard along with the Sept of Baelor, but it’s also as titillating as a trip to a Volantis brothel, because now we’re going to get things that we didn’t even know we wanted.

The show’s big-picture questions haven’t changed: We’ll all spend the final 13 hours theorizing and agonizing over crucial end-game matters like who’s going to ride the three dragons, and thwart the Night’s King, and heal Jorah’s greyscale. (OK, maybe I’m alone on that last one — love you, J-Dog.) But the smaller stuff, the snowflake-size questions in a world dominated by Wall-size intrigue, will be as fresh as Jon’s man-bun. And I truly cannot wait to grab Longclaw, call Ghost to my side, and charge my way toward truth.

Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion Project

Sean Fennessey: What a glamorous title. Here is more glamour for you: Set in the 1950s. Funded by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures and distributed by Focus Features. A reported $35 million budget, which is PTA’s sweet spot. Rumored to be about the great and controversial designer Charles James. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, who last teamed up with PTA for this:

Forget 2017. This is the most anticipated movie of my entire life.

The New Gorillaz Album

Micah Peters: On the Gorillaz’s artist page on Spotify there’s a playlist titled “Murdoc’s Dirty Santa Party Playlist.” The cover art features the fictional animated British bassist — who has a religious objection to shirts and an inability to keep his tongue in his mouth — wearing, duh, a Santa hat. The featured artists include Nate Dogg, Tom Waits, AC/DC, and Weird Al Yankovic. This is to say, Gorillaz is out there, and I am all about it. Three months ago, Damon Albarn decided to step into the modern day and create an Instagram account for the band. He began teasing their first album in six years (the last was 2010’s muddled hard-drive dump The Fall), by going back to where the band began, filling in the backstory of all the bizarro characters — Noodle, Russel, 2-D, and of course Murdoc. It started with their first EP, Tomorrow Comes Today, which was released 16 years ago, which means “today” has come and gone, but what is “today” but yesterday’s tomorrow? Is steam a liquid or a gas? How many roads must a man walk down? Are we the last living souls? 42. “Dark is Good.” Let’s get weird.

The Final Season of ‘The Leftovers’

Victor Luckerson: For a long time I couldn’t figure out why I kept watching The Leftovers. The first season was uneven, offering only a few compelling characters and a protagonist with a debilitating affliction of Jackface. But the deeply unsettling premise — 140 million people disappeared from the face of the earth three years ago for unknown reasons — captivated me just enough to keep bingeing. Helmed by Lost cocreator Damon Lindelof, The Leftovers for a long while felt like it might devolve into a sci-fi caper where Everything Is Explained, like Lindelof’s previous show. But the show defies that most basic human desire for understanding. The Leftovers is not a show about why people disappear from the earth, but what happens when those of us stuck here can no longer distract ourselves from that fact. Season 2 brought startling and gutting clarity to this vision, and I can’t wait to see how these broken characters cope in Season 3.

‘Star Wars: Episode VIII’

Sam Schube: We got a new Star Wars movie last year. It was great. We got a new Star Wars movie this year. It was great. We’re getting a new Star Wars movie next year. My colleagues are overthinking this.