January is traditionally the time for high hopes and grand plans and lofty ambitions. The time to be briefly convinced that all of the empty days unfurled before you hold nothing but promise, to most fully perceive the potential in this latest quirk of the Earth’s axial tilt. But the concept of anticipation hovers a little awkwardly around the edges of this particular New Year. It is, after all, somewhat complicated to feel true excitement for things that are question marks.
Since March 2020, we’ve all become regrettably familiar with those little features of punctuation, with writing our plans in pencil instead of ink. Now, we live our lives tentatively, mindful of circumstances that are forever in flux, subject to trends in case numbers and the arrivals of new variants. The most reliable thing in my life right now is the fact that if the Celtics have a double digit lead going into the fourth quarter, they will inevitably blow it before the end of the game. It’s not great.
But somehow the human spirit endures, and we keep looking forward, finding reasons to get excited, despite everything. And if those reasons are all exclusively entertainment-related, well, I make no apologies. When every other kind of plan comes with caveats and asterisks— every trip, every holiday, every major life event— it’s kind of nice to depend on the inexorable capitalist momentum of major media companies. My summer vacation plans might rest on the vain hope that we aren’t all knee deep in locusts by then, but streaming platforms need not play things nearly so safe. The show must go on, after all, and so somehow must we— forward into an unpredictable universe where anxiety and anticipation can sometimes be hard to tell apart, and often might very well be the same thing.
Anticipation Level: Mild
Top Gun : Maverick Forget everything I just said about media companies being undaunted and reliable. The Top Gun sequel’s release date has been delayed four or five time now, because Tom Cruise just wants us all to have an authentic 1980’s style movie-going experience, which means movie theatres, not streaming. I can’t say that the original film means all that much to me, but it is my father’s all-time favorite. I am excited to watch Jay Ellis and Glen Powell finally become superstars, as they have been scheduled to become for going on two years. However it is an excitement I will hold gingerly, until its current May 27th actually comes to fruition, which I hope it does. For Glen and for Jay, and for all of the dads out there.
The Sarah Polley Renaissance: a new book, Run Towards Danger: Confrontations With A Body Of Memory, AND a new movie, Women Talking from the Canadian multi hyphenate I consider myself to be a season’s ticket holder for anything and everything Sarah Polley deigns to put out in the world. Sometimes many seasons pass without her putting out anything at all, but 2022 promises to make up for that lack, because this year she’s set to publish an essay collection/memoir, as well as release a feature film. Sure, the synopsis of it says it’s about “a group of women in an isolated Mennonite religious colony in Bolivia as they struggle to reconcile their faith with a string of sexual assaults committed by the colony’s men” which I will admit does not sound like the best time, but it’s based on a novel by celebrated Canadian author Miriam Toews, and the last time Polley adapted work by a celebrated Canadian author she gave us Away From Her, a movie I still occasionally tear up thinking about, and one of the reasons I bought my season tickets in the first place. (The other reason was her Road To Avonlea.)
Amazon’s take on Lord of the Rings Like many people, I returned to the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy at some point during the pandemic, and my largest takeaway from those films was that they are perfect. Some of the special effects might have a “specialness” that is conspicuously of their time, but other than that, literature’s most iconic and enduring work of fantasy could not have been adapted with its spirit more fully in tact. But Jeff Bezos is sure going to try!
House of the Dragon / How I Met Your Father. The respective finales of Game of Thrones and How I Met Your Mother are perhaps two of the greatest betrayals I have ever known. But you can only feel that kind of hurt if it involves something you once really loved, which is why I am willing to take a perhaps foolish chance on both of these latest extensions of original IP. At the very least, I’m sure these new writers will know not to cavalierly kill off the titular father this time around, nor to send one character off screen for an entire season before making him king. I’ll be keeping my emotional guard up with both of these shows, but I know that whenever and however they end, they can’t be any worse.
Anticipation Level: Medium
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan 2021 spoiled me with releases from most of my favorite living authors. Sally Rooney, Colson Whitehead, and Amor Towles all put out new titles within the same three month span— it was amazing. 2022 promises no such bounty, except for one treat from Jennifer Egan, the author of Visit From The Goon Squad, which is one of my Favorite Books Of All Time. This distinction I know has been diminished by its overuse, but hopefully my overstatement doesn’t understate my sincerity. The marketing people at Scribner are hyping The Candy House as “an electrifying, deeply moving novel about the quest for authenticity, privacy, and meaning in a world where our memories are no longer our own” but honestly they had me with Jennifer Egan’s name on the cover.
future (Taylor’s Version)’s All has been quiet on the Taylor front as to which of the four out-standing albums from her lost discography she will re-record next: the commercial juggernaut 1989 that launched her imperial phase? Her sweet and twangy self-titled debut? The dark and misunderstood masterpiece that is reputation? Or the collection of songs that means the very most to me? Only Taylor knows for sure, but at some point in 2022 I expect to wake up to a series of caps-locked texts from my best friend which will direct me to an exquisitely worded Instagram post which will provide the specific context for me to once again absolutely flip out.
a return to the rom-coms of yore (Marry Me, Legally Blonde 3, The Lost City) This calendar year will see Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon, and Sandra Bullock all return to the rom-com realm, which is all I have ever wanted from each of them. I don’t mean to take anything away from J.Lo’s Oscar-deserving role in Hustlers, or Reese’s extensive empire-building— I am just happier when they are getting involved in “pretend to be married” schemes with Owen Wilson, or once again being Elle Woods. Sandra Bullock’s new movie, for which the trailer itself is a precious gift, will also star Channing Tatum, and Daniel Radcliffe as a deranged billionaire, and Brad Pitt in what could very well be just a glorified cameo role. This is the kind of thing I went to the movies for in 2003, and I am all too happy to see it all happening again now.
a television celebration of “scammer season” (The Dropout and Inventing Anna) Scam artists have long made fascinating fodder for both works of fiction (The Talented Mr. Ripley) and fact (2019’s duelling “Fyre Festival” documentaries). Like serial killers, they are magnetically appalling, engaging in behavior so blatantly terrible that it’s only natural that many writers would want to poke around a little and figure out their whys. Two writer-showrunners I trust implicity, Liz Merriweather and Shonda Rhimes, are each taking aim at scammers whose stories I have been absolutely gripped by— the recently convicted Elizabeth Holmes, and Anna Delvey, who functioned as a real-life Miss Ripley. I’m looking forward to both— perhaps I am an easy mark.
Babylon I don’t know much about La La Land director Damien Chazelle’s latest project beyond the fact that it will come out on Christmas Day, it will star Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, and it will take place during the Hollywood.’s “Golden Age”. In truth, that’s all I need to know. A very merry Christmas, in advance, to me.
Anticipation Level: Maximum
The Beijing Winter Olympics I only require five things to be truly happy: my friends and my family, books and music, and Team Canada competing in the Winter Olympics. And in many ways, that last item is the one that provides me with my purest joy, because it only happens for fourteen days every four years. I barely care about the summer Olympics. They are too sprawling, there are too many sports and athletes to keep track of, and Canada isn’t as reliably competitive. Also, summer sports play out so predictably, where whoever comes into the competition as the favorite will win more often than not. Winter sports involve the much more fickle elements of snow and ice, which means that a person can be the greatest speed skater or alpine skier the world has ever known, but a single misstep and all of those podium dreams come crashing down. I will spend the majority of these two weeks on the verge of a heart attack, it will be so great.
Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions The 2022 tournament likely won’t air until the fall, and as of now there are only four or five contestants who feel like absolute locks to participate, but all I really care about is Matt vs. Amy. Only four competitors in the show’s long history have ever crossed the million dollar mark in prize money, and somehow two of them— Matt Amodio and Amy Schneider— have done so within the past few months. Their styles of play have been different. Matt would search out Daily Doubles to make bold bets and build insurmountable leads, while Amy (who as of publication is still competing) is steadier and more traditional. Both of them seem to know everything. And watching them compete against each other will be the trivia equivalent of watching Lebron and KD in the finals. A tournament of champions indeed.
Stranger Things 4 I have only ever truly binged one season of television, and that was the second season of Stranger Things. It was with my sister, at her first apartment, where we ate mozzarella sticks and an entire bag full of Halloween candy, and it was glorious. But unless I have this kind of optimum setup, it’s rare for me to finish tv shows at all, let alone within the span of one weekend. Read a book, sure. Listen to the entire 50th anniversary extended edition of Deja Vu, absolutely. But episodic television tends to lose me somewhere along the way. Stranger Things 4 has the best standing odds of keeping my attention, and even though no official release date has yet been announced, I hope my sister has some miniature chocolate bars at the ready.
Winning Time There are few things I have been as conditioned to hate as the sight of the purple and gold of the Los Angeles Lakers, and yet I expect to be delighted by the upcoming HBO show that will depict the rise of their 1980’s dynasty. The cast, like the Lakers’ rosters of that era, is a mix of newcomers and legendary greats, and director Adam McKay’s irreverent style always tends to work for me, even when it seems to grate on everyone else. Mostly I am looking forward to seeing Michael Chiklis as Red Auerbach and Bo Burnham as Larry Bird. Celtics Forever.
House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J Maas When I was a kid, I viewed life as the thing that happened in between new Harry Potter books. There is no anticipation quite as sweet as the pause between instalments of a beloved book series, when your imagination must stretch to bridge the gap between the story that already exists and the story that is yet to come. It’s a magic that has been lost to me since those halcyon HP days, since stand alone literary novels largely replaced fantasy series on my shelves— with the exception of A Song of Ice and Fire, naturally, but the gap between those books has grown too large for my imagination to reach. Now, however, I have discovered the propulsive popcorn plots of Sarah J Maas— specifically her Crescent City series, which is releasing its next title in less than 40 days— which means that elusive feeling of hopeful suspense has returned to my life. I may no longer be waiting for the latest adventures of a boy wizard— these new characters sure seem to drink and curse and undress each other more than Harry and his friends ever did— but at least I’m waiting for something. And the waiting is, of course, the whole point.