I’ve always conceived of January as the summit of a metaphorical ski hill— the place from which you can survey all that lies before you, the majesty and the moguls, before your momentum starts carrying you inexorably down, towards, and through it. You can’t know the details of what you’re about to encounter, but the broader shapes are clear enough to get excited about.
(Please forgive me if I’ve stretched this metaphor to the point of a hyperextension. It’s been a long time since I last went skiing and I might not actually know what I’m talking about. Perhaps what I’m describing is more like the view from the chairlift.)
My point is, there’s a whole lot of year in front of us. 12 months from now we will again be reading retrospectives about The Year That Was, but as of right now it’s anyone’s guess what kind of year 2023 will be.
I’m placing my personal bets now that it will at least provide its share of pop culture excitement. The upcoming calendar is littered with releases from artists I trust, revere, and adore, including one project that I genuinely believe may have been mined from the fertile earth of my wildest dreams. I might not know what else 2023 will have in store, but I do expect to be entertained.
July 21st: the tandem release of Barbie and Oppenheimer
The news that the aesthetically opposite films Barbie and Oppenheimer are set to be released on the same day, July 21st 2023, has not escaped the notice of Twitter, where the memes abound and the comedic juxtaposition is plentiful. It is innately funny that two projects with such dramatically different aims and energies will be competing for audiences on the very same day, but those differences are not as irreconcilable as they might seem because their audiences will share one undeniable thing: me.
Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan (directors of Barbie and Oppenheimer respectively) are 1a and 1b on my personal list of favorite filmmakers working today. They have each made movies— Lady Bird and The Dark Knight— that I would describe as formative to my moviegoing existence, and for as long as they plan to keep making movies, I plan to be pre-ordering tickets for all of their theatrical releases. That these releases will be synchronized in 2023 does indeed feel like synchronicity for me, though I am prepared for the tonal shift to be jarring.
80 For Brady
It is a cliché— or plagiarism of Bryan Adams lyrics— to wonder if one has died and gone to heaven, but the entire conceit of 80 For Brady— in which a group of octogenarians travel to go see Tom Brady and the Patriots compete in the fabled 2017 Super Bowl— does make me wonder if I have at the very least fallen into some sort of deep fairytale slumber and now live in a world where all of my entertainment options are manifested from my most fantastical dreams.
Because there are plenty of Jane Fonda fans out there. She is a living legend, a two time Oscar winner who has given us classics like On Golden Pond and Barefoot in the Park, in addition to decades of impressive activist work. She wrote my favorite celebrity memoir of all time, and her 80’s era workout videos are proof that she knew how to turn a Hollywood career into an empire long before Gwyneth.
And after two plus decades of dominance, Tom Brady has earned his many acolytes as well. He’s the undisputed Greatest Quarterback Of All Time (ignoring any and all ESPN talking heads who still attempt to dispute this), winner of seven Super Bowls, competitor in ten, and the sole owner of every QB record worth keeping, including Most Spectacular Super Bowl Comeback, in the aforementioned year of 2017.
And yet the Venn Diagram between these groups of devotees is hardly a circle. This is not like New Kids on the Block joining forces with the Backstreet Boys, or adding chocolate to peanut butter. No, this movie is for me. Specifically, eerily, and perhaps even singularly for me, a person who once watched Our Souls At Night as a form of self-care immediately after the Patriots lost a Thursday Night Football game to the Chiefs. It’s great that other people will be able to enjoy 80 For Brady (although note to self, do confirm that the trailer is indeed visible to others and not a vivid hallucination) but I feel almost certain that no one will love it quite like me.
Rihanna’s Super Bowl Halftime Performance
Speaking of football— there is perhaps no plainer evidence of my empire’s collapse than the fact that the Super Bowl Halftime Show is my primary point of interest when it comes to the upcoming NFL Playoffs. But I like to think that even if New England was participating and competitive in this post-season they would still be the undercard, because Super Bowl LVII can have only one headliner: Rihanna.
It’s been almost seven years since the superstar released new music or performed on tour— to put this drought in perspective, in the time that has passed the Patriots have won two Super Bowls, lost another one, and also missed the playoffs twice. Rihanna herself became a mother in the interim. And did I mention that she hasn’t released any new music?
There is no grander stage in pop culture for a comeback, for a legend to reassert herself, than the Super Bowl. Whatever happens over the next few weekends, I do know for sure that I won’t be watching my favorite team lift the Lombardi Trophy. But watching Rihanna perform “Umbrella” or “Pon de Replay” or “We Found Love”, or any of the other hits she gifted to us before abruptly disappearing, it might feel just the same.
Masters of the Air
Perhaps the most mysterious item on this list, because I know shockingly few details about this soon-to-be Apple TV+ mini series, despite the fact that it has technically been in development since 2012. There has been no trailer, no press release— even an official release date continues to evade us. But the information I do have is all the information I need: Masters of the Air will be another World War 2 mini series from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, centred on the true stories of an American bombing squadron, starring Austin Butler (full of hype and potential on the heels of Elvis) and a handful of other promising actors. It was made with a reported $250 million dollar budget. With this kind of pedigree, I don’t need specifics to get excited.
new Miley music
When Miley Cyrus was announced as the host for NBC’s 2022 New Year’s TV special, I did assume that meant she would be announcing new music in 2022— it seemed like an obvious promotional opportunity, and surely that was the only reason a multiplatinum selling artist would take such a gig. But 2022 came and went, and during that time Miley only released a live album that basically functioned as a collection of greatest hits, plus a truly spectacular cover of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer”
When she was again announced as the host for the 2023 edition of the same event, I assumed that she must just really enjoy spending her New Year’s Eves on live TV. And considering this special included a magnificently moving duet with her godmother Dolly Parton, I could not fault her. But just a few days later, new Miley music was announced— an album to be released March 10th and a single coming later this month.
Though Miley’s gap between albums has been significantly shorter than some of her peers (see: above, Rihanna) there has been a half-hearted, stilted quality to most of her work since 2013’s Bangerz. I don’t blame her for this, because it seems obvious that she has struggled somewhat to firmly commit to an artistic identity— maybe this is only natural for someone who spent her formative years pretending to be a fictional Miley who was pretending to be Hannah Montana. But the fact that she now has a new record label, cohesive visuals, and a structured roll-out strategy makes me hopeful that she’s found her way.
And if not, there’s always next New Year’s.
Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One
Tom Cruise is at it again, simultaneously expanding his blockbuster franchises and his own legacy with Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, arriving in theatres this July. He is already jumping off of planes just to promote the movie, so the stunts are sure to be breathtaking and the action breakneck. While the theatre business continues to struggle and Hollywood at large finds itself in something of an existential crisis, Tom Cruise might be the last movie star who is committed to the spectacle of cinema, who has apparently decided that he will entertain us or die trying. His efforts were rewarded in 2022— Top Gun: Maverick earned nearly 1.5 billion dollars worldwide, in addition to my love and devotion. I feel pretty confident that its success will provide Tom Cruise with yet another sequel.
the NBA/NHL playoffs
This is a topic I only feel brave enough to dance around in the softest of shoes and with the most ginger of movements for fear of offending the sporting gods and jinxing everything entirely. But there is currently one team atop the standings in the NHL and another one asserting its dominion over the NBA, and wow, wouldn’t it be cool to see those teams continue their pursuits through May and into June— like, perhaps deep into June?
Alright, that’s enough— please excuse me while I hold my breath and cross every one of my fingers and knock on every wooden surface I can find.
actually using this blog
It’s possible that this is another subject that I should approach with some trepidation, but after basically abandoning this space for most of last year, I am excited to be back. I still don’t entirely know what I want this blog to be— which topics I can actually provide insights of value on, what events I can organize my thoughts about before their moment of relevance has passed. But maybe an even better way to conceive of January is not as a fresh hill of snow but as a fresh blank page. A place where I can make everything up as I go.
2 thoughts on “My 2023 Anticipation Guide”
Ainsley, once again, you ACED it. You are clearly a gifted writer. I enjoy reading every one of your fascinating articles. Congratulations. I am SO proud of your accomplishments.
Why you weren’t cast in 80 for Brady shall remain one of the mysteries of the universe. I was also happily surprised with Polley’s memoir. She–and you–are among the reasons I’m so optimistic about Canada’s cultural future. I’m so glad you’re back and I would have encouraged you to get your blog in gear last year but I know you don’t have to be told… People know stuff that they have to do. Welcome home Ainsley.