Thursday, 21 January 2016
Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2016 Hot List. We hope you enjoyed our first entry in this year's Hot List covering the essential new films in 2016. This week we will be turning our attention to the year's line-up of television shows, in particular the brand new series starting in the next 12 months.
2015 has served as another reminder that television is increasingly becoming the medium of choice for complex storytelling. The year gone by has seen some of the best visual drama in years with the continuation of House of Cards and Fargo and the addition of the phenomenally successful Mr. Robot. In 2016 we can look forward to yet more of the Hollywood A-list getting in on the act, including one of the industry's most celebrated directors.
In the meantime, Amazon has had it's first bona fide hit in Man in the High Castle, staking a claim for the first time as a true competitor to Netflix. With Hulu also set to move deeper into original programming, the online streaming landscape is starting to take on the multi-faceted appearance of early television. It remains to be seen just what the final form of all this will be.
In spite of this progress, we're starting to see some of the ongoing threats that the medium will face in the years ahead. From antagonistic ISPs to onerous copyright laws, the consumer interest continues to be held back by the archaic remnants of the industry old boys' club. History tells us that these elements will eventually lose out to the march of technology, but for now sadly it looks as though this game of political football will continue.
Nevertheless, we continue to be positive that there is much to be excited about in the current era of television; the quality of programming has progressed by leaps and bounds, while the technology is finally on the verge of bringing the medium into the 21st Century. The year ahead looks to be a continuation of this. So without further ado here are the top 10 essential television shows, both new and returning, that will hit the airwaves in 2016:
10. Archer - FX
Arguably the wittiest show on television right now, Archer is that rare TV show that's big on belly laughs and chock full of references and subtext for more sophisticated humour. Now entering its seventh season, the series shows no sign of slowing down.
Very little is yet known about the plot for the upcoming year, but showrunners have confirmed that the spy agency "ISIS" is being written out of the show for obvious reasons. With last season's plotline seeing the main cast cut ties with the CIA it will be interesting to see what new setting they come up with.
Regardless, the show's trademark wit and satirical humour remain. The new season starts in March.
Release Date: March 2016
9. Billions - Showtime (New TV Show)
The first of our new series to keep an eye on in the coming year. The timely Billions looks into the morally suspect world of hedge funds and financial crime.
The cast is excellent, featuring the well worn TV talents of Damian Lewis as our corrupt hedge fund manager, alongside the always excellent Paul Giamatti as the District Attorney investigating him.
Showtime and Lewis have excellent prior history with Homeland, and we're pretty excited to see that combination flourish again. Billions debuts in late January.
Release Date: January 2016
8. American Gods - Starz (New TV Show)
Now this one is promising. American Gods is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by the inimitable Neil Gaiman (author of, Stardust, Coraline, among others), and produced by Bryan Fuller, a man with an enviable track record of smart, wonderful television.
The plot is classic Gaiman weirdness: gods are real and live among humans, and a conflict is shaping up between the old gods of mythology and the new gods of money and technology. Otherwise precious little is known about the show, no news on cast, and it's only just been announced to being picked up by the Starz network. Still, with this production team and source material, we are very hopeful.
Fuller has gone on record as saying that he expects this show to debut late 2016. We aren't so certain but we'll go along with that. Don't be surprised if this shows up on the 2017 list though.
Release Date: Fall 2016
7. The X-Files - Fox
In one of the biggest surprise moves of recent TV history, The X-Files is making a comeback, albeit a short one in the form of a six episode miniseries.
The main duo of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson return, along with the usual supporting cast. It will be interesting to see how the conspiracy-laden mythos of the series slots into the modern setting, after all a lot has changed since the show's heyday in the 90s. Indeed according to X-Files mythology the world was supposed to end in 2012. Presumably they've come up with a good explanation for why it has not!
Nevertheless, The X-Files was hugely influential on popular culture during its original run, so any return is a cause for excitement. The new miniseries starts at the end of January.
Release Date: January 2016
6. House of Cards - Netflix
It's still one of the best shows on TV (or Netflix anyway), and the best political TV show since the West Wing. Now House of Cards is back for a fourth season.
Kevin Spacey and the usual cast return. There had been much speculation as to whether this season would even happen, but House of Cards has become a flagship of sorts, not only for this new wave of high quality, A-list drama, but for television streaming as a whole. It speaks volumes that the talent on this project are so keen to keep working on the show, they realise that they're involved in something special.
Once again all thirteen episodes will be released simultaneously, in March.
Release Date: March 2016
5. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 - Webseries
Speaking of iconic shows from the 1990s, and if The X-Files is no longer above this one in the list then let's pretend it is so that sentence makes sense, here's another making a comeback: Mystery Science Theatre 3000.
The award winning cult classic MST3K was one of those shows that you either never heard of, or you've heard of it and pity those who haven't. The premise is simple: they put on a really bad sci-fi or horror movie, and make fun of it the entire time. The result was something that was far funnier than it had any right to be, especially if you're the type who enjoys watching these cheesy movies and laughing at them.
So imagine the joy of fans everywhere this past November when series creator Joel Hodgson launched a Kickstarter to bring the show back as an online webseries. Initially asking for $2 million, they raised $5.8 million, becoming the most crowdfunded television series of all time. Now we wait. The new episodes are expected to start filming in January, with the first available for viewing in the summer.
Release Date: Summer 2016
4. Vinyl - HBO (New TV Show)
We're extremely excited about this one. The legendary Martin Scorsese directs/produces Vinyl, a new show about the seedier side of 1970s rock and roll. It's other producers include none other than Mick Jagger and Terrence Winter, who created the hit show Boardwalk Empire.
HBO have a pretty exceptional record for good TV drama, and with a cast starring the underrated Bobby Cannavale, and including the likes of Olivia Wilde, Ray Roman and Andrew Dice Clay, Vinyl looks to have the talent to add to the long track record of success.
Originally mooted for a 2015 release, Vinyl ultimately had a last minute rescheduling to February 2016. This could be one of the real highlights of this year's TV.
3. Fargo - FX
Far too often you get a hit new TV show with a great debut season, which then goes on to suffer from second-season syndrome and lose the magic. Fargo is not an example of this. Fargo's second season was every bit as much a triumph as the first.
Unsurprisingly, the televised adaptation of the classic Coen Brothers film has been confirmed for a third season. Few details have arisen as of yet, no cast has been announced. All we know is that it will return to the present day setting of the first season.
If the first two seasons are anything to go by, whatever they come up with will be brilliant. A start date has yet to be announced, but we look forward to it.
Release Date: TBA 2016
2. Westworld - HBO (New TV Show)
Westworld is a remake of the old 1973 sci-fi western film written and directed by legendary author Michael Crichton.
This new adaptation will be scripted by Jonathan Nolan, quite the hot property in Hollywood now after writing the scripts for most of his brother Chris' films, as well as his own hit TV show Person of Interest. It's being developed by HBO, a network renowned for its high quality, with another big name JJ Abrams attached as producer. Meanwhile the impressive cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, and a number of other recognisable faces.
There's a lot of talent attached and a lot of buzz hyping this as one of the big television events of 2016.
Release Date: TBA 2016
1. Mr. Robot - USA
But the TV show we are most excited about seeing in 2016 is the winner of the coveted 2015 Debbie Award for best TV Show, Mr. Robot.
Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Mr Robot's first season was a critically acclaimed triumph, and won unanimous plaudits from fans and pundits alike.
Unsurprisingly, a second season is due to come out in 2016. It remains to be seen in what direction they intend to take the series, or who among the original cast may return, but showrunner Sam Esmail recently took to Twitter to promise "big twists" in the year ahead. If you haven't started watching this yet, you should be, and you have until season 2 starts to get caught up!
Release Date: TBA 2016
So there you have it folks: 2016 in television. Tune in next week for the essential new music of the year!
Friday, 15 January 2016
Happy New Year everyone and welcome back to The Ephemeric. This week's tragic passing of music legend David Bowie has delayed the roll-out of our 2016 Hot List, but now we are pleased to resume regular service. Over the next few weeks we will be rolling out The Hot List, the essential guide to your year ahead. This week we begin with a look at the most exciting new movies set to hit the big screen in 2016 from February onwards, after the cutoff point for this year's Oscars.
2015 will go down as one of the more diverse years in cinema, with hugely successful releases ranging from small-scale intellectual sci-fi to historical dramas, journalism thrillers, frontier adventures in the wild, and biographical films. As a result we have a particularly open field as far as the various awards go. As it stands there really are a good dozen or so films up for the major prizes, and The Ephemeric is pleased to be able to say that a solid nine or ten picks from last year's Hot List have found themselves in the mix, and a further two which only missed out by being delayed into 2016.
Let's be honest, 2016 has been shit so far. David Bowie is dead, Alan Rickman is dead, both were killed by Aaron Ramsey, it's cold out, and I'm fairly confident the stock market is about to collapse. Nevertheless, let's do this. Looking ahead, 2016 cinema has much on the horizon about which to be excited, hot new directors, long anticipated sequels, several adaptations of excellent novels. We really feel that this year's list has a little something for everyone.
So behold, the key films to keep an eye on in the coming year (trailers linked in the title where available), starting with number 15:
15. Billy Lynn's Long Half Time Walk
Hollywood loves a good book adaptation, and Billy Lynn's Long Half Time Walk provides strong material. The real story though is that this is the latest film from Oscar winning director Ang Lee, whose last film The Life of Pi was a huge and award winning success.
Making this even more exciting is a script penned by the phenomenally talented Oscar winning Simon Beaufoy. With a release set for November of this year, Billy Lynn must surely have its sights set on Oscar gold right?
Two oddities give me pause. First there's the cast, a mixed bag which includes the unknown Jow Alwyn, Steve Martin, Chris Tucker, and Vin Diesel. Second is the production by TriStar Pictures, a studio which hasn't really had a whole lot of critical success in recent years. In the 2010s only Looper stands out as a really good film from their back catalogue.
Still you never know, USA network didn't have any good TV shows until they came up with Mr. Robot, and certainly there have been plenty of films in recent years who managed to rehabilitate maligned actors, including Tucker himself in The Silver Linings Playbook. We'll keep an eye on this one, there's a lot of buzz.
Release Date: November 11, 2016
14. The Zookeeper's Wife
Another entry, another book adaptation. This one is a corker though. The Zookeeper's Wife is based on the award winning novel of the same name, based on the true story of Polish zookeeper Jan Zabinski, who during World War II saved the lives of 300 Jews from the Nazis.
The film version stars Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, and the underrated Daniel Bruhl. New Zealand director Niki Caro may not be a household name over here, but she has a fair few accolades to her name, including a couple of Oscar nominations.
No release date yet, but we would expect it sometime in the Fall based on the current gossip. Watch this one closely, especially if you are fans of the book, it is a great story after all and with able talent behind it.
Release Date: TBA 2016
13. Independence Day: Resurgence
Mixing things up a bit, here's the often rumoured, now actually happening sequel to the 1990s' mega blockbuster, Independence Day: Resurgence. Can it possibly not suck? Was it at all necessary? These are all valid questions, but either way it's done, let's all try and keep an open mind.
For what it's worth, the premise is interesting. Aliens return twenty years after the original invasion, during that time humanity has reverse engineered their technology, leading to a much more even fight than last time, with guaranteed laser and space battles. Fans of the X-COM videogame series will feel right at home with the concept.
Director Ronald Emmerich returns, as does previous film's stars Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman. The big hold out? No Will Smith, money issues apparently. It's a shame they couldn't reunite the whole team, but Smith will be replaced by Liam Hemsworth, and Maika Monroe rounds out the cast.
ID5 launches in June this year. Could be fun. Might suck.
Release Date: June 24, 2016
12. Nocturnal Animals
People were skeptical when successful fashion designer Tom Ford decided to move into film production. Yet his debut, and so far only film, A Single Man, was a hit. Follow up film Nocturnal Animals will prove whether this was just a flash in the pan, or whether his writer/director talents are the real deal.
Based, like so many others on this list, on a successful novel, Nocturnal Animals stars the always underrated Jake Gyllenhaal, and Academy favourite Amy Adams. An extremely strong supporting cast includes Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kim Basinger, Isla Fisher and Armie Hammer.
Release date is currently unknown, but there's a lot of buzz about this one in 2016. Still, the latest news is that principal photography only started this past October, so there's every chance that this one will slip into 2017.
Release Date: TBA 2016
11. The Light Between Oceans
This one almost made our 2015 list before deciding it unlikely to see release last year. Turns out we were right, and now it is set for a late 2016 release, just in time for the awards season.
The Light Between Oceans is a film that has had a lot of buzz about it for a few years now. Based on the book of the same name, Michael Fassbender and the so-hot-right-now Alicia Vikander star as a lighthouse keeper and his wife off the coast of Australia who find a baby washed up on their shore one day in a lifeboat. Rachel Weisz finishes up the main cast.
There's no doubt that this is a watershed film for writer/director Derek Cianfrance, who's received high critical praise in the past for Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines, and yet has still flown mostly under the radar. This release is his big opportunity to move his career to the next level. We're very curious to see how it goes.
Release Date: Late 2016
Here's an interesting prospect, albeit one that we don't really know what to do with. Passengers is a romantic science fiction film about two stranded colonists. What makes this film stand out is the talent involved.
The insanely likable duo of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star, with Michael Sheen lending his voice talent. Elsewhere they've enlisted Rodrigo Pietro for cinematography, whose past credits include a long list of excellent movies from The Wolf of Wall Street, to Argo and Biutiful. Most exciting of all is the signing on of director Morten Tyldum, who directed The Imitation Game as his first major Hollywood film. We're very excited to see what he can do next.
Columbia Pictures are clearly quite confident about this one, they've booked in a release date just before Christmas in late December. Other than that though, not much is known at this stage. Slightly worrying is production company Village Roadshow Productions who have as many flops as successes in their CV, but still we await this one with interest.
Release Date: December 21, 2016
9. 10 Cloverfield Lane
Somewhere along the line it became very cool to hate on JJ Abrams' first original film project, Cloverfield, so much so that people have forgotten how initially strongly received it was by critics and fans alike. Cloverfield was something completely different, with a groundbreaking marketing campaign and the best yet use of the "found footage" trope.
So when JJ Abram's mysterious new project was revealed to be a sequel, titled 10 Cloverfield Lane, we were understandably excited. Even more so having seen the very intriguing looking trailer.
So what we know is that the film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Goodman, who appear to be the last survivors of some catastrophe that has taken place. And oddly enough this isn't actually being directed by JJ Abrams, merely produced. Dan Trachtenberg is taking on directorial duties. Other than that, it's a complete mystery, which is just the way we like our JJ Abrams movies.
Release Date: March 11, 2016
Next up with have something that could be a bit special. Lion is based on the book based on the true story of a young child separated from his mother in India, a good thousand miles away from home, and is later reunited fifteen years later.
It's good solid movie-fare, and it stars the competent trio of Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, and Dev Patel. Slightly more interestingly, Lion is scripted by Luke Davies, a man mostly known for his limited career in indie films, and directed by Garth Davis, who so far has a fairly highly acclaimed career in television, but nothin in feature films.
An interesting prospect then, and the Weinstein Company certainly seem to think so too, having purchased distribution rights and partnered with the producers of awards smash The King's Speech. Weinstein usually picks a winner, lets see if they'll do it again. No release date set as of yet, but Lion is widely expected to release late in 2016.
Release Date: TBA 2016
7. La La Land
Pop quiz: Your first major film as both writer and director has caught fire, nominated for five Oscars, winning three of them, and arguably the best film of its year. What do you do next?
For Damien Chazelle the choice, after the unexpected success of Whiplash, was to fulfill a lifelong ambition and produce a big, bombastic, classic Hollywood style musical. Welcome to La La Land.
La La Land stars Ryan Gosling and the up-and-coming talent of Emma Stone, with JK Simmons and John Legend in support. It's an old fashioned Hollywood fable of a jazz pianist falling in love with an ambitious young actress, and then shit happens which can only really be explained through the medium of song.
This one will hit the big screen in July. Should be a bit of good fun.
Release Date: July 15, 2016
Here's an interesting one for theatre fans. Genius is the debut film of Michael Grandage, former artistic director of London's iconic Donmar Warehouse theatre. Genius portrays the biographical history of a legendary early 20th Century literary editor, Max Perkins.
Grandage has certainly broken out the old rolodex from his time at the Donmar, as the cast of Genius includes the hugely impressive lineup of Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Dominic West, Laura Linney, and Guy Pearce.
A release date of summer 2016 is a slightly unusual one for a film like this, but as fans of Grandage's work we are pretty excited to see what he can do in this new medium, and particularly with such a talented array of actors. Definitely one to watch.
Release Date: July 29, 2016
5. Hail, Caesar!
The release of a new film by the Coen Brothers is always a cause for celebration. Over the years they have produced some of the finest cinema around. They Have fifteen Oscar nominations between them and four wins.
Their newest, Hail, Caesar! is a classic farce set against golden age Hollywood in the 1950s. The cast includes a lineup of Coen Brothers favourites and newcomers alike, including George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, and Channing Tatum. It's a formidable cast of talent, and the addition of legendary cinematographer and longtime Coen Brothers collaborator Roger Deakins only sweetens the deal.
It's a film that has absolutely everything right on paper, so why isn't it higher up the list? Scoff if you will, but the early February release date seems a bit of a red flag. The Coen Brothers haven't released a film so early in the year for decades, one has to ask why they've been given such a bad release date this year... perhaps the studio isn't happy with the product? We shall see; worst case scenario this film will be on a par with Burn After Reading, best case we'll have another classic on the level of Fargo. Either way it'll be worth seeing, we're excited for this one.
Release Date: February 5, 2016
4. Star Trek Beyond
And now for something completely different. To call Star Trek Beyond's placement on this list a guilty pleasure might be a bit harsh, after all the last two films in the series Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness were critically acclaimed, and in the case of the former really quite excellent (not to mention Oscar winning). But the truth is we have some trepidation about this latest one.
The good news is that the main cast, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg and Zoe Saldana return, and they have brought with them the excellent Idris Elba. The bad news is... well just about everything else.
Director of the past two films, JJ Abrams, is out due to commitments with a different film you may have heard of which also begins with "Star", he stays on as producer. Originally screenwriter Roberto Orci was set to replace him, which was mildly controversial seeing as he has never directed anything before, and the fact that his scripts were probably the weakest point of the past two films, Into Darkness especially. So Orci promptly got the boot, which left us with barely a year until release and not even a script let alone a film. Cue Simon Pegg to come along and throw together a script at the last minute, and incoming director Justin Lin of, err... Fast and Furious fame.
So to recap: the entire movie was rushed together in a year, and we have the director of the Fast and Furious series. This film is going to be terrible probably. But if Pegg somehow manages to pull this off, he will no doubt be hailed as a hero to Trekkies everywhere.
Release Date: July 22, 2016
Now we're getting to some of the heavyweights. Sully is the inevitable film portrayal of hero pilot Chesley Sullenberger who famously crash-landed an airplane into the Hudson river and got everyone out alive.
Clint Eastwood directs, Tom Hanks stars as Sully. Do we really need to say more? You'll be hearing about this one a lot come the next awards season. But since you insist, the supporting cast includes Aaron Eckhart, Entourage's Jerry Ferrara, and Laura Linney. Long time Eastwood collaborator Tom Stern is on board for cinematography.
I suppose the question is how do they make a movie out of this, when the event itself was probably not all that interesting in real time, and probably shorter than the running time of a film? Well it's based off his autobiography, so presumably looks a great deal at the life that made him the man he was leading up to that day.
Sully releases this September.
Release Date: September 9, 2016
2. The Founder
This is a rather tasty prospect, and one of the more nailed on awards contenders for next year. The Founder tells the story of Ray Kroc and his acquisition of McDonalds.
An old fashioned business drama, with Michael Keaton as Kroc, and a supporting cast which includes Laura Dern, Nick Offerman, and Patrick Wilson. The director, John Lee Hancock previously did Saving Mr. Banks and The Blind Side, so he has previous in the biographical genre, and a track record of producing very good films. Script by Robert D. Siegel, who wrote The Wrestler and The Onion Movie. Cinematography by the Oscar nominated John Schwartzman who worked on Saving Mr. Banks and Seabiscuit.
A lot of talent invovled then, and produced by the Weinstein Company, who as we already may have mentioned, usually have pretty serious clout when it comes to awards season. The Founder releases in November.
Release Date: November 25, 2016
And finally, Silence. Eagle-eyed readers may recognise this one from last year's Hot List. Ultimately it ended up slipping to 2016, and winding up back here for another year.
There is not one detail about Silence which doesn't suggest that it's going to be a very big deal. An adaptation of the acclaimed 1966 Japanese novel of the same name, a historical drama dealing with religious persecution in 17th Century Japan, screenplay by two time Academy Award nominee Jay Cocks, and directed by one of the greatest of all time, Martin Scorsese.
Originally the film had been mooted for one Daniel Day Lewis and Benicio del Toro when it first surfaced in 2009, but following a recent script rewrite the cast now includes two highly regarded young up and comers in Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver, as well as veteran Liam Neeson.
It all sounds great so far, so it's just as well that the film is lined up for a late 2016 release, right around when the awards season really gets going. Put this one on your list, it's going to be big.
Release Date: Late 2016
So there you have it folks: 2016 in movies. Tune in next week for the essential new television shows on the air in 2016!
Tuesday, 12 January 2016
Welcome to 2016. The Ephemeric is sorry to be starting this new year not with the traditional Hot List, but with the very sad news that has just broken this morning.
On the 10th of January, 2016, just two days after he turned 69 and released what will ultimately be his final album, Blackstar, David Bowie has passed away as a result of cancer. The world is in shock, particularly as his illness had not previously been disclosed to anyone outside of immediate family, but as details come in it is becoming clear that Bowie was diagnosed some 18 months ago, and that it was clear for some time that he would not be able to delay the inevitable for much longer.
Bowie will be remembered as one of history's greatest artists, not just for his music, which has spanned 6 decades, but for his accomplished career as an actor, writer, producer, and his unique influence on pop-culture all over the world. Bowie has released 27 albums, 9 of which have reached number 1 on the charts, soon to be 10 going by early sales reports of Blackstar. Hit single Let's Dance is one of the greatest selling songs of all time. Bowie has written chart topping hits for a host prominent artists including Arcade Fire, The Arctic Monkeys, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Mott the Hoople, and Queen, and collaborated with the likes of John Lennon, Brian Eno, Mick Jagger, and Tina Turner. He has been covered by the likes of Nirvana and Dario G, and been remixed by countless others.
He is a household name all over the world, from Europe to USA, to Japan, and even reaching into outer space. Following his death, shrines have appeared as far apart as hometown Brixton, Berlin where he famously recorded his Berlin trilogy with Brian Eno, and Russia where he was one of the top selling western artists during the Cold War era. It is no overstatement to say that he has influenced just about every contemporary musician in some way, but more than that today's outpouring of love from politicians, business leaders, scientists and artists illustrates the inspiration he has given us all over the decades.
And yet these facts only scratch the surface of the true extent of his legacy in pop culture history. No doubt there will be more coherent and comprehensive tributes written than anything I could hope to deliver in this heat of the moment stream of consciousness, but earlier today no less transformative a figure than Madonna described David Bowie in one word: "gamechanger".
Arriving at a time when popular music was much more about conformity, identifying with peers, and belonging, Bowie gave people something they had never seen before. He brought trail-blazing spectacle at a time when other pop bands all had short haircuts and tidy matching suits, adopting a series of outlandish personae and wildly varying musical styles, from the glam alien rock star Ziggy Stardust, to the Weimar-era lounge-crooning of Aryan aristocrat The Thin White Duke, or the sinister Pierrot of Bowie's 1980s new romance phase.
No one had ever seen such theatricality from a musician, a thematic combination of music and narrative to create conceptual albums that were almost a new genre to themselves. Bowie's ability to continually reinvent his image and experiment in all genres of music displays an artistic depth that few have ever matched, and earned him the nickname of the "rock and roll chameleon".
But though the style changed, the message did not. For Bowie it wasn't just the the high quality of the music, so much as the formidably intellectual thoughts they contained. Dense and complex lyrics with allusions to politics, philosophy and society. Through his bizarre alien appearance, his androgyny and ambiguous sexuality, his flamboyance, and distinct sense of "otherness", Bowie appealed to the pariahs and the misfits of society. Bowie's famously homoerotic top of the pops appearance may seem like nothing today, but it shocked audiences at the time.
Rather than harness the contemporary ideal of "cool", these were songs which embraced being different, which told young people all over the world that it was ok to be gay, ethnically diverse, or otherwise unaccepted in society. Bowie became an idol to anyone who has ever felt alone or disaffected from the world.
This lies at the core of his enduring mystique, which by the end of his life had reached near mythical status. So it is fitting, for an artist every aspect of whose life appeared to consist some form of artistic expression, that his illness permitted him the foresight to even write his own curtain call. Indeed his final album Blackstar can now only be interpreted as a farewell to the world, a message intended to be heard posthumously with its thematic focus on death, time, and legacy. Millions of fans all over the world will be looking back at new single Lazarus, released in recent weeks, which would appear to take on a whole new meaning in this additional bit of context.
As an artist, Bowie never stopped innovating, never stopped experimenting, even after decades in music. For every new trend in music, Bowie was always at the forefront even in his final days. That one of the biggest stars music has ever known was able to maintain his ability to surprise for so many years is truly remarkable. But through all the myth and spectacle, we're reminded that Bowie was still just a human being, and one who will be sorely missed by a lot of people.
So first and foremost, thank you Major Tom for your contribution to the universe. For the rest of us, here are The Ephemeric's top 5 David Bowie albums, to help you get through this:
5. Aladdin Sane
A spiritual successor to Bowie's defining album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, conceptualised as "Ziggy goes to America", but the result more than stands up on its own.
First there is the iconic cover art, that Bowie lightning bolt that has become such a ubiquitous symbol of rock and roll and pop culture in general. In all honesty, more people recognise the lightning bolt than know from where it comes. Teenagers all over the world wear it on t-shirts to this day, unaware what it really means as a symbol of teenage drama and glamour.
The music is most notable for it's avant-garde jazz influences, dominated by the astonishing piano work of Mike Garson, much of which was ad-libbed in the studio. Ultimately Aladdin Sane serves as a great summary of the disparate stylings of Bowie, from Brechtian odyssey Time to rock and roll classic The Jean Genie, and jazz piano masterpiece Aladdin Sane.
4. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
For some, the epitome of Bowie at his strangest, most extravagant self. Scary Monsters formed part of Bowie's transition from 1970s glam rock provocateur to 1980s worldwide superstar.
Here Bowie embraced, and indeed became the face of a whole new musical movement in the new romantic period of the 1980s, contrasting strongly with his rock and roll roots, and utterly confounding all those who had followed his career so far. This radical reinvention would become a characteristic feature of Bowie's evolution through the years.
Scary Monsters would see the debut of Bowie's creepy Pierrot character, his first since 1976's Thin White Duke, and with it an equally creepy lead single, Ashes to Ashes, most well known for its utterly groundbreaking music video, which still stands as one of the all time greatest. Follow up single Fashion would go on to become one of Bowie's most definitive tracks.
Under appreciated and perhaps not as well known as some of Bowie's other work; Low was the first album of the so-called "Berlin Trilogy", marking a turning point in Bowie's life which saw him relocate to Germany in the hopes of cleaning up his various addictions and reinvent himself from a creative perspective. Low also marks his first collaboration with Brian Eno.
Aficionados will tell you that Low remains one of Bowie's most influential works, the one of the first of his albums to truly break away from the Ziggy/Aladdin Sane rock and roll mould that made him a star.
Characterised by instrumental and heavily synthesised tracks, most notably Sound and Vision, the album stands as one of Bowie's most adventurous, and truly wouldn't sound at all out of place were it released today. Bowie was decades ahead of his time here, and the shift in critical opinion between 1976 and today serves as a great case study.
2. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Very difficult to choose between the top 2. Most people would describe Ziggy Stardust as not only the pivotal David Bowie album, but also one of the most influential concept albums of all time.
Ziggy is the embodiment of the David Bowie story; an otherworldly rockstar as described in the song Ziggy Stardust, whose sheer celebrity and charisma forms a powerful following, and whose life ultimately derails into self-indulgence, egotism, and self-destruction, a Rock and Roll Suicide. Ziggy is the best cautionary tale ever written on the cult of celebrity, and thankfully one which Bowie himself heeded in time.
An album of such high concept had never been attempted before, and rarely accomplished so successfully even in the years hence. Ziggy also offers a very fine collection of individual songs, from Starman to Suffragette City.
1. Hunky Dory
Hunky Dory may not have the heavyweight concept of Ziggy Stardust, but it is without a doubt, one of the finest collections of songs ever written.
Releasing before Ziggy, it was this album that first brought Bowie to prominence, the album that made him an up and coming star and a household name.
The track list is just one classic after another. Changes, Oh! You Pretty Things, Life on Mars, and Queen Bitch. These all rank among the finest pop songs ever written, and even in these early days it's the sophistication in the writing that shines through the sublime melodies. Hunky Dory is the pivotal David Bowie album, shaping what was to come, first hinting at his potential as a formidable wordsmith as well as a musical shapeshifter.
Sunday, 27 December 2015
Welcome once again to this most glamorous and esteemed of events. It's the definitive epilogue to a year gone by, considered by some to be greater than shark, tornado, and sharknado combined. It is of course The Ephemeric's famous annual tradition. Live from the Swiss Alps for some reason, It's The Debbie Awards: the year ends when we say it does.
So without further ado, let the curtain fall upon 2015 as we begin our definitive review of the past 12 months:
2015 Debbie Awards
Cinema & TV
1. The Debbie for TV Show of the Year
Winner: Mr. Robot
Runners Up: Fargo, Man in the High Castle
This year's most buzzed about TV show came seemingly out of nowhere, from the oft forgotten USA network. It's swept awards and earned widespread plaudits, and now Mr. Robot can add a Debbie to it's growing list of accolades. Mr. Robot's tale of cybercrime, social inequality and psychology could not be more timely, but it's the slick quality of production that stands out. Dazzling, thrilling, and pleasantly self-aware, this is the rare type of drama that makes everything else look lacklustre by comparison. The strongest start we've seen to a series since Lost.
Runner up prize goes to last year's winner Fargo. Different cast, different decade, same sharp writing. While these hit series come and go (see True Detective) in the blink of an eye, Fargo has proven itself to have real staying power, and remains one of the very best things on TV.
Lastly we give honourable mention to another new show, Man in the High Castle. The first major success from Amazon's original programming, Man in the High Castle is based on the Phillip K Dick novel of the same name. Set in 1960s America in an alternate history where the Nazis won World War II, the show explores what a world under Nazi rule might have looked like, from the extrapolation of the party's hard line right wing ideology, to the complex cold war politics between a post-war German Reich and Japanese Empire, and focusing in particular on the inevitable resistance movement.
2. The Debbie for New TV Show of the Year
Winner: Mr Robot
Unsurprising that the best TV show of the year would also win best new show of the year. Mr. Robot really is that good. Season 2 duly approaches in 2016, and you would do well to ensure it's top of your list.
3. The Debbie for Film of the Year
Winner: Steve Jobs
Runner Up: Ex Machina, The Martian
Billed as a Social Network 2.0 due to the Aaron Sorkin script, this moniker does a disservice to the overall quality of Steve Jobs. Director Danny Boyle brings his trademark kinetic style and is once again on song, while Michael Fassbender puts in perhaps the best performance of the year. What really stands out is the unique film structure, focusing on just three key moments in Jobs' career and using them to illustrate the late Apple CEO as a man and as a tech innovator. Capturing an entire person, an entire life's worth of story in just three scenes leads to some starkly dream-like sequences, unlike any other biographical film you'll have seen. Steve Jobs is one of the most glowingly reviewed films of 2015, and yet it disappointed at the box office. Why the disconnect? Attribute that to the general public animosity towards Steve Jobs the person, the brand confusion caused by the cheap and crummy Ashton Kutcher movie two years ago, and all the behind the scenes drama, something that was only revealed during last year's massive Sony hack. It's a shame that this film will be so dwarfed by factors outside its control, because it is as brilliant as one would expect.
Indie film Ex Machina is the first of our runners up. A film that looks likely to fly under the radar of many of the Academy, it nevertheless remains one of the best received films of 2015 by critics and moviegoers alike. It takes an important contemporary issue like AI, adds in the impressive debut direction of veteran screenwriter Alex Garland, and a top cast that includes Oscar nominee Oscar Isaac, and the incredibly hot up and coming duo of Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander. A truly excellent film that would be most deserving of the Debbie in another year.
Also worthy of note, but behind Steve Jobs and Ex Machina in the pecking order, The Martian has been one of the big Hollywood success stories of 2015. In many circles, Ridley Scott has recently been considered a bit past his prime, long overdue for a critically acclaimed hit, while Matt Damon has yet to convince the critics that he has what it takes to be anything other than a franchise movie star. With this movie they are both vindicated, and what we have is a smart, thrilling survival movie, one which is rightly being hailed alongside the other top movies of the year.
4. The Debbie for Talk Show Host of the Year
Winner: John Oliver, Last Week Tonight
Runner Up: Stephen Colbert, The Late Show
The retirement of John Stewart has left a hole in television. America badly needs an intelligent and informative host to offset the Doocys and the Borgers of the media. Leading the charge in 2015 is Stewart's former charge John Oliver. Oliver was always a talented comedian from his Daily Show tenure, but now with the support and freedom that a network like HBO provides, he has taken his craft to a whole new level. Some of Oliver's work on Last Week Tonight has been revelatory. Oliver consistently picks important and complex issues, the kind that the rest of the media won't touch with a 6 foot pole, and tackles them with an energy and wit that has become trademark of his show. Oliver has long been seen as a second-string to the more famous Stewart and Colbert, but after a year on his own he is fast becoming the most important voice on television.
Oliver isn't the only one with a new show, Stephen Colbert has also this year taken over The Late Show from the outgoing David Letterman. Some of Colbert's work on his old show was up their with the very best political satire every created, most notably his work on SuperPACS, and his testimony before Congress on the issue of migrant labor. The good news is that Colbert's trademark intellect and unmatched showmanship have carried over to the new format well. The trouble is that on a major network like CBS, one often gets the impression that Colbert is having to reign in his edgier ideas and appeal to a broader audience. The jury is still out as to exactly how he will settle in this new role, but so far he still looks to be one of the best on TV.
5. The Debbie for Hollywood Rising Star of the Year
Winner: Domhnall Gleeson
Every year has that one star, the one who all of a sudden goes from the c-list to being in absolutely everything. Previous years have included such actors as Chris Pratt, Ryan Gosling, and Benedict Cumberbatch. This year our pick for this esteemed prize goes to the young Brit Domhnall Gleeson.
Gleeson has in recent years has starred in the Richard Curtis movie About Time, the Harry Potter series, and the art-house flick Calvary. But this year has moved his career to a whole new level, with roles in no fewer than four of the year's biggest films: the critically acclaimed Ex Machina, the hotly tipped for awards duo of Brooklyn, and The Revenant, and also a little film called Star Wars. An astonishing cv for any actor, it's been a year to remember for the man.
Music & Theatre
6. The Debbie for Best Theatrical Production of the Year
Runner Up: Sleep No More
This year all of London may have been abuzz about Cumberbatch's sold out production of Hamlet, but the real highlight in theatre has been the Royal Court's Hangman. Written by the twisted but brilliant Martin McDonagh, best known for writing and directing the films In Bruges and Seven Pyschopaths, as well as a host of other theatre productions. True to form, McDonagh's 1970s tale of a retired hangman running a pub is dark, uncomfortable, and absolutely hilarious, offering an exploration of male ego, teenage angst, and psychotic detachment, as well as a well thought out period analysis of England's transition to end capital punishment. Fans will recognise the style, the blend of menace and absurd humour. The balance here is about as perfect as it's ever been done. This is a play that really no one else could or would ever write, and one of the funniest things you'll see all year.
7. The Debbie for Album of the Year
Winner: The Desired Effect - Brandon Flowers
Runner Up: Every Open Eye - Chvrches
A pleasant surprise and a return to form for The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers with his second solo LP after a few duff albums. The Desired Effect was a nearly perfectly honed pop-rock record, with some of the most irresistible tunes on the radio in 2015, including tracks like Lonely Town, and Still Want You. The Desired Effect is what happens when an undeniably gifted songwriter finds the right producer and strut their collective talent.
Our runner up goes to the highly impressive sophomore album from Scottish electro-rockers Chvrches, Every Open Eye. Chvrches burst onto the scene in 2013 as one of the hottest tipped new artists in Europe, with widespread coverage and acclaim. Their debut was solid, and the follow up takes them one step closer to realising that potential. Every Open Eye is slicker, bolder and just a much tighter album. While it's hard to pick stand out tracks from such a solid album, Never Ending Circles, Clearest Blue, and Empty Threat seem to be the key singles to look out for. They have gone from fairly interesting hype band to genuinely solid headline act, we look forward to what the future holds.
8. The Debbie for Debut Album of the Year
Winner: In Colour - Jamie xx
Runner Up: Goon - Tobias Jesso Jr
In an impressive year for debut albums, In Colour, the debut studio album from Jamie xx, stands out. Jamie xx is better known as one half of the Mercury Prize winning band The xx, and fans of theirs will feel right at home with his solo debut. Widely acclaimed by critics everywhere as one of the best albums of the year, it is indeed very deserving of the praise it has received. Jamie xx has a real flair for understated complexity, and with In Colour he has crafted a wonderful, and rich collection of tracks. A slow burner, we predict this is going to be one of those albums that hangs around for a few years yet. In the mean time go and enjoy the key track, Loud Places.
Elsewhere we have Goon from Tobias Jesso Jr, an album which has become by some pundits' reckoning the 2015 soundtrack for heartbreak. There's no gimmick here, and nothing too audacious, just 12 smooth songs with a vintage aesthetic. In particular the tracks Hollywood and How Could you Babe are standouts.
9. The Debbie for Song of the Year
Winner: Lifted Up (1985) - Passion Pit
Runners Up: Lonely Town - Brandon Flowers, Loud Places - Jamie xx
We have had some excellent songs this year from which to choose, and while Passion Pit's new album Kindred may have disappointed, its lead single Lifted Up (1985) did not. Lifted Up is a balls to the wall uplifting good-times song in the classic Passion Pit mould, deliciously over the top, and incessantly catchy. Frisson all around, this is an absolutely top song that will get the room jumping.
First runner up is our pick from Brandon Flowers' album of the year winning The Desired Effect, Lonely Town. A spiritual successor of sorts to Sting's Every Breath You Take ode to stalkers, Lonely Town is the catchiest song that has been released all year, with that toe-tapping, get stuck in your head quality that few can match. Pure pop gold.
And finally Loud Places, the impressive single from Jamie xx's debut solo LP In Colour. Soulful, inventive, and the track most reminiscent of the xx, Loud Places is a glorious track worth listening to on repeat for a while.
10. The Debbie for Live Performance of the Year
Winner: Passion Pit
Passion Pit is always good. Passion Pit live is even better though. The band is known for its euphoric choruses and high energy, but experiencing it live is a whole other proposition. The energy is palpable, the music feels as though you could reach out and touch it. It is a few hours of pure euphoria.
Videogames & Technology
11. The Debbie for Greatest Technological Innovation of the Year
Winner: Net Neutrality
At last year's Debbie Awards we raised the issue of Net Neutrality as our cause of the year. It may seem an unusual choice with all the strife and worthy charitable causes in the world, but Net Neutrality is one of those deceptively crucial issues, one that effects everyone even when most people will have no idea what it actually means. The internet has been one of the most revolutionary inventions in the history of mankind, and yet we have barely even scratched its potential.
The internet has the capacity to provide endless and instant information to every person in the world, this gives it the potential to be a singularly important device for education, to say nothing of its promise as a tool for driving awareness and social change. The key to realising this potential is to keep the internet unbiased and equal, not giving anyone control over the content or prioritising one piece of content over another. The moment you start doing that you open the door to propagandising. This year the FCC reclassified the internet as a title II (common carrier) telecommunications service, which guarantees net neutrality in the United States. It's flown under the radar for a lot of people, but in the long term this may be the single most significant action of the Obama administration.
12. The Debbie for Greatest Scientific Discovery of the Year
Winner: Liquid water, everywhere
The Universe is a desolate, empty place, full of dust and ice. Only the jewel of the Solar System, Earth, is different, with its water, climate, and life. Or is it? Until now, the guiding principle of all exobiology has been the search for liquid water. Everywhere we have found liquid water so far, we have found life. Now, for the first time, we have definitive proof of liquid water somewhere other than Earth. Liquid, albeit highly salinated, water is now known to exist on the surface of Mars, with potentially even more under the surface.
But that's not all! In the same year, we have confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that there is liquid water under the icy surfaces of Jovian moon Europa, and the Saturnian moon Enceladus. Add to this the fact that we are pretty damn certain that Ganymede, Callisto and Titan also have water, and several other bodies may also do so, and suddenly our entire view of the universe has been transformed. Liquid water is not a rarity, it is common. Everywhere we have found liquid water until now, we have found life.
13. The Debbie for Videogame of the Year
Winner: Kerbal Space Program
Runners Up: Fallout 4
It has been a big year for gaming. We've seen some huge AAA releases, and big money mega-hits. Yet our pick for the winner of this grand prize goes to the indie darling, Kerbal Space Program. A deceptively complex simulator of realistic space travel mechanics wrapped in a cute shell and a competent management game to boot, KSP is a game you can lose countless hours to. It's a triumph for such a small development team to produce such a tight and enjoyable product, and the greatest vindication we have yet seen that the crowdfunding early-access model can really work.
Our runner up choice may come with some controversy. Fallout 4 is an undeniably excellent videogame, and the biggest release of 2015 in terms of both hype and sales. It comes with more than its share of bugs, and is held back from true greatness by poor design choices, a probelm entirely of its own making, but this is nevertheless one of the essential games of 2015.
14. The Debbie for Videogame Console of the Year
For all the competition between Microsoft and Sony, and to a lesser extent Nintendo, PC gaming has been making a quiet resurgence. In recent years the vogue has been for developers to focus on the consoles, you can charge more for games, the infrastructure for paid add-ons is well developed, and crucially since every console is the exact same design, you only need to design your game to run on one piece of hardware. But PC gaming has its own advantages, flexibility, customisation, better control options, and of course the wonderful Steam platform. In 2015 the winds seem to have changed back towards the PC, with several of the year's biggest releases, including our two game of the year contenders, releasing on PC, and a new raft of developers deciding to focus solely on the PC platform, particularly in the indie and Kickstarter scene. With the advent of the new Steam Machines, the use of this platform for gaming will increase further, so we expect this trend to continue.
15. The Debbie for Company of the Year
Runner Up: Alphabet
They've been all over the news this year, and not always for the right reasons, but there is no denying that Uber are one of the most disruptive companies in the world today. The potential for cheap and convenient transport, available to everyone, at any time, in any place, will revolutionise city life, and even more so as prices continue to decrease. In London right now, Uber taxis are still relatively expensive, albeit cheaper than any competitor. In other cities a single ride can be as cheap as a few pounds. But that's just the start. Going forward, the stated goal for Uber is ultimately to transition to driverless cars. When that happens, with no driver salaries, benefits or related recruiting and administrative costs, the price for an uber taxi will crash to the point where it is practically negligible. At those prices, what justification is there for ever not using Uber to go somewhere? The potential ramifications are huge.
In a similar vein, we have Alphabet, the newly rebranded parent company for Google, and all associated Google companies. Alphabet/Google have always been on the cutting edge of technology, in particular the research-oriented Google X branch. Now we are at the point where some of the company's loftier ideas are coming to fruition, and the sheer breadth of their operations is staggering. For starters there's the driverless car tech they are in the process of testing, the very technology that Uber are likely to use. Then there is Project Loon, due to launch shortly, which will use a network of high altitude balloons of all things to provide uncensored internet access to the world, particularly those in repressed autocratic nations. Project Sunroof has the lofty goal of making roof solar panels mainstream, easily available and convenient to install anywhere in the country. Last but not least there's Calico, a company with the no less lofty ambition of significant life extension. Alphabet has their finger in a lot of pies, all with astonishing ambitions and the massive financial heft of Google. This can only be a massively good thing for humanity, so why is this only second on their list? Uber represents an active, existing business. These Alphabet ideas, incredible though they may be, are still just ideas. Stay tuned over the coming years and we'll see which of these come to fruition.
16. The Debbie for Small Company of the Year
Winner: Gilead Sciences
Runner Up: Organovo
This year we're going for something a little bit different with Gilead Sciences. Not a household name like some of the other companies we've discussed on this blog, but one that looks set to be equally significant. The pharmaceutical company's growth over the past 10 years has been staggering and earned such hyperbolic praise as "the Apple of pharmaceuticals". Over the top gushing aside, Gilead is indeed an up-and-comer, and while right now is heavily focused on the hepatitis market, is set to branch into many huge areas of research from oncology and liver disease to rheumatoid arthritis and HIV/AIDS. Gilead has shown its ability to identify, acquire, and market drugs as second to none, this will be a very big player in pharmaceuticals indeed.
Our runner up stays in the biomedical field. Organovo has got to be one of the most unique and potentially groundbreaking ideas in the field today. Essentially, the idea is to combine the burgeoning field of 3D printing with medicine, 3D printed cells. Currently the company is close to being able to print actual functioning human tissue. That in itself is a remarkable achievement. The next logical step after that is printing whole organs. The potential significance of such a breakthrough needs no further elaboration, it would change the world to be able to print even the more simple organs, let alone vital systems. One to keep an eye on over the coming years.
17. The Debbie for Gadget of the Year
Winner: Apple Watch
Wearable technology is the big thing in gadgets right now. Apple is one of the world's biggest tech companies. It's about time they got involved in this growing field. Their addition to the market is the Apple Watch. This is far from the first smartwatch to be released, there are already several Android alternatives available, but as one would expect from Apple they manage to find that little bit extra quality to stand out in an increasingly crowded market. The physical design is clever for a start, intuitive to control despite the obvious limitations in size, and the ability to easily switch watch bands is nothing short of brilliant. The fitness and exercise features make another nice addition for those who have not yet invested in an Up3 or Fitbit. The cherry on top is the addition of Apple Pay features. You can use this watch as a credit card, oyster card, airplane boarding pass, cinema ticket, and just about anything else that's scannable. This is technology that allows you to control an increasing amount of your life from a tiny device on your wrist, and that's pretty remarkable.
18. The Debbie for Subreddit of the Year
Reddit at it's best can be a place of real insight, performing great service to the goal of free exchange of information, whilst offering the pinnacle of crowdsourced wisdom, and crucially featuring highly specified subreddits to cater to every interest or hobby. If ever there was one single website that could handle every need on the internet, it's Reddit.
This year for our all new subreddit of the year Debbie we're looking to the other side of Reddit, the users' penchant for the silly and surreal. In the past year the best of these has been /r/BatmanAdvice, an alternate take on the popular legal advice sub, this time imparting wisdom on the best way to Batman. Includes such pearls of wisdom as dress for the job you want, and how to choose your Batman name. However, and important disclaimer as stated on the subreddit sidebar: "A place to ask for advice on being Batman. Any advice here will NOT make you into the actual Batman. Reddit is not a substitute for a real Batman".
19. The Debbie for Footballer of the Year
Winner: Lionel Messi - Barcelona
It might seem like a way too obvious choice, but there's a reason for that. Lionel Messi is the best footballer in the world right now, and this season has seen him back at his best, and heads and shoulders above the rest.
His record in the past year has been incredible, 58 goals last season being his third highest ever tally in a season that saw his Barcelona team claim both the league title and Champions League. The good form has continued into the current season, as the team sits pretty at the top of the table once again, largely a result of this man's form.
20. The Debbie for Under-21 Footballer of the Year
Winner: Angel Correa - Atletico Madrid
Picking one player as the next big thing is a near impossible task, but The Ephemeric prides itself on having a pretty solid prediction record. This year the exciting young talent to catch our eye is Atletico Madrid's Angel Correa. The 20 year old Argentinian forward has been out of the game for a year due to health concerns, but despite that has come back and immediately become a key influential player in this impressive Atletico side. Correa's speed and skill makes him a deadly opponent for even the best of the defences, and if he can stay healthy then he can become one of the best players in Europe without question, and an important player at both the club and international level.
21. The Debbie for Football Manager of the Year
Winner: Luis Enrique - Barcelona
It's been a year of struggle for some of the world's best managers. Ancelotti won la decima, only to be sacked a year later. Mourinho won a league and cup double, only to be sacked 7 months later. Klopp was out of a job, and only just restarted his career with Liverpool, and of course Pep is Pep, master at the art of underperforming with the best team in the world. Really this year the award has to go to Luis Enrique by default, and it's hard to suggest he doesn't deserve it. A league and Champions League double, plus seemingly on course for another title this year. Enrique has firmly reestablished Barcelona as the best team in the world after Pep's dire last few seasons, and certainly has earned this cherished prize.
22. The Debbie for Politician of the Year
Winner: Barack Obama
Runners up: Hilary Benn
Alright, bring it on you lot. It's always popular to bash on the sitting President, especially during his lame duck years. We almost didn't go for him, but frankly with objective analysis of the past 12 months it became impossible to deny that 2015 was a very good year for Barack Obama indeed, one filled with a succession of strong accomplishments. It may not be the popular thing to say, but it is undeniably true. Obama's 2015 has included his administration's successful arguing at the Supreme Court that resulted in the legalisation of same sex marriage nationwide, realising finally the dream of marriage equality. It has included the institution of strong Net Neutrality laws, ensuring the validity and equality of history's greatest education and information tool. It has included the Paris climate accord, currently being hailed as a watershed moment in the fight against man-made climate change. These three historic accomplishments already top anything ever accomplished by the previous President, and probably any for decades, let alone in a single year.
Our runner up is the British Labour MP and probably future party leader Hilary Benn. Anyone who knows The Ephemeric will know that we are no friend of the Labour party, in fact we have a strong disagreement with the majority of their policies. This year Benn had a moment, a moment where he stood up to his party's fanatical leadership and did what he believed was right, arguing in favour of increased military action against ISIS in Syria. The speech went viral, considered by many to be one of the finest speeches on the floor of Commons of all time. Benn is an example of how politicians should really be, saying what needs to be said and doing what is right in spite of the political consequences. We give Benn this accolade as recognition for his bravery.
23. The Debbie for Political Scandal of the Year
Winners: Ben Carson has problems with reality
This one's just hilarious. Ben Carson came onto the scene as a popular conservative figure, and used his outsider position to become one of the top polling candidates in the GOP primary. Then something happened, Ben Carson happened. It started off with a claim that Carson had attempted to murder a friend as a teenager. He described himself as an angry person, "consumed by rage" who, and I'm not making this up, has to pray in order to control his urges. Yes, a Presidential candidate went on record as describing himself as a violent deviant, who needs the solace of an imaginary friend in order to control his tendencies. Just the kind of guy you want to have his finger on the nukes.
But that's not the ridiculous part. The ridiculous part is that this was all a lie. Yes, a Presidential candidate lied and pretended to be a violent deviant, who needs religion to prevent himself from destroying the world in nuclear fire. I just... don't even. But that's not all! After this somewhat bizarre lie, all the crazy started pouring out. Whether it's Ben Carson pretending that he got offered a scholarship to West Point, or Ben Carson pretending that he attended a class in Yale that it turns out never even existed... this... this is the guy who was for a while top of the polls in America. Seriously guys WTF?
24. The Debbie for Cause of the Year
Winner: Humanitarian crises in the Middle East
There is a lot of awful stuff going on in the world. This is not a secret to anyone anymore. But this knowledge doesn't do justice to just how horrific the violence being perpetuated in certain parts of the world really is. We all lose our shit when a bomb goes off in Boston and 3 people die, while in places in North Africa and the Middle East you have attacks that claim the lives of hundreds in a single day with alarming regularity. Even that only scratches the surface; there are millions suffering as a result of the civil war in Syria and the ongoing conflict in Iraq, 4 million refugees at the last count.
Now humans are notoriously bad at tangibly picturing large numbers. We can sense that there is a big difference between 1 and 10, or even 1 and 100, but when you start talking about the millions, we are very bad at conceptualising just how much that is. So here is a pictorial representation of a million. You see how that big square is made up of smaller squares, and each of those smaller squares made up of even smaller squares? Well if you zoom in you will see that each of those even smaller squares is made up of even even smaller squares, and there are a million of those in this image, and that's a lot. There are four times that many refugees from Syria alone. Clearly it's a tragedy when a handful of people are affected by terrorism in the West, but compared to this, well that's a level of human suffering that simply has not been seen since World War II.
25. The Debbie for Person of the Year
Winner: Bill Gates
Our 2015 Person of the Year, Bill Gates serves as a great example of how much a person's image can change over time. When I was growing up, the reputation of Gates was far from flattering; an unethical, monopolising, tyrant, constantly in the courts over antitrust suits and ruthlessly crushing the little guy in competing start ups. There were whole movies based on this.
In 2015 Gates has reinvented himself as a towering figure in philanthropy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the wealthiest charity in the world, and one of the most prominent forces for good. Huge resources have been devoted to such causes as malaria, clean water in third world countries, clean energy, and other agricultural and healthcare initiatives. Gates also recently announced the creation of a historic multi-billion dollar fund for clean energy R&D. He has previously declared that the majority of his fortune will go to charity. There are few people in the world who are doing as much good as Bill Gates, and even fewer who have the means and reach to actually bring it to fruition.
Social & Lifestyle
26. The Debbie for Restaurant of the Year
Runner Up: The Ledbury
London is fast turning into one of the foodie capitals of the world, blessed with some of the hottest and most acclaimed restaurants anywhere. Our pick of the bunch for 2015 is Peruvian restaurant Coya. The Green Park establishment specialises in char-grill, ceviche, and other Latin American classics. But it really is difficult to convey just how good the food is until you try it for yourself. The lomo de res beef skewer melts in your mouth, the patatas bravas is finger-licking good, but the undoubted highlight has to be the arroz nikkei seabass with rice, a dish that simply needs to be tasted to be believed.
Our runner up is a restaurant generally considered to be one of the top one or two in all of London, The Ledbury. Let's be clear, it may have lost out to Coya this year, but really when you're talking about restaurants of this calibre there isn't much between them. The Ledbury is a very different sort of restaurant of course, two michelin star, multi-course tasting menus (although they do offer a la carte as well). But the Ledbury stands out not for its pomp and accolades, but because its food is absolutely excellent. Every single dish, excellent, no matter what it is. See something on the menu that you don't think you would ever eat? You'll like it, trust me.
27. The Debbie for New Restaurant of the Year
Winner: Taberna do Mercado
Chef Nuno Mendes was all the buzz in London last year when he launched the Chiltern Firehouse, which quickly became the hottest restaurant in the city. Its celebrity was well deserved, but Mendes may already have outdone himself with his newest creation, Taberna do Mercado. In complete contrast to the grandiose Chiltern Firehouse, Taberna is a tiny, unassuming place, in the most unassuming of locations near Liverpool Street, you could honestly be forgiven for walking by and thinking nothing of it.
The menu itself is also the complete opposite of the creative, themed dishes at Chiltern. On the surface it appears to be mostly just small sharing plates of meat, cheese and various homemade breads, with some fish and veggies thrown in for good measure. Once you try it, you realise that Nuno is just as intricate and innovative as ever. Whether it's in the preparation or treatment, the unusual combination of simple ingredients, this is delicious, well sourced food that's greater than the sum of its parts. We most highly recommend the outrageous sandwiches.
28. The Debbie for Nightclub/Bar of the Year
Winner: The Holly Bush
The temptation when considering this award is to think of the trendy speakeasies, the wild clubs, the quirky new bars, but this year we are just going with a classic English pub, The Holly Bush. There's a marked difference between the city pub and the country pub. Your typical city pub leans more towards just being a regular bar, tries hard to be trendy, uptight management. A country pub is a relaxing place, friendly to all, usually has a dog running around somewhere and board games to play. A friendly local. The Holly Bush manages to hang on to that old fashioned country feel despite being located in London. Part of that is down to the more secluded location up in the suburbs of Hampstead, but the atmosphere, the service, and the extras are all spot on for that right pub feel. The Holly Bush is currently undergoing refurbishment, so we shall see if it maintains its charm, but for now it's a lovely spot.
29. The Debbie for Mixologist of the Year
Winner: Alessandro Palazzi
Another Debbie for... guess who? The Duke's Bar owner Alessandro is famous across London for making Ian Fleming's drinks, and in particular his flair for unique martinis turn heads. Whether he's making his signature Fleming 89 or whipping up some original creation on the spot, there's no finer cocktail around. This year's special creations include the coffee flavoured Oracabesa martini.
30. The Debbie for Destination of the Year
Winner: New York, USA
This year's destination of choice is New York, USA. If you're going to visit a city, you might as well make it the biggest in the world. Too obvious? Perhaps, but there's a reason why it's the world's most popular tourist destination, from the wall-to-wall landmarks, the shopping, the gorgeous central park, to the world class restaurants, nightlife, and theatre. Now even the formerly undeveloped areas, the industrial, warehouse districts, have all been turned into wonderfully trendy neighbourhoods bristling with new developments like the Highline. Still one of the best ways to spend a week.
31. The Debbie for Wine of the Year
Winner: Haiku 2009
Patrons are unanimous, the Castello di Ama vineyard is consistently among the very best in Tuscany, and this year we bestow our most coveted award in wine to their Haiku 2009 vintage. Elegant and delicately fruity, this wine is a 50% sangiovese and 50% equal parts cabernet franc and merlot. A smooth drinking wine, very fine to drink now, but can also keep cellared for another 3-4 years.
32. The Debbie for Champagne of the Year
Winner: Nyetimber blanc de blancs 2007
Whisper it quietly, but the English sparkling wines are starting to develop a name for themselves. Thanks to global warming, the English climate is becoming increasingly favourable to the traditional grapes of the Champagne region, to the point where many are declaring southern England as the future of sparkling wine in Europe. It is now becoming commonplace for the top English wines to win blind tastings against even the biggest names of Champagne, and in that regard no English wine is more celebrated than Nyetimber. Nyetimber operate a vineyard on a par with any other in the world. Specialising entirely in sparkling wine, their classic cuvée is award winning. However our pick from the bunch is the Nyetimber blanc de blancs. 100% chardonnay as all blanc de blancs are, this is a supremely crisp and memorable sparkling wine, and a fine choice for any festive meal. Drink well, drink British my friends.
Well there you have it. 2015 will go down as a troubled year for sure, but here's to the next one being better!