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james debate

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Hello and welcome back to 2020's final post from the Hot List. This week we will be looking at the most exciting new movies set to hit the big screen in 2020 from March onwards, after the cutoff point for this year's awards season.

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This post has taken longer than usual to produce, for reasons that I am sure will come as no surprise to anyone. With all the craziness going on in the world right now, things like films and games can inevitably seem kind of trivial in comparison. But after giving it some thought, I've come to the conclusion that there is worth in the message that things will return to normal, and that we have much to look forward to when that happens. I complete this preview as a testament that whatever else happens, human creativity and passions endure.

2019 is a year that I think is fair to say was one of the stronger in recent memories when it comes to cinema. From Joker to Jojo Rabbit, Parasite to the Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to 1917, rarely has there been such a wildly eclectic lineup of high quality films, resulting in an awards season that remained uncommonly unpredictable right up until the end. It pleases me to look at the year ahead and see another treasure trove of bold and exciting projects, which should provide something for everyone to enjoy.

I should caveat that the release dates below are accurate as of the time of writing. In recent days we have seen a spate of delays and industry disruption that could easily see them change.

So without further delay, the key films to keep an eye on in the coming year (trailers linked in the title where available), starting with number 15:

15. Stardust

hot list best films movies 2020 ziggy stardust david bowie johnny flynn We begin with the first major motion picture concerning the life of legendary songwriter David Bowie.

Stardust will star Johnny Flynn (an impressive likeness and well regarded songwriter in his own right) as a young Bowie circa 1971, the years leading up to the creation of Ziggy Stardust, the work for which Bowie is arguably most well known. The film will be directed by relative newcomer Gabriel Range, with Marc Maron and Aaron Poole set to play supporting roles.

The film's production has not been without its share of controversies, with Bowie's sone Duncan Jones disavowing the project and claiming that the film has not been made with the cooperation of the Bowie estate (and therefore presumably without music rights). There is also the concern that this could just be another musical biopic piggybacking on the recent success of Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody.

So concerns abound, but the source material is there, as is a great story. Here's hoping they can craft it into a worthwhile film.

Release Date: 17 April, 2020

14. Trial of the Chicago 7

trial of chicago seven 7 aaron sorkin best movies films 2020 sacha baron cohen eddie redmayne jeremy strong joseph gordon levitt michael keaton mark rylance The second feature to be directed by legendary screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, Trial of the Chicago 7 is based on the story of the Chicago Seven, a group of defendants charged by the Federal Government with conspiracy to incite anti-war and counter-cultural protests in 1968.

Sorkin, also writing the screenplay, directs an all-star cast including Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella, Mark Rylance, Michael Keaton and many others.

Add to this a veteran cinematographer in Phedon Papamichael and an awards friendly September release, and clearly Chicago 7 is expected to be a big deal among this year's cinema.

Release Date: 25 September, 2020

13. No Time to Die

james bond 007 no time to die skyfall best films movies 2020 cary fukunaga phoebe waller bridge daniel craig rami malek The next, and for Daniel Craig the last (this time he apparently really means it), James Bond film is coming, No Time to Die.

This time around directorial duties fall to Cary Fukunaga, best known for True Detective, Maniac, and Beasts of No Nation, while superstar of the moment Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Killing Eve, Fleabag) writes. Craig will be joined in the cast by Oscar winner Rami Malek, as well as Lea Seydoux, and cast regulars Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, and the rest.

Originally schedule for an Easter release, the ongoing public health crisis has necessitated a delay until November 2020. All the signs so far suggest it will be worth the wait.

Release Date: 12 November, 2020

12. Dune

dune denis villeneuve best films movies 2020 timothee chalamet oscar isaac josh brolin Dune, an epic sci-fi adventure franchise beloved by many, but with a trouble history of adaptations. The 1965 novel was notably made into a film in the 1980s, and a miniseries in the early 2000s, but has generally struggled with screen adaptations, owing to the complexity and ambition of the source material.

In 2020 a new adaptation is coming courtesy of Denis Villeneuve, an Oscar winning filmmaking with a burgeoning reputation following his work on Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, and Sicario. Villeneuve also co-writes the script along with Eric Roth (Munich, Forrest Gump, A Star is Born). Dune will star man of the moment Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem.

Release date is set for December, indicating high expectations not just commercially, but critically.

Release Date: 18 December, 2020

11. Nightmare Alley

nightmare alley guillermo del toro best films movies 2020 bradley cooper cate blanchettNightmare Alley is the next picture from Guillermo del Toro, his first since winning the Oscar for Shape of Water. While that film may be far and away del Toro's greatest success, he has a long history of the bizarre and macabre from Pan's Labyrinth to Crimson Peak. While my expectation is that this will be more of the same, it is interesting to note how different the source material is from his usual fare.

The original novel follows a con-man and female psychiatrist who trick people into giving them money, but includes none of the supernatural elements that we might associate with a del Toro film. One can only hope that he maintains his characteristic directorial flair, even as he moves into more traditional genres.

The cast includes a lineup of strong performers, including Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, and Willem Dafoe. Release date is TBA.

Release Date: TBA 2020

10. Next Goal Wins

next goal wins taika waititi best films movies 2020 michael fassbender elisabeth moss Taika Waititi is having something of a moment, the New Zealand filmmaker and actor has come a long way from indie comedy hits like Flight of the Conchords and What We Do in the Shadows to running the Thor franchise for Disney and, of course, his Oscar winning success with Jojo Rabbit.

His next film, Next Goal Wins, is based on the true story of Dutch football coach Thomas Rongen and his efforts to take the American-Samoa national team, then considered the worst in the world, to the 2014 World Cup.

Michael Fassbender stars as Rongen, and he will be joined by Elisabeth Moss, Armie Hammer, and long-time Waititi collaborator Rhys Darby.

Release date is still TBA.

Release Date: TBA 2020

9. In the Heights

in the heights hamilton musical lin manuel miranda jon chu best films movies 2020 When it comes to films that will make a lot of money, In the Heights has got to rank up there as a sure thing. This is an adaptation of the Lin Manuel Miranda stage musical, the one he made before Hamilton.

This project has had something of a turbulent production history. Originally cancelled in the early 2010s, only be resurrected following the success of Hamilton by none other than Harvey Weinstein. Then all that happened, and this projected ended up over at Warner Bros.

In the Heights will be directed by Jon Chu, a man best known for the rather forgettable Step Up franchise of dance films, but who more recently has found his break in the world of serious filmmaking with the critically acclaimed Crazy Rich Asians. The former will stand him in good stead for directing a musical, while the latter showed him to have some genuine talent as a filmmaker. I think this is in good hands.

Release Date: 26 June, 2020

8. Irresistible

irresistible jon stewart steve carell best films movies 2020The return of Jon Stewart, legendary comedian and former host of The Daily Show who has largely remained on the sidelines (in terms of showbiz anyway, he has been very influential as an activist) following his retirement.

Irresistible is a political comedy starring fellow Daily Show alumnus Steve CarellRose ByrneTopher GraceChris Cooper and Natasha Lyonne, which sees two prominent political strategists take national politics to small town Wisconsin, turning a local race into a battle for the soul of the country.

This marks the second feature film to be directed by Stewart following 2014's impressive Rosewater. If that hard hitting political drama seemed strangely outside the comfort zone for Stewart, Irresistible will be right up his alley.

Release date is set for May 2020, right in the thick of the Presidential election.

Release Date: 29 May, 2020

7. West Side Story

west side story steven spielberg ansel elgort best films movies 2020 If you're like me, your first thought here was probably "do we really need another adaptation of West Side Story?" And you would be right, but this is Steven Spielberg, and Spielberg doesn't make a film unless he has something worthwhile to say.

Spielberg is not the only legend on this project, with the screenplay penned by the Pulitzer Prize winning Tony Kushner, author of Angels in America and co-writer on Munich.

The presence of such luminaries makes a great opportunity for star Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars, Baby Driver) who has been threatening to break into Hollywood's A-list for some time. This could be the one that puts him into the stratosphere.

West Side Story will release this December, the thick of the awards season.

Release Date: 18 December, 2020

6. Tenet

tenet christopher nolan best films movies 2020 john david washington robert pattinson michael caine kenneth branagh Tenet sees director Christopher Nolan return to the familiar action/thriller territory of Inception following his award winning turn with Dunkirk. The plot line is simple: "a secret agent is tasked with preventing World War III through time travel". Sounds like classic Chris Nolan mind-bending shenanigans.

The cast this time around will include Blackkklansman star John Davd Washington, Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Himesh Patel, Aaron Taylor Johnson, and of course long-time Nolan collaborator Michael Caine. Tenet will, however, mark a rare Chris Nolan film without brother and long-time collaborator/screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, with Chris taking on writing responsibilities himself as he did for Dunkirk.

Tenet is set for a July release, and is being billed as the summer blockbuster to keep an eye on for 2020.

Release Date: 17 July, 2020

5. Soul

soul pixar best films movies 2020 pete docter jamie foxx tina fey Pixar Studios have two films set for release in 2020, but it is Soul which looks to be the more exciting prospect.

This one is directed by Pixar legend Pete Docter, director of Up and Inside Out and stars Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey. The great Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will team up once again to deliver the score.

Soul is classic high-concept Pixar storytelling. Foxx plays a jazz musician who suffers an accident which results in his soul being separated from his body and sent to "the great before". There he must race against time to be reunited with his body before it is too late.

Soul is aiming for a summer release, and looks set to be another great entry in the Pixar canon.

Release Date: 19 June, 2020

4. Ghostbusters: Afterlife

ghostbusters 3 three ivan jason reitman bill murray dan aykroyd paul rudd finn wolfhard carrie coon ernie hudson best films movies 2020 It is finally happening. We are finally getting a real sequel to the classic Ghostbusters films of the 1980s. We can now officially pretend that awful Paul Feig reboot never happened, because we have a real sequel and it looks good. It's just a shame they couldn't make it happen before the death of Harold Ramis.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife will be directed by the son of original filmmaker Ivan Reitman, and acclaimed filmmaker in his own right, Jason Reitman (Juno, The Frontrunner, Up in the Air).

The film follows a new cast of characters, starring Paul Rudd, McKenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard (of Stranger Things fame), and Carrie Coon as a family who stumble across their deceased Grandfather's (presumably Ramis' Egon) old ghost catching materials, and presumably hell literally breaks loose.

Ghostbusters releases this July, and I am very, very excited about it.

Release Date: 10 July, 2020

3. Mank

mank david fincher citizen kane herman mankiewicz gary oldman amanda seyfried lily collins best film movie 2020 If there is one thing Hollywood loves, it's films about films. Mank is a biopic of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, writer of Citizen Kane. This is the latest film of David Fincher and the big tentpole of Netflix's 2020 film lineup.

Mank will star Gary Oldman as the lead, with Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, and Charles Dance in supporting roles. This also marks another collaboration between Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on the score (they're having a busy year!).

Release date is still TBA, but one would expect a release in the latter stages of the year for awards season. A film about films, and such a beloved film as Citizen Kane at that, is almost guaranteed success.

Release Date: TBA 2020

2. News of the World

news of the world tom hanks paul greengras best films movies 2020 News of the World sees director Paul Greengrass team up with Tom Hanks for the first time since Captain Phillips. This is based on the novel of the same name.

This historical drama sees Hanks play a Texan traveling across the wild west shortly after the end of the American Civil War, who agrees to return a kidnapped girl, Helena Zengel, to her family on the other side of the country, facing off against the tremendous challenges of both human and natural forces.

Greengrass co-writes the screenplay along with Luke Davies, seen mostly recently with the acclaimed Lion.

Release date is set for an awards-friendly Christmas day.

Release Date: 25 December, 2020

1. The French Dispatch

best films movies 2020 french dispatch wes anderson timothee chalamet benicio del toro adrien brody adrien brody frances mcdormand tilda swinton bill murray And finally we have the new film of Wes Anderson. French Dispatch is a love letter to journalism, set in the outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional French town in the mid 20th Century.

The cast features a typically well-stocked lineup of big names, including Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lea Seydoux, Christoph Waltz, Saoirse Ronan, and of course all the usual Wes Anderson collaborators such as Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and many others.

Love him or hate him, a new film by Anderson is always worth seeing, for the style of filmmaking if nothing else. Anderson will be joined once again by long-time cinematographer and collaborator Robert Yeoman.

Release date is set for July 2020.

Release Date: 24 July, 2020

So there you have it folks: The 2020 Hot List. Chin up, things will get better, and the Hot List will return in 2021.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2020 Hot List. I hope you enjoyed our last entry covering the essential theatre of 2020. This week we will be having a look at the most exciting new music due for release in the coming year.

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I am sure I say this every year, but this has been a particularly difficult longlist to whittle down to the final 15. A number of very prominent acts (and old favourites) ultimately did not make the cut in what was a very strong year - sorry The 1975 and Red Hot Chili Peppers, I promise I still like your music! So a very exciting year ahead, with some promising new acts, some old favourites, and on this website they've been narrowed down to just the real creme de la creme.

So without further ado, here is our list of the top albums to keep an eye on in 2020, starting with number 15:

15. Arlo Parks (New band)

arlo parks debut new album 2020 best most anticipated musicFirst up: Arlo Parks. Hailing from south London, Parks has found herself featuring on many big in 2020 previews. A teenage prodigy and poet, Parks specialises in low-fi music that displays a control and lyrical nous that belies her tender years.

The key tracks from the scattering of EPs released to date include Cola and Paperbacks, two tracks that keenly demonstrate her characteristic tone that has been commonly described as "bedroom pop".

Parks embarks on her first headline tour this spring, with a debut album reportedly in the works for later on in 2020.

Release Date: Late 2020

14. Broken Bells

broken bells 2020 third album best most anticipated new musicFor those who are not in the know, Broken Bells is the experimental side project of underground wunderkind turned A-list producer Danger Mouse, and The Shins frontman James Mercer.

Danger Mouse, of course, legendarily bootlegged a mash up of Jay-Z and The Beatles called The Grey Album, and has since worked with artists such as Gorillaz and Adele, formed one half of Gnarls Barkley and produced a number of his own award winning solo material.

Broken Bells will release their as yet untitled third studio album this summer, and have so far released new single Shelter. While we await further details, you can remind yourself of the band's talents with previous tracks The High Road and After the Disco.

Release Date: Summer 2020

13. "Juvenoia" by Strabe (New band)

strabe new best most anticipated debut album 2020The cream of the new faces in the Irish pop scene, Strabe is a twenty-something producer based in Dublin working on a debut album Juvenoia with collaborator Angelica.

The first tracks out so far include Best Worst Year and Acid Love, two pristine examples of pop that elicit a psychedelic/disco feel. Despite the heavy retro influences, their's is a very clean and elegant sound, and one that could see them make something of a splash in the indie scene.

We don't have a release date for Juvenoia (originally slated for 2019), but it is expected to drop before the summer.

Release Date: Summer 2020

12. "Miss Anthropocene" by Grimes

grimes miss anthropocene 2020 album best most anticipated new music
Canadian songwriter Grimes is having something of a moment as a darling of art pop, her last album Art Angels earning rave reviews and numerous rankings among the top albums of 2015. Faced with a new level of stardom and expectation, Grimes is releasing Miss Anthropocene, her biggest and most ambitious album to date.

Less upbeat than Art Angels, signs are nevertheless good that album number five will produce a work of very high quality. The tracks released so far are an eclectic but undeniably intriguing bunch, including Delete Forever, Violence and 4EM.

Grimes is fast establishing herself as one of the more interesting songwriters in the business, and I expect this will be another major hit.

Release Date: Spring 2020

11. "Swimmer" by Tennis

tennis swimmer best new most anticipated album 2020
Denver indie pop mainstays Tennis return for a fifth album, one which sees a continuation of their evolution from the low-fi radio pop beginnings to more full-blooded nostalgia throwbacks.

Swimmer looks to be another lovely selection of pop songs about love and marriage, most notably lead single Runner, which could easily pass for a forgotten Kate Bush classic. Also check out I'll Haunt You and Need Your Love.

Swimmer is definitely the highest production value from a duo that began recording tracks in their bedroom over a fuzzy mic, and makes clear the band still has much to say.

Release Date: Spring 2020

10. "Suddenly" by Caribou

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What is it with 2020 and fifth albums? This time we are with Caribou, another of the Canada's indie pop darlings and his new album Suddenly.

The six years since previous album Our Love seems a long hiatus by modern standards, but if there is any rustiness they don't show it with the production of the new album's first tracks. The pick of the bunch has to be You and I, a bittersweet gem with a hint of Kraftwerk about it. It pairs oddly well with folk ballad Home, also a cracking tune with a great sample.

A new Caribou album promises rich soundscapes with eclectic influences, and we can't wait to see what else they have in store when the new album drops.

Release Date: Spring 2020

9. Beabadoobe (New band)

beabadoobee debut album best new anticipated music 2020This London-based prospect blends a too-good-to-be-true origin story with a timely and well-shined homage to 90s alternative pop. Beabadoobee started writing songs from her bedroom as a teenager (she's still just 19) using a secondhand guitar. A friend uploaded a track of hers' to Spotify where it generated thousands of listens, and she was quickly signed up for a record deal.

The last few years have seen a string of well received EPs uploaded, but 2020 will see Beabadoobee touring the summer festivals while working on a debut album. In the meantime, you will want to check out the key songs Coffee, Space Cadet, and If You Want To. It's mostly simple, elegant fare, but enough to suggest a promising future for the young songwriter.

First album is expected some time in 2020, but no firm release date has been provided. I would expect to see it towards the tail-end of the year.

Release Date: TBA 2020

8. "Out of the Darkness" by Gizmo Varillas

gizmo varillas new album out of the darkness best new anticipated music 2020
Spanish-born, London-based musician Gizmo Varillas is one of the most promising young performers in the indie-folk scenes; a producer of consistently strong music and a surprisingly prolific collaborator with a number of other prominent artists.

His third studio album Out of the Darkness is due for release this summer. At the time of writing we have just a small number of potential songs from the new LP, including the titular Out of the Darkness and Cysgod dy Gariad, both of which are excellent. While we await further details, you can tide yourself over with some of the other excellent tracks he has put out in recent years, most notably Freedom For Change.

Blessed with bright textures, and warm melodies, Varillas has a great ability to meld both light and dark into his tracks in a way that I find quite effective. All indications are that this is a star in the making.

Release Date: Summer 2020

7. Everything Everything

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Manchester's best musical import in decades have had a few big years, finding great critical and commercial success with their last two albums Get to Heaven and Fever Dream.

Now having had a three year break since the latter, Everything Everything are getting ready to release their fifth (again!) studio album.

No details on the new album except that it has been worked on pretty much constantly over the past three years and will release sometime in 2020. So in the meantime, here's a few tracks to remind you what all the fuss is about: Distant Past, Good Shot, Good Soldier, and Regret.

Release Date: TBA 2020

6. "The Slow Rush" by Tame Impala

tame impala slow rush new albums 2020 best most anticipated
For their long-awaited fourth studio album, Aussie indie rockers Tame Impala have delved more into the realms of smooth psychedelia, creating another LP of remarkable creativity and invention.

The dizzying emotional highs and lows of Tame Impala can be quite adequately represented by the new album's two lead singles, Borderline and Lost in Yesterday.

For those who like something a bit different, or who appreciate their pop music with a dose of thoughtful and decidedly introverted lyrics, this new album will likely be right up your street.

Release Date: Spring 2020

5. The xx

the xx jamie xx new album best most anticipated music 2020Now we get into the top five, where the real big-hitters await. First up we have the long overdue return of The xx, one of Britain's best new bands of the 2010s.

Over the last few years art-rockers The xx, and the side project of co-founder Jamie xx, have produced an impressive portfolio of work, with brilliant tracks such as VCR, On Hold, Loud Places and I Dare You.

So what do we know about studio album number four? Literally nothing aside from the fact that it has been announced via social media, and will release in 2020. Do we need to know anything more at this stage? Nope, the fact that a new The xx album is on the way is ample reason on its own to be excited.

Release Date: TBA 2020

4. Joy Crookes (New band)

joy crookes debut new album best most anticipated new music 2020The top rated newcomer of 2020, Joy Crookes is the south London soul songwriter that has taken the music blogosphere by storm.

The last year has seen her grace just about every list and nomination of new musicians and promising new songwriters, now a debut album is in the works, due to release by May this year.

Joy Crookes is a gifted storyteller with a timeless sound, with a deftness of songwriting that belies her tender years. Essential tracks released so far include Mother May I Sleep with Danger? and Hurts.

Release Date: May 2020

3. "Shore" by Fleet Foxes

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By now you're probably tired of all these mysterious albums that will release in 2020 but we don't have any details yet. Well here's another one!

This is the return of Fleet Foxes, masters of contemporary folk rock and, with Helplessness Blues, the writers of what in this blog's view was the single best album of the 2010s. For an understanding of this band's awesomeness, check out White Winter HymnalHelplessness Blues, Third of May / Odaigahara and for good measure Someone You'd Admire. Tremendous.

So this new album will be called Shore, but otherwise we know nothing, aside from a redacted list of song titles teased by frontman Robin Pecknold on Instagram last year. No pressure, but we expect greatness.

Release Date: TBA 2020

2. The Avalanches

the avalanches third album wildflower since i left we will always love you running red lights new album 2020 best new anticipated musicWhen The Ephemeric predicted a few years ago, in a Hot List post much like this, that The Avalanches were returning for a second album, it was kind of a big deal. The Avalanches famously struck gold with their debut album Since I Left You back in 2000, before getting mired in a legal and production nightmare that would see the follow up take an astonishing 16 years to release. It was worth the wait, and Wildflower ended up being one of the decade's best albums.

So when I hear that the band are producing another record, I am understandably excited. We don't have an album name or release date yet but the first single has dropped, We Will Always Love You, and it's another lovely track, if a bit of a departure from the band's usual fare.

My bet is the album drops around the summer. Until then, tide yourself over with a few of The Avalanches' classic tracks, Since I Left You, Colours, If I Was a Folkstar, and probably their most famous song, Frontier Psychiatrist.

Release Date: TBA 2020

1. "Imploding the Mirage" by The Killers

the killers sixth new album imploding the mirage 2020 most anticipated best new music
And we'll finish with a bona fide music blockbuster, a new album from The Killers.

These guys don't need any introduction, they're one of the world's biggest bands and have produced an array of hit songs from Mr. Brightside to All These Things I've Done, Read My Mind and Human. We know nothing about the new album aside from the fact that it will be titled Imploding the Mirage, and that it is likely to release in the summer.

For all the hits they have released over the years, they arguably haven't had a great album since 2008's Day & Age, and while the last two albums have been reasonably well received, the fan response has generally not been as strong as with the first three albums. But a new album from The Killers is always going to be a big deal, and we are hopeful that this will mark a triumphant return.

Release Date: Summer 2020

So there you have it folks: 2020 in music. Tune in next week for this year's final Hot List, where we look at the most exciting new movies in 2020!

Friday, 14 February 2020

That most magical period of the four year cycle is upon us, the start of President election season in earnest. The Democratic Primary is well underway, and as we move ever closer to deciding who will face off against Donald Trump in November the time has come for this blog to make a decision. The Ephemeric endorses Pete Buttigieg for President.

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If you had told me a year ago that I would be endorsing a little known 37 year old former mayor of small town Indiana for the Presidency I would not have believed you. But such has been the astonishing rise of Mayor Pete over the past 12 months that not only does he have a plausible path to the White House, he might even be one of the current frontrunners.

During this time I have flirted with the idea of throwing my support behind a few candidates, Senators, Congressmen, Vice Presidents, and I will admit to being highly sceptical when I first heard that this political unknown was throwing his hat into an already overcrowded ring. But I distinctly remember the first time I saw him speak, and was taken aback by his eloquence, his wit and poise. I remember thinking at the time that it was a shame this man would never gain any traction in the primary (or indeed in dark red Indiana for the foreseeable future), because it was clear that this guy had the makings of a future political superstar.

What stands out most about Pete is the way in which, when you ask him a question, he directly answers it rather than dancing around the topic with some carefully crafted political spin. This is an impression that has been voiced by some of the industry's most renowned interviewers and pundits. When Pete speaks to you, he really speaks to you and not at you. He comes off as a genuine, passionate, and above all ordinary guy, who just so happens to be pretty darn bright.

That he answers questions so frankly and directly is all the more notable considering how many ostensible liabilities Pete has as a candidate. His youth, his relatively low level of political experience, his homosexuality... these are all things that call into question his electability for President, and yet they are things that he is happy to address head on, and does so in a way that is surprisingly convincing and sensible.

As a mayor of a town, he actually does have more executive experience than most of the candidates running (many of whom hail from Congress). As a former army Lieutenant, he has more military experience than everyone else running for President combined. He is a Harvard educated Rhodes Scholar who speaks eight languages fluently. He may be young, but he would be the first to point out that the two most successful Presidents of his lifetime (Clinton and Obama) were also considered young for the office. As for his homosexuality: in a race full of multiple divorcees and fifty-somethings who struggle with commitment, Pete's stable and happy relationship with primary school teacher husband Chasten and two dogs Buddy and Truman by contrast paints an idyllic picture of a wholesome and well-adjusted American family. Anyone who has a problem with that in this day and age really needs to reconsider their priorities in life.

Yes, much has been made of Pete's intellect and charisma. He rarely seems perturbed even under pressure, and responds to difficult questions with a convincing and reassuring calm and directness. I have long been of the opinion that the single most important criteria for selecting a leader is intelligence, and this unflappable quality he possesses undoubtedly makes him a great fit for the demands of the office, not to mention a formidable challenger to take on Trump in a debate. But of course, these personal qualities are not the only reason to make someone President. Pete also has  strength in his policy platform.

A lot has (strangely) been made about how Pete is one of the "moderates" in the race, but the reality is that his platform would represent the most progressive of a Democratic Presidential nominee in decades. His proposals include a $15 minimum wage, quadrupling the earned income tax credit, universal childcare and Pre-K up to age 5, and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are willing to work for their status.

Pete promises enfranchisement for the millions living in Washington DC and Puerto Rico who are American citizens and yet, astonishingly, do not have the right to vote in supposedly the world's greatest democracy. He has proposed bold political reforms to gerrymandering and the electoral college, which have been disgracefully abused in recent years to allow consistent minority rule over the majority. His proposal to curb the increasing partisanship of the Supreme Court (by making half the court non-political appointments) is easily the most workable proposal anyone has put forward.

The most important (and yet strangely under-addressed) issue in this election is always going to be the climate. To this end, Pete's proposal contrasts those of his primary competitors by focusing on pragmatism and efficacy, rather than simply throwing the largest dollar amount at the problem.

But the centrepiece of Pete's platform is Medicare for all who want it, a commonsense solution to American healthcare that builds on the near-universal coverage achieved by Obama's Affordable Care Act by offering what essentially amounts to the public option originally proposed for that reform package before being gutted by Republicans. It is hard to see any downsides to this approach; provide a minimum level of care for all Americans, while allowing those who want to pay extra for the quicker or more comfortable private plan to do so. It just makes good sense.

Simply put, Pete's platform is an array of sensible, well thought out policy proposals backed by evidence. It contrasts the proposals of just about any other candidate in that there is barely a whiff of an agenda or partisan red meat, just good ideas intended to solve real problems.

But above all the President is the face of this nation, and his message of positivity and inclusion is what this country needs right now more than anything. Pete's brand of oratory and optimistic tone have earned comparisons to Barack Obama, as has his preference to remain above some of the uglier infighting we have seen on the primary trail to-date from the likes of Bernie/Warren, Biden/Castro, etc.

We are going to need someone who can inspire the nation to come together and rebuild. Pete recognises that people won't turn out to the polls just because of Trump's issues, but because they see someone else running that they believe represents their interests and will make the country better. The next decade is going to require a gargantuan effort to restore America's reputation and place in the world, and in my view there is no one better suited to that task than Pete Buttigieg.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

oscars 86th academy awards 2014

Welcome back to The Ephemeric. Today we will take a break from our annual Hot List in order to bring you some last minute Oscar predictions (don't blame me, not my fault the Oscars are two weeks earlier this year)!

I'm busy, you're busy, I won't waste your time. Please find below predictions for the big night. You may not have seen the big films this year, or be familiar with the latest hype tearing through Hollywood; if so consider the following a crib sheet for what lies ahead this weekend, and perhaps even a sneak peek at who might just be walking away with the big prize.

Best Picture


  • Ford v Ferrari 
  • The Irishman 
  • Jojo Rabbit 
  • Joker 
  • Little Women 
  • Marriage Story 
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 
  • Parasite 
And the winner: 1917
Who should really win: 1917

Best Director

  • Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
  • Todd Phillips – Joker
  • Sam Mendes – 1917
  • Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Bong Joon-ho – Parasite
And the winner: Sam Mendes – 1917
Who should really win: Sam Mendes – 1917

Best Actor

  • Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory as Salvador Mallo
  • Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as Rick Dalton
  • Adam Driver – Marriage Story as Charlie Barber
  • Joaquin Phoenix – Joker as Arthur Fleck / Joker
  • Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
And the winner: Joaquin Phoenix – Joker as Arthur Fleck / Joker
Who should really win: Joaquin Phoenix – Joker as Arthur Fleck / Joker

Best Actress

  • Cynthia Erivo – Harriet as Harriet Tubman
  • Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story as Nicole Barber
  • Saoirse Ronan – Little Women as Josephine "Jo" March
  • Charlize Theron – Bombshell as Megyn Kelly
  • Renée Zellweger – Judy as Judy Garland
And the winner: Renée Zellweger – Judy as Judy Garland
Who should really win: Charlize Theron – Bombshell as Megyn Kelly

Best Supporting Actor

  • Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood as Fred Rogers
  • Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes as Pope Benedict XVI
  • Al Pacino – The Irishman as Jimmy Hoffa
  • Joe Pesci – The Irishman as Russell Bufalino
  • Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as Cliff Booth
And the winnerBrad Pitt – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as Cliff Booth
Who should really win: Joe Pesci – The Irishman as Russell Bufalino

Best Supporting Actress

  • Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell as Barbara "Bobi" Jewell
  • Laura Dern – Marriage Story as Nora Fanshaw
  • Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit as Rosie Betzler
  • Florence Pugh – Little Women as Amy March
  • Margot Robbie – Bombshell as Kayla Pospisil
And the winnerLaura Dern – Marriage Story as Nora Fanshaw
Who should really win: Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit as Rosie Betzler

Best Original Screenplay

  • Knives Out – Rian Johnson
  • Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach
  • 1917 – Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino
  • Parasite – Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won
And the winnerParasite – Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won
Who should really win: 1917 – Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The Irishman – Steven Zaillian based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt
  • Jojo Rabbit – Taika Waititi based on the novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens
  • Joker – Todd Phillips and Scott Silver based on characters created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson
  • Little Women – Greta Gerwig based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Two Popes – Anthony McCarten based on his play The Pope
And the winner: Jojo Rabbit – Taika Waititi based on the novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens
Who should really win: Jojo Rabbit – Taika Waititi based on the novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens

So there you have it, The Ephemeric's picks for the year. Enjoy the Oscars this weekend, and when the results go as predicted, remember that you heard it here first! Coming up next week, I stop procrastinating and finish the Hot List!

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2020 Hot List. This week we will be having a look at the most exciting theatrical productions coming to the stage in the coming year.

best anticipated new theatre theatrical production 2020 hot list
The London stage in 2019 inevitably seemed a reflection of the times in which we live, a funny old mix of nostalgia and ennui at the plight of the working man. No play better embodied the mood than the Donmar's award winning Sweat, although Roger Allam receives great credit for gamely bringing the excellent Rutherford and Sons to the National. London remains the world capital of theatre, and 2020 promises another dazzling array of productions featuring some of the biggest names of the stage and beyond.

Here's our list of the top 15 theatrical productions to keep an eye on in 2020, starting with number 15:

15. "Ravens: Spassky vs Fischer" by Tom Morton-Smith, at the Hampstead Theatre

london best theatre 2020 hampstead ravens spassky fischer chess cold war Let's start things off with the Hampstead Theatre's telling of a cold war classic. Ravens: Spassky vs Fischer is a retelling of the events surrounding the 1972 chess match between then world champion Boris Spassky and his American challenger Bobby Fischer.

Seen globally as a form of proxy war between the two cold war powers, Ravens delves more into the personalities behind the propaganda: two ambitious and hungry men more concerned with personal excellence than politics.

Robert Emms is electric as Fischer in this Annabelle Comyn production. A timely story at a time when everything seems to get filtered through the lens of politics. Ravens is running now.

14. "Albion" by Mike Bartlett, at the Almeida

london best theatre 2020 albion bartlett almeida brexit victoria hamilton Mike Bartlett's piercing Brexit parable, Albion was one of our Debbie runners up back during its original run in 2017. Now returning to the Almeida to commemorate the UK's departure from the EU, and it seems more relevant than ever.

This new production brings back Victoria Hamilton after her previous award winning turn in the role, while Rupert Goold will direct once again.

Albion will run throughout February. If you did not have the opportunity to see this excellent piece of theatre the first time around, this is your chance.

13. "The Seven Streams of the River Ota" by Robert Lepage, at the National Theatre

london best theatre 2020 seven streams river ota national The Ex Machina theatre company is bringing their production of The Seven Streams of the River Ota on a world tour, including a limited run this year at The National Theatre.

Robert Lepage's grand opus, originally staged in 1996, traces the story of survivors of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima across five decades, exploring the way one event can change human history.

Ex Machina's tour is timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the bombing. It doesn't make for easy watching, but it is an indelible theatre experience. This limited run begins in March.

12. "Life of Pi" by Lolita Chakrabarti and Yann Martel, at Wyndham's Theatre

london best theatre 2020 life of pi wyndham A new adaptation of Yann Martel's novel, Life of Pi, which was famously made into the award winning film. It's an ambitious production from director Max Webster that will tell the story of the marooned Pi and his animal companions through elaborate puppetry and special effects that have earned comparisons to War Horse and His Dark Materials.

After this adaptation of Lolita Chakrabarti premiered in Sheffield theatres last summer to rave reviews, it was only a matter of time before it made a switch to the West End.

The Wyndham's new production promises to be quite the visual spectacle. This will run over the summer, starting in June.

11. "Force Majeure" by Tim Price, at the Donmar

london best theatre 2020 force majeure tim price donmar The highlight of new Donmar artistic director Michael Longhurst's upcoming season, Force Majeure is the state adaptation of the acclaimed 2014 film of the same name.

A black comedy set in the alps, Force Majeure follows a family whose carefully constructed world is fractured by the shock of a near-miss, and the tragically hilarious consequences that ensue.

Longhurst will direct this production, which is set to hit the stage in the second half of the year, with the first tickets on sale for August.

10. "Endgame" by Samuel Beckett, at the Old Vic

london best theatre 2020 endgame samuel beckett old vic avengers marvel Who doesn't like a bit of Samuel Beckett? The Old Vic is bringing his existentialist classic Endgame to the stage this spring, and have an all-star cast along for the ride.

Daniel Radcliffe needs no introduction, the former Harry Potter star who, for all his early stardom, has reinvented himself as a stage actor of some notoriety. He is joined by the always excellent Alan Cumming, best known for his recent turn in the Good Wife but will be known to others for his long career in cinema and stage.

The cast is sure to generate hype, but expectations are high for Richard Jones' production which runs throughout the spring.

9. "Manor" by Moira Buffini, at the National Theatre

london 2020 best theatre manor moira buffini national Moira Buffini is a writer developing some reputation with the National Theatre following Greenland and Wonder.land. Her latest is Manor, a story of disparate folks banding together to survive a violent storm in an old manor house. It's a dark comedy with clear nods to the current climate crisis.

Nancy Carroll and Ben Daniels star, two actors with extensive stage pedigree and a number of recognisable TV and film credits to their name. Moira's sister Fiona Buffini will direct, their first collaboration since Dinner.

Manor begins on the Lyttleton stage in April and will run until the summer.

8. "The Haystack" by Al Blyth, at the Hampstead Theatre

best theatre london 2020 haystack hampstead blyth A duo of debuts, as Al Blyth's first full length play and the directing debut of Roxana Silbert as the Hampstead Theatre's artistic director.

The Haystack is billed as an spy thriller for the modern day. Oliver Johnstone and Enyi Okoronkwo star as two twenty-somethings with a taste for Netflix and videogames, who also happen to be computer whizzes at GCHQ. The story that follows is sure to get political and challenge the notion of "nothing to hide nothing to fear" that has been practiced by the nation's espionage apparatus in recent years.

The Haystack runs January through March.

7. "Uncle Vanya" by Conor McPherson and Anton Chekhov, at the Harold Pinter Theatre

london best theatre 2020 uncle vanya harold pinter anton chekhov Another year, another exciting Chekhov adaptation at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Uncle Vanya has all the great Chekhov tropes: faded glory, a big country house, and the death throes of old wealth against the tides of a changing world.

Olivier Award winning writer Conor McPherson collaborates with Ian Rickson, a director with some track record in Chekhov following his successful production of The Seagull. The highlight of the cast is the great Toby Jones, though he is joined by an able cast of Ciaran Hinds, Aimee Lou Wood, and Richard Armitrage.

Uncle Vanya will run at the Harold Pinter Theatre until May.

6. Untitled Punchdrunk Theatre Production

london 2020 best theatre punchdrunk drowned man sleep no more Immersive theatre is increasingly becoming a modern industry staple, but arguably no one has quite managed to match the high standards in the genre set by the trailblazing Punchdrunk production company, best known for their acclaimed London production of The Drowned Man, as well as the ongoing Sleep No More in New York.

As the company moves into their new production home in Woolwich, there are whispers of a major new London production in the making, expected to debut some time in 2020.

At the time of writing, this production is still shrouded in mystery. Punchdrunk have a record of drawing from a wide array of classics, from Shakespeare to Buchner and Aeschylus. Whatever form it takes, this is one to keep an eye on.

5. "The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage" by Bryony Lavery and Philip Pullman, at the Bridge Theatre

london 2020 best theatre dark materials book of dust belle sauvage golden compass philip pullman bridge theatre Director Nicholas Hytner accomplished something remarkable back in the rosy tinted days of 2003 in successfully adapting the infamously tricky Philip Pullman series His Dark Materials to the stage.

Twenty years later and we have a new novel in the series, The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, and Hytner is duly returning to the world of Lyra and Pan to provide an adaptation that features the same top production values and state of the art stage wizardry that made the original such a roaring success. A cast has not yet been announced, but if it is anything like the star-studded lineup of the original (Ben Whishaw, Patricia Hodge, Timothy Dalton and Dominic Cooper starred) it could be quite the curtain call.

Unlike its predecessor, La Belle Sauvage will run at the Bridge Theatre, where Hytner is now artistic director. The His Dark Materials production still shines brightly in the memory, commonly held by many as one of the National's very best productions. This is definitely one to watch.

4. "The House of Shades" by Beth Steel, at the Almeida

best theatre 2020 london house of shades almeida beth steel The House of Shades promises a working class epic, told over five generations of a family struggling through the industrial landscape of 20th Century Britain.

This world premiere at the Almeida comes courtesy of Hampstead Theatre regular Beth Steel, best known for her productions of Wonderland and Labyrinth on that stage. Here, she collaborates with director Blanche McIntyre, a familiar face for patrons of the Almeida following her star studded production of The Writer.

The House of Shades will run over the summer, with previews commencing in May this year.

3. "Leopoldstadt" by Tom Stoppard, at Wyndham's Theatre

london best theatre 2020 wyndham leopoldstadt tom stoppardArguably the hottest ticket of the year so far. Leopoldstadt is the new production of Tom Stoppard, whose name alone has propelled sales (and indeed prices) for the Wyndham's new play into the stratosphere.

Set in the Jewish quarter of Vienna in 1900, this promises to be one of the most personal pieces of work yet from the legendary playwright, much of whose family died at the hands of the Nazis during world war 2. Stoppard collaborates with producer Sonia Friedman, who is responsible for some of the West End's biggest hits of recent years, including Harry Potter and The Ferryman.

Leopoldstadt could be a tricky one to get tickets for, but if you can, you will want to see this.

2. "The Visit" by Tony Kushner and Friedrich Dürrenmatt, at the National Theatre

the visit national kushner durrenmatt friedrich london best theatre 2020 Tony Kushner brings this latest adaptation of the Dürrenmatt play to the National Theatre, directed by Jeremy Herrin, who frequent visitors of the National will remember from the excellent This House, and starring two genuine stars in Lesley Manville and Hugo Weaving.

Kushner adapts the original tale of revenge to a 20th Century setting, post-war in the town of Slurry, New York.

The Visit is set to be the National's first big tentpole of the year, running over the spring on the Olivier stage.

1. "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Aaron Sorkin and Harper Lee, at the Gielgud Theatre

london best theatre 2020 to kill a mockingbird harper lee aaron sorkin rhys ifans gielgudBut our number 1 play to see in 2020 is the Gielgud's superstar production of the classic Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

This is a production of the adaptation by legendary screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, previously a mega-hit on Broadway that has earned rave reviews from the critics. The London production will star the great Rhys Ifans, best known to casual audiences for Notting Hill and Pirate Radio.

It is sad that in 2020, the 60th anniversary of the novel's original publication, its themes of racial injustice remain so pertinent, hopefully this production can serve as a timely reminder, and stir some fresh impetus into solving some of the problems that we still face as a society.

So there you have it folks: 2020 in theatre. Tune in soon for our next instalment of the Hot List, covering the essential new music coming up in 2020!

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