OUR arts team preview the films, shows, events and personalities we expect to make a splash (or bomb) in 2008.
A is for ANSEL ADAMS
ANSEL ADAMS is renowned throughout the world for his crisp, panoramic images of the American West, characterised by a dazzling spectrum of blacks, whites and greys. Work by the San Francisco-born artist and conservationist is enormously popular, so the retrospective coming to Scotland in February looks a surefire hit.
In 1979 his 32nd book, Yosemite and the Range of Light, sold in excess of 200,000 copies. In 1981 a print of one of his photos of New Mexico fetched more than $71,000 at auction. But his aspirations were artistic – he was profoundly inspired by the aesthetic potential of the medium. He argued that photographs should not resemble impressionistic paintings or etchings and advocated putting in as much effort in the darkroom as on the shoot itself.
In addition to teaching and writing, Adams consulted with museums and travelled to California after Pearl Harbor, to highlight the injustices perpetrated against interred Japanese-Americans. But his prime inspiration was the great outdoors. Having joined the Sierra Club, dedicated to preserving nature's wonders, as a teen, he later served as one of its directors, and is inextricably associated with the American Parks network.
Now 150 photographs taken between the 1920s and 1960s – the most comprehensive collection of his work ever exhibited in the UK – are collected in Ansel Adams – Celebration of Genius (City Art Centre in Edinburgh, 9 February to 19 April). The show should appeal as much to eco-warriors as art lovers.
B is for BATMAN
ACTUALLY, this time out, the superhero is going by a much cooler moniker: The Dark Knight. The sequel to 2005's Batman Begins is a sign of the confidence Warner Bros has in director Christopher Nolan's darker vision for the iconic franchise. It's also an indication of just how successfully Christian Bale re-invigorated the cowl-wearing vigilante and his billionaire alter-ego, Bruce Wayne. Long overshadowed on film by the flamboyant villains he's had to fight, Bale – no stranger to going over the edge for a pay cheque – tapped into the dark psychological roots of the character to turn him into an intense, intimidating, fear-juicing presence in his own right.
Mind, his new nemesis is no slouch in this department. With a shock of green hair, blackened eyes, patchy white clown make-up, festering skin and blood-red lipstick smeared across a heavily scarred mouth, Heath Ledger's Joker is a world away from Jack Nicholson's cackling buffoon in Tim Burton's first Batman movie. According to Ledger: "He's just an absolute sociopath: a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown."
Story-wise, the film is going to continue exploring Batman's psyche as the effect of waging a vigilante war starts to take its toll. It will also see the introduction of Gotham City District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), whom aficionados will know becomes another rogue, Two-Face – though Nolan is remaining tight-lipped about whether that happens in this film.
By the time you read this, anybody who's been to an IMAX screening of I Am Legend will have seen The Dark Knight's opening seven-minute prologue ahead of the Will Smith blockbuster. Reaction thus far has been ecstatic and with key cast returning (though the brilliant Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces drippy Katie Holmes as Batman's love interest, Rachel Dawes), the prospect of Batman in Hong Kong, and the awesome-looking Bat-Pod (no, that's not his MP3 player), this is shaping up to be the coolest blockbuster of the year.
C is for CHINA
THOUGHTLESSLY, the organisers of the Beijing Olympics have chosen to hold the Games of the XXIX Olympiad from 8 to 24 August, clashing with the Edinburgh International Book Festival. No matter: publishers' schedules this year are so full of books about China that, long before the Olympic flame is lit in Beijing, we will know almost everything there is to know about Chinese history and culture, and just exactly what (if anything) we have to fear from the 21st century's new superpower. For the last 200 years we have lived in a western-made world: we know the names of the neocons directing US power in Washington, yet nothing of the thinkers, writers and journalists of modern China. Mark Leonard's What Does China Think (Fourth Estate, February) should remedy that, while Martin Jacques's When China Rules the World (Allen Lane, June) previews an era when modernity won't be exclusively western.
There's no doubt about the speed with which China is transforming into a superpower (there's so much building work in Shanghai that maps have to be redrawn every two weeks), but it comes at a cost. In Beijing, vast swathes of the historic heart of the city have been razed since 1997. In The City of Heavenly Tranquillity (Allen Lane, June), Jasper Becker looks at what has been lost, pointing out that before bulldozers moved in, Beijing was one of the most important cities on the planet for about 1,000 years, with a population of one million when London, Paris and Rome were a fraction of the size.
That history forms the subject of a slew of books: Jonathan Fenby looks at the last two centuries in The Penguin History of Modern China (May) and the 1,800 years before that in Dragon Throne (Quercus, February). Jonathan Spence's Return to Dragon Mountain (Quercus, January) goes, more specifically, to the Golden Age of the late Ming Dynasty, which came to an end with the Manchu invasion of 1644.
The changing face of China offers plenty of scope for new fiction. In 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth (Chatto, Jan), Xiaolu Guo's main character, Fenfang, escapes from her peasant background to live in a crumbling Beijing tower block and work as a film extra. Jiang Rong's Wolf Totem (Hamish Hamilton, March), a million-seller in China, has a Beijing intellectual opting out to live on the Mongolian grasslands. Beijing Coma by banned writer Ma Jian (Chatto, January), by contrast, may be impossible to find in the city in which it is set: its subjects – a student protestor injured in the Tiananmen Square attack and his Falun Gong aide – are still too close to the bone.
D is for DONALD SHAW
HE'S the man who turned around Celtic Connections. Glasgow's January festival had a wobbly year in 2006 – its 13th year, spookily. Amid accusations that the programming was becoming stale, the opening concert was cancelled due to a technical hitch, and several other events fell through because the new City Halls complex wasn't ready. Long-serving director Colin Hynd, who had until then made the festival one of the city's big cultural success stories, resigned soon afterwards.
And then, as the future looked uncertain, the man from Capercaillie stepped in. It was a risk – Shaw, despite his experience running a record label, had never run a festival before. But the new director delivered in spades, using his impressive contacts book to pull together a diverse, fresh programme. For his second festival, starting this month, he seems to have done it again – big names like kd lang, Steve Earle, Baaba Maal and Bill Wyman rub shoulders with landmark performances (a celebration of composer Ronald Stevenson's 80th birthday, featuring the premiere of his half-century-in-the-making symphony, Praise of Ben Dorain) and quirky shows with a sense of fun (two linked concerts called Harp Heaven, Accordion Hell). The music starts on 16 January.
E is for ENVIRONMENT
NOW the reality of it is (almost) universally accepted, 2008 sees a small flurry of books about what we can all do about climate change. Comedian Mark Watson, having announced on a blog that he was going to halve his carbon footprint in a year, found that within 24 hours another 500 people had signed up to do the same: Crap at the Environment (Hodder, April) is his record of how he fared. The internet comes to the rescue again with Bristol "green" twins Andy and Dave Hamilton's The Self-Sufficientish Bible (Hodden, April), a series of small suggestions about how we can save the planet which draws on the website (selfsufficientish.com) they set up in 2004. In June, Kate Locke's Does this Come in Green? (Hodder, again) looks at how to become a more eco-friendly shopper.
The daddy of them all in the eco-warrior stakes, Nobel laureate Al Gore, is taking exactly the same small-scale tack in The Path to Survival (Bloomsbury, April), which trots through what we can all do in our daily lives to reduce the threats to the planet that he outlined in An Inconvenient Truth. The book also comes in a young adult version, with about 130 pages about the political and economic implications of global warming lopped off.
F is for FILM FESTIVAL
MAKE a note in your diary. This year the Edinburgh International Film Festival will be held in June, not August. "There are a lot of different reasons," says director Hannah McGill, "and the most obvious one is that Edinburgh in August is overloaded with stuff. Brilliant stuff, but if you want to establish yourself as a leading festival in your field it can be difficult if you're being drowned out by other events."
It is, of course, a risk to walk away from the world's biggest arts extravaganza. But the Film Festival's research, McGill argues, shows that it has its own distinct audience, who should happily follow it to June: "Obviously there's crossover (between the August festivals], but probably less than you'd think." And, she adds, since a lot of her audience is local, she could attract Scots put off by the Fringe melee. It will also make programming easier, she says – she will no longer be competing for product with the London Film Festival, for example.
"It's going to take time to build up a June festival," she warns,"but we've been thinking about this for a very long time. It's going to be amazing for Scotland to have a significant cinema event that stands alone in its own slot. Fans of the film festival should not be alarmed."
G is for GLASGOW INTERNATIONAL
GLASGOW'S contemporary art festival is now firmly established as a biennale, combining commissions from international artists with homegrown talent from the city's burgeoning art scene. This year, five new international commissions will appear in a packed programme of more than 40 shows, taking place from 11 to 27 April.
Highlights include Jim Lambie (he of the psychedelic floors) at GoMA, Jonathan Monk at Tramway and Catherine Yass at CCA, with the next stage of her Highwire Project.
This year, curator Francis McKee set broad themes: "public" and "private". "This is very relevant to the art world," he says. "Private galleries are emerging as a force in Scotland, but there is also an awareness that you still need to support a public non-commercial community.
"There are a lot of debates about what public art should be. CCA, for example, is open to the public, a public space run with public money, yet people think of public art as being outside. How big is a public? Does it have to be everybody? Is it OK if a public is smaller and really interested in art?" And as cities are being redesigned, he adds, what is public space, anyway? "Is the riverside development in Glasgow really public? If you're in a public space listening to your iPod, being watched by CCTV cameras, it's public and private at the same time. And there are issues of privacy which the government has highlighted by losing that data: can you trust public institutions?
"People have responded to the bits that interest them. Other people have ignored it and done their own thing, which is fine too, I didn't want people to be limited."
He adds: "One of the things that's distinct about Glasgow is that there is so much happening within the city itself. GI has a chance to give that a platform – you could go on forever just with Glasgow artists."
H is for HEROES
A YEAR ago, Heroes was the hottest new TV show, a surprise smash in the US and later a big success on BBC2. And yet, halfway through the second series, ratings plunged, fans moaned about dull plots and the show's creator, Tim Kring, publicly apologised, admitting: "We made a mistake."
Perhaps having led all of its super-powered characters together for a big climax, they weren't sure where to go after averting nuclear apocalypse. An attempt to return to the original template of ordinary people discovering their extraordinary abilities, with new characters, has been hit-and-miss. A runaway brother and sister from South America, whose role seems to be boring the pants off everyone and crying a lot, have been unpopular with fans. But newcomer Dana Davis is fun as Monica, a waitress with a cool ability and a cooler grandmother – Uhura from Star Trek (alias Nichelle Nichols).
Meanwhile, many of the original characters are stuck in disconnected storylines – Peter is in what Hollywood thinks is Ireland, begorrah; Hiro is wandering around Samurai-era Japan; Claire is being courted by a creepy boy-band type; and Nathan has grown a really bad beard. It does, eventually, connect up, but it meanders a fair bit first. Luckily, the current run of the show has been interrupted by the ongoing US writers' strike, so by the time it reaches us we should be able to go straight from the disappointing episodes to, hopefully, a better storyline. "The message is that we've heard the complaints," Kring claims, "and we're doing something about it."
I is for INDIANA JONES
(OR TO give it its full title, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.) "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage." Amusing words there from Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Let's just hope they turn out to be prophetic too. After all, 27 years on from that first film, and 19 years since he last cracked his whip, a new Indiana Jones film is – ohmigod – actually, definitely, finally going to be in a cinema near you come 22 May. That's 22 May, this year! With so much attention already focused on the film's lengthy stop-start development (more than a decade), not to mention the delicate issue of Harrison Ford's age (65), can there a be a fan alive not willing all involved to prove there's plenty of mileage left in the adventure-ravaged archaeologist yet?
The prognosis certainly looks good. On-set photos show Ford looking as comfortable in his scuffed khakis, leather jacket and iconic hat as he always has. The 1957 setting (the others took place in the 1930s), means they've taken into account the real-time gap since the last film. Steven Spielberg has promised it will have a stylistic continuity with Raiders, so digital effects are being kept to a minimum (woo-hoo!). George Lucas hasn't written it (bigger woo-hoo!). The teaser poster is already a classic. And, best of all, Karen Allen is in it.
Yes, of all the announcements that have been made about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (other than production actually starting), none has been greeted with quite as much fanboy joy as the news that Indy's shot-slamming firebrand girlfriend Marion Ravenwood would be making a return appearance. Last seen offering to buy Dr Jones a drink at the end of Raiders, her exact bearing on the plot this time out is unknown, much like Transformers star Shia LeBeouf, who has been confirmed only as a James Dean-style rebel who becomes one of Indy's new sidekicks.
Still, that hasn't stopped the internet rumour mill going into overdrive on possible (family) connections between these two characters – though given that one extra has already incurred the wrath of Spielberg and Lucas for excitedly blabbing spoilers to a local paper ("Who knows if he'll ever work in this town again," said Spielberg's spokesgob), it's a good idea to take all such plot speculation with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, the chief beards have confirmed some additional information. The film has a cracking cast, including Ray Winstone as Indy's other sidekick and Jim Broadbent as a college professor very much in the mould of the late Denholm Elliot's recurring character Marcus Brody. Cate Blanchett and John Hurt are in it. Sean Connery won't be back as Indy's father (retirement is too much fun, apparently). The bad guys will be Russian (it's the 1950s after all, so no more Nazis). Oh, and it will have something to do with a crystal skull…
Not much to go on, then, but is it still too early to start queuing?
J is for JAMES BOND
SO, HOW do you follow Casino Royale? And I'm not talking here about plot, or budget, or setpieces, or cars, or Bond girls. What I'm asking is: where does the character go from here? That's a question the Bond films have to grapple with every time a new actor is cast as James Bond. Casino Royale solved it surprisingly cleverly, but only temporarily.
The problem is this. For decades now the Bond films have struggled with the fact that the essence of 007 – an immaculately dressed, cold-blooded killer who treats women as sex objects – feels increasingly anachronistic, bordering on misogynistic. When Pierce Brosnan took up the role, the producers got round this by having Moneypenny reject his advances, M brand him a "dinosaur", and by making the Bond girls as fearless as 007 himself, rather than feeble creatures to be rescued or discarded. If Bond had tried to pat their bottoms and dismiss them while he indulged in "man talk" as Sean Connery once did, they would have slapped him.
Casino Royale tried something bold and different – it tried to get inside Bond's head, show how he became the way he is. At first, he's a bit crap at his job, rash and careless. Then, the film tells us, that rashness leads him to fall head over heels in love with a smart, sophisticated woman whom he regards as an equal, a woman who even tells him what tuxedo to wear. But then she lies to him – for, admittedly, the most understandable of reasons – and betrays him. By the end his heart has turned cold and, the implication is, he will never trust anyone again. "Job done, the bitch is dead," he tells M, ambiguously enough to make it extremely hard to tell how crushed he really is. Very, you feel.
But after that, what are we left with? Logically, it's the old Bond once again, a cold, callous man who treats women as sex objects. Given that a substantial number of the audience for the latest 007 film were women (thanks in part to those images of Daniel Craig on the beach, Ursula Andress-style, in his swimming trunks), is that a film Bond's new audience will want to see? It'll be fascinating to find out how the scriptwriters try to manoeuvre Bond's Aston Martin out of this new cul-de-sac.
K is for KYLIE VS GIRLS ALOUD
HEAVENS above. Fans of the big, camp, overblown pop spectacular are spoiled for choice in 2008. Forget about the Spice Girls, though; they're not coming to Scotland, anyway, the meanies. Girls Aloud and Kylie Minogue are the ones to see. The former are still enjoying what Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys would call their "Imperial phase" – the point where they seem unable to put a foot wrong (let's forget about the St Trinian's movie for a minute). Tangled Up is a quite stunning pop album, up there with Dare, Parallel Lines, The Lexicon of Love and even – dare we suggest it? – Thriller. With three other mostly terrific albums to call on, their Scottish shows (at the SECC on 7 and 8 May, and the AECC on 27 and 28 May) should be solid gold. Kylie Minogue's X is not in anywhere near the same league, but hey, she's in her comeback queen phase, which is almost as good as the Imperial phase. She plays four nights at the SECC two months later (5-6 and 8-9 July). It should be spectacular, but Girls Aloud will be hard to beat.
L is for LITTLE OTIK
AND also for Matthew Lenton of Vanishing Point, one of the rising stars of Scottish theatre. This spring, he goes into co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland to create a new large-scale stage version of Little Otik – based on a Czech fairytale, and on the cult 2001 film by Czech director Jan Svankmajer – which seems set to be the highlight of the NTS season; the theme is the devastation wrought by the demonic "baby" of a woodcutter and his wife desperate for parenthood, who fashion a baby out of a log, only to see it come alive, and devour everything in its path. It premieres at the Citizens' Theatre in May, then tours to Inverness and Perth.
Elsewhere, the NTS spring season also includes the Scottish premiere of David Harrower's version of Pirandello's modernist masterpiece Six Characters in Search of an Author. Global super-hit Black Watch visits Australia, New Zealand, London and – for the first time –– the regimental homeland of Fife. And for children, the NTS revives and expands Wee Stories' glorious 2004 show The Emperor's New Kilt, in which the tale of the vain ruler who ends up in the altogether is transferred to a downtrodden Hebridean island where the people – and the sheep – are beginning to feel just a shade rebellious.
M is for MISERY MEMOIRS
ACCORDING to the NSPCC, 50 per cent of children in Britain have experienced abuse or serious mistreatment. Fifty per cent? Can they be serious?
Only when you look through the book catalogues for 2008 does that seem remotely believable. Every form of pain, lasting hurt and degradation is here. The boy whose foster-mother forced him to eat lard, bleach, faeces and vomit (Child C, Simon & Schuster, March) or the girl who was beaten so severely by her mother that she became deaf, and who was raped by her stepfather virtually every day from the age of four (Broken, Hodder, February). And there's more where they came from.
Hodder is the worst offender. This year it offers stories of girls who are their father's sex slaves, girls raped in institutions, girls sold into prostitution. Usually, there's some redemption: the abuser is prosecuted, the victim learns to live with her pain by working with other damaged children, or gradually makes his or her own way in the world. The ones who don't, don't write books about it.
In April, the godfather of the gruesome childhood, Dave Peltzer himself (his A Boy Called It sold more than a million copies in Britain alone), comes out with his own "happy ending" book, Moving Forward: Realistic Goals for the Everyday Person (Orion, April). Perhaps one realistic goal for 2008 would be never to read a misery memoir again.
N is for NATIONAL GALLERIES
IT'S January, and that means Turner's watercolours are at the National Gallery of Scotland, kicking off an eclectic year. The spring will see exhibitions by surrealist couple Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff, whose works were described by Andr Breton as "the best and most truly Surrealist" of their generation (Dean Gallery); a collection of digital portraits created by contemporary artist Joanna Kane based on death masks (Scottish National Portrait Gallery); and a show selected by NGS warders (National Gallery Complex). In the Grotto, tracing the development of the "grotesque" style (National Gallery Complex), takes us into summer where highlights include Tracey Emin (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art) and a century of portraits from Vanity Fair (SNPG).
O for OSCARS
THE 80th Academy Awards ceremony should be one of the most interesting in years. With no legendary director due for an ego massage, and no lead performance towering over others, it will be a fairly open field come 24 February. That said, the Coen brothers' stunning adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men will likely be nominated for best film and best director, and should see acting nominations for Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones and possibly even Scotland's own Kelly Macdonald (her Texan accent is flawless). Her fellow Glaswegian, James McAvoy, might be in with a shot for Atonement, which given its strong reviews and good box-office could also pick up nods for best film and best director (for Joe Wright); it will almost certainly land Keira Knightley another best actress nomination. She might have some stiff competition from another Brit, Julie Christie, whose performance as an Alzheimer's patient in Away from Her has been a particular critics' favourite – though it would be good to see Cate Blanchett win for her incredible performance as Bob Dylan in I'm Not There.
Elsewhere, expect Casey Affleck to get a best supporting acting nomination for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, even if that film's poor box-office and mixed American reviews will likely prevent it picking up other nominations. Paul Haggis's Iraq war drama In the Valley of Elah has also received mixed reviews, but so did his debut – Oscar-winning Crash. Another contender is satirical comedy Charlie Wilson's War, with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts (see page 9). The big rival to the Coen brothers is likely to be Paul Thomas Anderson, whose There Will Be Blood reportedly features an astonishing turn from Daniel Day Lewis as an oil baron. Expect Anderson to get a directing nod; though if there were any justice Paul Greengrass would win for The Bourne Ultimatum.
The ongoing Hollywood writers' strike might turn Oscars night into a fiasco, with movie stars likely to be asked to show their solidarity for picketing scribes by staying at home. At the least, there will be no-one to write the show, and considering how groan-inducing it normally is, imagine how bad it will be with no writers to polish the punchlines.
P is for PREZZA: PULLING NO PUNCHES
WILL John Prescott's memoir, out in May, live up to its title or just be another politician's self-serving memoirs? It's ghosted by Hunter Davies and publishers Headline promise "a long-overdue antidote to spin". We live in hope.
Q is for QUESTIONS
TEN things we're wondering about as the year begins...
1. What will Alfie Allen, Lily's little brother, be like in Equus, touring Scotland in February?
2. What on earth will that Brian Eno-produced Coldplay album sound like?
3. Can John Byrne's fourth Slab Boys instalment, Nova Scotia, live up to the first three?
4. Will Goldfrapp's experimental new direction really sell just one copy, to Alison Goldfrapp's mum, as she's predicted?
5. And can Portishead's first album in a decade be worth the wait?
6. What will become of Carrie and Big in the Sex and the City movie?
7. Will Blur get back together this year?
8. Can Edinburgh International Festival director Jonathan Mills deliver a programme to outshine his 2007 debut?
9. Can Ricky Gervais cut it as a Hollywood leading man, in Ghost Town?
10. Will Life on Mars sequel Ashes to Ashes be any good?
R is for REMAKES AND REVIVALS
SIX OF the following are genuinely happening this year. The other four we made up. But which is which?
1. A remake of sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still, starring Keanu Reeves as the wise alien.
2. Another Rambo film, starring Sylvester Stallone (61), as the human war machine.
3. Bad Boys 3, with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence back as the top cops.
4. Another Incredible Hulk film, this one starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner.
5. The first B-52s album in 15 years.
6. A new album by 1980s pop sensations Bros, featuring all three original members.
7. Aliens VS Predator 2.
8. ER: The Movie, including a cameo by George Clooney!
9. A tour celebrating Gary Numan's 30 years as an electronic pop pioneer.
10. Another new album of "lost" Beatles material, including exclusive new recordings of John Lennon playing the spoons.
(Answers: 3, 6, 8 and 10 are false.)
S is for STAR TREK
WHEN it was announced that there was going to be yet another Star Trek film, the initial reaction from many was "phasers set to yawn". Every good geek knows the rule that only the even-numbered Star Trek films are any good. However, when that rule was broken by the lacklustre Nemesis (number ten), the signs were that the faithful but wobbly and incontinent old dog the Trek franchise had become should probably be put quietly to sleep. Instead, Captain Archer was allowed to limp along until Enterprise toppled over, with a premise too weak to hold up the clunky storylines and bombastic theme music. All but those who had Starfleet costumes, Tribbles and Klingon phrasebooks at home had long moved on. So Trek producer Rick Berman's four years of promising a new film fell on deaf (if, in some cases, pointy) ears.
However, the news earlier this year that Simon Pegg and Zachary Quinto were on board for a new venture, as Scotty and Spock, suddenly made everyone sit up and take notice. Until a few months ago, Quinto was pretty much unknown, but his chilling turn as Sylar in Heroes has endeared him to science-fiction fans, and Simon Pegg is a hero to geeks everywhere. Co-creator of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, he has a deep love for and knowledge of film and sci-fi (he even briefly met the original Scotty, James Doohan, at the SFX Event 2003 – this is true, I was standing next to him). Although his track record when separated from Edgar Wright has been pretty poor, he should have enough respect for canon to do things right.
As will co-writer and executive producer Roberto Orci, who seems reassuringly obsessive and understands that "if you are a captain in Starfleet you are a cool motherf**er" and says he has "an Enterprise phone" and "every phaser that has ever come out".
However, the fly in the ointment is likely to be the producer and director, JJ Abrams. If Abrams indulges in anything like the sickening teasing and making it up on the spot that ruined Lost, then it'll kill the franchise stone dead.
We'll have to wait until Christmas Day to find out. In the meantime, for a hilarious and rather disturbing vision of what some fear might happen, head over to Galacticast at www.tinyurl.com/26mn6m.
T is for TRAMWAY
GLASGOW'S premier large-scale arts venue was dark for the last six months of 2007 while building work was carried out linking Tramway to Scottish Ballet's new headquarters. The builders are around until 2009, but Tramway's programme resumes as colourfully as ever for its 20th anniversary this spring.
Glimmers in Limbo (16 February-31 March), by artist Minty Donald, will excavate the venue's past lives as a tram works and transport museum, before its transformation into a performance space to house Peter Brook's Mahabarata in 1988.
The National Review of Live Art (February), New Territories festival (February-March), Triptych music festival (April) and Glasgow International (April-May) will all be held at Tramway, whose performance programme begins in April with Myth, the first major dance work by young choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Victoria, the theatre company that worked with the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) on Aalst, will bring their new show, That Night Follows Day – performed by eight to 14-year-olds but aimed at adults – in May. Akram Khan, who was a child performer in the Mahabarata, brings his show Bahok in May – a collaboration with writer Hanif Kureishi, composer Nitin Sawhney and nine dancers from the National Ballet of China. Quarantine UK returns, with ordinary people telling their stories in Old People, Children and Animals (June); and Needcompany has a surreal musical, The Lobster Shop (May), a follow-up to their successful Isabella's Room.
With a new gallery replacing the upstairs project room, visual art shows include Kenny Hunter and Creative Scotland Award winner Stephen Hurrell. The season ends in July with a collaboration between the NTS and Mischief La Bas, inspired by Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights.
"It's not the ideal situation, with the building work ongoing, but in a way it's prophetic," says senior producer, Steve Slater. "Tramway has had a rolling building plan for most of its life."
U is for UNTITLED JJ ABRAMS FILM
OK, so it's now officially called Cloverfield, but for the second half of last year no film created quite as much internet buzz as this super-secret project from the creator of Lost. The hype began with a trailer that seemed to come out of nowhere when it debuted with Transformers. Camcorder footage of a bunch of Manhattan revellers is suddenly interrupted by a "thunderous, roaring sound". Cut to lights going out and everybody heading for the roof. In the distance there's a massive explosion, then debris flies across the city.
Cut to more shaky-cam shots, panic in the streets, screams of "Oh my God!" and the head from the Statue of Liberty bouncing off traffic. Fade to black.
There was no title, just the US release date, 1/18/08, – a further eerie (some might say exploitative) riff on 9/11. As a teaser, it had the desired effect: within hours the blogosphere had gone into meltdown, with people posting theories about what it all meant. A few months on, and with additional trailers and info emerging all the time, it seems the film is very much a monster movie for the post-9/11 age, with the story constructed, Blair Witch-style, from found camcorder footage. Cloverfield is the l name the government has assigned to the crisis – although what, exactly, is attacking New York remains a mystery.
An attempt to create an American Godzilla appears to have been the driving force for Abrams, and the unknown cast and on-the-fly shooting style should ensure a unique spin (nobody's ever done a big studio movie like this before). Let's just hope all the intrigue isn't just cover for another Snakes on a Plane-style disappointment. We'll find out on 1 February.
V is for VALUE FOR MONEY
LAST year's big music industry debate was about the value of music itself. It's long been a burning question, from the years of "home taping is killing music" threats to the rise of file-sharing websites such as Napster. But 2007 was the year when musical heavyweights finally acknowledged that the goalposts had moved – Prince and Radiohead being the main examples. 2008's big question is: what now? Is the old music industry business model dead at last? Await developments.
W is for WILLIAM BOYD'S GRANTA
THE year's first centenary is one that, strictly speaking, dates back less than 30 years. But on 17 January Granta, a Cambridge magazine resurrected in 1979 as the home of good writing, publishes its 100th anniversary edition. William Boyd, as guest editor, has assembled a dream list of contributors: Doris Lessing on her childhood, Martin Amis getting inside the mind of an Islamic terrorist; a love poem by Harold Pinter, dedicated to his wife; an essay by Salman Rushdie and short stories from Julian Barnes, Alan Hollinghurst and AM Homes.
X is for X-FILES 2
THE sequel is out there. Winning the award for 2008's most pointless franchise reboot (though not the tardiest: stand up, Rambo), Mulder and Scully are back with this second cinematic outing for the hit 1990s alien conspiracy TV show, due in August. But why now? It's been ten years since the first film and nearly six since the show ended its nine-year run, amid dwindling ratings, shoddy writing and an increasingly tired concept. So you'd be forgiven for thinking there's no great demand for it. Nor does David Duchovny (who quit midway through series eight) need a career boost, thanks to his deliciously debauched new show, Californication. Nope, you can probably put a new X-Files movie down to a combination of three things: 1) some Hollywood wag deciding that because Lost is huge the time is right to reprise one of that show's biggest influences; 2) the Hollywood writer's strike, which has ensured that any ready-to-go movie has been fast-tracked; and 3) the resolving of a lawsuit filed by X-Files creator Chris Carter against 20th Century-Fox for unpaid monies.
Plot details on the upcoming film, co-written and directed by Carter, are predictably scarce, but what is known is this: shooting began in Vancouver last month, with Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprising their roles – and Billy Connolly listed among the supporting cast. Don't expect government conspiracies, Mulder's missing sister or the Cancer Man, though. This is a stand-alone story and scarier than the show. Maybe.
Y is for YOUNG POP TALENT
THIS time of year the media is full of pictures of cool young things tipped to be the next hot new band – as if bands are seasonal, like fruit.
Well, we're joining in, and being a Scottish newspaper, we'll focus on Scottish bands. So in 2008, expect big things from the following, all of whom have previously been championed on these pages:
1. Glasvegas, whose next single It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry is a witty, poignant song that sounds like Belle & Sebastian and The Proclaimers trying to make a Motown record.
2. Twilight Sad, whose debut album, to be re-released this year by Fat Cat, is as good as the Arcade Fire's second album. Yes, really.
3. Amplifico. This Edinburgh band remain unsigned, after a wobbly year of line-up changes and false starts in 2007, but their unapologetically mainstream pop has been quietly building a following – over a million plays on MySpace now. If you like Amy Macdonald and KT Tunstall, you'll love their debut album, out in March.
4. Attic Lights. Signed to Island after an intense bidding war, these jangly, harmonic popsters' debut single is out in February, with an album soon afterwards. .
Z is for LIZA WITH A 'Z'
SEVERAL thousand lucky ticket holders will get a chance to shout out a hearty "wilkommen" and "bienvenue" to the legendary superstar as she makes her first concert appearance on Scottish soil, on 6 June at the SECC in Glasgow. Hard to believe she's never been before, but it's a busy life, what with the four marriages, the affairs, substance abuse, hip replacements, near-deadly bout of encephalitis, not to mention all those fabulous films and albums and live performances. Talk about a super-trouper! But you'd expect nothing less from a woman with her pedigree: Vincente Minnelli (sire), Judy Garland (dam). As Liza recently pointed out, "We're the only family I know where the mother, father and the kid have won Oscars." Hers sits on a shelf in her Manhattan apartment alongside a raft of Grammys and Tonys. .