What cultural blockbusters can we look forward to in 2019?

Margaret Atwood, Pixar and Lana del Rey: Chloe Whitehead puts together her most anticipated cultural events coming up in the new year

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A Scene from Toy Story 3 showing animated toys crowded into a nursery school room
Toy Story 3: Can 2019's Toy Story 4 match the hype?

Love Island, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ariana Grande’s Sweetener: these 2018 blockbusters became staples of global popular (and meme) culture. So when looking ahead to 2019, what more could we possibly have anticipate? Our society may well have peaked. But ah wait, not quite; a trace of hope flutters in the ether, in the form of the following cultural lanterns we can all share the hype of in the New Year.

The Testaments – Margaret Atwood (September 2019)

‘Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.’ Margaret Atwood, and her world-famous protagonist Offred, refuse to be silenced. The Testaments will be the latest novel from the Canadian cultural icon, but more intriguingly is a sequel to her modern classic, The Handmaid’s Tale. Originally published in 1985, that novel resonates unmistakably with the troubled mood of today; the #MeToo movement, for example. Globally, the disturbing blood-red cloaks and white bonnets of the Handmaids have become symbols of feminist protest, worn by pro-choice Irish women and anti-Trump activists in London. So how will this new story develop Atwood’s infamous dystopia?

I’m particularly looking forward to it after working for two weeks in the Marketing and Publicity department of VINTAGE, the publishing house responsible for Atwood’s latest title. When announcing the new novel their social media accounts (and office interior!) became a lurid green, which could imply numerous things: will Gilead suffer from further obliteration by toxic waste? Has Offred found fresh, green pastures anew?

Those outside publishing know little about the novel, but we have learned it will be narrated by three female characters. A video Atwood tweeted following the announcement read: “Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”

Provocative, relevant and elusive; this novel will be one to watch out for.

Toy Story 4 (June 2019)

The toys are back. When I first heard the news, as I’m sure some of you will be, I was annoyed. Toy Story 3, ending with grown-up owner Andy travelling to university and leaving his childhood playmates with adorable toddler Bonnie, brought me to tears last Christmas Day. Clearly the guilt of leaving my beloved toy Rabbit behind was too much. But the ending of that film is moving. It’s about growing up; the bittersweet guilt and future promise is palpable. So why ruin it with another film?

Apparently Pixar, the film’s creators, are well aware of the potential controversy. Former Chief Creative Officer and now one of the new film’s writers John Lasseter has assured fans that it isn’t just a money-making machine. Magazine DigitalSpy quotes him insisting “We don’t want to do anything with them [our beloved plastic friends] unless it lives up to or surpasses what’s gone before.” Hmm.

Two trailers have been released. The first features Woody, Buzz, Jessie and friends holding hands and skipping in a circle against an idyllic blue-sky backdrop. But new character Forky, a plastic fork with pipe-cleaner arms, sends everyone sprawling screaming “I don’t belong here”. The second trailer introduces new characters Ducky and Bunny, funfair prizes fan-girling over the Toy Story franchise before Buzz Lightyear and best pal Woody themselves turn up. It’s all very bizarre. Let’s hope the film is worth superimposing the last one’s perfect ending.

Norman Fucking Rockwell – Lana Del Rey (TBC)

Ever Young and Beautiful, the velvety voice will return in 2019. Norman Rockwell was an American artist and illustrator famed for his covers on the Saturday Evening Post, intended to reflect daily American life. He produced a famous poster (although probably not the one you’re envisaging) of Rosie the Riveter, and was the artist behind the iconic ‘Freedom of Want’. But what’s this got to do with Lana?

Her music often looks back to a romanticised American past: take previous songs ‘American’, ‘Old Money’ and ‘Blue Jeans’. But her most recent music has been in the urgent present. ‘When the World Was At War We Kept Dancing’ from her last album ‘Lust for Life’ is just one example, asking “Is is the end of an era? Is it the end of America?”. But the last two songs she released, ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ and ‘Venice Bitch’, are less jaggedly political. Both, released in late September this year, have a pensive, tranquil mood.

Speaking to Zane Lowe for his Beats 1 radio show, she mused “I know it’s a crazy title, but that’s just the title of the record”, whilst also championing references to painters as a reflection of her song-writing process.

It seems the new Lana is set to be a gorgeous blend of her usual indulgent melancholy and some newer, joyful tones.

Peaky Blinders (Summer 2019/TBC)

By Order Of The BBC, Cillian Murphy’s deictic presence in a razor-blade flat cap will once again grace our screens in 2019. This programme is rock-solid proof that not all BBC period dramas age you by 30 years, combining dogged working class struggle with the sheen of the Art Deco era, all framed by some good old-fashioned violence.

Many would consider the next and final season of Game of Thrones to be the most exciting TV calendar event of the year, and don’t get me wrong, I largely agree. But Peaky Blinders is, for me, the more perfect combination of fantasy and grim reality. Its coverage and examination of organised crime is relevant to a nation that has seen (according to the Independent) 121 homicides in London alone this year.

The previous season also tackled issues surrounding socialism, communism, and workers’ rights, important to contemporary politics dancing around issues of immigration and the way it affects our country’s workers. But the series also promises eternally impeccable Gatsby-style costumes, and alluring characters embroiled in scandalous back-stabbings, humorous dialogue and relentless plot twists.

Personally, I can’t wait. 2019 should be a good one.

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