THE BEST OF 2016 IN POPULAR MUSIC, TV, FILM AND POETRY
Eyewear, The Blog, usually enjoys compiling end of the year lists. 2016, now arguably the punch line to a Kafka-Beckett comedy routine, doesn't seem the sort of place to lodge too many enthusiasms, but of course some of the finest films, songs, and poems, have been created during wartime, and The Great Depression, and other major moments in recent history.
2016 will be remembered for the Dylan Nobel, Brexit, the slaughter of Aleppo, the deaths of Castro, Bowie, Ali, Carrie Fisher, and the Trump election - probably little else, except the rise of social media/iPhone ubiquity in the techno-cultural sphere.
A cruel trilogy of masterful albums, two almost posthumous, are clearly in the top five - by Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, and David Bowie. Then there's Lemonade, by Beyoncé. Drake and Rihanna dropped major new LPs, as did Solange. Warpaint, PJ Harvey, Animal Collective, offered fine new LPs. Lady Gaga reinvented herself. Massive Attack and Hope Sandoval created one of the best dream pop songs ever. Iggy Pop, Suede, The Tindersticks, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones, Wire, ABC, Pixies, The Monkees, Gwen Stefani, Metallica, Radiohead, The Violent Femmes, Kings of Leon and Barry Gibb all returned with good to excellent new work - reminding us never to assume people are quite done yet. Merchandise crafted a very cunning fusion of The Smiths, Simple Minds and Joy Division. A young British Asian lad, wonderfully, in this year of hateful Trump/Farage, produced the best Top 40 single: 'Pillowtalk' by Zayn.
The BBC started the year with a double-punch of two great mini-series - War and Peace, and The Night Manager. These got attention, but were promptly eclipsed by The Game of Thrones episode, 'Battle of the Bastards' - easily the finest one hour of TV action ever filmed; and then came the nostalgic favourite, Stranger Things - a perfect synthesis of all that made us love the 80s. Best TV movie - Netflix's The Siege at Jadotville. The Fall, Halt and Catch Fire, Humans, The Americans, Homeland, Goliath, The Affair, Billions, Designated Survivor, all good fun... but I think Stranger Things wins. The BBC ended the year with a clever mash-up, a romantic modernist version of Christie's The Witness for the Prosecution, set in 1923, which heavily referenced poems of TS Eliot (including 'Prufrock').
Sentimental favourite is the NZ family film, The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a very charming and stylish event. Nocturnal Animals and Elle are both profoundly disturbing films about style and violence. Guilty pleasures included the charming Irish musical comedy Sing Street, the inventive punk-thriller Green Room, the reviled but destined to be classic Costner vehicle, Criminal, and the one about the sexy surfer staving off shark attacks. Deepwater Horizon is one of the finest disaster films ever, and a powerful indictment of greed. However, the most moving, significant films so far have been Certain Women, Moonlight, and Hidden Figures. La La Land is ultimately too fanciful and lightweight for the times to warrant a win at the Oscars.
SOME OF THE BEST POETRY BOOKS
and books about poetry*
The Poems of Basil Bunting, edited by Don Share;
The new book of essays by Stephen Burt, the poem is you;
Cain by Luke Kennard;
Moments of Expatriation by Vahni Capildeo;
Holy Toledo by John Clegg;
Through by David Herd;
Trammel by Charlotte Newman;
The Seasons of Cullen Church by Bernard O'Donoghue;
Exile and the Kingdom by Hilary Davies;
Anatomy of Voice by David Musgrave;
Selected essays by Richard Price, Is This A Poem?;
The new essays by Charles Bernstein, Pitch of Poetry;
Paul Muldoon, Selected Poems, 1968-2014;
Stephen Heighton's GG winner, The Waking Comes Late;
and a major new poetry collection by Denise Riley, Say Something Back, which is arguably the greatest work of British poetry this century.