Thursday 29th December.


Well here we are in the last days of 2011 with 2012 hovering into view so it seems about right to place some form of objective focus on the last twelve months and what sort of impact they are likely to have on the forthcoming year. Initial thoughts condemn 2011 to being a pretty uneventful year in the cultural spectrum-the arts in particular seem stuck in some form of stasis- until you consider some of the major events which have occurred and will have long-lasting effects. First off the tsunami in Japan in March was a cataclysmic disaster which killed thousands, wrecked villages and towns and impacted on millions of lives whilst gravely affecting their economy but ultimately showed the world what a strong nation of non-complaining hardworking people the Japanese are when confronted with adversity. We in Britain could learn a lot from their ethos as complaining seems to be second only to potty training when it comes to educating children in this country today. Not that there is nothing to complain about however and the riots which took place in London-spreading to other cities nightly- in August highlighted this.

A non-elected cobbled together government which no-one actually voted for, rising unemployment, benefit cuts and a black man being shot whilst being arrested were merely some of the grievances of the rioters and serious issues they were indeed. However I am unsure how a flat screen television or a £200 pair of trainers from Footlocker then the wilful destruction of retail properties already struggling with the recession could assuage the problem as looting and arson helped to create what certain media pundits refer to as ‘retail rioting’. The problems which sparked these riots show no sign of resolve-in fact many have got worse- so I can only assume the same tensions are still bubbling away slightly beneath the surface so unfortunately a reprisal of sorts is likely in 2012.

Over in America they were feeling slightly smug over the discovery and then shooting of Osama Bin Laden at a compound close to a military base in Pakistan. This again will herald some form of revenge attack at some point in the future so the fear he instilled still exists although it did probably win Barack Obama a few extra votes and allowed the right wing Republicans a chance to gloat over the maiming of an enemy.

Musically not much happened this year with the 41 year old PJ Harvey capturing the zeitgeist in her epoch defining Let England Shake album. Adele was hot on her heels however and in commercial terms trampled all over her both here and across the Atlantic even if her album 21 was suffering from overkill and over exposure as early as March despite only being  released in February. A young girl going by the name EMA was the lefrfield choice of the year sounding like a young Patti Smith meets the Velvet Underground on the stupendously stunning Past Life Martyred Saints. Laura Marling and Bon Iver served up two more muscular albums with Marling in particular looking like she is here for the long haul. Little Dragon provided the non existent summer with the slinky electro of Ritual Union whilst The Black Keys slipped in at years end with the classic  El Camino. The track of the year was, for me, Lana Del Rey’s Video Games which haunts and flaunts in equal measure. This Lynchian sounding track was everywhere for a while and big things are expected for Del Rey in 2012 starting with the release of her debut album in February. Oh, and Kate Bush released not one but two albums this year the second of which 50 Words For Snow is up there with her very best work.

In cinema the surprise film of the year was Drive and Ryan Gosling emerged as man of the year starring in four films released in 2011. Along with Tom Hardy he should be awarded with an Oscar for being ubiquitous. Michael Fassbender looks likely to join them in the Hollywood elite in 2012 and his role in Shame released in the New Year is likely to secure his position. Elsewhere Almodovar struck home with The Skin I live In and We Need To Talk About Kevin ticked all the right boxes whilst the independents Tabloid and Weekend stood out as highlights for me. The latest Hollywood adaptation of a foreign film in this case David Finchers re-fashioning of the Stieg Larson novel the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo proved a pleasant surprise and a review can be found here.

As for television a few dramas-notably on Channel 4 and BBC2-made the grade but in general television in 2011 was in a sorry state. It can only continue to remain in this quagmire also if the schedulers do not do something about the same two shows unfairly dominating the weekend schedules for a third of the year. Strychnine Come Dancing and the X-Crutiating Factor I do mean you! The latter in particular even seems to be boring and disillusioning its core audience and if it had any grace or savvy would bow out now. Then again we are talking about Simon Cowell here, a man who would continue squeezing the public dry and manipulating them into a frustrated fury until they take to the streets and riot but this time returning their stolen flat screen TV’s in protest of the crap they are being served up. Now there is something to hope for in 2012. Happy New Year!

Here is the wondrous Lana Del Ray with the song of the year Video Games

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