Andrew Pyper, The Guardians (novel, Jan. 4)
Of late, publicists have taken to calling this Toronto novelist the "Stephen King of Canada." It’s the sort of appellation that helps move units, but it also undersells Pyper’s talent (and also suggests that he publishes books at the same frenetic clip as King). The Toronto-based author approaches the thriller genre with a literary sensibility, which is what elevates novels like Lost Girls and The Killing Circle over airport reads. The Guardians, Pyper’s latest, involves three young men who reunite in midlife after a fourth mate commits suicide under menacing circumstances.
Another Year (film, Jan. 7)
There are already whispers that the latest drama from British auteur Mike Leigh will be a strong contender at Oscar time. Our own Martin Morrow feels this is wholly justified. Having interviewed Leigh during the 2010 Toronto film festival, Morrow wrote, "Leigh continues to create small, sparkling gems. Case in point: the funny, heartbreaking Another Year." A bittersweet meditation on friendship and aging, Another Year stars British stalwarts Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, and features a particularly dazzling turn by Leslie Manville.
Cut Copy, Zonoscope (album, Feb. 8)
These Australian synth-pop stylists released one of the finest albums of 2009 (In Ghost Colours), so there’s considerable anticipation for their follow-up, Zonoscope. Early signs are very promising, with advance tracks Take Me Over and Where I’m Going demonstrating a sunnier sound. (For CC obsessives, the band has also produced a short film that documents the making of Zonoscope.)
Biutiful (film, Feb. 11)
We were sufficiently amazed by this drama from Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu to deem it the best film at the 2010 Toronto film festival. The estimable Javier Bardem — sure to be touted for an Oscar in 2012 — plays a career criminal who attempts to provide a future for his children in the face of his inescapable demise.
Ken Lum, Vancouver Art Gallery (exhibition, Feb. 12-Sept. 25)
This Chinese-Canadian creator, often considered part of the Vancouver School of artists, has produced captivating work in a variety of disciplines, from photography to sculpture. Thematically, Lum is interested in the tensions between tradition and modernity, consumerism and more elemental human needs. This VAG exhibition promises to be the comprehensive Lum show yet, including pieces not previously seen in North America.
PJ Harvey, Let England Shake (album, Feb. 14)
Polly Jean Harvey is one of the most intense yet enigmatic songwriters Britain has produced, one who returns every few years to give us another dense and delicious record to soak up and scrutinize. The marvelously titled Let England Shake seems like a more varied offering than the stripped-down piano meditations found on White Chalk (2007) — dreamy lead single Written on the Forehead, for example, demonstrates a reggae influence.
David Bezmozgis, The Free World (novel, March 18)
Upon the release of his debut collection Natasha and Other Stories (2004), David Bezmozgis was heralded as the great hope for Canadian fiction. Seven years later, the Toronto-based scribe has produced his first novel, The Free World, a wry tome that explores more deeply his themes of dislocation and Jewish identity.
Super 8 (film, June)
J.J. Abrams. Area 51. Aliens. The creator of Lost and Cloverfield is a master storyteller and a practitioner of bone-chilling suspense. How could his latest spookfest be anything less than great?
The Invention of Hugo Cabret (film, December)
The concept comes from an award-winning illustrated novel by Brian Selznick, which was inspired by George Méliès, an early French filmmaker who invented countless cinematic techniques — and worked in a toy booth in a Paris train station. Martin Scorsese is helming the sure-to-be-magical film adaptation, which features Sacha Baron Cohen and Sir Ben Kingsley.
… and whatever James Franco comes up with
This Hollywood hunk has carved out an enviable career, one that balances blockbusters and self-indulgent bit parts. In 2010 alone, Franco starred in a Danny Boyle film (127 Hours), played Allen Ginsberg (Howl), published a short story collection (Palo Alto) and continued his bizarro run as a psychopathic artiste on the soap General Hospital. We know that he’s set to appear in a couple of big-budget productions (The Green Hornet, a Planet of the Apes prequel), but it’s the unexpected detours that make Franco appealing. What will it be in 2011, huh, James? A cookbook, a cologne, maybe a country album?
Andre Mayer writes about the arts for CBC News.