Slave trader’s home, slum, des res: the stories of one house raise restless ghosts

All old houses are haunted. Not by ghosts but by the lives of others. Because to live in an old house is to share your most intimate space with the dead. Houses live longer than people and the harsh fact is that we are just passing through. Our homes, the most acutely personal places in our lives, come to us secondhand, and invisibly link us to people we have never met, people to whom we have no association other than a single shared connection to place.

I have been thinking about this recently because I spent last autumn engaged in a unique television experiment. We set out to discover if it was possible to take a single house and, through old newspapers, documents in the archives and whatever other clues or scraps of evidence we could find, tell the story of all the people who live there; from the day the first resident turned the key in the front door, all the way up to today.

The house selected is a Georgian-style terrace in what is now called the Georgian Quarter of Liverpool. I write “Georgian-style” because it was built in 1840, the third year of Victoria’s reign. Although large, elegant and, in the early 21st century, extremely desirable, it is not unique. There are hundreds like it in Liverpool and many thousands more across the country.

But, after months of investigations, what the researchers who began this project discovered was that it was possible, in the case of 62 Falkner Street, to form a chain of human stories stretching from then to now, from the first resident to the current owner. The lives of all of the people whose stories make up the links in that chain run through the house, because, for each of them, walking through that front door meant that they were home.

Across the four episodes of A House Through Time we uncover their stories, and that of the city in which they lived. More than any other British city, Liverpool’s ride on the rollercoaster of national fortune has been a bumpy one. No other city has been more buffeted by the cycles of boom and bust and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the place that once proudly saw itself as the “second city of empire” suffered more than any other when that empire suddenly evaporated.

The extremes of Liverpool’s story are reflected in the lives of the occupants of 62 Falkner Street. They span the social spectrum, from the well-to-do Victorian gentlemen to the families who huddled together in single rooms during the decades after the second world war when the house degenerated into a tenement slum.

Part of the aim of A House is to answer the question that everyone who has ever lived in an old house has – at some time or another – asked themselves. The thought usually comes late at night or early in the morning, when our eye is caught by what estate agents like to call an “original feature”, or a patch of peeling wallpaper or flaking paint reveals what lies beneath. Those triggers remind us that the buildings we confidently call ours once belonged to others; many and multiple others.

History is about people. Historians who don’t get that tend to be the ones who struggle to get anyone to care about their work. Ultimately you have to care about the people you encounter through your research, if you want anyone else to. But it is all too easy to start caring about figures from the past if you find yourself reading the documents that record their lives while sitting in what was once their kitchen. Or having just walked up a staircase, holding the wooden banister that their hands once gripped. To read their letters from within the house in which they were written, or to hold in your hands their death certificates, while standing on their front steps or in their bedroom, is a strangely intimate experience. A close encounter between historian and subject.

Reading the grim details of a Victorian domestic violence case, while walking through the rooms in which those beatings and beratings took place, felt almost voyeuristic. Too close and a little too real for comfort. To talk about the past residents of the house, to make judgments about them, to sum up their achievements or discuss their failings, from the upstairs sitting room in which they showed off their wealth and entertained their guests one and a half centuries earlier, felt a little presumptuous and almost transgressive. Historians love to talk about how we can get closer to the people of the past, but when it happens of its own volition the effects can be unnerving.

There is no official register of historians. No list from which practitioners of the art can be struck off for professional misconduct. I’ve recently found myself grateful for this omission because of all the historical projects I have worked on, none has made it so easy to cross lines, or so tempting to overstep marks. I have found myself marvelling at my capacity to feel genuine dislike for men who died over a century before my birth. To pass judgment on anyone – living or dead – on the basis of a handful of letters and ledger entries is palpably unfair and arguably ridiculous, and yet, in this case, almost impossible to resist.

Gaynor Evans lives at 62 Falkner Street with her two children. The house, built in 1840, has been home to a cross-section of British society, warts and all.



Gaynor Evans has lived at 62 Falkner Street with her two children for nearly eight years. The house, built in 1840, has been home to a cross-section of British society, warts and all. Photograph: Emerald Coulthard/BBC/Twenty Twenty productions Ltd/Emerald Coulthard

The enmity I feel towards the trader in slave-produced cotton who lived in the house, and whose personal life was lived with as much callous disregard for others as his professional life, is real and involuntary. This is a man I know only from a cache of damning official documents and – incredibly – a surviving portrait in oil paint. Only a kangaroo court in a one-party state would pass judgment on the basis of such flimsy evidence. Yet over the months my disdain for this ghost from the archives has grown, despite my attempts at professional detachment.

I have been equally surprised at my capacity to feel sympathy and empathy for the sufferings of people whom I only know from patchy documentary evidence. When I discovered that one late-Victorian resident of the house had died of heart failure, caused by years living under the shadow of a thyroid condition known as Graves’ disease, I was astonished by how emotional – rather than objective and professional – was my response to her story.

By way of an excuse, and by chance, I spent four years living with the same disease. A few days after reading the 1880s death certificate of Esther Lublin I found myself alone in my office, on the top floor of my house, reading old diaries, remembering how painful it had been. I had feared that Graves’ disease would waste years of my life, before modern treatments could bring it under control. For her there were few options. She must have known that, sooner or later, the condition would kill her. Two people with the same disease. I lived, she died – because we were born in different centuries.

Nothing about this can be said to be truly revelatory. We all know that until the 20th century billions died of diseases for which cures now exist. But knowing the historical facts and the bleak statistics is very different to reading of Esther Lublin’s tragic life, our shared diagnosis, her name and age – younger than I am now – scrawled on to her death certificate by a busy doctor.

History, to me, is all about those shiver-down-the-spine moments. When you hold in your hands an object created hundreds of years before your birth and feel the vague presence of the hands that held it in the past. Or when your boot turns over a piece of shrapnel on a first world war battlefield and you have to stop yourself speculating about what that muddy chunk of steel might have done to flesh and bone. Many historians I admire admit to such moments, although those admissions are to be made only in private and to other similarly afflicted historians or students. But they are what draws us to the archives and set us off on early morning trips across overgrown cemeteries. Historians have to be nosy, they have to want to know what others experienced. Part of that is achieved by being open to at least trying to feel something of what they felt.

If walls could talk it would be our homes – not our grand public buildings – that would have all the best stories. The real stuff of human life – love, childhood, vulnerability, intimacy, betrayal, acceptance and pain – is revealed behind closed doors and drawn curtains. It is at home, with our partners, parents and children, that we are genuinely ourselves. The version of history I was taught at school was largely one of great men and great deeds, a history that took place in palaces and battlefields. It was silent about our shared, inner and domestic histories, the stories of the rest of us, the ungreat, who live quietly and privately in anonymous terraced houses.

A House Through Time begins on BBC2 on 4 January

Griff Rhys Jones: ‘My best kiss? I kissed all the Spice Girls once’

Born in Cardiff, Griff Rhys Jones, 64, began his career on the BBC’s Not The Nine O’Clock News, which ran from 1979-82. He went on to develop a comedy partnership with Mel Smith that lasted 20 years. He is also an Olivier award-winning stage actor. His UK tour, Where Was I?, starts on 18 January. He is married with two children and lives in Suffolk.

When were you happiest?
I’ll be at my happiest today, and probably my gloomiest at some point today, too.

What is your greatest fear?
Physically, violence done to my close family. Mentally, voids.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I take on work that I shouldn’t, and reject things I should accept. I’m lazy. I lose my cool. Become emotionally committed. And so forth.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Deploration. Criticise, by all means. Argue. Dispute. But what is all this public “shaming” and mob sanctimoniousness, because someone has expressed a view that contradicts your own?

What was your most embarrassing moment?
Forgetting a soap star’s name on stage in front of 2,000 of her fans. I can’t say who it was, because I’ve forgotten it again, and I fear that these days everybody else has, too.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
An actor. Then I grew out of that and became one by default. Or sort of one: “Not really an actor”, said Michael Billington.

What is your phone wallpaper?
A picture of my wife sitting waiting for luggage at Heathrow and exhibiting two things I don’t possess: loveliness and self-composure.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My pop eyes and my apparent agedness.

Who would play you in the film of your life?
Tom Hollander would audition. Max Boyce would get the part.

Which book changed your life?
It’s a superfluity of books that counts. Don’t just read that one book, everybody: read lots and that will keep changing your life.

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
Sorry, I’m British and middle class, so I’ve already apologised to virtually everybody I have ever met.

What does love feel like?
Adolescent love feels like exquisite self-indulgence. Long-term love feels like a warm bath that needs a trickle of extra hot water every now and then.

What was the best kiss of your life?
I kissed all the Spice Girls on television once.

Have you ever said ‘I love you’ and not meant it?
I am not good at saying “I love you” to people whom I do love and who need me to say it. I shudder at people who use the phrase casually: “Love you, hon!”

How do you relax?
I sail an old boat.

How often do you have sex?
Lots.

What keeps you awake at night?
The next morning. It rarely turns out as bad as I think it’s going to be.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
No songs, please. Don’t make a fuss.

How would you like to be remembered?
As a charming, helpful, solicitous, generous, loving, carefree and constantly funny companion, lover and father. Some hope of that.

The A-Z of 2018: from A-listers on the small screen to Zayn Malik’s solo career


A-listers on TV

George Clooney as ER heartthrob Doug Ross.



Doctor whew ... George Clooney as ER heartthrob Doug Ross. Photograph: NBCU/Rex

It was around the start of the decade that TV began luring Hollywood A-Listers, but the multi-Emmy garnering Big Little Lies represents the dawn of a new era. For the first time, TV is where stars deliver their star-worthy performances, while movie roles mostly involve unflattering superhero spandex or kung fu fights with CGI aliens.

Short hillbilly Reese Witherspoon meets tall, wisecracking New Yorker Jennifer Aniston for height-based lols.




An imagined
Anispoon collaboration:
Big Lil Friends. Short hillbilly Reese Witherspoon meets tall, wisecracking New Yorker Jennifer Aniston for height-based lols.

If you’re Catherine Zeta Jones, say, it makes perfect sense to follow up a glamorous supporting role in Ryan Murphy’s Feud series with the starring role in TV movie Cocaine Godmother. Or maybe you’re the formerly rubber-faced funnyman Jim Carrey, hoping to emphasise your spiritual side? What better way than by re-teaming with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry for a new Showtime series, Kidding? Details of its release are yet to be confirmed, but George Clooney has signed up for a serialised adaptation of Catch-22, nearly two decades after leaving medical drama ER. Even Jennifer Aniston, once queen of the TV stars who’d made it, is returning to her roots for the first time since Friends, by joining forces with Reese Witherspoon for a new Apple TV drama. The screen may be small, but the opportunities are big. EEJ


Brexit

Alfie Spice, AKA the patron saint of Brexit




When two become one ... Alfie Spice, AKA the patron saint of Brexit. Illustration: Bill McConkey

“We’ve got Brexit, so let’s exit,” declared John Lydon earlier this year, as part of a novel campaign to smear his own reputation using the medium of rhyme. But if the thought of the punk firebrand getting on board with Nigel Farage’s vision of Britain was depressing enough, there were more strident Brexiteers than Lydon lurking among pop culture’s old guard. Ringo Starr, who lives in the US, didn’t bother sending a postal vote but if he had: “I would have voted to get out … but don’t tell Bob Geldof!” Michael Caine explained his own leave vote by saying he’d “rather be a poor master than a rich servant. It wasn’t about the racism, immigrants or anything, it was about freedom.”

Elsewhere, Roger Daltrey was positive that “when the dust settles I think that it’ll be seen that it’s the right thing for this country to have done.” But if recent years have taught us anything, it’s that next year will be the same, only much worse. And so 2018 could well be when we get our very own Moe-Tucker-joining-the-Tea-Party moment. So who will provide the shock? Could Laura Marling promote her next album by rabidly extolling the flavoursome joys of chlorinated chicken in every interview? Will Idris Elba take to deliberately smashing an energy-saving kettle against a wall in every scene he’s in? Will the next Ukip leader be a straight-up choice between a presenter for CBeebies and Claire Foy? Or maybe it will just be more old white guys with precious little skin in the game crawling out of the woodwork for another long slow grumble stretched tediously over 12 arduous months? Thinking about it, it’ll probably be more of that. TJ


Cardi B effect

Money moves: Cardi B changed the game.



Money moves ... Cardi B changed the game. Photograph: Michael Hurcomb/REX/Shutterstock

Until this year, Cardi B’s story had a typical rags-to-social-media-influencer feel. She dropped out of college and started stripping while posting inspirational Instagrams about sex, money and empowerment. Her online profile grew until she had half a million followers and could make money just from being an “influencer”. Soon enough reality TV came calling and she booked a place on season six of Love and Hip-Hop New York on VH1. Normally that’s where the story would have ended: a quick cash injection, a few club appearances, and then back to obscurity.

But Cardi B refused to let it be that way. Reality TV has always been able to launch its most eccentric stars into semi-real celebrities. But whether it’s Rylan, Jedward, Amy Childs or Spencer Matthews, their fame has always been tainted by their reality past. That initial deal with the devil means they’re always available for a Littlewoods Christmas advert or an Ant and Dec charity telethon; every booker’s back-up, never quite tasting the actual enigma of true fame. Even a global star like Kim Kardashian is still ostensibly lame.

Left to right: Yaeji, IAMDDB, Flohio.




Three more female MCs to keep an eye on
… Yaeji, IAMDDB, Flohio. Composite: Guardian Design Team

Cardi B is different. She’s been on the cover of tastemaking music magazine the Fader and won the BET hip-hop award for best newcomer. Rarer still, she has coupled that credibility with unparalleled success: the first female rapper in 19 years to reach No 1 on the Billboard chart with her smash Bodak Yellow, which stayed at the top for three weeks after dethroning Taylor Swift’s Look What You Made Me Do. The impact of her rise may well change the way we think about new talent. Not only has she shown a cynical industry that female MCs can be just as successful as men, potentially opening doors for British artists such as Stefflon Don, she could finally erase the critical stigma around reality TV.

While traditional labels become less able to support new artists, reality TV could become a more legitimate place to scout new talent. It could be starting already: the Hills producer is launching a new scripted-reality show Studio City, about the Nashville music scene. SW


Doctor Who

Doctor Who (background left), Doctor Foster (background right) and the cast of Doctors (foreground).



Doctors and the medics ... Doctor Who (background left), Doctor Foster (background right) and the cast of Doctors (foreground). Composite: Guardian Design Team

Which Doctor are you … Doctor Who, Doctor Foster or Doctors?

1) What was your life like a decade ago?
a) Pretty much the same as it is now.
b) I was 23 years younger than I currently am.
c) Much happier, but with well-telegraphed allusions to my current discontent.

2) You witness a minor traffic accident. Do you…
a) Immediately hurry over and offer medical assistance.
b) Explain what has happened very quickly, over a score loud enough to render you inaudible.
c) Have angry loud sex with your ex-husband.

3) An old lady comes to visit you. Is it because…
a) She recently had a nasty fall off a stepladder.
b) She’s from the planet Tujorb 249, and she needs help to ward off a Dalek invasion.
c) Your teenage son sexually assaulted her.

4) At the end of a hard day, you like nothing more than…
a) A glass of wine and a good gossip.
b) Infuriating the internet by regenerating into a woman.
c) Breaking the fourth wall to deliver a hugely unsatisfactory concluding monologue.

5) Who is your very, very, very, very best friend?
a) My colleague.
b) A 54th-century cybernetic alien from the planet Mendorax Dellora.
c) I think you’re wildly overstating my likability here.

6) What do people usually do after seeing you?
a) Switch over and catch the end of Dickinson’s Real Deal.
b) Compose an angry tweet about Steven Moffat’s depiction of women.
c) Literally just cry for an hour. SH

ANSWERS - Mostly As: You’re a doctor from Doctors! Mostly Bs: You’re The Doctor! Mostly Cs: You’re Doctor Foster!


Early, John

John Early with his sitcom partner Kate Berlant.



Heaven’s great ... John Early with his sitcom partner Kate Berlant. Photograph: NBCU

Having spent years crafting his wince-inducingly well-observed YouTube sketches with his comedy partner Kate Berlant, the actor, standup comic, hip-hop dancer and peerless impressionist of Britney Spears finally has his own show. Hulu has ordered a pilot by the duo called This Is Heaven, directed by New Girl’s Lorene Scafaria and described as “a take on a classic half-hour comedy about two best friends Roger and Eva”. If you can’t wait until that emerges then catch him on kooky crime thriller Search Party, as flamboyant megalomaniac Elliott Goss, Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer as bratty, deluded thespian Logan, or miniseries 555, Kate and John’s neon-lit comedy dreamscape on Vimeo. HG


First Man

Gosling takes off



Hello spaceboy ... Gosling takes off. Illustration: Bill McConkey

Given the trajectory of Damian Chazelle’s directorial career so far – Whiplash then La La Land – it’s no surprise he is shooting for the moon next. With Hollywood’s hunger for content, it is surprising the story of Neil Armstrong and the moon landings hasn’t been told before (apart from Kubrick faking them in the first place, that is). Considering Armstrong’s notorious publicity shyness and refusal to cash in on his achievement, James Hansen’s authorised Armstrong biography – also titled First Man – became the best indication of what the man was actually like. Clint Eastwood bought the rights to it in 2003 but couldn’t get it off the ground. (Armstrong, who died in 2012, apparently didn’t like the violence in Eastwood’s movies.) Now it has passed on to Chazelle, whose choice of lead actor for the role will surprise no one: Ryan Gosling. Judging by the first on-set image – of Gosling in a plaid shirt lassoing a rocking horse – it’s not just going to be another Gravity-like space procedural. Other stars on board include Claire Foy as Armstrong’s wife and Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin. SR


Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Raw talent: Gugu Mbatha-Raw with Mackenzie Davis in the Black Mirror episode San Junipero.



Raw talent ... Gugu Mbatha-Raw with Mackenzie Davis in the Black Mirror episode San Junipero. Photograph: Laurie Sparham/Netflix

Oxford-born actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw has been floating elegantly through the backwaters of culture for some time now. She played companion Martha Jones’s little sister Tish in David Tennant-era Doctor Who, a mixed-race 18th-century aristocrat in Amma Asante’s ground-breaking 2013 film Belle, and it was her vivacious energy that helped propel the Black Mirror episode San Junipero to its Emmy awards glory. Now it’s time the world went gaga for Gugu.

In February, she’ll star in God Particle, the highly anticipated, mystery-shrouded third feature film to be set in JJ Abrams’s Cloverfield universe. Later in the year, she’ll share a screen with Game of Thrones hottie Michiel Huisman in romantic drama Irreplaceable You. Then, perhaps most intriguingly, she is signed up for the lead role in the Gina Prince-Bythewood-directed adaptation of An Untamed State, the debut novel from lauded feminist academic Roxane Gay. Commercially adept, critically approved and culturally relevant: our Gugu’s got all the bases covered. EEJ


Horoscopes

By Psychic Stu, AKA Stuart Heritage

Psychic Stu looks into the future



Crystal balls ... Psychic Stu looks into the future. Photograph: Guardian Design Team

Aries
A natural leader like you should be an influencer. You should be telling me what to enjoy next year. What’s that? I should look out for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again? Hey, you’re just Meryl Streep with a fake moustache. Get out of here!

Taurus
Your work ethic is exceptional, and you will enjoy all culture in 2018. Except for Eggplant Emoji, because that’s a film about a boy who cuts his penis off, and you’re only human.

Gemini
As the most socially minded sign of the zodiac, it doesn’t matter what music you like, you’re just going to spend your entire time at quiet, intimate gigs using your iPhone, aren’t you? I bet you’ll even keep the keytones on when you message, won’t you? Idiot.

Cancer
You enjoy security and adventure in equal measure, which is why you’ll be first in the queue to watch Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, because what an almighty bummer that looks like.

Leo
The undisputed king of the zodiac, you will only accept the very best. This is why – as with all other years – your 2018 will be marked by bitter disappointment. You were looking forward to that Arctic Monkeys album, weren’t you? Sorry, pal.

Virgo
Oh Virgo, nobody cares about you. Literally nobody. Go and watch Girlboss repeats on Netflix. Seriously, that’s all you deserve.

Libra
The easiest to please sign of the Zodiac, you will literally lap up any old crap. Unfortunately, Hollywood knows this, which is why the makers of Gnomeo & Juliet came up with Sherlock Gnomes specifically for you. Enjoy it, numbnuts.

Scorpio
Your born intensity will only become stronger in 2018, thanks to horror films such as Cadaver, Truth or Dare and The Nun. It’s important to mention, however, that intensity can sometimes mean you walk out of films that look and sound exceptionally stupid.

Sagittarius
Nothing can dim your sunny outlook on life; not climate change, Brexit or the spectre of nuclear death. However, there’s another season of Arrested Development coming out in 2018, so kiss goodbye to your run of optimism.

Capricorn
As an inherently ambitious person, your biggest goal for 2018 will be to complete and enjoy both the Maze Runner and 50 Shades of Grey trilogies. The enjoyment half is automatically doomed to failure, but God loves a trier.

Aquarius
Aquarians don’t care what people think about them. This is why, if you’re an Aquarian, you’re most excited about that terrible-looking James Corden Peter Rabbit film. You are the worst.

Pisces
As the most sensitive sign of the zodiac, you’re going to get steamrollered by 2018. Just bludgeoned to pulp. Don’t bother getting excited about anything, because you’re going to be too busy cowering under a duvet to see it, anyway.


I don’t wanna talk about it

No comment: Frank Ocean.



No comment ... Frank Ocean. Composite: Guardian Design Team

It has been an odd time for pop star interviews. Rather than face a grilling from an actual human, Frank Ocean (pictured, above) opted this year to pen an “essay” for style mag i-D. Taylor Swift contributed what could generously be described as a “poem” to Vogue in return for not having to answer any hard questions (sample: “The only thing cut and dry/ In this hedge-maze life/ Is the fact that their words will cut but your tears will dry”). Beyoncé went one better and did nothing. All managed to spin this not as a sign that they were shitting their pants at one of their dumb answers going viral, but a signifier that they have reached a higher plane of fame and are above such behaviour. Social media has made it easier for artists to get their ideas across directly to their fans. But the press are to blame for indulging this nonsense, too. It makes you really look forward to 2018 and a world where pop stars are no longer answerable to anyone but their own egos. Still, we might at least get an exclusive sudoku from Jessie J. TJ


Justin Timberlake

Going for golf: Justin Timberlake.



Going for golf ... Justin Timberlake. Illustration: Bill McConkey

To some, Justin Timberlake is one of the last remaining pop megastars: he can sing, dance and wear a hat without looking like a wally. To others, he’s breezed through a career based on appropriating black culture, got away with throwing Janet Jackson under a bus (not literally) at the Super Bowl in 2004, and yes he can wear a hat but that’s because he’s got shit hair. To be fair, a mix of all the above is true, but only a fool could deny the imperial phase in the mid to late 00s that saw him knock out Cry Me a River, Rock Your Body and SexyBack like he was solely responsible for all the high points at any given wedding disco. After some ill-advised film work, an obsession with golf and a brief dalliance with interior design, Timberlake then tried to undo some of that goodwill in 2013 with the apparently never-ending The 20/20 Experience. In fact, the only thing more boring than The 20/20 Experience (Mirrors aside) was The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2, which followed six months later.

While 2016’s single Can’t Stop the Feeling was an Oscar-nominated success, it was essentially an even more grating Happy. So what can we expect from Timberlake in 2018? Film-wise, word is that he’s “embarrassingly out of his depth” in Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel, but seems to be on surer ground vis-a-vis his pop career. He’s doing the Super Bowl half-time show again in February (featuring, you would hope, a cameo from Jackson), so it would make sense for a new single at the very least to appear around that time. There are vague rumours that the album is called Man of the Woods, and we know – because he’s Instagrammed some intense pictures of him looking at some buttons – that he’s been working with past collaborators Pharrell, Timbaland and Max Martin; so all the clues are pointing towards a Timberlake-heavy 12 months, whether you like it or not. MC


Kenya Barris

Hail the king: Eddie Murphy in Coming to America.



Hail the king ... Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. Photograph: Paramount/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

Kenya Barris, the mastermind behind Blackish and Girls Trip, is writing the script for a Coming to America follow up. Yes, we’re talking about a sequel here. The very word may fill you with dread, and rightly so. Zoolander 2 was a lacklustre imitation of its predecessor, while the less said about Alien: Covenant, the better. But, enough with the negativity: there’s a real chance the next Coming to America instalment might not belong in the bin. The beloved 1988 comedy about an African prince (Eddie Murphy) who moves to America to circumvent an arranged marriage and find love by going undercover as a poor New Yorker, was an instant classic in a golden period of African American cinema. Three decades later, the next film seems to be in good hands. Original cast member Eddie Murphy is attached (although not necessarily starring), with Jonathan Levine directing. With Barris’s game changing comedy having captured the screen zeitgeist this year, if anyone can handle the sequel to a cult 80s classic it might just be him. SM


Luca Guadagnino

Suzy Bannion as Jessica Harper



If it ain’t broke ... Suzy Bannion as Jessica Harper in Suspiria. Photograph: Rex/Moviestore Collection

If you want to do a good remake, the golden rule is: pick a movie that wasn’t so great first time around. Clearly Luca Guadagnino didn’t get that memo, but what is he doing remaking Suspiria at all? Dario Argento’s original 1977 movie is the definitive giallo, an operatic, colour-saturated fairytale of gore and witchcraft set in a secluded academy for vulnerable ballerinas. Guadagnino, on the other hand, just directed the gorgeous gay romance Call Me By Your Name, although his previous film, A Bigger Splash, did have a few notes of horror (and not just Ralph Fiennes’s dancing). Guadagnino insists he is not simply remaking Suspiria, and would never want to “erase” the original. His is a more personal take, he says, “inspired by the same story, but it goes in different directions”. He’s lined up an enticing cast, including Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Mia Goth and Tilda Swinton. And Thom Yorke will hande the score, itself a daunting challenge: the original by Italian prog rockers Goblin is a classic in its own right. SR


Minogue, Kylie

Cowboy style: Kylie’s Parton gift to us.



Cowboy style ... Kylie’s Parton gift to us. Illustration: Bill McConkey

As 2017 hangs up its hotpants, we’re further from Spinning Around than that song was from I Should Be So Lucky, so it is safe to say Kylie’s turn-of-the-millennium comeback has been something of a success. Kylie will be aiming for her 16th Top 10 album in 2018, with songs that showcase a new focus on lyrical storytelling via themes of “freedom, self-discovery, life and love”. “The album,” Kylie tells the Guide in a short but perfectly formed email that represents the absolute textual embodiment of that’ll-do-nicely, “is a collision of some elements of country and dance, made at the altar of Dolly Parton standing on a dancefloor.”

It will be Kylie’s first album for new label BMG, where she has been reunited with the A&R bigwig who oversaw her 21st-century relaunch, with collaborators including DJ Fresh and long-term associates Biff Stannard and Karen Poole. Recorded throughout 2017, it shifted gear following a trip to Nashville, where the album “found its heart”. “There’s a little bit of heartbreak, I would say,” Kylie noted in October. “But we bounce back. Most of it is super-positive and inspiring, as a note to self as much as anything else. I’m feeling great right now.” PR

Yee-haw! Other dance-country hybrids:

Rednex Cotton Eye Joe
Shania Twain Man, I Feel Like a Woman
Avicii Wake Me Up
Steps 5, 6, 7, 8
Madonna Don’t Tell Me


Nico, 1988

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38RBdHtWkWo?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed&w=460&h=259]
Watch the trailer.

The title already makes it clear, this is not the Nico of Andy Warhol’s Factory, the Velvet Underground, Jim Morrison and all that. But this should still be one of the most intriguing biopics in the 2018 pile, partly thanks to its focus on the last years of Nico’s dramatic life, and partly thanks to the casting of magnificent Danish actor Trine Dyrholm. She doesn’t play “Nico”, she plays Christa (her real name): the rude, ravaged, resigned, black-haired fortysomething junkie who’s bored with being asked about the good old days and only puts on her stage persona when the occasion demands.

“I wasn’t happy when I was beautiful,” she says at one point. She’s not that happy now, either, trudging aimlessly through her European tour with a substandard band. Sadly, there are no original Nico tunes here, though Dyrholm nails the German singer’s doleful, only-just-in-tune intonation, and Italian director Susanna Nicchiarelli uses Jonas Mekas’s original Factory movies for flashbacks. A late attempt to detox and reconnect with her teenage son offers the prospect of a vaguely happy coda, although – spoiler alert – 1988 was the year Nico died. SR


OscarsSoGay

Oscars 2018: will the new year bring even more diversity?



Oscars 2018 ... will the new year bring even more diversity? Illustration: Bill McConkey

Hollywood has been in a staring competition with its navel for so long now, you would imagine there was nothing left to re-examine after #OscarSoWhite and the post-Weinstein reckoning. But still there are blind spots. Openly LGBTQ performers are still experiencing discrimination off-screen and seeing their parts taken by straight actors on-screen, and it’s long been the rule that gay-themed movies will only win awards if they dilute the “gayness” down to trace levels, hence Crash beating Brokeback Mountain a few years back.

Last year’s Moonlight was celebrated as a triumph for the #OscarSoWhite campaign, but it was also the first gay-themed film to win best picture. Did it break down any barriers for gay movies? With a straight director and cast, perhaps it never could, but this is a good year to find out. Although, again, many of the prime awards contenders are actually straight: the leads in Call Me By Your Name, and Emma Stone as Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. On the other hand, Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman’s Daniela Varga could become the first trans person to receive a nomination. SR


Poppins, Mary

The perfect nanny: Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns.



The perfect nanny ... Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns.

Photograph: Disney

If you have been waiting for a Mary Poppins film sequel, then you’ve been waiting a long time – 53 years, to be exact. The early signs suggest it’s been worth it. Although it will be Christmas 2018 before we can be sure that Mary Poppins Returns truly is as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious as it would appear.

Short of conjuring up Julie Andrews in her prime, Emily Blunt seems the perfect choice for the lead. She comes across as exactly the sort of woman who’d keep all manner of useful things in her handbag and cheerily admonish small children. Screenwriter David Magee has also wisely opted to move the story on from Edwardian London to the mid-1930s, where the Banks children, Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Whishaw) are now all grown up, but still in need of some guidance from their old nanny. Word also has it that 92-year-old Dick Van Dyke has been coaxed out of retirement for a cameo. Will he be reprising that iconically awful cockney accent? We can only hope. EEJ

Dick Van Dyke-itis - other dodgy accents:

Anne Hathaway in One Day
Joss Stone singing Sensimilla
Tom Hardy in everything


Queen

The man who would be Queen: Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.



The man who would be Queen ... Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Photograph: Nick Delaney/20th Century Fox

What a story Freddie Mercury’s life would make, with all the highs, lows, hits, outfits and intersex dwarves with platters of cocaine strapped to their heads. But 2018’s forthcoming biopic seems to have been cursed. Sacha Baron Cohen appeared to be the perfect choice for the lead, but by 2013 he wanted to break free. Reportedly, he felt the film should focus on the nitty-gritty of Mercury’s sexual exploits while the surviving band members preferred to focus on Queen “going from strength to strength” after Mercury’s death. Baron Cohen’s replacement, Rami “Mr Robot” Malek, very much looks the part, though whether this will be Mercury’s real life or just fantasy remains to be seen. In early December, the curse struck again: director Bryan Singer, lately in the frame owing to allegations of sexual misconduct, was fired in the wake of reports of “tensions on the set”. British director Dexter Fletcher has been drafted in, with two weeks’ shooting to go. Will it be a case of The Show Must Go On, or Another One Bites the Dust? SR


Rina Sawayama

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKLxvdFtlZE?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed&w=460&h=259]
Listen to a track.

Japan-born, London-based independent superstar-in-waiting Rina Sawayama’s brand of springy, in-your-face pop music – showcased on her recent mini-album, Rina – is inspired by the classics. We’re talking Oops!... I Did It Again-era Britney on Take Me As I Am; early 90s Teddy Riley on Ordinary Superstar, and the digitised drama of a lost Kevin “She’kspere” Briggs-produced Destiny’s Child classic on Cyber Stockholm Syndrome. It’s the latter that really solidifies Cambridge graduate, part-time model and full-time video game obsessive Sawayama’s MO of marrying millennial-focused lyrics – in that song’s case a generation’s mobile phone-related anxiety – to hugely melodic (she’s mad for seminal hitmaker Max Martin), emotionally engaging pop with a capital P. MC


Sitcoms

Roseanne



They’re back! The cast of Roseanne. Photograph: Adam Rose/Getty Images

A mere 21 years after its “final” season, Roseanne Barr’s game-changing sitcom has some work to do as it returns. The 1997 swansong’s infuriating twist ending – the whole show had been a novel written by Barr’s screen alter ego, Roseanne Conner – left fans aghast at a narrative in disarray. The casting for 2018 implies we will need to pretend season nine never happened: John Goodman is in it, so husband Dan is presumably not in fact dead, while news that Darlene and David’s children will appear indicates that the reshuffling of the show’s relationships – that finale suddenly gave Roseanne’s daughters each other’s partners – will be reversed.

The necessary contractual wrangling has been done to keep Johnny Galecki, now a superstar on a rival network in The Big Bang Theory, as David – and both Lecy Goranson and Sarah Chalke, who used to chaotically share the role of Becky, are present. Chalke, however, will play a new character. Still with us? Logistics aside, Roseanne’s political relevance is why we’ll scrutinise the eight new episodes. The show was valuable for its depiction of a blue-collar couple for whom economic strife compounded the hardships of marriage and parenting: just the sort of people whose disenfranchisement helped Trump to power, and who still demand more attention from US storytellers.

The rub is that Barr has spoken out in support of Trump, with her recent tweets sliding into a Breitbart/InfoWars sinkhole. She says the new show won’t be about the Potus, but political neutrality looks beyond her, and a pro-Trump sitcom would be no laughing matter. Britain’s big comedy comeback also nods towards political meltdown: Alan Partridge returns to the BBC, reputedly as “the voice of Brexit”. Having presciently given us the perfect Brexit metaphor 15 years ago, when Alan tried to present an awards ceremony despite having speared his foot on a spike, Steve Coogan should be able to place his creation back into the national conversation with ease. JS

Roseanne’s best zingers

1
Darlene:
“You guys think we don’t understand your corny sex jokes.”
Roseanne: “You are our corny sex jokes.”

2
Becky:
“Our school is having a food drive for poor people.”
Roseanne: “Get them to drive some of that food over here.”

3
DJ:
“Darlene called me a ‘prevert’.”
Roseanne: “No you’re not a ‘prevert’ honey. You’re a pervert.”


Tina: The Musical

Do you wanna see me do the shimmy again? Tina opens in March



Do you wanna see me do the shimmy again? Tina opens in March. Illustration: Bill McConkey

Until recently, the idea of 2018 being the year of Tina Turner looked about as likely as an X Factor contestant managing not to sing Proud Mary in the auditions round. The 78-year-old pop superstar has been, ahem, a private dancer since she retired with one last round of 50th-anniversary arena shows in 2009 and has lived quietly in Switzerland since the early 90s. But theatre great Phyllida Lloyd, who, with Mamma Mia!, gave Abba a permanent home in the West End and got Meryl Streep into denim dungarees, is about to bring the story of Turner’s extraordinary life – already told on screen in the harrowing biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It in 1993 – to the stage with the much-hyped “bio-musical” Tina. “This took me out of retirement,” Turner told the crowd at its launch, where she duetted with Broadway actor Adrienne Warren, who will play her in the show. It comes to London’s Aldwych Theatre, WC2, in March; expect a roaring trade in blond rock mullet wigs outside. RN


Utopia

Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey) in A Wrinkle in Time.



Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey).

Bad news. Psychic Craig Hamilton-Parker – the guy who predicted Brexit and President Trump – has seen the future and to be honest, it’s not looking great. “2018 will be a year of political turmoil and environmental crisis caused by dramatic and unprecedented weather,” he wrote in a blog post. What next year lacks in global tranquility, it makes up for in cultural majesty, however.

There’s Disney’s luminous adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, the story of a girl’s fantastic quest across the universe to save her father, which features celebrity comfort blanket Oprah. Or Pixar’s musical adventure Coco, set in the Land of the Dead but warm as the cosier corners of Hell, while queen of celestial escapism Björk takes her album Utopia on tour, one date of which is at Cornwall’s appropriately leafy Eden Project. “It’s really important now to be intentional,” she told the Observer earlier this year. “If you feel this world is not heading the right way, you have to be DIY and make a little fortress, over here to the left.” Let’s hope whoever’s last into the giant greenhouse locks the door and swallows the key. HG


Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham



Girl power ... Victoria Beckham. Composite: Guardian Design Team

Not a year goes by without rumours emerging of a Spice Girls reunion celebrating some sort of anniversary. Last year, frustrated with Victoria and Mel C dragging their heels over a potentially lucrative trip down Girl Power lane (not a real place, sadly), Geri Horner, née Halliwell, announced “supergroup” GEM, as in Geri, Emma Bunton and Mel B, via a video seemingly knocked up in five minutes on iMovie (they’ve since disbanded). Perhaps Easy V, AKA Victoria Beckham, saw it because following more rumours of a proper reunion this year – apparently now including Mel “Melanie” C – she’s basically put a stop to the whole thing.

“It is not happening,” the hugely successful fashion designer told former Big Brother contestant Alison Hammond on This Morning. “At some point, you’ve gotta know when it’s time to say: ‘That was great.’ Girl power will always be out there and is something that we all still believe. What I do now is still all about girl power, but it’s empowering women through power. I don’t think I’ll be slipping into a PVC catsuit any time soon.” So there you have it. Sort of. “I still love the girls,” Geri said in a separate interview, “and there are other bits and bobs in the pipeline.” Fingers crossed, it’s not a GEM-related party hat. MC


Widows

Fan of Lynda La Plante: Viola Davis.



Fan of Lynda La Plante ... Viola Davis. Photograph: Rich Fury/Getty

It’ll be coming up to five years since 12 Years a Slave – what has taken director Steve McQueen so long? You can understand a decompression period, but his prolonged absence has become a matter of concern. But, after a few false starts (a scrapped HBO project here, a proposed BBC series there), McQueen is finally (hopefully) back in November, with a thriller based on Lynda La Plante’s 1980s TV series Widows. In the original, three women take matters into their own hands after their criminal husbands are killed in a failed bank heist. But of course, it gets messy. Working with writer Gillian “Gone Girl” Flynn, McQueen transposes the action from London to Chicago “in a time of turmoil”, presumably the present day. The cast includes Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Elizabeth Debicki and Carrie Coon. Plus a few token males such as Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell and Daniel Kaluuya. Given McQueen’s political convictions, Widows is unlikely to be a straightforward thriller, but while his earlier films were more critical than commercial successes, this one could be a real banker. SR


X-Files

The truth is still out there ... David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in The X Files.



The truth is still out there ... David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in The X Files. Photograph: Fox

Gillian Anderson has hinted that this year’s run of The X-Files will be her last. That might be wise, following the travails of seasons eight and nine, which soldiered on with Anderson’s acting soulmate David Duchovny mostly absent, and 2016’s season 10, a box-ticking clutch of uneven episodes that fumbled their big comeback after 14 years away. As the alien-arrival cliffhanger from last time is resolved, and Mulder and Scully battle to save humanity from a nasty virus, all the pieces are on the board: crucial old characters and recently added ones are present. So are the writers from the glory years, all of whom are men, which has led to showrunner Chris Carter getting flak for his creative team’s gender bias. You’d think a show so strongly associated with the 90s would avoid giving us more reasons to think of it as dated. Still, nothing in the past two decades has replaced The X-Files’ shamelessly outre sci-fi hooey; if it finds a reason to exist in 2018, its audience is still out there. JS


Yeah Yeah Yeahs

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIIxlgcuQRU?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed&w=460&h=259]
Listen to Maps.

One of the best books of 2017 was Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me in the Bathroom, which told the story of the early 00s indie rock explosion that centred around New York City. While much of the book focuses on the Strokes, Interpol and LCD Soundsystem, it found a true hero in Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who seemed to embody all of the highs, lows and madness of the time. Of course, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs never really went away, steadily releasing albums for the last 14 years, but in many ways it felt like the right time for a triumphant victory lap and a reminder of what they had set in motion (not least providing Beyoncé with a sample for Lemonade’s Hold Up). So they reissued their debut album Fever to Tell, celebrated that with a handful of live shows (their first in four years), and released a documentary of their 2003 tour called There Is No Modern Romance. Blunt fringes at the ready: more live dates are promised next year. RN


Zayn

Monkeyin’ about ... Zayn Malik in the video for Still Got Time.



Monkeyin’ about ... Zayn Malik in the video for Still Got Time. Photograph: PR

Officially, 2017 should have been Zayn’s year. Having got his difficult post-One Direction debut out of the way – 2016’s sex-obsessed Mind of Mine, a US and UK chart-topper – and fully established himself as a sleepy-eyed style magazine cover mainstay, there were early murmurings he was already working on its sequel. Instead he followed up I Don’t Wanna Live Forever, his duet with Taylor Swift, with March’s Still Got Time, a PartyNextDoor collaboration that was relegated to a “buzz track” after it peaked at No 24. September saw him work with Sia on the billowy Dusk Till Dawn, which spent 11 weeks in the UK Top 10 but, once again, didn’t usher in an album. There is one, though: that same month he told Fader it was “pretty much there”, while in November, Billboard managed to hear bits of songs produced by the likes of Timbaland and Malay, suggesting it would be out “in the first quarter of 2018”. The Fader interview also promised live solo shows, an aspect of the pop star contract Zayn is yet to fulfil due to anxiety issues and the more prosaic “not having enough songs”. Let’s state it now, so it’s written: 2018 will be Zayn’s year. MC


More predictions

Florence Welch, Anthea and Lowri Turner, Jake Gyllenhaal




Left: You’ve got the lovage ... Florence Welch.
Middle: Teamwork ... Anthea and Lowri Turner.
Right: I love blinking, I do ... Jake Gyllenhaal. Composite: Guardian Design Team

Having predicted what 2018 will bring, here are three things that definitely will happen in 2019 ...

  • Florence Welch releases an Elizabethan-themed cookbook, co-authored with Orlando Weeks.
  • Anthea Turner and Lowri Turner join forces for a 10-part investigation into alcopops called Turners & Hooch.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal finally wins an Oscar for his lead in the White Guy Blinking Meme film.