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Monday, 31 December 2012

Cultural Tales of Two Cities Annual Blog Awards - 2012


Best films -
Shame at the start of the year was a brilliant masterpiece about addiction from Steve McQueen. It was unbearably sad and elicited quite stunning performances from both Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.

Killing Them Softly in the autumn from Australian director Andrew Dominik was a perfect portrayal of a moribund and morally bankrupt slice of American society. It was smart, funny and very dark, with superb acting by Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, and Ray Liotta.


Film Turkeys - of over 60 films I have seen this year, only three were really bad - Headhunters, The Imposter, and Looper. They irritated and annoyed me in equal measure. Apologies to the many who loved them.


Best plays -
Orpheus Descending at the Royal Exchange in October was a fantastic offering from Tennessee Williams - all smouldering passion and pent up tension in a 1940s Deep South small town. Imogen Stubbs was as glorious as ever as Lady, showing her pedigree as true acting royalty.

My Fair Lady at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre was a sublime Christmas treat. It achieved perfection in score, choreography, acting, and sheer festive spirit and will undoubtedly make a star of Carly Bawden.

Theatre Turkeys - it pains me to say it but both were at my beloved Royal Exchange. Two in January and Rats Tales in November were both very wide of their usual high watermark for me.


Best gigs -
Father John Misty at the Deaf Institute in November was a totally unexpected gem of a performance which really blew me away. What a guy! He promised 'real shit from my heart to yours' - and he did not disappoint. And at my favourite Manchester gig venue too. Check out his excellent album Fear Fun.


I Am Kloot were great at Ramsbottom Festival in September, but their homecoming gig complete with brand new material at St Philips Church in Salford in November was something else. I can't wait for their new album release in 2013.

Worthy mentions also to some new discoveries for me in 2012 - Gabriel Minnikin, Joe Pug, and The Secret Sisters were all fabulous. As was my old and firm favourite the outrageously talented Justin Townes Earle who I was lucky enough to catch twice this year in Manchester and Leeds.

Best fiction - The Yellow Birds by ex soldier US Kevin Powers about the war in Iraq is powerful, accomplished and important. A brilliant first novel, or any other novel for that matter.

Best non- fiction - The War Is Dead, Long Live the War - Bosnia: The Reckoning by Ed Vulliamy. Another war themed book, this is a harrowing and jaw dropping account of the aftermath of the Bosnian War. It demands to be read.


Literary turkey - Girl Gone by Gillian Flynn - yes I know everyone is raving about this crime novel, but it involved despicable and weak human beings, and left me feeling sullied and defiled as I read the warped and totally preposterous denouement. Safe to say it wasn't for me...



Highlights of the year were my summer Glasgow adventures at the awe inspiring and perennially modern feeling Rennie Mackintosh Glasgow School of Art, and the excellent eclectic  Burrell Collection just outside the city centre.



Bronze at the Royal Academy is also worth a mention - some gorgeous exhibits in an unusual ensemble of objects.


I reaffirmed my love of opera by way of Opera North's wonderful production of Norma at the Lowry in March. And fell in love with the ballet for the first time with English National Ballet's fantastic The Sleeping Beauty in December. And with quite glorious music courtesy of Bellini and Tchaikovsky to accompany these breathtaking performances - I ask you, what on this earth is not to adore?


I have had simply wonderful and life affirming walking adventures in the Scottish Highlands this year courtesy of the islands of Skye, Eigg, and Rum. And I have discovered for the first time (after living in the city for nearly 30 years I know it's shockingly late) the gem which is Victoria Baths


I've had quite a cultural year. I hope you have liked my ramblings. Thank you kindly for humouring me by reading them. Here's to a diverse, enthusing, inspiring, heartbreakingly sad, and gloriously happy set of new adventures in 2013...

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