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The family-owned music store exhibits instruments from all around the world, as well as the largest music book selection outside of Portland. Eugene's Buy & Sell Music Center is an instrument shop bursting with colorful whimsy and charm. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

2020 was a year of canceled concerts and ever-delayed premieres. But with many of those performances and releases pushed back to the new year, and some creators thriving during their pandemic-era alone time, 2021 may have a lot to offer in terms of pop culture and art — here’s what our reviewers are excited for this year. 

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An array of EDG's members' film cameras rest in the darkroom. Certain film cameras can be much less expensive than the digital alternative –– making film and darkroom a more accessible medium for artists. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Film

Sam Anthony

2020 wasn’t exactly the year we were expecting, and that goes doubly so for the movie and TV industry. But with many of the blockbuster films and TV shows for 2020 being pushed back, 2021 promises to be full of hits. 

With the addition of WandaVision, Loki, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Marvel television series, Disney+ is pushing to become a staple streaming service for the future, especially for fans of the Marvel Universe. With WandaVision  — the first Marvel cinematic universe television show ever  — set to premiere on Jan. 15, fans will get their first taste of what the future of Marvel may look like.

The first full-length Marvel movie of the year, “Black Widow” will star Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, a Russian spy turned superhero. Black Widow will be only the second woman-led Marvel movie and will release on May 7. However, the decision of if and when it will release to Disney+ is still up in the air.

As far as in-theater blockbusters go, the first big hit of 2021 will likely be the James Bond sequel “No Time to Die.” Daniel Craig has quickly risen to one of the most iconic “James Bonds” in the history of the franchise, and “No Time to Die,” the fifth Daniel Craig Bond movie, will also be his last. The final installation will debut on April 2.

Another sequel to look forward to, “Top Gun: Maverick,” stars Tom Cruise as he returns to the role of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a pilot in the Air Force. The sequel to “Top Gun,” the 1986 blockbuster hit and inspiration for countless frat parties, has had fans waiting for over 30 years, and on July 2 it will finally make its way to theaters.

Next up, fans of the Uncharted video game series will likely be either ecstatic or horrified to hear that a live action movie of the series is in the works. Tom Holland will star as Nathan Drake, a professional treasure hunter. As part of the Warner Bros. and HBO Max deal that’s made waves in the movie industry, “Uncharted” will go straight to HBO Max on July 16.

Finally, love him or hate him, LeBron James is the most iconic basketball player of this generation. On July 16, fans of the original “Space Jam” will find out if LeBron can live up to Michael Jordan’s acting career as well as his career on the court. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” will also go directly to HBO Max.

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National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a month-long novel writing challenge that amasses thousands of participants each year. This year, Wordcrafters in Eugene and the Springfield Public Library are teaming up to host virtual writing sessions throughout the month of November. (Summer Surgent-Gough/Emerald)

Books

Audrey Kalman

2020 turned into a strong year for book sales, and hopefully this will remain the case in 2021. The coming year is chock-full of highly anticipated titles — novels, memoirs, mysteries, you name it. 

A new collection of early Joan Didion essays, “Let Me Tell You What I Mean,” will be published in late January. From an introduction by Hilton Als to an essay on Nancy Reagan, this one won’t disappoint. Didion’s observations are as keen as they are eloquent, and as Oprah Magazine said, “There will never be another quite like her.” 

Rachel Cusk has proved herself as a master of fiction with her “Outline” trilogy and is gifting readers with a new novel this year, “Second Place.” As intriguing as the plotline is  — a single woman convinces a male artist to stay with her on the British coast — the subject matter is practically tangential to Cusk’s way with words. 

While Didion and Cusk are both known primarily for their writing, you probably know the author of another exciting 2021 release differently, by her political career. State Representative Stacey Abrams registered approximately 500,000 voters in Georgia this past year. She also wrote her ninth novel. “While Justice Sleeps” is a mystery that takes place in a high-stakes setting  — the Supreme Court. While Abrams’ fiction writing is perhaps in the background of her public persona, it does not disappoint.

In addition to these standouts, there is also a new memoir by James Comey, a sequel to Viet Thanh Nguyen’s “The Sympathizer” and the latest work from Oscar-nominated actor Ethan Hawke all on the horizon. 

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The walls of the family-owned music store are lined with stringed instruments from around the world. It is easy to mistake bongo drums for stools, and an accordion for a cash box. The cacophony of sound that emanates from the store is indicative of Eugene’s diverse music scene. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Music 

Lucas Warner 

Every turn of the calendar marks a time where music artists can restart their creative process and release something new for fans to enjoy. 

While ScHoolboy Q hasn’t announced a release date for his new album, many fans are eagerly awaiting his follow up to “CrasH Talk,” which will be his third studio album. ScHoolboy is most likely looking to elevate his sound once again; his production has steadily improved from album to album. What’s great about Q is that he is able to have so much fun not just with a track but with an album as a whole. Hopefully he can bring a much needed palate cleanser. 

If you don’t know Saba, do yourself a favor and listen to “Bucket List,” his first studio album released back in 2016. Saba released another project in 2018, “CARE FOR ME,” and recently released two single collections, totaling four tracks. This hopefully means that the artist is ready to release a new album. What makes Saba special is his storytelling, clever lyricism and free flowing whit.

While JID appeared heavily on the Spillage Village album, “Spilligion,” this is another artist who has been pretty quiet since 2018. Over the past year he has worked with Kenny Beats and Kenny Mason on two singles. JID has the ability to encapsulate his listener —  just check out “The Never Story,” an album packed with some of the hottest bars from 2017. 

While many artists haven’t confirmed when or if they’ll release new albums, one can only be eager to listen to a new batch of music that will help keep us motivated throughout 2021.

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Before practicing outside of the studio, the dancers rehearsed their set. The Fermata Ballet Collective supports dancers to continue dancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Flex studios is where dancers come to perfect their art to later showcase their skills. With concerns of COVID-19, the dancers follow safety protocols to help prevent the spread of the virus. (Kevin Wang/ Daily Emerald)

Performing Arts

Sarah-Mae McCullough

Performing arts, defined by their live audiences, might be the most difficult medium to adapt in a pandemic. But even with social distancing, performers are adhering to that much-used adage: “The show must go on!”

Throughout February, Steppenwolf Theater will virtually present “Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!” — a filmed play written by Vivian J.O. Barnes and directed by Weyni Mengesha. Barnes was inspired by a flawless image of Kate Middleton outside the hospital where she had just given birth; it got her thinking about what we demand from female public figures, especially when they are women of color. 

“Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!” is about racism, royalty and how Black women negotiate power relations in predominantly White institutions. With a royal wedding looming, the play captures the dialogue between a Black Duchess and the Black soon-to-be Duchess as they have a last moment of privacy before entering the public spotlight.

 The Martha Graham Dance Company, one of the most world-renowned modern dance companies, has stayed impressively active — virtually — throughout the pandemic. The group is now opening their 85th season with digital programming organized by theme. In January, the focus is nature and the elements. Performances are streamed at specific times with the next show on Jan. 19. 

Viewers can purchase single tickets to watch a streamed show or can subscribe for regular content, starting at $3 per month. Other offerings throughout the year include monthly Zoom Q&As with Graham experts, classes with Graham Company dancers and videos from the Graham Archives. 

If all goes as planned, Portland will host a number of stand-up comedians this year. Russell Howard, one of the best-selling British comics and host of “Russell Howard’s Good News” on BBC is set to perform in the city on May 13. Ronny Chieng, a fast-growing comedian who recently starred in “Crazy Rich Asians” will take the stage at Aladdin Theatre on June 4. Dude Perfect, a group of five friends who unknowingly started a comedy career with some YouTube videos in 2009, will also perform in Portland on July 14. 

Arts and Culture Desk Editor

Sarah-Mae is the arts and culture editor at the Emerald. She also writes about local artists, performances and events.