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The Most Anticipated Culture Events of 2014: ‘Inherent Vice,’ ‘Divergent,’ and More

There’s a lot to be stoked about in pop culture this year. From ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ to ‘Inherent Vice’ and ‘Divergent,’ here’s what we can’t wait for.

Gabriela Hasbun/Redux

2014 Winter Olympics—Feb. 7-23

The XXII Winter Olympics—the 22nd edition of the Winter Olympic Games—will take place in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7-23. And, with a price tag estimated at $51 billion (and climbing), it’s supposed to be the most expensive Olympics ever. There are a total of 15 sports in the games, including skiing, bobsleigh, and figure skating, and the event will be broadcast on NBC in the U.S. It’s also not without controversy. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, French President Francois Hollande, and others have refused to attend due to Russia’s treatment of LGBT people. To stick it to Russia, Obama appointed openly gay former tennis great Billie Jean King as part of the U.S. delegation for the opening and closing ceremonies.—Marlow Stern

Late Night With Seth Meyers—Feb. 24

There’s a reason Jimmy Fallon made such a splash when he debuted in late night—and continues to do so today. In a din of cranky, snarky, jaded, and occasionally even lazy late-night talk show hosts, he radiates pure joy. One reason to be excited about Seth Meyers’s move to NBC’s late-night lineup when Fallon moves to The Tonight Show is that he’s also a carrier of that inexplicably elusive hosting element: happiness. You can see it in how he can’t help but giggle along to ludicrousness of his Weekend Update guests on Saturday Night Lives. This guy loves his job. While none of the celebrities he’ll be interviewing on Late Night may match the insanity of, say, Bill Hader’s Stefon (OK, let’s be serious—most will), it will be a hoot to watch him giggle alongside them when he starts his new hosting gig in 2014.—Kevin Fallon

Lily Allen’s Return—March

Lily Allen is anything but quiet. From the English singer’s razor-sharp pop debut, Alright, Still, to the controversial single she premiered in 2013, “Hard Out Here,” everything she does comes with a bang. Even her three-year hiatus, during which she got married and had two kids, was cause for hullabaloo because, well, it’s Lily Allen. If there was anything no one expected the girl who wrote “Knock ‘Em Out” to do, it was to become a housewife. But with “Hard Out Here,” Allen (or rather, Lily Rose Cooper, as she’s changed her professional name to) made her triumphant return official. She has said she hopes to drop her third studio album sometime in March.—Melissa Leon

Robert Redford’s First Acting Oscar (Maybe)—March 2

There’s a slim chance that Redford will win an Oscar for All Is Lost. Remarkably, it’d be the 77-year-old’s first Best Actor statue. Unfortunately, with Tom Hanks, Joaquin Phoenix, Christian Bale, and Chiwetel Ejoifor among the probable nominees, it’ll be a tough fight for Sundance. If he loses, don’t worry. Redford is in the next Captain America movie, which releases on April 4.—Sujay Kumar

The Grand Budapest Hotel—March 7

Any film by quirky auteur Wes Anderson is cause for celebration, and this follow-up to his acclaimed 2012 movie Moonrise Kingdom looks like a doozy. Set at a hotel in the 1920s, it stars Ralph Fiennes as Gustave H., famed concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel. After a one-night stand with Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), he’s bequeathed a valuable painting. When Madame D. turns up dead, her son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody) vows to frame Gustave for the murder. Meanwhile, Gustave’s bellhop, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), is tasked with hiding the painting from Dmitri and the authorities. The kooky comedy features a fantastic supporting cast, including Anderson regulars Bill Murray as the manager of a rival hotel, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Edward Norton, as well as newcomers Harvey Keitel and Lea Seydoux.—Marlow Stern

Divergent—March 21

Fans of young adult novels rejoice: You don’t have to wait for Mockingjay. The trailers for this Shailene Woodley-starrer are promising. And Downton Abbey’s Pamuk is there, too.—Sujay Kumar

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Nymphomaniac, Part One—Mar. 21

It would be shocking if Nymphomaniac is not shocking, and it will be, as the agitator-general of cinema makes his magnum opus, devoting two parts and four hours to study the role of sex in our lives, with its power over love and death, lust and loss, coiled into one. Part Two comes out April 18.—Jimmy So

Johnny Cash, Out Among the Stars—March 25

The late country music legend’s estate will release an album entitled Out Among The Stars, comprised of 12 previously unheard Johnny Cash songs. The tunes were discovered by his son, John Carter Cash, at Sony Music Archives, and were reportedly recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, back in 1981 (Cash’s label, Columbia, originally refused to release the material). According to his son, the tracks were produced by Billy Sherrill and are “beautiful,” featuring a “pitch perfect” Cash. The album features duets with Cash’s wife, June Carter Cash, and Waylon Jennings.—Marlow Stern

Can’t and Won’t: Stories, Lydia Davis—April 8

My vote for the greatest author alive, Davis writes perfectly embodied little universes that continue, year after year, to surprise and delight. She is sublime, and I greet every one of her releases.—Jimmy So

The Amazing Spider-Man 2—May 2

Electro, The Rhino, Harry Osborne, the Black Cat (maybe), and Mary Jane (maybe), what can go wrong? The answer is everything (read: Spider-Man 3). As The Amazing Spider-Man 2 follows superhero movies like The Avengers and Batman vs. Superman and stuffs as many bad guys in one film, Marvel’s favorite character really does face, as the poster’s tagline says, “his greatest battle.”—Sujay Kumar

The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death, Colson Whitehead—May 6

The novelist was given $10,000 by Grantland to see how far he could get in the World Series of Poker. If you know Whitehead’s writing, you’ll know this won’t be an ordinary story.—Jimmy So

Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, Geoff Dyer—May 20

Dyer either obliterates or creates a whole new genre out of every book, and we’re all eager to see what he does this time when he looks at life on board an American aircraft carrier.—Jimmy So

X-Men: Days of Future Past—May 23

X-Men: Days of Future Past promises to be like a greatest hits of everything we loved about the first four X-Men movies (and the two Wolverine-only installments). Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy return as the younger versions of Magneto and Professor Xavier, while bromance legends Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart will reprise their roles as the older versions of these mortal enemies. All the old X-Men favorites will be there too, with Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Halle Berry as Storm, Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde and Shawn Ashmore as Iceman (Anna Paquin as Rogue also made an appearance but her character perished on the cutting room floor). Peter Dinklage will be introduced as Bolivar Trask, creator of the robot mutant-destroyers called Sentinels. (Will all the mutants unite against this new threat?) And Bishop, Colossus, Warpath, Blink, Sunspot, Quiksilver, Stryker and Havoc will all be there too.—Melissa Leon

The Fault in Our Stars—June 6

Coming-of-age stories can all-too-often veer towards being too precious. Cancer-struggle stories can all-too-often veer towards being schmaltzy. The Fault in Our Stars is both a coming-of-age romance and a meditation on the heartbreaking, yet hopeful, ways a cancer diagnosis can alter an entire orbit of people’s lives. Precious and schmaltzy couldn’t be worse descriptors for John Green’s 2012 novel, which captures the uncontrollable passion and emotions of young love and all the not-enough-Kleenex-in-the-world sadness of the cancer diagnosis of a teenager. Shailene Woodley, who may be one of the impressive young actresses working in Hollywood after her turns in The Descendants and The Spectacular Now will play the lead role, complementing her performance in another YA novel-turned-major-movie, Divergent. While Divergent has all the “new Hunger Games” blockbuster-sized buzz going for it, it’s the more complicated, human story of The Fault in Our Stars that we’re more excited for her to tell.—Kevin Fallon

2014 FIFA World Cup—June 12—July 13

The 20th FIFA World Cup will take place in Brazil from June 12-July 13, and feature 32 teams vying for soccer immortality. Spain is the defending champs, having defeated the Netherlands back in 2010, but all four previous World Cups hosted by South American countries were subsequently won by South American countries. And this year, the host country of Brazil has as good a shot as any at winning it all. Can you imagine the celebrations? Us Americans can live vicariously through the victors since we’re grouped with Germany, Ghana, and Portugal in the opening stages and don’t have a chance in hell of advancing.—Marlow Stern

How to Train Your Dragon 2—June 13

Hiccup has stubble now. Let that sink in. It’s been almost four years since we met teenage Viking Hiccup and the so-cute-it-hurts dragon, Toothless. In the first movie, though Hiccup is expected to become a dragon slayer like the rest of his people, he discovers and becomes attached to Toothless, trains him, and eventually helps end the war between Vikings and dragons. In the second, we fast forward five years to see what young-adult Hiccup and Toothless are up to. All Vikings can now ride on the backs of dragons and explore lands beyond their island—which promises to bring up a whole host of new conflicts and opportunities for amazingly animated 3D flying.—Melissa Leon

Gone Girl—October 3

It’s a familiar narrative at this point. Book seizes the zeitgeist. Everyone loves book. Backlash takes over and everyone criticizes book. Movie adaptation of book is announced. Everyone dream-casts the lead roles. Everyone is aghast by the actors who are eventually cast in the lead roles. Gillian Flynn’s bonkers, infuriating, and yet totally engrossing Beach Read Epitomized of a novel Gone Girl will hit screens as a major feature film (produced by Reese Witherspoon, of all people), starring Ben Affleck as the husband suspected of murdering his wife and Rosamund Pike as the said wife, who’s not all that she seems. Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry round out the cast, should producers have been worried that the controversial casting of the leads wasn’t enough of a “WTF???” to the book’s fans. But, as anyone who read Flynn’s novel can tell you, it’s a story that’s just begging for a film treatment. The Gone Girl movie may pleasantly surprise us all. Or it may be a disaster, which will be just as fun to track next year.—Kevin Fallon

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1November 21

Where the hell is Peeta? Is there or is there not a District 13? Is Gale ever getting any action? The end of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire left a lot of questions hanging. With the first half of the conclusion of the series, we’ll get to see what happens when there are no pretenses anymore: No more faking nice from President Snow or the Capitol and all-out rebellion among the districts. We can’t wait.—Melissa Leon

The Big Green Tent: A Novel, Ludmila UlitskayaDecember 1

The Russian author writes instant classics that are like Chekhov set in Soviet times, and at last this multi‐generational novel chronicling three school friends in ‘50s Moscow who go on to symbolize Soviet life in the decades to come, will be available in English late in the year.—Jimmy So

Into the Woods—December 25

It’s always an alternately mesmerizing and terrifying spectacle when Hollywood star-casts a beloved Broadway musical. That’s certainly the case with Rob Marshall’s (Chicago) upcoming film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s cute-and-macabre fairy tale mash-up musical, Into the Woods. Meryl Streep will play The Witch, which depending on who you ask is either perfect or horrific casting. (But it’s Meryl Streep so it will be a hoot regardless.) Emily Blunt will be The Baker’s Wife, James Corden is The Baker, Johnny Depp is The Wolf—the first “uhhh…really?” casting choice—and Chris Pine is a singing Prince—the second. But if there’s one reason to have faith that this at least one part of this movie will be amazing, it’s that Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, this flawless musical theatre performance) will play Cinderella—casting at its most perfect perfection. There’s no doubt that Into the Woods will be messy. But there’s no doubt that the year’s other big movie musical—Annie starring Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz (wut???)—will be messier. So be excited, if for nothing else, for Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella. I mean Into the Woods.—Kevin Fallon

Inherent Vice—Date TBD

The great filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood) adapting a novel by Thomas Pynchon? Yes, please. In Inherent Vice, which will be released sometime in 2014, Joaquin Phoenix plays Larry “Doc” Sportello, a drugged-out private investigator that delves into the mysterious disappearance of his ex-girlfriend in 1970s Los Angeles. The cast also includes Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, singer Joanna Newsom, and Anderson’s wife, Maya Rudolph.—Marlow Stern

The Normal Heart—Date TBD

Larry Kramer’s blistering, largely autobiographical play about the gutting and harrowing rise of the HIV-AIDS epidemic in New York City in the early ‘80s may be one of the most important cultural works of the past 30 years. Putting the Tony-winning play on screen has been its own tortured process, with a tug-of-war of screen rights (which involved Barbra Streisand, of all people) delaying things for decades. Glee creator Ryan Murphy and HBO will finally turn The Normal Heart into a TV movie in 2014, which considering the remarkable nuance and dignity Murphy has been able to put gay issues on mainstream TV—but also his occasionally ludicrous and campy tendencies—is cause for both delight and worry. Swinging the pendulum closer to “delight”: the all-star cast. Mark Ruffalo, Alec Baldwin, Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch, Matt Bomer, Joel Grey, and someone you may have heard of named Julia Roberts will all star in the film.—Kevin Fallon

Justin Bieber—All year

Big year for Bieber. Will his career follow Justin Timberlake or Vanilla Ice? Do you belieb?—Sujay Kumar