The Christmas challenge

1 Visitors to a recently created city park 150 winters ago would have been greeted by a scene such as the one pictured above, painted in 1862. Where is it?

2 (i) Which former British prime minister will explore family roots in the music hall tradition, in a book due to be published next year?

(ii) Which US politician has been commissioned to write the memoir Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story?

3 There was no shortage of biographical films this year. Give the names of the actors and the real-life people they played.

4 The mega-rich have been spending big to share their love of art this year.

(i) Name the billionaire who opened a museum in Mexico City in April, which reportedly cost $34m to build and contains works by Picasso, Dalí and the largest Rodin collection outside France.

(ii) Which heiress to an American multi-billion family fortune opened a $1.4bn museum of fine art in Arkansas in November?

(iii) Where did a professional gambler open a $75m “museum of old and new art”?

5 (i) Name the Hollywood star who was criticised for attending a lavish birthday party for Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov at which she announced how “wonderful” it was to be in “your beautiful city” of Grozny where everybody is “so happy”?

(ii) In March a pop star was said to be feeling “horrible and embarrassed” for having performed at a private 2009 New Year’s eve concert for the family of Muammer Gaddafi. What is the singer’s name and what was the reported fee?

6 In October, a famous ballet and opera house reopened after a six-year, $700m renovation. Name it.

7 A 2007 US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks this year revealed that the North Korean regime had approached the US requesting that a certain guitar god be allowed to play in Pyongyang as an “opportunity to build goodwill”. Though the gig failed to materialise, who was the guitarist?

8 Which Hollywood star was named (along with more than 200 other people) on the list of witnesses to be called to the trial of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for an alleged tryst with teenage nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, aka “Ruby Heartstealer”?

9 In 1980, Bette Midler devised a new stage routine in which she appeared in a wheelchair dressed as a mermaid. This year she accused a younger star of copying her, rebuking the object of her ire via Twitter, “You can keep the meat dress and firecracker tits – mermaid’s mine.” Name the supposed copycat, and what was her response to the accusation?

10 Which novel links pop stars Kate Bush and Cliff Richard with filmmakers Andrea Arnold and Luis Buñuel?

11 Which person in the news disowned a ghost-written autobiography this year but is co-operating with a forthcoming work, also based on real-life events, to be staged by Opera Australia?

12 Who created the neon artwork “More Passion” installed at 10 Downing Street in August?

13 Rome’s Teatro Valle was occupied in June by actors and stage workers protesting against its threatened privatisation. But which play caused uproar at the same theatre 90 years earlier when it was premiered there, with scuffles between the play’s detractors and defenders and the playwright bustled out the side-door to make a hasty exit in a taxi?

14 The sculptor Anish Kapoor unveiled his monumental work “Leviathan” in Paris in May and dedicated it to an artist who had disappeared the month before, and was subsequently revealed to have been arrested for “economic crimes”. Name the missing artist.

15 A giant steel portrait of a famous stateswoman, pictured right, was unveiled in a southern hemisphere country in July. Whom does it depict?

16 In October, Salzburg faced up to Austria’s overwhelming support for Hitler during the second world war by staging, for the first time, a musical that is set in the Alpine city, and which received its Broadway debut in 1959. Name the musical.

17 (i) Which Sydney-raised film star performs “Over the Rainbow” with Aboriginal Australian musicians at a solo show currently running on Broadway?

(ii) Who embarked on the one-man show My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option, which opened to boos from the audience in Detroit in April?

18 How did Roman Abramovich upset Venetians during the Venice Biennale, leading to calls for an “oligarch tax”?

19 The duo are both appearing in the West End. Name them, and the 1980s television series in which they starred.

20 The tomb in the Parisian cemetery was unveiled with a new glass barrier in November following extensive restoration, costing around £40,000, to remove the lipstick left by mourners kissing it. Whose tomb is it?

21 In October, Belgian contemporary dance choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker accused a pregnant pop star of “stealing” her routines “Rosas Danst Rosas” (1983) and “Achterland” (1990) in a music video. Name the star who, the choreographer conceded,“dances very well”.

22 As of March, there were 602 skyscrapers over 200m tall across the world, an increase from 258 in 2000. Which continent, with 342 skyscrapers, has the most?

23 In July, the Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt debuted a new piece, “Vater Unser”, celebrating the 60th anniversary of which religious leader’s ordination?

24 (i) In December a memorial to which poet joined those to Alexander Pope, Thomas Hardy, Ben Jonson and Dylan Thomas in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey?

(ii) Which of the above poets was an atheist who didn’t want to be buried in Poets’ Corner but was posthumously overruled by his literary executor?

25 Shown below is a painting that was being worked on by an artist who died earlier this year. Name the artist, the whippet and the title of the painting.

26 The veteran film director Martin Scorsese’s latest film Hugo was released earlier this year.

(i) What links Hugo with the French director Michel Hazanavicius’s film The Artist?

(ii) Which current film trend did Scorsese compare to the arrival of Technicolor in the 1930s?

27 Whose cookbook, published in 2011, contains this wholesome snapshot of domestic life: “Around the time my son turned three and a half, we started having early family dinners all together and it quickly became one of the best parts of my life. The meal, acting as a way to bring us all together and hear each other out, is the highlight of my day. I never could have anticipated the genuinely interesting and hilarious insights that would come out of the mouths of the kids, or just the general feeling of closeness”?

28 Rank Marilyn Monroe’s dress (28a), the first Superman comic (28b) and Elizabeth Taylor’s La Peregrina necklace (28c) in order of the prices they fetched at auction this year.

29 Name the Nobel Prize for Literature winner who this year forced rapper 50 Cent to change the name of a film he has made, about an American footballer with cancer, from Things Fall Apart to All Things Fall Apart.

30 In a recent interview, the activist and filmmaker Michael Moore called on him to run for US president. As Santa Claus, who is he?

31 The Ukrainian boxing brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko have teamed up with a Hollywood star to make a musical based on one of the star’s films, due to open next year in Hamburg. Name the star and the title of the film.

32 In September, a French actor, who once boasted of drinking five or six bottles of wine a day, claimed prostate problems led to an embarrassing incident on a plane that caused his ejection from a Paris to Dublin flight. Name the actor.

33 Preston bus station, which was the largest in the world when it opened in 1969, this year joined the Nazca lines in Peru, Charleston in South Carolina and the floating villages of Halong Bay in Vietnam on a Unesco list of what?

34 Which Paris museum is raising money to launch the world’s first mobile museum, a circus-style big top that will tour France with works expected to include Picasso’s “Femme en Bleu” and a mobile by Alexander Calder?

35 Name the artists to whom the paintings (35a and 35b) were attributed to this year?

36 2011 was one of the busiest years ever for movie sequels. Which film ends with a character discovering someone he feared dead “is alive”, thus opening the way for another sequel?

37 (i) Which item of clothing connects The Killing’s ace detective Sarah Lund, Norfolk’s legendary DJ Alan Partridge and the first meeting between Mark Darcy and Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’s Diary? (ii) And which incorporates a large reindeer face?

38 In which country was the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 delayed to make way for a film called The Founding of a Party?

39 (i) Which book, winner of a literary prize this year, begins with the words: “I remember, in no particular order ... ”?

(ii) Which other prize-winning book ends with: “But it was another girl, young and new to the city, fiddling with her keys”?

40 The photo shows a pop star on a video shoot in a field in Northern Ireland. What happened next?

Photos from AP, BAL, BM, Capital, Corbis, David Dawson/Hazlit HollandHibbert, Getty, Kobal, Reuters


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