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Monday, January 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Year in review: Inland Northwest worthy of ‘Idol’ worship in 2018

When it comes to 2018 in the arts/features world on a national level, we’re talking Marvel. We’re talking Ariana Grande and Drake and Lady Gaga. “This is Us” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.” We’re talking about vaping and e-cigarettes, and debated (as always) the best ways to lose weight and get in shape.

When it comes to local stories, Spokane-area readers were wild about “Tag” and “Smoke Signals,” Jazzercise and “American Idol,” Miranda Lambert, Metallica and concert bucket lists.

Here’s a look back at some of the biggest stories we covered in the Today section in 2018.

‘Tag,’ you’re it

The story of a group of guys from Gonzaga Prep who kept their friendship alive through an elaborate game of tag went viral in 2013, and five years later, it came to the big screen as an R-rated comedy starring Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress and Jake Johnson. The movie, co-written and produced by another former G-Prep guy, Mark Steilen, opened in June to mixed reviews and OK box office. That didn’t stop the 10 “Tag Brothers” from heading to Southern California in June to attend the red carpet world premiere and packing the house with family, friends and the film’s stars.

Metallica broke records

On Dec. 2, the iconic rock band made its first stop in Spokane in more than a decade. They made up for lost time with a show that was visually compelling, thanks to high-tech gadgetry, and sonically impressive. Fans were thrilled, too, and a record number of them packed the Spokane Arena for the show. The attendance – 13,184 people – broke a record that had stood at the Arena since a 1999 appearance by Neil Diamond. While in town, the rockers also found time to make a $10,000 donation to Second Harvest, and days later announced donations of $100,000 each to Spokane Community College and North Idaho College. Hail, hail rock ’n’ roll.

‘Smoke Signals’ honored

In recent weeks, the Library of Congress announced the 25 films it was selecting this year for inclusion on the National Film Registry. On the list: “Smoke Signals,” the locally made film based on a short story by Sherman Alexie. The film, shot on location in North Idaho, Spokane and Eastern Washington, made waves when it was released 1998 as the first film written, directed and co-produced by American Indians.

(In a note on his website, Alexie corrected the record: It’s not the only film written, produced and directed by Indians. “However, ‘Smoke Signals’ is the only Native-created film that has ever received major national and international distribution. At one point, ‘Smoke Signals’ was playing in over 800 theaters! At the same time!”)

It featured a mostly Indian cast as well, with Adam Beach as Victor Joseph and Evan Adams as Thomas Builds-the-Fire, and also featuring Gary Farmer (“Powwow Highway,” “Dead Man”), Tantoo Cardinal (“Dances With Wolves,” “Wind River”) and Irene Bedard (“Pocahontas”). This marks the first time a movie filmed in Spokane has been included on this list, which also includes “The Wizard of Oz,” “Casablanca” and “Citizen Kane.” But a couple of actors who called Spokane home are in films that are honored, including Bing Crosby for “The Road to Morocco” and Darren McGavin for “The Christmas Story.”

Sherman Alexie and #MeToo

The prominent author, a member of the Spokane Tribe who won a National Book Award for his semi-autobiographical young adult novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” started the year on a high. In January, his lauded memoir, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” won a Pacific Northwest Book Award, and in February, he was awarded the Carnegie Medal for literary excellence. He declined the Carnegie award less than a month later after three women came forward with allegations that he had sexually harassed them. His publisher, Little, Brown and Company, then delayed release of the paperback edition of his memoir.

Bucket List, redux

In 2014, the folks at the Spokane Arena wanted to know which acts Spokane-area concert fans were dying to see. And the Bucket List was born. Over the course of nearly four years, Arena bookers managed to cross a few acts off that list, including Pearl Jam and Garth Brooks. But in April, they issued the call again, wanting to see if there are new acts Spokane is clamoring for. Turns out there are. This year’s top four are Pink, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and Maroon 5. Country icon George Strait comes in at No. 5, and the Top 10 is rounded out by Ed Sheeran, Pearl Jam, U2, Imagine Dragons and Paul McCartney.

Gum Girl Gone

There was a celebrity in our midst, if only for a short time. In February, Adriana Janovich profiled Farris Patton, an actress and model who starred in series of commercials for Orbit Gum. She and her husband wanted to escape Los Angeles and went searching for a more family friendly vibe. They found it in Spokane and settled on the South Hill. Our story about the Pattons was one of the most read feature stories on in 2018. But it wasn’t to last; the Pattons have recently moved back to the Los Angeles area.

Caruso center stage

Sophia Anne Caruso is poised to have a big 2019. The Spokane-born actress, who got her start on local stages playing Little Orphan Annie and Helen Keller, will open “Beetlejuice: The Musical” on Broadway in the spring, after a tryout run in Washington, D.C., in November. The 17-year-old will play the leading role of Lydia in this new adaptation of the Tim Burton film when it opens at the Winter Garden Theater on March 28. Caruso has been on Broadway before in a small role in the Jeff Daniels/Michelle Williams play “Blackbird, and the West End in London, as Girl in the David Bowie musical “Lazarus.” Early reviews have found much to criticize in “Beetlejuice,” but Caruso’s performance has not been a cause of concern. As Variety noted, “With an engaging voice and spirited presence, Caruso lights up her scenes and nails her musical assignments.”

Lambert reigns

It’s no secret that Spokane is a country town. Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban all have found enthusiastic audiences in the Lilac City. Miranda Lambert returned to Spokane in early February for her first Spokane show since 2015 (the same year her marriage to Blake Shelton imploded). As staff writer Azaria Podplesky put it in her review of Lambert’s Arena show, “Lambert has come a long way since her divorce, with an ACM Album of the Year award for ‘The Weight of These Wings’ and a new beau (roots-rock singer Anderson East). If Friday’s performance was any sign, she has regained her ‘backyard swagger.’”

Jazzercise going strong

There’s CrossFit and Pilates, barre and Zumba. As fitness trends come and go, one program is always there: Jazzercise. The aerobic exercise program with more than 8,000 franchises in 32 countries still attracts a crowd across all age groups. As Jazzercise president Shanna Missett Nelson put it when she visited Spokane in January, “Our staying power definitely is in the environment that we create with Jazzercise. It’s welcoming and non-intimidating. We make people feel good about who they are, what they look like, whatever age they are. Our biggest competitor has always been the couch, not other fitness programs.” She should know. Her mother Judi Sheppard Missett founded the fitness company in 1969.

‘Idol’ time

The talent show “American Idol” and the Inland Northwest seemed to go hand-in-hand in 2018. Back in April, former Spokane singer/actress Morgan Keene appeared on the ABC show as part of “Disney night.” She’s a member of the new Disney-themed a cappella group D Cappella, and the group made its TV debut as a guest performer. This was just a few weeks after Chewelah’s own Allen Stone appeared on “Idol” as a guest artist performing a duet with contestant Dennis Lorenzo.

Then there was the time when “Idol” set up shop at the Coeur d’Alene Resort for “judge cuts.” Over two days in October, judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie heard dozens of contestants who traveled from all over the country to be there. We’ll know in 2019 how they did. Stay tuned.

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