The Bear (Season 2)
Avoiding the sophomore slump attributed to most sequels (I’m looking at you, Madagascar 2), season 2 of The Bear manages to retain the first season’s hype. The series allows for the exploration and growth of supporting characters: Pastry chef Marcus (Lionel Boyce) travels to Denmark to learn new pastry techniques from Chef Luca (Will Poulter), while Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) confidently steps into her role as the new sous-chef back in Chicago. This season sees Carmy (Jeremy Allan White) with a love interest which—to be honest—he is not prepared to handle, but in a refreshing way that is true to life. Critics are lauding it as one of the best follow-up seasons in a long time, and that’s not just due to Jeremy Allan White’s chokehold on the Internet.
Succession (Season 4)
Both timely and timeless, modern Shakespearean epic Succession aired its fourth and final season this spring to a rapturous reception. Featuring cutting social commentary on the state of American politics and media, as well as an ensemble cast’s tour-de-force performance, this final season solidifies the show’s place in the pantheon of greatest shows of the 21st century. A heavyweight in today’s water-cooler chatter, discourse on X, formerly known as Twitter, Succession’s conclusion leaves a definite void in the sphere of monoculture television viewing. With multiple Emmys, Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) awards, and Golden Globes under its belt, this is hopefully not the last time we’ll see the faces of the Roy children and their associates on our screens.
Sam Levinson and The Weeknd’s joint passion project, The Idol, couldn’t quite hit the right notes. It’s visually stunning, but that’s part of the problem. It deals with ugly topics but attempts to make them beautiful—is glamourizing pain ever truly honest? The Idol tried to be too many things at once: A commentary on the toxicity of the music industry, a sordid tale of corruption, an exploration of predators, publicity, pop culture, pop stars, pornography—and it ended up becoming everything it tried to criticize. It’s ultimately hard to tell whether it’s an indictment of how young women are treated in the music industry, or a fantasy that’s a little too real.
Did I learn all of Barbie’s “most profound” revelations in a first-year Gender Studies class? Yes, yes, I did. Just had to get that off my chest. Now that I’ve given my critique of Barbie, let’s dive into why this movie was such a success. Not only was it the highest-grossing movie by a female director at the domestic box office, critics say it elegantly combines mainstream fun-in-the-sun adventure with cutting satire and socially-conscious undertones. Margot Robbie (Barbie) and Ryan Gosling’s (Ken) performances were picture-perfect, and the impressive world-building and attention to detail, especially in the background sets of Barbie world, is cause for applause.
This knock-out raunchy comedy took the internet by storm as director Emma Seligman and actor Rachel Sennott teamed up for their second collaboration. Bottoms tells the story of two best friends, PJ (Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri), as they start a fight club to try to lose their virginities to cheerleaders. The cast’s impeccable comedic timing and swoon-worthy chemistry are a perfect match for the hilarious yet surprisingly gory script, making this modern twist on the typical teen comedy format an instant classic of the genre. Seligman and Sennott’s mission of creating queer representation in a space that has long been lacking was a smashing success.
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey
In 2022, Winnie the Pooh entered the public domain. In 2023, he entered Hell. The premise of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey is this: Christopher Robin has left for college, and without the young man around to bring them food, the animals starve—and resort to cannibalism (they eat Eeyore first, but keep his tail to use as a whip). Pooh and Piglet proceed to chloroform young women, run people over with cars, and strangle Christopher Robin’s wife. I don’t consider these spoilers because I doubt anyone is going to watch it (the film’s only redeeming quality is an underlying message about keeping in touch with your childhood friends). Still, it could be a good watch if you don’t like your childhood, and/or hate nature.
Rush (Troye Sivan)
It’s giving electro-pop-meets-late-2010s-dance-tracks. It’s giving pounding lights and masses of people, hands in the air, jumping so hard the floor shakes. While “Rush” by Troye Sivan is not in any way revolutionary as a pop track, it does deliver on what it set out to do: Be the biggest party hit of the summer. Nominated for both Best Pop Dance Recording and Best Music Video at the 2023 Grammy Awards, it also won Sivan Best Solo Artist at this year’s ARIA Music Awards. Sivan has cemented himself into the hearts of Gen Z with hits such as “My My My!” and “Youth”; Rush simply continues this trend.
Not Strong Enough (boygenius)
As their most streamed song, “Not Strong Enough” is the stand-out track off of boygenius’ debut studio album the record. The country-pop-inspired track works as a direct response to Sheryl Crow’s 1993 hit “Strong Enough” with the refrain “not strong enough to be your man,” reversing Crow’s hook to profess their uncertainty about love. Bandmates Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus each take a solo verse, showcasing their uniquely impressive vocal stylings while embodying a variation on the anxieties set up in the chorus. With a propulsive guitar melody and lyrics that you can scream on a long drive, “Not Strong Enough” is a perfect piece of sonic catharsis.
Toxic Gossip Train (Colleen Ballinger)
In a sea of notes-app celebrity apologies, short videos that feature them sitting on the floor, surrounded by expensive (but neutral-toned) furniture, usually wearing white clothing, pausing to wipe dry tears, talking of shame and accountability and giving videos all-lowercase titles—Colleen Ballinger stands out for making her case through a 10-minute-long ukulele song (entitled “hi.”). “Toxic Gossip Train” was a ham-fisted—albeit creative—way to shirk responsibility for the numerous allegations made against Ballinger (which include sending suggestive messages to underage fans, blackface, and sending unsolicited nude photos of Trisha Paytas to fans). The song includes lines such as “not a groomer, just a loser,” and interjections of something that might be spoken-word poetry. Though, to her credit, she has left the comments section on.
Cillian Murphy eats cheese to cope with writers’ strike
While the SAG strike had many actors wishing to get back on press tours or in front of the camera, Cillian Murphy took the opportunity to adopt the habits of a mouse. The Oppenheimer star reportedly spent his strike time lying down on the couch eating cheese. Can we blame him? Between this summer’s “Barbenheimer” frenzy and what is sure to be a long awards campaign, the star did as McGill students do between midterms and finals—completely ignored his work and responsibilities in favour of some much-needed rest and relaxation.
Josh Hutcherson Whistle edit
The Josh Hutcherson “Whistle” edit, for all those out of the loop, first originated in 2014 and featured a thirst-trap-like photo of Josh Hutcherson with the song “Whistle” performed by Joel Merry (a cover of Flo Rida’s iconic song “Whistle”). In November, the edit resurfaced from the depths of the Internet with the recent release of Five Nights at Freddy’s (dir. Emma Tammi), in which Hutcherson stars. It seems as if the Internet caught on (helped by the new release of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes)—yet again—to the beauty that is Peeta the bread boy in The Hunger Games franchise.
This summer, the world held its breath waiting for news of the Titan (the submarine is the celebrity), prompting discussions around submersible safety, social class, memes, the Titanic, memes about the Titanic, an international search, and a larger reflection upon what stories we choose to sensationalize. Experts eventually determined that the submarine imploded, killing everyone on board instantly, and that the trip was, well, quite stupid. But who cares about billionaires—why did it surface over other stories about suffering? At some point, the conversation shifted to how frustrating it was that all anyone could talk about was the stupid submarine while the boatloads of refugees drowning every day failed to get our attention—but of course, that was exactly what we did; we talked about the Titan and moved on.