Film, TV, and What Dominates Popular Culture
By Benjamin Wiebe
After two years of production delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 finally saw a return to form for the summer blockbuster. With films like Everything, Everywhere, All At Once and Top Gun: Maverick becoming box office sensations, it’s easy to believe that cinema is back to normal. After all, Marvel had two releases at the start of the summer; Illumination showed that Minions never do die, and dinosaurs reigned over the earth in the final entry to the Jurassic World trilogy. And as we leave the summer behind, it can be easy to forget that there is still a stream of films coming to theatres, and easier to forget that many of the movies coming in the next two months will be in the awards conversation for the 95th Academy Awards. As such, this piece aims to raise awareness of what’s come out since the end of the month, to discuss what cultural monoliths have dominated the discussion, and to raise awareness of some underlooked films that are more than worth your time.
September has been an odd month for film releases. Critically anticipated projects have been released to lower than expected scores, box office numbers being atypically high, and only a handful of films launched on streaming. Directors George Miller, Kevin Smith, and Olivia Wilde
all had films released this month, with 3000 Years of Longing, Clerks III, and Don’t Worry Darling, respectively. The general critical reception for each has been lower than expected, and audience scores for all but Smith’s work have been equally mixed. September horror flick, Barbarian, took the top spot in the second worst box office weekend of the year, although strong reviews and word of mouth were able to keep a strong pull on the Box Office. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historical African blockbuster, The Woman King, also overperformed in its opening weekend, taking in 18 million dollars compared to its expected 12 million. But not all films have done well. Ti West’s horror prequel to X, titled Pearl, opened to a disappointing 3.1 million in its opening weekend. Tom George’s murder mystery See How They Run also flopped, bringing in 7.1 million despite its star-studded cast. The David Bowie biographical picture (biopic) also had a limited box office pull during its release weekend due to a very limited theatrical release.
Regarding the streaming landscape, Netflix released Do Revenge, End of the Road, Blonde, and Entergalatic this month. The Marilyn Monroe musical biopic, Blonde received a divisive reception from its limited theatrical and festival release, NC-17 rating, and sexually
explicit depiction of the celebrity’s life. Entergalatic, by contrast, was praised for its animation style and sincere approach to adult animation. Both Do Revenge and End of the Road were released with little forewarning and proved popular on Netflix’s most-watched list.
Many of these releases largely went under the radar, as three massive pop-culture events occurred in September. Firstly, fantasy TV was thrust back into the spotlight with Amazon’s The Rings of Power and HBO’s House of the Dragon. Both are prequels to their respective series, with The Rings of Power taking place during the second age of Tolkien’s Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings occurs in the third age) and House of the Dragon taking place 200 years before George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. These became the cultural cornerstones of the month, dominating discussions on social media thanks to the popularity of the IPs before them and due to the weekly release of the shows. These weren’t the only television shows to dominate the conversation; Marvel’s She-Hulk made waves on its release, thanks to its usage of the infamous Matt Murdock and its comedic tone. It also marked the first of three Women of Colour projects to be reviewed that bombed on IMBD this month, further showing the growing popularity and ease of harassment on the internet. The third major event this month was found in Disney’s investor day presentation, which revealed the titles and tentative release dates of many upcoming projects from the house of the mouse. This also revealed the upcoming projects from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars. These announcements dominated the pop culture conversation
on Twitter and YouTube, as content creators and fans began theorizing what could be coming in these upcoming films.
With all these projects on the horizon, I would like to recommend a few films and television shows that you should be watching for the month. Firstly, The Woman King is a riveting blockbuster worthy of the popularity given to Marvel’s Black Panther in 2018. Its storytelling is effective, celebrates African culture, and raises awareness of many issues still present in the modern era. Secondly, Netflix’s anime series Cyberpunk 2077: Edgerunners is well worth your time. If you are a subscriber and can handle mature content, its tale of corruption and greed is memorable. Add in its depiction of a cyberpunk world and the beautiful animation style, and Cyberpunk 2077: Edgerunners becomes a great mini-series on Netflix. Thirdly, both Barbarian and Pearl are must-watches for horror enthusiasts. These are well-crafted films with stellar leading performances and terrifying scares that will make horror fans scream with joy and terror. Lastly, Amazon Prime has recently added Celine Sciamma’s coming-of-age film Petite Mamam to Prime Video. The French film is a beautiful look into friendship, and at 77 minutes long, a must-watch. The goal of all pop culture is to broaden our horizons and to be aware of the vast stories being told. We are a storytelling species, and film is a fundamental way to tell stories in the modern era. My goal is to help broaden the artistic tastes of the Uleth student body by recommendingfilms that are made of the highest quality.