2019: Entertainment that has shaped the year so far

By Kyler Guebert, Staff Reporter

It’s hard to believe 2019 is already halfway over. Since the beginning of this month, I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach this article. Most “Year So Far” articles end up completely obsolete by the end of the year, with films from the last half of the year coming and snatching spots on my end of year lists. So, instead of trying to rank anything or pick winners and losers, I’m going to try and give an in-depth look at my favorite things and interesting trends from the entertainment industry this year, so far. Here are just a few:

The Rise of Lizzo

So many artists rose into the mainstream consciousness this year so far, but none have had the staying power or influence of Lizzo. 

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As a fan of hers since 2016, I couldn’t be more delighted to see everyone finally realize how amazing she is. 

She kicked the year off right with her self-love anthem “Juice”, which deservedly took the Internet by storm, and is still getting lots of airplay nearly 6 months after the song dropped. 

Her 2017 song, “Truth Hurts” was featured in Netflix’s romantic comedy Someone Great and has become a massive success since that film dropped in April of this year.

It became the number one most searched song the last week of April, and, as of writing this, sits in the top five of both iTunes and Spotify charts, getting roughly 1.27 million daily streams worldwide, according to Spotify data. It also recently broke into the Billboard Hot 100 top 10, jumping five spots in one week to the number six slot, a new peak for the song and as an artist. It’s also been a staple of my morning commute for months, and it hasn’t gotten old once. 

That same month, Lizzo’s debut studio album Cuz I Love You, was released to critical praise and debuted at number six on the Billboard 200. The album has since hit number one on the iTunes album chart multiple times.

Lizzo also landed a voice role in the animated Uglydolls movie and will make her in-person film debut in the crime comedy Hustlers alongside Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, and fellow sensation Cardi B later this year. 

If the first half of 2019 is any indicator, expect a lot more Lizzo coming soon.

What’s A Sophomore Slump?

Oftentimes, a show comes out with an amazing first season that leads to more and more interest in the series. Many shows return with a second season that can’t live up to the high standards the first season set. This year is throwing that on its head, with multiple shows coming back better than ever. 

BBC America’s Killing Eve, centered around a cat-and-mouse game between an MI6 agent and a hired assassin, proved that there’s still a lot of juice in the tank with a mind-blowing second season that provides gasps-a-plenty, amazing performances and a jaw-dropping finale that leaves you begging for a third season. 

Stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer are both at their absolute best, and will likely be battling it out in real life for the Best Actress in a Drama Series prize at this year’s Emmy ceremony, with many expecting Oh to become the first Asian woman ever to win in that category. 

HBO’s dark comedy Barry, centered around an assassin turned actor, delivered a flawless second season filled with plenty of humor, action and suspense. 

Bill Hader will likely get his second Emmy for the title role later this year, and there have been talks that the show could upset in the Comedy Series category, defeating fellow HBO comedy Veep in its final season.

Netflix’s sci-fi drama The OA returned after nearly three years, proving that it didn’t leave all its ideas on the table at the end of the first season. 

The show delivers blow after blow throughout the season and is never afraid to get too weird or too confusing for its audience, especially in its closing moments. If this show doesn’t get renewed after the most BONKERS and amazing set-up for a new season of any TV show I’ve ever seen, I will literally cancel my Netflix subscription.

These shows and many others are proving that they still have a lot of runway left after successfully landing strong first seasons.

The Return of Romantic Comedy

If there’s something that has been missed by mainstream moviegoers, it’s a good romantic comedy. However, when they do get released into theatres, they land far and few between, if they even get to theatres in the first place. 

This is what happened to critical darling Long Shot, which was released in May into theatres. 

The film, starring Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, follows a journalist who steps in to become a speechwriter for his old babysitter, who is now running to become the President of the United States. It’s so effortlessly charming and hilarious, I honestly don’t remember how many times I cried from emotional overload. The cast is incredible, and don’t get me started on the soundtrack. 

It’s Pretty Woman, if that film was set during the 2020 Presidential election. But nobody saw it in theatres, and it quickly jumped out of cinemas to make room for the big action tentpoles of the summer movie season. 

This is where Netflix comes into play. With constant content available and more being added each day, Netflix has become a staple of the American household, and the service seems to be the home of a new generation of romantic comedy. 

The first, Someone Great tells the story of three friends trying to balance their lives, while also trying to enjoy one last night together in the city. 

It’s both hilarious and heartbreaking, and it’s easily one of the best releases of the year, so far. The entire cast shines, and the diversity of the cast and crew helps to make the movie feel more realistic and fresh. 

Always Be My Maybe, another Netflix rom-com, stars comedians Ali Wong and Randall Park, who also both wrote the film. It focuses on a woman who goes back to her hometown to open her second restaurant and winds up reuniting with her childhood best friend/one-time fling. 

It’s first and foremost hilarious, which is a must for a rom-com, and is to be expected from Wong and Park. However, the film also has a lot of surprises and heart peppered throughout. Keanu Reeves makes an extended cameo in this film, and it’s not even the best part. 

Both Netflix films became overnight hits and quickly dominated the online conversation, and likely wouldn’t have done so with traditional theatrical releases. 

As much as we want to make Netflix an enemy of the film industry, could it also, in fact, be saving certain elements of it? I hope so. 

Post-Game of Thrones HBO 

Before the final episode of Game of Thrones, HBO aired an incredibly long trailer showing what the network would have available for viewers after their favorite fantasy series ended, for better or worse. 

For some, it wasn’t enough. So many people canceled their subscriptions and moved on from HBO. If you are one of them, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? 

HBO has provided the best and most consistent content of 2019 so far, outside of GOT. 

Freshman series Euphoria, starring Zendaya and produced by Drake (yes, that Drake) is pushing the envelope for how honest a television series centered around high schoolers and drug addiction can be. The performances are all incredibly strong and the cinematography and subject matter are game-changing, and the show has only gotten better with each episode. 

Big Little Lies returned for a second season, only to completely blow the first season out of the water with the entire cast turning in awards-worthy performances every single episode. The addition of Meryl Streep, who is easily screaming and calm-talking her way to an Emmy in 2020, is cementing this show as must-watch TV every week. 

The five-episode miniseries Chernobyl became a smash hit with audiences and ended up becoming the highest rated television series of all time on IMDB. 

With so many shows that aired seasons earlier this year and even more shows on the horizon, HBO is proving, now more than ever, that it’s always been more than Game of Thrones and it doesn’t need dragons to make great content.

The Documentary Impact (or Lack Thereof)

Speaking of HBO, they took a gutsy move in January by releasing the documentary Leaving Neverland, which follows the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who speak about the sexual abuse from Michael Jackson, during their childhoods. 

Prior to its release, the Jackson estate filed a $100 million lawsuit against HBO, claiming the company violated an agreement made in the 1990s by releasing this film. Fans boycotted the HBO premiere, claiming that Robson and Safechuck were liars and nothing would change their love for the King of Pop. 

The first 40 minutes are relatively calm, focusing on how the two men met Jackson, as kids. Then, the film went dark fast, focusing on the two’s intercutting memories of their time with Jackson, the physical and mental abuse they both suffered and the damage it did to them throughout the remaining three hours. 

It aired over two nights in two parts, and is available to stream in both parts. 

The details and evidence presented against Jackson were absolutely ruinous. However, nothing has really happened since the release. 

It’s hard to believe that hardly anything has happened as a result of this documentary, when Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly, which premiered in early January, sparked a massive national discussion and effectively destroyed the once iconic artist’s legacy. 

Another documentary is slated to be released in August that looks to question the statements made by Robson and Safechuck. This new film could bring new light to this entire situation and make it obsolete, or it could finally get people talking about Leaving Neverland, something I won’t be able to stop doing for a very long time.

A Shift In Popular Music

Did you really think I’d make it through this article without talking about Ariana Grande? 

It’s arguable that no artist has achieved the same level of success in the entire six months of 2019 so far than Grande did in the first two. 

Grande shattered record after record with the release of her fifth album thank u, next and her singles “7 rings” and “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” both dominated radio airwaves and streaming services for months. Why bring this up? Pop radio is beginning to shift towards what is popular with streaming audiences, allowing artists who, years ago, would never have gotten the same kind of success. 

Fresh, diverse voices like Lizzo, Lil Nas X and Billie Eilish have been dominating the conversation and airwaves as of late.

Eilish’s debut album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? was released in late March to mass critical and audience acclaim. It topped the Billboard 200 and has done so twice non-consecutively since its release, showing the staying power this album and Eilish as an artist has. 

Her song “bad guy,” has stayed consistently near the top of the Hot 100, with Lil Nas X’s inescapable smash “Old Town Road” blowing up the charts. 

Long gone are the days of basic pop from the likes of Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Katy Perry. All have released music this year, with varying degrees of limited success and conversation. 

Instead, the unconventional non-pop music that dominates streaming is beginning to dominate radio play, and this is allowing for new artists to break through and gain worldwide recognition and acclaim. Now, when I find myself listening to the radio (which is incredibly rare), I hear songs that I like and want to hear. 

A Marvel-ous Year for Heroes

Finally, I want to touch on the amount of power that superhero films have. 

This year, we got two origin films in Marvel’s Captain Marvel and DC’s Shazam!, both of which were incredibly well received critically and by fans. 

However, Shazam! failed to click with audiences and ended with only around $360 million worldwide (Side Note: Shazam! is amazing and is easily my favorite of all the films mentioned in this article. It’s like if John Hughes directed a superhero movie. Please rent/buy this as soon as possible).

It’s worth noting that Fox’s Dark Phoenix is pretty much the only exception to the overall critical and/or financial success found by other superhero films this year. Sony’s low-budget alt-superhero flick Brightburn did small numbers and got mixed reviews, but the film’s low budget makes it more of a success. 

Captain Marvel, however, made over $1.1 billion worldwide, and Brie Larson received praise for her portrayal of the iconic character in both her own film and Marvel’s crown jewel, Avengers: Endgame. 

Endgame was, arguably, the biggest and best movie-going experience I have ever been a part of, and it’s massive box office returns clearly echo this statement for many other people. 

The film currently stands at roughly $2.772 billion worldwide, only about $15 million away from unseating Avatar as the highest grossing films of all time. 

It should easily be the highest grossing movie of the year, with Star Wars mania slowly dying down after two entries that got mixed reception from fans and critics, alike. 

Then, just last week, Spider-man: Far From Home opened to huge results. Far From Home received a stellar 91% Rotten Tomatoes score, and was certified fresh prior to its theatrical release. The film broke the record for the largest opening Tuesday of all time, and boasted the second largest July 4th opening weekend domestically. The film grossed $577 million worldwide in its first six days. 

Domestically, the three MCU releases make up roughly 1/4th of the domestic box office totals for the year. And, with Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, it seems like Marvel isn’t looking to slow down anytime soon, and audiences don’t seem to need a break from Marvel either.

Staff reporter Kyler Guebert can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @kguebert88.

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