Taylor Swift was up. Elon Musk was in, out, in and maybe out again. Tom Cruise was back. BTS stepped aside, and so did Serena Williams, and Tom Brady too. But the slap? That moment Will Smith smacked Chris Rock at the Oscars was everywhere.
It was a year of celebrity #MeToo cases like Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly, Kevin Spacey, Paul Haggis, Danny Masterson. And the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial, its every excruciating turn captured on TV.
On the big screen, there were big comebacks. Mourning its dearly missed star, Chadwick Boseman, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” was a box office triumph. James Cameron’s “Avatar” made a splashy December return.
Then there was Cruise, turning 60 in ’22 just like the Rolling Stones, swooping into Cannes with his most successful movie and showing, like those still-touring rockers, that when they tell you “The end is inevitable,” as they do in “Top Gun: Maverick,” you can always reply: “Maybe so, sir, but not today.”
The following is a journey through a year in pop culture:
It’s Golden Globes time. But is a Globes with no telecast, boozy celebs or red carpet a Globes at all? The embattled Hollywood Foreign Press Association, reeling from stunning failures over diversity, holds a private event and plans a comeback next year. Hey, remember the original wardrobe malfunction? Well, Janet Jackson says she and Justin Timberlake have moved on, and so should we. The New York Times buys Wordle, and we’re all thinking in five-letter words. Meanwhile, it’s a month of loss, heading off a year of loss: Pioneering Black actor, director and activist Sidney Poitier dies at 94.
Just months after her liberation from her restrictive conservatorship, Britney Spears is reported to have signed a mammoth book deal, but at year’s end we’re still waiting for news. Rihanna is pregnant and Tom Brady retires!
Quick, who wins Oscars this month? Well, “CODA” does, a feel-good drama with a largely deaf cast, and troy Kotsur becomes the first deaf actor to win an acting Oscar. Alas, all anyone can talk about is Smith, who wins the best actor award not long after slapping Rock over a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, won’t truly address the issue until the end of the year, so keep reading. Kim Kardashian is declared legally single again in her ongoing divorce with Ye.
It’s Grammy time, and Jon Batiste wins big, taking five statuettes. The musician’s huge year will later include performing at the first state dinner of the Biden administration, for French President Emmanuel Macron. The next day Macron will meet with Musk, who begins his acquisition of Twitter this month, leading to untold – and still unfolding – changes at the social media giant.
So imagine you’re sipping Met Gala and a musician comes sauntering through, playing the melodica – of course it’s Batiste, because the Met Gala’s that kind of crazy party. The biggest splash of the night, though, is Kardashian, on the arm of boyfriend Pete Davidson, wearing the same sequined, skin tight gown Marilyn Monroe wore to sing “Happy Birthday” to JFK in 1962.
In movies, “Top Gun: Maverick” opens, the highest-grossing domestic debut in Cuise’s career, and his first to surpass $100 million on opening weekend.
Stunning news for the global fanbase of BTS as the K-pop supergroup announces it’s taking a break to focus on members’ solo projects. On the legal front, a Virginia jury hands Johnny Depp a victory in his very messy libel case over allegations of domestic abuse, finding that former wife Amber Heard defamed him in a 2018 op-ed. On a happier note, Britney gets married.
Only one wedding, Britney? Bennifer has two! With a winking reference to being a “Sadie” Jennifer Lopez directs fans to her newsletter where she shares pics of her quickie wedding to Ben Affleck. Fans of Beyoncé are rewarded for theirs with the release of her long-awaited “Renaissance,” her first solo album in six years.
In other summer news, the world remembers Princess Diana, whose shocking death happened 25 years ago, and whose life is being rehashed for a new generation in the current season of “The Crown.” Only days after the anniversary, that same Netflix series will pause production as a mark of respect for Queen Elizabeth II as Britain and the world mourn the beloved monarch, who dies at age 96 after more than 70 years on the throne.
At the Emmys, behold Sheryl Lee Ralph, who wins for “Abbott Elementary” and schools the crowd on the power of dreams and self-belief. In sports, with four rueful words that resonate with working moms everywhere, serena Williams says she’s stepping aside from tennis.
The second Harvey Weinstein trial opens in Los Angeles. Adidas drops Ye, The Musk era begins at Twitter as the world’s richest man carries a sink into the office, to “let that sink in.”
Millions of eager fans crowd a presale for Taylor Swift’s much-awaited Eras Tour, resulting in crashes and endless waits. Ticketmaster cancels the general sale, citing insufficient stock. Multiple state attorneys general announce investigations. At the multiplex, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” meets the double challenge of following up one of the biggest blockbusters in history and losing its biggest star.
Here come Harry and Meghan again with a Netflix documentary watched very closely by royalty across the pond. Over at Twitter, Musk says he’ll step down as CEO – after polling users – once he finds someone “foolish” enough to replace him. Cameron’s “Avatar” sequel finally appears, 13 years after the original broke records, and yes, moviegoers flock to Pandora once again.