The Top Pop Culture Stories of 2013
Looking back, 2013 offered up a roller coaster of pop culture news, including peaks (David Bowie’s surprise album, the royal baby), valleys (the celebs we lost), and twists that made your stomach turn (twerking and Rob Ford’s antics to name a few). We’ll spare you the latter when we list, in no particular order, the top pop culture events of the year.
Argo Uproar and Award Season dominance
Ben Affleck’s Iranian hostage crisis thriller Argo hit theatres in 2012, but it really picked up steam during the 2013 award season when it earned a slew of honours including Best Picture (Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTAs), Best Director (Golden Globes), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Oscars). As well, the film inadvertently, through it’s glaring omissions of facts, helped highlight Canadian diplomat Ken Taylor’s heroic role in the rescuing of six American hostages from Iran in 1979.
Other award season superstars included Daniel Day-Lewis, who collected Best Actor awards like baseball cards for his title performance in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, and Jennifer Lawrence, who became Hollywood’s new “It” girl, and (and even got hit on by Jack Nicholson) after winning the Best Actress Oscar and then tripping on her way up to the stage to receive it.
Bowie’s Big Year
January 8, 2013 was David Bowie’s 66th birthday, but the rest of us received the gift. That’s the day Bowie shockingly announced the release of a brand new album – his first in a decade – called The Next Day. In typical Bowie fashion he did it his way, recording the album completely in secret and then dropping his first single, called “Where Are We Now,” in our laps without warning. Upon the album’s release in March, it topped the British charts and sold nearly 95,000 copies in its first week. Critics quickly hailed the album as a return to classic Bowie form, while fans salivated at the suggestion that another Bowie album could pop up in 2014.
Meanwhile, in May, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield serenaded the globe from his post on the International Space Station with a cover of Bowie’s classic “Space Oddity,” while the travelling exhibition David Bowie Is proved a hit at the Art Gallery of Ontario in the fall. To top it all off, voters in a BBC History magazine poll dubbed Bowie the best-dressed Briton in history.
Leonard Cohen’s Renaissance Continues…
The legend of Leonard Cohen continued to grow as the troubadour took home both Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year awards at the 2013 JUNO awards. The Artist of the Year nod evidently signaled the impending apocalypse for a sizable number of Justin Bieber fans, who lost their marbles on social media.
In a similar, though less-amplified instance of outrage, millennials squared off with boomers when boy band One Direction was accused of ripping off The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” in their song “Best Song Ever.” Ever the diplomat, Pete Townsend helped smooth the whole misunderstanding over.
To the surprise of no one, Breaking Bad’s final season proved one of the biggest television stories of the year. The series finale reportedly attracted 10.3 million viewers – not quite up there with, say M.A.S.H., which garnered more than 105 million viewers, but in this age of thousands of television channels and Internet streaming, the Breaking Bad finale produced more hype than most Hollywood films. Imagine the attention the Mad Men finale will receive when that show kicks the bucket in 2015.
The Rise of the Boomer Flick
A boomer flick, as we call them, is a film featuring actors in their 50s, 60s, and beyond in prominent leading roles that also often examine issues related to aging.
Front Page Popes
The papacy made major headlines throughout 2013, beginning with Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation in February – the first pontiff to resign on his own accord since the 13th century. In March, a humble 76-year-old Argentinian bishop named Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected to St. Peter’s throne, becoming Pope Francis. The new pope made headlines for what some deemed “radical” behavior, including forgoing the papal palace for the smaller Vatican guest house, washing the feet of prisoners, announcing that atheists can get into Heaven, and suggesting the church is small-minded when it comes to issues like homosexuality, abortion, and contraception.
Pope Francis also announced the 2014 canonizations of two 20th century pontiffs – Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. If you’re keeping tabs, that means two living 21st century popes may preside over the canonization of two of their predecessors.
Chris Hadfield wins the Internet
Quick – name a commander of the International Space Station who isn’t Chris Hadfield! Unless you work for NASA, you probably can’t. That’s why Hadfield – also a former Zoomer cover man – captured so much attention when he became the first Canuck ever to take the helm of the ISS. From intergalactic duets to breathtaking photo tweets to zero-gravity science experiments to chatting with folks back on Earth (including fellow Canadian William Shatner), Hadfield captured the world’s attention and proved just how fun and engaging science can be.
Great Canadians Honoured
Late Night Shake-up
It’s as if an earthquake hit the late night landscape in 2013, and when the tremors stopped all the pieces fell into place.
The biggest late night news of the year came in April, when NBC announced that Jay Leno would be retiring (*ahem*) from The Tonight Show and that Late Night host Jimmy Fallon would take over in early 2014. Veteran Saturday Night Live star/writer Seth Meyers is pegged to take over Fallon’s former gig.
Over on CBS, late night’s longest reigning host, David Letterman, celebrated 20 years on The Late Show by signing a two year extension that will see him anchor the 11:35 time slot through 2015.
Speaking of the 11:35 time slot, ABC promoted Jimmy Kimmel Live! To the coveted position in January, bumping Nightline and establishing a long sought after credible late night opposition to both NBC and CBS.
Meanwhile, September saw a veteran return to the late night fray when Arsenio Hall revived his popular The Arsenio Hall Show.
Those we lost…
As it happens every year, we lost a number of beloved personalities in 2013. They include:
Peter Appleyard, 84, jazz musician/composer
Hugo Chavez, 58, President of Venezuela
Tom Clancy, 66, author/historian
Stompin’ Tom Connors, 77, country/folk singer-songwriter
Roger Ebert, 70, journalist/film critic
Dennis Farina, 69, actor
Annette Funicello, 70, actress/singer