Pop Culture I'm Thankful For-Devvon
By Devvon Eubanks
It is the advent of the holiday season, and it is a time of thanks and reflection. With Thanksgiving upon us, I have created a list of ten pop culture items that I am thankful for in my life. While most of this list is in reference to current pop culture, this is just a taste of what has impacted me over the years. So without further ado, let’s get into the list.
As the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama is a man who needs no introduction. Whether people like him or not, his election as the leader of America broke a lot of barriers for people of color and signaled a dynamic social shift America has never experienced before. Given the efforts of past Civil Rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and W.E.B. Du Bois, the choice of Obama as President-elect in 2008 signified a breakthrough in decades of struggle in the black community and the entire nation. Furthermore, Obama is a sharp leader, orator, and strategist who introduced legislation and economic policies to aid Americans in a number of ways and solidify international relationships with other countries. A firm example of leadership, Barack Obama will always be remembered.
While 2016 has been a year of some joy, it has also been a year of great loss. This year we suffered some heavy celebrity deaths and we are thankful these people graced audiences with their presence and their lives. Notable legacies are Alan Rickman, Arnold Palmer, Dan Haggerty, Dave Mirra, David Bowie, Garry Shandling, Gene Wilder, Gwen Ifill, Harper Lee, Joanie “Chyna” Laurer, Kimbo Slice, Maurice White, Merle Haggard, Muhammad Ali, Prince, and Vanity. They all led lives of such promise and talent that they will never be forgotten.
Comic Book Films
Apart from sequels, remakes, and many other movies released over the past decade, comic book films have been all the rage, and it is a wonderful time to be a comic book fan. Since 2003, Marvel Comics alone has released almost 40 films based on heroes like the Avengers, Captain America, Deadpool, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Thor, and the X-Men, with many more on the way, and that's not even counting the DC Comics films. Grossing trillions and trillions of dollars, these movies are full of action, excellent special effects, great humor, and they can easily make the most dedicated nerd (like myself) squeal with delight at seeing their favorite heroes onscreen. This is an amazing era for comic book companies, their followers, and newcomers who have never read a comic book in their lives.
Being a massive music fan, I have heard everything from rock and roll, to disco, to old school hip-hop, and even some country music. However, nothing gets me more excited than electronic music. Video game music is a major part of my life. Ever since I was introduced to Yuzo Koshiro through games like “Revenge of Shinobi” and “Streets of Rage,” my perception of music has never been the same. The growth of electronic music has soared to astronomical heights, and it's now being featured in movies and highly entertaining concerts and genres, like techno, house, and trance. Artists like Armin van Buuren, Daft Punk, DJ Tiesto, Martin Garrix, Skrillex and countless others now fill a niche market that is rapidly growing by the day. Plus, with the arrival of production software and digital audio workstations like FL Studio and Apple Pro Tools, almost anyone can be a self-promoting artist and make their own music. It is extraordinary how easily accessible music is now in today's world.
Some musical artists have always resonated with me for special reasons, either because of their presence or because of the timeless messages they share in their music. One such artist who always seems to be timely is the Motown singer, Marvin Gaye. With extremely moving vocals and a soulful presence, Gaye quickly became a prominent solo artist in the mid-1960s with songs like “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” However, Gaye’s most well-known work would occur in 1971 with the release of “What’s Going On,” which was a response to a police brutality incident. Additionally, Gaye began to produce more music of a political nature that focused on the ills of society. Even now, with the Black Lives Matter movement and all that is happening in the black community, his music is still relevant today and serves as a model to how we should treat each other as fellow people seeking to love one another.
Milwaukee Film Festival
While it is nice to see major blockbuster films in crowded theaters when they're released, what about independent films that don’t get as much press? What about unknown filmmakers who pour their blood, sweat, and tears into grand tales of overcoming obstacles, finding romance, or just living life? The Milwaukee Film Festival is an annual event that features a lot of these movies before they are released to the public. I am grateful not only to the filmmakers who participated, but I am also appreciative of the festival committee and the volunteers who make sure operations run smoothly and people enjoyed the films. As a first-year freelance writer, I am thankful to have been a part of seeing and reviewing so many examples of independent film through the Milwaukee Film Festival that people rarely get to see.
Who says that an actress has to fit a certain profile to be a movie star? Wilson, born Melanie Elizabeth Bownds, is an Australian comedian, actress, and writer best known for her role as Brynn in the 2011 film, “Bridesmaids.” The interesting thing about Wilson is that unlike most female actresses who follow a model archetype and size, this beautiful, curvy lady has a different presence onscreen in many roles she plays and she is absolutely hysterical. In fact, Ms. Wilson is one of my favorite actresses ever because she is, well, a “rebel” in terms of the history of cinema. Next to many prominent female actresses like Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, and Angelina Jolie, Wilson redefines the “modern woman” and is not afraid to show these ladies (and the audience) who she is. I am thankful for Rebel Wilson’s presence in the film industry and I hope she continues to grow as an actress and as a person.
Red Rising (Book Series)
Without a doubt, this debut book series by novelist Pierce Brown is one of the most popular science-fiction trilogies of all-time. Focusing on a lowborn miner named Darrow, the series pits this man against an entire caste system as he infiltrates the highest echelon of Gold society to take down the system from the inside. Featuring amazing characters, jarring plot twists, tactical skirmishes, brutal fights, betrayal, love, and so much more, “Red Rising” is a modern-day “Ender’s Game,” but with much more to give readers at three volume. Riveting from beginning to end, it is a series that must absolutely be read and is one of my personal favorites that I have indulged in heavily. I am glad to have found this book and to have taken part in the world of Darrow and the characters and situations he encounters.
Over the past few years, more black actors have started to gain prominent roles in the film industry, very unlike controversial roles in the past such as Denzel Washington in 2001’s “Training Day.” Much of this is due to dynamic directors at the helm of these great films, and one notable example is Ryan Kyle Coogler. His full-length directorial debut was 2013’s “Fruitvale Station,” and Coogler quickly became recognized as a major contender. But it was his work on 2015’s “Creed,” a long-awaited continuation of the “Rocky” series, that earned him the most praise, with Michael B. Jordan as the lead instead of Sylvester Stallone. Now slated to direct Marvel’s “Black Panther” featuring Chadwick Boseman, Ryan Coogler is moving forward in making a greater impact on black cinema and on black representation in film and society.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, there existed one of the greatest science fiction film series in the history of cinema. Spawning seven legendary films, television series, spin-offs, video games, and much more, “Star Wars” is an international household name that has gained massive popularity since its 1977 debut. However, since development house Lucasfilm was purchased for $4 billion by Disney in 2012, the company has made a radical change in coming out with an annual Star Wars film instead of one release every four years. While this step did seem to be negative in terms of a potential loss of quality in more frequent movies, “Star Wars: Episode VIII” and the upcoming “Star Wars: Rogue One” are showing that the brand is as outstanding as ever. The Force is strong with this series.
So what are you thankful for?