‘Green Book’ stunned at the Oscars, reporters told their stories about covering powerful men accused of sexual misconduct, streaming wars found new company with Disney+ and Apple+ and Disneyland delivered with the much anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
“‘Green Book’ is the worst best picture Oscar winner since ‘Crash,’ and I don’t make the comparison lightly,” critic Justin Chang wrote in February after the Academy Awards. (The film’s Mahershala Ali won a second supporting actor trophy, this one for his portrayal of pianist Don Shirley.) The film’s cast and crew disagreed, but Spike Lee did not. Netflix’s contender, “Roma,” which had three wins but not best picture, couldn’t overcome anti-streaming bias.
The scenario is now familiar: allegations of sexual misconduct, followed by an investigation. This time it concerned opera star Plácido Domingo, who was accused by multiple women in August. By October, he had resigned as general director of the L.A. Opera. Domingo had to go, critic Mark Swed wrote, but his effect on the city’s opera scene has been immeasurable.
In September, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of the New York Times told the story behind their bombshell Harvey Weinstein reporting in the book “She Said.” Then in October, Ronan Farrow did much the same — but widened his net to include harsh allegations against NBC News. “Catch and Kill” linked Weinstein, Matt Lauer and allegations that the network tried to quash Farrow’s work.
“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” Quentin Tarantino’s ode to late-1960s L.A., ran smack into mid-2019 when Bruce Lee’s daughter slammed the depiction of her father as a mockery. The director doubled down by calling the martial artist “kind of an arrogant guy.” Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth never would have put up with that kind of thing — but look for this one in the 2020 Oscars’ best picture contest anyway.
HBO’s “Leaving Neverland,” which premiered in January at Sundance, added explicit, crushing new details to sexual abuse accusations against pop star Michael Jackson, who died in 2009. The Jackson estate denounced the four-hour documentary and sued the network in February. After the film aired on TV, fans were left wondering if they could separate the art from the artist.
Rumors about R. Kelly and underage women circulated for years but never stuck until the docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” premiered on Lifetime in January. The R&B singer was dropped by his label later that month, and
has since been charged in four jurisdictions. After pleading not guilty he remains behind bars, facing harsh penalties if convicted on charges of sex trafficking, racketeering and child pornography and more.
The build-up. The hype. The anxiety. The errant coffee cup. The absolute impossibility of seeing anything during the Battle of Winterfell. “Game of Thrones,” which aired its final season on HBO in April and May, ended with more of an exhale than a bang, but in the streaming era it might be the last huge TV series to bring so many viewers together at the same time. Let us bend the knee.
This was the year the streaming wars got real: Disney+ and AppleTV+ joined the ranks of Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, with HBO Max and Peacock set to enter the fray in 2020. Then there’s Quibi, Tubi, Crunchyroll and a mouthful of others — and a mere $448 a month will pay for all those and more. Good luck keeping track of what’s good. Netflix isn’t worried, but maybe viewers should be.
There are few fandoms as rabid as that of South Korean boy band BTS, which in May brought K-pop in all its glory to two sold-out Rose Bowl shows as part of its plan for world domination. But those plans will have to wait a while, as the seven “boys,” ages 22 to 26, are taking an extended break to do mandatory military service.
Atlanta’s Lil Nas X released the genre-redefining country-trap tune “Old Town Road” early this year, but Nashville turned a deaf ear. Then a remix with Billy Cyrus flew up the all-genre list. The song spent 19 weeks at Billboard’s No. 1, setting singles-chart history. After defying country and rap culture by coming out as gay during Pride Month, the 20-year-old won a Country Music Assn. Award in November.
Rapper ASAP Rocky got in a street fight in Sweden and went to jail in July. Fans and celebrities lost their minds because Sweden doesn’t have bail. Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West asked President Trump to help, which didn’t work, so POTUS hit up E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland to go watch the trial. Rocky wound up convicted of assault but got off with a Swedish slap on the wrist, which appears to be that country’s favorite penalty. Months later, the rapper’s name came up in the impeachment inquiry, because that’s the world we live in.
Jussie Smollett of “Empire” told police in late January that he was a victim of a late-night, racist, homophobic, noose-and-bleach attack in Chicago. Amid an outpouring of sympathy his story began to fall apart, with the two suspects saying the actor set it up (he says he didn’t). He was arrested, but by the end of March charges were dropped and Smollett got a bill for the $130,000 investigation. Lawsuits are pending.
The excitement of pro gambler James Holzhauer’s game-changing run on the 35-year-old syndicated show “Jeopardy!” came against the backdrop of beloved host Alex Trebek’s March announcement of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Audiences followed both men’s journeys closely: Holzhauer’s big bets and eventual June dethroning and Trebek’s treatment successes and setbacks.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at Disneyland at the end of May, offering guests an immersive experience never attempted on this scale before — this is not your mother’s theme park — but the massive crowds that were expected this summer didn’t show up. See what happens when you plan for the worst? Good thing Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is worth repeating, because the second ride, Rise of the Resistance, was delayed until next month.
Hollywood’s writers and their agents had until April 4 to hammer out a deal on packaging fees and agencies’ growing involvement in TV and movie production. They didn’t do it. Now the agents are fired, the agencies are working around the writers and everybody is suing everybody else. It’s kind of crazy. But at least the WGA president got reelected.
Billie Eilish is a rare example of the old-fashioned process known as artist development, in which a record company spends time and money cultivating an exceptional talent. This year the 18-year-old — who maintains a personal vision despite being signed by Interscope at 14 — racked up a No. 1 album, rocked Coachella, did “Saturday Night Live,” played live shows and earned six Grammy nominations, including record-setting nods in the four top categories. Plus she dyes her hair cool colors.
With “Avengers: Endgame” in April, Marvel Studios and directors Anthony and Joe Russo brought a chapter in the MCU to an impressive end as the world said goodbye to some beloved superheroes (though not every Avenger). It shattered opening-weekend box-office numbers and grossed nearly $2.8 billion worldwide, setting records. Martin Scorsese was not impressed, but most in the MCU didn’t much care.
Disney finalized its $71.3-billion purchase of much of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox in March, positioning CEO Bob Iger’s company as an even bigger force in Hollywood. The home of ESPN, ABC, “Star Wars,” Disney+ and most of the Marvel superheroes now owns 20th Century Fox, “The Simpsons” and a controlling stake in Hulu. Job cuts at Fox began almost immediately and continued through the year. Fox News, Fox Sports, the Fox Broadcasting network and the Fox lot itself, however, still belong to Murdoch. In August, CBS and Viacom followed suit, agreeing to merge in a $12-billion deal. It was a coup for Chairwoman Shari Redstone, daughter of ailing Sumner Redstone, as she’d championed a reunion.
It got ugly on the Miracle Mile as architect Peter Zumthor presented his new LACMA design, which was OKd by county supervisors in April. Critic Christopher Knight slammed the smaller and colder building (how do you hang art on concrete walls?) as a complete rejection of the LACMA collection’s curatorial needs. But hey, on the plus side, costs are ballooning like mad. What’s an extra $100 million or two between friends, right?
Kim Kardashian West, who’s now studying to be a lawyer, got active in criminal justice reform, appealing to President Trump to free low-level offenders given long sentences.
Then she put a reality twist on it by having former prisoner Alice Marie Johnson model her new shapewear line, reinvented as Skims
after a culturally-appropriating debut under the name Kimono. Meanwhile, flawed messenger Kanye West was all about his Sunday Service, bringing it to Coachella and beyond before releasing the album “Jesus Is King,” complete with a movie and merchandise. He also appeared on prosperity pastor Joel Osteen’s TV broadcast and released an opera. Yes, an opera.