A glance at who made moves and who fell behind in pop culture this week
Let’s take a look at pop culture winners and losers from the first week of 2018:
Winner: “Get Out.” A horror movie in the Best Picture field? Get out. But that’s looking like the case in this wide open Oscar year with Jordan Peele’s smash hit “social horror” exercise, which is gaining momentum in the Academy Awards race. With no clear frontrunner in the contest — between “Lady Bird,” “Dunkirk” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a favorite has yet to emerge — some are predicting “Get Out” could even sneak in and claim the big prize come Oscar night. There are a lot of hurdles to jump through before then, including Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony, but Peele’s timely tale of race as horror looks like it will be the first fright film to secure a Best Picture nomination since “The Silence of the Lambs” in 1991. (An argument could be made that “Black Swan” and “Sixth Sense,” nominated in 2010 and 1999, respectively, were also horror films, but I would file those in the psychological thriller category.)
Loser: Will Smith. The days when the Fresh Prince was our most dependable movie star seem like eons ago. Smith’s latest catastrophe — following “Collateral Beauty,” “Suicide Squad,” “Concussion,” “After Earth” and “Seven Pounds,” which goes back about 10 years (I’ll give him “Focus”) — is “Bright,” the Netflix dud where he stars as an veteran cop who teams up with an Orc (Joel Edgerton, unrecognizable under Middle Earth makeup) to battle crime and magic in an alternate reality Los Angeles. It’s like “Bad Boys” meets “Lord of the Rings,” and if you think that sounds bad, wait until you see Édgar Ramírez as an elf officer with the “Magic Feds.” Ugh. The movie was savaged by critics and audiences alike, but apparently viewership was strong enough for Netflix to greenlight a sequel. That’s good news for Smith’s pocketbook, bad news for anyone hoping he would shake things up and exit from his cinematic tailspin. Dude, make another “Hitch!”
Winner: Eminem. It’s shaping up to be a Slim Shady summer on the music festival circuit, as Eminem bagged headlining gigs at this year’s Coachella, Governor’s Ball and Boston Calling concerts this week. There are likely more to come: He could be this year’s Outkast, who headlined virtually ever major festival on their 2014 reunion outing. Where does that leave his hometown? While there’s no major pop music fest in the marketplace for Em to plug into, a show or two at one of Detroit’s downtown stadiums, Comerica Park and Ford Field, seems likely. (Em last played Ford Field 15 years ago, in 2003, while he headlined Comerica Park in 2014 with Rihanna, in 2010 with Jay-Z and in 2005 with 50 Cent and Lil Jon.)
Loser: Taylor Swift. The pop queen currently has the No. 1 album in the country, but her tour sales are stagnant. This is either a major problem or happening exactly according to plan, depending on who’s talking. Swift is using a tiered ticketing system, meaning higher costs for premium seats — more than $1,500 apiece for floor seats at her upcoming Ford Field date — but the trade-off is fewer instant sellouts, the barometer of a tour’s popularity and marketplace value. So far none of Swift’s upcoming dates have sold out. “We’d like to sell the last ticket to her concert when she takes the stage each night,” Ticketmaster’s David Marcus told Billboard last month. “We’re not trying to sell all of her tickets in one minute; we’re trying to figure out how to sell tickets in a more modern way.” For her Aug. 28 Ford Field show, there are still hundreds of tickets available, from $895 tickets in the stage-side “Snake Pit” to floor seats ranging from $1,545 to $235, to upper bowl seats for $159. Jay-Z used a similar ticketing system on his recent tour and was initially mocked for his low ticket sales, but by the time he pulled up to the stage at Little Caesars Arena last month, the place was packed. Swift’s tour may perform in a similar fashion, so the jury’s still out. But really, who has $159 for a single upper bowl ticket?
Loser: Justin Timberlake Winner: Bruno Mars. This week, Timberlake announced a new album, “Man of the Woods,” and on Friday he premiered its first single, “Filthy.” The new offering came with a suggestion it be played “very loud,” but blasting the warbled, discombobulated funk jam doesn’t make it any less disorienting. JT was outdone at his own game by Bruno Mars, who dropped a video for his new Cardi B-featuring single “Finesse,” which pays homage to “In Living Color,” a perfect compliment to its early ’90s R&B bounce. “Finesse” has legs, while “Filthy” feels like a castoff that could be forgotten by Timberlake’s Super Bowl appearance. Maybe he could call Mars, a two-time Super Bowl halftime MVP, for some pointers.