Dear beautiful readers,
Another year is drawing to a close, and just when Hollywood began to recover from COVID-19-related chaos, a historic pair of strikes threatened to derail everything yet again. Dozens of shows and movies fell by the wayside or pushed into next year, and many of 2023’s most anticipated releases met with a lackluster reception. A few became instant hits, while others became outright disasters.
So, how will history remember 2023 in entertainment? Join us now for a recap of the year, highlighting the biggest winners and losers, as well as a hint of what’s to come in 2024. Furthermore, count on us here at Wealth of Geeks to provide more insight, commentary and news to all of entertainment’s biggest moments in the coming year.
Seasons Greetings to you all,
Managing Editor, Wealth of Geeks
Biggest Winner of 2023
The movies. The memes. The portmanteaus. Two terrific films buoyed by the kind of marketing that could only happen in the internet age. In a year where audiences dragged their feet to return to the cinema, Barbie and Oppenheimer attracted droves, a feat all the more impressive considering that one is about a plastic doll, and the other is a three-hour biopic about the atomic bomb. With Oscar buzz crescendoing for both movies, they look poised to continue winning well into 2024.
Biggest Loser of 2023
When Iger left the Walt Disney Company in 2019, conventional wisdom deemed him a model CEO: a man in touch with Disney fans who had overseen the brand's expansion to include Lucasfilm, Disney+ and Marvel, and one empathetic to his employees. In 2022, the announcement that he would return to the job had both shareholders and Disney lovers rejoicing.
Iger closes out 2023 in disgrace with Disney+ in massive debt, the once dependable Marvel and Pixar brands floundering at the box office, and Star Wars movies in stasis. Price increases at the Disney parks haven’t done Iger any favors either. Add to that the scandal surrounding the departure of Marvel VFX tzar Victoria Alonzo, stories of overworked employees making minimal wages, and recent revelations of Iger demanding a pay increase for himself while denying the same raises to Disney employees for one heck of a messy House of Mouse. Add in Iger’s kleptocratic criticism of both SAG and WGA unions for their modest pay demands as well as recent revelations about gender pay disparity at Disney, and the man looks like an out-of-touch Scrooge.
Once a man with a glowing legacy, Iger will round out his final years with a string of embarrassments, scandals, and box office flops tarnishing his reputation.
Most Defining Moment of 2023
The WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strikes
Hollywood business came to a grinding halt as two of the biggest unions in the business—the Writer’s Guild of America and the Screen Actor’s Guild—decided to strike at the same time, citing low wages, poor working conditions and the growing involvement of Artificial Intelligence in showbiz. The union cry transcended the entertainment world to spread to other industries on a global scale, with workers in hospitality, shipping, transportation, manufacturing and more in revolt. Moreover, both the WGA and SAG ended the year with new contracts that bent Hollywood CEOs to the majority of their demands.
Best Comeback of 2023
2023 saw SAG president Drescher emerge as a powerful voice in American labor—a firebrand leader unafraid to call out corporate greed (and corporate CEOs) by name. Once known as the nasal-voiced star of The Nanny, Drescher closes out the year as a towering force in entertainment and labor practices. We call that one heck of a comeback.
Fun Fact: The last time the WGA and SAG went on strike at the same time, the SAG President Ronald Regan went on to become the American President. President Drescher? Just saying…
Worst Idea of 2023
The Rebranding of Twitter as X
Elon Musk, for reasons known only to himself, decided to rebrand Twitter as X in July 2023, further alienating users on the already controversial social media platform. The new name confused users and advertisers alike, with most media commentators referring to the platform as “X, formerly known as Twitter,” whenever discussing it.
Musk also didn’t do himself any favors by endorsing antisemitic rhetoric, which sent advertisers fleeing X in a stampede. His angry ranting about the situation also hasn’t ingratiated the man to the world. As both Musk’s personal credibility and the price of X stock plummet, few ideas seem worse this year.
Destined for Stardom in 2024
As 2023 comes to a close, Erivo, despite a prolific career as a musician, and an actor, remains one of the most underrated talents working. That will change in 2024, when Erivo goes green in the long-awaited movie version of the musical Wicked. Erivo will play the role of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, which won Idina Menzel a Tony Award. Erivo—already a Grammy, Emmy and Tony winner, and an Oscar-Nominee for her performance in Harriet—could be the next performer to go EGOT.
Regardless, we predict major stardom on the horizon for Ms. Erivo. It’s about time.
Destined for Showbiz Obscurity in 2024
Tie: Jonathan Majors and Ezra Miller
Both great actors capable of astonishing performances who have let their personal woes and behavior overshadow their work. Miller’s mounting charges of grooming, assault and erratic behavior contributed to the box office failure of The Flash. Majors, also facing legal woes related to assault charges, as well as stories of violent behavior at Hollywood agency CAA added to Marvel’s woes, as the studio had positioned him as a major character in upcoming MCU projects.
In 2024, look for both actors to star in courtroom headlines, not movies.
They Should Make a Movie Award
Kevin McCarthy’s Ouster as Speaker of the House
Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy endured a record-breaking 15 ballots to win the job. His tenure lasted only 10 months, as his own party voted to fire him in October. He has since announced his retirement from Congress.
OK, so the collapse of McCarthy’s career isn’t exactly showbiz-centric, but it would make for one heck of a movie. Somebody get Aaron Sorkin on the phone. Also, Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan should win an Emmy for her hardball interview with McCarthy…which likely cost him his job.
Disney released one of the few non-sequel/spin-off/reboot movies this year, the sci-fi opus The Creator from director Gareth Edwards. Despite spellbinding visuals, strong performances and a fascinating premise, the film crumbled in its final act when it refused to acknowledge—let alone examine—the many philosophical questions about humanity and artificial intelligence it raised. What could have amounted to a science fiction masterpiece on the level of Akira, Blade Runner or E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (three movies that had an obvious influence on it), tried to placate audiences with a cute happily ever after conclusion. Talk about a cheat!
Best Use of Guest Stars
Only Murders in the Building
How could anyone improve a show that features Martin Short, Selena Gomez and Steve Martin as the leads and features Nathan Lane, Tina Fey and Amy Ryan in recurring roles? Add in Meryl Streep and Paul Rudd as guest stars for a whole season. It just gets better.
Most Undeserved Success
The Super Mario Bros. Movie
We know some game lovers have started mashing buttons over this, but come on. A movie that relies heavily on nostalgia, stars willing to cash a paycheck in exchange for phoned-in performances, and headache-inducing visuals (which also happen to match those of a recent theme park addition) does not deserve a billion-dollar box office haul.
At best, it deserves a direct-to-streaming release where die-hard fans can watch it and it doesn’t clutter up the zeitgeist for the rest of us.
Worst Game Based on King Kong
Skull Island: Rise of Kong
In a banner year for awful games, Skull Island: Rise of Kong deserves special mention as a buggy, ugly and boring entry in the gaming canon. Stiff movement on the part of the lead character, repetitive gameplay and a color palate that looks like something from an Apple II game rob any chance the game had for making a positive impact.
The original King Kong bills the title character as “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Call this one a “Blunder of the World.”
Worst Game Not Based on King Kong
Lord of the Rings: Gollum
In theory, a Gollum-themed game retelling the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings has some great potential. But this glitch-filled, redundant and dull bit of fan service doesn’t come any where near realizing any of that promise. Mix in allegations of labor exploitation in the game development, and gamers might have just found the worst game release since Cyberpunk 2077 slouched onto screens three years ago.
Most Unnecessary Cover of a Song
Fall Out Boy's Cover of Billy Joel's “We Didn't Start the Fire”
It might seem like a good idea in theory. Update Billy Joel's ode to Baby Boomers with all references to all the triumphs and trauma experienced by Gen X, Millennials, and beyond.
In practice, however, Fall Out Boy crooned the most unneeded and grating single of the year, a nonsensical litany of pop culture moments that induce cringing more than a nostalgic glow. Besides not arranging the reference flow in chronological order–something that made the original song so impressive–the new version doesn't even follow its own rules. Singer Pete Wentz said that the song would cover only events from 1989 but references Metroid, which debuted in 1986. Worse, the band rhymed it with “George Floyd” in one of the most tasteless pairings in popular lyrical music history.
Note to Gen Alpha: Honor the message of the original tune. Don't let this happen to you.
Best Dance Sequence
The Color Purple
Credit Fatima Robinson, the choreographer of this musical remake, with providing the brightest, most energetic dance sequences in recent memory. The high-stepping musical numbers hearken back to the work of the choreographers of the Hollywood Golden Age: Busby Berkeley, Gene Kelly, Agnes DeMille, and more.
Robinson’s dance numbers provide a key counterpoint to the somber drama of The Color Purple, which, as with the music, hint at the divine joy that lives in the world, even in its darkest moments.
Most Oddly Frightening Yet Arousing Dance Sequence
Barry Keoghan’s in the Buff Finale Dance in Saltburn
Set to “Murder on the Dance Floor,” Keoghan’s wild, naked dance of triumph plays in one long, unbroken take in Saltburn’s finale. Apart from the on-the-nose choice of music (one of several obvious tracks Saltburn employs), Keoghan’s dance of total abandon feels like a curtain call to a star-making performance—one of the best of 2023.
Monologue of the Year
America Ferrera's Epic Feminity Rant in Barbie
Moviegoers love a good monologue, and Barbie, for all its wackiness and good-natured jokes, featured the year's most cutting. America Ferrera, as the put-upon Mattel employee Gloria, stops the show with a heartfelt speech about the contradictions and expectations society heaps upon women. Perhaps most astutely, Gloria observes that women (and men) frequently blame other women for any shortcoming in a game with a bunch of oxymoronic, unwritten rules.
“I'm so d-mn tired of watching myself and every single woman I know other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us,” an exasperated Gloria rants. “And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don't even know!”
Given the pathos of Ferrera's performance, the speech must offer her a bit of catharsis. No doubt many viewers felt the same way.
The Caine Mutiny Court Martial
Director William Friedkin, who passed away in August, capped off a volatile career with this subtle, innovative, and mesmerizing courtroom drama. Set almost entirely in a single room, Friedkin (possibly with some help from Guillermo Del Toro, who worked as a standby director, given Friedkin’s failing health) somehow manages to make a movie full of speeches and stationary characters epic.
Part of that comes from his ingenuity with the camera: Friedkin uses different camera angles, framing of faces, and depth of field to convey subtle feelings about each character. Some of that comes from his skill with actors. Kiefer Sutherland, Monica Redmund, Jay Duplass, and Lance Reddick all deliver subtle, nuanced performances. The final confrontation, which transpires in unexpected company, will leave viewers shocked and ready to debate what it all means.
Talk about going out on a high note. With his farewell movie, William Friedkin made one of the best movies of his career.
Most Transparent Vanity Project
Bradley Cooper's nose is not the problem.
In an attempt to repeat and surpass the success of his musical drama A Star is Born, actor/director Cooper set his sights on the life of composer Leonard Bernstein, the musical genius behind On the Town, West Side Story, and more. A queer activist as well as a composer, Bernstein's life seems like fertile ground for a movie, one in which the right actor could muster some Oscar love.
Maestro is not that movie. Though Cooper directs it with considerable beauty and style, and though he and leading lady Carrey Mulligan deliver fine performances, the film offers little insight into what drove Bernstein as a composer, the source of his talent, or the impact of his work. Rather, Cooper bludgeons his audience with his conductor's baton as if to scream, “Look at the genius!”
For the record, the genius Cooper wants to highlight is not Leonard Bernstein. It's Bradley Cooper.
Cooper also seems to refer to his own genius rather than that of Bernstein. Maestro follows the standard highlights from a Wikipedia bio formula of “this happened, then this happened, then this happened…” punctuating it with some A-C-T-I-N-G all the while. Though not a bad movie per se, Maestro would probably have enjoyed more success had Cooper wanted to cement Bernstein's legend rather than his own.
Understand, we’re not bashing Ms. Swift with this dubious distinction. Rather, throughout 2023, her presence has felt like an impossible-to-escape deluge. Her music. Her love life. Her tour. Her Ticketmaster debacle. Her rabid fans. Her behavior at football games. Time naming her Person of 2023.
Taylor, we all know you’re talented. Maybe next year, consider a vacation?
Entertainer of the Year
Sorry, Taylor Swift fans. The Era’s Tour might have broken ticket sales records, but it also generated more controversies and outright disasters.
Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour, by contrast, generated rave reviews and frenzied ticket sales (minus any Ticketmaster crashes) and caused an economic boom in every city it played. Ms. Knowles also donated $1 million to scholarship funds along the way.
Furthermore, Beyoncé herself actually directed the documentary film of the tour and snagged great reviews, too. Few artists ever achieve such a command of a craft, and in 2023, Beyoncé became the biggest multimedia star in the world. All hail the Queen Bey—the biggest entertainer of 2023.