2012: The best of pop culture
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Presidential candidates zinged each other, zombies walked (and some talked) and an empty chair may just have upstaged them all. Here are just a few of the people and events that influenced pop culture during 2012:
Memes having a long moment: Instant online sharing of images and videos of Angelina Jolie's right leg (in a high slit dress at the Oscars), Clint Eastwood's empty-chair speech (at the Republican National Convention), U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney's scowl (at the Olympics), Mitt Romney's binders full of women and most anything with a cute kitty redefined what it means to go viral.
Disney gobbles up "Star Wars": And quickly announces a new trilogy, the first to be written by Michael Arndt ("Toy Story 3") for a 2015 release. Writers rumored for follow-ups are Simon Kinberg ("X-Men: First Class") and Lawrence Kasdan (fan favorite "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back").
Of books and bondage: E.L. James' titillating fan fic becomes the book "Fifty Shades of Grey." With its equally S&M-saturated sequels, the series went all dominatrix on best-seller lists. Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Lincoln," followed by "Killing Kennedy," killed on nonfiction lists.
Marvel-ous superheroes: "The Avengers" opened the summer blockbuster season May 4 with a bang and remains on top, grossing more than $1 billion worldwide.
"Dark" days: Local euphoria over the July release of "The Dark Knight Rises," filmed in Pittsburgh during summer 2011, was turned to horror and sadness when 12 people were killed and 58 injured by a Colorado gunman at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater showing the movie, the last in Christopher Nolan's trilogy.
Franchises with staying power: "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" earned $227.4 million in its first 10 days to light up the Thanksgiving week box office, while the new Bond flick "Skyfall" became the highest-grossing 007 outing at $221 million.
Off to a strong start: "The Hunger Games" burst on the scene March 23 and made $230 million in that first week.
Can't we all get along?: The new judging team on "American Idol" got off on the wrong foot as Nicki Minaj cursed out Mariah Carey during October auditions in Charlotte, N.C. (Madonna vs. Lady Gaga had its smackdown moments, too.)
Whither the Twinkie?: Last month, Hostess -- maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Yodels and such -- filed a claim with U.S. Bankruptcy Court to shut down its operations, saying striking workers had crippled the company's production. The loss of nearly 18,500 jobs seemed to be overshadowed by the call for hoarding already-made Twinkies and for another company to take up the snack-cake baton and run with it.
Dance craze: "Gangnam Style," a rodeo ride of a dance pop single by South Korean singer Park Jae-sang -- better known as Psy -- was released in mid-July and surpassed Justin Bieber's single "Baby" as the most watched video on YouTube with more than 826 million views as of Nov. 26. Psy was front and center in the news in early December, when he apologized for rapping anti-American lyrics in 2004.
No "Maybe" about it: "Call Me Maybe," the Carly Rae Jepsen song that was omnipresent throughout the summer and beyond, was parodied by everyone from Cookie Monster to the Steelers. It also launched a gazillion Ringtones.
Catchphrases we wish we never heard: "fiscal cliff" and "Mayan apocalypse."
Sound bites from the campaign trail: Mitt Romney coined "the 47 percent" in a revealing video, said he would fire Big Bird and got in some key jabs during the first presidential debate, saying to President Obama, "As president you're entitled to your own house, your own plane, but not your own facts." The president, responding to Mr. Romney's plan to increase the size of the Navy because our ship count is at a low not seen since 1916, said, "Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed."
Premieres in Pittsburgh: Tom Cruise is coming to town today to introduce the nation to "Jack Reacher," filmed here last fall. The new musical of the shot-in-Pittsburgh movie "Flashdance" -- which made flashy song, dance and fashion statements in the 1980s -- will have its world premiere here Jan. 1 (OK, one day away from 2012) before the show opens on Broadway next year.
Dead presidents: Paging Abraham Lincoln. Our 16th president was everywhere this year, from a noted Steven Spielberg film biography to the action multiplex, where he wiped out slavery and vampires with aplomb. Locally, Robert Morris University brought "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" to the stage.
TV's girls club: Lena Dunham's HBO series wasn't just a younger version of "Sex in the City"; instead, it offered a heartfelt examination of a new generation's struggle to find love, friendship and maybe a fabulous career in the modern age. On the lighter side, the delightfully catty duo of Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere rocked the country world on "Nashville."
Sampling of celeb couplings and breakups:
• Married -- Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel; Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Justin Mikita; Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively; Anne Hathaway and Adam Shulman; Drew Barrymore and Will Kopelman; Evan Rachel Wood and Jamie Bell; Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves; Carey Mulligan and Marcus Mumford; Kunal Nayyar and Neha Kapur.
• Engaged -- Wiz Khalifa and Amber Rose; Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux; Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young; Britney Spears and Jason Trawick; Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez; Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth; Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger.
• Divorced or undone -- Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes; Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman; Heidi Klum and Seal; Amy Poehler and Will Arnett; Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis.
• Who knows? -- Chris Brown and Rihanna; Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson; Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber; John Mayer and ?
Scandalized: Jerry Sandusky (former Penn State assistant football coach) was imprisoned; Gen. David Petraeus (CIA director) and Kevin Clash (Elmo) resigned. And April saw the debut of the ABC series "Scandal," about a D.C. fixer having an affair with a fictional president.
What's trend(ing): Forget "Tebowing," even though the New York Jets backup quarterback trademarked the move in October. Just follow the #Eastwooding hashtag on Twitter and see where it leads.
We end at "Z is for Zombie": We here in the birthplace of the truly scary walking dead (thank you, George Romero) think every year is a good year for zombies, but now they've even taken a bite out of the romance genre (take that, Edward/Jacob fans). Trailers for the upcoming "Warm Bodies" reveal Nicholas Hoult as a zombie whose heart starts to beat for the girlfriend of one of his victims. And then there's Brad Pitt's zombie pandemic film "World War Z," moved from this year to a prime summer 2013 release date. With "The Twilight Saga" at an end, zombies are definitely on the march ... (there's even the new House of the Dead zombie store in Lawrenceville).
First Published December 19, 2012 12:00 am