The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

In case you missed it: Pop culture, Summer ’08

There are a number of reasons you may not be caught up on the pop culture events of Summer 2008. Maybe you were studying abroad. Perhaps you live under a rock. It’s even possible that you simply don’t care. But in case you’re ever on a game show or you’re just looking for something to talk about between classes, here are the major pop culture happenings from this summer.

From the very beginning of the summer, it was clear that Robert Downey Jr. was back in a big way. Though the actor already had an impressive resume and an Academy Award nomination (for his role in 1992’s “Chaplin”) by 1996, Downey’s career went downhill when he was arrested for drug possession and spent nearly a decade in and out of rehab and prison. Though he more recently appeared in films like “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “Zodiac,” it was in this summer’s blockbuster “Iron Man” that Downey returned to the public eye.

Downey was a perfect fit for the character of Tony Stark, a womanizing, alcoholic, billionaire genius. But even more attention grabbing was the news of Downey’s role in this summer’s comedy “Tropic Thunder,” in which he plays an Australian method actor who has his skin surgically darkened so he can play the role of a black man in the movie-within-the-movie. Whether he was kicking butt as Iron Man or making us laugh in “Tropic Thunder,” one thing is clear: Robert Downey Jr. has returned!

“Tropic Thunder” wasn’t the only comedy this summer intended to both amuse and offend. A steady stream of R- rated successes over the past few years came to a head this summer when three successful comedies (“Step Brothers,” “Pineapple Express,” and “Tropic Thunder”) were released within weeks of each other. The comedy genre has been revitalized, largely thanks to the efforts of filmmakers like Judd Apatow and Adam McKay and actors like Will Ferrell and Seth Rogen who infuse some heart into their otherwise inane comedies.

Though theaters were never short on laughs this summer, it was the brooding and intense “The Dark Knight” that instantly won over moviegoers. The sequel to 2005’s “Batman Begins” earned more than $158 million in its opening weekend, shattering previous records. To date, the film has made more than $481 million domestically and has overtaken “Star Wars” as the second highest grossing film of all-time, under “Titanic.”

As if that weren’t enough, “The Dark Knight” was one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year. Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart are both wonderful (particularly Eckhart), but the real star of the film is the late Heath Ledger, who is likely to earn a much-deserved Oscar nomination for his turn as The Joker. In addition to the stellar performances, the film owes much of its success to the direction and writing of Christopher Nolan, who turned what used to be a campy superhero franchise into a serious crime drama.

Another recent record breaker is American swimmer Michael Phelps. The 23-year-old from Baltimore became the most decorated Olympian this summer when he won eight gold medals in Beijing, besting the previous record for most gold medals won in a single Olympics. Phelps, possessing a number of physical traits that are ideal for swimming, holds seven world records . His performance at this summer’s Olympics not only kept America watching and cheering; it also gave young girls a new Golden Boy to crush on.

But the summer wasn’t all record breakers and laughs. Pop culture took a huge blow when a number of its great contributors died. Writer and director Sydney Pollack, musician Bo Diddley, comedian George Carlin, journalist Tim Russert, actress Estelle Getty, comedian and actor Bernie Mac, and musician Issac Hayes all died this summer.

But with death comes new life, and in the case of this summer, a new trend. It seemed like this summer’s hottest accessory was… a baby. Jessica Alba, Tori Spelling, Jamie Lynn Spears, Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, and Gwen Stefani all gave birth this summer. (Jolie and Brad Pitt now have enough children to start a very diverse Brady Bunch.) True to celebrity baby traditions, odd names were given and expensive clothes were purchased.

So in case you missed it, those were the major pop culture developments this summer. What do we have to look forward to? Well, the Emmy Awards are coming up and those are always good for a laugh. We’re getting closer and closer to the presidential election, so look for celebrities to start pretending they care. And, of course, there will be more babies. Pop culture never rests.

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