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The Seahawk

The Seahawk’s staff picks of 2023

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As the 2023 year ends and a new year begins, The Seahawk staff is here to remember their favorite moments from 2023. We sat down and came up with our favorite recaps from movies to pop culture moments to recommend to you so you can catch up with the best of 2023 before the spring semester. We hope you enjoy and we wish you a wonderful new year.

 

Favorite Movie

Amelia McNeese, Editor-in-Chief: “SAW X.” The first time I watched SAW was in middle school and I instantly connected with the themes behind the movies. This year, I watched it during Thanksgiving while playing Monopoly with my family—in my mind, the perfect way to spend giving my thanks. The combination of exposing societal issues and how far people will go to rectify the wrongs they have made always inspired me to do a bit better in my own life (in a twisted sort of way). SAW X was the perfect reboot to the series the franchise needed and Tobin Bell, who plays John Kramer/Jigsaw, appearance as the mastermind behind the games was a reminder to appreciate the little things. As said in SAW II: “Those who don’t appreciate life do not deserve it.”

Hannah Markov, Editor-in-Chief: “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” What never fails to touch me are the connections between real life, especially in the United States, and the fictional “Hunger Games” universe. Reaping day being on July 4th is just one of the perfect examples of it. I know we go to see movies to escape real life, but watching TBOSAS is a step toward understanding art, politics, betrayal and love more deeply.

Jonah Seretti, Opinion Editor: “The Boy and the Heron.” Hayao Miazaki’s “final” farewell. What a beautiful send-off to the 82-year-old’s decorated career. This movie blends the emotional resonance found in his penultimate film “The Wind Rises” and the majestic fantasy unique to Miazaki’s full body of work. A must-see experience for anyone whose life has been touched by the art and worlds created by Miazaki and Studio Ghibli.

Grace Lanham, News Editor: “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” If you grew up in the early 2000s, you had a Dystopian Genre phase — it’s as simple as that. This movie resurrected all there is to love about the classic “Hunger Games” series—with a unique twist. You will love Lucy Gray (Rachel Zegler), you’ll cry at Reaper (Dimitri Abold), and you will teem with rage as you witness how the terrible President Coriolanus Snow came to be.

Megan Eesley, Copy Editor: “Barbie.” This film gained a lot of attention of the controversial opinions surrounding it, however, it is the highest-grossing live-action film ever made by a female director. Despite having a girly, happy-go-lucky feeling for the majority of the movie, the film perfectly blended deeper themes of a mother and her daughter growing apart, feeling purposeless, and trying to find who you are and what it means to grow up as a girl and be a woman. The monologue delivered by America Ferrera’s character Gloria locked “Barbie” in as my favorite film of the year as she succinctly described the double standards every woman experiences and how many women feel as though they are always falling short of the mark. I have rewatched this film several times and it delivers the same impact as when I saw it in theaters for the first time.

Nate Mauldin, Photography Editor: “BlackBerry.” This film flew under a lot of people’s radar back in May as it premiered alongside box office hits like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and “The Little Mermaid.” Despite its less-than-ideal timing, “Blackberry” is an enthralling film that depicts the spectacular rise and fall of BlackBerry, the company behind the world’s first smartphone. Don’t just take my word for it. The film currently has the third-highest Rotten Tomatoes score of 2023, with a critic consensus describing it as “terrifically entertaining.” 

Ryan Wiener, Sports Editor: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” This film combines animation and traditional superhero movies to create a great end result. I have enjoyed all of the Spider-Verse movies and look forward to the future of the series as well. 

 

Favorite TV Show

McNeese: “The Last of Us” (Max). As a lover of “Silent Hill,” “Dead by Daylight,” “The Walking Dead,” “Resident Evil” and just about any show, video game, or movie that deals with a zombie apocalypse—what’s not to love about “The Last of Us,” from Joel and Ellie’s relationship, the stunning scenery, heart-wrenching storyline and the monsters that are based on a real-life fungus (terrifying, by the way). Even if the entire video game could not be shown in nine episodes, it is a game remake worth watching. I rarely take the time to catch episode releases during the school year, but for this series, I waited until Friday night to watch it every week. The ideas of survivor’s intuition, and how humans interact in times of chaos and medical emergencies—I could not stop watching. I am looking forward to what season 2 will bring!

Markov: “Queen Charlotte” (Netflix). I honestly preferred “Queen Charlotte” to the first two seasons of “Bridgerton.” It’s funny and entertaining, but its main appeal is that it gives insight into the life of a monarch—someone we don’t usually get private information about. The story expands on the history of the “Great Experiment,” which is something only loosely explained in “Bridgerton,” and depicts a healthy, loving, passionate relationship between two people whom you cannot help but fall in love with.

Seretti: “I Think You Should Leave” Season 3 (Netflix). Best sketch comedy show in decades. Easily the funniest show this year, but do not sleep on seasons 1 and 2, either. It’s hard to sum up why this show is so amazing, just know that “I Think You Should Leave” has replaced 60% of my vocabulary with out-of-context quotes from this show. 

Lanham: “Daisy Jones and The Six” (Amazon Prime). I raced to read the book by Taylor Jenkins Reid just a few weeks before the show debuted on Amazon Prime. It’s a fascinating documentary style about a band in the 70s, loosely based on Fleetwood Mac. You will cry, laugh, get angry and cry some more. It’s everything I wanted in a show: Sam Claflin, empowering women, and songs that are so good they should be from a real band.  

Eesley: “Loki” (Disney+). Season 2 of “Loki” brings the story and development of the title character full circle and beautifully ties in motifs and themes back to the first “Thor” film that was released in 2011. The resolution for the character in the finale was completely unexpected from Marvel and set a new precedent for the MCU. Holding themes of self-sacrifice and the weight of power, the show reminds us of how we are all capable of change and that we can all rebuild ourselves.

Wiener: “Jury Duty” (Amazon FreeVee). This was 100% the best show in 2023, the first season specifically where the main character is named “Ronald.” The show is an elaborate ruse where everyone is executing a fake trial but Ronald does not know it is fake. It is truly hilarious and abstract. 

Mauldin: “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” (U.S.) (MTV). To anyone who knows me, this choice isn’t that surprising. “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” is a pillar of modern queer culture that is consistently hilarious, emotional and captivating. Whether you watch the show for its endlessly creative runways, and side-splitting comedy challenges or you are just looking for a place to belong, “Ru Paul’s Drag Race”—and its sister shows spanning 14 countries and seven languages—has you covered.

Anna Ford, Culture Editor: “Abbott Elementary” (ABC). I am an avid watcher of sitcoms, and “Abbott Elementary” is one of the best to be made in the past 10 years. With an incredible cast led by Quinta Brunson, the show is both funny and poignant, highlighting issues in the public school system related to socioeconomic status and race and providing laughs due to the antics of Principal Ava (Janelle James). I can not wait for the show to return for season 3.

 

Favorite Album

McNeese: “Losing What We Love” by Knuckle Puck. This album carries the same feeling as walking through a suburban neighborhood in the middle of the night during a cool fall evening. I have been a fan of Midwest emo, specifically Knuckle Puck, since high school and to see a new album from them was just what I needed when it debuted in October. I think this is the album where they finally found their spot in the pop-punk realm. For fans of Movements, The Story So Far, Neck Deep or Trash Boat, this one’s for you.

Markov: “Snow Angel” by Renee Rapp. I went all the way down the rabbit hole of queer TikTok and pop culture this summer. This album is romantic, funny and catchy with indescribable vocals. It makes sense—put a Broadway-trained performer on a stage and they will captivate. Seeing Rapp perform her songs from “Snow Angel” live was just the cherry on top.

Seretti: “10,000 gecs” by 100 gecs. One of the things I value most in a musical artist is idiosyncrasy. Few artists this year put out music as unique and bold as 100 gecs. “Gecs” expands on everything fans loved from their first record, while giving us wandering tangents into the genres of ska, pop-punk and even rap-rock all tinged in the usual glitch-heavy 100 gecs style.

Lanham: “Unreal Unearth” by Hozier. I would be lying if I said I have always listened to Hozier. I definitely jumped on the bandwagon this year, but this album is unlike anything I have ever heard. He is undoubtedly one of the most incredible artists of our generation (this is not up for discussion). 

Eesley: “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” by Lana Del Rey. A genre all her own, Del Rey never disappoints with her hypnotic vocals and clever lyricism. Every song on the album tells a story and evokes a nostalgic feeling.

Wiener: “A Gift & a Curse” by Gunna. This album was a huge comeback album for Gunna after dealing with some legal trouble. This album shows his range and the variety of styles he can achieve. Tracks like “Bottom” and “Paybach” have unique instrumentals with creative flows that solidify Gunna in the mainstream.

Mauldin: “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” by Lana Del Rey. This album debuted in March and has remained on my playlists year-round. Del Rey’s dramatic instrumentals and poetic lyricism have once again captured the hearts of many, including myself. The album has since been nominated for Album of the Year at the 2024 Grammys, along with song of the year for “A&W.”

 

Favorite Song

McNeese: “Porsche Topless” by Kid Cudi. If you read last year’s Seahawk picks, I said “Entergalactic” by Cudi was my favorite album and movie – not much has changed this year. He was one of my top musicians and I still get just as excited when I see he’s released something new. “Porsche Topless” is a fun song to dance around to and just forget about stress for a while. It’s the perfect summer song to blast while you roll your windows down and breathe in the beach air.

Markov: “Not Strong Enough” by boygenius. I’ve listened to this song a million times and will listen a million more before ever getting sick of it. “Always an angel, never a god.”

Seretti: “Dickhead Blues” by Kara Jackson. “Dickhead Blues” is the second song on what was almost my top album of this year: “Why Does The Earth Give Us People to Love?” This song in particular really stuck with me throughout this year. “Dickhead Blues” is both a rumination on self-worth and a bitter ode to careless lovers and empty promises. Jackson’s pen game is unmatched on this album and she is simply flexing in this song as she warns us of “coyotes in culottes, clawing for coffee in open-toed shoes.”

Lanham: “Winner” by Conan Gray. Conan Gray is the King of Heartache. This song truly makes me transcend to another dimension.

Eesley: “Dear Icarus” by Anna Miriam Brown ft. Antonio Cipriano. With beautiful orchestral music, this song is sung from the point of view of Icarus, following him as he yearns to be free from his prison and in the fervor of his escape flies too close to the sun, leading to his own demise. In under four minutes, the longing, hope and passion of Icarus is poetically breathed into the listener and will have you pressing the replay button. 

Wiener: “Search & Rescue” by Drake. This was an under-the-radar track released by Drake, but it was definitely a personal favorite for me. It’s catchy, it’s simple, it’s symbolic. What more can you ask for?

Mauldin: “Jaded” by Miley Cyrus. Part of Cyrus’ album “Endless Summer Vacation,” “Jaded” is an emotional pop ballad that was at the top of my Spotify Wrapped for 2023. An absolute earworm that showcases Cyrus’ uniquely iconic vocals, “Jaded” will have you questioning “Who hurt her?”

Ford: “Waffle House” by The Jonas Brothers. Not only was it my top song on my Spotify Wrapped, but it also reminded me of going to Waffle House with my grandparents. The catchy tune and reminder to “don’t get stressed, it’s gon’ get figured out” were a great reminder in 2023. 

 

Favorite Book

McNeese: “Some Shall Break” by Ellie Marney. In full transparency, I have not had the chance to read anything released in 2023, so I have also not read this book; however, I did read the first book “None Shall Sleep” and it was one of the most unique YA books I have ever read. The premise is that the FBI is in charge of creating a team of college-aged kids to catch a teen serial killer—they believe that a young team will see patterns in younger killers that the FBI can’t find. They choose two people: one whose father was killed by an infamous teen serial killer, and the other who was kidnapped by a serial killer. The ending left me staring at a wall and put me in a reading slump because it was so good. I have been waiting for the second book, “Some Shall Break,” to release and have it in my 2024 to-be-read list.

Lanham: “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas. I did get this recommendation from my roommate who, naturally, got the recommendation from Brittany Broski. “Throne of Glass” has entered me into a fantasy phase, which I never saw coming. I have now subsequently read “Fourth Wing” by Rebecca Yarros and the “A Court of Thorns and Roses” (ACOTAR) series is next. 

Seretti: “Dune” by Frank Herbert  No surprise here. This is one of the most important books in the “canon” of science fiction literature. I just so happen to be reading it for the first time this year. Love this book so much. “Fear is the mind-killer.” 

Eesley: “The Roaring Days of Zora Lily” by Noelle Salazar. Following an impoverished young woman in 1924 who is uniquely skilled at sewing, Zora Lily chases her ambitions to be more than what society expected of her and make a name for herself in the world of fashion. Having to choose between her passion and her family, there is a growing price for every choice. Delightfully nuanced, this book is an inspiring testament to the experience of anyone who has ever wanted more than what the world offered them and fought tooth and nail to get it.

Wiener: “The Creative Act” by Rick Rubin. This book helps you explore the creative process used by Rubin and others. This text is a tool used to push boundaries. Rubin is very talented and accomplished.

Ford: “Moon Soul” by Nathaniel Luscombe. It’s a cozy sci-fi novella that will be released in the spring of 2024 from Dragon Bone Publishing. I read an early copy and loved the world-building and themes of avoiding burnout and finding joy wherever you go.

 

Favorite Person

McNeese: Mike Flanagan. Again, if you read last year’s Seahawk picks, I said Flanagan, and he has raised the bar again this year. I have yet to finish “The Fall of the House of Usher” which is one of my favorite Edgar Allan Poe short stories, but I am thrilled whenever I see a Flanagan project pop up in my Netflix notifications. I have loved all of his shows so far—my favorite being “The Midnight Club”—and I am looking forward to seeing what treasures lie ahead in the episodes to come.

Markov: Ira Glass. Glass visited UNCW about a month ago and it was one of the coolest moments of my time here. I still think about his talk and the lessons he learned building his career sometimes as I continue working towards my own goals.

Seretti: Jeremy Elbertson. Jerma985, a.k.a. Jeremy Elbertson, got me through much of this year. “Your favorite streamer’s favorite streamer” needs no introduction to those familiar with the space. As Elbertson begins to transition his career away from purely streaming, I wish to salute him for the number of times his stream was my happy place. Truly the GOAT. 

Lanham: Melissa McCarthy. I have always loved this woman – she makes me laugh so hard. She is beautiful and amazing and strong-willed and everything I aspire to be. 

Eesley: Val Chmerkovskiy. Receiving his third win on “Dancing With the Stars” this year, Chmerkovskiy touched hearts across the nation as he not only choreographed for his partner in the competition, 17 year old Xochitl Gomez, but also mentored her and was a compassionate role model. He even attested on the show that his recent fatherhood influenced his relationship with Gomez and made him more protective and caring of her. In the world of Hollywood where many connections made are self-serving and cold, seeing him create a positive and kind relationship with Gomez was a treasure to witness as he took on an almost father-like influence with her. 

Wiener: Shane Gillis. He has risen to the top of stand-up comedy. With a variety of bits and characters, Gillis meshes well with individuals of other comedic styles and is non-problematic. He seems to really just want to deliver humor for the most part, not deliver subliminal messages. His special on Netflix, “Beautiful Dogs” is a good one. 

Mauldin: Greta Gerwig. The director of “Little Women” and “Lady Bird,” Gerwig is finally getting her deserved recognition with the premiere of her magnum opus, “Barbie” in July. The film shattered summer box office records, becoming the highest-grossing woman-directed film in history. Her films consistently incorporate well-executed comedy in tandem with gripping emotion to expand the notions of what being a woman is, or can be. Gerwig is relatively new to the directing world, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what she does next.

Ford: Adele. I went to see her during her Vegas Residency this past spring, and it was by far the best concert I have ever been to. She won the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award for Women in Entertainment, which highlights how inspiring she is. I also think she would be fun to have a conversation with and adore her music. Her album, “19,” has been my favorite to listen to in this past year.

 

Favorite Purchase

McNeese: All the books I have bought in 2023. As an avid reader, I have been going through a transitional period in my reading and as such, I needed to buy an overwhelming amount of books that I have not read yet, but am excited for. I am currently reading “Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice, which is not on my shelves, but looked interesting enough to pick up. Having read nearly 40 books this year, I am looking to increase that next year (which is, of course, why I bought so many books this year).

Markov: Ticket to Georgia Aquarium. Somehow I do not remember the Georgia Aquarium too well when I first visited about five years ago, but it’s not the case now. I think I sat and stared at those whale sharks for a good 10 minutes before getting back up on my feet.

Seretti: Socks from Walmart  I mean come on… what’s more useful?

Lanham: Steve Harrington Mom of The Year T-shirt. To people who know me, it will come as no surprise that I have currently misplaced my most prized possession—a t-shirt with Joe Keery’s face on it. I am in the process of repurchasing it off of Etsy. New year, same me. 

Eesley: Tickets to the Carolina Ballet. One thing that I have learned in the past year is that it is far more satisfying to purchase experiences than it is to purchase objects, and the evenings I spent at the ballet were no different. Memorable experiences of beauty and luxury that I will not soon forget, the Carolina Ballet took care to make these performances works of art.

Wiener: 21st birthday trip for my girlfriend. My girlfriend, Jamie, and I went to Boone after finals. It was a nice getaway for the both of us and extremely worth it. We had a great time. 

Ford: Ticket to EPCOT. My friends and I went to Disney World in April, and it was incredible to ride Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and try all of the foods in the World Showcase with them. Disney World is my favorite place on earth, and experiencing the wonder of shrinking down to rat size on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and learning all about agriculture on Living With the Land are memories we will always look back on. 

 

Favorite Pop Culture Moment

McNeese: Cockroach at the Met Gala. The fact that professional photographers stopped taking pictures of celebrities in favor of a cockroach proves just how boring the Met Gala is. The memes that came after were hilarious and filled my news apps for several days. Although not a revolutionary moment in history, it was entertaining—even if it was stepped on, I think we all related to that roach for its brief moment in fame.

Markov: Regina George being a lesbian. The new “Mean Girls” musical movie is coming out in early January, but a song for it has already been released by Renee Rapp (playing Regina) and Megan Thee Stallion. Enough said. Everyone complaining about the “remake” needs to remember that this is in fact a movie musical and not a copy-and-paste version of the original from 2004.

Seretti: The indictment of former president Donald Trump. The indictment of Trump is such a mixed bag of emotions for me. On the one hand, this indictment is the right course of action, given the concerted efforts by Trump to overturn the rightful election of a U.S. president. However, it also consistently reminds me of how the inequality of our justice system is beneficial for those with the capital to prolong or subvert consequences. With the growing context of the upcoming presidential election, only time will tell if this was truly a moment of justice.

Lanham: Barbenheimer

Eesley: SAG-AFTRA Strike. Actors and writers fought to get fair pay from streaming services that use their work and to protect human creativity by preventing AI from writing scripts and using the visages and voices of actors without their consent or pay. The strike set the ground rules for the new era of film and television as streaming services and AI have grown in popularity and influence.

Wiener: North West musical debut in Miami. North has proven to be one of the most likable celebrity children. Just months after Drake’s child Adonis Graham would make his musical debut, North West made her debut on stage with her father, Kanye West. West put on a series of performances in the Miami area, promoting the unreleased project “VULTURES.”

Mauldin: Ariana DeBose’s BAFTAs performance: If you by chance were living under a rock in February, you missed out on a legendary musical performance from actress Ariana DeBose at the 2023 BAFTA Film Awards. In the song, DeBose praises the supporting and leading actress nominees. “Angela Bassett did the thing / Viola Davis, my ‘Woman King’ / Blanchett Cate you’re a genius / Jamie Lee, you are all of us,” she sings. The performance immediately set the internet ablaze with memes proclaiming that she “did the thing.” Although this may not have been DeBose’s intended outcome, it got people talking about the incredibly talented actresses nominated at the BAFTAs, and was a needed dose of light-hearted news this year. If there is any justice, the history books will one day read “Ariana DeBose did the thing,” and we love her for it.

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