Every time I see a Gen X critic declare pop culture dead, I remember all of the columns and cover stories that asked “Is Irony Dead?” after 9/11. To be sure, a survey of American media right now wouldn’t exactly be encouraging, or particularly exciting: the highest grossing movie of the year, Top Gun: Maverick, is a sequel to a 36-year-old movie featuring another performance from Tom Cruise where he refuses to pass the torch and mature up on the mantle. No: this man must live, he must win, and he must get the shirtless volleyball montage exactly right, otherwise the movie would be a failure. Say what you will about his scary religion, the man knows what will make him a lot of money. I liked Top Gun: Maverick more than Tony Scott’s admittedly much better looking 1986 original, but Joseph Kosinski’s actually did feel like an elegy for the art form of popular cinema.