This celeb had the best year ever. And no, it’s not Taylor Swift or Beyoncé

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 03: Greta Gerwig attends the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures 3rd Annual Gala Presented by Rolex at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on December 03, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Academy Museum of Motion Pictures )

Greta Gerwig in Los Angeles on Dec. 3.Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

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CNN’s Lisa Respers France is your plugged-in BFF chronicling the week’s most impactful entertainment stories. Every Thursday she’ll pop into your inbox with binge-worthy content and illuminating industry news.CNN — 

Sure it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but also the most stressful.

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It doesn’t feel like it should be with all the holiday gatherings, good food and visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads.

Yet it is, for all the reasons I just listed plus more.

Getting together can be fraught for those who still worry about Covid-19 (raises hand); all the delicious calories can be nerve-wrecking for those watching their weight (raises both hands)… and what is a sugar plum anyway?

Oh well, at the very least let’s look back on the year that was 2023, which was both wild and wonderful.

Something to sip on

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 25: Greta Gerwig attends the press junket and photo call For "Barbie" at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on June 25, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

Greta Gerwig at a press event for “Barbie” in July.Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

A lot of celebrities crave the spotlight – often why some get into entertainment in the first place – yet those who are making the magic happen behind the scenes are just as important.

Imagine finding the perfect balance between the two.

That’s why Greta Gerwig is my shero.

She’s gone from actress to writer/producer/director and, this year, the helmer of the the buzziest movie of 2023, “Barbie.”

Full disclosure: the movie was brought to you by Warner Bros. which is owned by CNN’s parent company. But even if it wasn’t in the family, I still would have to recognize the massive success of this film.

Grossing more than a $1.44 billion worldwide, it was the top box office draw of the year. Gerwig’s deftness as director and co-writer played a huge part in making the movie such a hit. The fact that not long ago she was performing in front of the camera makes it all the more impressive.

Hollywood took notice after her previous directorial projects, 2017’s “Lady Bird” and 2019’s “Little Women,” both nabbed best picture Academy Award nominations.

Watching Gerwig rise up as a power player in the industry has been a surprising joy – even for her.

“I still can’t believe anybody let me do this,” she laughingly told “60 Minutes” about making “Barbie.”

The iconic doll may have a dream house, but the woman who brought Barbie to the big screen seems to have a dream life.

One thing to talk about…

Brenda Lee celebrated her signature song, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree."

Brenda Lee celebrated her signature song, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.”From Universal Music Group

Some people put up Christmas decorations super early and some, like myself, start listening to holiday music before Halloween.

Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” has been in heavy rotation. So I was thrilled with the news that 65 years after the song’s initial release, it has topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The song is only the third holiday tune to ever achieve that milestone and it’s wonderful to see a classic up there with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

Brava to 78-year-old Lee, who was just 13 when she recorded the song. Further evidence that – as I wrote last week – life can be so much greater, later.

You should listen to…

Nicki Minaj performs onstage at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards held at Prudential Center on September 12, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images)

Nicki Minaj performing on stage in September.Gilbert Flores/Variety/Getty Images

Like me, Nicki Minaj also has a December birthday (she turns 41 on December 8), and she’s getting the party started early.

Her new album, “Pink Friday 2” is the sequel to her debut album “Pink Friday,” which came out 13 years ago. The “Barbz,” as her fans are known, have been waiting for this project since Minaj confirmed it was happening in 2019.

Minaj wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Dear Barbz, It just dawned on me; I am about to release one of the greatest albums of ALL TIME.” The “Chun Li” rapper has never been one to be super humble. But then again, she’s so fab, does Nicki really need to be?

“Pink Friday 2” drops Friday.

Can’t wait to watch…

MR. MONK'S LAST CASE: A MONK MOVIE -- Pictured: Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk -- (Photo by: Steve Wilkie/PEACOCK)

Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk .Steve Wilkie/Peacock

Welcome back, Mr. Monk.

The quirky yet genius detective Adrian Monk is back in the TV movie “Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie.”

The series it’s based on went off the air in 2009, much to the sadness of those who loved the humanity Tony Shalhoub brought to the title character. The actor does just that again in this latest project, which finds the investigator involved in a very personal case.

Shoutout to Peacock for giving me the opportunity to talk to Shalhoub about revisiting the beloved character. Naturally, I had to ask him about how he picks roles fans have come to love, like Monk and his character Abe Weissman on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

“I’ve been so fortunate to have landed in some of these situations where it’s great just by osmosis, by chemistry or something, you know,” he said. “It’s the right concoction, the right mix of writing, ensemble acting and the timing. It’s all about the timing.”

It’s the kind of humbleness we would expect from Monk.

“Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie” starts streaming Friday on Peacock.

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