Friday, December 11, 2009

Entertainers of the Year

Who made you laugh this year? What movie brought you to tears? What cheerleading coach did both? (Yes We Cane!)

It's always difficult to determine who exactly are the Entertainers of the Year, because "entertaining" is such a hard concept to define. Is it someone who keeps an established career rolling? Or is it someone who really breaks out of their mold and becomes a phenomenon?

My definition is a bit of both. A strict, dictionary definition of "entertainer" just doesn't do here. They're actors, singers, TV shows, movies, and other pop culture phenomena. With that, I present to you, in no particular order, my 15 Entertainers of the Year!

Sandra Bullock
For a 45-year old actress, Bullock is having the year that most twentysomethings would die for. Her two hit movies The Proposal and The Blind Side have made incredible grosses both domestically and abroad. She's on her way to her first Oscar nomination for The Blind Side, quite a feat for a film not many considered a threat only a short time ago. She's been absent from the scene for years, causing many to wonder if her career was dead after years of hit films like Miss Congeniality, but Bullock's shown that just because you take a little break doesn't mean that you're out of the game. Welcome back, Gracie Lou Freebush.

Rated R
Mock if you'd like. Selecting Rihanna's fourth album, her darkest and most personal effort by far, as an Entertainer of the Year doesn't jell on several levels. Why not just select Rihanna as an EotY? Here's why: R was such a great album for the production value, quality of writing, as well as Rihanna's vocals. Just selecting the singer wouldn't really be honest, especially since her life this year hasn't exactly been entertaining. Props to her, however, for handling her domestic abuse scandal with grace and ease, and producing such a stellar album. With stellar tracks like Russian Roulette and G4L, the pop superstar has reinvented herself yet again, this time for the absolute best.

Meryl Streep
To be fair, Streep is kind of an Entertainer of the Year every year. After such radically different performances last year in Doubt and Mamma Mia!, La Streep basically did the same thing with a biographical performance of Julia Child, as well as a loose, aged woman with questionable morals in It's Complicated. Is there anything the woman can't do? Maybe play air hockey really well? Because in all seriousness, she's kinda the best actress of all time. Just in my opinion. And the Oscars'.

Chelsea Handler
Handler's been having one of those years that really doesn't happen. Her late night talk show, Chelsea Lately, started the year being shifted out of its timeslot and having its set revamped. Thanks, E!, for screwing that around. However, since then, Chelseas both Handler and Lately just keep getting better. Funnier, bigger, and even drawing high-profile guests like Jennifer Aniston and T.I. (pre-prison term), the show has taken off, and Handler's only gotten sharper and better as a result. Tired of philanderers, viral video addicts, annoyingly tall redheads, or the catastrophe known as The Jay Leno Show in late night? Spend a little time with Chelsea and Chelsea.

Mad Men
First off, MAJOR SPOILER ALERT! If you've never watched the show before (and we can discuss what's wrong with you later) but you plan to (at least you're taking steps to rectify your situation), don't read any further. I'm spoilering out on this one!

Words can't describe how incredible this show really is. The first season was an intriguing look at a man named Dick Whitman posing as another man named Don Draper and the circumstances behind the swap in identity. An ad man in 1960s New York City, Don Draper is as much of a ladies' man as you'll ever see, except to his wife. A mixture of his brilliance in the office and balancing his many affairs made Jon Hamm's mysterious man the star of that first season. After that, we were treated to a look into the lives of the Mad women, including Don's wife, Betty, and his former secretary-turned-genius copywriter, Peggy Olson. The second season was filled with intriguing plot twists and insights into the characters, but looking back, not a whole lot happened involving the primary plot with Don's identity. All that changed this season. At Don's ad firm, Sterling Cooper, a British takeover finally resulted in Don and a few brilliant ad executives moving to a new firm, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, before being sold again. The result was the most fun episode of Mad Men ever, "Shut the Door, Have a Seat." The perfect payoff for fans, after a similiarly-perfect season that saw the end of Betty and Don's marriage, a struggle for power for Peggy, and a rapist getting a vase smashed over his head by his wife (fans, who didn't cheer on that one?). The first few episodes were slow, yes, but as Mad Men has always proven, things will always sort themselves out, and all we as the audience can do is be entertained.

The Voltaggio Brothers
Neither probably deserved to win Top Chef. Truly, the win probably belonged to Kevin, the second runner-up. But as far as drama goes, Michael and Bryan Voltaggio brought it in spades. Their rivalry, their innovativeness, and their sheer skill brought the show to a point it really never hit last season, and set the standard for all seasons to come. They really did hate each other (no brotherly love here), which made it difficult for some to watch, but for me, it was one of the most entertaining things all year.

I could go on about how Mo'Nique's also had a talk show on BET this year, but I'll be totally honest: there's one and only reason Mo'Nique is on this list, and her name is Mary. The monstrous mother of the titular character in Precious, Mary is abusive, both mentally and physically, and yet incredibly complex in her motives. Played by any other actress, this part might have seemed overacted or unreal. Mo'Nique embodies Mary with such ferocity and hatred that she actually becomes the character, and it's easy to forget you're watching a comedian best known for movies like Phat Girlz. Truthfully, Mo'Nique's performance might be the best I've seen this decade, bar none. The fact that she's considered a lightweight talent in so many circles only makes the awards attention better.

Lady Gaga
I've, of course, already elaborated on this, but Lady Gaga entertains every time she's on stage, on the radio, or giving an interview. Gaga knows how to work hard to entertain her audiences at every turn. She's a genius, if not for her singing or songwriting, then for her ability to create an absolute phenomenon of herself. I once thought Lady Gaga would be an artist of the moment, but I'm starting to suspect that she'll be around for quite some time.

The Cast of Glee
Has there ever been a show like Glee? More to the point, has there ever been a cast like Glee's? From Lea Michele as Rachel Berry, the songbird with the voice for days, to Amber Riley as Mercedes, both embracing and breaking out of her status as the token belter on the show, to Matthew Morrison, holding his own as Will Schuester, hanging with the kids and singing just as well, to Jayma Mays, heartbreaking as Emma Pillsbury who quietly suffers while the love of her life is married to another woman, to the absolutely brilliant Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester, a one-liner machine who causes a laughing fit every time, guaranteed, plus more. Each member of the cast brings something truly special to the table, and that may be why the show is such a success: it's a team effort.

Rose Byrne
If you just asked, "Who?" I can't really blame you. Rose Byrne is best known for a cable show that only gets about a million viewers on average. Not only that, but her independent film, Adam, released earlier this year, had terrible box office. So what if she's not entertaining to everyone? The fact is that Byrne is damn entertaining. The Aussie-born actress scored Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for her performance on Damages opposite legend Glenn Close. The most remarkabe thing is that at several different points this season, Byrne outacted Close! Her subtlety was broken through and a quiet fierceness was awakened. Not only that, but her performance in the Hugh Dancy-helmed indie was touching and genuine. Not every entertainer is a household name; sometimes, even if only a few are entertained, they're the most entertained of all.

The Good Wife
Don't call it a procedural. Being lumped in with shows like CSI: and Cold Case is a tremendous insult to a show as well-acted, well-written, and absolutely intriguing as this one. Julianna Marguiles is intriguing and entertaining as Alicia Florrick, a woman forced to go back to practicing law to support her family after her husband, State's Attorney Peter Florrick, is caught up in a scandal and sent to prison. Archie Panjabi is absolutely brilliant as researcher Kalinda Sharma, making lawyers everywhere jealous that she's not on their team. Combined with other actors of stage and screen, the cast takes the expert writing and merges two concepts, a politician's wife shamed and an older woman working for the first time, and makes something truly special.

The Tiger Woods Scandal
This hot ghetto mess is just too fun. Yes, I do feel terrible for Elin Nordegren, a woman wronged by a husband who obviously missed the day in Pre-K when you learn to keep your hands to yourself. I absolutely do not feel bad for Tiger; the guy's a scumbag getting what's coming to him. But here's why this thing is so damn entertaining: there are just too many jokes! There's too many women! The entire thing is just one big catastrophe that's like a train wreck: it's too delicious to look away.

The Cast of The Hangover
Doesn't it kinda feel like this movie came out eons ago? I guess when you're entrenched in senior year, summer was eons ago. However, time hasn't dulled the sharp comedy that this cast brought in this movie. Made up of "That one guy" and "Oh, he was on The Daily Show," the movie didn't have a lot of star power going for it, so it made some star power of its own. The concept was a twist on an old favorite ("what happened last night?"), but the charm of the cast really elevated it to a new level. Between this and The Blind Side, word-of-mouth hits are having a great year.

Joel McHale
Two hit shows + lots of laughs = one incredibly entertaining comedian. The Soup, his pet project that he hosts on the E! channel, continues to be one of the most consistently funny shows on television, poking fun at all the crap we watch because there's nothing else on/we're self-flagellators. On Community, he's slowly building an entertaining character and a show that fits seamlessly into NBC's comedy lineup. McHale isn't new to the scene, but he's never been more entertaining.

Taylor Swift
Oh, like you didn't see this one coming. Beyoncé, Im'ma let you finish, but Taylor Swift has had one of the best years OF ALL TIME! It's interesting to watch how the Kanye West VMAs controversy launched Taylor from crossover star to absolute cultural phenomenon. She and Beyoncé truly are the biggest stars in music right now, closely followed by Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, and (unfortunately) Susan Boyle. Why is Taylor so huge? Simple: she's America's sweetheart. Her music is catchy and totally Top 40 potential. Her blog on Facebook is both hilarious and humanly interesting in a way most celebrity blogs aren't. Her charm and ease in interviews make her out to be more of a teenager than other celebrities her age. She's enjoying her fame while being surprised every time an awards organization says her name. She's the best host of Saturday Night Live all season, by a country mile. This has been her year, and she should embrace it, because the likelihood of another one like it coming along for a while is slim to none.

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