Sunday, December 26, 2010

Entertainers of the Year 2010

2010 has been nothing if not entertaining. Unlike the circus that was 2009, featuring such ridiculousness as Britney Spears, the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga, this was truly an artist's year, with high-quality projects hitting peak popularity. It also saw the return of former giants, the continued dominance of certain talents, and surprising breakouts from new stars. It was a rewarding 2010 for fans of quality, as even the most austere projects were just plain fun. When 2010 is examined by pop culture historians, it will be remembered as the year of highbrow fun.

Here, I present to you, in no particular order, Awkward is What We Aim For's top fifteen Entertainers of 2010.

Project Runway
Season 8
The Peabody-winning reality competition returned to its former glory with fresher challenges (party store! mega-team challenge!) and an incredibly fun cast full of high drama and likable characters. Gretchen Jones, the unlikely (and unfortunate) winner, was a completely self-unaware designer who wore the "bitch" mantle obliviously, while her frenemy Ivy Higa wore it with pride. Mondo Guerra was the underdog America fell in love with, and mentor Tim Gunn became a national sensation once again. The judging sessions were heated and passionate, with finale viewers forced to face the dilemma of disagreeing with arbiters of good taste Michael Kors and Nina Garcia and agreeing with the usually flighty Heidi Klum. In short, while the result may have been a shock, the season was nothing but endlessly entertaining.

Andrew Garfield
Only a young star as talented as Andrew Garfield could, in one year, snag the lead role in the next series of Spider-Man films, claim Best-in-Show kudos for the otherwise underwhelmingNever Let Me Go, and emerge as one of the two breakout stars of The Social Network. Hopefully the year will be capped with an Oscar nomination for Network. A fantastic year for Mr. Garfield, and one that will likely foreshadow many magnificent years to come.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
A big wet kiss to all the hipster nerds out there, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was a rush of color and light, proving to be the most fun movie of the year. It sported a phenomenal ensemble, expert writing and direction, and a winning performance from Michael Cera that turned all his previous weaknesses into strengths. What a blast.

The Cast of Mad Men
Has there ever been such a multitalented cast as the ensemble of Mad Men? What's so great is how they don't just work on Mad Men. They guest star on 30 Rock! (John Slattery guested for his first time this year, while Jon Hamm appeared once again to rave reviews.) They hostSaturday Night Live! (To differing results: Hamm was massively well-received, while the reception for January Jones was...frosty, to say the least.) They direct episodes of Mad Men! (Slattery helmed two episodes this season.) They star in other shows! (Alison Brie is a regular star on Community.) And they star in feature films! (Elisabeth Moss was in Get Him to the Greek, Hamm was in The Town, Slattery was in Iron Man 2, Christina Hendricks was in Life As We Know It and Jared Harris was in Extraordinary Measures.) But their best work, one and all, was on their home show, which had what was possibly its best season ever. Each and every one of them is a major talent that we'll hopefully have the privilege of enjoying for quite some time.

Rebecca Hall
It was obvious as of Vicky Cristina Barcelona two years ago that Rebecca Hall was an immensely talented young actress. You could say that it was first visible the year before that inThe Prestige. But this was truly Hall's breakout year, with a pair of solid performances (Please Give and The Town) to prove her dramatic heft as well as star power. She's sure to be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years of her career.

Gail Simmons (Top Chef and Top Chef: Just Desserts)
Tom Collichio and Padma Lakshmi are usually recognized as the faces of Top Chef, but no one does more work for the franchise than judge Gail Simmons. Judging on both seasons of the mothership show this season, as well as Top Chef Masters and hosting/judging the spinoff, Top Chef: Just Desserts, Simmons is a force to be reckoned with in the reality competition world, as well as a major asset for Bravo. She's witty, funny, and precise in her criticisms. She's a fresh-faced double threat at both judging and hosting. A great year for Simmons and hopefully the first of many.

Jimmy Fallon
Admittedly, the Late Night host has never been that interesting or entertaining in film, onSaturday Night Live, or on Late Night. However, his performance hosting the Emmys this year was winning, showing the best impersonations and talents under his belt. He also got vastly better hosting Late Night. A great year for Jimmy Fallon, making him less of a joke and more the respected comedian he wants to be.

Emma Stone (Easy A, Spider-Man reboot)
Sure, Emma Stone bagged the role of Gwen Stacey in the Spider-Man reboot opposite fellow Entertainer of the Year Andrew Garfield, as well as the role of Skeeter in the film adaptation of hit novel The Help. But Stone's great year is due to one role, one great, career-making performance: Olive Penderghast, the protagonist in Easy A. Stone was absolutely winning as Olive, a character that could have read too "Cady Heron" a la Mean Girls if the actress in the role wasn't ready to take it farther. Not only did she take it farther, her star turn made her one of the hottest commodities in Hollywood. She and Garfield are a good pair for Spider-Manconsidering how high their stars are likely to rise in the coming years. They're talented, they're young, and they're entertaining.

Cee-Lo Green
All hail the return of Cee-Lo! Years after the Gnarls Barkley success of "Crazy," Cee-Lo made his triumphant reentry into the music world with a great album, The Lady Killer, and one hell of a debut single. Who among us this summer wasn't filled with glee when we heard Cee-Lo bust out that chorus? "I see you drivin' round town with the girl I love/And I'm like, 'Fuck you!' (Ooh ooh ooh!)" With a Motown vibe and plenty of throwback nostalgia to go around, "Fuck You" was easily the song of the year, bringing Cee-Lo back to the zeitgeist in a major way.

Aaron Sorkin
The former The West Wing scribe and creator has long been a Hollywood favorite, but as a feature screenwriter, he's never quite connected. This year, he made his greatest connection with The Social Network, wherein the script is the star. His words are delivered just as intended in pure Sorkian style: quick, with wit, and with great precision. It is one of the strongest screenplays ever written and a credit to Sorkin's talent and career. It's incredibly entertaining, as is he.

Gwyneth Paltrow
For many, there was no more disagreeable star in Hollywood than the preachy, somewhat undeserving Gwyneth Paltrow. That all changed this year, with music as her career's savior. While Country Strong may not win her another Oscar, its music is being well-received as a cool new direction for Paltrow. Her most winning performance, however, was on Glee, in which she sang Rihanna ("Singin' in the Rain/Umbrella"), Cee-Lo Green ("Forget You", a particularly winning performance due to her willingness to be dorky), and School House Rock("Conjunction Junction", a delectable high point). From her great comic timing to her impersonation of Mary Todd Lincoln to her winning musical performances, Paltrow proved to a skeptical America how great she really is. Again.

The Good Wife
A repeat Entertainer of the Year, The Good Wife just got better in Season 2. The cast was sharper. The writing was even better. The stories were more interesting. It finally began to reach the realm of "high art". It was the best television show of the year (no qualifier necessary--Mad Men and Modern Family are 2-3 behind Wife) and by far the most entertaining on television in quite some time. It is mysterious, intriguing, beguiling, viewer-friendly and viewer-challenging--in short, the best we have.

James Franco
James Franco is this February's host for the Academy Awards, where he will most likely also be up for a Best Actor statuette for his winning performance in 127 Hours. Also this year, he starred in General Hospital, wrote a book of poetry and continued his collegiate studies. He is genuinely one of the most multitalented, versatile actors in Hollywood. What can't James Franco do?

Black Swan
By far the most entertaining film of the year, Black Swan is thrilling, psychosexual, intriguing, fascinating, and fully committed to from all involved, includingthe director, Darren Aronofsky, to the stars, Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel and Winona Ryder, to the composer, Clint Mansell, to the writers, to the cinematographer, Matthew Libatique. Not one aspect of this film is underdeveloped. Even for those who find it over-the-top or not to their taste, there is no question that it's an absolute effort and wonderfully entertaining.

The ensemble of Inception
And what more needs to be said here than has already been said? Sexy, sophisticated, brimming with talent, the cast of Inception is quite possibly the most attractive ensemble ever gathered. They're entertaining in so many ways.

Who are your top entertainers of 2010? Any of mine you're not a fan of? Leave any comments where they belong!

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