Sunday, December 20, 2009

The #1 Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's that remarkable time of year where everybody and their brother starts cranking out the "Best of the Year" List. Hey, I get it. This is a good time to look back and evaluate where we've been as a culture and compare the highs and lows. More importantly, it's an easy way to skip out on a couple of weeks of actual journalism and start up some fervent discussion as to whether "GI Joe" was better than "Old Dogs." (The answer to that, of course, will be debated by scholars for years.)

Among the most widely seen of this series of lists are the ones published by Entertainment Weekly. By now, a few of you know I have my own personal beef with EW (they don't seem to have any beef with me, I guess). I love it as a quick filler for coffee tables and dental waiting rooms, and it's impeccable as a restroom literature source. They generally get who they are just fine, and everyone's happy. The problem is that interspersed with the poppy Tiger Beat stuff, they sometimes start making comparisons to more highbrow elements and the whole damn thing blows up in a sloppy mess of artistic/cultural relativism. The whole "it's good for what it is trying to be, so it gets an A- as a tween album even though it's recycled dreck" argument.

I'm not looking for Pitchfork reviews here (Among my favorite lines from a Pitchfork review of Kid A: "The experience and emotions tied to listening to Kid A are like witnessing the stillborn birth of a child while simultaneously having the opportunity to see her play in the afterlife on Imax." I cannot understand how this is remotely helpful to anyone with their head not firmly inside their ass. I like that the stillborn child is on an Imax, though, and not a normal movie screen. Widescreens are so passe.) What kills me with EW is that they give something a mediocre review, then publicize the hell out of it and pass it off like it's culturally relevant for its artistic value. I'm fine with big successes getting covered as a newsworthy event. I don't give a shit about Twilight or the Hannah Montana movie, but I get that a lot of people do, and that has news value in itself. But to subsequently conflate this as being indicative of critical importance or to compare it to lesser known items on a single list is idiotic and realistically, irresponsible as a journalistic entity.

My main objection is Sandra Bullock. Listen, I wish the woman the best and hope she has a nice Holiday. EW just published her as the "#1 Entertainer of the Year" in this week's edition and had a cover story last week about her work. This, in short, is preposterous. The woman made two movies that both received mediocre reviews, but did well financially, and as a result, we're now declaring her to be the top artistic performer of the year? Huh? It's not that some snobby film commission didn't like it, EW noted that "The Blind Side," "isn't solid at all — it's more like cotton-candy uplift" and gave it a C. "The Proposal," her other big hit, got a B+, narrowly edging the artistic achievement, "Paul Blart."

In contrast, there was no mention of George Clooney, even though his "Up in the Air" was their film of the year (as well as a great many others'). Nothing for anyone attached to much more highly regarded films like "District 9," "Up," or "The Hurt Locker." I only reference other movies and actors to make the comparison a little more natural--they ranked Lady Gaga highly and I can't see why she lost out to the cotton-candy uplift. In the end, this is all fine if we're going to portray this as a list of "The Biggest Hits" or "Nicest Surprise for People We Thought Were Dead After "Miss Congeniality 2." But the fringing of the lines between box office receipts and putting out material that furthers the genre drives me absolutely batshit crazy.

Anyways, that's about it on this issue. I know she's gotten a Golden Globe nomination, and if I had any real regard for that, it would really mean something. Especially if she won. This stuff really falls into a lot of the same problems as the Heisman (I mention this because of a recent post criticizing voters who don't pay enough attention), so there's a grain/mountain of salt to be had with all the trophy business. I know some people take the opposite view on the whole thing and see the merging as a little more allowable, and I'm being a self-righteous prick about the whole thing. But I don't care, I'm sticking to my view: You can't be Entertainer of the Year when you make "All About Steve," and that's all there is to it.

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