December 18, 2007
One could say 2007 was the Year of the Rehab. Britney tried it, Lindsay lived it, and Amy Winehouse gloriously sang about it (and eventually lived it as well).
We lost Anna Nicole. Imus was booted. The Sopranos went out...with an onion ring. The Cohens traded in The OC for Berkeley. Paris was freed. Whoopi became the new Rosie. Zanessa became the new Brangelina. Senator Craig learned to never enter airport restrooms again. Barack Obama learned how to ride on the shoulders of a certain book-club-loving talk-show titan. Southern California burned down. The Writers Guild of America burned up. And while Jamie Lynn Spears got knocked up, Jodie Foster finally came out of the closet (or panic room - whatever pun you prefer).
One could also say 2007 felt a lot like 1997: The Spice Girls went on tour, the Backstreet Boys dropped a new album, and Mulder and Scully teamed up once again for a second X-Files movie (out next summer). 2007 was officially Britney's messiest year to date as well; what with her custody drama, the VMAs disaster, and poor choice in...well, everything (that music video was beyond horrendous), the Louisiana lolita still managed to pump out a number one single.
Personally, 2007 was a year of clarity. It was basically a time to focus on new possibilities and achievements rather than fall into the quicksand of negative thinking. Things became clearer, the light at the end of the tunnel a little brighter. Coming out of the clouds of a quarter-life crisis (few remain above my head), I was finally able to get a grip on some finances and face the Demons of Loans and Debts (I wish a happy holiday to those persistent collectors at Associated Credit Services - may they find peace while continuing to harass penniless college grads). I proudly became a board member of Hot in Hollywood (our annual benefit in August was more successful than the first). I was asked to join the roster of correspondents for its blogsite (we just hit over 300,000 unique daily visitors). I managed to land a couple of small writing gigs for the first time in my life (feels kinda tingly inside to receive a paycheck for your words). And I found myself becoming the go-to man for event planning (Hot Mix kicks off in February) and pop-culture commentary for various media.
In short, I've gone franchise.
But enough with the sentimental, look-what-I've-done crap. I know you want to scroll down and get to the goods, so let's get to it, shall we?
FILM PICKS OF '07
(*Please note: These are the movies I've managed to screen at press time. Like many a critic, I am sure there are several other cinematic gems out there that have yet to squeeze eleven hard-earned dollars out of me.)
1. Atonement > Ian McEwan's novel comes to exhilirating life in a crisp adaptation from Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright. Keira Knightley and James McAvoy are lovers prematurely torn apart as the result of a devastating lie, and the troubled years that follow are beautifully accented by Dario Marianelli's exquisite score, Seamus McGarvey's stunning cinematography and top-notch performances from its pedigree cast. It's difficult to choose just one scene from this spectacular epic in order to convey its greatness (there's a memorable one I like to call Library of Lust and the breathtaking beach shot at Dunkirk), but this one will have to do:
2. Charlie Wilson's War > There's a scene in Mike Nichols's biting political satire in which several characters come and go through doorways like clockwork, spouting out earfuls of dialogue per second (Aaron Sorkin, no one can write rapid polysyllabic diatribes like you), all of it culminating in a pitch-perfect punchline, making it the best staged play of the year. It just so happens to star two of the biggest names in Hollywood (I was nearly blinded by Julia's platinum hair...and Tom's bare ass) and feature a slick supporting turn by the imcomparable Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
3. Juno > Diablo Cody's sparkling script and Jason Reitman's sharp eye for the minutiae of bland suburban angst conspire to make this a must-see of '07. At times a shrewd commentary on the state of American teen sexuality, Juno also works as a brilliant dramedy about family. It stars spitfire Ellen Page as the preggers title character and features a perfectly cast troupe of actors: Jennifer Garner rocks the pearl necklace as an uptight, white-bread wife, Jason Bateman as her suffocating husband, Allison Janney as Juno's tough-lovin' stepmom, and the always charming Michael Cera, who may as well be this generation's Anthony Michael Hall (RUNNER UP: The hilarious and sweet Superbad).
4. Grindhouse > One of the quintessential moviegoing experiences: a genuine double-joyride from start to finish - and with awesome, retro faux-trailers to boot. Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror pays terrific homage to John Carpenter's cult classics of the 70s and early 80s while Tarantino's Death Proof is a more dialogue-heavy spin on the slasher genre - with one of the most thrilling car chases in the history of cinema.
5. Waitress > Keri Russell charms her way through Adrienne Shelly's little indie that could as a knocked-up piemaker who discovers one of the most rewarding surprises in life: a second chance at happiness.
6. The Bourne Ultimatum > Audiences proved that they want brains with their bangs when the final chapter of the high-octane trilogy opened in August and established itself as the thinking-person's action film (take that, Live Free or Die Hard!). Matt Damon speaks in only a third of the film, but his smoldering and vengeful glares brilliantly (and surprisingly) managed to carry the film through its thrilling cat-and-mouse sequences. Forget those rumbling robots; this was the best action flick from the summer of 2007.
7. Across the Universe > Julie Taymor's terrifically trippy and polarizing musical was more than just a sing-along for 15-year-old girls. It stood as a gorgeous tribute to the timeless pop songs of arguably the most timeless band in music history, the Beatles.
8. The Host > A monster movie brilliantly disguised as a touching drama about family and survival, this enormously successful Korean import also delivered one of the best non-Hollywood endings in recent memory.
9. Hairspray > Consider it the Grease of the new millennium. This sassy musical will forever flourish on DVD and cable TV for generations to come. Huge applause for Michelle Pfeiffer's delicious comeback and the beyond bubbly Nikki Blonsky, one of the great breakouts of 2007.
10. Once > A hallmark in cinematic love stories, Once is that delicate yet inevitably heartbreaking romance that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled.
Southland Tales > Writer-director Richard Kelly took five years off after creating First Echo favorite Donnie Darko to focus on what would be an extremely ambitious follow-up: a dazzling, dizzy, Dickensian satire on the Apocalypse set in the perfectly inevitable choice setting for an Apocalypse - Los Angeles, California.
The Namesake > Before jumping over to House, Kal Penn showed off his dramatic chops in Mira Nair's beautiful continent-spanning story about rediscovering one's roots and establishing an appreciation for heritage.
Year of the Dog > Who knew Molly Shannon had it in her? Mike White's darling project is more than just a heartwarming tale about a lonely secretary and her beloved pet. It's a testament to the human condition and its capacity for love, grief and the desire to connect.
Trailer of the Year - Cloverfield > Without a doubt, the teaser and trailer for J.J. Abrams's January monster flick put all other previews to shame. Never in years has a trailer been so closely analyzed, so breathlessly jarring, and so eye-grabbingly good it leaves you wanting more:
The Kid Stays in the Picture - Shia LeBeouf in Transformers, Disturbia and next year's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
The Oscar Curse Continues - Cuba Gooding Jr. in Daddy Day Camp.
Why We Continue to Love Amy Adams - Enchanted.
Why We Continue to Hate Brett Ratner - Rush Hour 3 and his planned Hugh Hefner biopic starring - get this - Tom Cruise.
Third Time's Not the Charm - Spider-Man 3, Rush Hour 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (See also: The Most Overused Word of the Year - "threequel").
You Had Me Until Those Last 20 Minutes - Danny Boyle's beautifully cast and terrifically tense Sunshine.
The New John Hughes - Judd Apatow (Superbad, Knocked Up).
We Forgive You For The Invasion - both Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig in The Golden Compass.
TV PICKS OF '07
1. Pushing Daisies (ABC) > Part murder-mystery, part whimsical romantic-comedy, each episode of Bryan Fuller's one-of-a-kind dramedy - about a peculiar piemaker who can raise the dead - is pure joy from start to finish. And give three cheers for the two leads, the mesmerizing Lee Pace and the effervescent Anna Friel - the chemistry is magical.
2. Brothers & Sisters (ABC) > Last year I dubbed this ensembler the new, hotter Eight is Enough. Now hitting its stride in its second season (Sarah's divorce, Justin's post-Iraq addiction, MacAllister's cutthroat campaign), TV's most photogenic family from Pasadena is being put to the test...and we're loving every melodramatic minute of it.
3. Dirty Sexy Money (ABC) > Tranny mistresses. Priests with illegitimate sons. And one self-aware, scene-stealing bitch (the pitch-perfect Natalie Zea). DSM is another kind of family drama, a delicious twist on that once-extinct television genre, the glitzy nighttime soap. It's an awesome Dynasty cocktail mixed with some of the pretentiousness of The Hills and the neuroses of Arrested Development .
4. Damages (FX) > Glenn Close was just one of many actresses to get down and dirty with juicy roles for women on cable television this year (The Closer, Amazing Grace, etc), and she scored with this scorcher of a drama about lethal litigators and the lies they get away with.
5. The Riches (FX) > After viewing the pilot in March, I had already predicted an Emmy nomination for Minnie Driver's turn as a former drug addict and mother of three in a family of contemporary gypsies who assume the identities of a dead family in a cul-de-sac where nothing is what it seems. Cut to six months and several awards shows later, and we have another great show that has managed to turn the genre of "family drama" on its head.
6. Nip/Tuck (FX) > Normally when a show changes locations, it's a clear sign that the end is near. Not in this case. Moving McNamara and Troy to Los Angeles expanded not only its roster of crazy characters but its potential for sizzling storylines. Bradley Cooper chews up his scenes with such splendid assholery, you have to wonder where he gets his inspiration from. Lauren Hutton is regal as manipulative talent manager to Carly Summers, played by Daphne Zuniga, who never looked so good. Then throw in some desperate heroin addicts, flip-flop lesbians, Rosie's return, and schoolgirl seductresses with BGFs (just watch), and you have yourself Nip/Tuck's funniest, smartest and most shocking season yet.
7. Blake Lewis's rendition of "You Give Love a Bad Name" on American Idol (Fox) > Jon Bon Jovi didn't know what to think when the 25-year-old finalist dared to put a new spin on a heavy metal classic, and rightly so. We all went a little "Whaaa?" with understandable trepidation. However, with a little beatboxing here and a little coy crooning there, Lewis gave us one of the best live musical performances on television this year. And just for the record, his recently released album, Audio Day Dream: Pretty. Damn. Awesome.
8. The final moments of The Sopranos (HBO) > A pitch-perfect, polarizing ending to the most multi-layered morality play in TV history - simply because it wasn't perfect. Interpret those final seconds however you want, but you can't deny David Chase as a mastermind of the medium.
9. Desperate Housewives (ABC) > Dana Delany moved to Wisteria Lane and brought with her a welcome resurgence. We still don't know what her big secret is (did her daughter murder her first husband?), but we do know that the tornado episode from December 2 will go down as the series' most memorable yet.
10. Mad Men (AMC) > Television viewers got a different look at the 1960s in this provocative study on men who desperately try to sell the American Dream to a society on the verge of a counterculture movement. Watching the politics of advertising hasn't been this fun since Amanda Woodward strolled into D&D over 14 years ago.
Daytime TV Moment of the Year - The View became an estrogenic Crossfire when we all witnessed one of the best moments in daytime television history - "innocent, pure Christian Elisabeth" versus "big, fat, lesbian, loud Rosie." I watched it on TiVo and YouTube five times in one day. And here's the full ten-minute segment from quiet beginning to fiery end:
It's Not TV, It's MySpace TV - Quarterlife speaks to a blog-obsessed generation of Twixters and eventually (and wisely) gets picked up by NBC.
The Brilliant, British and Bisexual X-Files - Torchwood (BBC America)
If Jack Bauer Were A Soap Opera Character - General Hospital's Hostage Crisis (ABC) - This February sweeps stunt paid off and gave soap fans a 24-esque, time-jumping thriller of a storyline that left reverberations throughout the rest of the year.
Best Method of Torture - Sitting through a six-hour marathon of The Hills.
MUSIC PICKS OF '07
1. "Everything's Just Wonderful" by Lily Allen > Sarcastic, British faux-hipster lounge pop that's irresistible to the ears, this track from the pleasantly potty-mouthed Londoner is an anthem for all twentysomethings trying to make it in a world that's hard to settle in. RUNNER UP: Amy Winehouse's deliciously retro "Rehab" and "You Know I'm No Good."
2. "Falling Slowly" by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová > From the melancholy soundtrack to the Irish indie Once, this achingly beautiful track swells up with such emotion, reminding us what a true love song really is.
3. "Grace Kelly" by Mika > The Freddie Mercury-esque vocals are a given, but match them up with a playful beat and colorful lyrics, and we have ourselves one of the best and most vibrant singles of the year.
4. "Touch Me" by the Broadway Cast of Spring Awakening > A joyous ode to young love and pure ecstasy that slowly builds up to a "climactic" finish, this is just one of the many spellbinding songs written by Duncan Sheik and performed in the hottest Tony-winning musical since Rent.
5. "The Way I Are" by Timbaland featuring Keri Hilson & D.O.E. > a.k.a. The Song Everyone Loved in 2007. Amusingly simple in lyric, this summer single from the superproducer's impressive debut album is a brilliant mash-up of hip-hop and techno (tech-hop?), winning over music fans in all camps.
6. Kanye West's Graduation > There was no competition when 50 Cent dropped his album on the same day as Kanye's back in September. Mr. West would obviously emerge as the victor and bring us another tour-de-frickin-force, wisely bridging the gap between genres (and demographics), and proving himself to be a true hip-hop pioneer (Hello? The man just received eight Grammy nominations).
7. The Shins' Wincing the Night Away > Chillout retro-rock perfect for that afternoon drive down Pacific Coast Highway.
8. "Makes Me Wonder" by Maroon 5 > The fabulous funk-rock single of the year. And just as ubiqutious as "This Love" four years ago.
9. "In the Dark" by Tiesto featuring Christian Burns > The former BBMakker teams up with the Master of Trance to pump out what appears to be another generic Eurodance track, but turns out as a surprisingly emotional dance single.
10. "Apologize" by Timbaland featuring One Republic > This time the tech-hop maestro teams up with the indie Southern California band to lend some of his trademark stuttering beats to a powerful and haunting ballad (and current #1 song in the country).
11. "Hot Stuff (Let's Dance)" by Craig David > The smooth operator from the U.K. injects infectious energy into David Bowie's 80s classic.
12. Annie Lennox's Songs of Mass Destruction > The former Eurhythmic mesmerizes us with a fantastically cerebral pop album that hits the right amount of preachiness.
13. "Umbrella" by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z > Do you have to ask?
Britney, Circa 2000 - Ashley Tisdale's Headstrong.
Most Annoyingly Successful Singles of the Year - Soulja Boy's "Crank That" and Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls."
One to Watch in '08 - Leona Lewis. Her debut album, Spirit, drops March 18. Her first single, "Bleeding Love," is already leaking in from the U.K. and placing her as the next Whitney or Mariah (y'know, when they could sing).
WEB PICKS OF '07
1. Dramatic Prairie Dog > It's the funniest five seconds we've seen on YouTube all year, and we don't know why. Is it the music? Is it the little critter's hysterical expression? Who knows...but you know you couldn't help playing it over and over at work in between those tedious conference calls and staff meetings.
2. Leave Britney Alone! > And the web gods decreed, "From the depths of the viral pits of YouTube a mascara-eyed young man shall rise and take over the world with his powers of persuasion, and it will lead him to a reality TV development deal which will spark a new wave of the Apocalypse."
3. www.funnyordie.com > Will Ferrell brought us "The Landlord" starring the most potty-mouthed 2-year-old we ever met. Then, Eva Longoria teamed up with Eric Christian Olsen to make a faux sex tape. Now, you can catch James Franco and Mila Kunis channeling Heidi and Spencer in a dead-on spoof of The Hills...That banging you hear is one more nail being hammered into the sitcom coffin.
4. www.blackle.com > For those of you who wish to go green...go black, and use this search engine (from the Google guys) while saving energy - and the planet.
5. 2 Girls, 1 Cup: The Reactions > I hesitate to place this absolute vile piece of poo on this list ("The most disgusting video you'll ever see!"), but it became such a bizarre phenomenon within the past month. The bright side: you can enjoy and laugh at the countless number of recorded reactions which are now taking over the Net.
And there we have it. Pencils down. Let your mind reset and resume its normal wavelength. Go out and enjoy these gems, experience these tasty morsels 2007 had to offer. And let's hope we can squeeze just as much juice out of 2008.
Wishing you greatness in the new year,
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