The earth quaked. Volcanos erupted. Oil was spilled. Even a tornado grew in Brooklyn...After the beating we endured from Mother Nature one would think those 2012 predictions were coming two years too early. But not all was doom and gloom this year. Those Chilean miners were rescued. Democrats reclaimed California. And Modern Family won a well-deserved Emmy.
2010 wasn't without its lessons either. We learned that A) Zac Efron with a beard makes him look like...Zac Efron with a beard (In other news, Brad Pitt with a beard makes him look...homeless). B) Joaquin Phoenix ain't no Andy Kaufman. C) James Franco can do anything. D) Having Betty White Fever isn't such a bad thing, but a strict regimen of eating, praying, and loving can do wonders (just ask Julia). And E) Ricky Martin = yawn, while Amber Heard = jaw-dropper.
Simon left Idol. Lost left a few questions unanswered and millions of viewers polarized. The Hills finally went off the air and answered the age-old question, "Which came first, the douchebag or the collagen-filled fame whore?" Elsewhere, networks got social, animated features got despicable, Miley couldn't be tamed, and a woman finally won a Best Director Oscar (congrats Ms. Bigelow). But before you could get your G-T-L on while crying over the final season of Oprah, we all learned one important lesson we will never forget (thanks to the countless testimonials and personal videos that were shared by people around the globe): It gets better.
The year I turned 30 fittingly turned out to be a year of tremendous personal growth, teaching me a few inevitable lessons of my own. I learned - the scary way - that my parents aren't superhuman anymore. I learned how to speak from my heart for the first time because I needed to - or else a friendship would have been lost forever. I learned how to brush off the bullshit in order to appreciate the essentials. I learned that Texas does indeed make some kickass barbecue and that Yellowstone National Park is friggin' huge. I learned that broiled peaches drizzled with vanilla and sprinkled with sliced almonds makes for one helluva foodgasm. And I ultimately learned to trust my instincts and listen to the voice that likes to remind me every so often that I am lovable and that I am loved.
Oh, and I got a brand new car!
But enough about me. On to 2010's greatest hits, the best and the brightest -- the proverbial good stuff. After all, it's what you came here for, right?
First, a look back at what we experienced in theaters in 2010 (this is especially for those of you who didn't get out much). Maestro, please:
And with that I give you...
FILM PICKS OF 2010
1. The Social Network - On the surface, it's an adult drama about college kids. Deep down it's a cleverly written - and staged - morality play about the social politics of a generation that will look back at David Fincher's masterpiece as a time capsule representing a cyber era in which we finally started to feel the effects of our culture evolving at an exponential rate -- and Mark Zuckerberg as a Twitter-age Thomas Edison who forever changed the dynamics of human communication.
2. Toy Story 3 - A stellar closing chapter to a dazzling trilogy, the Disney-Pixar toon tackled that all-too-resonant issue of growing up and letting go in a way most live-action coming-of-age dramas rarely come close to. The final farewell scenes are the stuff Kleenex tissues were made for.
3. The Kids Are All Right - Annette Bening and Julianne Moore were never more electrifying to watch as parents of two teens who befriend their biological father (a rugged Mark Ruffalo) in this delightful dramedy about a perfectly imperfect modern family. Place your Oscar bets now.
4. Inception - Or, The Movie to Tide Us Over Until Batman 3 Arrives. If The Dark Knight didn't cement Chris Nolan as a commercial auteur of our generation, then Inception surely did the job. Combining groundbreaking special-effects with an extremely intricate narrative that never loses us, Nolan reaffirmed our belief that a blockbuster can have brains. Employing a brilliant cast of pawns (Leo, Marion, Joseph, Ellen, and the magnetic Tom Hardy), he plops them down in a labyrinthine game that's part chess, part cat-and-mouse. What's real? What's a dream? We're still asking, the totem's still spinning...and we're still loving it.
5. Monsters - District 9 comparisons aside, Gareth Edwards's lo-fi monster movie (which came out in theaters and VOD in October) is a beautiful, bare-bones road trip adventure that isn't too heavy on allegory but lays on plenty of grit, emotion, and awe-inspiring wonder to make for a flick worth checking out and remembering.
6. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work - This astonishing documentary strips away the polish of stand-up comedy (and, at one point, Rivers' own makeup) and introduces us to the inner workings of a comic icon. Like many who saw this film, I gained newfound respect for the woman who knocked down the door for female comics, bravely set a standard, and at the age of 77, continues to haul her ass all over the nation for a gig, whether it be in No Man's Land, Wisconsin or on national television for the sake of Donald Trump.
7. Kick-Ass - The violence is unabashedly over-the-top. The zinger-filled deliveries are dead-on (finally, someone put Nicolas Cage's wooden persona to fine use). And two stars have been born in Aaron Johnson and Chloe Moretz. In other words, it's the anti-Spiderman...and the best comic-book adaptation of the year. (See also: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
8. Waiting for Superman - Davis Guggenheim's jaw-dropping documentary is not only an urgent wake-up call for America, it's a terrifying snapshot of the unprecedented abuse our country's children are unknowingly suffering from. Chronicling the lives of five promising kids who wish to be admitted into good schools - most whose fates are determined by a numbered ping-pong ball - the film exposes the gaping cracks in our education system and attempts to save what's left of it. Guggenheim, along with reformer Geoffrey Canada, undertakes an exhaustive review of public education (not ALL teachers are to blame), surveying "drop-out factories" and "academic sinkholes" and methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems. A must-see movie for all families.
9. I Love You Phillip Morris - Jim Carrey's long-delayed, hard-to-categorize and ambitious film was well worth the wait but will most likely be the most overlooked and underrated film of the year. The impossible true story about professional con man Steven Russell and his fateful romance with prison cellmate Phillip Morris (a gentle and wide-eyed Ewan McGregor) is one big, heartbreaking, hysterically sharp satire.
10. Winter's Bone - Debra Granik's little-indie-that-could is a noirish tale of survival that's also an atmospheric mystery. Set in the Missouri wilderness, the film vibrates with a chilling authenticity (at one point you'll start wondering, Do people still live like this?). Star Jennifer Lawrence plays the teen who's trying to learn the whereabouts of her drug-dealing daddy in order to keep her younger siblings and ill mother from losing their home. And what she learns and eventually discovers is unthinkable (let's just say it involves a chainsaw).
*Disclaimer: Movies not screened at press time: True Grit, The King's Speech, and Rabbit Hole
+ Get Them While They're Hot: Kick-Ass's Aaron Johnson in Nowhere Boy and Emma Stone in Easy A and the upcoming Spiderman reboot
+ When Baaaaad Movies Happen to Good Actors: Kristen Bell in When in Rome
+ When Baaaaad Movies Happen to Good Directors: Alan Poul and The Backup Plan
+ Disney Whore of the Year: Johnny Depp
TV PICKS OF 2010
1. Modern Family (ABC) - The consistently quotable comedy that reinvigorated the fam-com is showing no signs of creative depletion. Among this year's instant classic moments: Jay and Cameron's locker room "moon landing," the earthquake episode, Gloria's interpretation of "dog-eat-dog world," and of course, the best line from Season Two thus far: "Disabled inter-racial lesbians with an African-American kicker? I did not see that coming." The show is also clever with its sparing use of special, non-stunty guest stars: Shelley Long as Mama Prichett, Chazz Palminteri as Jay's sexually-questionable golf buddy, Minnie Driver as Claire's competitive coworker, and Nathan Lane as Cam's ex, the hysterically monikered Pepper Saltman. Coming soon: James Marsden's January appearance as a "Shirtless Neighbor."
2. Being Human (BBC America) - The second season of this British import packed a wallop of suspense, character insight, and humor. Star Russell Tovey is a unique find, an actor who manages to effortlessly blend comic timing, pathos and heroism - usually within the span of a minute-long scene. Pray that the upcoming American adaptation on SyFy is nearly half as brilliant as this original.
3. "The Power of Madonna" on Glee (Fox) - How the producers and writers managed to squeeze in 7 (seven!) musical numbers in one episode is a wonder in itself. But reworking the classics of a music icon in order to click with current storylines was pure genius. The dramusicom's most ambitious episode to date was well worth the wait. Sue Sylvester's shot-by-shot rendition of "Vogue" was hilarious. "Express Yourself" reestablished itself as the original anthem of girl power. The "Borderline"/"Open Your Heart" mash-up between Rachel and Finn was an exhilarating exercise in theatrics. And the all-dude chorus of "What It Feels Like for a Girl" breathed tender new meaning into a nearly forgotten single. All in all, the student body (and faculty) at McKinley High showed us how subtly brilliant the pop music of Madonna can be. Somewhere I'm sure Broadway producers are brainstorming a stage adaptation based on her catalog (Runner-Up Episodes: "Dream On," guest-starring Neil Patrick Harris and November's heartbreaking and timely "Never Been Kissed").
4. The Vampire Diaries (CW) - I admittedly had my doubts about this adaptation of the young-adult trilogy I had read back in the early 90s. What was feared to be a Twilight-for-TV (or a True Blood Jr.) has quickly evolved into one of the most thrilling hours on network television. Twist after delicious plot twist (Caroline's a vamp! Damon killed Mason! Who the hell is Klaus?) and some tasty morsels delivered by the delightfully wicked Ian Somerhalder have turned this into one well-paced, devilish soap.
5. Raising Hope (Fox) - Martha Plimpton, we never knew how much we missed thee. We also see a future Emmy nomination headed your way. Greg Garcia's follow-up to My Name is Earl is an extension of ABC's Modern Family, a Roseanne for the 2010s. Sure, the catalyst for the premise (a twentysomething impregnates a serial killer on death row after a one-night stand!) is wacked, but the warmhearted wisecracks of this blue-collar brood are an unexpected joy to experience.
6. Damages (FX) - The overdue third season piled on the impressive guest stars (Lily Tomlin, Campbell Scott, and an unsettlingly brilliant Martin Short) and brought us a timely case full of twists, Machiavellian schemes, double-crosses, and the death of a major character we couldn't believe. It even found a clever way to bring back Ted Danson's Arthur Frobisher halfway through. Thank DirecTV for bringing the show back for two more rounds of dagger-sharp dialogue and Glenn Close's signature icy glares.
7. Sherlock (PBS) - Putting last year's Robert Downey Jr. movie to shame, Masterpiece Mystery's modern take on the iconic detective is a fantastic, superbly written suspenser. Benedict Cumberbatch steps into the titular role, turning Holmes into a scarily brilliant puzzle solver with equal parts of arrogant foppishness and intense sex appeal. Dr. Watson (a perfectly cast Martin Freeman) is his associate, an Afghanistan vet who becomes the Ernie to Sherlock's Bert (they're flatmates at 221b Baker Street, of course). Together these two solve multi-layered mysteries that would keep all of the Law & Order teams guessing. The 21st century touches never feel gimmicky (Sherlock rapidly consults search engines on his smartphone; Watson's journal is now a blog) because so much detail is paid attention to the intricate storylines and ingenious twists. The game is sooooo afoot:
8. The Walking Dead (AMC) - Who knew a zombie apocalypse would make for gripping human drama on television (and only within the span of 5 episodes)? AMC wisely added this adaptation to its eclectic roster of shows with Frank Darabont at the wheel and has now filled the void left by Lost. Actually, it just might be the new Lost: The sheriff is clearly the new Jack, the old guy is clearly is new Locke, the redneck is clearly the new Sawyer, and the CDC headquarters they break into in the finale? Clearly the new hatch.
9. Beautiful People (Logo) - This single-camera coming-of-age sitcom that takes place in 1990's England is every bit of camp, poignant, and heartwarming as the memoirs of Barney's creative director Simon Doonan.
10. Oprah: The Farewell Season (Syndicated) - Sure, her Ultimate Favorite Things was over the top ("Everyone gets a 2012 Volkswagon Beetle!") and that season premiere was insane ("Everyone's coming with me to Australiaaaaa!"), but extravagant giveaways aside, O's 25th season is sizing up to be her most impressive to date. The groundbreaking "200 Men" show was an astonishing and taboo-shattering lesson in sociology. Her return to Williamson, West Virginia revisited the show's town hall meeting where bigotry and homophobia reared their ugly heads in 1987 when a young man with AIDS, Mike Sisco, stirred up his community by taking a dip in the public pool; the tense hour was a then-and-now look at how divided our United States truly are. And then there was the parade of how'd-she-get-them celebrities: Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand, the cast of The Sound of Music, Ricky Martin, The Color Purple reunion, Marie Osmond...By this time next year her absence from daytime television will still be felt. There is, and never will be, anyone like Oprah Winfrey.
+ Holy Acrobatics: Pink's stirring performance of "Glitter in the Air" at The Grammys.
+ Holy Pregnancy: Pink's raucous performance of "Raise Your Glass" at the American Music Awards.
+ Whoopi and Joy's walk off-stage during Bill O'Reilly's interview on The View.
+ Let's Hope This Doesn't Become the Next Heroes: The Event on NBC
+ Why Hate Crimes Exist: The A-List: New York on Logo.
+ Most Unintentional Sitcom of the Year: Sarah Palin's Alaska
+ And I thought Wipeout was the bottom of the ABC barrel: Skating with the Stars
MUSIC PICKS OF 2010
1. "Wonderful Life" by Hurts - It's one of those songs that tells a narrative and includes an inspiring chorus that shares one simple message: "Don't let go." This British duo is the best thing to happen to new-wave-pop since Depeche Mode. And the video, with its cool, Bret Easton Ellis aesthetic, is soooo 1987 it, well, hurts. In a brilliant way of course:
2. "Oh No!" by Marina and the Diamonds - Armed with some Regina Spektor-like vocals while filling in the void left by Lily Allen, who went through some pregnancy drama this year, Marina (she's really just a solo act; don't let the name fool you) arrived with this breath-of-fresh-air single, a spunky anthem of self-deprecating independence:
3. The Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green - Big, ballsy, and brassy, the former Gnarls Barkley founder offered the year's boldest (and most celebrated) chorus with "F**k You" and continued to deliver the soulful goods on his solo album.
4. "The High Road" by Broken Bells - The Shins-Danger Mouse collaboration (now playing in the trailer for Rabbit Hole) may be a downer but consider it a moody and mesmerizing meditation on all the shit you've been through...and then, release. Quite possibly the best tune for any given therapy session.
5. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West - The hip-hop douchebag who knows he's a douchebag proves that he's still an industry force (and pioneer) to be reckoned with. His fifth album - what many are calling his best yet - is indeed a masterwork full of venomous lines, epic instrumentals, and a powerful narrative that never strays from its jagged path.
6. "Dancing On My Own" by Robyn - The Swedish electropop songstress gives us a surprisingly resonant dance gem which happens to be an all-too-familiar inner monologue most of us have experienced whenever we longed to be with that One That Got Away.
7. "Please Don't Let Me Go" by Olly Murs - An irresistibly breezy single from The X Factor runner-up, a 21st-century Julian Lennon (just listen to his other single, "Thinking of Me") with throwback vocals and pop sensibilities that charm, tingle, and delight.
8. "I'm in Love With You" by Timbaland feat. Tyson Ritter - Possibly the best Timbaland single that never was, this collaboration with the lead dude from All-American Rejects is simply a joyful declaration (the title says it all) set to some signature funkage that's catchy as hell. Close your eyes, and you can almost imagine a raspier Justin Timberlake behind that mic:
9. "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love" by Usher feat. Pitbull - The infectious, get-off-your-ass-and-dance single got us falling in love again with Usher and applauding his newfound Europop sensibilities. Thank you, Max Martin, for showing him the way.
10. "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence and the Machine - Technically a track from '09, but rightfully put in the spotlight in 2010, the earthy, uplifting single (along with that Eat Pray Love trailer) put Florence Welch on the map, winning over millions with its roaring imperatives and near-tribal-like orchestrations.
- "Raise Your Glass" by Pink
- "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele
- Anything sung by Idina Menzel and Lea Michele together on Glee: First there was "I Dreamed a Dream," taken from "Dream On," the episode that also guest-starred Neil Patrick Harris. This moving rendition of the Broadway classic was performed on an empty stage, rendering viewers speechless as they watched a perfectly cast mother-daughter team knock it out of the theater. Then, there was the cover of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," this time done as a jazzy piano ballad. Who knew?
+ Soundtrack of the Year: TRON: Legacy by Daft Punk (Runner-up: Burlesque)
+ Empowering Dance Single of the Year: Kelly Rowland's "Commander"
+ Best Vampire Weekend Song That's Not by Vampire Weekend: "Something Good Can Work" by Two Door Cinema Club
+ Bruno Mars - Did you not see his performances on SNL back in October???
+ The Biggest Musical Event No One Paid Attention To: We Are The World 25 for Haiti
+ Best Jabs at Justin Bieber: the Shaved Bieber iPhone app and the Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber website
+ The I'd-Rather-Jam-a-Hot-Poker-in-My-Ear Singles of the Year: "Like a G6" by Far East Movement, "Blah Blah Blah" by Ke$ha featuring 3OH!3, "Mine" by Taylor Swift.
And there you have it.
Farewell 2010. Hello 2011.
Still processing the fact that 1991 will now have been 20 years ago,