Sunday, July 28, 2013

Highlights Of The Year: 2006 Thru 2011

Pop Candy’s Top 100 People Of 2006
(Whitney Matheson, USA Today, 2006)
It's that time again! Every year I compile a list of the top 100 people, and each day this week I'll unveil 20 new names and post Q&As with a few of them.  What makes this list different from the gazillion other end-of-the-year countdowns? Well, I try to choose folks who contributed to the culture in some way; therefore, you won't see a lot of socialites and tabloid fodder. You might not recognize some of these names, either -- I tried to not just recap the past 12 months but to mention some people that might've passed you by.  And the countdown begins:

100. Bob Balaban. He may have appeared in two of the biggest disapppointments of the year -- Lady in the Water and For Your Consideration -- but the soft-spoken and sharp-witted actor was a much-needed bright spot in both. Let's give the man some props ... and prime parts to play in 2007.

99. Robyn Chapman. The artist, teacher and creative talent produced one of my favorite publications of the year, a zine about glasses called Hey, 4-Eyes!. The mag enhanced my dreams of achieving perfect vision and a pair of frames cool enough to be envied by, say, Bob Balaban.

98. Jemima Rooper. As spunky Thelma on the enchanting BBC drama Hex, Rooper proves that not every prime-time heroine must be a svelte, boy-crazy blonde. (Not that I'm complaining about Veronica, the cheerleader and such, but still ... a little variety never hurt anyone.)

97. Paul Dano. His performance as mopey, miming Dwayne in Little Miss Sunshine entertained me just as much as his role as jaded, burger-flipping Brian in Fast Food Nation. Up next is a role in a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, which seems like it could be a perfect match.

96. Marisha Pessl. Love it or not, Pessl's pop-culture-laden debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics got people talking. And reading. I have a feeling even her detractors are eager to see what the 29-year-old writer whips up next.

95. Mark and Jay Duplass. After seeing the brothers' low-budget indie, The Puffy Chair, I felt like climbing into a van, burying myself in indie rock and daring to hang with relatives ... or just napping in a recliner, which is what I was far more likely to do. Rent it on Netflix if you haven't already.

94. Danielle Friedland. Little did this blogger know her website -- the Celebrity Baby Blog -- would hit it big in infant-alicious 2006. If you're hungry for photos of actresses in maternity outfits (and, hey, who isn't?), this is a good place to whet your appetite.

93. Robert Kirkman. Thanks to his addictive comic-book series, The Walking Dead, 2006 officially became The Year I Got Into Zombies. Kirkman's fast-paced storylines and fully developed characters keep me gnawing my nails between issues. I'm surprised HBO hasn't called yet. (Or maybe they have, and he isn't telling.)

92. Dodge. That's what readers call the man behind My Old Kentucky Blog, a hip music blog loaded with sonic tips and original content. Like a shot of Kentucky bourbon, MOKB goes down smoothly with a pleasant, non-snarky aftertaste.

91. Daniela Sea. As Moira/Max, Sea's character shook up The L Word (in a good way) and opened the series to new conversations about class, gender and identity. She also surfaced in John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus and performed with her band, the Exciting Conclusion. Now if her L Word character can dump Jenny, all will be well with the world.

90. Marianne Faithfull. The rocker and survivor underwent treatment for breast cancer and announced a full recovery within the same year. She also made an all-too-brief cameo in Marie Antoinette as Kirsten Dunst's mother. And though it seems she's already lived several lifetimes, on Dec. 29 she'll celebrate her 60th birthday.

89. Emmitt Smith. Millions of men had already screamed at TV screens watching Emmitt shuffle his feet; this year, it was the ladies' turn. He quickly established himself as the underdog on Dancing with the Stars and beat a bunch of goofy '80s stars for the ultimate title.

88. Autumn Reeser. Though her perky and oddly lovable Taylor Townsend hasn't singlehandedly made The OC worth watching again, she deserves a hefty chunk of the credit. Sure, this show is now way too geeky to appeal to the Laguna Beach audience, but who cares? Mischa Barton never seemed so overrated.

87. Paul Rachman. The director transformed Steven Blush's American Hardcore into a funny, informative and soundtrack-packed doc that sent me racing to the Internet afterward. (Yes, I realize that doesn't sound very punk rock, but whatever. I had some research to do.)
86. Laurie Metcalf. Desperate Housewives has had its share of disturbed neighbors, but Metcalf made Carolyn Bigsby one worth coming back to watch each week. Too bad her story arc has passed -- perhaps now she could spice up Gilmore Girls?

85. Meerkats. They're long-limbed, wide-eyed and make for a far better reality show than Big Brother: All Stars. (And did you know that if you put a pair of big sunglasses on one of them, it looks exactly like Nicole Richie?)

84. Ric Burns. His three-hour Andy Warhol documentary for PBS' American Masters series offered an updated portrait of the artist with rarely seen footage and new interviews. If you missed it, check it out on DVD.

83. Kevin Smith. This year the director spared audiences dogma and J. Lo and simply gave them what they wanted: more Clerks. Surprisingly, the results weren't bad, even if we were forced to believe that Rosario Dawson would actually fall for Dante.

82. Richard Donner. The director finally got to present Superman II his way on a new DVD edition and pen a few issues of Action Comics. Somewhere, General Zod is smiling.

81. Sara Ramirez. The Grey's Anatomy star continued to rock her own style as Callie, the most refreshing and un-Grey's Anatomy-like character on the series. (See? I told you I don't dislike everything about this show.)

80. David Lynch. Though reviews for his new movie, Inland Empire, have been mixed, you have to admire the man for doing things his own way, including distributing the film himself. This year also saw the DVD release of Eraserhead (finally!), and Lynch continues to update his website with wonderfully unexpected material. He should've been a weatherman.

79. Howie Mandel. Never underestimate the power of a soul patch: Last year Bo Bice swept the nation with a fraction of facial hair. This year the territory belongs to the Deal or No Deal host, who has snagged Regis Philbin's crown as the King of All Game Shows. I may never understand the man's popularity, but I've learned to accept it. With his shiny head and stuffed briefcases, he's Daddy Warbucks for a new generation.

78. Catherine O'Hara. Plastic surgery is as common as Starbucks cups among Hollywood actresses, though you don't find a lot of them willing to parody it in studio films. Not so with O'Hara, whose satire of an aging actress in For Your Consideration was so dead-on it was almost painful to watch.

77. Lizzy Caplan. As sharp-tongued Kat on CBS' The Class, she doesn't get nearly enough screen time against such a large ensemble cast. If the show doesn't last, I hope she won't disappear with it.

76. Courtney Love. All in all, it was a pretty tame year for Courtney: She stayed sober and kept a fairly low profile. (Sure, she posed nude in a magazine, but that's par for the course.) After reading her diaries, Dirty Blonde, I even started to like her a bit more. Maybe next year that comeback will really happen.

75. Ghostface. The Wu-Tang Clan rapper impressed critics and fans with Fishscale -- and he won me over with a performance at South by Southwest. This week saw the release of the bonus album More Fish, and I'm anxious to hear where his solo career takes him next.

74. Ben Affleck. He stayed a safe distance from photographers, remained with one woman (and child) the entire year and limited himself to one solid movie role. Thank you, Affleck. That wasn't so hard, was it?

73. Sofia Coppola. Marie Antoinette wasn't Lost in Translation, but, come on, could anything have followed Lost in Translation? Despite its faults with the script, I did find Coppola's work visually stunning on the big screen. And, hey, she also gave birth, which is no small production, either.

72. Sanaa Lathan. Her character's arrival on Nip/Tuck took some getting used to, but sexy-and-unnerving Michelle soon became part of the creepy family. Thank goodness we never had to witness any intense love scenes between her character and Larry Hagman.

71. Mary Lynn Rajskub. As Chloe on 24, MLR is, well, simply the awesomest. Last season opened with Chloe running from a one-night stand, so I can't imagine what's in for her in 2007: A bomb strapped to her chest? Helicopter chase? Wild cougar? (Oh, wait. They've already done that last one.)

70. Joanna Newsom. Her lovely new album, Ys, managed to be even lovlier than her last album. It is perhaps the only CD where, as I listen, I find myself playing "air harp."

69. Justin Kirk. As Mary Louise Parker's brother-in-law on Weeds, he gets the best lines. Unfortunately, I can't print 98% of them, so I'll leave you to a little YouTube search. (And if you want to see much more of the guy, check out this year's indie Flannel Pajamas, where he does some full-frontal action.)

68. Larry Clark. The Kids director returned with what I thought was his most fully realized and engaging movie yet, a story about Latino skaters in South Central Los Angeles called Wassup Rockers. That Janice Dickinson cameo still hasn't left my mind.

67. Lukas Rossi. Some people thought he had sex appeal; others thought he looked like a Monchichi doll. Eventually, Rossi went on to win CBS' Rock Star: Supernova and either become a household name or fade into obscurity. Considering viewers may not know the band's album is already in stores, the outlook doesn't look so good.

66. Robin Weigert. There were many reasons it pained me to say goodbye to Deadwood, but a big one was because I didn't want to lose Weigert's brilliant Calamity Jane. I'd like to think her character still lingers somewhere, happy ... and drunk. Very drunk.

65. Will Oldham. Oldham is best known as a musician (he has also recorded as Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Palace), but his performance in Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy made me wish he pursued more acting roles. The film follows two male friends who take a weekend camping trip. Oldham performed with such ease that I felt like I was right there on the journey with him.

64. Ellen Page. The teen actress scared the pant off me with Hard Candy (she scared my husband more) and received a bigger paycheck as Kitty Pryde in X-Men: The Last Stand. In 2007 she aims to beat Morgan Freeman with at least six movies on the way.

63. Justin Rice. Unless something goes horribly wrong, his band, Bishop Allen, will fulfill their ambitious goal of releasing an EP every month in 2006. (The kicker is they're all great!) Rice also appeared in one of my favorite flicks of the year, Mutual Appreciation.

62. Corinne Bailey Rae. Her debut album brought soulful, unexpected bliss, and knowing this is just the beginning of her career is just an added bonus. The question is, can she keep it up?

61. Tom Waits. Just to prove he's still kicking high, the singer-songwriter released a three-disc box set of rarities and new material -- just in time for the holidays. Wise man.

60. Christine Ebersole. As a die-hard Grey Gardens fan, I didn't think it would be possible for me to accept a musical based on the cult documentary. To my surprise, Ebersole nailed the main part -- and man, am I glad I saw it before it went to Broadway.

59. Neil Patrick Harris. Yep, he's gay. Does that change how much we love him on How I Met Your Mother? Not at all, though I'd be OK with never laying eyes upon Barney's creepy porn library again.

58. Robert Pollard. Who will release more albums in 2007: Bob Pollard or Ryan Adams? This year the former Guided by Voices frontman rocked nonstop with the fantastic two-disc From a Compound Eye, another album called Normal Happiness and bombastic performances. Sadly, an unfortunate leg injury has sidelined his high kicks and microphone twirls for an indefinite period of time.

57. Robert Altman. The legendary director of many of my favorite movies (Nashville, Short Cuts, MASH) charmed critics with the sweet and heartfelt Prairie Home Companion before passing away at the age of 81. He will be missed, but at least we have the movies.

56. Andre 3000. Never one to waste time, the Outkast member came out with the long-awaited Idlewild and executive produced and voiced the Cartoon Network's Class of 3000. Next up: a flick with Will Ferrell. Not too shabby.

55. Jason Dohring. Throughout the year, I found myself repeatedy asking one question: Is it OK to have a crush on Veronica Mars' boyfriend? Dohring's Logan Echolls started 2006 as an untrustworthy bad boy, but he wound up a heartbroken sensitive lad. Heck, the guy can even make a beaded necklace look sexy.

54. Laura Albert. Longtime fans of young writer JT LeRoy were surprised to learn that the person behind his words was really Albert, a 40-year-old woman. I never saw this one coming -- then again, I thought Tom Hanks looked like a convincing woman on Bosom Buddies, so detective work isn't exactly my forte.

53. Frank Portman. His debut novel, King Dork, was one of my favorite books of the year -- and probably the funniest novel I read in 2006. Finally, readers are discovering what fans of Portman's band, The Mr. T Experience, knew all along: This guy deserves to be heard. As long as they don't mangle the script or cast someone from the Disney Channel, I can't wait for the movie.

52. Michel Gondry. I walked into The Science of Sleep not knowing a thing about it, and I'm glad I did. Gondry's dreamlike vision is one of a handful of fims that actually stimulated and inspired me at the theater this year instead of slipping me into a restless coma.

51. The Roloff family. Little people ... big ratings. The stars of TLC's Little People, Big World became unlikely icons this year, and I discovered a reality series that didn't rely on hot tubs, drunken frat boys or crying models for entertainment value. (They did have a pumpkin launcher, though.)

50. Brian K. Vaughan. My passion for Y: The Last Man is no secret, and this year the comic-book series continued to keep readers on edge. In addition, Vaughan continued his other addictive series, Ex Machina, and penned the moving and thoughtful Pride of Baghdad. At this point, I'll buy anything with his name on the cover.

49. Sufjan Stevens. You'd think the guy would take a holiday after such success with 2005's Illinois but not so: He bounded back with more songs about the Land of Lincoln on The Avalanche and a holiday box set, Songs for Christmas. We love you Sufjan but how about just chillin' in '07? You deserve it.

48. Art Brut. One of my favorite bands of the year sings about drinking Hennessey with Morrissey and demands audiences at their shows form bands of their own. On top of being a brilliant live act, Art Brut put out a must-hear album that I'm still listening to nine months after buying it. I'm glad the lead singer shaved his ironic mustache, though -- if there's one trend that died this year, that would be it.

47. Lonelygirl15. Now she seems ridiculous and a tad annoying, but admit it: For awhile there, this lady had you fooled with her pretty, perfect YouTube videos. You might've even been obsessed. Or perhaps a little bit in love.

46. "Weird Al" Yankovic. We never realize just how much we miss the guy until he comes back. Straight Outta Lynwood was Al in classic form, mocking things we all love to mock in a way only Al can mock them. He's white, he's nerdy and he makes no apologies.

45. Al Gore. Who would've guessed that a) the former vice president would become a box-office hipster this year; and b) it would all happen because of a documentary about his global warming slideshow? I'm eager to see what he has in store for An Inconvenient Truth 2: Electric Boogaloo. I hear Lindsay Lohan is itchin' to make a cameo.

44. Amy Sedaris. I'll be the first person to admit that I didn't like the film adaptation of Strangers with Candy. But you know what? I loved the Strangers with Candy publicity tour -- especially the tumbling! I also liked Sedaris' hospitality book. Martha Stewart could learn from this woman.

43. Conan O'Brien. I swear he was on this list even before the whole Horny Manatee story broke. This year Conan hosted the Emmys, voiced a pasty superhero and continued putting on quality shows that, in my opinion, are consistently funnier than Saturday Night Live. I dread having to choose between his Tonight Show and Dave Letterman in 2009.

42. Richard Linklater. It was a year of thought-provoking, disturbing films for the director, who followed the animated A Scanner Darkly with Fast Food Nation. As a special bonus, his Dazed and Confused got the deluxe DVD treatment fans had been waiting for -- and now I can watch hours of Wooderson and O'Bannion outtakes.
41. John Mayer. Jessica Simpson rumors, car commercials and plain album covers aside, I can't help but like the guy. What makes him stand out from all the other cute, young guitar strummers on the scene? Well, for one thing, he actually has talent.

40. Madonna. When the 48-year-old wasn't selling concert tickets (to what became the most successful concert tour of a female artist in history), she made plans for a fashion line, adopted a child and made more plans to rule the world from her underground lair.

39. Matthew Perry. After series with Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow failed to find audiences, it looked like a curse could be in the cards for the Friends gang. Not so: Perry turned out to be one of the best things about NBC's Studio 60 -- and even if I'm not a devoted fan yet, he's one of the big reasons I keep coming back each week.

38. Taylor Hicks. Who knew the world was ready for -- or even needed -- the next Michael McDonald in 2006, but that's exactly what it got. Hicks turned the American Idol model upside down and proved that, in the land of reality television, all of the voting power really does belong to the women over 40.

37. Tom Green. Some may have written him off after Freddy Got Fingered, but the comedian returned to the spotlight this year with Tom Green Live, a first-of-its-kind Internet talk show. Green's model could be the wave of the future: Why watch stars merely being interviewed on TV when you can actually call and interact with them live on his online show?

36. Steve Irwin. The Crocodile Hunter's death sent a shock throughout the world and reminded many of what a huge impact he had on his young fans. Neither his family nor his viewers will forget his legacy.

35. Forest Whitaker. The actor didn't stop to take a breath all year, starting with his role on The Shield, then moving on to playing Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, then heading to ER for a guest role. Whatever the medium, whatever the intensity, Forest is the man.

34. Natalie Portman. What do you do after Star Wars? Shave your head and co-star with another guy who wears a mask and a cape. V for Vendetta was one of my favorite movies of the year, and I can't imagine a better Evey than Portman. I can only hope of seeing much more of her in 2007.

33. Thom Yorke. Now truly, did anyone think the Radiohead frontman's solo album would suck? The Eraser teased our eardrums and made the wait for the band's next record seem even longer than it did before.

32. Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band returned in fine form -- sound-wise and appearance-wise -- and put on one of the best sets I saw all year. (And is it just me, or does Anthony Kiedis look younger than he did 10 years ago? Has he found the Fountain of Youth, and, if so, why hasn't he told Flea?)

31. Bruce Springsteen. I love it when The Boss experiments. This time around, he tried folk music with We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. Just like most Springsteen songs, these tracks are great for singing loudly and pumping your fist in the air -- and, as an added bonus, the lyrics are a little easier to remember if you've had a few too many PBRs.

30. Michael C. Hall. Thanks to the awesomely addictive Dexter, the actor has completely shed his image as the creepy funeral director from Six Feet Under and can now be embraced as a creepy serial killer. His agent must be so proud.

29. Beck. His Information was met with mixed reviews, but it's still on heavy rotation in my car and in my head. (And how could you not love the free stickers that came with it?)

28. Ryan Gosling. This guy is officially the coolest former member of the Mickey Mouse Club. His performance as a drug-addicted teacher in Half Nelson knocked the wind out of me. At times, I didn't want the film to end; during other moments, I had a hard time looking at the screen. I love it when that happens (and it happens rarely).

27. The Raconteurs. It was refreshing to hear Jack White rocking out with more than one person -- and wearing colors beyond red and white. Broken Boy Soldiers was fun, solid rock 'n' roll -- and we can always use more of that, right?

26. Michael Emerson. As Henry Gale/Benjamin Linus on Lost, he scares me way more than the black smoke or Rousseau or anything that could be in Walt's pretty little head. Emerson's character has already become a centerpiece of this season, and who knows how long it will be before we truly know who he is. After this gig is up, he'll never get away with playing a nice guy again.

25. Brad Pitt. Could he really nab an Oscar nomination for Babel? Whatever happens, at least the one film project he chose this year was a good one. (Keep in mind the guy is coming off a string of Troy and Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Ocean's movies.) And I hear he has some kids with this actress or something ...

24. America Ferrera. She's far from ugly, but she plays it well on TV. It's impossible not to like the star of Ugly Betty, and I can't help but think the show could've tanked with any other actress in the lead. Besides, with a name like that, she was bound to be a star.

23. Ricky Gervais. Podcasts! Extras! An episode of The Simpsons! An episode of The Office! For Your Consideration! Night at the Museum! Other stuff I'm probably forgetting! This man can do no wrong.

22. Cat Power. The singer got sober, and The Greatest album and tour was her greatest yet. At this very moment, I'm sure someone is a) driving; b) crying; c) falling asleep; and d) making out to this record.

21. Katee Sackhoff. What, you thought we'd get through this list without a Battlestar Galactica reference? There is no other female character like Sackhoff's Starbuck on television -- I watch her, and I feel inspired, energized, entertained and understood. I just wish more people watched so they'd realize what they're missing.

20. TV on the Radio. My favorite song of 2006? Without a doubt, it's Wolf Like Me. And the more I listen to TV on the Radio's album, Return to Cookie Mountain, the more I find things to love about it.

19. Samuel L. Jackson. OK, so Snakes on a Plane ultimately didn't "bring it" to theaters. But for much of 2006 it was the conversation topic among geeks and sixth-graders alike, and much of that had to do with Samuel L. Jackson's suave, authoritative presence ... and the title. (The movie hasn't seemed to hurt his career, either: He has at least six flicks on tap for '07.)

18. Jack Black. He rocked, he wrestled and he made out with Kate Winslet. All in all, it wasn't a shabby year ... even if some people disagree.

17. Rainn Wilson. What would we have done without The Office's Dwight Schrute? No secret Dwangela relationship, no visit to the beet farm, no superhuman feats of waffle-eating ... It's strange how there's no other character like him, but he reminds us all of someone we know.

16. Sleater-Kinney. I'm still hoping the punk band's "indefinite hiatus" isn't permanent, but at least I got to see them before they said goodbye. They left us with great music, enviable stage moves and no cheesy and prolonged farewell tour, which is pretty much all any fan can ask for. (In fact, a handful of semi-retired divas could learn a thing or two from these women.)

 15. Masi Oka. Save the cheerleader, save the TV season. This year Heroes' Hiro became a person worth rooting for, and I look forward to spending many more hours watching Oka squint.

14. Spike Lee. I don't know anyone who watched his documentary, When the Levees Broke, with dry eyes. He told the story of Hurricane Katrina's devastation completely and poignantly by simply having the courage to point the camera and listen.

13. Martin Scorsese. The Departed was one of my favorite movies this year -- heck, I might even rank it at the top -- and I'm hoping 2007 will finally land Marty his Oscar. How many directors are still producing quality work 30-something years into their careers? He's still got it, and he's got an impressive clan of actors along for the ride.

12. Rosie O'Donnell. After some time off the grid, she returned in full force: on The View, on Nip/Tuck, in a documentary and, of course, on her blog. Whether people listen or not, one thing is for sure: They sure like her a lot more than Star Jones.

11. Alec Baldwin. Who knew the guy would become such a king of comedy? His role in The Departed provided much comic relief (I can still think of his sweat stains and snort); on NBC's 30 Rock, he has already eclipsed Tina Fey as the star. If only Saturday Night Live could recruit him for the cast, maybe that show might return to its former glory.

10. Bob Dylan. At 65, he released an acclaimed album, Modern Times, that shot straight to No. 1. He started a cool satellite radio show, the Theme Time Radio Hour. He continued performing. And that mustache? The young kids may not be able to pull it off anymore, but Bob can do whatever he pleases.

9. Gnarls Barkley. We knew in the spring that Crazy would be The Smash Song of The Summer, and it was. To make things even cooler, Gnarls dressed in funky outfits and made psychedelic videos.

8. Will Ferrell. He gave fans what they wanted with Talladega Nights and then tested the waters with Stranger than Fiction. Result: It's OK to get serious once in awhile, as long as you balance it by taking off your clothes and running around in your underwear. One day, perhaps I will understand why my husband finds "shake 'n' bake" so hilarious.

7. Suri Cruise. This kid's face was kept from the public for months, and then when it was revealed ... well, wasn't it kind of worth it? I mean, come on, she's insanely cute! Most gossipy stories are cruel or depressing. I'll take adorable-baby-with-hip-haircut any day.

6. Bono/Oprah. I've decided to combine both one-named superpowers into the same entry this year. (Call them Boprah.) Once again, they spent much of their time spreading their wealth and good cheer to the masses. If Boprah merit badges don't exist yet, the Boy and Girl Scouts should seriously consider them.

5. Scarlett Johansson. Another year of being super-sexy -- how can she handle the pressure? Scarlett also graced The Prestige and Woody Allen's Scoop, a movie I didn't think was nearly as terrible as critics made it out to be. (However, I can't say the same for The Black Dahlia.) I'm kind of hoping those Tom Waits reports are true. If not, maybe she could play Tom's daughter in a Jim Jarmusch movie or something.

4. Steve Carell. With the success of The Office and Oscar buzz for Little Miss Sunshine, Steve is certainly flying high right now. He made me laugh and cringe throughout the year -- and I can't help but have a strange little crush on the man.

3. Stephen Colbert. I wish the 2008 election would hurry up and get here, because I can't wait to see Colbert and his truthiness tackle the race. His performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner will be talked about for years to come; not even Jon Stewart would've tried to pull that one off.

2. Borat. He came, he saw and he conquered. He also took off his clothes, broke stuff, stalked Pam Anderson, offended people, frightened other people, drank a lot, got sued and became incredibly overexposed. But hey, that's America for you! If you saw the movie on opening weekend, you know it offered a cinematic experience like no other.

1. The YouTube dudes. I hope this year's No. 1 pick isn't a letdown, but think about it: Did 2006 really belong to any one celebrity? This year was all about ourselves -- or, more specifically, watching, talking, uploading, rating, linking, and pausing ourselves until our index fingers became numb with bored and curious fervor. With YouTube's purchase by Google, its founders (aka Chad Hurley and Steven Chen) can now spend their time wading neck-high in Benjamins and sipping martinis made of liquid gold. The rest of us can only hope it means we'll be even less productive in the coming years. I can't wait.

That's all, folks! I hope you've enjoyed this year's list, and feel free to add anyone I overlooked in the comments.


From: Nancy
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2006 9:04 AM
To: Goodman, Richard
Subject: RE: A Blonde's Year in Review

Good one and it feels really appropriate today.

-----Original Message-----

From: Goodman, Richard
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2006 8:29 AM
To: Nancy
Subject: FW: A Blonde's Year in Review

Naturally I thought of you when I saw this.....

-----Original Message-----
From: Carla 
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2006 9:57 AM
Subject: A Blonde's Year in Review

A Blonde's Year in Review

January - Took a new scarf back to store because it was too tight.

February - Fired from pharmacy job for failing to print labels.....Helllloooo!!!.....bottles won't
fit in typewriter!!!

March - Got really excited.....finished jigsaw puzzle in 6 said "2-4 years!"

April - Trapped on escalator for hours.....power went out!!!

May - Tried to make Kool-Aid.....wrong instructions....8 cups of water won't fit into those little packets!!!

June - Tried to go water skiing.....couldn't find a lake with a slope.

July - Lost breast stroke swimming competition.....learned later, the other swimmers cheated, they used their arms!!!

August - Got locked out of my car in rain swamped because soft-top was open.

September - The capital of California is "C".....isn't it???

October - Hate M &M's.....they are so hard to peel.

November - Baked turkey for 4 1/2 days.....instructions said 1 hour per pound and I weigh 108!!!
December - Couldn't call 911....."duh".....there's no "eleven" button on the stupid phone!!!


The Past Sports Year Was Just A Tad Off-Kilter
(By Christine Brennan, USA Today, 2006)

It's been one long, strange journey through sports in 2006.  You knew it was going to be an odd year when it began with the hyped star of the Winter Olympics turning into the personification of sports disaster — not a gold medalist, but an oh-for-the-Olympics washout — and giving us a new verb: to Bode, as in, to fail, completely.  That's not all, of course. When the Super Bowl-winning quarterback ends up as a hood ornament on a 62-year-old woman's Chrysler New Yorker as she drives the streets of downtown Pittsburgh one late spring day, it's officially a bizarre year.  It's bad when the biggest event in world sports ends not with a bang, but with a head butt. When one player called the other's mother and sister a nasty name, it allowed this folly: an insult potentially changing the outcome of World Cup history.  It's a strange one when the Disney Feel-Good-Story-of-the-Year, Floyd Landis' triumphant Tour de France victory, ends in disgrace when our hero tested positive for high levels of testosterone and immediately came up with a handful of excuses, neglecting only the most obvious: The dog ate his drug test. Uncertainty lingered at year's end: Did he cheat or didn't he?

In 2006, it seemed, the villains had the heroes vastly outnumbered. The baseball Hall of Fame voting turned into a referendum on cheating, led by the now infamous Mark McGwire, whose fall from grace is rivaled only by that of Barry Bonds, whose march toward Hank Aaron's home run record was met, appropriately, by the sports world's strangest sounds of silence — and booing.  Baseball gave us other weirdness as well. Take the Detroit Tigers. Going from worst to first in the AL in three years, the Tigers' young pitching staff mowed down the most feared lineup in the game, that of the New York Yankees, in the first round of the playoffs, but then wasn't able to lob the ball to first or third base on simple infield putouts in the World Series. This kind of play allowed the worst team coming into the playoffs, the St. Louis Cardinals, to win another world championship.  The 2005 World Series champion Chicago White Sox didn't even qualify for the 2006 postseason but did create a stir by selling their game starting time to a sponsor. For $500,000 for three years, the White Sox agreed to start their games at 7:11.  In the National Football League, the return of Da Bears and the surprising domination of the San Diego Chargers finished off a year in which initials made a name for themselves. The new L.T. — LaDainian Tomlinson — was most dominant, rushing for more touchdowns than any other player in NFL history, but of course it was T.O. — Terrell Owens — who broke his 2005 record for creating the most insignificant yet omnipresent news of the year.

The sports world was held hostage in September by live reports of T.O.’s overdose of painkillers and supplements. Was it a suicide attempt? Was it a photo opportunity? Who knew?  His publicist did mention that T.O. had "25 million reasons why he should be alive," alluding to the number of dollars in his three-year contract with the Cowboys, so that pretty much cleared up the confusion.  But that wasn't all. T.O. also rode an exercise bike dressed as Lance Armstrong and spit on a player in December, with an entire postseason of possible antics yet to come.  All this strangeness kicked off at the Olympics in Torino, perhaps the least impressive Games ever held in terms of the quality of athletic competition.  Basically, everyone fell down. Figure skater Sasha Cohen stumbled twice in the first 30 seconds of her long program but still won the silver medal. In ice dancing, where no one ever falls, the last duo left standing won. (Not really, but almost.) The most famous skater of this generation, Michelle Kwan, barely made it past the opening ceremonies. She reinjured a groin muscle in practice 12 hours after the ceremonies ended and had to withdraw from the Games.  With Bode Miller going oh-for-five in his events after being the American cover boy before the Games, the torch was passed to one true hero, gold medal-winning speedskater Joey Cheek, who donated his Olympic winnings to charity, and one intriguing counterculture hero, gold medal snowboarder Shaun White, The Flying Tomato. Hard to believe it was left to the produce section to save the Games for the USA.

All this American failure on the world stage continued once events concluded in Italy. The list was long: the World Baseball Classic, the men's and women's world basketball championships, the men's soccer World Cup and golf's Ryder Cup.  We're No. 1?  How about No. 2? Or maybe No. 3.  Which leads us to the turbulent year of Tiger Woods, who remains the most famous athlete on the planet. From the nadir of springtime, when he lost his father Earl to cancer and missed the cut at the U.S. Open, Woods bounced back with the kind of ferocity only he exhibits on the world stage, winning the British Open, the PGA and almost everything else he entered in the second half of the season.

But it was his tearful finish at Royal Liverpool, where he sobbed over his late father once his victory was complete, that proved the machine really was just a man.  College sports also provided mixed signals. While Texas quarterback Vince Young single-handedly upset Southern California for the BCS title in the Rose Bowl and the Maryland women's basketball team provided the most inspiring performance in the best game of either the men's or women's Final Fours, a cloud hung over college sports as well, thanks to the cable TV story of the year, the Duke men's lacrosse case. 

Proving that even so-called minor sports at our most esteemed universities can fall into the abyss we normally reserve for the professional leagues, Duke suspended its program and fired the coach, starting anew in the fall as three players' legal battles continued.  The pendulum swung back and forth all year. Hootie Johnson left the chairmanship of Augusta National, replaced by the seemingly more open-minded Billy Payne; Paul Tagliabue left as commissioner of the NFL, where he was replaced by protégé Roger Goodell. While Barry Bonds continued to play baseball in front of big crowds and seek dubious records, the men whose reporting revealed him as a cheater, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, were facing the ignominy of jail time.  The popular Andre Agassi retired from professional tennis, leaving the men's game in the steady — if far less exciting — care of Roger Federer, one of the greatest to ever play. And the anti-Kournikova, Maria Sharapova, won another major, the U.S. Open, proving you can look great and play even greater.

Winning wasn't quite as easy for others. Auto racing's Danica Patrick and golf's Michelle Wie were still looking for their first win, and the search will become more intense with increased media scrutiny in 2007. University of Miami football fell from grace with an ugly fight and numerous losses.  Michigan's football team was ranked second in the nation for much of the season but lost out on the mythical BCS title game because it couldn't beat rival Ohio State.  And then there was the sad case of Barbaro, the horse that looked unbeatable until a misstep out of the gate at the Preakness ended his Triple Crown run — and his career.  To end the year, the news didn't get much better. A simple NBA game in December turned into a slugfest, and it didn't happen in just any old place. It occurred in the world's media capital, New York, at the famous Madison Square Garden. Most Americans probably saw the highlights by noon the next day. The worst culprit was Denver's Carmelo Anthony, a young man whose star had been on the rise in 2006 before he threw a ridiculous punch and was suspended for 15 games.  This, of course, was the lesson of 2006. Nothing seemed to go right for too long in sports. It caught up with everyone, from Bode to, eventually, the man they call Melo.


What Made 2007 Memorable

(By Parade magazine, December 30, 2007)

California Ablaze: Fierce winds stoked out-of-control wildfires in arid Southern California, burning more than 500,000 acres, destroying about 2000 houses and causing the evacuation of nearly 1 million people. Los Angeles County prosecutors believe one fire was set by a 10-year-old boy who ignited brush while playing with matches.

Bonds: Hall of Shame
Despite breaking Hank Aaron’s all-time record of 755 career home runs in August, Barry Bonds may finally have struck out. The controversial slugger recently pleaded not guilty to five felony perjury and obstruction charges for lying under oath about his alleged use of steroids. His next hearing is scheduled for February.

Justice Dept. Shake-up
After a long standoff with Congress over his role in the dismissal of federal prosecutors, Alberto R. Gonzales—the nation’s first Hispanic U.S. Attorney General and a fierce Bush loyalist—resigned. His replacement, Michael Mukasey, had a shaky confirmation hearing over the definition of “torture.”

Black Day In Blacksburg

In the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, Sueng-Hui Cho killed 33 people, including himself, on Virginia Tech’s campus in Blacksburg. The April 16 tragedy prompted changes to Virginia law, which had let Cho, diagnosed with a mental illness, purchase handguns.

Failing Bridges

The rush-hour collapse that killed 13 in Minneapolis in August prompted a look at decaying bridges nationwide. Federal Highway Administration data show that nearly 25% of America’s 600,000 bridges are “structurally deficient” or “obsolete.” The rush-hour collapse that killed 13 in Minneapolis in August prompted a look at decaying bridges nationwide. Federal Highway Administration data show that nearly 25% of America’s 600,000 bridges are “structurally deficient” or “obsolete.”

Gore's Trophy Year:
Al Gore, who in 2000 won the popular vote but not the Presidency, got some vindication in 2007. He won an Emmy, as well as an Oscar and the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to stop global warming.

Iraq War Surges: The war in Iraq continued even as political battles over how to run it raged at home. A newly Democratic Congress failed to stop the President’s controversial “surge”-  30,000 more troops to control the violence in Baghdad- or impose deadlines for withdrawal. But by November, there was some good news: Casualties and bombings were down, and there was a plan to bring home 20,000 troops.

Toxic Toys:  More than 19 million toys and other products made in China were recalled because of lead contamination in the paint or because they were made with magnets that could be lethal if swallowed. The recalls brought demands from consumer advocates and politicians for stronger import-safety standards.

Stem-Cell Breakthrough:
Scientists turned human skin cells into ones that mimic embryonic stem cells. This advance may allow more research into diseases such as Parkinson’s, currently being hobbled by laws that limit the use of stem cells.

A New Friend In France: 
Nicolas Sarkozy, proponent of free markets and a fan of the U.S., was elected president of France in May. A few months later, his countrymen merely shrugged at his divorce from his très insouciant wife, Cécilia.

Unrest Roils Pakistan:  Facing opposition, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, a U.S. counterterrorism ally, suspended his country’s constitution and imposed martial law. After massive protests and U.S. pressure, Musharraf agreed to give up command of the military and end the state of emergency. New elections are set for January.
iNeed an iPhone!
With buzz building for six months, buyers queued up for days in June to purchase Apple’s much-hyped smart phone for a hefty $599. Apple chief Steve Jobs dropped the price & gave $100 credits to early adopters. By Dec., 1.4 million of the innovative phones were sold.

An Updated Election: With key primaries moving up, Presidential campaigning began earlier and more intensely than ever before. YouTube debates and Internet outreach brought a new sense of populism to the race, while the mix of candidates—including a woman, an African-American, a Hispanic, a Mormon and six divorcés—reflected the rich diversity of America.

A Nuclear Threat--Or Not?: While President Bush and other officials started a drumbeat to war, 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Iran had stopped its efforts to develop nuclear weapons in 2003. In September, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad- whose country has been a destabilizing factor in the Middle East- visited New York City, sparking controversy over his appearance at Columbia University. Among other remarks, he questioned the Holocaust and insisted that there were no gay people in Iran.

Mortgage Meltdown: Home sales fell steeply nationwide, and prices plunged. Increasing defaults- a result of the crisis in the subprime mortgage market that affected at least 2 million home-owners- added more property to an oversupplied market and brought fears of recession.

Fat Chance: New York City, Philadelphia and other cities banned trans fats- a mainstay of fast foods- in restaurants. Meanwhile, major food manufacturers and vendors such as McDonald’s and Walt Disney Co. announced that they would be replacing the fats.

2007 Pop Culture Poll Results
( website)

What was the year's best movie kiss? What recent rehab grad has the best chance at staying sober? Who is the most annoying celebrity? Nearly 2,000 readers weighed in on these questions & more. View the results below.

1. Which event that made headlines in 2007 shocked you the most?

Owen Wilson's suicide attempt -- 60%
Paris Hilton actually serving time in jail -- 24%
Nude pics of High School Musical's Vanessa Hudgens surfacing online -- 9%
Britney Spears' child custody battle -- 7%

2. What was 2007's worst moment in the sports industry?
Michael Vick's vicious dog fighting ring -- 59%
Don Imus' racial slurs against the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team -- 17%
Marion Jones' steroid scandal -- 16%
Bill Belichick's video spying -- 6%
Isaiah Thomas' sexual harassment suit -- 3%

3. What was the best movie kiss of 2007?
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart in No Reservations -- 21%
Harry Potter and Cho Chang in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -- 19%
Angelina Jolie and Ray Winstone in Beowulf -- 17%
Adam Sandler and Kevin James in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry -- 17%
Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen in Talladega Nights -- 14%
Anne Hathaway & James McAvoy in Becoming Jane- 12%

4. Celebrity jailbird most likely to stay out of jail?
Martha Stewart -- 69%
Nicole Richie -- 12%
Paris Hilton -- 10%
Kiefer Sutherland -- 6%
Tommy Lee -- 2%
Michelle Rodriguez -- 1%

5. Which recent rehab grad do you think will stay clean for the long haul?

Keith Urban -- 55%
Mel Gibson -- 32%
Lindsay Lohan -- 5%
David Hasselhoff -- 5%
Courtney Love -- 2%

6. Who do you think is most likely to marry next?
Halle Berry -- 47%
Matthew McConaughey -- 24%
Brad Pitt -- 18%
George Clooney -- 9%
Oprah -- 2%

7. Who is the most adorable celebrity baby?
Ben and Jennifer's daughter, Violet Affleck -- 36%
Tom and Katie's daughter, Suri Cruise -- 20%
Brad and Angelina's daughter, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt -- 18%
Anna Nicole Smith's daughter, Dannielynn Smith -- 17%
Gwen and Gavin's son, Kingston Rossdale -- 9%

8. If you had to be stranded on an island with one person for a week, which would you choose?

Stephen Colbert -- 29%
Hillary Clinton -- 23%
Barack Obama -- 19%
George W. Bush -- 17%
Rudy Giuliani -- 12%

9. Who is the most talented young celebrity?
Miley Cyrus -- 25.%
Daniel Radcliffe -- 25%
Shia LeBeouf -- 17%
Hayden Panettiere -- 16%
Rihanna Zac Efron -- 10%
Zac Efron -- 7%

10. Which celebrity do you think has made the best adjustment to motherhood?
Jennifer Garner -- 46%
Brooke Shields -- 23%
Angelina Jolie -- 14%
Katie Holmes -- 6%
Gwen Stefani -- 6%
Madonna -- 5%

11. Which tabloid mom needs a parenting class the most?
Britney Spears -- 87%
Dina Lohan -- 6%
Courtney Love -- 4%
Pamela Anderson -- 2%
Kate Moss -- 1%

12. Who is the most annoying celebrity?
Rosie O'Donnell -- 44%
Paris Hilton -- 24%
Ann Coulter -- 16%
Heather Mills McCartney -- 12%
Perez Hilton -- 4%

13. Who is the most overexposed celebrity?
Britney Spears -- 50%
Paris Hilton -- 32%
Anna Nicole Smith -- 8%
Angelina Jolie -- 6%
Lindsay Lohan -- 4%

14. Which "bad guy" do you love to hate most?
Hannibal Lechter (Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs) -- 43%
Tony Soprano
(James Gandolfini -The Sopranos) - 18%
Michael Corleone
(Al Pacino in The Godfather) -- 16%
Tony Montana (Al Pacino in Scarface) -- 13%
Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington in American Gangster) -- 11%

15. What was the best-ever teen drama?
Beverly Hills 90210 -- 57%
Dawson's Creek --
The O.C. --
One Tree Hill --
Gossip Girl
-- 4%

Which celeb would you rather swap…

16. Your own kids with for a night?
The Jolie-Pitt Brood -- 52%
Posh and Beck's trio -- 25%
The Spears-Federline boys -- 12%
Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee's boys -- 7%
Michael Jackson's kids Prince Michael, Paris and Blanket -- 5%

17. Wardrobes with?
Sarah Jessica Parker -- 50%
Victoria Beckham -- 23%
Gwen Stefani -- 20%
Madonna -- 7%

18. Gossip with?
Oprah -- 46%
George Clooney -- 26%
Bill Clinton -- 19%
Perez Hilton -- 9%

19. Hair, makeup and accessory tips with?
Jennifer Aniston -- 61%
Victoria Beckham -- 18%
Jessica Simpson -- 17%
Nicole Richie -- 5%


Who is the hottest...

20. Mommy-to-be?
Halle Berry -- 59%
Jennifer Lopez -- 19%
Christina Aguilera -- 18%
Nicole Richie -- 3%

21. Clinton?
Bill -- 43%
Chelsea -- 30%
Hill -- 15%
Roger -- 12%

22. Jolie-Pitt?
Brad -- 41%
Angelina -- 33%
Shiloh -- 18%
Maddox2 -- 8%

23. "Hot Mess"?
Britney Spears -- 37%
Lindsay Lohan -- 27%
Owen Wilson -- 25%
Amy Winehouse -- 12%

24. Funnyman?
Adam Sandler -- 38%
Steve Carell -- 29%
Ben Stiller -- 29%
Andy Samberg -- 4%

25. Jessica?
Alba -- 40%
Sarah Jessica Parker -- 26%
Biel -- 19%
Simpson -- 15%

26. Perennial bachelor?
George Clooney -- 57%
Matthew McConaughey -- 27%
Jake Gyllenhall -- 10%
Ryan Seacrest -- 5%


Top 100 People of 2008
(Whitney Matheson, USA Today, 2008)

Yep, it's that time of year again!  As longtime Pop Candy readers know, each December I count down the year's top 100 people. What makes this list different from other "Best of 2008" lists? Well, for one thing, I spotlight a wide range of musicians, actors, writers and other artists, not just A-list folks. Also, I try to concentrate on those who made artistic contributions rather than stars who dominated gossip rags.  In other words, getting divorced, having plastic surgery or being on a reality show doesn't land you on this list. Making good music or a must-see film does. You may not recognize all of the names on here, and that's OK.

100. Laura Silverman. Her sister may get top billing on Comedy Central's The Sarah Silverman Program, but Laura's sweet nature, swift sense of humor and willingness to play the straight girl in Sarah's dirty world deserve some attention, too. Who's to say she shouldn't get a spinoff?


99. Herb and Dorothy Vogel. One of the most uplifting documentaries I saw this year was Herb and Dorothy, a film that profiles two art collectors who came from modest means. This couple illustrates that art is for everyone, and passion is a rare and important commodity.


98. Quitzow. The musician impressed me with her debut, Art College, which recalls Liz Phair and Peaches and makes me swivel my hips within the first five notes.


97. Alex Robinson. He dared to transport readers back to high school with his time-traveling graphic novel, Too Cool to Be Forgotten. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to correct your teenage mistakes, this provides answers ... and they're not always the expected ones.


96. Tilly and the Wall. The band released a fun record (o) that even landed them screen time on 90210. (Unfortunately, a date with Kelly Taylor was not part of the deal.)


95. Bradford Anderson. Yeah, I'll admit to an occasional General Hospital fix. And these days, the reason to watch is Anderson's gleefully awkward Spinelli, who I'm pretty sure is the only geek on daytime TV. Give guys like this more screen time, and soap ratings might start to soar.


94. Brigid Brannagh. Confession No. 2: I watched every episode of Army Wives' second season. And if I could hear Pamela's radio show at my apartment, I'd probably listen to that every day, too. Don't judge.


93. David Hajdu. The author delved into a fascinating (and horrifying) moment in history with The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America. If the scenes involving flaming comics don't give you nightmares, it makes for excellent bedtime reading.


92. Rebecca Hall. The relative unknown stole scenes from Scarlett Johansson in Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Now she could take home a Golden Globe as a reward for her fresh and funny performance.


91. Chip Kidd. The author and designer kept busy this year by publishing a new novel (The Learners) and a book of Japanese Batman comics (Bat-Manga!). His work always delights the eye and pleases the brain, so I'll take as much as I can get.


90. Simon Pegg. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People may have fizzled at the box office, but next year Pegg's role as Scotty in Star Trek will surely be devoured by hordes of sci-fi fans. And this year American fans finally got their hands on his cult TV series, Spaced, which was accompanied by a fun publicity tour.


89. Aziz Ansari. The comedian is rising beyond Human Giant proportions, thanks to a national tour, a funny blog and upcoming roles in the new Judd Apatow flick, Scrubs and the mysterious new series from Office producers. Whew -- I'm tired just from typing all of that.


88. Bon Iver. The band, led by singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, transfixed fans of all ages with a winning debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, and must-see live performances. (They're in Philly tonight, if you wanna see 'em.)


87. Terry Moore. The beloved comic-book author and artist stayed busy this year with his new self-published series, Echo, and a revamped version of Marvel's Runaways. Here's hoping he delivers those issues much faster than Joss Whedon did!


86. Carrie Brownstein. The former Sleater-Kinney rocker entered the blogosphere with Monitor Mix, her survey of the music world for NPR. She offers a fresh perspective and, occasionally, some delightful unreleased tracks.


85. Natalie Morales. Her character on ABC Family's The Middleman is smart, creative and tough -- and you don't get a lot of those on TV these days. Now all we can do is cross our fingers that the gang will return for another season ...


84. Duff Goldman. The Ace of Cakes baked the best dessert I ate all year, the toe-shaped Big Lebowski cake with White Russian icing. His Food Network series provides a delicious pop-culture fix each week, and I can think of no greater indulgence than to watch it while eating something iced and/or cream-filled.


83. Alina Simone. It's true that I can't decipher what Simone sings on her latest record, Everyone is Crying Out to Me Beware. But the singer's emotions come through on this powerful tribute to Russian punk/folk musician Yanka Dyagileva.


82. Eric Roberts. Who would've dreamed that 2008 would be the year of this Roberts' return? From Heroes to The Dark Knight to Entourage, the actor nabbed several small-but-memorable roles. (And if there's one lesson to be learned, it's never to eat Eric Roberts' mushrooms unless you're well-supervised and prepared.)


81. Dash Shaw. The young cartoonist produced the unforgettable, emotional 720-page Bottomless Belly Button. I finished it in a few hours, and I'm still sad that I couldn't remain in that world a little longer.


80. Ed Helms. Somehow I've gone from despising Andy on The Office to feeling somewhat protective of him, and I can't help but think Helms has something to do with it. Forgive me for any previous wishes I may have had for him to abandon Dunder Mifflin.



79. John Darnielle. While he's best known for his band, The Mountain Goats, this year the musician grabbed my attention with his book about Black Sabbath's Master of Reality. Instead of delivering a dry history of the record for Continuum's 33 1/3 series, he penned a moving, fictional account of a metal-loving teen trapped in a mental hospital. By the end, readers get a sense of why the music matters -- and feel an overwhelming urge to spin some Sabbath.


78. Juana Molina. The Argentinian singer followed up her critically acclaimed Son with another stunning record, Un Dia, proving she always has a surprise up her sleeve.


77. Sean Moeller. His website, Daytrotter, offers exclusive tracks from indie musicians every weekday. Everyone from Bon Iver (No. 88) to Death Cab for Cutie to Fleet Foxes has stopped by the Daytrotter studio, and it keeps getting better all the time.


76. Danica Novgorodoff. Her graphic novel, Slow Storm, was one of my favorite books of the year; the watercolors alone make it worth the purchase. And how often do we get to read stories that take place in rurual Kentucky? Not enough, I say!


75. Marnie Stern. The songwriter blew my mind with her guitar prowess at this year's CMJ festival ... so much so that my ears may still be ringing.


74. Beck. His collaboration with Danger Mouse on Modern Guilt turned out to be a welcome addition to the catalog.


73. Mathieu Amalric. I'm becoming a major fan of this actor, who I thought was the best part of Quantum of Solace -- yeah, I can take or leave Bond and his harem. This month, Amalric lights up A Christmas Tale with Catherine Deneuve, and he also starred in last year's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Here's hoping we keep seeing this French actor in the States.


72. Kat Dennings. She stole Michael Cera's indie cred in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and she has lips and eyes that ... well, she's pretty young, so I think maybe I should just stop there.


71. Of Montreal. The band's Skeletal Lamping was only topped by mythical-sounding shows that involved everything from nudity to live animals. (Though, wait, those things don't sound so right when you put them in the same sentence.)


70. Paul Newman. After his death, we were reminded of what a kind, well-respected man he was throughout his life. There can only be only Paul Newman, and he'll be missed for a long, long time.


69. James Marsters. His guest stint as the rebellious, flirtatious Captain John added a spark to Torchwood's second season, and Smallville fans enjoyed his run as the evil Brainiac. When will the guy get a regular gig so his roles won't be such a rare delicacy?


68. Jonathan Ames. His first graphic novel, The Alcoholic, shed light on a troubled writer with a drinking problem who may or may not share some characteristics with Jonathan Ames. Judging by its success, he should consider making a habit out of writing comics and not quitting cold turkey.


67. Rachel Maddow. She joined the MSNBC lineup with a fresh, funny and relaxed take on the nightly news. And hey, I'll always support a sneaker-lovin' woman!


66. Brad Neely. His animations for SuperDeluxe (and now Adult Swim) never fail to make me laugh out loud. I'm a Baby Cakes fan for life.


65. Hannah Bailey. Viewers of the documentary American Teen understood the student's frustrations with living in a small town, coping with a broken heart and yearning for a more creative life. She now has quite a few fans hoping she'll get her happy ending.


64. David Sedaris. He proved the well hasn't run dry with When You Are Engulfed in Flames, another collection of essays that blends smoking, France and his crazy family memories into bizarre, memorable tales.


63. Clementine Ford. I was unexpectedly enamored with Ford's guest appearances on The L Word as Molly (she played the daughter of her real-life mother, Cybill Shepherd). Unfortunately, Molly turned out to be a little insane, but hopefully this is just the beginning for our darling Clementine.


62. Stephanie Izard. Finally, a woman took the top prize on Top Chef. Stephanie's food and sweet, ego-free demeanor were a pleasure to watch. I await further developments on her new eatery in the Windy City.


61. Elizabeth Banks. From W. to Zack and Miri to Role Models to Wainy Days ... if it was funny this year, there was a good chance Banks was in it. (We don't have to mention Meet Dave or Definitely, Maybe, but she was probably the best thing about those, too.)


60. Danny McBride. The actor managed to land hilarious roles in the summer's biggest comedies: Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express. And I'd quote one of his lines here if I could, but i think all of my favorites are R-rated.


59. Wallace Shawn. After playing one of The L Word's only male characters last season, he injected some much-needed heart into Gossip Girl. Shawn works best when he seems way out of place; perhaps a stint on Lost should be next.


58. Lilli Carre. I was intrigued by the artist's latest book, a haunting tale called The Lagoon, and her wonderful contribution to this year's Best American Comics, The Thing About Madeline. More, please.


57. Saul Williams. After releasing The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust online, he issued a CD with new tracks and performed a series of energetic shows. He does everything he can to be heard, and it's refreshing to encounter an artist with so much to say.


56. Neil Gaiman. As we await his Coraline to arrive in theaters, Gaiman released The Graveyard Book for young adults, plans a Batman story for DC and has other projects in the works. His restlessness is our reward.


55. John C. Reilly. On the big screen, he appeared in Step Brothers and the indie comedy The Promotion. But he made me laugh the most as Dr. Steve Brule on another season of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!. For your health!


54. Aimee Mann. The singer-songwriter released another pop-tastic album, @#%&*! Smilers ... even if the song 31 Today does sort of make me panic.


53. Penelope Cruz. Her small, electric role in Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona lit up the screen and showed just how much she can offer to a film in mere minutes.


52. Ruth Jones. On BBC America's Gavin and Stacey, she steals the show as grumpy-but-loyal Nessa. She also writes the series, so it would be great if she saw this plea for another season as soon as possible.


51. Deerhunter. The band's ambient, multilayered Microcastle gets better with each listen.


50. Brian K. Vaughan. The writer delivered a satisfying (but sad) ending to his acclaimed comic-book series, Y: The Last Man. He also penned some of the best episodes of Lost last season, including the dramatic Shape of Things to Come.


49. Charlie Day. The actor can say just one word -- actually, I prefer if he screams it -- and I'll start laughing. Aside from the latest season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, he's co-producing a new sci-fi comedy for Fox.


48. Freema Agyeman. Her return as Martha Jones enhanced the latest seasons of Doctor Who and Torchwood. It's nice to see a smart, tough woman battle the aliens each week next to the dashing leading men.


47. Lykke Li. The singer burst onto the scene this year with her debut album, Youth Novels. Whenever I'm having a bad day, I play Little Bit by the sweet-sounding Swede.


46. Brad Meltzer. As if penning another best-seller weren't enough, Meltzer took on another lofty goal: to save Superman's house. With the help of some comic-book fans -- no superpowers necessary -- he succeeded, too.


45. Kristen Schaal. From her hilarious role as superfan Mel on Flight of the Conchords to her witty Daily Show commentaries, the crushworthy comedian is on the rise.


44. Jack White. This year, he was recruited to complete one of the most daunting tasks in music: to write and record a James Bond song. He also released another impressive album with his band, The Raconteurs, proving the well is far from dry.


43. M.I.A. Even though her album dropped last year, it achieved commercial success in 2008, thanks to the breakout hit Paper Planes. She also created a fashion line and will have another project arriving Grammy night: her first child.


42. Greta Gerwig. She starred, co-wrote and co-directed one of my favorite movies this year, Nights and Weekends. (She also appeared in two other indie films this year, Yeast and Baghead.) Gerwig has been attached to the word "mumblecore" for the last couple years, but the fact is, her talent transcends the need for a label at all.


41. Lil Wayne. There was no escaping the rapper, and Tha Carter III -- the biggest-selling album of the year -- just keeps getting bigger. This month he even dominated the Grammy nominations, proving voters may be more in touch now than they have been in years' past.


40. Guillermo del Toro. He brought a menagerie of creatures to life in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and he'll do the same with his next film, The Hobbit.



39. Samantha Bee. Segments by this biting, brave Daily Show correspondent are often my favorite part of the program. I'm eager to see what happens with her CBS sitcom, which she's planning with her real-life husband and fellow Daily Show commentator, Jason Jones.


38. Girl Talk. Copyright laws? What copyright laws? The artist also known as Gregg Gillis released the party record of the year (Feed the Animals) via a "pay what you like" system. It also happened to contain more than 300 unlicensed samples, from Lil Wayne to Metallica to Phil Collins.


37. Kanye West. This year he toured, blogged and fell in love with auto-tuning. Hey, it's good to try new things ... though if he enters any sort of Elvis-style jumpsuit phase in 2009, we might have reason to worry.


36. Lizzy Caplan. Forget the monster, this actress was my favorite part about Cloverfield. And those vamps on True Blood? They were nothing compared to Lizzy's steamy, "V"-fueled love scenes with Jason Stackhouse ...


35. Jim Parsons. His performance as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory deserves more recognition, if only because he has crafted a character we rarely see: the Southern gentlenerd. Watching him each week helps me forget my case of the Mondays and make me feel a little less geeky and awkward by comparison.


34. David Byrne. Fans rejoiced when he reunited with Brian Eno for Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, their first record in 27 years. He continues to tour, blog and occasionally design things like awesome bike racks. Is there anything the man can't do?


33. David Simon. Fans of HBO's The Wire didn't want to see it end, but the series creator made sure it went out on a high note. He followed it with Generation Kill, an acclaimed miniseries about the invasion of Iraq.


32. R.E.M. The boys returned to form with Accelerate, an album full of the delightful, Athens-bred pop that made us love them in the first place. Old favorites were dusted off during a world tour, and Michael Stipe even found the time to make a T-shirt.


31. Christina Hendricks. As sultry Joan Holloway on Mad Men, she may be the only TV character who can steal a scene just by walking out of a room.


30. Russell Brand. The unpredictable British comedian acquired many new fans after appearing in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Now if he could only acquire a comb ...


29. Taylor Kitsch. As Tim Riggins, Friday Night Lights' beautiful and rebellious fullback, the actor never fails to make me laugh or sigh. I just hope the show lasts long enough so we find out whether he turns out OK.


28. Tom Cruise. I know he made a big deal out of his 25th anniversary in film and all, but this year's real Cruise highlight was seeing the actor make fun of himself in Tropic Thunder. The final scene was priceless.


27. Jimmy Smits. As soon as I heard he was joining the cast of Dexter, I knew it would be an unpredictable season. The talented -- and ageless -- actor kept viewers guessing until the end.


26. Gus Van Sant. With Milk, the director delivered one of the most-anticipated and rewarding films of the year. After more than 20 years of moviemaking, his work keeps getting better.


25. Kristen Wiig. The comedian has become one of Saturday Night Live's funniest players, and it's always a treat to see her on the big screen. Here's hoping she becomes even more visible in '09.


24. Mates of State. The duo released another splendid record (Re-Arrange Us) with soaring harmonies and catchy hooks. (They also appeared on the kids' show Yo Gabba Gabba!, and I'm embarrassed to say how long that tune stuck in my head!)


23. Amy Ryan. As Holly on The Office, she gave heart to Michael Scott, which isn't an easy thing to do. Considering she started the year with an Oscar nomination, 2008 was pretty good for the actress ... though I do wish she'd return to Dunder Mifflin.


22. Henry Ian Cusick. It's hard to pick a standout Lost cast member, because everyone excelled last season. But who didn't cry when Desmond ... oh, wait. I guess some of you haven't watched the DVDs yet. But trust me, it's pretty great.


21. The Kills. The band released what I'd deem the sexiest record of the year, Midnight Boom. Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince generate the kind of rock 'n' roll chemistry that can't be manufactured.


20. Zack Snyder. The director's Watchmen won't hit theaters until March, but the hype machine is already in full effect, and he has done his best to control it with a Comic-Con appearance, behind-the-scenes videos, constant updates and reassurances that he won't screw it up. We trust you, Zack. Don't let us down!


20. Rob Pattinson. His glistening skin distracted millions of teen girls this year, and it's safe to say the Twilight franchise will transform the actor into a superstar. Even if the sequel bites, Pattinson's hair is a box-office cash machine.


19. Jason Segel. This year the actor came into his own by writing and starring in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, demonstrating his musical chops, continuing his sweet gig on How I Met Your Mother and even planning a Muppet movie. If he's taking requests, I'd like an extra helping of Floyd and Swedish Chef, please.


18. Wall-E. OK, so he's not exactly a person. But it was hard not to connect with the star of Pixar's hit film, even though he barely spoke and inhabited a universe full of futuristic blobs. Come on, how could anyone resist those wistful, metal eyes?


17. Nelsan Ellis. As gay, drug-dealing chef Lafayette on HBO's True Blood, he's the show's most complex and compelling character. (He's also one of the few actors on the series who doesn't speak with a mangled Southern accent, so he gets extra points there.)


16. Jessica Lea Mayfield. The young singer-songwriter's debut, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt, was one of my favorite records of the year. This is only the beginning for the performer, and I'm anxious to hear what comes next.


15. Seth Rogen. The curly-haired funnyman continued his Hollywood reign with pot and porn in Pineapple Express and Zack and Miri. Next up: a role in the new Judd Apatow flick, which certainly can't hurt a guy's career.


14. Ed Westwick. Everyone wastes time talking about the ladies of Gossip Girl when we know the real star is conniving playboy Chuck Bass, played to perfection by Westwick. Meet the new James Spader ... this one just happens to have been born the same year Less Than Zero was released.


13. Amy Poehler. The comedian had one of her best years on Saturday Night Live -- and she did it while pregnant. She also landed a role on the new series from The Office's producers, launched an empowering web series for girls, starred in Baby Mama, created/voiced a cool cartoon called The Mighty B! ... the list goes on. And, oh yeah, she eventually had that kid, too. Congrats.


12. Dev Patel. Slumdog Millionaire doesn't sound like the title of a hit film, but the winning combo of a great story and stellar cast has moved filmgoers around the world. It's hard to imagine the flick without Patel's performance as lovestruck and determined Jamal. (He also appeared in the racy BBC series Skins, which comes to DVD in January.)


11. Stephen Colbert. Can the Colbert Nation grow any stronger? Apparently, it can, and this year the host thrived with hilarious election coverage, a fake presidential bid, a heavily promoted holiday special, a comic-book appearance alongside Spider-Man, an Emmy and more.


10. Ron Moore. Battlestar Galactica's executive producer should prepare to break fans' hearts with the final episode, though the first half of his final season offered enough surprises to tide us over. On the bright side, he doesn't plan to stop working after the show ends, so expect much more must-see sci-fi to come.


9. Tunde Adebimpe. The multi-talented musician should be very proud of himself this year for a) releasing the critically acclaimed Dear Science with his band, TV on the Radio; and b) delivering a sweet, touching performance in Rachel Getting Married. Yes, that's right: The guy made one of the year's best albums and best movies. I think that merits some sort of trophy, or at least a gift certificate.


8. Fleet Foxes. One minute, the Seattle band was releasing a little self-titled EP and playing relatively intimate shows. The next, I'm seeing their debut CD at Starbucks. What catapulted them into the spotlight? Beautiful harmonies, top-shelf musicianship and the ability to create something so special at live performances, I've characterized them as spiritual experiences.


7. J.J. Abrams. The producer/director/writer embraces risks, and this year most paid off. His new series, Fringe, earned critical praise and a full-season pickup. The Cloverfield intrigue translated into box-office earnings. His updated Star Trek (slated for 2009) has fanboys buzzing. And then there's Lost, which had one of its best seasons. Without him, what the heck would I talk about at parties?


6. Jon Hamm. Each episode of Mad Men seems to expose a new side of Don Draper, and Hamm brings the ad exec to life. I'm equal parts confused by, attracted to and repulsed by the character ... and I love every second of it.


5. Vampire Weekend. No band exploded faster than this one, dubbed "the year's best" by Spin ... in March. Their self-titled debut reached everyone from indie fans to baby boomers, proving that skill and a unique sound still goes a long way.


4. Neil Patrick Harris. There was no time for Doogie jokes this year -- the actor was way too busy with How I Met Your Mother, another Harold & Kumar and (of course) the massively popular Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, in which he carried a tune (and a Freeze Ray). Barney Stinson may be a womanizing "bro," but lately Harris has made him a more three-dimensional ladies' man. To be honest, no I care more about his future than Ted's mysterious "mother."


3. Heath Ledger. The year began with the actor's tragic death. However, he leaves a legacy of great work, including his haunting, funny and surprising performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. His talent and spirit won't be forgotten.


2. Robert Downey Jr. There's no doubt this actor is the comeback king, but his greatest return happened in '08 with the mighty Iron Man. (To watch Downey Jr. soar through the air was magical, if only because we've known how low he has been before.) He followed the heroic part with another blockbuster, Tropic Thunder, and upcoming projects include Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man 2. The man is back, and it's a pleasure to see him in action.

And the No. 1 person of 2008 is ...

 1. Tina Fey. Honestly, who else could it be? Tina was everywhere this year, and for good reason: She racked up Emmys and praise for 30 Rock, graced the big screen in Baby Mama and dominated headlines with hilarious Saturday Night Live appearances. She writes, she acts, she makes us laugh. In these tough times, isn't that pretty much all we can ask for? This was her year, and she should enjoy it ... for, like, a couple days. Then I hope she gets back to work.


Pop Candy's Annual 100 People Of The Year List!
(By Whitney Matheson, USA Today, 2011)

Everybody cheer: It's time for Pop Candy's annual 100 People of the Year list!  I think I've been doing this list for 11 years (egad), so by now you probably know the basics: Below is a list of my favorite folks of 2011, based on their artistic achievements, not their appearances in gossip columns. If you discover someone new here, all the better -- isn't that what pop culture is for?  This year's list will feature a dozen exclusive interviews with the folks on it, so stay tuned for those.  Now let's start this party:

100. Jim Woodring. This year the artist constructed a seven-foot-long fountain pen that even Lloyd Dobler would be proud to own.

99. Josh "Skreech" Sandoval. The slightly spaced-out skateboarder made Dragonslayer one of the most mesmerizing docs of the year.

98. Jacob Wysocki. In the coming-of-age flick Terri, the young newcomer held his own against John C. Reilly.

97. Sheri Salata. After watching her excel on Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes, many fans wanted her to be their friend -- or boss.  "I miss (Salata's) witty personality and calm demeanor immensely." -- Pop reader Clay C.

96. Yuck. Not to be confused with this guy, the band released a stellar debut this year.

95. Christina Applegate. Even though it involves poop and baby puke, I find her motherly role on Up All Night rather refreshing.

94. Terrence Malick. The director tantalized our senses with The Tree of Life. (Don't ask me to explain it, though.)

93. Kal Penn. Not to knock politics, but thank goodness the Harold & Kumar/How I Met Your Mother star nixed his day job so he can distract me from mine.

92. Elizabeth Taylor. The legendary actress may be gone, but her legacy (and fancy jewelry) lives on.

91. Eleanor Friedberger. I dug the Fiery Furnaces' singer's solo debut, Last Summer, which should be enjoyed year-round.

90. Ben Schwartz. All of the Parks and Rec cast members could fill slots on this list, but there's just something about Jean-Ralphio ...

89. Ginnifer Goodwin. The former Big Love-r is positively enchanting as Snow White on Once Upon A Time. (Then again, I'm partial to raven-haired pale girls.)

88. Emma Forrest. Her heartfelt memoir, Your Voice in My Head, helped make her an essential voice indeed.

87. Michelle Williams. This year the actress shone in two very different period pieces, Meek's Cutoff (taking place in 1845) and My Week With Marilyn (1956).

86. The Sucklord. He may have a funny name, but the Work of Art contestant proved to be a serious contender ... until, of course, he lost.  "He totally won me over with his talent and his good heart. There was a huge void in the Force once Sucklord left Work of Art." -- BIG BUSINESS

85. Megan Mullally. She always gets the best lines on Children's Hospital -- though I laugh just looking at those big ol' Chief glasses.

84. Liz Lee. Her superhero/Converse worship not withstanding, this smart 'n' Southern MTV star is my kind of lady.

83. Anders Nilsen. The artist released a have-to-have-it hardcover this year, Big Questions.

82. Brian Kellow. I still haven't finished his biography Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark, but that's just because I'm savoring every page.

81. Chris Hemsworth. Who would've guessed Thor was going to be a good movie? Give much credit to Hemsworth, who had a mighty helmet to fill.

80. Neil Strauss. Pop-culture fiends flocked to his tantalizing book of interviews, Everyone Loves You When You're Dead.

79. Sara Schaefer and Nikki Glaser. As hosts of the funny, frank podcast You Had to Be There, the comedians make me chuckle and cringe each week.

78. Leslie Stein. She had me at the talking guitar: The Brooklyn-based cartoonist's Eye of the Majestic Creature provided a joyous reading experience.

77. Kerthy Fix. I could've danced in the theater during the director's rockin' Le Tigre documentary, Who Took the Bomp?, but I figured I should save that for the DVD release.

76. Ellen Page. James Gunn's Super wouldn't have been as, er, super without Page's turn as the spirited "Boltie."

75. Glen Campbell. This year the singer, diagnosed with Alzheimer's, released a superb album and embarked on a moving farewell tour.

74. Chris Hardwick. The Nerdist let his geek flag fly this year with a plethora of podcasts, TV specials and more.

73. Steve Coogan. His quips in The Trip earn him a spot on this list.

72. Morgan Spurlock. The documentarian stayed busy with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope, 50 Documentaries To See Before You Die, A Day in the Life, Failure Club ... pretty soon he'll be following you, too.

71. Jeffrey Brown. One didn't need to be a Transformers fan to fall for his clever parody, Incredible Change-Bots Two.

70. Michael Shannon. From Boardwalk Empire to Take Shelter to the engrossing play Mistakes Were Made, the actor always surpasses expectations. (And I'm betting he'll do the same as General Zod.)

69. Darren Criss. While some Gleeks may pine for the former Warbler, I just wanna pinch his cheeks.

68. Saoirse Ronan. One of the most butt-kicking parts of the year belonged to this teen star of Hanna.

67. Simon Reynolds. The author of Rip It Up and Start Again returned to the pop-culture forefront with the nostalgia-filled Retromania.

66. Sallie Ford. Along with her band, the Sound Outside, the Portland-based singer released one of my favorite records of 2011, Dirty Radio.

65. Alexander Skarsgard. The more Alex strips and snogs as True Blood's Eric Northman, the more we salivate.

64. Lou Reed. The 69-year-old writer/performer joined forces with Metallica and Edgar Allan Poe. Whatever's next, it probably won't be predictable.

63. Nick Frost. This year the witty Brit delighted me with two funny, underrated films: Paul and Attack the Block.

62. Steven Tobolowsky. One of the most consistently engaging podcasts comes from this character actor, who seems to have an endless supply of true stories. (Including one about True Stories!)

61. John Goodman. Let's see: Community, Damages, The Artist, Red State, Treme ... if you missed him this year, you weren't paying attention.

60. Zach Galifianakis. Forget the ho-hum Hangover sequel -- seeing the comedian shine each week on Bored to Death was all we needed.

59. Ashley Rickards. The only Awkward thing about the MTV actress was how her show's season ended way too quickly.

58. Radiohead. The band's King of Limbs went from an unexpected release to one of the most buzzed-about albums of the year.

57. Natalie Portman. Her eventful year included an Oscar, a baby, Thor and that comedy with Ashton Kutcher. (Hey, nobody's perfect.)

56. Nikki Finke. Deadline continues to dominate with exclusives and juicy scoops. Cheers to actually giving bloggers a good name.

55. Brian Selznick. Without his Invention of Hugo Cabret, we wouldn't have this year's Hugo. And without his Wonderstruck, we'd be deprived of another gold-star read.

54. Chris Evans. He had just the right attitude -- and form-fitting supersuit -- to embody Captain America. Bring on The Avengers, please.

53. Lana Del Rey. More than 12 million have watched her hypnotic Video Games video. While the good looks don't hurt, a honey-drenched voice sure does help.

52. Jason Gann. On FX's Wilfred the actor rocks a dog costume and a wicked sense of humor. And trust me, it's nearly impossible to pull off both.

51. Pee-wee Herman. The icon officially returned with a hit Broadway show and HBO special. I love him so much, I really could marry him.

50. Katey Sagal. Each season she stuns on Sons of Anarchy, and this year Gemma finally earned her a Golden Globe.

49. Neil Patrick Harris. Not only does he make awards shows infinitely more watchable, Barney Stinson remains the top reason to tune in to How I Met Your Mother.

48. Daniel Radcliffe. Sadly, no special spell will make Harry Potter return. On the bright side, Radcliffe gave the magical chap a proper farewell -- and shone on Broadway to boot.

47. James Spader. As The Office's Robert California, he manages to even out-creep Creed.

46. Chaz Bono. Along with documenting his transformation in print and on TV, his moves made us cheer on Dancing With the Stars.

45. Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum. Their tell-all book, I Want My MTV, peeked behind the scenes at the sexy, sordid and occasionally musical network.

44. Michael Fassbender. The rising star delivered in two very different films: the blockbuster X-Men: First Class and the (literally) revealing Shame.

43. Woody Allen. The director -- and subject of an extensive documentary -- made a triumphant big-screen return with the sparkling Midnight in Paris.

42. Claire Danes. Her performance on Showtime's riveting Homeland makes us wonder how we lasted so long without her on the tube.

41. Rebecca Skloot. One didn't have to be a science geek to appreciate her engrossing best seller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

40. Andy Serkis. After watching him rock Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I'm pretty sure he could play any member of the animal/alien/creature kingdom.

39. John Boyega. A sharp performance in the scary Attack the Block made Boyega an actor to remember.

38. Peter Dinklage. His character's womanizing and witty ways brought welcome comic relief to Game of Thrones.

37. J.J. Abrams. The busy writer/director's Super 8 made us giddy with Spielberg-style enthusiasm.

36. Dame Maggie Smith. One mark of a Dame: The Downton Abbey star can accomplish more with a look than many actors can with their entire bodies.

35. Kristen Wiig. She ruled the big screen with Bridesmaids and the small one (again) as Saturday Night Live's standout cast member.

34. Steve Jobs. Though most of us never met the Apple founder, his death hit close to home.

33. R.E.M. A few months after releasing a solid album (Collapse Into Now), the band called it quits. Sigh.

32. Cameron Crowe. The director returned in a big way, with an insightful Pearl Jam doc and the star-laden We Bought a Zoo.

31. Jeff Lemire. The writer's always-entertaining Sweet Tooth and Animal Man gave us two more reasons to raid comic-book shops.

30. The Arrested Development gang. It's impossible to choose just one member of the comical clan, which returns with new episodes in 2013.

29. Ernest Cline. His addictive debut novel, Ready Player One, kept me reading into the wee hours.

28. Julie Klausner. The comedian's hilarious podcast, How Was Your Week?, is always worth the seven-day wait.

27. Martin Scorsese. The busy director scored with Hugo, Boardwalk Empire (which he executive produces) and a moving George Harrison doc.

26. Jimmy Fallon. Just when you thought the late-night king couldn't top himself, he hosted one of the year's best SNL eps.

25. Jennifer Lawrence. From X-Men: First Class to the hype of Hunger Games, this actress is hotter than ever.

24. Richard Press. The director helmed one of my favorite films this year, the touching documentary Bill Cunningham New York.

23. Jessica Lange. We might've given up on American Horror Story if it weren't for her inspired performance as the loony Constance.

22. Bon Iver. The singer/songwriter followed up For Emma, Forever Ago with another stellar release.

21. Rob Lowe. Aside from his funny part on on Parks and Rec, Lowe penned a well-written and revealing autobiography.

20. Robert Kirkman. The Walking Dead stayed very much alive this year, with twists popping up in print and on TV. (And kudos to Super Dinosaur, too.)

19. Marc Maron. Lock the gates! The comedian's WTF podcast exploded in 2011, covering everyone from Chris Rock to Sandra Bernhard.

18. Kate Winslet. Her performance in the HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce made me hungry for more (and for pie).

17. Zooey Deschanel. Her cuteness proves impossible to resist, whether it's via the ear (She and Him) or the eyes (Fox's New Girl).

16. Giancarlo Esposito. As the Big Bad on Breaking Bad, he was absolutely breathtaking.

15. Miranda July.The Future is perhaps the only film to feature time travel and a talking cat. Therefore, I loved it.

14. Mayim Bialik. Amy Farrah Fowler has become so beloved on The Big Bang Theory, I'd tune in to a spin-off.

13. Kevin Smith. The director took chances with the dramatic Red State and his "SModcasting," which keeps getting more and more S'monstrous.

12. Pendleton Ward. His Cartoon Network series, Adventure Time, is just as much of a treat for parents as it is for their tots.

11. Carrie Brownstein. Her Coolness Factor was already high, but after debuting Wild Flag and Portlandia this year, she has leapt off the charts.

10. Oprah. Afternoons just aren't the same without the talk-show queen gabbing 'bout bra sizes and Gayle (though, er, not at the same time).

9. Melissa McCarthy. A killer performance in Bridesmaids help boost her already-rising career. First, an Emmy. Next: Oscar?

8. Louis C.K. It's a given that Louie was one of the best shows of 2011. But could it be one of the greatest of all time? Discuss.

7. Ryan Gosling. Want to know what it's like to be in ALL the movies? Ask this guy.

6. Emma Stone. If this year is any indication, this won't be the actress' last time on the list.

5. Tina Fey. The TV star became a successful author with her best-selling Bossypants. (Though I kind of hope the paperback has a new cover. Those hairy hands freak me out!)

4. George R.R. Martin. The fantasy maestro reeled in even more fans when Game of Thrones became an HBO hit.

3. Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I should probably rave about The Book of Mormon here, but I still can't get tickets to see it.

2. Adele. The woman behind 90% of the year's catchiest hits deserves a vacation in '12.  and, finally ...

1. The Muppets. OK, so they're not human. They often wear no pants. But who cares? Our furry friends made a welcome comeback this year, partly thanks to the talented Jason Segel. Here's hoping we see more of Kermit, Animal, Gonzo and company in the years to come.


The Year's Biggest WTF Moments
(Huffington Post, December 26, 2011)

Celebrities! They're... not just like us.  As we bid 2011 adieu and welcome 2012 with open arms, we recall the biggest "WTF" moments of 2011 that made our jaws simply drop -- from Jim Carrey's confessional love letter to Emma Stone to Chris Brown's "Good Morning America" thrashing, Stephanie Seymour's bonding with son Peter Brandt and Lindsay Lohan's plainly rotting teeth.

Chris Brown, tired of the Rihanna questions, treated "Good Morning America" like his hotel room: by exploding off stage and shattering a window with a chair.

To be sure, James Franco hosting the 2011 Oscars with perky co-host Anne Hathaway will go down as one of the most controversial hostings the Academy has seen, and not just because Franco looks awful in drag.

Rebecca Black's catchy tune "Friday" was ridiculous and ridiculously catchy. It also went ridiculously viral: Black's music video was deemed the "Most Viewed YouTube Videos Globally" by YouTube of 2011, at 13,102,627 views.

Lindsay Lohan shocked the red carpet when she flashed rotting, brown teeth in mid-October. Thankfully, she has a reason to smile again: she got her teeth fixed just a short while after.

What a strange world it is when the world's biggest pop star (Lady GaGa) eats one of the world's biggest late-night talk show host's (David Letterman) notes and we barely blink an eye about it. But still.

Gwyneth Paltrow trieds to one-up Chelsea Lately by calling her German grandmother a "c*nt", appalling Muttis everywhere.

We're not sure what was on Jim Carrey's mind when he mock-professed his love for Emma Stone in a self-shot video testimonial for his website, but one thing is clear: Carrey, next time, a little more distance between the face and camera, k? Thx!

Things turned from ugly to morbid when Lindsay Lohan was sentenced to morgue duty for stealing a $2,500 necklace without permission. The gruesome task was issued after Lohan failed to appear at the women's shelter the court originally ordered. After a few false starts, though, it appears Lindsay's learned her lesson: her morgue duty is almost completed, and recently the judge praised Lindsay's hard work.

Oh Sara Leal, the 22-year-old girl with whom Ashton Kutcher had a sordid hot tub affair on the very same night as his and Demi Moore's sixth anniversary. And then went public about it.

These photos from Stephanie Seymour and 17-year-old son Peter Brandt.

Courtney Stodden and Doug Hutchinson. When a 16-year old marries a 52-year-old B-List actor, the result is obvious: scandalous pumpkin patch pictures.

Tiger Blood. Winning. And the rest of Charlie Sheen, in his own words, on his now-legendary "Good Morning America" appearance in which he introduced his "Goddesses" to us and his scientifically-proved concept of Adonis-DNA.

Team Gosling or Team Cooper? Bradley Cooper may have confronted unwanted resistance to his crowning as 2011's "PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive" by avid Gosling fans who feel their star was snubbed. Perhaps that's what spurred Cooper to himself admit Gosling's good looks: "He literally looks like he's in a photo shoot, like he just came off the runway," Cooper told Graham Norton in December.

KISS frontman Gene Simmons proposes to girlfriend Shannon Tweed, 28 years, 4600 women, and two kids later, on the finale of "Gene Simmons Family Jewels". Better late than never, we guess.

Lady Gaga arrives at 2011 Grammy Awards with an entourage of half-naked men and hidden in a fogged-up egg. We take it she was just Born That Way.

We can't decide what is more shocking: Princess Beatrice's hat at the Royal Wedding, or the fact that it sold for $130,000 on eBay.

The most shocking thing we learned from Jenny Mollen's article for "Playboy" about how she and husband Jason Biggs ordered prostitutes one night is hey! Mollen's actually a pretty decent writer.

Ke$ha's beard blog.

Thanks to Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, 72 days will no longer just be... 72 days.

A Miley Cyrus Sex doll was made -- Finally Mylie -- making the world an officially creepy place.
Twenty-year-old Mariah Yeater files a paternity lawsuit against 17-year-old Justin Bieber claiming that he is the father of her baby son. Later, Bieber takes a DNA test and Yeater drops the suit.

The rumors about Beyonce's fake baby bump. Why bother?

The couple that seemed to have it all was broken down by Arnold's scandalous secret: he had secretly fathered a love child with a member of his household staff 14 years ago. Now coming to a theater near you.


2011 Awards Worst Year: Congress
(By Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, December  19, 2011)

Saying that Congress is unpopular is kind of like saying that water is wet or that big-time college football is corrupt. It's so obvious as to be assumed. And yet, in 2011 Congress managed to underperform even the low regard in which the American people hold it.  It wasn't just that lawmakers didn't do much in 2011. It was that they didn't do much in a year in which the economy continued to struggle, the nation's collective anxiety soared and, for the first time in modern memory, our fiscal foundations seemed genuinely shaky.  The mismatch between the bigness of the country's problems and the smallness of Congress drove the institution's approval ratings down to used-car-dealer (or even journalist) levels.

An early October Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that just 14 percent of the public approved of the job Congress was doing, a lower ebb than before the 1994, 2006 and 2010 elections — all of which saw huge seat shifts because of widespread voter dissatisfaction. A Gallup survey released in early December showed that three-quarters of the public didn't believe that most members of Congress deserved to win re-election in 2012 — a record high in the poll. (As interesting: Who the heck are the 20 percent who said the majority of members deserved another term?) A December NBC-Wall Street Journal poll showed that a measly 1 percent of people thought the 112th Congress was among the "best in years."  How did things get so horribly, terribly, awfully bad for Congress in 2011? No one event stands out; rather, it was a slow-motion collapse in which everyone saw what was happening, but no one was willing to do anything about it. It was operatic in its scope. So here's a look at how Congress failed — in three acts.

ACT I: The Budget "Deal"

Funding the government is the most fundamental act of the government. But history suggested that passing legislation this spring to do just that could be contentious. Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich had played this game of chicken in the mid-1990s, and when neither man blinked, the government did shut down on two occasions. The result was a clear victory for Clinton — thank you, bully pulpit! — that kick-started the incumbent toward an easy reelection in 1996.  House Republicans, with their newly minted majority this year, were well aware of that bit of history, and leaders such as Speaker John Boehner of Ohio were committed to not repeating it.
But Boehner wasn't the only actor in this drama; dozens of tea-party-aligned Republicans, who had helped secure the GOP's House majority, wanted deep cuts to federal agencies as a sign of their willingness to shake up the status quo.  And Democrats were far from blameless in the protracted negotiations. As the clock ticked down toward a shutdown in early April, they worked to score points with their own base — not to mention socially liberal independent voters — by bashing Republicans for their insistence that federal funding for Planned Parenthood be removed in any final agreement.

At the literal 11th hour, the sides finally cut a deal that kept the government operating. Museums stayed open, national parks welcomed visitors. And politicians congratulated themselves. "Today, Americans of different beliefs came together," President Obama said. Boehner received a standing ovation from Republican lawmakers for wringing billions in cuts out of the White House.  But what average Americans what they saw was the dysfunction that led to the deal; Congress looked like a college kid writing a term paper at the last minute. And they didn't like that image one bit. Congress, seemingly oblivious to that fact, came within 27 hours of another government shutdown this past week before reaching an agreement.

ACT II: The Debt-Ceiling "Debate"

If the showdown over shutdown left Americans with a sour taste in their mouths, the fight over whether to raise the nation's debt limit made them downright nauseous.  The stakes were high: A failure to raise the borrowing limit would have forced the government into default on some of its loans and jeopardized America's sterling credit rating. In other words, this wasn't a purely political or even policy fight; the good of the country was in play.  Despite that, both parties took up political posturing early and often. Democrats reminded their Republican colleagues (and voters) that the debt limit had been increased 78 times since 1960 — including 18 times under President Ronald Reagan. Republicans fought back by reminding President Obama that in 2006, Sen. Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling. White House press secretary Jay Carney said that Obama's vote was a "mistake" and that had he known then what he knew now, he would have supported it. (He was against it before he was for it.)

As the debate wore on — and a U.S. default loomed over world financial markets — a fissure appeared within the Republican Party. The leadership seemed resigned to the necessity of a deal, while the tea party wing insisted that the doomsday talk of what might happen if the borrowing limit wasn't raised was badly overblown. Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) became the standard-bearer for the tea party position, riding her pledge to never support a debt-ceiling increase to the top tier of the Republican presidential race. ("I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling," Bachmann asserted in one of her first ads first ad of the 2012 contest. "It goes completely contrary to common sense and how I grew up in Iowa.")

Eventually — and stop us if you've heard this one — a compromise was struck less than a day before default would have become a reality. Unlike with the budget compromise four months earlier, the political world grimaced and tried to quickly move on from what it seemed to sense was a debacle of epic proportion. Boehner was clearly dismayed by the lack of a "grand bargain" that would have solved the country's long-term fiscal problems. Obama called the process "messy."  But even the leaders of their parties didn't grasp just how much damage had been done. Days after the debt-ceiling deal, Standard & Poor's downgraded America's credit rating for the first time in history. And, in an after-action analysis of the debt debate, Republican pollster Bill McInturff concluded that the fight had led to a "scary erosion" in the public's faith in the economy and the government "at a time when this steep drop in confidence can be least afforded."

ACT III: The "Supercommittee"

Out of the ashes of the debt-ceiling fight rose the "supercommittee" — it's more than just a regular old committee! — which was tasked with finding trillions in federal budget cuts, a once-and-for-all solution to our looming national financial crisis.  Or not.  Two things doomed the supercommittee from the start. First, the 12 members were appointed by their party leadership. And the party leadership had next to no incentive to put real dealmakers on the panel, people empowered to reach an agreement outside of the power of their party leaders.  Second, the trigger date for "sequestration" — a fancy word for automatic, across-the-board cuts that would hit both parties where it hurts — was not the end of 2011 but rather the beginning of 2013, conveniently after the 2012 elections. (There are no accidents in politics.)

What was amazing about the supercommittee was not that it failed — its members released a statement on Nov. 21 acknowledging that they could not find a compromise — but that the American public never expected it to succeed. In a CNN poll released the week before the failure became official, almost eight in 10 Americans said they were "very" or "somewhat" doubtful that the supercommittee could find common ground.  The worst part of the supercommittee's inability to cut a deal was that no one — not the public, not the media and not even the members themselves — was the least bit surprised by it.  What 2011 proved is that failure has become the new normal on Capitol Hill. And for that, Congress, you had the worst year in Washington. Congrats, or something.


The Year’s 10 Weepiest Movie Moments
(By Jen Chaney, Washington Post, December 30, 2011)

As the year comes to a close, the cinema-obsessed start compiling lists: lists of the best films, the top money-makers, the biggest flops, the worst performances or the most underrated movies of the past year.  Post film critic Ann Hornaday already weighed in with her list of the best films of 2011. And mine will be posted here soon. (Like a neurotic and obsessive list-maker, I am still pondering mine.)  In the meantime, I’ve put together another list: some of the weepiest moments from the past 365 days of movie-watching.

I’m not talking about the movies that made me weep because I just wanted them to end (“Jack and Jill”) or because they were making my ear drums bleed (“Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”) I refer to the 2011 movie moments that genuinely moved me, causing my often stubborn tear ducts to produce a watery substance despite all best efforts to resist. I share this list with you at the risk of total embarrassment and the possibility of bursting into tears again simply by recalling these lump-in-the-throat movie scenes from the year that was. Happy end of 2011, fellow movie lovers. Oh, and can you pass the Kleenex?

10. The dinner scene in “The Beaver”
Given its unusual premise and the presence of the controversial Mel Gibson, “The Beaver” never had much chance for mainstream success. But the film, while uneven, contains some truly moving moments, including this sad scene in which Jodie Foster pleads with her husband (Gibson) to pull himself together, at which point it becomes very obvious that — given the beaver puppet perched on his hand during their anniversary dinner at a fancy restaurant — he simply can’t.

9. The regretful testimonials in “Project Nim”
The strange relationship that developed between Nim — a chimpanzee essentially raised as a human child — and his various caretakers is what may have enticed some people to see this documentary. But what ultimately resonates is “Project Nim’s” sad commentary on this misguided experiment and what it says about both the primate and the people involved. By the time Joyce Butler, one of Nim’s sign language instructors, tearfully declares that “We did a huge disservice to him and his soul, and shame on us,” it’s hard to hold back the tears yourself.

8. Vera Farmiga’s confession scene in “Higher Ground”
Farmiga’s admirable directorial debut was notable for tackling a subject rarely explored in Hollywood endeavors — the lifelong struggle to find a spiritual center. It also gave us a an emotionally affecting performance from Farmiga, whose character — in a scene that definitely made my eyes well up — stands bravely in a place of worship and confesses that she still hasn’t fully found faith.

7. The Muppets sing “Rainbow Connection” in “The Muppets”
I’m not too proud to admit it: Kermit the Frog can make me cry. As someone old enough to remember when the first Muppets movie came out, and who spent many an elementary school music class singing “Rainbow Connection,” there was something undeniably moving about seeing all of Jim Henson’s fuzzy creations together again on a big screen, crooning hopefully about “the lovers, the dreamers and me.”

6. Matt Damon looking at photos of his late wife in “We Bought a Zoo”
Yes, “We Bought a Zoo” is an overly sentimental, often unrealistic film in which Damon earnestly says things like “I would like to declare us all modern day adventurers, and sponsors of animal greatness!” But I totally bought it, goofy monkey gags, earthy Scarlett Johansson and all. And no scene made me more verklempt than the one in which Damon musters the courage to finally look at old photos and videos of his late wife while the music of Jonsi soars on the soundtrack. Emotionally manipulative? Maybe. And it worked.

5. The deaths in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
After eight movies (not to mention the seven books that preceded them), the “Harry Potter” era came to a close with the climactic defeat of Voldemort, the most evil force in a major film franchise since Darth Vader. But that triumph was undercut by the sacrifices made during that battle, including the loss of a Weasley. A lot of round, nerd glasses undoubtedly misted up when Ron realized brother Fred was a casualty.

4. Viola Davis’s confession in “The Help”
“The Help” was not the least bit shy in its attempts to jerk tears from its audience. Its most effective tear-jerker moment came when Aibileen (the phenomenal Viola Davis) finally opened up to Skeeter (Emma Stone) about the death of her son. Expect to see this clip during the Oscars, as Davis has pretty much locked up a best actress nomination for her work here.

3. George Clooney speaks to his wife in “The Descendants”
At the risk of spoiling the movie, I won’t reveal the context of the scene in question. I’ll simply say that Clooney is heartbreaking and more vulnerable than we usually see him onscreen. And that a Clooney tear is almost guaranteed to result in a Chaney tear.

2. The last 15 minutes of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
This adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel is out in New York and L.A., but doesn’t release widely until January. Already, however, the 9/11 drama has been criticized by some critics, including Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, for being too emotionally manipulative. Indeed, once you leave the theater and let the brain assume control over feeling, you may agree that this film, as Dargis suggests, drains 9/11 “of its specificity.” At the same time, watching “Extremely Loud” is definitely an emotional experience, particularly because of a crusher of a scene (and plot twist) that comes late in the movie. It involves our young protagonist (newcomer Thomas Horn) and his widowed mother, played by America’s sweetheart Sandra Bullock, and will probably keep the tear rivers flowing for the remainder of the movie. You may want very much not to cry. But resistance is futile, especially if you happen to be a parent.

1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt reaching out to mom Anjelica Huston in “50/50”
lenty of movie scenes may make you swallow a little harder or clandestinely wipe away tears. (“It was, uh, the salt from the popcorn. It got on my eyelash.”) But every once in a while, a scene will punch you in the gut so hard that you start sobbing, sobbing in a way that strongly suggests you will start making weird wailing noises really soon and get ejected from the theater for disturbing other patrons.

For me, in 2011, that scene was the moment in “50/50” when Gordon-Levitt’s character realizes it’s time to get wheeled in for potentially life-threatening surgery and panics, reaching out for the mother he has tried so hard to keep at a distance throughout his cancer treatment. Why did this scene get to me so much? Gordon-Levitt and Huston were both wonderfully authentic in it. So that’s part of it.

But as with all truly weepy movie experiences, it must have touched on something personal for me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been in the hospital and watched loved ones cope with disease, and “50/50” captures that sterile, anxious environment just right. Maybe it’s the fact that Gordon-Levitt looks a lot like a close friend of mine. Or maybe I was just having a weird day and I needed a good cry.  That’s the funny thing about weepy moments. Sometimes we can’t explain them. But when we feel them deeply, we don’t forget them.  What were your weepiest movie moments of 2011? Go on and confess to them by posting a comment.


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