Year-End Review

By: Danny Sedlezak
2010 was not the best year for entertainment, but was more solid that most of the past decade. What stood out for better or for worse? I’m here to break down the year into the three biggest categories of entertainment: Music, Movies and Television.
Music:
Best Returning Player: Nas for Distant Relatives (With Damien Marley)- It’s without question that Nas is one of the best rappers to ever hold a microphone. So it’s been sad that his last solo record (Untitled­) was one of the weaker ones in his discography. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting much from his collaborative album with one of Bob Marley’s sons. Boy was I wrong. Not only is this one of the Nas’s best, it’s one of the best genre-bending albums. It’s just a shame it wasn’t promoted better, or perhaps people would be championing it for the near perfection that it is.
Worst Returning Player: Train for ‘Hey Soul Sister’- Anybody remember Train? I mean before this year. No? I thought as much. ‘Hey Soul Sister’ is the perfect example of lyrics destroying what could have been a decent song. It didn’t help that they used such an annoying ukulele loop. Instead of trying to save the song from its terrible instrumental, the lead singer talks about how he’s ‘so thug’ and how your love is getting through his ‘unshaven chest’. This could easily be the worst writing from any song this year. Please Train, stick to making forgettable music for Hallmark Channel commercials, instead of infecting the pop charts.
Best Newbie: Yelawolf for Trunk Muzik 0-60- Yelawolf is the best new artist out of the South since T.I., hands down. In fact, he may be better. Technically and flow wise, he’s far better, he just needs some better production. This is yet another case of poor promotion. Come on Ghet-O-Vision, give the new artist a shot instead of promoting T.I.’s lackluster album. I’m pretty sure that he could go platinum with almost no promotion anyway. Seriously, if Yelawolf can get a decent production team (Organized Noize anyone?) he could easily put out some of the South’s best albums.
Never Should Have Entered the Business (Worst Newbie): Bruno Mars for ‘Grenade’, ‘Billionaire’ and ‘Just the Way You Are’: The first time I heard Bruno on B.O.B.’s ‘Nothin on You’ I didn’t mind him. His voice was teetering on the edge of annoying, but his falsetto was decent enough. When ‘Billionaire’ came out, I was disgusted due to the obviously studio-tinkered-with acoustic guitar playing and the terrible singing. It was like Jack Johnson had become popular again, and I hated him. ‘Just the Way You Are’ was one of the most annoying vocal performances this year, with a message so clichéd, it’s hard to take seriously. ‘Grenade’, however, is the worst offender. Terrible beat? Check. Terrible singing? Check. A message that’s so clichéd it is stupid just to delve into it anymore? Check. Wrap it up with the worst metaphor I have ever heard in a love song? ‘I’d catch a grenade for you’? Check. I could think of very few love songs that are more unnecessarily violent than this. That song was enough to make him the worst newbie. Let’s hope he doesn’t dominate the charts next year.
Biggest Surprise: Taylor Swift for Speak Now- If someone asked me what music I listen to, I give them a simple response; everything but country. So imagine my apathy when I heard Taylor Swift had a new album coming out. However when I heard it, I was surprised that it was actually kind of good. She moved away from writing generic bubblegum pop songs about teenage love with a very faint country tinge, to becoming much more personal. She injected herself more so than ever into her work: and it worked. I never thought that I would like Taylor Swift, and I still really don’t (her musicianship needs some serious work), but now at least I can tolerate her.
Most Endearing: B.O.B. for ‘Nothin On You ft. Bruno Mars’-Remember when I said that Bruno Mars was tolerable in this song? He is, and adds only a slight blemish to this song. B.O.B. is not a spectacular rapper, and probably never will be. However, he created a very heartwarming entry (albeit slightly forgettable) into rap love ballad cannon. Even though it’s clichéd, it’s fun and relatable. And that is enough to justify it’s deserving this spot.
Still Waiting For: Dr. Dre’s Detox- People were calling this the Chinese Democracy of hip hop, and even Guns and Roses’ long delayed album has come out at this point! The first single for the album, ‘Kush’ showed three things: A) Snoop Dogg needs to stop rapping B) Dre has still got it C) Dre’s actually been working on Detox. Let’s hope it actually does meet its February release date.
Biggest Turnaround: Kanye West for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy- Kanye had a hard year in 2008. 808’s and Heartbreak received very mixed reactions among critics, but had a largely negative reaction among his hardcore fanbase. 2009 was an even harder year. The Taylor Swift incident turned him from hip hop’s artsy golden child with critics into a hated egomaniac (though he had always been an egomaniac). This year, he comes back with his strongest album ever, and it shut up all the naysayers. I haven’t heard an album this good since Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001, and that’s saying something. Though sometimes I wish that Kayne had a great rapper over his beats, instead of him. Either way, Kanye’s back, and better than ever.
Consistency Award: Big Boi for Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty- All of you have heard at least one Outkast song, whether you know it or not. They are the definitive Southern rap group, and they have yet to put out an album that I would give less than 4 stars. Big Boi is the ‘normal and boring’ member of Outkast compared to the more exciting and eccentric Andre 3000. While Outkast hasn’t put out an album since 2006, Big Boi carried the torch very well with his first solo album, and he did it without one verse from Andre.
Unsung Hero: Big Boi for Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty- Big Boi, a member of one of the biggest groups of the last two decades, failed to go platinum. He also failed to have a top 40 single. Really? Big Boi put out an album so experimental and well executed, to the point it was almost the Southern version of Kanye’s magnum opus, yet doesn’t even get half of the critical praise. Big Boi needs to get a medal for what he’s doing; keeping real hip hop alive in the south.
Album of the Year: Distant Relatives-Nas and Damien Marley- I didn’t even have to think about this one. This is debatably the best work from Nas since Illmatic (which is seen as the best hip hop album ever by much of the hip hop community). Nas hasn’t sounded this emotional throughout a whole album since…I don’t think he ever has (maybe The Lost Tapes). Damien Marley not only gives us some of the best reggae singing since his late father, he also gives some of the most underappreciated production this year. The Africa conscious theme of the whole thing gives a purpose and cohesion to the whole project. There is not one weak guest appearance on the album (even Lil Wayne gives a good verse), something that the critic’s favorite album that is getting all the attention this year (coughKANYEcough). There is not a doubt in my mind that this is the best album of 2010. It’s just a shame to have next to no promotion, and it came out so early in the year, where no one will remember it for the year end wrap-up.
Movies
Best Documentary: ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’- I never thought you could create a truly excellent film about graffiti, but this proved me wrong. Instead being a dry movie, the film opts to take a much more personal journey through the birth of street art. Since it’s produced by one of the most important players in the scene (Banksy) the film has integrity and a very real, almost gritty feel to it. Perhaps the best part of this film is the end the moral of the story; while I won’t spoil it for you, but I can say it’s incredibly hilarious and on point.
Most Culturally Important: ‘The Social Network’- When I heard they were making a movie based on Facebook, I had nearly no expectations. ‘What’s it gonna be about,’ I thought, ‘a bunch of nerds at computers?’ And to some degree, it is. However, it is done tastefully and in a way that makes a bunch of kids at computers exciting. It plays off the human drama in the creation of Facebook, a makes what could’ve easily been a disaster into an excellent film.
Best Children’s Film: Toy Story 3- This should be a no brainer. I’m glad that the Toy Story series could end of a high note. While nothing is better than the original, I think this is better than the second film by a long shot. Sure, it can be a bit overly mellow dramatic at times, but it gives the whole movie a very (as much as I hate the word) epic feel to it all. Even the animated short before the film is great. Emotional, hilarious, and heartwarming, ‘Toy Story 3’ proved that is a great children’s film by being enjoyable to people of all ages.
Consistency Award: The Coen Brothers for ‘True Grit’- I have never seen a bad Coen Brothers film. From the hilarity of ‘A Serious Man’ and ‘The Big Lebowski’ to the horror of ‘Blood Simple’, the Coen brothers have made a good movie for almost every film genre you can think of. This year, they ventured into a western by remaking the 1969 classic ‘True Grit’. Was it better than the original? That’s debatable. Was it a great western? Extremely great. As a whole, this is probably the best acted movie of the year. The Coen Brothers have done it again.
Best Popcorn Movie: ‘Inception’- The most intelligent popcorn film in ages. Inception has the most creative concepts for an action movie in ages. The acting? Not the greatest (Ellen Page annoyed me), but mostly good. The characters? Not anything spectacular, but better than most action movies. The saving grace of this film was the action. With perhaps the best special effects, mixed with some of the most exciting and well thought out action sequences of the year, ‘Inception’ will grip you, shake you, and lightly lay you back down all before it’s done. Oh, and the ending is amazing.
Unsung Hero: Jesse Eisenberg for his role as Mark Zuckerburg in ‘The Social Network’- I’ve heard very little about award buzz about Eisenberg’s role in ‘The Social Network’ which is a pity, because I haven’t seen a role this year that was acted more impressively than his. From the scant few articles I have read about his role, it was said that he acted exactly like Zuckerburg. I’m not sure how true the writing was but either way, I feel kinda bad for Zuckerburg’s PR from now on.
Worst Film of the Year: ‘The Last Airbender’- I had both of M. Night Shyamalan’s films from this year in contention for this spot, but at least ‘Devil’ was so bad it was entertaining. There however, was nothing entertaining about ‘The Last Airbender’. I was never a huge fan of the show; but what I watched I liked. Shyamalan’s film had no enjoyable qualities to it at all. Terrible acting, Terrible story, Inability to pronounce characters’ names right, the way the totally unbalanced the show’s plot (some of it was there, some of it was not) and terrible CGI. The people I really feel bad for are the show’s creators. They had to watch their work be destroyed by a man who hasn’t made a good movie in over 10 years.
Film of the Year: Black Swan-When I walked out of the screening of this film, I was speechless for a good five minutes. The first words that came to my mouth were ‘I’ve never been so terrified of ballet before’. Black Swan had it all. Natalie Portman needs to get a medal for almost single-handily carrying this film. There was not a single scene were she was not the focus of it, and there was not a scene were I ever questioned her acting. In fact, I didn’t even lose focus of the screen. The special effects, while few, were excellent and not overbearing and detracting from the atmosphere. The cinematography is gorgeous and just artsy enough to give the film character, while not coming off as pretentious. The film took you through a whirlwind of emotions, yet one was the most constant; fear. This is the best scary movie I have seen since ‘Silence of the Lambs’ in sheer execution. If you have not seen it, go see it now. You will not regret it.
TV:
Best Returning Show: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 6-I have never seen a bad episode of this show, and that’s surprising for a show being around for 6 seasons. After the weak season five, the show returned with some of its best episodes (‘Mac’s Big Break’) and a phenomenal Christmas special. Every episode has so many great quotes; it’s hard to believe after so long, this show is still going strong. I tip my hat to the writers.
Worst Returning Show: Lopez Tonight Season 2- What fool decided to give George Lopez a talkshow? He was never funny as a standup comedian, wrote a boring sic-com and the only time he was mildly amusing was when he was in a movie (which was usually something he did not write). Come on TBS, what were you thinking? I’ve suffered through very few episodes of this show and I can say without question that I never laughed, maybe grinned a few times. For 4 hours of my time, it wasn’t even close to worth it. Why can’t you just give Conan O’Brien another hour of his show instead of this unfunny mess.
Best New Show: The Walking Dead- Zombie movies is one of the big three sub-genres of horror (the other tow being vampires and slasher movies). We have had too many vampire shows to count; but most of them tried to rip-off Twilight in recent years, making most of them unbearable and slasher movies are too gory to have a TV show. Most of us had given up on a good horror show when all of a sudden-‘The Walking Dead’ appeared on AMC. Based off the graphic novel series of the same name, the show had a great plot to work with. The actors, while not the greatest, play their roles well and the special effects are extremely impressive, but aren’t the focus of the show. In fact, the show is more of a drama about a group of survivors, than a zombie-killing extravaganza.
Worst New Show: Raising Hope- I only watched one episode of this show, and I can easily say it was terrible. Ever since ‘Juno’ came out and was a critical and commercial smash, every new show thinks they have to have snappy dialogue and hip, extreme, liberal characters. Personally, I found the snappy dialogue in ‘Juno’ grating, so imagine the dialogue in this show. What about the ‘hip, extreme, liberal characters’ you may ask? Well, ‘Raising Hope’ made them into white trash… really, who wrote this show? They need a serious blow to the head to knock some creativity into them.
Biggest Surprise: Futurama’s triumphant return- Long ago, when I was a wee middle-schooller, I would stay up late to catch Futurama at the beginning of Adult Swim’s lineup. Even though I eventually saw every episode, I still would watch re-runs because it was simply that good. So imagine my surprise when Comedy Central said they were going to have new episodes premier in the summer. I just hoped that the new episodes could hold up to the old classics-and they did. Sure, it stands as one of the weaker seasons of the show, but a weak season of Futurama is better than anything Family Guy has done.
Unsung Hero: FX for Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Terriers and The League- If you can look past the daytime re-runs of Two and a Half Men, you’ll see that FX is keeping comedy alive on television. A far cry from the formulated sic-coms and talk shows on national television, and far from the low budget (mostly) poorly executed shows on cable, FX instead plays well written shows with well acted out characters. While The League may be the weak link out of the bunch, it still holds up as a better show than most on TV. Now someone needs to tell FX good movies to play on their network…
Show of the Year: The Walking Dead Season 1-I’m pretty sure I already lavished this show with praise earlier, so I won’t delve into why it is so important. All I will say is that it’s the best horror show we have seen in a long time, in fact, it may be the best ever. It has already been picked up by AMC for future seasons; let’s hope they keep this excellent show excellent.