Michael Musto's Year in Review

Social and economic turmoil? Don't ask. At least we had Lady Gaga to tell us what to do.

Death Is the New After-Party

Not only is there some wispy promise for Gotham—it's there for all of humankind, apparently. In movies and on TV, the lure of fantasy became more potent than ever, the public still turning to the afterlife, vampires, dream implants, parallel universes, and other sci-fi allegories that gave the narcissistic generation hopes of even more social networking after death. Fractured fairy tales like Toy Story 3, Tron: Legacy, and Alice (with gap-toothed Depp serving the hot liquid and weird accent) offered mind-blowing altered states for arrested children of all ages. Even real-life stories were more or less about life after death, with biopics celebrating survivors who overcame self-amputation (127 Hours), a stammer (The King's Speech—a/k/a Stutter Island), and a backstabbing friend (The Social Network). The year's biggest cultural shock was that people actually took a two-hour break from Facebook to watch a movie about it, thrilled to finally see something not in 3-D. And they didn't even tweet that much through it!

The Oscars were a zingy romp, not because of the movies involved, but because of the marital disputes being acted out for our delectation as if on a sordid reality show. The showdown between divorcees Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron made for a riveting battle of the sexes, Cameron turning blue over his bloated film losing Best Picture to Bigelow's little-seen war drama. And while Best Actress winner Sandra Bullock weepily thanked her man, Jesse James, it was only days later that she went into hiding when it turned out James was banging a neo-Nazi-esque porn star. Why wasn't that girl dating Mel Gibson?

Michael Musto as 2010's divas and 
deviants: Justin Bieber blows; (below): Mel Gibson and his angry beaver and tough cookie Snooki.
Chad Griffith, Chad Griffith, Hair and makeup styling by Valissa Yoe Props by Lauren Stoecker-Sylvia Photo assistant Maegan Gindi
Michael Musto as 2010's divas and deviants: Justin Bieber blows; (below): Mel Gibson and his angry beaver and tough cookie Snooki.

In TV land, the Emmy Awards became a war between two movies about euthanasia, and I lost sleep wondering why their subjects didn't just pool their resources and team up. Temple Grandin and Jack Kevorkian would do socko business if they only got on the same page and opened a mercy-killing partnership. And think of all that afterlife!

The brooding crowd stuck with Mad Men, the Gaga kids screeched along with Glee, and the braindead bunch lapped up, you know, Jersey Shore, which gave dumb Guidos a bad name (though you had to admire Snooki, the trash-mouthed ex-cheerleader who searched for love on the boardwalk, didn't deny sex-tape rumors, and had a gala birthday party sponsored by LifeStyles condoms).

If anything was in need of euthanasia, it was American Idol, which fewer viewers idolized due to new judges who made Obama look decisive by comparison. Uncomfortable as a gay who bullies singers, Ellen DeGeneres bombed on the show, but her daytime job was even more secure now that Oprah Winfrey was stepping down to do a cable channel. Yay! Twenty-four hours of product giveaways, kitsch reunions, and closeted celebs pushing their straightness on us!

Schadenfreudian Slips

Off-camera, swarms of entitled stars took their cues from the imploding righties and foolishly allowed people to catch them being themselves. In a year of never-too-much-information, the public didn't miss a trick—or a meltdown—as celebrities got brought down to subhuman levels on an hourly basis. We got to hear Mel Gibson spew the passion of the anti-Christ via unbelievably rancid rants and death threats, though his dwindling fan base preferred to paint those as the highly edited extortion attempts of a disgruntled ex-wife—who feared for her life!

As Mel became a showbiz pariah all over again, his comeback hopes were pinned on The Beaver, a film drama directed by Jodie Foster, in which he's a disturbed man who communicates via an angry puppet. It's the only beaver Mel's been allowed to put his hand up in ages.

Charlie Sheen topped his own last horror performance—proudly holding a knife to the spouse's neck—by going ballistic in a hotel suite, accusing a prostie of stealing his wallet, and sprinkling in some N-words to please the Gibson/Schlessinger fan base. With the suite in shambles and the cops called to the scene, Charlie's flacks came up with the boldest spin of all time: It was all due to an allergic reaction to a medication. Yeah, cocaine.

A hotter meds-mess, Lindsay Lohan, bounced around from jail to rehab, as the public prayed she wouldn't be released from either in time to make that Linda Lovelace flick. She ended up being dumped from it anyway, which sent her into such a dizzying spiral that she even made up with her father.

Celebrity rampaging was so prevalent it even hit walking bad-hair-day Justin Bieber (a/k/a "the Bieber"). He's the androgynous, YouTube-created protégé of Usher—and in fact he basically is Usher, minus the singing, dancing, experience, and sex appeal. But apparently Bieber's got a dark side. In his native Canada, he allegedly parted his Cousin Itt–like bangs and assaulted a 12-year-old who was repeatedly taunting him with the F-word. And suddenly I'm interested in Justin Bieber.

But the year's most hilarious twist of fate had disgraced ex-governor Eliot Spitzer becoming respectable enough to nab a CNN show while the madam who supplied him with girls actually ran for his old political position (if not his old missionary position). Everyone's switching seats on the same plane these days—and there are Muslims, too. And not only does President Gaga approve, but Secretary of State Katy Perry thinks it's totally cool.

musto@villagevoice.com

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