By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
From a deranged Dirty Harry to the rise of Honey Boo Boo, it was a long, strange, sad, and silly trip
Bottle-pink transsexual director Lana Wachowski grabbed headlines for showing off her new look, and so did Stephen Beatty (Warren and Annette's son) and Chaz Bono. Chaz is now losing weight on national TV to help people! How giving!
And CNN's Anderson Cooper came out as a gay man, as half the world said "Duh" while the other half screamed "Finally!" But the U.K. enjoyed no such relief about their own royalty. Yes, Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee was a good-time gala capped off by disco singer Grace Jones gleefully spinning a hula hoop. But in other corners, when photos surfaced of a naked Prince Harry and a topless Kate Middleton, it became clear that the young royals were actually fun-loving humans with private parts, and that simply could not be allowed to happen. They'll no doubt never be seen in public again (which is fine with me).
In movies, the jewels in the crown continued to be gleamingly aggressive action franchises, with The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Breaking Dawn, Skyfall, and The Dark Knight Rises raking in the ka-ching. But the dark side of The Dark Knight happened in July, when a Joker opened fire at a midnight showing in a Denver suburb on the opening night of the relentlessly gloomy film. By the end, 12 were dead, more than 58 were injured, and a lot of people watched movies at home that weekend. (The Connecticut elementary school shooting in December fed even more cries for increased gun control, though the concept of whack-job control seemed out of everyone's grasp.)
Sad psychos were certainly in tune with the bleak mood that cinema was reflecting. Most of the big Oscar movies were based on horror, whether it be a tsunami, shipwreck, plane crash, slavery, 9/11, or Scientology. Les Misérables indeed, even if the accent was on human dignity and survival against all odds.
The year's real horrors included a sinking Battleship, a schizo Dark Shadows, and an unfunny Casa de Mi Padre. The Paperboy was a wan attempt at satirizing elaborately trashy behavior—it looked way better on paper—while the expensive flop Cloud Atlas was a wildly imaginative exercise in time-spanning and gender-morphing (partly written/directed by Lana), though as it went on interminably, it seemed like a movie about prosthetics buried inside an epic about makeup.
Prosthetics ruled the Academy Awards in February, when The Iron Lady's Meryl Streep won her first Oscar in 29 years, but she somehow made her acceptance speech a self-deprecating exercise in "Oh, her again?" What an actress! But even Meryl was upstaged by Angelina Jolie's leg sticking out of a slit in her dress, a très Jolie pose that was so bold and wacky it captivated the world as everyone set about putting the jutting leg on photos of Betty White and themselves. Quickly, the leg-out stance began to be seen as the only sensible response to a culture, economy, and ecology gone amok.
Straight out of The Paperboy, Honey Boo Boo and her family nabbed better cable ratings than the debates, proving that white trash is better off running for beauty titles than for elected office. And with Uncle Poodle along for the ride, there was even a positive message that "ain't nothing wrong with being a little bit gay. Everybody's a little bit gay."
In music, a yay-gay Carly Rae Jepsen video ("Call Me Maybe") launched the year's most unavoidable hookup anthem, while Justin Bieber and the Brit boyband One Direction also stoked the Clearasil-for-lunch bunch with looks and ambiguity. The indestructible Madonna got into various battles with the new her, Lady Gaga, whose "Born This Way" Madonna mashed into "Express Yourself" to make a point about reduction. But the older gal put away her hate pom-poms for a moment and asked Gaga to perform with her, maybe so they could bury the hatchet in Katy Perry. When Gaga declined, Madonna no doubt started rustling through whole binders full of other divas.
On Broadway, medium-successful movies like Newsies and Once morphed into large musical hits. But in books, it was big-name sex that sold, especially if the big names happened to be extremely dead. Ex-Hollywood-pimp Scotty Bowers's Full Service revealed that virtually every old-time star was gay and ate doody sandwiches, while actor Frank Langella's Dropped Names went for more probing portraits of late legends, while also dissecting a lot of their sexual predilections (if not always his own).
New York City itself went through a full plate of proverbial crap sandwiches—probably courtesy of Chick-fil-A—from a shoot-out in front of the Empire State Building (overreacting police did most of the killing) to a harrowing death on the subway tracks, which a photographer controversially snapped for posterity, then "licensed" the photo. A natural disaster was inevitable, too, one so whopping it destroyed Halloween while supplanting its fear tactics. On October 29, Hurricane Sandy traumatized the country and the Caribbean, killing more than 100 people in and across New York. The accompanying blackout caused major inconvenience while reinforcing our long-running have-and-have-not divide. Downtown Manhattanites (south of 39th Street) and residents of the far reaches of certain boroughs found themselves utterly powerless, while uptowners went department store hopping without even realizing there had been a problem.