Winners & Losers Of The Year (2006) – Part Three

Let’s continue to look back at 2006 with another round of winners & losers.
 
Winner:  Red Hot Chili Peppers
 
After a 3-year absence, these veteran Californicators returned to the rock scene and proved once again why they command so much respect.  Stadium Arcadium, their first ever double CD in their 20-plus year history, doesn’t have one bad song on it, an incredible achievement in this annoying age of digital downloading.  (There are 28 terrific tracks on this album.)  Rolling Stone took note of that as well when they declared Stadium to be their greatest studio release ever. 
 
The album has sold well since its May debut (it was number one for two consecutive weeks and was quickly certified platinum in less than a month) and already, there have been 3 hit singles:  Dani California (a Top 10 smash), Tell Me Baby and Snow (Hey Oh).  Expect more great singles in the new year.
 
Speaking of Dani California, the song inspired one of the funniest videos of the year.  Taking the idea that fuelled the Nirvana video for In Bloom to its ultimate, hilarious extreme, the band is seen “performing” their single on a stage in a series of increasingly ridiculous outfits.  We start out with the black and white homage to Elvis (with ageless singer Anthony Kiedis hamming it up in a suit and pompadour), then it’s on to The Beatles (the mop-top phase) and Nirvana (the unplugged setting) as well as side-splitting parodies of glam rockers, funk rockers and industrial nihilists, among a few others.  So what if the song uses the exact same chord sequence as Mary Jane’s Last Dance by Tom Petty?  Great song, great video.  (Petty should be handsomely compensated, though.) 
 
These future Hall of Famers (they’re only a couple of years away from eligibility) can look forward to nabbing some very important Grammy nominations soon.  I’ll be very surprised if Stadium Arcadium is not nominated for Album Of The Year.  If it indeed does get recognized by the industry, this would be the time to honour this highly influential group with this important prize.  I’ve been a fan since 1996 when I heard One Hot Minute for the first time (after years of never giving them a chance) and I want to see them win some awards for this album.  They deserve every accolade they get this awards season.
 
Loser:  Michael Ignatieff
 
Here’s another casualty of unrealistic expectations.  The former Harvard professor and prolific author (The Lesser Evil is on my book list.  It’s an interesting read.  I recommend it.) hadn’t been in this country since the 1970s.  A respected academic, he suddenly returned to Canada to pursue power with as little grunt work as possible.  First, he ran for a seat in Parliament in 2004.  Then, he declared his candidacy for the Liberal leadership after the 2006 Federal Election. 
 
For months, if many in the media were to be believed, Michael Ignatieff was going to become the Leader of the Opposition without any difficulties.  Then he started talking and made some controversial missteps that clearly hurt his campaign.  First, it was the inconsistent remarks he made about Israel’s summertime war conduct that ignited strong criticism, especially the part about them committing “war crimes”.  Then, he re-opened debate on Quebec.  When he declared Quebec to be a “nation”, it brought back terrible memories for many who lived through those Quebec referendums and the rejected Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords.
 
But the final indignity occurred this week during the Liberal Leadership Convention.  Ignatieff was able to hold his own through two votes as fellow contenders Bob Rae, Ken Dryden, Martha Hall Findlay and Gerard Kennedy all fell by the wayside.  But by the third ballot, all of the mistakes he had made during his campaign had finally caught up to him.  Stephane Dion, who has long opposed Quebec separation, saw his surprising campaign build so much late momentum (proving that is not over ’til it’s really over) that he ended up winning the third and fourth ballots, garnering enough votes to put him over-the-top.  Former Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella might’ve been the only pundit who called it right.
 
As for Ignatieff, he learned the hard way that it’s very difficult to live up to high expectations.  Sometimes, the worst thing you can do is think out loud.
 
Winner:  Sacha Baron Cohen
 
This hilarious British comedian had one hell of a good year.  He got engaged to a woman who loves him so much she’s converted to Judaism for him, his defunct Da Ali G Show remains a popular program on North American cable outlets, he was placed on the cover of Rolling Stone, and his Borat movie was huge.  It was so huge that when the distributor foolishly opened it on 900 screens during its first weekend, it was still able to beat Santa Clause 3 (even though that film was playing on over 3000 screens).  After it was expanded the movie did even better business the following weekend.  It also received overwhemingly positive reviews (a 91% fresh rating, according to rottentomatoes.com).
 
Not only that, controversy followed the film and the character everywhere.  Many in Kazakhstan, including public officials, have grumbled publicly about the Borat phenomenon.  Certain participants in the film filed frivolous lawsuits against Cohen because they didn’t like how they came off in the movie.  (Maybe they should acquire a sense of humour and let it go already.  They freely participated so they’re wasting everyone’s time with their nonsense.  Take responsibility for once in your lives, people!)  And, incredibly, the character and the movie might’ve been a strong contributing factor to the break-up of Pam Anderson’s marriage.  (She makes a cameo appearance.)
 
Borat wasn’t Cohen’s only hit movie this year, either.  Remember this summer’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby?  (Look for it on DVD this month.)  Cohen plays Will Farrell’s openly gay French NASCAR rival.  The film scored a 72% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes and earned almost 150 million in North American cinemas.  All in all, I wouldn’t be surprised if Entertainment Weekly named him their Entertainer Of The Year.
 
Loser:  George Stroumboulopoulos
 
I remember this guy when he was a DJ on Toronto’s alternative rock station, Edge 102 (CFNY) and later, when he worked for Muchmusic.  Last year, he made the jump to CBC Newsworld with his program, The Hour.  But something terrible happened to him in 2006.  
 
During the summer, while on a summer break from his regular TV gig on The Hour, he was assigned the task of hosting The One, a blatant American Idol rip-off.  The original version was for ABC but the ratings were so bad the show was pulled almost immediately and without declaring a winner.  (The website for the show only has one episode summary.)  Before the show went on the air, CBC announced they were planning to do a Canadian version which ruffled the usual nationalistic feathers.  But because ABC didn’t stick with their version of the show, CBC pulled the plug on their version, as well, before it even made it to the airwaves. 
 
If that weren’t bad enough for Stroumboulopoulos, his CBC Newsworld show was relocated to CBC and the ratings have been dreadful.   How bad?  Try less than 100,000 viewers.  Way less.  
 
Maybe it’s time to hire Bono as a sidekick.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, December 2, 2006
8:05 p.m.
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Published in: on December 2, 2006 at 8:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

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