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

Here’s another round-up of winners and losers for the year 2006.
 
Winner:  U2
 
For the most part, it’s been another stellar year for the world’s greatest rock band who turned 30 this year.  In February, the band nabbed 5 deserving Grammy Awards (6, if you count producer Steve Lillywhite’s win for Producer Of The Year (Non-Classical)).  Their magnificent 2004 album, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, won Album Of The Year and Best Rock Album.  Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own, a tribute to Bono’s deceased father and one of several key singles from the record, was named Song Of The Year (for its spectacular songwriting) and Best Rock Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group.  Another great single, City Of Blinding Lights (which was inspired by a memorable concert in New York), won the Best Rock Song prize.
 
All in all, it was a magical night.  It was the first time in 18 years the band won the Album Of The Year trophy.  (The last time was in 1988 when the greatest album in rock history, The Joshua Tree, won the same award.)  They’re batting 2 for 4 in that category.  (Achtung Baby and All That You Can’t Leave Behind were the other nominated albums.)  Overall, they’ve won 22 of these awards.  Take that, Beatles.
 
Besides that, the band’s charitable spirit remains intact.  The Edge (or Pointy Chin, as I like to call him) has been one of many entertainers trying to help New Orleans recover from the continuing after-effects of the absolutely soul-crushing Hurricane Katrina.  For their part, U2 collaborated with another great band, Green Day, on a Skids cover called The Saints Are Coming, a benefit single meant to raise funds for the Music Rising charity which has been put together to raise money for new instruments to be placed in the hands of local musicmakers who suffered greatly from the natural disaster.  This is Pointy Chin’s big cause right now.
 
Speaking of Saints Are Coming, the song was one of two new songs included on the band’s third greatest hits package, U218, which was issued late last month.  I’ve been critical about the track listing for that album because it features hits that have already been included on similiarly-themed releases previously.  What I didn’t realize then was that the band is donating some of the proceeds to charity (specifically, the Music Rising organization), which is always a good thing.  Still, I stand by what I’ve written previously.  It would’ve been a lot smarter to have included all of the hits that weren’t included on the two previous incarnations.  (You’d be surprised how many hit singles, or singles in general, have yet to appear on a U2 CD compilation.) I still believe they blew it and are ripping off their fans.  That being said, I still want to hear the record.
 
Throw in a best-selling book about the band’s history, another batch of DVDs and Bono’s tireless efforts to eradicate poverty and AIDS and it all adds up to another great year, the U218 screw-up notwithstanding.
 
Loser:  Kevin Federline
 
You know you’re a contender for Loser Of The Year when no matter what you do, you receive endless amounts of criticism and remain a favourite satirical target of comedians.  Take the American Music Awards, for instance.  Jimmy Kimmel hosted again and there was this bit (unseen by me) where a Kevin Federline look-a-like was brought out, placed in a wood coffin and then, sent out to sea.  The timing of the bit was very interesting.  Why?  Britney Spears presented an award immediately afterwards.
 
Where do I begin with this guy?  His undeserved arrogance has put off a lot of people not to mention his rap music.  (The Associated Press, curiously, being a notable exception.)  His first, and probably last, studio album, Playing With Fire, has been a dismal failure.  (It’s sold less than 10,000 copies.)  And how about those reviews?  Rolling Stone gave it one star.  Entertainment Weekly gave it an F.  Ticket sales for the subsequent tour have been equally underwhelming.  (I still wanna hear it, though.)
 
And then, the worst blow of them all:  getting dumped by his wife of 2 years and the mother of 2 of his children (he’s a father of 4, remember) via text message while in the middle of taping a MuchMusic special.  The look on his anguished face when he receives the news from Britney Spears says it all.  The gravy train is leaving the station for good.  Your sperm is no longer welcome here, pal. 
 
And yet, Federline refuses to go away quietly.  Thanks to his brief association with Spears, he’s also been able to model, make guest appearances on CSI and 1 Vs. 100 and even become part of a storyline involving WWE Champion John Cena.  (Guess who the fans are rooting for in that one.)  Still, he better enjoy what little opportunities he has left.  Once they dry up, it’s time to get a real job.  PopoZao.
 
Winner:  Daniel Craig
 
Signing this talented character actor to take over an important, revered film icon was supposed to be a mistake.  He’s too blond, they said.  Too short, as well.  In the end, he made them all eat their words.
 
When Daniel Craig was cast as the new James Bond in a remake of Casino Royale (based on the first Bond novel by the late Ian Fleming), many were outraged.  There was lingering anger over the ouster of Pierce Brosnan who very much wanted to do another movie as that beloved character.  Before the film’s November release, former Bonds Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and even, Brosnan himself all voiced their public support for Craig.  Very classy gestures from established actors.  But in the end, the new James Bond got even more positive recognition from the general public and the media.
 
Despite stiff competition from Happy Feet, Casino Royale has been an enormous hit from the start.  As of this writing, it has earned almost 250 million worldwide, a remarkable accomplishment for a movie only in wide release for a few weeks and with a virtual unknown in the lead, inflation notwithstanding.  And the reviews have been equally astonishing.  According to rottentomatoes.com, the film has a 94% fresh rating making it one of the best-reviewed films of 2006.  Some critics, most notably Liz Braun of The Toronto Sun, believe Craig is the best Bond of all time, even better than Connery.  (I’ll reserve judgment until I see all the movies in the franchise.  I’m halfway there.)
 
Not only that, Craig has received strong notices for his work in Infamous, yet another Truman Capote film.  (He plays Perry Smith, one of the convicted killers on death row who inspired Capote’s book, In Cold Blood.)  That film has a fresh rating of 70%, according to Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty amazing considering the fact it’s only been a year since the release of the similiarly-themed film, Capote, which also received great critical acclaim. 
 
With another Bond in the cards for 2008, the 38-year-old actor is young enough and respected enough to stick with the franchise for as long as he is needed.  Nice work if you can get it.
 
Loser:  Paul Martin
 
He was supposed to be the heir-apparent, the political genius that would maintain the stranglehold on power the Liberal Party of Canada had been enjoying for over a decade.  But much like Michael Ignatieff, he crumbled under the pressure of high expectations.
 
The son of a political legend who never fulfilled his dream of becoming the leader of The Great White North, Paul Martin Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps and made a name for himself as the Finance Minister in Jean Chretien’s Administration.  But soon, his political ambitions caused friction in his father’s party.  The Liberal Party was soon divided into two camps:  those who supported Chretien and those who placed their faith in Martin.  Years later, the fallout remains.
 
After Chretien stepped aside earlier than expected (because of pressure from members of his own party), Martin easily ascended to the throne with virtually no serious competition.  (93% of the Liberal Party faithful voted for him at the 2003 Liberal Leadership Convention.)
 
In the 2004 election, he was expected to continue the Liberals’ electoral hot streak of majority victories.  And although he did win a mandate from the Canadian electorate, it was a much smaller one than expected.  After 11 years of majority rule, the best Martin could do was maintain a slim minority.  His brief tenure as Canada’s 21st Prime Minister disappointed many.  His lone, worthy accomplishment:  legalizing same-sex marriage in 2005. 
 
He would be immediately tagged with the awful nickname, “Mr. Dithers”, which referred to his chronic indecisiveness and frequent changes of heart (gay marriage (first against it, then for it), missile defence (first for it, then against it)).  And the scandals of the past would haunt his political future, namely AdScam.  (It should be noted he was never accused or convicted of anything related to that story.) 
 
Meanwhile, he made decisions that infuriated many within his own party like retaining only some members of Chretien’s cabinet and being too much of a micromanager when dealing with the process of riding nominations.  According to Wikipedia, he refused to let some former cabinet ministers run in the 2004 Federal election by not signing their nomination papers, a legal requirement needed to be taken care of in order to run.  (Because of Martin’s actions, Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella left the party, along with numerous other disgruntled faithful, and has since focused on Ontario provincial politics.  He’s working for Premier Dalton McGuinty’s re-election campaign next year.) 
 
Although he was able to survive politically during one pivotal vote of confidence in May 2005, thanks to Belinda Stronach’s last-minute decision to join the party after being elected a Tory in 2004, his days were numbered.  By January 2006, Martin was finished after a disastrous 2-month campaign loaded with verbal errors and political stumbles from himself and members of his own party. 
 
Although the Liberals were hardly decimated – his Conservative opponent, Stephen Harper, could only win a minority – Martin saw the writing on the wall.  He quickly resigned as leader of the party, immediately ending any speculation that he would declare a rematch against Harper and the Conservatives in the future.  
 
He remains in the House of Commons as a backbencher MP for LaSalle-Emerd in Quebec.  How different his life and career would be right now if he hadn’t alienated so many Liberal supporters during his brief reign at the top.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 3, 2006
5:04 p.m.
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Published in: on December 3, 2006 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

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