Winners & Losers Of 2008 (Part Three)

Winner:  Robert Downey Jr.
Before this year, you couldn’t call him a movie star.  Oh sure, he appeared in hit movies like Back To School (91 million), Bowfinger (66 million) and the recent remake of The Shaggy Dog (61 million) and, of course, he was outstanding in Natural Born Killers and Wonder Boys.  But huge success in a leading role always seemed to elude him.
Not anymore.  Thanks to director Jon Favreau, the 43-year-old Oscar nominee (who was the best thing in the disappointing Chaplin) is front and center in Iron Man, the highly acclaimed and widely popular comic book movie.  Were it not for Favreau’s firm insistence on casting Downey in the role of wealthy industrialist Tony Stark (Paramount Pictures, the distributor of the film, needed a lot of reassurance), one wonders if the film’s reception, with a different actor playing that part, would’ve been just as enthusiastic.  Nevertheless, Iron Man has singlehandedly put Downey on the A-list. 
Furthermore, this wasn’t the only time Downey played Stark in a movie this year.  He also popped up in an unbilled cameo in The Incredible Hulk which also received good reviews and made money.  If that weren’t enough to solidify his stature in 2008, there was also his performance in Tropic Thunder, the controversial comedy about a ragtag group of actors who accidentally find themselves fighting in a real guerrilla war while making a movie about Vietnam.  Downey plays an Australian method actor who undergoes a race lift to play a black man.  Despite protests over the use of the word “retard” in the movie, the late summer comedy made 110 million and earned an 84% fresh rating from critics compiled on Rotten Tomatoes.  Will the performance earn an Oscar nomination for Downey next year?  We shall see.
With the little-seen and mixed-reviewed Charlie Bartlett his only unsuccessful film in 2008, Robert Downey Jr. had one hell of a year.  Thank God he got sober.
Loser:  Film Critics
Roger Ebert lost his speaking voice.  At The Movies with Ebert & Roeper was cancelled.  Manny Farber died.  The Associated Press insisted on limiting movie reviews to 500 words.  The Village Voice fired Nathan Lee.  The San Diego Union-Tribune canned David Elliott.  Glenn Whipp no longer writes for The Los Angeles Daily News.  Its competitor, The Los Angeles Times, let go of Glenn Kenny and Carina Chocano.  Flint Journal critic Ed Bradley took a buyout.  Ditto Jan Stuart and Gene Seymour at Newsday.  After firing Terry Lawson last December, The Detroit Free Press announced in January that it wouldn’t replace him.  Mary Pols exited The Contra Costa Times, The Oakland Tribune and The San Jose Mercury News.  More and more movies by major studios are not being screened for critics.  And worst of all, this downward trend, already in its third year or so, will probably continue into 2009.
Winner:  Katy Perry
Irresistible in more ways than one, this 24-year-old Grammy-nominated Califorinian burst into the mainstream this year with two songs you couldn’t get out of your head.  First came I Kissed A Girl, her cheeky albeit fictional ode to bicurious smooching.  According to Wikipedia, it hit number one in 13 different countries.  Then, came the energetic retro-sounding follow-up, Hot N’ Cold.  It peaked at the top of four different international singles charts.  Both songs have sold over a million copies in North America to date.
It’s been a near decade-long journey to get to this point.  After releasing a Christian album in 2001 at the age of 17 under her real name, Katy Hudson, and recording two incomplete pop albums (one of which was a collaboration with the songwriting team, The Matrix) that remain locked in the vaults (with the exception of Simple, which you can hear on The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants soundtrack), not to mention the number of record labels she signed with who later dropped her, it wasn’t until she released Ur So Gay, a song that Madonna publicly championed, that she finally caught a break.  Despite controversy over that song and I Kissed A Girl, Perry became one of the breakout stars in a troubled industry that welcomed some rare good news.  Her second album, One Of The Boys, has been certified Gold.  Besides the hits, other songs from that record have popped up on Television and in the movies.  Appearances on programs like The Howard Stern Show and The Young & The Restless as well as a spot on the Warped Tour kept her active throughtout the year.  She ends 2008 with a December 31st appearance on NBC’s New Year’s Eve w/ Carson Daly.
Her old-school ’50s-era Playboy Magazine aesthetic is endlessly appealing as well as her candor.  She’s sexy and she’s talented.  More please.
Loser:  Mike Myers
The former Austin Powers took a chance this summer on a Deepak Chopra-inspired character in his latest comedy, The Love Guru.  Critics loathed it while audiences were indifferent.  The New York Post and Richard Roeper named it the worst movie of the year.  Expect a whole slew of Razzie nominations soon.  The fourth Shrek movie can’t come fast enough.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
9:43 p.m.
Published in: on December 10, 2008 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

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