Winners & Losers Of 2009 (Part Two)

Winner:  Matthew Morrison & Jane Lynch

He’s a good-natured high school teacher passionate about reviving the unpopular Glee Club.  She’s a vindictive gym teacher out to destroy it.

Broadway actor Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch are easily the best performers on Fox’s uneven breakout hit, Glee.  Morrison plays Will Schuester, a supremely nice guy stuck in an awful marriage with a woman so evil she pretends to be pregnant in order to keep him in line.  Lynch is the hilariously blunt Sue Sylvester who coaches The Cheerios, the high school cheerleading squad she refuses to have upstaged by Morrison’s singers.  Every week, for the most part, they butt heads in one tense scene after another.

Morrison’s Will is a stubbornly determined man who, curiously, is able, for the most part, to stand up to Sue’s relentless antics but is frequently put in his place by his manipulative, ice cold wife, Terri (Canadian actress Jessalyn Gilsig stuck with a thankless assignment).  That is, until he discovers the truth.  Without question, that whole sequence is the best one in the entire series.  Note to the wise:  don’t lie to Will.

Aside from Glee, Lynch has been one incredibly busy actor this year.  On TV, you could see her on shows like Kathy Griffin’s My Life On The D-List, Two And A Half Men, Party Down, The L Word, the telefilm Mr. Troop Mom (co-starring comedian George Lopez), as well as commercials for XBOX 360, and hear her on animated shows like The Spectacular Spider-Man, Handy Manny, and the Family Guy spin-off, The Cleveland Show.  She provides a voice in the latest Leisure Suit Larry video game and if that weren’t enough, she also participated in the making of six films (theatrical & straight-to-video features plus live-action shorts), most notably Post Grad (which Roger Ebert liked), Julie & Julia (with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams) and the third Ice Age movie.

While I tune out during a lot of the American Idol-inspired production numbers (if I want to hear Jump, I’ll listen to 1984, thank you) and would like to see less of the evil Terri (now that Will has figured everything out), whenever Lynch and Morrison are on-screen (not to mention the strong supporting cast who thrive on their soap operatic storylines), I pay attention.  Here are two solid performers worthy of Emmy consideration.

Loser:  Men Who Harm Women

20 years after the horrific Montreal massacre, we still can’t protect every woman from needless, undeserved harm from the world’s biggest assholes.  From Chris Brown’s brutal assault on Rihanna to that poor 15-year-old American kid who was beaten and gangraped (as well as robbed) for hours by her disgusting classmates outside her school’s homecoming dance while she was waiting for her dad to pick her up to the reality show contestant who was savagely murdered by her husband (who later killed himself to avoid prosecution) to the psychotic online diarist who killed innocent women at a gym in Pennsylvania to the sweet, compassionate and brilliant Harvard student who was strangled just days before her wedding leaving her fiance, family and friends completely devastated to that weirdo who bit a woman after a New Moon screening to this horrible “honour” killing to a New Zealand creep convicted of injecting a needle filled with his HIV-positive blood into his sleeping, now-infected wife (because he thought that would convince her to resume their halted sex life) to the 18-year hell that Jaycee Dugard had to endure, like the women who were slaughtered December 6, 1989, we mustn’t forget those who were unnecessarily killed and abused in 2009.  These were good, decent women who deserved far better treatment than they ultimately received.  If only there was a way to end the hatred permanently.

Winner:  Susan Boyle

It was a story that would’ve never happened without a big assist from The Internet.  An ordinary, middle-aged woman from a village in Scotland entered a TV talent competition.  When she walked out on stage during her televised audition there were zero expectations from the audience and the judges that she might actually sing.  No one took her seriously.  Her goofy, care-free personality, her age and surprising confidence were met with derisive laughter and indifference.

But then, she opened her mouth and began to belt out a number from Les Miserables.  In a matter of seconds, the instantly and collectively harsh judgments of Susan Boyle vanished and were replaced with deep and utter astonishment, enthusiastic cheers and a whole new fanbase.  No matter what your taste in music, it was difficult not to be moved by that performance.  (Even the sometimes brutal Howard Stern enjoyed it.)  Boyle easily advanced into the next round of Britain’s Got Talent.

What would’ve been strictly a national story suddenly turned global when clips of her appearance started turning up on YouTube and were immediately picked up by the international media.  The world reaction matched that of the original British audience.  Suddenly, millions of people beyond the borders of Ol’ Blighty had emotional investment in the outcome of this show.  The newfound celebrity did shows like The Today Show and Larry King Live, ready to sing other songs.

There were two more entertaining performances (Memory from Cats and a reprise of I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miz) as Boyle inched ever closer to the possibility of realizing her dream of becoming a professional singer.  Alas, she finished second, losing in the end to a dance troupe.  Before she sang a single note, no one expected her to advance beyond the first round.  After that memorable performance, she suddenly became a huge favourite to win the whole damn thing. When she lost, it was actually considered an upset.  How bizarre.

Although the experience has been at times too overwhelming for her (she was briefly institutionalized and there’s been a lot of weeping not to mention the occasionally public thumb sucking), she did manage to do some dates on the BGT tour.  By the time her debut album surfaced late in the year, demand was quite high.  I Dreamed A Dream sold over 400,000 copies in Britain and over 700,000 in America in its first week.  (She has the highest all-time selling debut for a female in the latter country.)  Although reviews have been mixed, probably due to an easy listening record filled with almost all covers of recognizable songs, the critical reception is not likely to sway fans from seeking it out.  No matter what happens next (there are troubling signs of more mental breakdowns), 2009 was Susan Boyle’s breakthrough year.  Her mum would be proud.

Loser:  Roman Polanski & His Supporters

They finally got him.  31 years after he cowardly fled America to avoid a potentially long jail sentence for raping a 13-year-old model (which had been one of six charges plead down to a single, less serious “unlawful sexual intercourse” offense), the legendary Polish filmmaker was ironically nabbed in Switzerland, a nation he’s vacationed in for decades without incident.  In the country to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Zurich Film Festival in September, he’s been stuck there ever since.  (After being jailed for a bit, he’s currently under house arrest in his own Swiss chalet and there’s a very good chance he may very well be extradited back to the United States.)

Incredibly, Polanski, not his young victim (now in her 40s and understandably, wanting the whole mess to go away), received a tremendous, undeserved outpouring of support.  First, the foreign ministers of Poland (his birth country) and France (the nation he fled to in 1978) urged his immediate release.  Although they would ultimately change their mind, due to public outrage, most of Polanski’s supporters continue to stand by him.  A ridiculous petition, featuring prominent names like Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and, if you can believe it, Woody Allen, urging his immediate release started circulating.  Even the great Roger Ebert, while not excusing Polanski’s horrible crime, thinks there’s been a miscarriage of justice based on his view of the critically acclaimed Wanted And Desired documentary.  (More on that in a second.)  But the worst defenders have been Huffington Post blogger Bernard-Henri Levy and author Gore Vidal.

During an interview with The Atlantic, Vidal called Polanski’s rape victim “a hooker” (she wasn’t), insisted with a straight face that the media got the story all wrong (they didn’t) and that the Academy-Award winning director was himself a victim of racism (nice try).  The contradictory Levy, while admitting the victim’s sexual abuse is “a serious crime”, has never specifically detailed what Polanski did to her (he downplays the anal rape as “unlawful sex”, for instance) and has written numerous hyperbolic pieces pleading for an end to Polanski’s suffering (as if continuing to freely make movies in Europe and live the good life is so terrible).

According to Wanted And Desired (which I’ve not seen), the original judge in the case is accused of throwing out a plea deal arranged by the attorneys in order to possibly give Polanski a 50-year sentence.  Polanski bailed before actually hearing what his real sentence would be.  (Ebert quotes in his review both the prosecutor and Polanski’s victim saying that they don’t blame Polanski for fleeing, as a result.)  Unfortunately, according to this Salon.com story, the movie apparently has a vendetta against the judge offering negative details that seem irrelevant to Polanski’s ordeal while leaving out others that would show the judge in a more positive light.  Not only that, it reportedly doesn’t actually detail what Polanski did to violate the young model he was photographing for a European version of Vogue.

Regardless of how the case was handled (clearly, it shouldn’t take more than 30 years to resolve this damn thing), Polanski has no one to blame but himself.  The facts speak for themselves.  He drugged and anally raped an innocent, underage girl despite the fact that she repeatedly refused his advances and wanted to go home.  He was just supposed to photograph her, not ruin her life.  Instead of staying in America in 1978 to face the music and legitimately appeal any overly harsh sentence that was coming to him (which he can still do if ever acts like a man and flies back to the country), he willfully became a fugitive and didn’t suffer any longterm consequences.  (Not being able to accept his Best Director Oscar in person in 2003 is not a reasonable person’s idea of suffering.  Nor is being married to this woman for 20 years.)  As a result, he’s not in any position to dictate to anyone what should happen next.  Neither are his misguided supporters.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 7, 2009
6:08 p.m.

CORRECTION:  It’s Rihanna, not Rhianna.  The correct spelling finally appears after all this time.  My apologies for the mistake.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, February 25, 2012
6:49 p.m.

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Published in: on December 7, 2009 at 6:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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