Winners & Losers Of 2009 (Part Five)

Winner:  Slumdog Millionaire
It was the 15 million dollar movie that could.  First, it was the toast of the 2008 film festival circuit.  Then, it became a critical favourite cleaning up on the awards circuit.  By early 2009, it was the movie to beat at the Academy Awards.  After snagging ten nominations, Slumdog Millionaire won eight Oscars including Best Picture.  Moviegoers around the world couldn’t get enough of it.  It made over 400 million globally.  (DVD sales have also been strong.)  Richard Roeper recently named it one of his ten favourite films of the decade.  And its two leads, Dev Patel and Freida Pinto, became an item in real life. 
Not bad for a film that almost went straight to video.
Loser:  The Heene Family
On October 15th, American news channels broke away from their regularly scheduled programming to cover a runaway silver helium balloon flying across a blue Colorado sky.  We were told a young boy was in that balloon and local authorities scrambled to make sure he landed safely.  The Denver Airport was shut down and numerous law enforcement and National Guard personnel sprung into duty.  Unfortunately, there was a problem.  The kid wasn’t actually in the balloon.  The entire time, he was hiding in his family’s attic.
Very quickly, public sympathy for the kid and his family turned to ridicule and annoyance.  The reason?  The whole thing was a hoax
Desperate patriarch Richard Heene, along with his wife, Mayumi, foolishly videotaped themselves setting up the balloon and letting it go, pretending that something had gone terribly wrong.  Richard even went so far as to make a bogus 911 call which set everything into motion.  Incredibly, he was hoping the stunt would lead to some kind of reality TV show he wanted to do.  After he was identified as the father of Falcon, the six-year-old wrongly believed to be flying in the balloon, it was discovered that he had already appeared on two episodes of Wife Swap.  In one infamous show clip, which was played on Jimmy Kimmel Live, he screams his head off at the poor woman whose traded places with his Japanese wife.
When the family appeared on Larry King Live, Falcon revealed that his parents instructed him to hide in the attic for that proposed reality show.  On The Today Show and Good Morning America, Falcon was so nervous he ended up puking live on the air.  Three days after the incident, Colorado authorities confirmed what everybody else had already believed.  The whole thing was a sad attempt at procuring fame and fortune in the world of Television.
In the end, upon being threatened with deportation, Mayumi pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of making a false report to authorities.  She got 20 days in jail which she’ll serve on weekends.  Richard was sentenced to 90 days for attempting to influence a public servant.  (Richard goes to jail on January 11th, with his wife to follow soon thereafter.)  Both are on “supervised probation” for four years and neither of them can cash in on their stupid claim to fame. 
Back to the drawing board, guys.
Winner:  Lady Gaga
Following in the footsteps of another compelling Catholic provocateur, this 23-year-old pop dynamo seamlessly combined an over-the-top sexual image with a series of irresistible, radio-friendly synth-pop singles to keep booties shaking the whole world over.  Her critically praised 2008 debut, The Fame, was a slow starter upon its late summer release but by this year, thanks partly to two popular and acclaimed world tours and lots of TV appearances (including performances on Saturday Night Live and The MTV Video Music Awards), the album has gone double platinum.  The first single, Just Dance, spent nearly half a year on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart before finally planting its flag on the top of the mountain in January.  It spend four straight weeks at number one and has sold three million copies in that one country alone.  The track also topped singles charts in Holland, The United Kingdom and Ireland this year.  (It was number one in Canada and Australia in 2008.)
Its superior follow-up, Poker Face, topped the same Billboard chart in April for two consecutive weeks and was a huge number one dance hit, as well.  The song was also number one in Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Holland, The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Sweden and Canada (on two separate occasions).  Single number three, Love Game, peaked at number five in America (number two in Canada) and its successor, Paparazzi, climbed up to number six.  It went to number one in Germany.
In November, Lady Gaga released The Fame Monster, an eight-song follow-up that spawned yet another big hit, Bad Romance, which hit number two in America and number one in Canada, Ireland, The UK, Austria, Denmark and Sweden. 
Nominated for nine MTV Video Music Awards (she won three) and six Grammys (The Fame was recently nominated for Album Of The Year), not only is she an audience and critical favourite, even the industry respects her work.  (Madonna took her daughter to see one of her live shows.)  The ever nosy Barbara Walters, fascinated with her bisexuality, even named her one of The 10 Most Fascinating People Of The Year.
Yes, some of her outfits have entered the land of self-parody (like that red lace get-up that covered up her entire face at the VMAs) and her live performances and videos can sometimes leave you baffled.  But the woman can sing (her voice is reminiscent of Christina Aguilera), she writes moving singles and she has a sense of humour.  Taking Kermit The Frog to The VMAs as her date was genius.
Topping it all off, her buttocks are spectacular.
Loser:  Erin Andrews’ Creepy Stalker
Imagine you have to stay in hotels for work all the time.  Once you get settled in your room, though, the outside world is closed off to you.  You can watch TV, do some research, order some food, drink, even walk around naked if you want.  It’s a safe environment, at least it’s supposed to be.  Now imagine the entire time someone in the room next to you, a complete stranger you’ve never met, has figured out a way to rig a camera into your peephole in order to videotape you without your permission.  Then, imagine that same creep posts the footage he’s taken on the Internet for anyone to access at any time at no charge.
This is the dilemma ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews unwittingly found herself in the middle of in the summer of 2009.  Blurry footage of her walking around naked in not one but two hotel rooms were mysteriously posted on a website in July without mentioning her identity.  Once ESPN lawyers caught wind of this, they fired off a tersely worded letter to the website owner who wisely took it down.  It was later revealed the footage had appeared on a different site back in February.  (In fact, it might still exist on other sites.)  A few foolish media outlets, notably The New York Post and Fox News, decided to publish stills from the video and show clips.  Gee, that’s not inappropriate and insensitive.
Thankfully, in October, the man responsible for traumatizing Andrews was arrested for attempting to sell his footage to TMZ via email.  48-year-old Michael David Barrett, an insurance executive, was surprisingly able on more than one occasion to get a room right next to the ESPN broadcaster, unscrew the peephole in her door and press record.  He made eight videos in all.  By mid-December, much to the relief of Andrews, Barrett plead guilty to interstate stalking and will serve a five-year sentence beginning this coming February.  Andrews was hoping he would get a life sentence.
The ESPN broadcaster hasn’t been the same since she learned of her ordeal.  She has said that sports fans have made rude remarks to her and the whole thing has left her unsettled.  Sadly, she feels a lot less secure about her safety.  The hotels that allowed this gross violation of her privacy to take place have a lot of explaining to do.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, January 3, 2010
12:49 p.m. 
Published in: on January 3, 2010 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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