Winners & Losers Of 2011 (Part One)

Winner:  The Arcade Fire

Last year, this exhilarating Montreal band released their best album yet, The Suburbs.  An overwhelming critical fave, this stunning epic is their biggest seller to date.  (It’s gone Gold in the U.S. (their sole certification there) and Platinum in the U.K.)  The CD also ended up on a good number of critics’ year-end Top 10 lists in 2010.  So, that’s the end of that story, right?

Wrong.  2011 showered them with even more accolades.  In March, they were up for three Grammys.  Although their relentlessly emotional Ready To Start, nominated for Best Rock Performance By A Vocal Duo Or Group, lost to The Black Keys’ Tighten Up and the Best Alternative Music Album Grammy was also awarded to The Keys for their Brothers LP, when the final award of the evening was handed out (just moments before the band was scheduled to play another song to end the show), few expected the outcome I had publicly hoped for in this space on New Year’s Eve 2010:

“But the most important nomination was for Album Of The Year, a stunning achievement for a band that’s never had a Top 40 hit nor a Platinum selling album in America.  How phenomenal would it be for Canada and the music business if ‘The Suburbs’ actually won?  A lad can only dream.”

That dream astonishingly became reality when The Suburbs was indeed named Album Of The Year, a moment most of us never expected to happen.

But the awards didn’t stop there.  At the Brit Awards, The Suburbs won Best International Album, a category filled with strong nominees (Cee-Lo Green’s The Lady Killer, Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream and Kings Of Leon’s Come Around Sundown among them), and Best International Group beating out the likes of KOL and The Black Eyed Peas.

At the Junos, they secured four more gongs:  Group Of The Year, Songwriter Of The Year, Album Of The Year and Alternative Album Of The Year.  Finally, after surviving two rounds of nominations, The Suburbs won the 2011 Polaris Music Prize which is given to the best Canadian album of the year.  Because of the victory, the band got to split $30,000.

Despite the dumb decision to re-release The Suburbs with a couple of new songs, an extended version of Wasted Hours and a bonus DVD (why weren’t they part of the original package?), 2011 was just as good to The Arcade Fire as 2010.

Loser:  The Vancouver Canucks

They were the best team in the NHL last season racking up an impressive 117 points.  Of the 82 games they played they won 54.   They led the league in franchise scoring (262) and let in the fewest goals (185).  Quite simply, they were the heavy favourite to finally end Canada’s Stanley Cup drought.

A tough first round series with recent play-off nemesis, The Chicago Blackhawks (last year’s champions who had successfully bumped them off two consecutive years), saw them down three games to two early on.  But in games six and seven, The Canucks managed to squeak out two straight overtime victories to assure them a second round berth.

Next came The Nashville Predators.  In a six-game series where all but one contest was decided by one goal, the number one team in the NHL were soon ready for the Western Conference Final.  That series with The San Jose Sharks lasted five games.

Finally, only the Boston Bruins stood between them and Lord Stanley’s elusive trophy.  In one of the more bizarre series in recent years, the 2011 Stanley Cup Final very much favoured the home team, one more so than the other.  When Vancouver played at the Rogers Arena, they barely etched out victories in games one, two and five (two of which were clean sheets), all by a single goal.  But when Boston played at the Garden, it was like they were playing a much weaker team.  The Bruins humiliated them 8-1 in game three, trounced them 5-2 in game four and eeked out a 1-zip win in game six.

With the series tied, it looked like Vancouver’s home ice advantage would prove the difference in game seven, based on the weird history of the series.  So imagine the country’s shock when Boston easily ran roughshod over The Canucks by blanking them four-nothing in front of their devastated fans.

What went wrong?  How could the most dominant team in the National Hockey League play so inconsistently in the most important play-off series of its young franchise?  Ask Boston goalie Tim Thomas, the Conn Smythe winner.

Winner:  Melissa McCarthy

This former stand-up and Groundlings member transitioned to acting in the late 90s by first appearing on her cousin’s failed sitcom, The Jenny McCarthy Show.  (Yes, she’s unfortunately related to the dopey anti-vaccine activist/Playboy Playmate.)  Shortly thereafter, she got bit parts in films like Go, Charlie’s Angels and Drowning Mona.

In 2000, the same year those last two features appeared in theatres, she began a seven-year run on the critically acclaimed Gilmore Girls.  During hiatuses she popped up in other movies (The Life Of David Gale, The Nines) and even had a recurring voice role on the animated series, Kim Possible.  After another two-year run on the sitcom, Samantha Who?, and guest appearances on other shows like Private Practice, it was back to the movies.

Which brings us to May 2011.  McCarthy was cast in a key supporting role in the romantic comedy Bridesmaids.  (She plays the plain, aggressive Megan.)  The two-hour plus film ended up becoming perhaps the biggest surprise of the summer (even though it opened mid-spring.)  As of this writing, it’s made almost 300 million worldwideReviewers were as equally enthusiastic as audiences.  Howard Stern even gave his public seal of approval.  Could McCarthy snag a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination next year?  She just received one from the Screen Actors Guild, a hopeful sign for her.

For most actors, that would be enough.  But McCarthy also has a regular gig starring in Mike & Molly, the CBS sitcom now in its second season.  Although not highly regarded, the 40-something star who plays the title female character somehow ended up with a Best Lead Actress In A Comedy Emmy this year.

Finally, McCarthy made the most of her first time hosting Saturday Night Live, appearing to not require any real need to glance at cue cards whatsoever.  (Being a Groundling back in the day obviously proved to be essential preparation.)  Her gung-ho, take-no-prisoners approach had at least one Entertainment Weekly writer considering the possibility of her becoming a full-time cast member.

Not a chance.  With another movie coming out next year (the Knocked Up sequel, This Is Forty) and her ongoing commitment to Mike & Molly, this talented Chicago cutie is doing just fine on her own.

Loser:  John Morrison

After paying his dues on the old reality series, Tough Enough, the former Johnny Nitro would eventually evolve into the Jim Morrison-inspired risktaker he would become famous for.  Initially, a bratty heel who enjoyed tag team success with The Miz (they were champions on two different occasions), he would turn ‘face and become one of the more popular WWE wrestlers in its current PG period.

He was pushed three times for the Intercontinental title (under both character names) and looked like he was on the path to a World Championship.  But when 2011 arrived, not many would’ve predicted the relentless burying he’s had to go along with for much of the year.  Despite providing fans with memorably unique moments during the 40-man Royal Rumble and the Raw Elimination Chamber match, he won neither.

At WrestleMania 27, he was thrown into a very quick mixed tag team match where he was overshadowed by a surprisingly gymnastic Snooki who helped his team (which included Trish Stratus) secure a win over Dolph Ziggler, Michelle McCool and Vicki Guerrero.  Not exactly ideal booking for The Monday Night Delight.

Speaking of Stratus, she publicly claimed that Morrison dismissed her ideas for the match and snubbed her after their victory.  (He was reportedly upset that his then-girlfriend, Melina (the former Divas Champion and his one-time MNM cornerwoman), wasn’t on his team.  She was dismissed from the WWE a few months later.)  Whether that had anything to do with all the losses he had to accept afterwards isn’t certain.  (As far as I know, he has remained tight-lipped about the alleged incident.)

What is certain is that this once promising performer didn’t get pushed for a single championship this year despite being in the main event at Extreme Rules (John Cena regained the WWE title by pinning The Miz in the Triple Threat Cage Match), competing for the U.S. belt at Night Of Champions and the Survivor Series, and the Intercontinental title on Raw and Hell In A Cell.  It also didn’t help that a legitimate neck injury (which required surgery) greatly reduced his bookings for much of the spring and summer which meant limited interactions with another former tag team partner, R-Truth, who turned on him leading into a decent program for the two.

Although he would defeat Truth in an entertaining Falls Count Anywhere match on Raw (which ended the feud) and pin U.S. Champion Ziggler in a non-title match on another episode of the program, the day after losing to the latter at the Survivor Series, he got put out of commission by The Miz, also on Raw.  Soon, the announcement a number of dirt sheet observers had been expecting for months became official.  Morrison’s contract was up and he wasn’t re-signing.

Now taking time away from the ring in order to fully recover from his injuries, one wonders what his next move will be.  Hopefully, it will involve developing longterm plans to make everyone forget his worst year in the business.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, December 15, 2011
6:58 p.m.

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Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

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