Winner: Sandra Bullock & Melissa McCarthy
Since Hollywood’s inception many decades ago, there have been these five persistently sexist ideas about actresses. They don’t belong in action pictures. They’re not as funny as their male counterparts. Audiences prefer younger stars over older ones. They can’t open a movie with big numbers. And they have no staying power.
In 2013, two highly respected performers with long histories in the business, both of whom just happen to be female, individually and collectively proved that all of that is utter bullshit.
In February, after years of playing supporting characters, Melissa McCarthy got her first opportunity to play a lead role in Identity Thief where she makes life a living hell for Jason Bateman. Now, it’s true. Critics hated it. But audiences were a different story. Despite receiving a 19% rating from the media on Rotten Tomatoes, the comedy generated almost 200 million in worldwide ticket sales.
Three months later, McCarthy appeared in The Hangover Part III with the franchise’s regulars, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong. Like Identity Thief, despite also earning a 19% rating from RT critics, it did very well with international audiences accumulating 351 million globally. (Considering that the film made 200 million less than Part II, this is likely the final chapter in the series.)
Which brings us to Sandra Bullock. In late June, the Oscar-winning star of The Blind Side teamed up with the Oscar-nominated star of Bridesmaids for the action buddy comedy, The Heat. The story of a mismatched FBI agent and a cop aligning forces to investigate a drug kingpin was well-liked by reviewers and performed so well with moviegoers, a sequel is expected in 2015.
In October, Bullock herself co-starred with George Clooney in Gravity, the science fiction thriller about a two-person space mission gone horribly wrong. Critics raved so much about the film it’s a likely Best Picture Oscar candidate next year. (It earned an astounding 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes making it one of the best reviewed films of the year.) And audiences, for once, were in absolute agreement. To date, the Alfonso Cuaron blockbuster has generated almost 650 million around the world.
Not bad for a couple of likeable, talented broads in their 40s.
Loser: The Miz
Two and a half years ago, he was headlining WrestleMania. These days, he’s an annoying go-nowhere character stuck in the mid-card.
When The Miz successfully defended his WWE Championship against John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania 27 in 2011, it was the biggest moment of his unlikely pro wrestling career. As 2013 draws to a close, it’s becoming painfully clear that it’ll never happen again.
The Cleveland native’s current creative slump really begins with the build to the 2012 Survivor Series last November. Originally booked to be on Team Ziggler in what turned out to be a very entertaining traditional elimination tag team match against Team Foley, The Miz ultimately switched from the bad guy team to the good guy team not long before the pay-per-view aired. Late in the actual match, he even started encouraging the fans to cheer him on. Few took him up on the offer.
Over time, as 2013 arrived, it wasn’t difficult to understand why. Miz didn’t really change much of his longtime, increasingly stale heel act which made it next to impossible to fully embrace him. He retained the laughably untrue catchphrase “the most must-see WWE superstar of all time” which was used every time he opened his mostly skippable Miz TV segment on Raw and Smackdown. (The red hot John Cena/Daniel Bryan verbal confrontation in the build to SummerSlam in August being a notable exception.) He also kept doing his very tired “Really?” routine. Generally speaking, his once witty and effective promo skills were becoming obnoxious and unbearable.
In January, during the 20th Anniversary broadcast of Raw, Miz was completely upstaged by his guest, Ric Flair, whose silly antics (like elbow dropping his own sports jacket), were more memorable than anything the former Dirt Sheet co-host had to say that night. Flair would pass on his famous figure-four leglock submission hold (stolen from its inventor, Buddy Rogers) to his new friend (who happily applied it to an interrupting Antonio Cesaro during that same segment). But in one of Miz’ early attempts to use it in an eventual match, he didn’t lock it in properly, embarrassing himself in the process.
While Miz has evolved into a very fine worker inside the squared circle (he eventually figured out the figure-four), none of his programs in 2013 generated much excitement. Miz locked horns with Cesaro over the United States Championship in the first quarter of the year and came up short in every one of their televised encounters. The most famous moment in the entire feud was Cesaro scooping up the former champ by his legs and swinging him against the padded barrier left to right and back again with his powerful arms several times outside the ring on Raw, a move the Swiss strongman has since used unfettered on other opponents many times in the ring to the absolute delight of attending audiences.
Miz moved on to work another lacklustre title program with IC Champ Wade Barrett which led to a very short pre-show championship match before the start of WrestleMania 29. Despite winning the belt, The Miz would lose it back to the former Nexus leader just as quickly during a rematch the very next night on Raw. It was his only title push this year.
Even taking a month off to film a TV-movie didn’t help his cause. No one missed him. When he returned in May, Miz once again challenged Barrett on a number of occasions including a Triple Threat title match at Payback in June. With an injured Fandango removed from the line-up, newest Paul Heyman guy Curtis Axel filled in and squeaked out a victory by pinning Barrett while he was in The Miz’ figure-four leglock.
For some unknown reason, Miz was booked to “host” SummerSlam which was completely unnecessary. In fact, it was merely an excuse for the returning Fandango to constantly interrupt him in order to set up a short-lived feud that failed to elevate either performer.
Perhaps the biggest indignity of them all was the night he got brutalized by a villainous Randy Orton right in front of his parents who watched helplessly in horror at ringside during a Raw broadcast.
Lately, it’s not certain how anyone is supposed to react to Miz. After abandoning former rival Kofi Kingston during a tag team match on Raw back in October, the two revived an old feud with the former WWE Champion once again attracting boos. But during a Thanksgiving Miz TV segment on Smackdown in November that involved the Prime Time Players and former NFL player turned morning TV host Michael Strahan, he went back to being a face again. Then, in December, he re-teamed with Kingston only to slap him in the face (a receipt for what the high flyer did to him after the Survivor Series pre-show match) following the conclusion of their tag encounter. (Kingston beat him in an unbilled one-on-one match at TLC.) And this past week on Smackdown, Miz was defending Santa Claus. Good Lord.
Unless he can reinvent himself like the best in the business have always done in order to survive, it’s time for him to finally admit that he’s truly not so awesome right now. And might not be ever again.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 22, 2013