Friday, December 31, 2010

The Sixth Annual Hot 50 List

Cherie Currie's return to the media is something I've been hoping for these last few years.

My annual totally subjective list of the celebrities I found sexiest over the course of the year, completely at my whim and judgment. Numbers in parentheses indicate last year's position, although this list really fluctuates (visibility and other objectification stuff).

1. Cherie Currie
2. Kristen Bell (6)
3. Kristen Stewart
4. Aly Michalka
5. Kat Dennings (2)
6. Elvira
7. Ashley Tisdale (14)
8. Emma Stone
9. Melissa Rauch
10. Katy Perry (5)
11. Kelly Brook
12. Stana Katic (40)
13. Sofia Vergara (23)
14. Dita Von Teese (17)
15. Miley Cyrus
16. Amber Heard
17. Selena Gomez
18. Amanda Seyfried
19. Lucy Lawless
20. Lisa Ann (22)
21. Hayden Panettiere (12)
22. Eva Mendes (9)
23. Brenda Song (25)
24. Cobie Smulders (39)
25. Anna Paquin (36)
26. Mary Elizabeth Winstead
27. Christina Hendricks (8)
28. JoJo (47)
29. Milla Jovovich (38)
30. Malin Akerman
31. Heather Hemmens
32. Khloe Kardashian (21)
33. Vanessa Hudgens (41)
34. Hilary Duff (30)
35. Anna Kendrick
36. Faye Reagan (10)
37. Mila Kunis
38. Gretchen Mol
39. Elisabeth Moss
40. Sasha Grey
41. Penelope Cruz (32)
42. Carla Gugino (11)
43. Scout Taylor-Compton
44. Kaley Cuoco (33)
45. Deborah Ann Woll
46. Diane Kruger (20)
47. Eva Amurri (1)
48. Rumer Willis
49. Emily Osment
50. Leelee Sobieski (25)

Previously: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My 50 Favorite Pop Culture Artifacts of 2010

Like the movie list I used to do, but bigger and more demanding of your time.

50. Simon Cowell leaves American Idol
As soon as I saw this picture of the new Idol judges, I knew it would be pointless to watch the show ever again. I always ended up watching the damn show because I liked Simon Cowell. So thanks, pal, for freeing me from this idiotic time waster.

49. Moon8
Brad Smith created an 8-bit version of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album which makes a surprisingly great video game soundtrack. I played a huge chunk of Super Mario Galaxy while listening to it, and it was pretty trippy.

48. Dinosaur Ballet

47. Super Mario Crossover
I lost a whole afternoon to this game the day I discovered it.

46. Louie
For the first time, I show on FX I liked. Loved, even. I see this show getting kicked around a lot, but I thought it was one of the best shows I saw this year.

45. Joe Wight's Star Wars Alphabet
I've seen a number of these fan art projects--alphabets, specifically--but this was my favorite one by far. Those squat little caricatures are just so god damn cute that I can't resist them. You can check out the whole series on Geek Art.

44. Akihabara Majokko Princess
It just makes me smile, damn it. This like being totally rewarded for having been a Kirsten Dunst fan since Interview with the Vampire.

43. Wishful Drinking
I read Carrie Fisher's book of her stage show, and then saw the stage show on HBO--wonderful stuff. She's candid, she's feisty, she's absolutely hilarious.

42. The return of Elvira's Movie Macabre to television.
Oh, it does my heart good to see the Mistress of the Dark back on TV riffing on schlock cinema.

Somehow, a Marvel Comics employee blogging on Tumblr created a meme: comic book professionals drawing Marvel characters as cats. Given the sheer talent involved, it's not surprising that this was a wonderful effort, even if it did start out as a throwaway. I'd shell out for a collection of these, I really would.

40. Paint Chips
A very creative commercial for Sherwin-Williams that explores the possibility of color.

39. Sitcoms I can actually watch.
As others decline and others struggle with unevenness, I still get so much damn fun out of Party Down (sadly canceled), Modern Family, Cougar Town, The Big Bang Theory, and (in the first half of the year, at least) Parks & Recreation. And hey, after a year off there was even another season of The IT Crowd this year. I love comedy, and it's nice to see good comedy every so often...

38. Single-serving Tumblrs
There are a lot of great images whizzing past on Tumblr in a single day. Some of this come from blogs that only post once a day, but have a really funny or interesting concept. To name a few: Better Book Titles, Lovers, Dreamers and You, Movie Title Cards, Selleck Waterfall Sandwich, Nimoy Sunset Pie, Garfield Minus Garfield, Pretty Colors, Fake Criterions, and Scott Meets Family Circus. (I also hear this Godzilla Haiku site is pretty great, but I probably shouldn't say that.)

37. The Burlesque soundtrack
I haven't seen the movie yet, but the soundtrack is magnificently theatrical, and frankly, better than Christina Aguilera's new album.

36. Wisdom Teeth
Oh, I am so glad that Don Hertzfeldt is still out there making bizarre, hilarious cartoons.

35. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
You all know how much I love the LEGO video games from Traveler's Tales. Since I still haven't gotten LEGO Indiana Jones 2 and LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars got pushed back to next year, this was the only new LEGO game I played this year--and the first one I played on the Wii. The controls are still smooth, and the game was just as fun and involving as all the rest were. I love these games and I hope they never stop making them.

34. Piranha 3D
As I said two days ago, the most fun horror flick I've seen in a long, long time for so, so many reasons. So, naturally, I've chosen to highlight the nudity. Hey, it's me. And speaking of casual, carefree nudity...

33. Sasha Gray's Playboy pictorial
This was the best thing in Playboy all year. (Followed closely by Kelly Brook's pictorial, but I already had the one nude picture of her on this list, so consider that inclusive.) Classic, elegant, and very sexy; I'm reminded here of the person who said that Sasha Grey has a comfortable seat wherever she chooses to sit down.

32. Kirby's Epic Yarn
Some of the most fun, relaxing, pleasant days I had this autumn were spent sitting with Becca while she was on vacation from work and playing this dreamlike little game.

31. Pixels
Patrick Jean's film is one of the best shorts I've ever seen.

30. Archie: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics 1946-1948
What a joy it was to read this book! I've never been a huge Archie fan (though I love the Little Archie comics from the Bob Bolling era), but rediscovering Bob Montana's original strips really turned me around. The wonderful art, the story arcs, the humor that comes from the characters instead of gags, and how surprisingly sexy Betty and Veronica are. This is some of the best comic strip stuff I've ever read, and I really hope IDW keeps putting these out.

29. Unicorn Being a Jerk
Just one of the funniest things I've looked at all year long.

28. Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign
This year was a nice ride for the campaign, making a brief internet star out of Isaiah Mustafa and culminating in a nice parody starring Grover. Let's hope they don't belabor this bit of whimsy in the New Year.

27. Hellcats
All of the silly, soapy cattiness of Desperate Housewives spiced up with cheerleader routines featuring two of the sexiest girls I've ever lusted over... it's like this show was just made for me specifically.

26. The Pet Avengers
I haven't cared much about what the Marvel Universe is up to for the past several years, but the Pet Avengers are something I go out of my way to keep up with. This year, we got the Tails of the Pet Avengers, Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers Unleashed, and Avengers vs. Pet Avengers. And they also made a cameo in another incredibly fun Marvel miniseries, Thor and the Warriors Four. These guys are the kind of wonderful fun I used to see in comic books a lot more often, and a great antidote to the continuity-obsessed clusterfuck that is currently the Marvel Universe. I love these guys.

25. Katy Perry
As much as her first album irritated--even offended--me, that's how much I loved the new one. I'm sure it's the attention-baiting sexuality that got to me, but I did love "California Gurls" and the pretty "Teenage Dream." Throw in some fun award show performances this year and a number of sexy pictorials, and I'm a fan. It's nice having someone go full retard on the pop silliness without the pretentious, pseudo-artistic posturing.

24. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
The DC Comics animated movies just get better and better. It's like they no longer have to apologize to Warner Bros for trying to get as close as they can to their source material, creating films that are much more visceral and involving than their live action counterparts. Apocalypse in particular took a comic book story that was all but unreadable and made it breathe. I really hope they've decided not to pull the plug on these things.

23. Steve Buscemi on Boardwalk Empire
Though I ultimately ended up loving Boardwalk Empire, the first few episodes were inconsistent enough that I almost gave up on the whole thing. What kept me coming back was Steve Buscemi's incredible, layered performance as Nucky Thompson. This is Buscemi's King Lear, and watching him play it is exciting in the way only great acting can be.

22. "Fuck You" by Cee-Lo Green
My favorite single this year. Hey, listen, it's actual R&B for a change!

21. Hamlet
I'm always excited when a new adaptation of Hamlet appears, and this one really justified how excited I was. As with the best versions of the play, this one revealed a nuances and shades and possible meanings that I hadn't considered before--the result of great direction, interpretation, and acting. (For example, this is the only version I've seen where the dumb show before the play-within-the-play actually seemed to serve some purpose; I'm usually not a fan of this bit, and many versions omit it entirely). David Tennant was a wonderfully petulant Hamlet, and Patrick Stewart--one of my favorite actors ever--is a sympathetic Claudius. I'm so glad this production was filmed and shown on PBS.

20. An abundance of TV animation
In an era where some people tell me animation is a dying art, I've got The Venture Bros., Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Sym-Bionic Titan, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Phineas and Ferb, and the newly returned Futurama to prove otherwise. Too bad they're almost all on the same night, though...

19. Spartacus: Blood and Sand
I missed this when it originally aired (I didn't get Starz then, but I do now... they gave me more channels at a cheaper price when I threatened to downgrade my service... what is this shit actually worth, I ask you?), but I'm catching the rerun of the season now, and it is truly epic. A clash of emotions, sex and violence, done in a comic book style with grand flourishes, this is one of the most visceral shows about antiquity that I've ever seen.

18. The Bird and the Bee, Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Hall & Oates
I'm surprised as hell that my favorite album of the year is a Hall & Oates tribute album, but here we are. I found The Bird and the Bee a couple years ago when their song "Fucking Boyfriend" showed up on the Forgetting Sarah Marshall soundtrack, and since then I've been devouring their work. Here, they do a wonderfully stripped-down album of covers of (I mean this) master pop craftsmen Darryl Hall & John Oates that reminds me not only of why the original music worked so damn well, but shows that it can be reinterpreted more softly and still maintain those elements. And their cover of "Rich Girl" is just stuck in my head. I love this album.

17. The Runaways live on!
Ultimately, I was disappointed in the fairytale film version of the Runaways, but thanks to the energetic and impassioned performances of Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart--blowing away everything they've ever done before--and the great music of the actual band, there's a whole generation of teenagers who have rediscovered the Runaways and claimed Cherie, Joan, Sandy, Lita and Jackie as their own. And I love that this band--a band which influenced so much of my take on music, pop culture and sexuality when I was just young enough to be influenced (even if they did break up when I was four, giving Joan Jett the glorious solo career that thrilled me when I was a lad)--is now all over the internet with fans hungry for information and lost music and, maybe one day, the box set that they freaking deserve. The film may not have done them all the justice they should've had, but it's warming to see the kids digging their vibe. I only wish poor Sandy West could've lived to see all of this.

16. Roger Ebert's Journal
Roger's unfortunate illnesses over the last few years have, if anything, made him more contemplative and more eager to examine the whole of human experience. He was always--always--an amazing writer. Since he's widened his scope to discuss an array of topics, he's only become more compelling.

15. Super Mario Galaxy 2
I love the first Super Mario Galaxy, but... well, this one has Yoshi. And yes, that's a big deal to me. It's everything I loved about the first game, but with Yoshi and the Faceship. I could--and did--sit and play this game for hours and hours.

14. My favorite film performances of the year (in alphabetical order by last name):
* Khalid Abdalla, Green Zone
* Russell Brand, Get Him to the Greek
* Michael Cera, Youth in Revolt
* Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
* Dakota Fanning, The Runaways
* Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
* Joey King, Ramona and Beezus
* Chloe Moretz, Kick-Ass
* P. Diddy, Get Him to the Greek
* Mickey Rourke, The Expendables
* Amanda Seyfried, Chloe
* Michael Shannon, The Runaways
* Kristen Stewart, The Runaways
* Emma Stone, Easy A
* Justin Timberlake, The Social Network
* Ellen Wong, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

13. Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy score
I try not to be one of those people who goes about lamenting that there aren't any good film scores anymore, but ever since Howard Shore's masterpiece Lord of the Rings scores, there haven't been that many that I've been excited about. This one, however... this is a tremendous score. I haven't seen the movie, but I've enjoyed the soundtrack very much.

12. The Muppet Show Comic Book
The regular series turned out to be just as strong and wonderful and hilarious and irreplaceable as the miniseries were. This year even saw the return of Skeeter to the comic books, and she's really a breath of fresh air that the Muppets need in their dynamic. (Come on, put her on the screen, too, and have Fran Brill perform her!) I am disappointed to hear that Roger Langridge is leaving the series--he really got the Muppet aesthetic, humor, and timing--but I'm curious to see what he does in the future (and how the comic does without him).

11. Sherlock
This series did Sherlock Holmes the way I didn't realize I always wanted to see him done: like a modern detective show (reminiscent of my beloved, canceled Wire in the Blood) , with the characters treated seriously, and their loyalty to one another apparent and understandable. Here we have a Holmes who is every bit the arrogant sociopath he should be, and his relationship with Watson--a tortured army doctor--is both strong and delicate. Two men, both of them removed from the world around them (one by social awkwardness, one by the fresh memories of terrible experiences), bound together by circumstance and mutual agreement... this show is perfection.

10. That Kiss

9. The Rauch Brothers
The Rauch Brothers and their StoryCorps films have been some of the best animation produced in the last year. They take simple conversations and animate them, telling, in a beautiful way, the stories of lifetimes. This film, Danny and Annie, is my favorite, but each and every one so far has been an absolute gem.

8. The final season of Lost.
A poetic ending to a series that was alternately gripping and frustrating.

7. Irrfan Khan on In Treatment
I'm always certain that I don't want to see any more of In Treatment, and every season shows me why this is one of my favorite shows of the past decade. This year, Irrfan Khan gave an excellent performance as an Indian widower adjusting to his son's family and life in America. There are whole episodes where you can get caught up just watching what he does with his hands. Great acting is truly exciting, and this was great acting.

6. How to Train Your Dragon
But you already knew that.

5. Kristen Bell
Yeah, she didn't make any good movies this year, but between her Twitter pictures and her appearance on Party Down, my Kristen Bell Mondays and every time she shows up on Craig Ferguson's show, I'm still in a Bell wonderland.

4. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
A euphoric sugar rush of a movie.

3. Castle
As I've explained already, this is my favorite non-Doctor Who show on TV right now because it's the one network show that really feels like it's our show. Mine and Becca's that is. We just enjoy this show so damn much--I second Jaquandor's recent assessment that it's the most competent show on TV--and we enjoy it as a married couple. And I thank it for being that. And for being so damn fun.

2. Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway by Cherie Currie
A total rewrite of the earlier biography, which was aimed at young readers. This version is far more visceral, more genuine, and more emotionally honest. We can argue all day--as some have--about the veracity of whatever claims are made in the book. But what really hit me the most was a story (a story far more cinematic than the film we were given) about a girl with a deep need to be loved and to not be afraid, whose needs lead her into trouble, into tragedy, into terrible mistakes, and, ultimately, into an inner peace and full personality. Cherie Currie is more than just the lead singer of one of the great rock bands of all time. She is more than just an innovator for women in rock and roll. She is also a person, worthy of love, who took too long to realize that. And I thank her for having the bravery to be so painfully honest about it.

1. Doctor Who
After some early misgivings and some really bad trailers, the new series of Doctor Who turned out to be just what the show needed. I loved David Tennant, too, but it wasn't until Stephen Moffat took over the show and made it into a sort of fairytale that I realized just how much angst the show really needed to shed. I've talked at several points over the year about just how enjoyable Matt Smith has been and how much in love with the show I am. Well, it's still true.

And that was my year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My 10 Favorite Movie Posters of 2010

10. 127 Hours. Literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. You can just feel the tension on this thing. I hope the movie is as good.

9. Machete. Mmmm... sacrilicious...

8. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. We're starting to see a return of the real design-oriented, Saul Bass type posters. I really enjoy it; it's flourished for a few years online in fan redesigns, so someone finally figured it out.

7. I Love You, Phillip Morris. A marvelously cheeky image that really captures the playful spirit of the film.

6. Let Me In. Maybe it does belabor the whole dark-fairy-tale-as-allegory-for-sexuality thing, but I like the contrast of the light and dark here.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It looks like a piece of candy that would make your head euphoric.

4. Buried. Another terrific design. Look at those lines, creating a sense of depth and perspective. Honestly, I don't even know what this movie is, but the poster is brilliant.

3. How to Train Your Dragon. Two worlds meeting. This is like a dream.

2. The Runaways. A ripe, dripping cherry with a lit fuse, on a background that suggests a worn album cover. I can't think of a single image that could more perfectly define what the Runaways were all about. God, I wish this movie had been better.

1. Black Swan. I know, it's really four posters, but look how great they are. They're like old Penguin novel covers. I'm sure this is something that will end up getting run into the ground, but for now, I'm really enjoying them. Fantastic.

Previously: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My 10 Favorite Movies of 2010 (So Far)

Or, even more unwieldy, My 10 Favorite Movies of 2010 That I Managed to Actually See Before the End of 2010.

Since cash is extremely limited, I don't ever get out to the cinema anymore (not once in 2010). It's the reason I always do my list of 25 favorite things in the films of any given year. But since I saw less new movies than ever, I decided to change that list to encompass all of pop culture (I'll get to that on, I think, Thursday). So today I'm just doing this list of the 10 best 2010 movies I saw in 2010.

10. Kick Ass
The brilliance of Matthew Vaughn's flick is that he takes a comic book story that was incredibly ridiculous and took it even further over the top. Because what's the point of not going full charge on something this silly? Yes, in the end it glorifies the adolescent power fantasies that comic books are really all about, but who cares? It was just so much damn fun. Acting-wise, I especially have to hand it to Chloe Moretz, whose energy makes Hit Girl a fun variation on the Harajuku and Lolita cliches, and Nicolas Cage, who does a (purposely) hilariously bad Adam West when he's in costume.

9. Toy Story 3
A story of loyalty and maturation caps off with maybe a little too much manipulative sentiment, but also a beautiful reminder that one can let go and keep memories alive, and that maybe they can both be the same thing. One day, I'll have to sit and watch the entire trilogy in one go.

8. Piranha 3D
Pretty much for the same reason I loved Kick Ass: it knows what it is, has fun with it, and revels in its excesses. It's a goofy, bloody horror flick with kids in peril and creative gore and silly scientific explanations and copious amounts of nudity from extremely beautiful women. After seeing horror film upon horror film that either apologizes for being what it is and overcompensates by trying too hard to be cerebral, or turns things into a clinical film about how bodies are eviscerated, it's so refreshing to see one embrace its origins so unapologetically.

7. Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese makes the biggest movie Val Lewton never did. Leonardo DiCaprio is great as a police detective running from his past while attempting to solve a disappearance in an isolated mental hospital, and it's engrossing to watch the layers peel back against some of the best art direction and production design I've seen in a movie this year. Here we have grand emotions and uncertainty, enveloped by deep shadows, with cinematographer Robert Richardson's signature overhead lights only making the shadows deeper. This movie is a joy to look at; the Gothic setting is practically a character in the film, becoming more and more forbidding and oppressive until the inevitable conclusion. My favorite Scorsese movie of the past 10 years.

6. The Ghost Writer
Another engrossing thriller, this one by Roman Polanski, and very much in a Hitchcockian vein. A smart, well-acted movie, the kind of thriller that depends on a last minute twist, and it's a good one (and the last shot is excellent). This is the first Polanski film made in a long time that really feels like Roman is firing on all cylinders.

5. Easy A
A smart high school comedy about rumor, perception, and popularity. Every few years we get a comedy about teenagers that's actually smart and feels like it's about characters instead of jokes about fashion; this one fits in among Clueless and Mean Girls, and Emma Stone is just as appealing and fresh here as Alicia Silverstone and Lindsay Lohan were in those movies (which, given what happened to their careers, might be bad news for Emma Stone...). It's a very easy movie to like--all of the actors make sure of that--but just because it's a likable comedy, the fact that it's also a very sharp and observant one shouldn't be overlooked.

4. Death at a Funeral
Another sharp comedy with a surprisingly good ensemble, even if the leads (Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence) are actors that I don't particularly like. I know this is a remake of a British movie (which I've still not seen), and therefore I'm not supposed to like or am supposed to acknowledge that this film's real strength is that it was so well-written the first time around, but I don't really care. To me, it's like another production of a play, and the cast and direction add a lot. My enjoyment was genuine, so what do I care?

3. The Social Network
A brilliant sociopath removes himself from the need to socially interact by streamlining friendship into a virtual experience. The human center of this movie is Andrew Garfield's hurt performance as Eduardo Saverin, a man whose softness and capacity for human feeling is his undoing in a business environment run by sleazy hustlers and men without feelings.

2. How to Train Your Dragon
The most impressive and most involving animated feature of 2010. I think I responded to it so much because it's a film about understanding. All of the aspects of the film--the need for acceptance, the tentative building of a friendship, communal progress, the danger of clinging to perceptions--are met not with unearned triumph, but with moments of understanding. That's special and, in animation, still fairly rare. It's not simplified into "she wants to be more than she is" or "he wants to find a place where he belongs," but built upon with genuine feeling (and still manages to have fun along the way). And I can't discount Toothless the Dragon, a Miyazaki-esque Chris Sanders creation of very believable fantasy.

1. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
The most purely cinematic and enjoyable movie I saw this year. The grand drama of young love, played out in the visual and aural language of video games, comic books and cartoons. In its way, it's something of a perfect statement about young people today and how they relate to life through bits and pieces of pop culture. But it's also just a really fun, flawless movie that picks you up and does not let you go until it reaches an end. Fantastic.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Kristen Bell Mondays