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the sofa awards, 2010

December 31, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: off and on for the past few years (well, since I first started 20questions back in 2003), I have done a best & worst column at the end of the year. Sometimes they have been very slim; others have been bulky and took eons to write. I have referred to them as “the sofa awards” in my head, but never really shared that information. But, that’s what they are. In fact, I would love to one day have actual trophy awards to share with the winners (or at least the winners I know!)… in the meantime, this will do. The kitchensofa [awards] 2010. Hope you enjoy!

music

best way to introduce yourself to a mainstream audience
Florence + the Machine @ the VMAs
I recognized it from the commercials for Julia Roberts’ end-of-summer film Eat. Pray. Love. but I honestly had paid this song no mind. It was good background music for a commercial, but that was the extent of it. Then, during MTV’s Video Music Awards, all of a sudden some woman was staging the most energizing, foot-tapping experience of the night, complete with backing choir, African drummers and ballet dancers. I rewound and watched three times. It was Florence + the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over.” Now that is the way to introduce yourself if you’re a future Best New Artist Grammy Award nominee.

most underappreciated disc
Sir Lucious Left Foot… The Son of Chico Dusty, Big Boi

As a true ATLien ‘Kast fan, my blood boiled – boiled, I tell you – when I heard that the dumb-asses over at Jive refused to release Big Boi’s debut solo project because they thought it was too intelligent. They requested a couple of “Lollipop”-esque songs. Big Boi, being an artist and sensitive about his shit, told them to where to go and took it to Def Jam. The problem? The general audience – those folks who jumped onto the OutKast bandwagon during the “Hey Ya!” years – weren’t really any smarter than the folks at Jive. Everyone seems to assume that Dre is the creative half of the duo and expect dumb shit to come from Big Boi. Guess what? He knows what he’s doing. He had a hand in every single song that came out under the OutKast banner. And that includes 14 million albums sold and how many Grammys? I know. Six. Accept it and go get the woefully under-loved Left Foot. A sampling: The seamlessly blended “Fo Your Sorrows,” which effortlessly combines psychedelic funk with the original Organized Noize sound that gave ATL its placement in hip hop history and a sprinkling of glitch/ambient music thrown in for good measure. Now that is not your typical hip hop record.

catchiest song
“Fuck You,” Cee-Lo

I remember very clearly the day that I first witnessed the video for Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You.” I was doing a quick check-in on Facebook and I saw that my girl Ra-Re Valverde had posted it. The video was freakin’ bananas! I watched it like 5 times that day. It racked up more than 8 million hits in about a week. The simplicity of the lyrics against red and blue backgrounds, zooming along with little regard to the titular expletive, had a profound effect on the general population, earning Cee-Lo yet another ubiquitous song to add to his catalog. The Grammy nomination didn’t hurt, either…

worst song
“Forget You,” Cee-Lo

… but what did hurt was that horrid, horrid attempt at a radio-friendly version of the song. Part of what made the original so embraceable was its fearless use of the word fuck. By taking it out of the picture, you got a watered-down, sorry rendition of a good song.

best over-exposed star
Lady Gaga

Yes, Beyonce could easily have won this one, but she did – for Beyonce at least – take a break this year. And with that, the trophy goes to the meat dress-wearing, gays in the military-defending monster that is Lady Gaga. She’s over the top with every single thing she does, from a show-stopping performance on the Grammy’s to that trip to the Mets game last summer. She’s a hot mess. But a good hot mess who can sing her ass off and appears to have taken advance courses in marketing. From the what-the-fuck lyrics of Bad Romance (Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah!/Roma-Roma-ma-ah!/Ga-ga-ooh-la-la!/Want your bad romance) to the inspired video for Telephone (again, B rears her pretty head), Gaga overstepped, overindulged, overfed, overeverythinged… but we ate it up anyway.

best video of the year
“Rolling in the Deep,” Adele

You would think over-the-top storytelling like Lady Gaga’s Telephone would have gotten this award, but Adele, so self-assured, so brilliant at 21, know exactly what she is doing and I love her for it. “Rolling in the Deep” surprised me, with a stronger baseline, a more danceable track than I expected from Adele, but as a first single, I am excited. I can only imagine what treats she has in store for us when the whole disc is out. But back to that video – which I watch at least 2-3 times a week. The stark color scheme, the broken dishes, half-way attempt at home remodeling, burning village – all symbolic of the world coming crashing down with the dissolution of the love affair. “Think of me in the depths of your despair/Making a home down there as mine sure won’t be shared.” I love.

television

most unintentionally funny show
The Real Housewives of Atlanta

Have you seen them? If I were a doctor, I would write a prescription to each of my patients and have them watch a full season of NeNe and them. From Phaedra’s Ringling Brothers baby shower to Kim eating pizza while having the fat melted out of her body, every episode this season has given us so many reasons to laugh that we really don’t want it to end.

Kim's face says it all at Phaedra's baby shower. photo credit: Bravo

best show currently on tv
Fringe

It all started about two-thirds of the way through the second season – with the “Peter” episode; everything seemed to click all at once. Up until that point, Fringe had been a good, but uneven and often confusing, procedural show. When they decided to quit trying to please everyone and let their geek flag fly – this is a science fiction! – they really started firing on all cylinders. The third season has been phenomenal, with each episode getting better than its predecessor. Even down to their marketing has been brilliant, especially the tongue-in-cheek, in-your-face approach they are taking to the recent decision by Fox to move them to the graveyard shift that is Friday night. Here’s hoping their legion of hard-core fans can keep them afloat.

best ensemble cast
Cougar Town

What started out as a horrible show has slowly morphed into one of the wittiest, most in-joke-filled half ours on television. At some point the producers and writers must have sat down and realized that their original concept – old woman chases after fresh meat – was growing old. And, that their cast has amazing chemistry. With Courtney Cox leading the way (and the always-entertaining Busy Phillipps as her sidekick), Cougar Town has stepped up to the plate and inadvertently given us our new Friends.

best show other than Fringe
The Good Wife

Proving that there is such a thing as an intelligent procedural, The Good Wife has beat any kind of sophomore slump and come out even stronger than in the first season. Part lawyer show, part soap opera, part mystery, part deep-rooted family drama, the show fits every demographic. By punching up the role of fan favorite and Emmy-winner Archie Panjabi (Kalinda), keeping Matt Czuchry (Cary) front and center, with a frenem-ish relationship with Lockhart-Gardner and adding Michael Ealy to the cast, Wife is assured to keep us entertained for years to come.

most gasp-inducing scene
Bailey being pulled from under the bed

When I sat down to watch the sixth season finale for Grey’s Anatomy, I did not know what to expect, but I knew that someone was going to get shot. Well that was an understatement; damn near everybody got shot. I have to admit that the first bullet – straight to Reed’s forehead – was the most shocking, since I wasn’t ready. Then, he shot Alex; and then more people. But… when the gunman came into (a surprisingly impressive) Mandy Moore’s hospital room and shot a (surprisingly human) Dr. Percy, I was nervous. Bailey – the heart and soul of this show – was hiding under the bed. Cut to Chandra Wilson’s eyes bulging as she is pulled from under the bed and asked the same question that felled Percy just moments before: Are you a surgeon? Her response, through stammered fear, that she was a nurse, belied Bailey’s fierce loyalty to her job, yet saved her life – and allowed us to exhale.

most breath-taking moments ever recorded for television
The Final Minutes of “The Candidate,” LOST

It looked like everything might be okay for a minute. There was a chance for a happy ending. And then LOST did what it does did best: turned the tables and broke our hearts. Kate shot. Bomb aboard the submarine. Sayid grabs it and runs. Bomb explodes. Sayid, dead. Water floods into the sinking sub. Sun is caught behind a beam. Sawyer is knocked unconscious. Jin stays with Sun. Saddest score ever playing in background. Jin and Sun’s hands… Sub sinking into the darkness… I’m too sad to write any more. A nicely put-together clip:

food/drink

best reason to eat from a food truck
Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race

Nothing was as a la minute as Food Network’s race across America in gourmet food trucks. With offerings from LA’s Nom Nom truck’s Vietnamese clearly impressive bahn mi sandwiches (they easily won every leg of the race except for the finals) to the Behemoth Burger (smoked cheddar, beer-soaked onions, Applewood-smoked bacon, BBQ sauce and freshly ground beef between two grilled cheeses) from LA sibling Grill ‘Em All, the concept of eating out of a truck has clearly been redefined.

best bartender
Ary the Sexy Bartender™

While I pour a mean cocktail, I am not always behind the bar. You know who is, though? Ary the Sexy Bartender™, who has gained quite a rep based on my tweets/Facebook updates that mention him. I drink a lot; he’s usually the one pouring the drinks. The fact that he’s tall, sexy and has a great smile doesn’t hurt. Neither does the fact that when I walk in and he pours me a drink. I never have an empty glass and I never even have to decide what I want. He just makes up some shit and I drink it. And it is good. Everyone wins. Go to Native (Harlem, 118 & Lenox) and see him. And then give him a big-ass tip.

photo credit: Native

words

best book that’s not been published yet
Collisions: A Collection of Intersections, by L. Michael Gipson

Coming out sometime this winter, I am excited to say that the debut collection of short stories by L. Michael Gipson is an often uncomfortable, yet always genuine, ride. Yes, I said uncomfortable; would we want boring read? No, I didn’t think so. Telling tales of black gay men (or is it gay black men?) is always complicated, as stereotypes abound. Gipson does a fine job of negotiating that territory and mining out the good stuff. Weeks after having read the collection, I still have visuals of both protagonists in “Roulette” spinning in my head. In a world where anyone with a computer and Internet access can adopt the title of writer these days, Gipson’s work is refreshingly articulate.

best book that i have not read, but have ordered from amazon
A Visit From The Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

People tend to forget: writing isn’t just putting words on paper (or words on computer screen, as more often done today). Writing is capturing the essence of topic, utilizing stylistic devices, being aware of what is being said and in what fashion. Egan does that. Her approach to literature is just that: that she is writing literature. She is modern in her approach (a whole chapter – seventy plus pages – in PowerPoint?), her technique is old-school. I haven’t officially read the book, but I have experienced bits and pieces and know that this one is one of the best of the year.

best top 10
TIME.com

Who knew that TIME likes hip hop? I do, after reading their Top 10 of Everything of 2010. Go get your read on.

best blog
ummm…. hello?

And that is all I have to say about that.

screen

best idea, worst execution
For Colored Girls…

We all knew what would happen: a beloved and well-honored project was being brought to the big screen, with an extremely talented cast, but what about the director? There are a lot of people throwing stones at Mr. Perry and while I hate to join in, I do have to say that somewhere along Precious’ path to the Academy Awards, he forgot that he isn’t an Oscar-caliber director. Yes, he was a producer for Precious and yes, it generated two wins… BUT Tyler Perry did no work on the film. I think he conveniently forgot that and decided that he could make For Colored Girls… work. It didn’t. Imagine the beauty that would have come from the talented writer-director of Eve’s Bayou, Kasi Lemmons. Lyrical and beautifully staged, that film had meaning. For Colored Girls… had good acting that got slaughtered by an inartistic eye.

most enticing film
Blue Valentine

I heard about Blue Valentine back in January, just after Sundance, and have been anxiously awaiting its debut in theaters. And then when I went, on opening night, it was sold out. Starring Michelle Williams (I love this woman’s work) and Ryan Gosling (in what appears to be some of his finest work), the story is of a sweet couple who are passionately in love but probably should never have gotten married. I just read about how the director, Derek Cianfrance, improvised many scenes. In particular, there is a scene in which Williams’ character has a big secret that she doesn’t want to tell Gosling’s character. Cianfrance told Williams, prior to the scene: “No matter what happens, don’t let him get the secret out of you.” He then goes to Gosling and says, “No matter what happens, you must get her to tell you the secret.” And with that, he started shooting. I relay that story because at the end of the day, it becomes obvious which actors and actresses really know their character. And that, my friends, is acting.

most interesting box office trend
Crappy Movies Make Less; Good Ones Make More

You have to admit that Black Swan seems much more enticing than Gulliver’s Travels. And, this season at least, people are doing just that. With Swan outperforming expectations weekly (already at $40+ million; not shabby at all for an awards season film that many expected to do “okay.”) and the Oscar nominations aren’t even out yet, this one will continue to do well for months to come. See also: The Fighter, True Grit (winners); Little Fockers, Yogi Bear (losers).


Black Swan


The Fighter


True Grit

… and that is the collection for 2010. There were moments that I didn’t include, like the end of one of my favorite shows ever, Ugly Betty or the best live show I saw all year or the HBO show I love, but no one else seems to be down with, but in the end, I think this is a good list. Please feel free to share your opinions.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Meredith Rich permalink
    December 31, 2010 2:21 PM

    I used to be a slave to “The Good Wife”. . .until I found out that Archie Punjabi was yet another Brit playing an American, and depriving us of highly visible and lucrative work. As if that weren’t bad enough, Alan Cumming, one of the most graceless, talentless people on the planet, was added to play a straight (he did come out) Chicago political operative. At any given time, our entertainment industry, with luck, has an upper level of employment of maybe 15%. And since the whores who run Hollywood are slaves to this unfortunate and destructive ploy, and in their/our own country, I think Americans should boycott any vehicle (film, TV or theatre) that employs foreign talent to play us. Perhaps then the miscreants will get the message and their profit margins will significantly decrease.

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