Year-end lists are usually divided into THE BEST and THE WORST. But here at notesfromachair we’re trying to think of it a little differently – if for no other reason than to stand out from the million other news sources, columnists, cable TV talking heads and bloggers vying for your attention. That is why we’ve created the first annual ROCKERS – dedicated to anything that has significantly rocked our world in 2012.
For those whose worlds have ever been rocked – which means everyone – this can be either a fantastic or horrible occurrence. As a Jewish kid I didn’t grow up believing in Santa Claus but my entire existence felt not only rocked but severely threatened when I realized there was no way I could admittedly make Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In stay on TV forever. At the same time, my very meager and small world was also rocked the first time I saw Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In on TV and realized there were people in the world that I truly did want to hang out with (Note: Little did I know that a lifetime of hanging out with these kind of show biz types would rock my world in many and too numerous to specifically choose from good and bad fashions).
But getting back to this century — here is a list of our 2012 Rockers. Not to be mistaken for a Hall of Fame, because these are only good for a single year – not a lifetime.
BEST (nee ROCKIN’) ACTING PERFORMANCE, EXPECTED (but not disappointing):
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hate all you want but why should
Mr. Day-Lewis Mr. Lewis …uh Daniel be penalized because we’ve come to expect him to always be (and are tired of him always being) transcendently brilliant? He literally seemed to pull off a resurrection of a human being who has been dead for more than 150 years from his very first scene as Abraham Lincoln and kept it up for all 3000 hours of the film. Truth of fact, I’m actually a big fan of the movie and didn’t mind the length, especially since almost every other BIG film in the last two months of the year seems to have lasted at least 3000 hours. Plus there’s the degree of difficulty — try to tell, or more importantly act, the story of an icon and make it seem intelligent, human, funny, real AND come off as a parable for a certain kind of political animal of our times. You won’t be able to. DDL can. When are he and Meryl Streep going to co-star? (staring my 2013 wishlist NOW)
ROCKIN’ ACTING PERFORMANCE, UNEXPECTED (but in a good way):
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Yeah, I’m partial to Coop (uh, that’s what his friends call him and he calls himself – yes, I happen to know someone who knows him – so there). But given his acting oeuvre, nothing prepares you for the raw, non-movie star type of performance he gives as a bipolar (among other things) guy who is just struggling to live a decent life. Ironically, it’s Coop’s very lack of movie star-ness that has once and for all changed his career and made him into a real movie star – the kind that is famous, good-looking AND can act really, really well.
MOST OVERRATED (nee ROCKIN’ IN A BAD WAY) MOVIE (in every way):
Listen, I love French films. And I love depressing films, especially ones about death and dying. And I love films that have simple or almost no plots. But Amour depicts an old couple with some financial means in 2012 and what they decide to go through when one becomes terminally ill in a way that NO couple in an industrialized nation in 2012 needs to endure given what is available in 21st century medicine – even when one decides to die at home. In its attempt to be relentless, writer-director Michael Haneke creates something that is unrelentingly manipulative to suit his needs as a dramatist. The idea that so many critics have bought into it is baffling and leads me to think that they either do not have enough experience in this area or have a lot of prickly, self-centered old people in their lives who are intent on doing things the most physically, self-flagellatingly painful way possible. (Fortunately, I do not). Oh, did I mention the two old people in this movie – even when they were healthy– are the kind of pretentious snobs you don’t really want to spend two and a half minutes with much less two and a half hours? Yes, it’s very well acted and technically very well made. But do yourself a favor and spend time with some real live old folks (preferably two in your own family) instead.
ROCKIN’ TELEVISION SERIES, ENDURING:
The water cooler show torch has been passed to Homeland and we can’t argue with that. But there is not a television program on the air that is as consistently smart, well-written, chance talking and socially/politically relevant as Matthew Weiner’s creation. It never takes the easy way out, stays grounded in reality and uses the 1960s as the lens through which we can see our lives and our history. And if you think that’s not difficult to do, try writing something in that time period and see how many clichés you will inevitably come up with in even a single scene.
ROCKIN’ TELEVISION SERIES, FOREIGN:
Mainstream American elite culture likes things mostly elitely American. So how is it that creator/writer Julian Fellowes manages to make the privileged and serving class of post turn of the 20th century England like “television crack,” according to one of my dearest friends? If I knew, I’d do it myself. It is in part Maggie Smith playing a bon mot-throwing old rich lady called the Dowager Countess, who is not unlike what we imagine the real Maggie Smith to be were she born approximately 150 years ago to a family of starchy patricians. But it’s a lot more than that. Fellowes is now rumored to be writing the new film version of Gypsy for Barbra Streisand. Well, both are period pieces, after all.
ROCKIN’ TELEVISION SERIES, REALITY:
It’s not because a few former students work on this or due to the fact that I wish to God (or whoever you conceive Her to be) that I could be a professional singer. It’s because this reality competition for vocalists doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age, looks, ethnicity, sexual preference or even past deviant behavior. It’s all about what you sound like – a sort of faux even playing field that never exists in real life but that you get to experience for a few hours a week as long as the season lasts. Yes, the grand prizewinner is finally voted on by the viewers, which invariably does create a final commercial-type popularity contest in the last few weeks, but those are the least interesting part of the show. The real story is what comes before and how the judges – from very diverse parts of the music world – both perform and share their own hard knocks with people who have already had or soon will have more than their own share of the same.
ROCKIN’ CABLE NEWS SHOW, PROBABLY UNSEEN BY YOU:
NOW with Alex Wagner
It’s on MSNBC at 9am west coast time and noon east coast time. Those interested in this type of stuff inevitably already watch Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Chris Matthews, et al. But who you probably don’t tune in to is this smart, extremely funny woman who categorized the many faces of Mitt Romney as “the paradox of the mittens” and used to be editor-in-chief of a hip music and culture magazine called The Fader. Over the course of an hour, she presides over a panel of cleverly perceptive political experts, covers breaking news, and throws in more witty pop culture references than a Saturday Night Live sketch. It doesn’t matter that she’s 34, female and of Burmese-German-Irish descent but it’s just one more thing that makes her and her show different than most everyone else on cable TV.
ROCKIN’ LIMITED TELEVISION SERIES, QUESTIONABLE TASTE:
American Horror Story: Asylum
I think the reason I’m so in love with this show is just how sick, derivative and yet unique it almost always seems to be. Its second season in a mental hospital is a pastiche of every cliché you’ve seen in every crazed, looney tune horror film imaginable. Its cast, led by the ghoulishly still sexy Jessica Lange, is shameless and the writing doesn’t always bother to follow what we consider to be the tenets of logic. Still – any show that cross-cuts between a mad Nazi doctor, aliens and a crazy killer named Bloody Face who likes to skin people for sport – and does it all under the watchful eye of nutty nun who use to be a cabaret torch singer, is okay in my book. Plus, the recreation room at the asylum consistently plays that 1960s hit record, “Dominique” performed by Soeur Sourire, better known as The Singing Nun.
ROCKIN’ DIVAS PUT TO THE WORST USE:
Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler in The Guilt Trip and Parental Guidance.
Okay, I’ve only seen The Guilt Trip and the trailer for Parental Guidance. But as a gay guy I can tell you – these ladies deserve better!!! And it’s not primarily their fault. They want to do films. But – what are the films being made that they should be doing? There aren’t any. And yes, Barbra’s still fun onscreen and Bette, well, I’ll take your word for it that she is too. But….really??
ROCKIN’ NEW TV CHARACTER, RECURRING:
The Girl You Wish You Wouldn’t Have Started A Conversation With At A Party, Saturday Night Live
SNL new cast member Cecily Strong is irresistibly annoying as that gal….you know the one, trust me. We mentioned her last week so we won’t drive it into the ground. But consider how long it’s been since you remembered any new SNL character since Stefon? Why does it work? Because like all good comedy creations, she is barely exaggerated.
ROCKIN’ WEB MOMENT, VIRAL
No, it wasn’t the cat trick, or the pop singer from another country, or the Olympic athletes doing Call Me Maybe for the millionth time. It was, quite simply:
The 47 PERCENT TAPE
Mitt Romney’s comments in a closed door fundraiser to major donors in Florida about how 47% of the electorate feel they are entitled to government handouts such as health care, food and housing and are people he can never convince to take personal responsibility and care for their lives got him — in true Shakespearean fashion — only 47% of the electorate to Barack Obama’s 51%. It also caused him to lose the election by 4 million votes. However, the award really should go not to the tape itself but to the Florida bartender who secretly recorded it – and, in another irony, to James Carter IV, grandson of perennial Republican punching bag Jimmy Carter. Carter IV unearthed the tape on the web and brought it to the attention of David Corn at Mother Jones magazine.
Free speech, when it works, rocks.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!