Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Ladies of 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I gave props to the men of 2009. While I'm sure many of you appreciated the eye candy, I think we can all admit that 2009 was all about the women. For better or worse, these six women defined and dominated 2009. So, instead of lumping them with the men, I decided the ladies needed their own post so they could be fawned over and appreciated properly.

I envisioned this post as one of those Vanity Fair covers where seemingly random celebrities, given clever nicknames, congregate in a room in coordinating ensembles. Unfortunately, I don't have a budget and couldn't make it work (Tim Gunn would be so disappointed). I hope, however, that you enjoy what I came up with and will celebrate these glorious women for having a fantastic 2009.

Drew Barrymore
The Actress

Aside from Never Been Kissed, I've never been a big Drew Barrymore fan. That's not her fault exactly, I'm just not big on many of the Romcom Queens like Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock. What they do is all in good fun and, although it doesn't thrill me, who am I to say that they aren't "actors." Having true movie star presence is not something you can learn. If you do have it, it is something to be treasured, not frowned upon and degraded like most people seem to do. Drew has this quality, so I was curious to see how she would handle Little Edie in the made-for-TV movie Grey Gardens. I had never seen the acclaimed documentary or stage show of the same title, but I knew the general gist of the story. It would be an amazing opportunity for Barrymore to prove the haters the wrong, but also a tad perilous since one wrong move and she would be exiled back to doing one Fever Pitch after another for the next ten years. Thankfully, she absolutely nailed the performance, working wonders with an incredibly odd accent that would have tripped up other actors while still more emotionally gripping and compelling than I've ever seen her before. I know you're probably thinking, "She was great in one film, whoop-de-do. Why is she one of The Ladies of 2009?" Let me tell you why: a couple of days after Grey Gardens, I watched He's Just Not That Into You and thought to myself, "Damn, this movie needs Drew Barrymore." I secretly cheered everytime she came on-screen, loving her monologue after a long absence in the narrative about the problems that modern technology has on dating. When I am praying for more Drew Barrymore screentime and seriously considering seeing Everybody's Fine in theatres for her, you know she is having a kickass year.

The Diva

For a woman who has literally done it all at least three or four times, it was exciting to see B (she's so huge now she only needs to be referred by a letter now!) surprise us yet again in 2009. Riding high on all of the 'Single Ladies' love from the end of 2008, B's big year kicked off at the Oscars. Was she nominated for that elusive statue she's been trying so hard to get? Unfortunately, no. But she was on-hand to take part in one of the best live performances of the year: the "The Musical is Back!" medley with...ummm...come to think of it, who else was on that stage? I can't remember because all I can recall is Beyoncé in all of her diva glory, coyly smiling while launching into a rendition of 'At Last' and launching herself to center stage when 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' came on. Then came the epic film of our times, the movie from 2009 I fondly think back on most often: Obsessed. Without Beyoncé, the film would have been close to unwatchable, but B decides add some, um, class to the film, especially during that epic catfight finale. If you ever wanted to see B headbutt Ali Larter and then drag her across the floor while yelling, "I'ma wipe the floor wit yo skinny ass!" you are in luck! Beyoncé is beyond brilliant in the film, managing to deliver a fantastic star performance in a film that should have been a complete snoozefest. Although not as iconic as 'Single Ladies,' the video for 'Sweet Dreams' became a must-watch literally everytime I hung out with my friends Kelli & Megan during the fall. My favorite bits? The dance breakdown during the "My guilty pleasure" verse and the indescribably weird gold corset/robot scene. I still have no clue what any of it meant but I was enchanted. When September came around, it was time to pick up her VMA's for 'Single Ladies' but I doubt even she could predict the shit that went down around her at the ceremony. The whole Kanye/Taylor feud has been discussed at length all over the interweb, but I just have to say that I loved both B's humility during the whole thing (she allowed Taylor to come up and finish her speech after she won Video of the Year) and her many "Bitch please" looks (as in, "Bitch please, do not get me involved in this" and "Bitch please, you shot your video in a high school?"). Finally, B capped off her year with two collaborations with another one of 2009's biggest artists: Lady GaGa. 'Telephone,' the second single from GaGa's The Fame Monster, hasn't officially been released yet, but it's a surefire hit in the making. Not only will the video be hot, but the song is incredible and B completely dominates her verse; one thing 'Telephone' is surely not is a disastuh. We did get the video for an extended version of 'Video Phone,' and while the song is utter shit that I can't stop listening to, the video is a fun romp of girls, guns and garish colors. Whew. Just listing all of B's accomplishments this year is exhausting. How one woman did all this in a span of 12 months is astounding.

Sandra Bullock
The Pro

Like I said when I talked about Drew Barrymore, I'm not big on the Romcom Queens. Sandra Bullock has been charming audiences for years but outside of Miss Congeniality (I've seen that movie way too many times to count) and Crash I either haven't seen her movies or haven't cared. When The Proposal made a shit-ton of money in June, I didn't really pay attention because the combination of Sandy + Ryan Reynolds + "They've fallen in love, isn't that adorable?" storyline held no interest for me. When previews for The Blind Side came out in September and Adam claimed that Sandra Bullock was an underdog in the Best Actress race, I guffawed at the cheesiness of the movie, Sandy's accent and the craziness of the possibility of her getting nominated. But then something happened and I did a complete 180. Out of nowhere, people started attacking Sandy's performance in The Blind Side and it's inexplicable popularity (the gross is already close to $200 million). So, as with any silly little feud, I had to take a side and I suddenly found myself on Team Bullock before I had even seen the movie. Just the thought of seeing Sandy at the Oscars, giving the middle finger to all the haters when they read off the nominees. Now that I've seen The Blind Side, I can say that even if she won't make my shortlist this year, Bullock deserves her Oscar nom. Sure, she relies on her charming personality, but she also completely nails the bitchy PTA mom part of her character. It may not be Erin Brockovich but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a good time. And at 45, the fact that Sandy is still entertaining audiences and raking in the cash is a nice kick in the balls to all the studio bosses who think actress' careers are over by 40.

Lady GaGa
The It Girl

It is scary to think about, but 15 months ago there was no Lady GaGa. She's become a part of our lives so quickly and so completely that it is hard to imagine a time when she wasn't a prominent feature of the pop music landscape. The greatest thing about GaGa is that she grew leaps in bounds in not just one but multiple ways over 2009. Her most noticeable change was through her music. She started 2009 riding off the success of 'Just Dance,' a simple little ditty about dancing to escape the worries of the day (an appropriate hit during the early days of the recession) and her music only grew more mature and considerably darker as the year progressed. First came 'Poker Face,' a great summer song with its simple hook and breezy message about the duality of sex and sexuality. Then 'Paparazzi' and its dark obsession with celebrity under the guise of a slick pop song. Finally came 'Bad Romance,' the #1 song of 2009 and true emotional epic, and the entire Fame Monster album, a far cry from the sunny and light tracks of The Fame. GaGa also became a legitimate fashion icon in 2009. From the beginning, GaGa was known for wearing odd clothes, often in clear danger of showing her vagina. As the year wore on, however, her choices remained just as weird but became increasingly more avant garde and fabulous. The VMA's, aside from the Taylor/Kanye feud, became all about "What is GaGa gonna wear next?" Will it be a 19th century masquerade ball mask? A red lace crown thing that covers her entire face? Or a cut up 80's wedding dress covered in blood? No one knows and that element of surprise keeps me entertained. The final, and possibly least discussed, reason why 2009 belonged to GaGa was the fact that she has become a gay icon practically overnight. The gays are usually fickle; we have our passing infatuations with celebrities, but once you're in with us, you're in for life. GaGa met some resistance initially from people who thought she was trying too hard to be Madonna, but, eventually, the majority of the gays caved in by the time 'Bad Romance' and The Fame Monster came out. GaGa's one of the few mainstream artists who have openly supported gays right from the beginning, catering to their love of money, boys and fashion and even performing at the big protest rally in Washington, D.C., instead of many "gay icons" who slowly lend their support as their career solidifies. She's here, she's queer-supporting, get used to it America and that's why I love her. If you think GaGa gives a flying fuck what you think about her, then your sadly mistaken. She's a true role model, someone whose attitude we can all embrace to become better and less judgmental people.

Demi Lovato
The Up-and-Comer

"Demi Lovato is pretty good as far as these things goes. She's a decent actress with a better than average voice for a Disney film, but she won't have a lasting career."

Boy, when I'm wrong, I'm really wrong. Back when I first saw Camp Rock, I never thought in a million years I would even think about Demi Lovato after those 90 minutes of pure visual and sonic torture, let alone adore her as much as I do now. She wasn't bad by any means, especially in comparison to co-stars Joe Jonas and Meghan Martin, but I was not particularly impressed. Like most Disney actors, she tried too hard to be funny and whenever a joke fell flat, she simply flashed her enormous smile as some sort of compensation. I wasn't buying it. I gave her first album, Get Back, a chance back in the beginning of the year but it was a bit too Jonasy for my taste (to be fair, I've recently come around on 'Get Back,' 'Lo Que Soy' and 'Behind Enemy Lines). When Here We Go Again came out in June or so, I gave it a shot and wasn't impressed at first. Everything sounded similar to the first album and I wasn't feeling it. Then I listened to it a few more times and became hooked. Unlike many of her Disney contemporaries, Demi can actually sing. I'm not going to deny that some of the Disney starlets have pleasant voices, but Demi's beyond-her-17-years maturity completely blows the out of the water. Here We Go Again is probably my most listened to album of the year and I won't get sick of it soon. Loving her album, I decided to give Demi another chance in the acting field by watching her Disney sitcom Sonny With a Chance. I was instantly hooked. Unlike most Disney shows where the star is the worst actor and least interesting cast member, Demi is actually an engaging personality and continuously improved her comedic chops throughout the season. By the time the episode "Cookie Monsters" (the one where she and Chad compete to sell more Blossom Scout cookies) rolled around in late November, the Camp Rock Demi was nothing but a distant memory. As if this stellar year wasn't enough, she contributed to the Disney Channel's charity single 'Send It On,' an attempt to cash-in on help end global warming. She sang with all of the Disney biggies--Miley, Selena and all of the Jonas Brothers--and, unsurprisingly, she blew them all way. Miley attempted to a sing-off with her at the end, but Demi was like, "Bitch please" and sang one big glory note to prove once and for all who should be the Queen of Disney. If Miley's not careful, 2010 will be the year Demi (rightfully) snatches that crown.

The Survivor

When reports broke that Chris Brown had horribly beaten his girlfriend Rihanna on the eve of the Grammy Awards, I was as stunned as everyone else was. Eventually, however, I turned into a strong black woman, rallying against Brown with an "Oh, HELL no!" How dare this moron beat up our pop princess. While I was preparing a petition to get Chris Brown the death penalty, Rihanna remained mum on the whole situation, much to the chagrin of a number of people (well, some people thought she was a bitch and deserved it, so I guess you can't please everyone). When she finally broke her silence in the fall, the reality became even scarier: if Rihanna, the woman who had spent a majority of 2007 and 2008 dominating the music world, can be abused, it can truly happen to anyone. In response to all the craziness that had gone down in 2009 and her new-found status as a poster child for woman's rights, she released Rated R, a dark meditation on violence, revenge and love gone bad. While obviously not as single heavy as Good Girl Gone Bad, Rated R proved that Rihanna is a true artist capable of intertwining personal situations into catchy, insanely glorious pop songs. That's not easy, my friends, and Rihanna did it with style and class.


samanthamdownes said...

don't forget that Drew also did "Whip it" and that movie was pretty great....who doesn't love butch girls playing roller derby

Dame James said...

Oh shit! How could I forget that! The story in Whip It! let the film down, but Drew's direction was very good. And she was hilarious in the film. Yet another reason why she dominated 2009.

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