Thursday, December 27, 2007

Best of 2007 Awards

Some of the items mentioned below weren't published or released in 2007, but most of them were. I obviously forgot stuff, simply because I keep terrible records, but hopefully this covers a majority of this soon to end pop culture year.

Best Game of 2007: Texas at Oklahoma State – January 17

Oklahoma State found the best way to defeat Kevin Durant during only season at Texas: trick him into taking the game-winning shot with a few seconds left, that way you have time to go back down and hit another game-winning shot. Mario Boggans actually put up bigger numbers than the future number two pick, going for 37 points and 20 rebounds against Durant’s 37 points and 12 rebounds, while JamesOn Curry notched 28 points, 9 boards and 4 assists, all of them playing more than fifty minutes in the triple overtime slugfest. It also featured Byron Eaton making literally the most absurd shot of all-time, which you can kind of see here. A lot of random college basketball games lost in the flow of a long, hundreds-of-game total season, but this one deserves to stand above the rest.

The Padres/Rockies game should probably be here, or any of the LSU games that made this college football season a special one. Notre Dame/Georgetown was a classic, with Russell Carter’s three just missing at the buzzer, while the Suns victory in San Antonio evened up the Western Conference semifinals, although Robert Horry’s cheapshot at the end cost the Suns the series with the lame suspensions.

Runners Up: Padres at Rockies - Wild Card Play-In – October 1

Suns at Spurs – West Conference Semifinals Game Four – May 14

LSU vs. the World – Games versus Florida, Auburn, Kentucky, Alabama and Arkansas

Notre Dame vs. Georgetown – Big East Tournament Semifinals – March 9


Favorite/Best Show of 2007: 30 Rock

I don’t think this is even a question. If you look at the second half of 30 Rock’s first season coupled with the eight brilliant episodes that began the second season, there wasn’t a better comedy, nor a better show on television. There’s the possibility that too much Tracy Morgan or too much Kenneth the Page would ruin the show, but that’s never a problem, as Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin handle all of the heavy lifting. The guest stars come in and fit in perfectly, and the limited musical numbers – “Cleveland,” “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” – are absolute genius (and Halloween costume-inspiring). In regards to sheer quotability, 30 Rock may not have surpassed Arrested, but it is certainly in competition and regularly blew away The Office on Thursday nights before the writer’s strike brought terrible sadness across the land.

Friday Night Lights dropped a notch not just because of the murder storyline, but also for the deletion of football and the way the plots all sort of ran apart from one another from the second season. Still, if not for the late, Edie Falco-led surge by 30 Rock, lights is your winner here, on the merits of Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton turning in amazing performance after amazing performance, Buddy Garrity bringing me never-ending joy, Minka Kelly’s continued blazing hotness and Matt Saracen’s ability to be QB1, nail his grandmother’s hot live-in nurse and still be blessedly awkward from time-to-time. How I Met Your Mother, even in a third season some consider a slump, is still always enjoyable and The OC put on one helluva final season, trading in Mischa Barton for Autumn Reeser’s never-ending charms.

Runners Up: Friday Night Lights, How I Met Your Mother, The OC


Favorite Team of 2007: Golden State Warriors

They were, of course, not the best team of 2007 due to the fact they won no championships, won only one playoff series, still play no defense and currently reside at seventh in the Western Conference (although that puts them only four games back of the best record), but they were certainly my favorite. I hopped on the bandwagon with a few weeks left in the season, as they surged towards the final playoff spot, holding off the Clippers. Their regular season success against the Mavericks was then immediately dismissed, only to see Oracle Arena rock and Stephen Jackson roll them to a six-game victory before getting overpowered by the Jazz in the second round. On top of their on-the-court success, they gave us Baron Davis’ bullet fedora and the discovery of Scandal’s great honorary theme song. Throw in their draft night trade of Jason Richardson just for fun and the rise of Monta Ellis and Andris “I Play Inside” Biedrins and it is no contest, even with the Rockies’ unbelievable run and the Patriots’ total domination.

Runners Up: New England Patriots, Colorado Rockies


Favorite Movie of 2007: Pan’s Labyrinth/Superbad

Thinking back on this year, I realize I very much enjoyed a lot of films in ’07, but didn’t love that many. Films like Knocked Up, Live Free or Die Hard, Sicko, Charlie Wilson’s War, Ratatouille, Ocean’s Thirteen, 3:10 to Yuma, American Gangster, Breach, No Country For Old Men and Children of Men were all fun (a relative term when looking at those last few films) movies with great parts, but a few minor or major flaws short of masterpiece status. To my own fault, I didn’t see The Lives of Others or Once, and haven’t made my way through Juno, Sweeney Todd and Atonement yet, but I like my choices.

Pan’s Labyrinth was a violent, visually stunning, adult fairy tale, and Superbad somehow managed to live up to the amazing hype we built it up with over the course of the summer. Pan’s has the almost unforgivably flawed moment in the narrative when Ofelia is down in the Pale Man’s room and acts completely out of character, but otherwise, genius stuff. The CGI was also great, competing with Davy Jones, his crew and The Flying Dutchman for special effects of the year.

I think Superbad has its flaws, but I’m awarding it bonus points because A) It’ll be quoted for the rest of eternity and B) Again, we hyped it up so much, and weren’t disappointed. I’ve watched it a few times since it came out on DVD, and I think it holds up nicely, although I wish they had spent more time at the party before breaking the pair off. The ending, while rather cut and dry in the ideal pairings, is so amazingly awkward it makes up for any sins of too much closure. If nothing else, you can definitely say the last thirty minutes were by no means predictable as far as high school coming-of-age movies go.

(I also think I need to see Enchanted, considering the amazing reviews, my sister’s constant lobbying for it as the greatest movie ever and the perfect Amy Adams’ involvement, but I can't forget or forgive Patrick Dempsey's involvement.)

EDIT 12/29: Saw Juno yesterday and feel very comfortable moving it to the very top of the 2007 list. Further commentary and explanation coming, but Juno was definitely the complete movie I was looking for the last few months.


Best Finish of 2007: Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma vs. Boise State – January 1st

Seriously, like anything even comes close to the series of plays that ended this game. The biggies are all right here: the interception that put the Sooners up, the hook and lateral to tie it up, Adrian Peterson’s one-play overtime romp, the halfback pass on 4th and goal and then the Statue of Liberty. Bonus points because it all occurred while we were at the Cat’s Meow in New Orleans, with everyone slowly assembling for another night out on Bourbon. Karaoke pretty much stopped as everyone around the bar screamed and giggled like little school children as the end-of-game events unfolded. It was also the perfect way for Peterson to end his college career, all topped off by Ian Johnson’s proposal. Not to be confused with a great game, the last two minutes and overtime are some of the best of all time.

Runner Up: Cowboys at Bills – October 8th


Favorite New Show of 2007: Gossip Girl

I originally hopped onto the Gossip Girl bandwagon because I needed something to fill the snarky high school gap left in my viewing schedule by the departures of both The OC and Veronica Mars. Then I enjoyed the fact that it was apparently pretty accurate, and that those revelations had bothered some people. The two freshmen children of OC showrunner Josh Schwartz, Chuck seemed to get all the heart while Gossip Girl got the high-school-drama-that-managed-to-avoid-high-school-most-of-the-time. It was good, a nice amusement between KidNation and Real World that kept Wednesday night flowing.

But then the show started to finds its stride, gleefully recycling OC characters and plotlines, but with just enough twist that they weren’t total repeats. The best episode of the season combined a debutante ball with the sick nana storyline, and while they kept the obligatory slugfest in, they made nana evil, then crossed a few more malicious plots and subterfuge into the mix so even the Cruel Intentions folks would be proud. To top it all off, Gossip Girl probably does a better job of incorporating music into the proceedings than The OC did even in its hey day. Along the way, the show stumbled into a bit of warmth and heart, with the characters replacing their Newport predecessors, sometimes even improving on them.

Dan Humphrey is a suitable follow up to Seth Cohen, with his dad Rufus almost living up to eyebrows of Sandy. Serena van der Woodsen, the greatest name in primetime, is what Marissa Cooper would have been if Mischa Barton could act, elicit any sympathy from the viewer or not look like a skeleton. Blair’s character is my favorite, a hold-over from what Summer’s character was in the first few episodes of The OC: scheming evil incarnate, all in a delicious brunette package. I like that Serena’s mom not only is supportive of the relationship between her daughter and Dan – something certainly different from the usual princess and pauper trysts – but that she has her own history with the elder Mr. Humphrey, whose marriage is not going to work out all happy ending-like.

The evolution of Chuck Bass actually had us feeling bad or a character everyone had written off as a sleazy rapist early in the series. To top it all off, Schwartz inserted Vanessa, Dan’s best friend who “gets him” like Serena simply can’t. Instead of trying to make too many changes from the money Anna-Seth-Summer triangle of OC Season One fame, they just cast Vanessa as a black Samaire Armstrong, with odd style tendencies and never-ending wit. The show has also given me two of my favorite scenes of the fall, the girl’s choir version of “Glamorous” as our prepsters suit up for school and the field hockey brawl set to Will.I.Am.

You know Gossip Girl had arrived when some random curmudgeony columnist wrote that it was dangerous because it didn’t accurately portray the lives the “poor” in New York City live, or that it’s forcing kids to grow up too quick. Sadly, thanks to the writer’s strike – cruel, strength and joy-sapping writer’s strike – new episodes run out January 9th. It really is a shame, as the last few episodes have been nothing short of tremendous, with Lex Luthor even showing up as the Mr. Waldorf on holiday episodes. Surprisingly, this hasn’t caught on with the female population at school, who instead hold out that perhaps some day, somehow, Grey’s Anatomy won’t be an awful show anymore instead of looking to younger, more enjoyable alternatives.

(And notice, I made it through that entire diatribe without once mentioning the delight Kristen Bell is as narrator. It was awkward at first, and the opening “credits” still leave something to be desired, but overall, having Bell back involved with a high school show on The CW is definitely a very good thing. I also realize that Mad Men got a ton of great reviews, but I totally missed the boat on it, considering I usually don’t look to AMC for my primetime fare.)

Runners Up: KidNation, Chuck, Pushing Daisies, Burn Notice


Favorite Debate Moment of 2007: Mitt Romney, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – November 29

I realize it’s hard to give straight answers sometimes, and everyone dances around certain questions, but this was beyond ridiculous. You can watch the train wreck here, or just check out the transcript:

Cooper: Governor Romney, you said in 1994 that you looked forward to the day when gays and lesbians could serve, and I quote, "openly and honestly in our nation's military." Do you stand by that?

Romney: This isn't that time. This is not that time. We're in the middle of a war. The people who have...

Cooper: Do you look forward to that time, though, one day?

Romney: I'm going to listen to the people who run the military to see what the circumstances are like. And my view is that, at this stage, this is not the time for us to make that kind of...

Cooper: Is that a change in your position...

Romney: Yes, I didn't think it would work. I didn't think "don't ask/don't tell" would work. That was my -- I didn't think that would work. I thought that was a policy, when I heard about it, I laughed. I said that doesn't make any sense to me.

And you know what? It's been there now for, what, 15 years? It seems to have worked.

Cooper: So, just so I'm clear, at this point, do you still look forward to a day when gays can serve openly in the military or no longer?

Romney: I look forward to hearing from the military exactly what they believe is the right way to have the right kind of cohesion and support in our troops and I listen to what they have to say.

Runners Up: Dennis Kucinich and the UFO’s, Joe Biden being succinct with Brian Williams


Best Individual Play of 2007: Dennis Dixon’s Fake Statue of Liberty vs. Michigan

It’s just a joy to watch. The total coolness of Dixon juxtaposed against the total confusion of everyone on Michigan’s defense, who have absolutely no idea what’s going on. You could say Dixon’s touchdown run with a torn ACL could be here, but I think the fact you can take this play completely out of context and it’s still so awesome is what makes it great. You don’t need to know the stakes of the game or any extenuating circumstances, just sit back and enjoy.


Best Actress and Best Narrator of 2007: Kristen Bell

She closed out the final season of Veronica Mars with her typical bad-ass vulnerability, added some electricity to the proceedings on Heroes and after some awkwardness at the beginning, proved to be an absolute perfect fit as the unseen narrator of Gossip Girl. On the red carpet, she continues to pose with other blog favorites and the trailer for her new movie with yet another blog favorite, Jason Segel, looks pretty great as well.

(The trailer for Forgetting Sarah Marshall features Bell, Segel, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd and the freaking Caddyshack theme. Oh, and by the way, Kenneth the Page and Kristen Wiig are also both listed on the IMDB page. Fist pump.)


Best Actor of 2007: Christian Bale

Not really sure who to put here, but both Rescue Dawn and 3:10 to Yuma garnered him critical acclaim while the new Dark Knight trailer has me channeling my inner fanboy any time I think about it. You could also insert George Clooney (Michael Clayton, Ocean’s Thirteen), Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, Superbad), Johnny Depp (Pirates 3, Sweeney Todd), Russell Crowe (American Gangster, 3:10 to Yuma), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Charlie Wilson’s War) or Tommy Lee Jones (No Country For Old Men, In The Valley of Elah) here and I couldn’t offer much in the way of argument beyond those fine gentlemen having been drumming up hype for The Dark Knight in addition to their cinematic ventures.


Favorite (Only One I Saw?) Music Video of 2007: Nickelback’s “Rockstar”

A very late edition to the list, as I don’t really watch music videos anymore and generally hate everything involved with Nickelback, but I can’t deny the utter awesomeness of this video. It also answers the question “Where’s the only place you can find Wayne Gretzky, Eliza Dushku, Nelly Furtado, Ted Nugent, 3 6 Mafia, Paul Wall, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Gene Simmons, Chuck Liddell, Kid Rock and Grant Hill together?”. Thanks – or much anger towards - Dill for pointing it out to me.

(You just skipped over that link, angry I mentioned Nickelback as a “Best of” anything, but please, go back and watch it. It’s a blast. Please.)


Favorite Newspaper or Magazine Feature of 2007: “Pearls Before Breakfast

Take a world-class violinist, a busy DC Metro station and an ingenious concept and you get probably my favorite thing I read all year in any form. Plenty of other stuff I really enjoyed, mainly profiles, whether they be of TV shows (The Wire), new movie moguls (Apatow) or total sleazeballs (The Hills). I’m also going to count McSweeney’s and Slate on here as well, giving you a cavalcade of links to keep you busy over the next half hour.

Runners Up: New York Times Magazine profile of Judd Apatow

New Yorker profile of David Simon and The Wire

Daily Variety feature on Friday Night Lights

McSweeney’s “Devil Went Down to GeorgiaQuestions

Slate’s breakdown of the Trinity lateral play

The beyond amazing story about Spencer and Brody from The Hills


Favorite Book That I Read In 2007: Manhunt, Live From New York, World War Z, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

For a variety of reasons, I’m sometimes pretty far behind on new book releases, so while I read a few books that actually came out this year, most of them are books of some age that I finally get to. There’s also plenty that go in the runners up slot, but in no particular order, a few that came out on top, all of which I would consider required reading:

Manhunt: A narrative non-fiction account of the days leading up to and following the Lincoln assassination, which made me wonder how this hasn’t been turned into an Oscar-caliber film with whoever takes the role of John Wilkes Booth rolling to the trophy. It’s just amazingly good story telling, and gives you a fair portrayal of Booth, who truly is one of the more fascinating people in American history.

Live From New York: I’ve loved SNL ever since I can remember, and this is the nearly complete oral history of the entire show, from its beginnings to the deaths of Hartman and Farley and beyond. After reading this, you realize that there are very few times in the history of the show where it wasn’t deemed awful and people didn’t pine for the good ol’ days. Everyone ever involved with the show – living, obviously – save for Eddie Murphy discusses a true cornerstone of culture.

World War Z: Really clever idea executed with great success. Try to follow: an oral history from the survivors of the fictional zombie war, which lasted a decade and nearly caused the extinction of the human race. Some very funny parts, a few very scary parts and a few areas that could be read as warnings on how to react to other disasters, assuming there is no outbreak of zombies caused by black market trafficking of Chinese organs.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Finally took the time to read all the Harry Potters and found out that they were certainly worthy of the hype. I think this is my favorite, as its when Rowling took the first leap to more intricate plots and darker themes, although night wouldn’t truly descend on the series until the end of the fourth book. The seventh and final book was a nice close, but I don’t think it was my favorite.

Runners Up: Stumbling on Happiness, Bonfire of the Vanities, Late Shift,


xXx: State of the Union Award for Best Crazy Action Movie of 2007: Live Free or Die Hard

I truly think the fourth Die Hard was one of the best movies of the year, telling the story of an old school hero in a very new school fight, right down to the Creedence Clearwater Revival and geeky computer nerd sidekick. This was a very tough choice to make, and I had to consult Chad, who is an expert on all shitty action movies, and we both went with Die Hard 4, even though it might be a little too high-class for this award. Transformers was also in the mix, but fell short due to Michael Bay’s influences, as well as Shoot Em Up, which was beyond ridiculous in every possible way, even for Chad and I in the venue of the South Bend dollar theater. Despite the fact it had good marketing, high production values and a plot that pretty much made sense, Die Hard 4 qualifies for the crazy action movie award due to the ending sequence involving a duel between a semi and fighter plane.

Runners Up: Transformers, Shoot Em Up


Biggest Disappointment of 2007: Spiderman 3

Not a total disaster as a stand-alone, but when compared to the near perfection of Spiderman 2, its certifiable crap. They waste the villain of the Spiderman universe for forty-five minutes of tacked on screen time, instead focusing on an incredibly boring Sandman character that gave Thomas Haden Church absolutely nothing to work with. The entire scene with “emo” or “cool” Peter Parker was just painful to watch, from his prancing on the street to dancing in the jazz club. The sweet tag team match at the end made up for some of the flaws, but again, when the bar is set as high as it is, you can’t come through with a muddled, wasteful screenplay like that. Perhaps with a good editor you could carve a good-to-great movie out of what they had, but the final product certainly left a lot to be desired.


Best Real World Cast Member: Isaac

This was obviously going to be no one from Denver, and even though Cohutta had his moments, there was no contest that Isaac was taking this one. Universal acclaim from every viewer for the guy who saved a Sydney season that would have dissolved into unorganized chaos without his presence. My personal favorite highlight was his costume and dance routine at the gay Mardi Gras parade, although a lot of people will go with him swimming in the fish tank, which is also a good choice. I can’t find a video of that, but his “apology” will certainly work as evidence of his greatness.


Favorite Blog Post of 2007: Deconstructing Carrie Underwood

Thanks to not really writing anything the last three months, there was a dearth of quality entries, but I loved thinking this up and eventually translating my thoughts with some degree success to Word. My sister, the biggest Underwood fan in the world, claims this nearly ruined the song for her, so I’m pretty pleased with the final result. I could have been cleaner in places, but I support a re-reading of this.


Favorite Commercial/Movie Preview of 2007: Grand Theft Auto Coke

I know this came out in 2006 and shouldn’t qualify, but it aired during January’s Super Bowl and still was in theaters before movies this year, so it qualifies. If you want to disqualify it, then I’ll go with the sweetest pick-up game ever as my runner up.

Runner Up: Nike’s Second Coming

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