Monday, December 21, 2015

Top 25 People of the Year

People Magazine made a list of the 25 most intriguing people of 2015. If it didn’t have People’s sensibilities (where people’s ability to sell the front page of a tabloid magazine factored into it), it would have the potential to be an interesting artifact of our times. As far as I can gather, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Garner, and David Beckham made the list because they’re celebrity favorites of the soccer mom audience although they didn’t really do much this year other than look after their kids. I imagine there are at least 110 million people in the US doing just that. 

Still, the magazine got away with a few familiar names (Barack Obama and Taylor Swift) and made the case that these two really were emblematic of 2015 and not 2009-2014. The magazine also made some good choices with people I overlooked like Chris Pratt (who did become a blockbuster star in 2015 if you consider Guardians of the Galaxy a fluke), Tracy Morgan (you have to admit, he had quite the comeback), and the three Americans who prevented a terror attack in Paris. 

In the end, this is all subjunctive.
When I asked some people on a message board to chime in their own opinions, one commenter chimed in with a Boston media sensation called Baby Doe I’ve never heard of but must have been a big deal for someone in the Boston area.  

Another person countered with what might be considered an anti-People list with a lot of intellectual entries. Here are a few examples of some of them:
Juhari Idusuyi - This 23-year-old African-American woman read Citizen: An American Lyric throughout a televised Donald Trump rally. On camera. She was seated so that she was visible just over Trump's left shoulder for the entire event. Simple nonviolent protest at Trump's lack of ideas about governance.

Rotana Tarabzouni - A 26-year-old Saudi Arabian woman, terribly scandalous in her homeland for singing about taboo subjects, like driving and crises of faith, and performing unveiled and immodestly (meaning she dresses mildly sexy by 1980s American standards). She's getting buzz around LA - she might be one to watch out for on the national airwaves in a year or two.

Robert Epstein - A psychologist whose research suggests and explains how Google could rig the 2016 elections. By modifying which results come first for a given result, a search engine can determine which candidate one votes for, all other things being equal.

Another person posted a list which the board moderator called the best list he’d seen:
Serena Williams, Megan Phelps-Roper, Ava DuVernay, Ijeoma Oluo, Rowan Blanchard, Amandla Stenberg, Ahmed Mohammed, Edward Snowden, Johnetta Elzie, DeRay McKesson,
Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, Bree Newsome,
Saladin Ahmed, Michael Ian Black, Natasha Vargas-Cooper, Sean O'Neal, Don Lemon, Aziz Ansari, Rabia Chaudry, David Simon, Oscar Isaac
I asked him about Sean O’Neal (a senior editor at the AV Club) and he replied that he was just surprised that O’Neal just had a kid (reproducing really does get you points it seems). He also conceded that Michael Ian Black’s comedy was starting to strike a chord with him so subjectivity creeps in pretty much everywhere.

My list would go something like:
1. Eddie Redmayne-The first person under 35 to win a Best Actor Oscar since 2002 and THEN followed it up with an equally daring role that will likely net him another nod if not a lot of admiration for his gutsiness.
2. Amy Schumer-The buzziest comedian out there AND runs the buzziest sketch show on today. She certainly has something original to say, a hilarious way to say it, and 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer was one of the landmark TV shows of the year. In previous years, Key and Peele would have definitely had this spot
3. Pope Francis-Here's an idea: Let's not be assholes to gays, divorcees and people with a history of abortion for the first time in our 2000 year history. Yeah, buddy, you got a spot!
4. Ted Sarandos-Netflix CEO is a complete game changer. So many genres of TV shows you didn't even know you wanted (a realism-infused living single show for seniors in Grace and Frankie, a new Daredevil, a parody cartoon with deep psychological leanings in BoJack Horseman, a racially diverse Seinfeld in Masters of None, A global soap opera with superheroes in Sense8 marking the Wachowski Brothers first success in over a decade, etc) are being done here and they might just get the first Oscar nominations for something outside of the theater distribution model ever
5. American Pharoah-With the way horse racing has turned into an Arms Race since the 1970's when the last horse won a triple crown (horses winning the Belmont stakes are generally resting through the other legs), American Pharoah's win was deemed pretty impossible after so many people who won the first two legs sputtered
6. Shia LaBeouf-He continues to have success (yes, I'll call it that) and spark discourse about the nature of fame with his experimental art projects and continues to rebound from failure in an exciting way
7. Serena Williams-Winning late in her career with grace maturity and garnering attention for her brand and social causes along the way.
8. Elon Musk-Well on his way to winning the space race, Space X became the first private company to send a spacecraft to the international space station in 2015. Other projects under his tutelage include building a self-funded solar city, developing artificial intelligence and searching for extraterrestrial life. Very few science fiction films are covering territory that Musk isn’t doing in real life.
9. Taraji P Henson-Empire was certainly among the 2 or 3 most buzziest things on TV and this character actress really found her groove and was a big part of that show. Her personality and quotability are definitely becoming iconic. It also helps that Empire debuted in 2015
10. University of Missouri Football Team-By refusing to play until the U of Missouri president resigned, it was probably the most effective thing anyone's done in the race wars going on this year. Their story touches on a lot of things: the privilege athletes are afforded, the disaster that is higher education, the unique geography of Missouri as a place which shouldn't be (you'd expect it to be the deep south) but is probably the most unresolved state in the country in terms of racial tension, and the aforementioned racial tensions these days
11. Lin Manuel Miranda-Combined history and rap and making it a smash success on Broadway. As Obama said during a post-performance speech, very few things can make Dick Cheney and Obama agree on anything. Hamilton being a great musical is one of those things.
12. Paul Ryan-I would be equally comfortable giving this spot to John Boehner who announced the death of partisanship in the House of Representatives by stepping back. Ryan is going to step in and clean up the mess.
13. Rachel Dolezal-Certainly a fascinating story about racial identity and politics these days
14. Jason Day-A golfer and sports person of the year candidate.
15. Francois Hollande-His leadership either caused further complications in the war on terror or presented a step forward in it
16. Ridley Scott-Interstellar and Gravity both had their strengths but his film was the kind of optimistic and imaginative sci-fi adventure that the movies were made for and that we don't see enough of these days. Apollo 13 inspired my sister to study astronomy in college and this could be it for a new generation. Additionally, Scott has been at the forefront of film making since 1979 and this is his introduction to a new generation
17. Kim Davis-Some will call her an idiot, but I kind of admire her at least on the level of doing effective civil disobedience. At the same time, I'm listing people regardless of whether I like them or not and I think she's the 2016 version of Joe the Plumber in the way her story is already being coopted by everyone in the Republican party as a litmus test for their voters' values
18. The election outsiders-Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson-There's too much focus on the election so rather than use up a bullet point on each one of these guys, let's just group them all in one. These three are surging in the polls at various levels despite probably being unelectable if the voters eventually care about experience.
19. Trevor Noah- This was a big year of talk show hosts, but James Corden, John Oliver and Seth Meyers really belonged on last year's list. I also love Stephen Colbert but I don't think 2015 is the year in which he's found his niche. Meyers has found his niche this year, but I'm not sure if he's making that much of a splash at 12:35 AM and he can no longer take ownership of the SNL era he presided over since he left last year. Trevor Noah is one change-up that has been working by my subjective opinion and his stand-up is pretty spectacular (also by my subjective opinion).
20. Joe Biden-His political capital is at an all-time high this year as evidenced by Stephen Colbert and everyone else practically begging him to run for president. His heartbreak with another family death resonated throughout the nation
21. Stephen Curry-Most of the time (in my experience), the upstart team in the regular season (Sacramento Kings in the early 2000s, Dallas Mavericks in the mid-2000s, the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers in the early 2010s) loses to the experienced team, but Curry's Warriors surprised everyone by not being busts. Curry dominated over reigning king LeBron James, showed a media friendly personality (partially due to his daughter), and matched his regular season record with clutch during the post-season.
22. JJ Abrams-If sequels and reboots are the currency of Hollywood in 2010, than this guy is the established master having turned both Star Wars and Star Trek into must-see events.
23. Justice John Roberts-Continues to frustrate anyone expecting him to be political by voting his conscience and he deserves recognition in a big year in which the Supreme Court upheld Obama care, ruled on freedom of speech laws (the confederate license plate case, the Gilbert, Arizona case), pollution regulation, gerrymandering and same sex marriage. In  a generation or two, the only notable supreme court cases that will appear in a history textbook will be Obama care and same sex marriage: One of which was upheld this year and one which was ruled upon.
24. Amy Poehler-Leslie Knope started out as one of the most awkward characters on a TV show that seemed doomed to wither out. Seven seasons later, Poehler has turned her into one of the most iconic and rootable characters on TV and that’s not all. She’s also written a biography, produced Billy Eichner’s comedy shows as well as Broad City, and is attacking the big screen again with Sisters. The only thing she didn’t do in 2015 was agree to host the Oscars and that’s our loss.
25.Justin Trodeau-I know Canadian politics aren’t worth worrying about to most Americans, but to the degree that they are, Trodeau’s election marks a major shake-up in a system that many feel had gone stagnant. Failing that, he’s dreamy-looking enough to sell a cover.

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