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Fall 2010: Hollywood Hits and Misses

We’ve seen a lot this fall.

Our jaws dropped when we learned about star whackers from Randy and Evi Quaid, but their conspiracy theories about celebrity stalkers didn’t come close to mystifying us like Bristol Palin making it to the finals on “Dancing With the Stars.” Of course, the fall wasn’t all bad. Taylor Swift proved her star power when her “Speak Now” album hit No. 1, and such stars as Tim Gunn and Adam Lambert lifted our spirits with the “It Gets Better” video campaign for LGBT youth.

Now, presenting entertainment’s fall in review...

Los Angeles Times staff (ABC / AP / Getty Images / AP)
Taylor Swift: Hit
She’s quite possibly the biggest pop star in America right now. What more is there to say? In the last 12 months, she’s won a Grammy for album of the year, debuted a No. 1 album in October that sold more than 1 million copies in its first week and starred in her very own Thanksgiving prime-time special. Her tour won’t hit Los Angeles until next summer, but the pop artist with a country bent seems to be on an unstoppable streak.

-- Todd Martens (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
‘The Walking Dead': Hit
It turns out that vampires aren’t the only undead audiences want to see on TV. These days, the rotting corpses on AMC‘s “Walking Dead” are pulling some solid ratings too. The Frank Darabont project, which premiered on Halloween, is a post-apocalyptic thrill ride with plenty of suspense, betrayal and cabin fever.

-- Emily Christianson (Associated Press)
<b>'Leap of Faith': Miss</b>
Not even Raúl Esparza firing on all cylinders as an evangelical con man could save the soul of this misbegotten musical, based on the 1992 movie starring Steve Martin. The show, which opened at the Ahmanson in October, featured an out-of-key Brooke Shields as a small town single mom, whose good looks and sweet crippled kid help rescue Esparza’s character from his swindling game. As stories go, this one isn’t without promise. But the score by Oscar winner Alan Menken and Glenn Slater was unpardonably generic, and the direction and choreography by Rob Ashford were desperate to cover up the obvious fact that this show would need a long stay in purgatory before having any chance of reaching the pearly gates of Broadway.

-- Charles McNulty (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
Award season: Hit
Award season is finally underway, and Hollywood already seems to have its darlings. Academy showings, DVD screeners, advertisements and star Q&A sessions are all part of the campaign. So far, “The King’s Speech,” “The Social Network,” “The Fighter” and “Black Swan” are among this year’s biggest contenders.

--Emily Christianson

Photos, from left: Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network,” credit: Merrick Morton / Columbia Pictures; Mark Wahlberg in “The Fighter,” credit: Jojo Whilden / Paramount Pictures; Mila Kunis in “Black Swan,” credit: Niko Tavernise / Fox Searchlight; Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech,” credit: Laurie Sparham / The Weinstein Co. ()
Kanye West: Hit (music) and miss (celebrity)
America’s love/hate obsession with Kanye West continues. His new album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” is alternately aggressive and heartfelt, with West sparing no punches as he attacks and celebrates his own faults.

But at what point, if ever, do his Twitter rants and media attacks, including one at the Los Angeles Times, overtake the music? Yes, the media react with hysteria at every word West says, but West also continues to indulge. Music this strong doesn’t need a side show.

-- Todd Martens (Los Angeles Times)
Resnick Exhibition Pavilion: Hit
The Resnick Exhibition Pavilion, which opened in October, gives LACMA a big, clean, flexible, naturally lighted, single-story space for temporary shows. And unlike so many new art museum buildings, the art is right inside the front door, not sequestered behind a café, party space, shop or other paraphernalia incidental to the reason you are there.

-- Christopher Knight (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Resnick Collection: Miss
Despite all intentions, “Eye for the Sensual: Selections From the Resnick Collection” is an eloquent argument against vanity exhibitions in art museums. With a smattering of first-rate works, many of which have been on individual loan to museums before, the ragtag array is achingly incoherent.

-- Christopher Knight (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
<b>Celebrity marriages: Miss</b>
Hollywood, where is the love? Lately, it seems as if more celebrities are calling it quits than walking down the aisle. Christina Aguilera and Jordan Bratman, Billy Ray Cyrus and wife Tish, Eva Longoria and Tony Parker and Laura Dern and Ben Harper are among the couples who filed for divorce this fall.

-- Emily Christianson (AP / Getty Images / AP / AP)
Steve Buscemi in ‘Boardwalk Empire': Hit
Sure, he’s made his living playing mostly evil-doers and his isn’t exactly the face that comes to mind for “leading man,” but Times TV critic Mary McNamara says “he is the Absolute Best Thing about the show,” adding:

“For all its period detail and pedigree, ‘Boardwalk Empire’ is nothing new. It’s a gangster tale, made a tiny bit fresh by its time and place, by the in-your-face presence of the temperance movement (although what promised to be a complex and interesting portrait of these women in the pilot has devolved in subsequent episodes). The acting is good, as is the writing, but most of what happens is fairly predictable.

Except Buscemi.

His presence, and his performance, remind us what power and corruption actually look like most of the time, and it isn’t a young Robert De Niro.” (Abbot Genser / HBO)
Lindsay Lohan in ‘Inferno': Miss
The folks working on the Linda Lovelace biopic seemed to stand behind their intended leading lady, despite her legal trouble and rehab stint. That all ended in mid-November, when director Matthew Wilder said that he had fired Lohan and that he had cast Malin Akerman as the famous porn star.

-- Whitney Friedlander

Photos from left: Lindsay Lohan, credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images; Linda Lovelace, credit: AFP; Malin Akerman, credit: Danny Moloshok / Reuters ()
Lady Gaga’s meat dress: Miss
Never thought we’d say this: Sorry, Lady Gaga. It’s been done.

That meat dress she wore to the VMAs. Totally done by artist Jana Sterbak in the ‘80s. Oh, and the dress might have had maggots.

-- Whitney Friedlander

Photos, from left: Lady Gaga at September’s VMA Awards; and Jana Sterbak’s “Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic,” 1987. Credits: Kevin Winter / Getty Images; Philippe Migeat, Centre Pompidou © Jana Sterbak ()
New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys reunion tour: Miss
They don’t have the “Right Stuff”? They already were “larger than life”? The puns can keep coming. But seriously guys, the Beatles never did a reunion tour despite their gaggle of grown-up fans. What makes you think you can?

-- Whitney Friedlander (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images for DCP)
<b>Huntington Library donation: Hit</b>
Talk about a windfall. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens will be receiving a cash gift in the neighborhood of $100 million. The generous donation comes from the estate of L.A. art patron Frances Brody.

-- Emily Christianson (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ remake: Miss
Perhaps we’re being premature, but the world needs a revamped (sorry) “Buffy” movie like it needs a new “Scream.” Given the reaction online to the fact that the writer is a newbie and not “Buffy” scribe Joss Whedon, it seems as if hopes for Sunnydale aren’t high.

-- Whitney Friedlander (Bob Gruen / 20th Century Fox)
Artist Jorge Pardo gets MacArthur ‘genius’ grant: Hit
The favorite of design magazine editors and L.A. Times arts critics alike was honored in September with a $500,000 grant.

-- Whitney Friedlander (Matt Harbicht / Getty Images)
<b>Nicki Minaj: Hit</b>
This hip-hop newcomer is rising fast. Her “Pink Friday” is on pace to land near the top of the U.S. pop charts. So, who, exactly is she? Good question.

A sampling of the Times’ review: Switching accents, hair colors and musical styles, Minaj has absorbed a little something from most every bombastic female in the last 30 years of pop on her debut album, “Pink Friday.” Remember the Spice Girls and all their manufactured personas? Minaj rifles through all of them at warp speed -- and it’s that very quality that makes her an electrifying talent and at risk for permanent disassociation from herself.

-- Todd Martens (AFP/Getty Images)
‘Glee’ magazine covers: Miss
Oh, “Glee,” you and your envelope-pushing ways. Except this time it’s not always for the singing. There was the racy GQ cover (pictured -- and shot by Terry Richardson no less). Soon after, Mr. Shue (Matthew Morrison) showed his pecs for Details, and even “Other Asian” Mike Chang (dancer Harry Shum Jr.)'s six pack got a magazine spread. We get it. You’re attractive not-kids playing misfit kids on a TV show. Can we move on now?

-- Whitney Friedlander (Terry Richardson / Associated Press)
Far East Movement: Hit
Far East Movement, the Los Angeles electro/rap group, reached a notable milestone this fall. Not only did its third album, “Free Wired,” debut at No. 24 on the Billboard charts, one of the highest charting debuts by any all-Asian American group, but its “Like a G6" became the No. 1 single in the country (having already crowned digital charts for weeks).

-- Todd Martens (Stefano Paltera / For The Times)
‘30 Rock’ goes live: Hit
The October episode of Tina Fey’s sitcom “was the apotheosis of ’30 Rock’s’ self-reflexivity: a live version of a real show about life behind the scenes of a fictional sketch comedy show inspired by a real show that just so happens to broadcast from the same studio where this show was being staged. Got that?” explained Times blogger Meredith Blake. “Going into Thursday night’s episode, I wondered whether the show would have to slow down its zippy timing or tame its self-referential streak to work in the live format. But on the contrary, it really seemed to work for ’30 Rock,’ and the dizzy energy of the performers was transmitted in a way that was more immediate than usual.”

-- Whitney Friedlander (Mary Ellen Matthews / NBC)
New fall TV: Miss
Was this year’s fall TV lineup D.O.A.? Such promising new shows as J.J. Abrams’ action-packed “Undercovers” couldn’t keep the ratings up and consequently got axed. Meanwhile, Fox’s con-man drama “Lone Star” and ABC’s high-school reunion show “My Generation” barely made it on air before the networks pulled the plug.

-- Emily Christianson

Photos, from left: James Wolk in “Lone Star,” Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe in “Undercovers” and Anne Son in “My Generation.” (Fox / NBC / ABC)
<b>3-D movies: Hit</b>
The best bets for 3-D movies? Go for scary, kid-friendly or downright silly. “Saw 3D,” “Megamind” (pictured) and “Jackass 3D” all had good box office weekends. More box office news.

-- Whitney Friedlander (Associated Press)