31 Images

Hollywood Hits and Misses: Winter 2011

By Emily Christianson, Patrick Kevin Day, Whitney Friedlander, Jevon Phillips, Nardine Saad and Lora Victorio

This year is going by fast. It seems like only yesterday we were talking about Seth Rogen attempting to be an action star in “The Green Hornet,” William H. Macy playing a deadbeat dad in “Shameless,” Lady Gaga getting a potential dose of Blonde Ambition with her new song “Born This Way” and Charlie Sheen doing what Charlie Sheen does. OK, we’re still talking about some of this. Here’s a look at entertainment and pop culture moments that made the first quarter of 2011 memorable.

Photos, clockwise from top left: “Shameless” (credit: Showtime); “The Green Hornet” (credit: Jaimie Trueblood / Columbia Pictures); Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” cover (credit: Interscope Records); Charlie Sheen on CNN (credit: ()
Miss: Charlie Sheen’s ‘Sheenanigans’
The self-proclaimed tiger-blooded Adonis warlock made headlines for several weeks, thanks to his maniacal tirades and erratic behavior. He kicked off his media blitz on the Dan Patrick radio show and spiraled into a tizzy thereafter, getting his kids taken away, getting himself fired from “Two and a Half Men” and getting into a lawsuit with Warner Bros. That’s what we call not winning.

But months later, the warlock bounced back with his “Torpedo of Truth” tour, a ratings-busting Comedy Central Roast and a new TV deal that will bring “Anger Management” to the small screen in a series form. “Two and a Half Men” killed off his character Charlie Harper and “That 70s Show” star Ashton Kutcher ultimately filled the show’s bachelor quota. (
Hit: Disaster movies
Just when you thought moviegoers had seen enough alien-bred mayhem after last fall’s under-performing “Skyline,” they confound expectations and turn “Battle: Los Angeles” (pictured) into a hit. Both films feature the City of Angels getting pulverized under the abuse of hostile extraterrestrials. And most bizarre of all, “Battle: Los Angeles " came along over a weekend when people were seeing real nonstop destruction on their TV screens after the earthquake in Japan. This all goes to prove screenwriter William Goldman‘s adage about the entertainment industry: “Nobody knows anything.” (Columbia TriStar)
Miss: Seth Rogen as an action star
We appreciate the trend in action films away from the musclebound lunkheads of the 1980s, but perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. In recent years we’ve seen Hollywood make action stars out of spindly welterweights Keanu Reeves and Shia LeBeouf, but this winter it attempted the near-impossible: creating an action star out of Seth Rogen. The guy who built his reputation on being an agreeable schlub who loved to smoke weed is light-years away from the ideal version of newspaperman-turned-crime-fighter Britt Reid (aka “The Green Hornet”). But filmmakers tried anyway. Though the film grossed $225 million worldwide, it received shoddy critical and audience reviews. Bring back the muscles! (Jaimie Trueblood / Columbia Pictures)
Sundance Film Festival: Hit
Last year’s Sundance hits “Winter’s Bone” and “The Kids Are All Right” made it all the way to the Oscars to compete for best picture, and it looks as if a few of this year’s films will be following in their footsteps. “Win Win,” (pictured) starring Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan, looks like a definite front-runner, with Times critic Kenneth Turan calling it a “pure pleasure to experience.”

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister to the Olsen twins) was named the festival “it” girl, thanks to her breakout performance in “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” And “Like Crazy,” starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, created buzz when it picked up the top prize.

-- Emily Christianson (Kimberly Wright / 20th Century Fox)
The predictability of awards season: Miss
If you picked Christian Bale, left, Natalie Portman, Melissa Leo and Colin Firth on your Oscars ballot, then you had both the joy of seeing your choices prevail on Oscar night and the bitterness of winning very little from your office Oscars pool. This year’s Academy Awards brought very few surprises to an awards season that lacked any real tension for weeks. After the myriad precursor ceremonies, from the Golden Globes to the Critics Choice Awards to the DGA Awards, it was apparent that “The King’s Speech” was destined to win best picture and the acting trophies were going to those who appeared to pick up every trophy along the way.

There may have been some early enthusiasm for “The Social Network,” but that quickly died away, leaving a lot of bored awards junkies waiting for Oscar co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway to do something unexpected. And waiting. And waiting.

--Patrick Kevin Day (Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)
Hit: ‘Justin Bieber: Never Say Never’
Justin Bieber pulled off a box-office coup in February with the launch of his 3-D concert movie and life story called “Never Say Never.” Cashing in on the worldwide Bieber Fever outbreak, Justin and his director Jon Chu delivered a documentary that even managed to sway many of his harshest critics. By mid-March the film had grossed more than $80 million globally -- a big number compared to the Jonas Brothers’ 2009 “3D Concert Experience,” which failed to make even $25 million internationally, according to Box Office Mojo. (Jonathan Short / Associated Press)
Miss: Designer John Galliano makes anti-Semitic comments, gets fired
John Galliano, the noted British fashion designer, was fired by the French fashion house Christian Dior for saying he “loved Hitler,” and he’ll be facing trial in France over the remarks. Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, who is the face of the Miss Dior Cherie fragrance, railed against the designer and said she would no longer be associated with him. Speculation about whether he would appear at Dior’s Fashion Week show circulated among fashionistas, but the show went on without its designer. His own namesake brand’s show went on as well, in an informal setting. Galliano, who has since checked himself into rehab, also acquired an unlikely ally in Whoopi Goldberg(Michel Euler / Associated Press)
Miss: Musicians perform for dictators
Pop stars Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Nelly Furtado and 50 Cent recently said they had renounced millions of dollars from performing for members of Libyan strongman Moammar Kadafi‘s family. Even though the funds were donated to worthy causes, the artists drew much attention to a growing and controversial cultural phenomenon: celebrity artists being hired by rich, powerful and sometimes disreputable clients to play at private or semi-private functions. (Imre Foeldi / EPA)
Esperanza Spalding wins best new artist Grammy: Hit
Sorry, Beliebers. Your beloved teen heartthrob Justin lost out to the considerably lesser-known jazz vocalist and bassist. Grow up, get over it, and leave Spalding’s Wikipedia page alone.

-- Whitney Friedlander (Gabriel Bouys / AFP/Getty Images)
Miss: Fairy-tale movies
Fairy tales don’t always get a sugary-sweet happy ending. Just look at the disappointing reviews and box-office numbers for “Red Riding Hood” (pictured) and “Beastly.” Sure, Beauty fell in love with the Beast and we’re sure Red was able to defeat the wolf, but in Hollywood terms, these two teen angst re-tellings flopped. Critics were less than enchanted, giving “Beastly” a 20% on and “Red Riding Hood” a dismal 12%. Meanwhile, both films debuted at a weak No. 3 at the box office and then petered out.  (Warner Bros.)
‘Shameless’ on Showtime: Hit
The U.S. version of the British comedy showcases William H. Macy as drunk patriarch Frank Gallagher (pictured); Emmy Rossum as his eldest daughter, Fiona, who’s left to clean up everyone’s messes; and Joan Cusack as kooky agoraphobic neighbor Sheila. Though it may not have found a devotee in our TV critic, it has the dark-comedy-mixed-with-random-moments formula (witness a child services worker with an accent that doesn’t necessarily fit her Caucasian features) that have proved successful for other programs on Showtime. The network has picked it up for a second season.

-- Whitney Friedlander (Showtime)
Miss: Christina Aguilera’s winter flubs and comebacks
The Super Bowl singer flubbed the national anthem but tried to make up for it during an Aretha Franklin tribute at the Grammys. But soon after, she and boyfriend Matt Rutler were arrested on suspicion of being publicly intoxicated and driving under the influence, respectively. She won’t be facing criminal charges, but that same week it was revealed that the “Burlesque” singer-actress would serve time -- as a mentor for NBC‘s newest talent show, “The Voice.” That’s one of the quickest comebacks we’ve seen in a while, but hey, at least Pink’s glad she’s not as sloppy as her cohort. (Christopher Polk / Getty Images)
Hit and Miss: Watson wins on ‘Jeopardy!’
God created man. Man created Watson. Watson went on to crush man on the TV game show “Jeopardy!” But Watson hasn’t declared itself God ... yet. For now, the IBM-created device is reveling in its $77,147 haul after blowing away former “Jeopardy!” champions Ken Jennings, left, and Brad Rutter. For a ratings ploy that made the 27th season of “Jeopardy!'s” current run a headline grabber, it’s a hit. For a snapshot of the coming battle of humans versus the machines, we give this one a terrified miss. (Carol Kaelson / Associated Press)
Minorities missing at art events: Miss
A March 2011 NEA study showed that fewer young blacks and Latinos are attending art events. Is this because childhood arts education is slipping from public school classrooms? Is it because those who are fans of the arts aren’t as diverse in their arts love and may only stick to one genre, such as just going to the theater? In any case, it’s a troubling development.

-- Whitney Friedlander (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Hit: Justin Bieber gets a haircut
Justin Bieber, the Canadian pop star whose 3-D biopic “Never Say Never” had girls going gaga, cut off his signature locks that he loved to whip back and forth. Teenage hearts everywhere likely shattered, but the Biebs, who also stepped out with girlfriend Selena Gomez at the Vanity Fair Oscar party, auctioned off the locks of freshly cut hair to benefit an animal-rescue foundation. The hair fetched $40,668 on EBay.  (Joel Ryan / Associated Press)
Jesse Eisenberg and Mark Zuckerberg on ‘SNL': Hit
On “Saturday Night Live,” Mark Zuckerberg met for the first time with his big-screen doppelganger Jesse Eisenberg, who played the Facebook founder in the Oscar-nominated film “The Social Network.” The aloof Zuckerberg made an appearance in Eisenberg’s socially “awk-berg” and “cocky” monologue. The two were joined by a third doppelganger: Andy Samberg, who also mimicked the young entrepreneur in the episode’s opening. But the question remains: Are any of them friends on Facebook?

-- Nardine Saad (Dana Edelson / NBC)
Miss: ‘Skins’ controversy
Underage drinking! Underage nudity! Underage sex! There were many things that parental watchdog groups were concerned about when the remake of the popular British teen show hit MTV this winter. The Parents Television Council even gave it the dubious honor of “the most dangerous show for children we have ever seen.”

But arguably most important, points out Times TV critic Mary McNamara, is the fact that the show is “pretty darn bad.” No, not in a bad-is-good way. Rather, it relies “on tired old stereotypes and, in early episodes, absurd and dated plot points.”

So adults hate it. Does this mean kids are clamoring for the remote controls? While ratings did slip from the pilot’s 3.3 million viewers, the show usually hovers around a million viewers per new episode. MTV aired all 10 episodes of the new series. No word if it will get a second season. (Associated Press)
Hit: Radiohead’s release of ‘King of Limbs’
Radiohead fans were treated to a video as well as a digital download of the new album a day earlier than expected, bringing much happiness to the webosphere. Though critics are mixed about the album, at least the fans got to see Thom Yorke in a bowler hat. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Super Bowl commercials: Miss
What does it say that possibly the most attention-grabbing of the usually elite mix of ads was leaked the week before the Big Game? Volkswagen’s spot for the new Passat (pictured), which featured a young Darth Vader, got its fair share of attention before and after the game. And sure, Eminem’s Detroit-pride Chrylser spot struck a chord with the heartland -- even if he might have lost some cred by also schilling for Brisk iced tea. But for the most part, viewers got a reminder that they usually aren’t missing much when they fast-forward through commercials.

-- Whitney Friedlander (Associated Press)
Hit: Britney Spears’ new singles
While Lindsay Lohan and Christina Aguilera grabbed the headlines, Britney Spears was quietly plotting her return to the pop scene -- specifically back to music. The release of her first single, “Hold It Against Me,” from her upcoming album had its detractors (Bellamy Brothers), but broke records for single-day spins at both MediaBase and BDS. Her second “leaked” single “Til the World Ends,” gave Times music reporter Gerrick Kennedy the sound he needed to hear to get the gist of her new collection of songs: “Judging from the material fans have been treated to so far, especially the sticky ‘Till the World Ends,’ she’s serious about delivering a dance album heavy on club bangers...” (Jive Records)
Seth Green out of ‘Mars Needs Moms': Miss
Actor and “Robot Chicken” co-creator Seth Green, middle, spent lots of time on the set of the performance-capture film “Mars Needs Moms,” along with Joan Cusack and Tom Everett Scott, but only Green, who played a 9-year-old kid in the movie, saw his voice replaced with that of an 11-year-old actor (Seth Dusky). Green had defended the decision, but in the end it didn’t really matter: no one went to see the movie anyway.

-- Patrick Kevin Day (Joseph Lederer / ImageMovers Digital)
‘Rock of Ages’ movie casting: Hit
Julianne Hough, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige and ... Tom Cruise? The cast in director Adam Shankman’s movie adaptation of “Rock of Ages” is a bit eclectic -- made moreso if the rumored casting of Russell Brand comes to fruition -- but will it work? Though both have limited acting experience, Hough has proved her dancing chops and Blige is one of the signature hip-hop/R&B singers of the past few decades. Baldwin’s a multiple Emmy-winner, and Cruise has shown his musical aptitude (his “Tropic Thunder” cameo was praised) and, despite “Knight and Day,” he’s is a bona fide megastar. Chemistry, a good script and a good production aside, it seems like an ideal cast for their respective roles. We’ll see how it comes together.

-- Jevon Phillips

Photos, from left: Julianne Hough, Tom Cruise and Mary J. Blige. All credits: Associated Press ()
Miss: Kim Kardashian debuts a song
Reality TV starlet Kim Kardashian proved that she should stick to what she knows when trying to stay famous. While we’re not exactly sure what it is about her that generates her fan base, we have determined that it’s not her singing voice. When she released her single “Jam (Turn It Up),” she proved that her sleepy voice is better suited to narrating “Kourtney and Kim Take New York” than carrying a beat. Even Conan O’Brien tried to exterminate the song the best way he knew how: with a full-size replica of the Angry Birds game. But props to Kim K for donating the proceeds on the song to cancer research.  (D Dipasupil / Getty Images)
Banksy’s Oscar campaign(?): Hit
The Indie Spirit Award-winning documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” about controversial artist Banksy did not win an Academy Award -- that honor went to “Inside Job” -- but the elusive artist seemed to mount a bit of a campaign for the film, though we doubt he’d call it that. Art pieces in Los Angeles, like this one found on Washington Boulevard at Compton Avenue titled “Crayon Foreclosure,” cropped up and generated stories on local, and many national, news outlets. If it’s all about the art, then it was a stroke of genius, and probably got more eyes on his work than one of his normal hit-and-run outings.

-- Jevon Phillips (Associated Press)
Hit: Streaming movies
Streaming movies on TV through Netflix has become as much of a media-junkie necessity as cable TV and a Blu-ray player. But this winter seemed to solidify the stream as the future of at-home entertainment when Amazon announced its own streaming movie service and Netflix picked up its first original programming, the series “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey(Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)
Ansel Adams ‘lost’ negatives: Miss
Though he at first contended that the negatives he bought at a Fresno garage sale were taken by Ansel Adams, Rick Norsigian has backed down from linking them to the famous photographer. He gained national attention, but all the excitement fizzled when the possible “lost negatives” weren’t verified to be lost at all.

-- Lora Victorio (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Hit: ‘Portlandia’s’ self-mockery
For anyone who has ever thought that there are not enough bird shirts, free-range meals, clown colleges or coffee shops within walking distance of every bus stop -- and who is also overly aware of how truly hipster that all sounds -- there is “Saturday Night Live’s” Fred Armisen, left, and former Sleater-Kinney indie rocker Carrie Brownstein’s sarcastic love letter to Portland, Ore. -- the place “where young people go to retire.” (Scott Green / IFC)
Miss: Phil Collins’ retirement
Phil Collins’ retirement was apparently reportedly due to bad reviews, low sales and other industry reasons. The legendary Genesis drummer and frontman felt he needed to take to his blog to clear up the misconceptions, mostly printed in FHM. “I’m not stopping because of dodgy reviews or bad treatment in the press. I’m not stopping because I don’t feel loved; I know I still have a very large fan base that loves what I do.” The “miss” is for the media and coverage of his exit in this case. And let’s not get into the Alamo reincarnation thing ... (Associated Press)
Miss: Lady Gaga’s ‘Born The Way’
Lady Gaga’s first single, “Born This Way,” off her anticipated new album has garnered a lot of fans (including YouTube star Maria Aragon), and the single hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. But its familiarity may have rubbed some critics the wrong way. Ann Powers states: “ ‘Born This Way’ does unsettle things through one reliable route: its production. Whether its sound comes too close to one or another Madonna songs seems beside the point... More intriguing is the unstable sonic base created by Gaga and her co-producers, Fernando Garibay and DJ White Shadow.” A minor miss for the monster diva.  (Interscope Records)