Latest 3 Things

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

3 Baffling Bests

We are obsessed with comparing things. Or more to the point, we are fascinated with ranking them. And as you might expect, in a way only Americans can appreciate, we really only care about who’s number one. The late, great Dale Earnhardt captured our national sentiment best when he quipped “Second place is the first loser.” Even in seas full of talent and excellence, we insist on a winner. Can you even remember who lost the Super Bowl? It was only three months ago, and already we’ve forgotten. We select our bests in countless different ways: secret ballots, tournaments, public voting, mathematical formulas and more, and each of them has its imperfections. But on balance, because of the attention we pay, our highest honors are rarely awarded improperly. The command performance gets the Oscar, the prettiest girl wins the tiara and the best team wins the championship. There are however, those most subjective awards, whose secret selection process in private rooms seems not only fallible, but downright wrong. In this first year of a new decade, I’ve noted more misses than hits, more snubs than locks and more undeserved praise than an episode of Celebrity Rehab. I think you’ll agree, here are 3 questionable bests, and who really should have won:

1. Need You Not. First off, let me just say, I’m a big fan of country music. Say what you like, if you haven’t been to a honky tonk (i.e. country bar), you have no idea what you’re missing out on. And with that in mind, I couldn’t be happier to see country enjoying a popular resurgence. Country music just has a different kind of soul than the rest of the stuff that’s out there. Trust me, I’ve converted more than a few people over to my way of thinking about it. But even with all that, the Recording Academy couldn’t have missed by more when it gave its top Grammy award (Record of the Year) to Lady Antebellum for “Need You Now.” Don’t get me wrong, they’re a great band, and they have some great songs. But that’s no more the best record recorded this year than any of the forgettable drivel expelled by the Bieber/Cyrus/Swift collective. I discovered the real record of the year during a seemingly scripted exchange with a disc jockey at my favorite country bar. “Hey, what was that last song?” “F*#k you!” “Hey, f*#k you, Frank! I just want to know the name of the song!” “No, that’s the name of the song!” “Oh... catchy!” Modern R&B has become so forgettably formulaic that I normally wouldn’t recognize a single track from the entire Billboard R&B Top 100. But Cee Lo Green's iconic track successfully fused post-modern doo-wop, hip-hop attitude, R&B vocals and a sentiment so universal that it nearly obviates the foul language required to express it. This song will be played in every kind of club for decades (take it from this DJ) - and I’m pretty sure the only reason it didn’t win more awards was the watered down “clean” version which took half the fun and all the “pop” out of the real track. “F*#k you” is this generation’s “Baby Got Back” - and will license more cussing at weddings, barmitzvahs and company Christmas parties than bad catering, open bars and “Mony Mony” put together.

2. The English Patience. For the record, having ten movies nominated for the Best Picture Oscar is the worst awards show idea since, well, letting James Franco and Anne Hathaway host one of them. Seriously, I’ve seen shades of grey combined to greater effect than those two mooks. It was like watching an open mike night at a suburban comedy club - mostly just desperation and hopeful (albeit disingenuous) applause. But, I digress. Why anyone would believe that there were ten movies worthy of the show’s most coveted award is beyond me, let alone five. But, despite the super-sized slate of films from which to choose, the selection of “The King’s Speech” was already preordained. After all, not only was the film a “true story” (an apparent prerequisite these days - no matter how loosely based on real events the story actually is), but it was also performed in English accents, which has now become Hollywood’s most reliable imprimatur of artistic merit (outside of casting an English actor to not use their accent, except during press junkets). Despite 235 years of distancing ourselves from them (in ongoing rebellion) - it seems that we still look back to the mother country when we start to lose our social direction, all of our art starts to look the same or too many former SNL cast members start making bad movies. “The Fighter” was a better story (and almost got me to forgive Christian Bale for his "Batman voice"), “Inception” was more engrossing (and did get to forgive Leo DiCaprio for Titanic), “127 Hours” was more artful/independent (but still didn't excuse Franco’s hosting performance), and “The Social Network” may have been the only real zeitgeist in the bunch (and completed Justin Timberlake’s transformation from boy-band-member to legitimate artist - ala Marky Mark). Just because something sounds like art doesn’t mean it is - after all, the Best Picture should be something other than the best movie that will someday air on PBS.

3. J-No. As your average red-blooded American male, I have often engaged in a vigorous debate about the most beautiful women on the planet. When I was young, my tastes ran towards Alyssa Milano, Christie Brinkley and pre-ruined-by-hip-hop Mariah Carey, as I got older, I became a little more Jenny McCarthy, Pam Anderson and a touch of Carmen Electra. Then I began to class it up with with Vanessa Marcil, Jennifer Love Hewitt and, on my particularly cultured days, Jane Seymour. Ultimately I’ve arrived at the conclusion that each of them has a claim in their own right, and while the occasional Swimsuit Issue model and Victoria Secret angel may catch my attention, you never really get over the women who first made you feel like a man. That being said, I don’t have any idea what kind of parallel-reality/Bizzaro-world that the editors of People magazine are living in to declare that Jennifer Lopez is the most beautiful woman in the world, but I know that I don’t want to live there. The girl who scans my groceries is more attractive than J-Lo, and I’m fairly confident that it would take three of her (taped front-to-back) to equal one J-Lo sized backside. And spare me the nonsense about “real women have curves”; for one, this is supposed to be about finding The Most Beautiful Woman In the World - do you really want her to look like everyone else? And for another, there’s nothing “average”, “healthy” or “beautiful” about having an ass you can set a drink on. Seriously, what are the odds that the most beautiful female on the planet is married to Mark Anthony anyways? Sure, she can sing - and yes, she’s doing a passable job on the world’s most popular show, but c’mon. With that much make-up and hair, I can look like J0Lo. You know who has curves? Sophia Loren has curves, Catherine Zeta-Jones has curves, Kim Kardashian has curves - what J-Lo has is a giant ass, and the day she’s truly the most beautiful woman in the world is the day I’ll leave it.

* * *

The fact that we get it wrong from time to time, shouldn’t really discourage us all that much. Choosing the best of anything can be a dicey proposition at best, and we are imperfect creatures using our imperfect judgment. However, we should resist the temptation to run far afield of what we truly know to be good or true simply to prove a point or earn the approval of those around us. The world is not a fair place, despite all of our constructs to the contrary. Pretty often trumps ugly, fast often trumps slow, and if we’re lucky, smart often trumps dumb. Working to create exceptions to these rules, however, is not only disingenuous, it also devalues the rare and wondrous occasions when it happens on its own. Underdogs aren’t underdogs if we build the system to favor them. It is just as quintessentially American to love winners as it is to love the rags to riches, bottom to top, last to first story. The American dream isn’t born of staying at the top, it’s about scratching and clawing your way up there, through sheer force of will. What used to be a universal desire to be the best has become, of late, creating bests where they don’t really exist: giving every kid a trophy, refusing to name valedictorians, and letting more and more teams into championship tournaments. But if we’re all the best, then none of us are - and instead of all winning, we all lose.


Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

Ever since “F*#k you!” was released I have been dreaming of two days in my future which will be ever so much brighter:

The first is the day when some political wonk talks his candidate for the Presidency into using a modified version of it for the campaign song. ("I see you running 'round taxing the country I love, and I say...." etc....sorry I'm in a rush and can't give this the attention it OH so deserves.)

The second is the day the tune is resurrected as a jingle for either a cleaning supply, a snack food, or a foreign car.

After that I can die happy.

Post a Comment