Diablo Cody’s Best of 2009
Had my editor not suggested doing a Best of 2009 column, I don’t think I’d have realized that winter is upon us. As is the custom, trees will be felled, beasts will be slaughtered, and millions of new Twilight calendars will be unsheathed and mounted on Peg-Boards across the nation. (I hope Kellan Lutz is January, don’t you?)
Hollywood is a perpetual summerland, a temperate, godless yaw where the very word season has been co-opted by television executives. There are few harbingers of winter here. Yeah, there’s a mall called the Grove that has a Christmas trolley and a part-time Santa. And last year, a few anemic snowflakes fell in Malibu, giving billionaire bohos in the Colony an excuse to wear their Uggs. But mostly, traditional year-end signposts are absent. (Increasingly, I hear about ”Fakesgiving” dinners, where family members are eschewed for younger, hipper friends and industry contacts. Where better to give thanks for good plastic surgery?)
However, it is nearly December, which means those of us who are inclined (or on deadline) are prepared to reflect on the year’s cultural offerings. This would be a simpler task if I had actually gone to the movies with any frequency. I did see a great film called Annie Hall last month. It was fresh, revelatory, a bracing gust of — what? The ’70s, you say? Never mind. Okay, well, how about books? I bought High on Arrival, by Mackenzie Phillips, the day it was released. It was a real page-turner (or, as I like to say since I got a Kindle, a real button-masher). Phillips lived in a house in L.A. that has always intrigued me, a now-abandoned mansion that was built for Tarzan himself, Johnny Weissmuller, and featured a swimming pool dug to look like a winding river. I read those chapters with interest and skipped all the scandalous incest stuff that came later. I should have just bought a copy of Architectural Digest instead. Clearly, I don’t care about sex and heroin; I want to hear about Tarzan’s marble toilet.
How about TV, then? Well, along with the rest of the nation, I saw Jon and Kate Godforsaken and their therapy-bound children suffer through one last season of their TLC series. Anyone who actually watched the show prior to the “shocking” divorce knows that its success had nothing to do with the cuteness of the kids or their rote, endless outings to places like Disney World and Hawaii. No. The show was interesting because Jon and Kate hated each other. In its finest moments, Jon & Kate Plus Eight was an uncomfortably crisp reflection of a new American family dynamic: Mom as the aggressive, gruff-voiced breadwinner, her modern hairstyle recalling a Spartan’s helmet; Dad as a passive, befuddled man-child who dreams of the lifestyle teased in his Esquire subscription. Look, I like Mad Men too, but the most fascinating TV spectacle this year wasn’t plotted or scripted. Though it did involve a wiener. (Apologies to Mr. Weiner.)
Which leaves me with my favorite medium, the Internet. I can always count on it. I’m like a bookworm where the Internet is concerned, which I suppose makes me a virus. Sadly, the vast, untamed electronic wilderness is slowly being pruned into something resembling, well, TV. Commercials are embedded everywhere. I just found out 80 percent of my Twitter followers are automated spam-bots with names like Brittani and Lexxus. Speaking of Twitter, I don’t even know if I composed a blog entry in 2009, as I was too busy parceling my every thought into cute 140-character sound bites. I used to only worry about being pithy for a living; now some of my best lines are wasted on a free app! Damn you, Bluebird!
If I sound disenchanted with the Year in Popcult, know that I’m totally exaggerating for entertainment purposes. In fact, there was a lot that excited me this year. A few examples: Anvil!: The Story of Anvil. Paranormal Activity. Lady Gaga. Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. Inglourious Basterds, my favorite film of the year and possibly the decade. Funny People. Up in the Air. Adam Lambert, who simultaneously made American Idol seem newly relevant and finally irrelevant. The Office‘s Mindy Kaling on Twitter. New offerings from Stephen King and Richard Kelly and Jay-Z. Turns out I have quite a bit to be thankful for. Now if you’ll excuse me, it is almost winter and I need to shovel the walk. (We may not get snow in L.A., but those Academy screeners pile up.)