For pop culture in 2010, imitation was the severest form of flattery.

click to enlarge "The A-Team"
  • "The A-Team"

It's a common complaint that there are no new ideas in film or television — that everything's a sequel, a remake or an adaptation. While that's a legitimate gripe, 2010 brought a whole new one: that everything is based on a movie from the same year. Here are some superlatives to reflect a year that — while relatively decent for motion pictures — kept feeling like it was cheating off the kid at the next desk.

Most Prolific Walk-On: Pete Postlethwaite
The Oscar nominee most famous for his roles in “The Usual Suspects” and “In the Name of the Father,” was in no fewer than three major releases this year. He was Perseus' adoptive father in “Clash of the Titans,” a dying millionaire in “Inception” and a sadistic Irish gangster in “The Town” — with less than 20 minutes of screen time in all three. Given the runaway success of these movies, it would seem the people have spoken, and they want more Kobayashi.

Most Bizarrely Popular Movie Subgenre: “Team of Betrayed Secret Agents/Military Personnel Out for Revenge”
See “Red,” “The A-Team,” “The Expendables,” “The Losers” and arguably “Machete.” Of these, only “The Expendables” scored at the box office, perhaps because people would rather see older versions of the action heroes they loved as children than let their favorite childhood show be interpreted by Oskar Schindler and the guy from “The Hangover.”

- "Leonardo DiCaprio Obsessing Over his Dead Wife" (“Inception” and “Shutter Island”)

- "Buddy-Cop Farce Pairing a Serious Actor With an SNL Alum" (“Cop Out” and “The Other Guys”)

- "Comedies About Artificial Insemination" (“The Kids Are All Right” and “The Switch”)

- "Handsome Young Actor is Trapped in an Enclosed Space For a Long Time" (“127 Hours” and “Buried”).

Most Bizarrely Popular TV Subgenre: “This Former Governor Who Really Wants/Wanted to be President is Just Like You or I!”
See “Sarah Palin's Alaska,” “Conspiracy Theory,” “Parker-Spitzer” and “George Allen, P.I.”  Regrettably, only one of these is fictional.

Most Bizarrely Popular Plot Device in TV and Movies: Methamphetamines 
AMC's “Breaking Bad” always has featured meth prominently in its plot, but it was joined by two other shows this year. On FX's excellent country-crime series “Justified,” which premiered in spring, meth is the livelihood for the Kentucky lowlifes who are the show's antagonists; meanwhile, in the harrowing drama (and likely Best Picture nominee) “Winter's Bone,” the 16-year-old heroine (Jennifer Lawrence) must navigate a similar underworld of meth producers, dealers and addicts to locate her fugitive father. Oddly enough, her uncle is depicted as a cocaine addict, perhaps because the screenwriters wore down the M key past the point of usability.
Strangest “Harry Potter” Cast Reunion: Current best picture and actor frontrunner “The King's Speech."
The story of how George VI of England overcame his stutter; it features not only Helena Bonham “Bellatrix Lestrange” Carter as the king's wife Elizabeth, but also Michael “Dumbledore” Gambon as his father and Timothy “Wormtail” Spall as Winston Churchill. Perhaps this commonality isn't so surprising, given the recurring jokes about how every British actor in the world has been in the Potter franchise. Bill Nighy, who makes a cameo in the most recent, allegedly lobbied for his part because all his friends had already been in the films.

Most Generally Terrifying Human Being: Bug-Eyed character actor Michael Shannon
Shannon earned an Oscar nomination for his disconcerting portrayal of a mental patient in “Revolutionary Road,” and he seems committed to increasing his creepy factor with every subsequent role.

In this year's “The Runaways,” he plays reptilian music impresario Kim Fowley, notable for a scene in which he yells sexual obscenities at Dakota Fanning to ignite the passion needed for the band's recording of “Cherry Bomb”; then, in the fall, he proceeded to give us the most unsettling performance yet in HBO's “Boardwalk Empire.” On the show, Shannon plays Nelson van Alden, a fanatically religious Prohibition agent who manages to cap off the show's season by forcibly drowning a subordinate on the pretext of baptizing him.

Oh, and van Alden is also secretly a sexual deviant. Give it a rest there, Mike.



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