I like Ben Affleck. I thought "Argo" was fantastic — one of the best films of the year. Affleck's certainly a worthy contender for Entertainment Weekly's annual "Entertainer of the Year" award. On my ballot he might have come in second or third. But this year, there's only one person who really makes sense for this title: "Avengers" director Joss Whedon. How in the world he got overlooked for this thing is beyond me.
So, "The Avengers:" $623 million domestically; $1.5 billion worldwide. It may have looked like a sure thing after the success of the movies leading into it, but consider the task Whedon had in front of him: tell a story that brought all these disparate characters — and different tones — together, balance all their subplots, make it fun and intelligible to neophytes while keeping things smart and clever enough for the hardcore fans. After "The Dark Knight Rises," it was the most anticipated movie of the year; in the final accounting, it was probably the most beloved movie of the year too.
If "The Avengers" was the only thing Whedon had done in 2012, he's still be a smart choice for Entertainer of the Year. But look at all the other stuff he did. He released the long-delayed horror deconstruction "The Cabin in the Woods," which he wrote and produced, to some of the best reviews of the year. He also released a documentary about San Diego Comic-Con that he co-wrote and co-produced with Morgan Spurlock, Stan Lee, and Harry Knowles. At the Toronto Film Festival, he premiered his adaptation of Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," which he just happened to shoot in between all these projects — because clearly he had a ton of free time on his hands. That little labor of love got great reviews too.
If all those film projects weren't enough, Whedon also made two of the funniest viral videos of the year: an "endorsement" of Mitt Romney (7.2 million views on YouTube) and an "undorsement" of Mike Birbiglia's "Sleepwalk With Me" (200,000 views on YouTube). He tossed these things off the way you or I might toss off a peanut shell at a baseball game. For most folks, making that "Zomney" video would be the highlight of their year; on Whedon's personal 2012 top ten, that would probably be number four or five. Affleck's 2012 resume is conspicuously shorter. "Argo" was definitely a great movie, but his only other project this year, Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder," was the acclaimed director's most poorly received project to date.
EW's Entertainer of the Year issue includes a tribute to Whedon by his frequent collaborator Nathan Fillion. But how is he not the undisputed number one guy? Entertainment is a quality over quantity thing. "Argo" might be the single best piece of entertainment I've mentioned in this post. But in my book, quality gets trumpted by a quantity of quality. That's what Whedon gave us. This was his year. If we asked ten filmmakers whose 2012 they'd rather have, I'd bet the majority would pick Whedon's combination of mainstream success and small, personal projects. If we asked audiences who entertained them more, I think they'd say the same thing.
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