Sandra Bullock. Justin Bieber. The cast of Jersey Shore. Sarah Palin. Kate Middleton. LeBron James. Betty White. And Jennifer freaking Lopez. These are the first eight of Barbara Walters’ ten “Most Fascinating People” of 2010 to be revealed. The other two will be kept under wraps until the yearly special airs December 9th. But as far as we’re concerned, the current lineup doesn’t bode well. In fact, it got us thinking about who captivated our attention most this year — and who we’d most like to sit down for a chat with. Our top ten, and the questions we’d ask them, are after the jump.
In what was easily the year’s most talked about art show, Abramović spent the better part of the spring sitting still and silent at the Museum of Modern Art’s atrium as museum visitors took turns staring across the table at her. Both that individual piece and the entire retrospective of her work — the biggest show of performance art in MoMA’s history — were titled The Artist Is Present. And over the course of her exhibition, everyone from Lou Reed to Lady Gaga stopped by.
We would ask her: What did your performance teach you? Who were your favorite and least favorite visitors? Did you ever think you’d be the one to make performance art cool again?
Literary novels and pop culture rarely have anything to do with each other, but when Franzen published his first novel in nine years, Freedom, this summer, the entire world flipped the fuck out. Critics rhapsodized, Barack Obama thought it was “terrific,” and Time magazine made him the first living writer to grace its cover in a decade. Hell, Franzen even buried the hatchet with Oprah, whose book club he snubbed back in 2001.
We would ask him: What made you change your mind about Oprah? Does it feel weird being pretty much the only contemporary writer getting mainstream attention for serious, challenging novels? Why don’t you think Freedom is winning any of the big literary awards? What was the best book you read this year?
Lady rappers are few and far between these days — especially those with a shot at mainstream stardom. Minaj sold herself as a tough girl, spitting blistering verses alongside the likes of Kanye West and Lil Wayne. She embodies a stunning range of characters, from Harajuku Barbie to Roman Zolanski. But her debut, Pink Friday, features a mostly tame Minaj, singing about love rather than rapping about how she’s going to kick everybody’s ass in this room.
We would ask her: Why did you decide to go pop instead of sticking with hip hop for your debut? Was it an artistic or a business decision? Are you hoping to return to hip hop in the future, or is this shift in focus permanent?
Project Runway is certainly past its prime, so why haven’t we grown tired of its beloved mentor figure? Because this year, he showed us a new side of him. Gunn is clearly unhappy with the way the show is being run, and he’s not going to plaster on a fake smile and pretend to agree with the judges’ awful decisions — or, for that matter, sit idly by while Anna Wintour has employees carrying her. At the same time, he’s never been more supportive of his Project Runway charges than he was last season. And he showed real humanity in his It Gets Better video, an honest and moving account of his teenage suicide attempt.
We would ask him: Are you ready to move on from Project Runway? If you could pick new judges for the show, who would they be? Which contestants did you actually love, and which did you flat-out hate?
A little while ago, Kanye West risked drowning in a mess of alcoholism and poor impulse control, his best-known act an outburst at an awards show that spawned a thousand internet memes. But this year, he came back better than ever, with what may well be the strongest album of his career and a commitment to becoming less of a “douchebag.” Will he ever pull it off?
We would ask him: How do you think you’ve changed in the past few years? My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy earned a lot of perfect reviews. Do you agree that it’s a perfect album? Where are you going from here? How do you really feel about the Nicki Minaj record?
At various moments this year, James Franco has starred in a number of films (most notably Howl and 127 Hours), appeared on General Hospital, published a book of short stories, put up a solo art show, turned up in drag on the cover of a magazine… etc. Just yesterday, it was announced that he’ll be co-hosting the Oscars. This guy, and his odd idea of fame, is everywhere — and he’s using his celebrity in a way that just about no one has thought of yet.
We would ask him: How long do you think you can keep going at this pace? Does spreading yourself so thin cheapen the work you do? What does “celebrity” mean to you? Are you in danger of becoming overexposed? What is one thing you haven’t gotten to do that you’d like to?
Barbara Walters has announced that Sarah Palin will be appearing on the program for the third straight year. Is she kidding? We now know everything we need to know about Palin — and the one thing we’re nervously wondering (Will she run for president in ’12?), she’s not going to reveal. Better to go with Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party candidate for Senate in Delaware. Most of what we know about this woman comes from rumors, ads, and viral videos. Now that she’s lost the election, we’re curious to see what she has to say for herself.
We would ask her: Why did you feel it was so important to reassure voters that you’re not a witch? Do you feel like you were misunderstood during your campaign? Are you a feminist? Will you be running for public office again?
He’s the man behind the most talked about movie of the year — and The Social Network writer isn’t even a fan of Facebook. The film was widely praised but also attacked by those who felt it was misogynist, depicted Harvard in a negative light, and a whole host of other criticisms.
We would ask him: Do you believe viewers misunderstood your depictions of women in The Social Network? Were you worried about Mark Zuckerberg retaliating? After making the film, do you think he’s a bad person? What are you working on next?
Sometimes failures are more interesting than successes, as M.I.A.’s most recent album, Maya (yes, we’re done spelling it in slashes), proves. Earning reviews that ranged from tepid to inflammatory, the record gives virtually no aural pleasure, choosing instead to spit vapid, vaguely politicized rhetoric over repetitive beats and other people’s hooks. What really made headlines, though, was New York Times magazine writer Lynn Hischberg’s takedown of M.I.A. — an article that prompted the rapper to tweet the author’s phone number and post audio from the interview.
We would ask her: Six months later, how do you feel about Hirschberg’s piece? Do you stand by your response to it? How has it changed the way you interact with the media? You were a critical darling before the release of Maya. Why do you think the reaction to the album was so negative? Do you read reviews?
The Mad Men mastermind has been fascinating since the very beginning. Every time we think we’ve got his characters figured out, he throws us another devastating curve ball. And Season 4 may have been the most intense yet, from Don and Betty’s divorce to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s impending doom to the rise of Peggy Olsen, powerhouse copywriter and no-nonsense boss-lady (not to mention budding bohemian).
We would ask him: Why did Don decide to marry Megan? Will they last? Will SCDP make it? Is anyone going to die next season? Do Don and Peggy ever hook up? Etc.