As our year-end Best in 2011 Pop Culture listings take shape, we’ve found some odd, off-the-wall nominees for a quirky Honorable Mention category. We’ll give you a few each Wednesday to tide you over until the Best Of lists are revealed.


Best Family Movie of the Year: The Muppets — Erin Newcomb

When Erin Straza approached me about nominating the best family film, I knew my criteria right away: The movie had to be intelligent for adults, musical to engage children of all ages, and void of too many intense plot points that might read as scary for younger viewers. Of course, the acting, storyline, and musical numbers also need to be high quality. The Muppets, starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, and the whole lovable cast of original Muppets (plus newcomer Walter) makes a strong showing for the finest family film of the year. My two caveats center on the rating and the plot. The film is rated PG, with a lot of physical, comedic violence that small children might find scary (I’d recommend this movie for 7+ depending on the child). As for the plot, my feeling is that children will find it more entertaining and engaging if they’ve been introduced to the Muppets first at home, since much of the story relies on already knowing and loving the characters. Those qualifiers aside, I found the film delightfully refreshing.

The premise focuses on the Muppets’ comeback to save their studio — and the lingering question of their current cultural relevance. By the film’s conclusion, both the studio and the Muppets’ popularity are restored. Along the way, Segel treats viewers to an endearingly goofy performance, complete with all his Freaks and Geeks charm sans the pot. His song “Man or Muppet” encapsulates the film’s magical silliness. Parents will appreciate the nostalgia trip to the Muppets’ heyday through pop culture references (like the celebrities Kermit unsuccessfully tries to enlist — Jimmy Carter and Molly Ringwald) and the movie’s meta-awareness. Children will adore the slapstick and the whole range of nutty Muppet personalities. Add these characteristics to the slew of self-aware song-and-dance numbers that keep all the audience members smiling and tapping their toes, and this film seems like a frontrunner for family film of the year.


Best Most Ridiculous Meme — Kirk Bozeman

In 2011, “Planking” was a pretty strange meme in itself. But Planking’s attempted (and, thankfully, less dangerous) spinoffs were even weirder: including Batmanning, Tebowing, and… Horsemanning?

Unlike most other photo-posing fads, horsemanning is a team sport. Take a picture of yourself and a buddy posed so that it appears one of you is headless and the other is the missing head. (You know, like the Headless Horseman in The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. Get it?)

It never really caught on, probably because it’s just plain creepy. But the strangest thing about horsemanning is that it isn’t something new. All related sites are quick to point out that it was a photo fad in the 1920s. Yep — the 20s. Check the family photo album pic, you may have missed the pic of the great-grandparents attempting to horseman.

Horsemanning is the most ridiculous meme of 2011 because it was both way too creepy to catch on and also an attempted revival of a genuine historical artifact that was too creepy to stick around. How many memes can claim all that?