Star turns

Winners – Justin Timberlake, The Cast of Glee, and Johanna Skibsrud

Star turns
James Devaney/Jason Kempin/Getty Images; Aaron Vincent Elkaim/CP

Justin Timberlake
Always deeper than his image let on, the 29-year-old has officially completed the loop from tween heartthrob to serious acting talent, wowing critics this fall with his turn in the Facebook movie, The Social Network. Timberlake’s take on Napster inventor Sean Parker combined innocence and calculation, conveying evil beneath a sheen of effeminate whimsy. Not bad for a guy who got his start warbling country tunes on Star Search.

Caroline Wozniacki
Serena Williams’s outfits might steal the show at most tennis tournaments, but these days Wozniacki supplies the substance. The 20-year-old Dane won an amazing six tour events in 2010, including the Rogers Cup in Montreal, to claim the No. 1 rank in the world. She’s no slouch in the looks department, either, but with her crashing serve and her relentless work ethic, her opponents had best keep their eyes on the ball.

Christopher Plummer
O brave new world, that has such people in’t! Or should we say, “old” world? At 80, the Canadian-born actor seemed at the peak of his power, playing Prospero on stage and nabbing an Oscar nod for his screen turn as Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station. This, after his landmark performance in the Stratford Festival production of Caesar and Cleopatra. Plummer seems glad he has left Captain von Trapp behind. We are, too.

Grigory Perelman
How boring would math be without an irascible genius? This year’s crank: a 44-year-old Russian who rocked the numbers community by solving one of its most intractable problems, the hypothesis that any three-dimensional space—oh, never mind. Anyway, Perelman then turned down a $1-million prize for proving the theorem, a gesture some found a trifle ungrateful. Now he’s one of math’s most intractable problems.

Liu Xiaobo
When, last year, China’s best-known dissident was sentenced to 11 years for “inciting subversion,” the global response was muted, and off-base. The EU took aim at the “disproportionate sentence,” as though that, and not the act of jailing him, was the concern. Thankfully, the Nobel committee that  awarded Liu the Peace Prize knows no such tact. “This is for the lost souls of June 4,” the hundreds mowed down at Tiananmen Square, Liu said, on hearing of the award, then wept. Britain, France and the U.S. have tepidly applauded the prize.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Sorry, Stieg, that you never lived to see your Millennium Trilogy go supernova. Of course, if you’re anything like your protagonist Mikael Blomqvist—as some say you were—you’d probably run from your own stardom. Critics can sneer at Stieg Larsson’s goth heroine, Lisbeth Salander, and his feminist pedantry. But with 40 million in sales, Swedish adaptations in theatres and a Hollywood version in the works, there’s no denying that Lisbeth and Co. are about as hot as hot gets. Skål!

Jay Baruchel
The young Montrealer was beyond convincing in The Trotsky, a Canadian film about a high schooler who believes he’s the reincarnation of the ill-fated Russian revolutionary, Leon. It’s a time-tested formula: deluded dreamer believes he’s a historic figure (remember Johnny Depp in Don Juan de Marco?) But Baruchel’s awkwardness lent poignance to The Trotsky, while his sheer talent added momentum to his already promising career.

With its economy stalled and its public finances hanging in the balance, Spain badly needed the lift it got from Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas et al at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. After a slow start at the tournament, the Spaniards rounded into their European championship form by the playoffs, eking out a 1-0 win against the Netherlands in a bruising final. Beating the thuggish Dutch was one thing; surviving those infernal vuvuzelas merits a trophy all on its own.

Here’s an idea: let’s start a TV show about a high-school choral club in which the characters routinely burst into musical numbers while enduring the emotional vicissitudes of youth. Surefire hit, right? And yet, and yet . . . Last year, as Glee made its entrance, we were captivated by its blend of innocence and wry humour. This season, as it blows away the competition, and as its tunes shove the Beatles aside on the Billboard Hot 100, there’s no denying Glee is a big-time winner.

Jonathan Toews
They named a lake in Manitoba after him, and why not? At 22, Toews became the first Chicago Blackhawk in 49 years to hoist the Stanley Cup, setting an example with his brilliant play and relentless effort. This, of course, after an equally impressive Olympic run for Canada, in which Toews scored one goal, assisted seven more and was named the tournament’s top forward. Canada is suddenly awash in young hockey stars, but none have his championship aura.

Bonnie Brooks
Designer labels, a shot of adrenalin and those red mittens have given new life to the Bay, which once seemed destined to join Eatons on the retail scrap heap. For that, we can thank Brooks, the hard-driving CEO who wooed shoppers back in 2010, while commissioning Olympic apparel that tapped the fashion zeitgeist. The mitts wound up on Oprah. Games-goers in Vancouver were treated to the sight of folks lining up around the block to get into—that’s right—a department store.

Props to Chatham-Kent for thinking inside the box. The southwestern Ontario region gained prime advertising real estate by flooding an online vote held by the Hasbro board-game company, which was designing its new Canadian edition of Monopoly. After a public campaign that got out 65,000 votes, Chatham-Kent got its name on the coveted Boardwalk spot, beating out the likes of Toronto and Vancouver. Pass go, guys, and collect $200.

Johanna Skibsrud
If you managed to lay your hands on a copy, you know that the 30-year-old’s Giller Prize-winning novel, The Sentimentalists, is a profound yet tightly written exploration of war, memory and family duty. Skibsrud, who grew up in Nova Scotia, got the idea for her novel from her father’s recollections of his service in the Vietnam War. Her cottage-style publisher had to be strong-armed into farming out a print run, and thank heaven he relented.