Maybe it’s the red hair, but actress Emma Stone, who got rave reviews for her performance in this year’s edgy teen comedy Easy A, has been called the new Lindsay Lohan—minus the antics. Stone, who also appeared in Zombieland and Superbad, recently landed the female lead in an upcoming Spider-Man prequel: she’ll play Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s love interest. Unlike her best-known characters, all redheads, Stacy’s a blond—coincidentally, Stone’s natural shade (turns out that her famously red hair is a dye job).
THE DOUBLE DOWN
Amid both celebration and horror, KFC launched its Double Down—bacon, melted cheese and Colonel’s Sauce, sandwiched between pieces of chicken—across the U.S. and Canada. Named after a blackjack move, this bunless wonder represents something of a gamble for even the most devoted fast-food fan. Even so, the phrase “heart attack on a bun” suddenly seemed outdated thanks to the Double Down’s limited, four-week Canadian run.
She’s been called the Wayne Gretzky of women’s hockey and, in November, Angela James scored another goal: she and American Cammi Granato become the first women to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. James, who grew up playing street hockey in Toronto’s crime-riddled Flemingdon Park neighbourhood, went on to become the sport’s first female superstar. “Woman or man, being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame is a great honour,” James said. “Being one of the first females, I’m ecstatic. It’s a start for the rest of the women to continue on.”
Since it first aired last year, Modern Family has rocketed to No. 1 in the ratings, the first non-traditional comedy in years to beat out conventional sitcoms for the top spot. A half-hour show that follows a multi-generational Los Angeles clan, it wrested the best comedy award from 30 Rock at the Emmys in August, claiming five other Emmys as well—more than any show—along the way. Actress Sofia Vergara had promised to streak naked down Sunset Boulevard if her show won, telling reporters, “I’m not afraid of anything. I’m Colombian.” She later claimed to have done it—even though, apparently, nobody saw. “I run fast,” she said.
Known for his sense of humour, Canada’s new Governor General got some laughs when he entered the Senate chamber on Oct. 1, the day he was sworn into the role, and acted surprised to be there. Not to be outdone, his wife, Sharon, sparked applause when she fixed his jacket, bowed and kissed him. A career academic and the former president of the University of Waterloo, Johnston is Canada’s 28th Governor General. “We want to be the smart and caring nation,” he said, before riding in a carriage to his new residence at Rideau Hall, nine grandchildren at his side.
JADEN AND WILLOW SMITH
With two superstar parents—Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith—the kids are not camera shy. Now they’re stars in their own right. Jaden, 12, was a hit this summer in the title role of The Karate Kid remake, showing off his moves opposite martial arts master Jackie Chan. And earlier this year, before Willow had even turned 10, Jay-Z signed the tiny diva to his label as her first hip-hop single, Whip My Hair, climbed the charts. The rap impresario has compared Willow to a young Michael Jackson, while her edgy fashion sense and lopsided haircut have people calling her the next Rihanna, too. They grow up so fast.
In a sign of the growing influence of the populist Tea Party movement in the U.S., activists helped push some of their favourite candidates (like Mike Lee in Utah, Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida) into the Senate in November’s mid-term elections. Within days of defeating Democrat Jack Conway, Paul mused about bringing a bicameral Tea Party caucus to Capitol Hill. “You know, I’ve never held office before, so I go there expecting to change the world and I won’t be told otherwise,” he said.
In October, believers packed St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal as Brother André, who founded the oratory over 100 years ago, was recognized as a saint. Born to a poor, working-class family in the Quebec town of St-Grégoire-d’Iberville in 1845, and orphaned by age 12, Alfred Bessette worked in textile mills before joining the Congregation of Holy Cross, where he took the name Brother André. He’s believed to have performed thousands of healings, including two that the Vatican accepted as miracles. Saint André “showed boundless charity and did everything possible to soothe the despair of those who confided in him,” Pope Benedict XVI said.
When Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in January at a company event in San Francisco, somebody in the audience wolf whistled. Nicknamed the Jesus tablet, Apple’s iPad (a portable touch-screen computer that can play videos, surf the Net, and serve as an e-reader, to name just a few of its functions) hit store shelves in April, selling over 300,000 units in its first day. Its success sent traditional media stalwarts (the Washington Post, the New Yorker) scrambling to become iPad-compatible. This sleek tablet turned out to be so good, it made everyone forget how ridiculous the name “iPad” once seemed.
ROB FORD AND NAHEED NENSHI
This fall, two big cities welcomed two colourful new mayors: Rob Ford and Naheed Nenshi. In Toronto, long seen as a lefty stronghold, voters elected the blunt Ford—who frequently promised to “stop the gravy train”—despite his notoriously big mouth, revelations of a decade-old pot charge, and his critics’ efforts to put anybody but him in the mayor’s seat. And in Calgary, often thought our most conservative major city, Nenshi rode a wave of grassroots support to become Canada’s first Muslim mayor. “Today, Calgary is a different place than it was yesterday,” Nenshi said after his victory, a sentiment many Torontonians, happily or not, could identify with, too.
It’s long been debated how to report on war (last year, the Pentagon relaxed a ban on media coverage of the flag-draped coffins of fallen soldiers returning home). Computer hacker Julian Assange is forcing the issue through the website he founded, WikiLeaks. In October, it released almost 400,000 reports on the war in Iraq, which it called the largest classified military leak in history. In July, it did the same with 76,000 U.S. military logs from Afghanistan. Assange says he’s working for transparency; U.S. officials say he’s putting lives at risk.
KIM JONG UN
From his bouffant hairdos to a fondness for sunglasses, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il is known for his unusual fashion sense. In this, and in other ways, his will be big platform shoes to fill—but apparently, the 68-year-old has named a successor. In November, state media listed his son, Kim Jong Un, directly after his father in reports on a funeral committee for a military official, a strong sign of the line of succession from one of the world’s most secretive and militaristic states. Not much is known about Jong Un (not even his age; he’s believed to be 27), although he was recently appointed to senior military and political posts. Whether he’ll share his father’s taste in attire is unclear, but observers say Jong Un bears an eerie resemblance to his grandfather, the founding president.