This year’s winners: the game changers

From Arcade Fire, through Mark Carney to the Palestinians–whatever they did, this year they played by their own rules

by Anne Kingston

The game changers

Chris Wattie/Reuters

ARCADE FIRE

The once-fringe Montreal band was handed a scad of mainstream music hardware for their third studio recording, The Suburbs, which was praised for expressing familiar big themes with greater bounce and lightness. The multi-talented ensemble was rewarded with Album of the Year at the Junos and the Grammys and International Album and Best International Group at the Brit Awards.

MARK CARNEY

It’s a bird, it’s a plane—it’s Solvency Man, a.k.a Mark Carney, newly named chairman of the Financial Stability Board, the international body that oversees the global economy. The 46-year-old Bank of Canada governor is an ideal fiscal superhero—a Ph.D. economist and former investment banker, he’s also a disciplined, fit marathon runner. Who knows better that slow and steady wins the race?

CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT THIS YEAR’S EPIC FAILURES

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

He may be a canny mimic, but the Serbian tennis sensation is proving increasingly inimitable himself. The 24-year-old had a near perfect season that included a five-month win streak—69 wins, four losses and 10 titles overall. The No. 1 ranked tennis player is now the sixth man since tennis turned pro in 1968 to capture three Grand Slam singles titles in one season.

LADY GAGA

She’s known for toppling from her platforms. Now she’s toppled Oprah from her No. 1 spot on Forbes’s Celebrity 100 list. Seems the Mighty O couldn’t compete with the US$90 million Gaga earned on her Monster Ball tour—or her 32 million Facebook fans and 10 million Twitter followers who purchased one million digital downloads of Born This Way in five days and slavishly snapped up the products placed in her videos.

RYAN GOSLING

Where wasn’t everybody’s imaginary boyfriend this year? Onscreen, the 30-year-old London, Ont., native and TIFF It Boy starred in three hits—rom-com Crazy Stupid Love, neo-noir thriller Drive and George Clooney’s political drama The Ides of March. Offscreen, he stopped a street fight in New York and inspired an unending stream of Internet memes. Oh yeah, the Notebook star didn’t make the cover of People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue, an omission that created a furor. Even Clooney said the Gos was robbed.

ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF, LEYMAH GBOWEE, TAWAKUL KARMAN

In a bid to raise awareness of the ongoing fight for female equality, the Nobel Peace Prize split the 2011 award among a trio of female African activists. The “three-fer” represents quota catch-up for the prize’s own gender imbalances: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s president and Africa’s first elected female president, her compatriot Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakul Karman of Yemen are the first women to be handed the prestigious $1.5-million prize since 2004.

BRIDESMAIDS

In smashing box-office expectations—it became Judd Apatow’s highest-grossing domestic movie, and beat even Sex in the City’s box-office records—the gross-out female comedy proved to Hollywood that women want more than warring bridezillas. Although Saturday Night Live alum Kristen Wiig was the lead—and writer—it was Melissa McCarthy who took home an Emmy for Mike and Molly.

PALESTINE

On Oct. 31, the Palestinian Authority scored a major victory when it was admitted as a full voting member of UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency. The vote—107 in favour and 14 against and 52 abstained—was backed by France, Libya and Chile; Canada, Israel and the U.S. were among the naysayers. The move is seen to pave the way for Palestine to be granted state status and become the 194th UN member nation.

MICHEL AND LYNDA THIBODEAU

The bilingual Ottawa couple prevailed in their lawsuit against Air Canada, after they were required to ask for a Sprite in English. A federal court granted them $12,000 in compensation, saying the airline violated language laws. It was the second time the pair successfully sued the carrier over a soda order—last time it was a 7Up.

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