Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Us Weekly Photo Death Match - Issue 568 - Jan. 2, 2006 (Aniston By 4)

Depending on your perspective, this is the second-to-last Us of '05 or the first of '06. Either way, the issue focuses its attention on a retrospective review of the year in celebrity, from a timeline of hook-ups and break-ups to an Oscar preview to four pages of the most odious fashion offenses. This not only makes for a must-read issue, but a high stakes Death Match tournament for the title of most unavoidable face in tabloid journalism in 2005. Appropriately, the top five performers have all been big players throughout the year.

(1) Jennifer Aniston. 16 images.
A figure of Christ-like proportion this year, Jennifer Aniston suffered the slow, media-scrutinized dissolution of her marriage and, immediately afterward, nonstop coverage of husband Brad Pitt's buddy-up with other woman Angelina Jolie. At times Pitt and Jolie's kid-crazy antics threatened to eclipse Jen entirely, but that ultimately worked to her favor. The poll hasn't been invented that'll conclude that Brad and Jen didn't separate over their lack of children. Every happiness enjoyed by Pitt and Jolie was a tearful reminder of the quivering sadness collectively believed of the sad little girl we once watched fall in love with a dopey paleontologist. Jen stumbled for weeks at a time, but every slump was followed by an unstoppable and rapid climb to Number One, in turn followed by a good month of momentum-fueled carnage. At the end of the day, no one's personal life mattered more to America than Jennifer Aniston's. This week Jen says "Never Forget," mercilessly clawing her way past covergirl Jessica Simpson to the top of yet another Death Match pigpile, and resting her case for the 2005 Death Match crown.

(2) Jessica Simpson. 12 images.
Clearly, 2005's other big story was Jessica Simpson, the only other reasonable contender for the year-end title. A cunning, imaginative, even brilliant combatant, Simpson relied on no one story this year. Instead she took pains to assure that there there was always was a story ready and available for editors hungry for lipgloss and cleavage with which to busy their JV airbrushing squad. Whether for losing weight, for giving Johnny Knoxville a rim job, for rubbing sudsy bosom on damp automobile in an aimlessly directed music video, for wearing garish frocks to formal events, for sleeping with Bam Margera, for drinking whiskey from the bottle, or for separating from husband Nick Lachey, Jessica steadily plugged away at being Jessica. She never failed to warrant a contender for a cover shot, and only under the most freakish circumstances showed in these matches in a manner less than deadly. Divorce will only earn Jess so many cover stories in '06 before America moves on to another unseemly split, but no sane person will doubt that she'll manage to find a way - or more likely a plethora of ways - to stay in headlines and Death Matches to come.

(tie) Brad Pitt. 12 images.
At the end of a truly impressive year that had everything to do with his association with Angelina Jolie and his dissociation from Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt's most remarkable feat is staying in the public's good graces. Normally it'd take a miracle to shield the ex of America's most doted-on victim from tabloid wrath. But in this case, his demonstrative love of kids insulated him from all but the most perfunctory kid-gloved tabloid flack, kept him in the Death Matches to this day, and earned him almost more public admiration than he'd enjoyed in the Camelot built around his marriage to Aniston.

(4) Angelina Jolie. 10 images.
Although not completely out of the woods on the whole homewrecking thing, Ange balances the same kid-loving Pitt's capitalized on with a mysterious air of danger the media religiously upholds (Us will never let us forget that she once wore a vial of Billy Bob's blood around her neck). If Angelina doesn't stir up a bestial passion in you, you're libel to be branded as unamerican. Ditto if you aren't also very suspicious that she's an eater of the dead. Earning respect for her dedication to parenting and celeb-diplomacy while inspiring white-as-a-sheet fear for her rugged sexuality, it's a very fine line Ange walks. And really, she doesn't just walk it, she struts it. Mad props to Ange for not stumbling even once this year.

(5) Sienna Miller. 8 images.
A report yesterday has Miller saying that this year's events have taught her to "hold your cards close to your vest." The skillful deployment of Britishized cliche is plenty cute, but she's got more on her mind, telling Life, "I've got a huge mouth, especially when it comes to my business. But I've realized that if you start talking about things, you open up a floodgate.... People think I should be an expert on love, and I haven't got a clue." I dunno if she means "people" or "People," nor how much or exactly what she knows about love, but she surely knows a little somethin' 'bout getting pictures in the papers. Not only do the staff of Us Weekly absolutely love to air her dirty laundry (see their rough handling of her in this week's Fashion Police highlights reel), but they reportedly find in her an inspirational quality that compels them to cut out and prominently display her pictures throughout the Us offices. Nice work if you can get it. (And if you get it....)

(tie) Nicole Richie. 8 images.
Girlfriend was on The Simple Life, people! No explanation necessary!

Notable faces in the huddled mob shivering in the year-end cold include Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and newly pregnant Gwen Stefani, each with seven shots to their name. Tom Cruise scores six, Katie Holmes five. Also with five are Nick Lachey, and Britney Spears.

Next week Us's year-end shenanigans should be over and done with, and battle should commence with newly heated fervor. Nick Lachey's on the cover with promises of revealing Jessica Simpson's dirty secrets. Will it be enough to edge him into the winner's circle? I say yes.

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