By Nestor Torre
MANILA, Philippines - As 2009 rushes pell-mell to its close, contrasting images of golden triumphs and craven failures alternatingly buoy up or assault our sensibilities.
For every Manny Pacquiao victory, it seems, there's a Tiger Woods comeuppance to unmake our day.
"And let's not forget that even Pacquiao had to deal with his own image-breaking scandal, out of which he barely squeaked through with his sports-hero reputation intact.
In the even more image-driven world of entertainment, there are new heroes and "zeroes," as well.
At the top of his game as the show biz year is about to end is the most popular filmmaker of all time, James Cameron, who first broke records with "Titanic" more than a decade ago, and is now astounding and amazing film fans anew with his latest popular and critical mega-hit, "Avatar."
Just last week, the Golden Globes named their 2009 nominees for awards, which were highlighted by two more standout success stories: First and less surprisingly, Meryl Streep was cited twice, for her performances in "It's Complicated" and "Julie & Julia." More unexpectedly, Sandra Bullock also scored a two-fer, with "The Proposal" and "The Blind Side."
Bullock's twin feats are even more impressive because she's had a decidedly checkered career, with more failures than hits and standout portrayals chalked up in the course of her two decades in the acting trade.
"Which just goes to show: Some talents take a long time to really hit their stride. And, we should never, ever give up, because apparent evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, definitive success could be just around the corner"after that last, disappointing detour or cul-de-sac.
Also a big potential winner at the Golden Globes is the "small" film, "Precious," which was nominated for Best Picture, among other awards.
The unheralded movie about child abuse was a sensation at Sundance and got the all-important support of Oprah Winfrey, which boosted its winning prospects to big-league status.
Conversely, Clint Eastwood's latest inspiring film bio, "Invictus," a drama about Nelson Mandela, failed to get into the Best Picture finals, even as its lead actor made it.
"Precious" is also a personal triumph for its young star, Gabourey Sidibe, a heretofore unknown 300-pounder whose looks are as different from standard Hollywood glamor as you can get.
But, she delivers a shatteringly painful performance that has critics raving, so she could pull a major upset come awards night.
Another unlikely winner is Susan Boyle, the middle-aged British singer who wowed millions of viewers when she almost won the "Britain's Got Talent" singing tilt.
Despite her lack of stellar good looks and the "almost" nature of her second-place status, Boyle has gone on to cut an album that has sold more copies in less time than anybody else, the music industry's top stars included.
On the small tube, the big winner in 2009 is Ellen Degeneres, whose daily talk show has become more popular than ever. The brightest feather in Ellen's chapeaux is her having been tapped to replace Paula Abdul as the fourth judge on "American Idol," starting next month.
Degeneres' stint on "American Idol" is expected to boost the show's flagging ratings with the welcome infusion of her acerbic wit.
Many viewers are also expecting her to trade barbs or lock horns with the hit talent tilt's resident curmudgeon, Simon Cowell. Will the fur fly? Will the paramedics be called in? Fans of "reality" fun and games can hardly wait!