It's tough to say how we'll remember the last decade. The Internet destroyed industries and filled the world with cheap and accessible pornography. The real world was much less full of boobs. Rather than trying to sum up such a complex time period by sharing our favorite things, we asked our staff (Dan O'Brien, David Wong, Jack O'Brien, Michael Swaim and Robert Brockway) to pick the things that were memorably great, awful, weird (or all three) enough to represent the glorious clusterfuck we just lived through.
9Movie of the Decade
The birth of the Gritty Reboot. Either due to post-9/11 cynicism or anti-Joel Schumacher rebellion, halfway through the decade we decided it was time to strip away fantasy and wonder and replace it with bloody faces and angst.
Casino Royale would follow suit, and the trend would continue right up until the final week of the decade with the violent and sexy reimagining of Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is either spinning in his grave, or unable to spin because of his erection. Or maybe spinning despite the erection, creating a hollow knocking sound on the coffin lid.
The Dark Knight.
If Batman Begins is where Christopher Nolan floated the idea of a realistic superhero movie, The Dark Knight is where he perfected it. Let's ignore the fact that TDK kicked more ass than we knew was available for kicking. And let's ignore the fact that its Oscar snub was so horrifying that the Oscar committee decided to add five more nominees to the category this year. Dark Knight made a category larger and, as science will tell you, it follows that the category is also now more in charger.
This movie was not only a critical and commercial smash hit, but it also marks the first time in my life where I noticed regular, non-Internet-dwellers caught up in online, viral marketing. Online games designed to build hype used to be simple distractions but, for TDK, it was an event that left the Net and bled onto the real world. For example, if you were one of the lucky ones to sign up for the Joker's Army early, you received a cake, a cell phone and an advanced screening of the first seven minutes of the movie. And everyone wanted in.
Searching for pre-release Easter Eggs and going on scavenger hunts that tie into the movie's marketing wasn't just for Internet geeks anymore. Geekdom had entered the mainstream.
This also marks the first time I tried to fuck a movie.
The Bourne Trilogy
In the span of five years, the Bourne franchise managed to do what great franchises like The Godfather, Terminator and Police Academy couldn't: pump out a near flawless trilogy. As Brockway points out, our decade was pretty good at that. (Suck it Time).
However, despite what my colleagues tell you, a film's hero didn't have to wear a ridiculous costume to be relevant in the 00s. Bourne was the perfect metaphor for our reeling, technology obsessed decade. He was recovering from a traumatic event just like the rest of us following the summer of 2001's series of deadly shark attacks.
And while amnesia may be the oldest screenwriting trick other than showing boobs, who better to represent the Internet age than an empty vessel trying to make sense of a non-stop barrage of pure stimulus. Bourne's mood in the face of his strange new world was the same as ours: an inexplicable desire to beat the crap out of everyone he encountered along the way. Bourne's hands responded to this desire as impulsively as ours, moving faster than thought to attack faceless adversaries using pure muscle memory (his balled-up fists of fury get a slight edge over our 70-f-word-per-minute typing hands in the category of badassery).
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Before Lord of the Rings, if you asked somebody to spend 12 hours of their life with you watching midgets and elves mud-wrestle, you would've just gotten weird looks from every normal person and ended up spending the night with a man who drives a van for a living.
Now, not only is it perfectly acceptable to know what an orc is; you would actually sound kind of stupid if you didn't. Seriously, if you said the phrase "what's an orc?" to somebody now they would laugh in your face, and that's all because of Lord of the Rings. It not only brought the oft-neglected fantasy genre to the forefront, it made the epic a hot property again. And the 2000s were defined by the epic. So much so that three hours is considered an acceptable length for any kind of movie now--fucking Funny People was a three hour long comedy!
That's especially impressive when you consider that the modern epic has to compete with shortened attention spans, video games and the Internet (and all the free pornography that entails). Getting people to sit still for three straight hours nowadays is an impressive enough feat, but getting them to do so on three separate occasions when your protagonist is a doe-eyed dwarf who spends more time staring blankly and not reacting than the entire cast of The Hills... well, that was nothing short of a miracle.
When I saw the Borat movie at the 2006 San Diego Comic Con, the film floored me. Maybe it was because I was seeing it a month before it came out or because Brian Posehn was in the audience; but as a comedian, as a spectator, I was absolutely enthralled.
And even though Borat hasn't held up to that level of scrutiny, I still think Sacha Baron Cohen made the movie of the decade for a few reasons. Perhaps most importantly, the movie is "real," or at least some of the peoples' reactions are genuine. Yes, a lot was preplanned, and yes, some of the racist rednecks maybe didn't get a fair edit, but be honest: You didn't think about that when you watched the movie. All you thought was "holy shit, did that guy really just say he wants to hang gay guys?!"
It had the reality TV aspect that has driven so much of our media this decade, and the absurdist subversion of it all, down pat. And since most scenes were totally stand-alone, the entire film was, in effect, a series of hilarious YouTube videos. And when you think about it, isn't a YouYube video of a fat ugly naked guy running into a room of businessmen titled "this is why Bush sucks" exactly the sort of thing that could be framed and labeled "2000-2009"?
8Song of the Decade
"I'm Sprung" by T-Pain
You might not even be able to think of how this song goes, but it gets distinction as T-Pain's first single, and you DO know T-Pain. Other artists have quietly used auto-tune, but T-Pain was the first to come out as shamelessly pro-auto-tune, using it as a music tool, an instrument in its own right.
In modern pop culture, auto-tune infected everything. It wasn't just T-Pain and his many imitators that noticed. Time wrote about it, Kanye West used it to make his worst album ever, Jay-Z attacked it in a single that firmly established Jay-Z as the Ornery Grandpa [OG] of hip-hop and an entire Internet meme was created based around the idea of auto-tuning things that wouldn't traditionally be auto-tuned.
Don't believe me? Check out the wildly popular Auto Tune the News series, or this catchy jam that's just the result of mixing auto-tune, Carl Sagan and Stephen fucking Hawking. I said "everything." Don't test me on this.
"Hey Ya" by Outkast
I figured one of us should pick a song that doesn't suck. This was not a bad decade for music. If anything, technology did more for music than any other form of media besides the infotainment dick joke. We got unauthorized brilliance like the Grey Album and Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," Panda Bear and Radiohead wove sonic soundscapes perfect for our new headphoned listening habits. The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Walkmen made rock and roll sound like a good night out feels: From the invigorating beer buzz, to the lucid shit talking, to the sobering up during a fist-fight.
But Outkast gets my nod for showing us just how awesomely weird the mainstream was willing to get. After hip-hop and rock spent the 90s awkwardly pawing one another to the strains of Limp Bizkit and Korn, Outkast finally made us believe the two most important sounds of the past 40 years might finally get together and make beautiful, weird love.
"Bombs Over Baghdad" tore out of the gate in 2000 with a furious mixture of gospel, hip hop, electric guitar and what an alien abduction might sound like on LSD. But with "Hey Ya," everything seamlessly came together on a dance floor full of people trying to figure out how to shake their ass like a Polaroid picture.
"Your Body is a Wonderland" by John Mayer
John Mayer started it with this song. And yes, that is an official statement of blame. If you know anybody that wears two-hundred dollar slacks but no shoes, it is John Mayer's fault. If you know anybody that brings a guitar to a coffee shop instead of a laptop, it is John Mayer's fault. If you've ever had a girlfriend who has asked to see your poetry, and been disgusted when you had none to show, it is John Mayer's fault. If you've ever had diarrhea, it is John Mayer's fault (possibly).
Before John Mayer, if you told somebody their "body was a wonderland" you'd be arrested for sexual harassment and criminal lameness. Half the music in this decade was about the favorite colors of women named Madison and Jennifer, penned by guys who call everybody "friend," and drink Jack and Cokes "for the street cred." And that was all due to the influence of one man. That man is a son of a bitch. His twitter feed is surprisingly funny, but that does not clear him of Son of a Bitch status.
"My Humps" by The Black Eyed Peas
Proving everything Borat set out to imply, "My Humps" represents, in my mind, the moment at which a large sector of society decided to say, "You know what? We don't care about ideas, or thought, and we're not ashamed of that. We just want to dance and take E and buy ices and you can shut the hell up about it. Now let us LITERALLY GET RETARDED IN HERE."
I'd call it a brave coming together of the masses, if it didn't make me so achingly angry all the time I'm awake. The lyrics to "My Humps" are pointless, ugly drivel you can shake your ass to, and I think we're in for quite a long spell of that. On the bright side, by covering the song in a way that showed her intellectual superiority to something, Alanis Morissette finally proved she knows what irony is.
"Have you Forgotten?" by Darryl Worley
In a way, we were all country music singers after 9/11, with our flag pins and bumper stickers, hungry to see America kick ass.
By the time this Iraq War anthem came around and literally asked, "Have you forgotten" that Saddam Hussein attacked the World Trade Center, many of us furrowed our brows, stroked our fake Uncle Sam beards and said, "Waaaaait a second...that doesn't quite sound right."