Nobody had more of a stake in this decade than vampires. The ‘00’s were a virtual vampire empire, or vempire, if you will. From a vampire slayer (Buffy) to a vampire teen romance (the Twilight series) to vampire dietary supplements (True Blood) to Vampire Weekend, we were batty for blood-suckers. There was even a biopic of Truman Capote, the man who penned “In Cold Blood”.
Too, there were men aplenty. X-Men. Mad Men. Children of Men. Two-and-a-Half Men (“Mennnnnn”). No Country for Old Men.
It was a decade that rang in with pleas for “More cowbell!” and ended with the possibility, sadly, of less Cowell. A decade of “Friday Night Lights” and, at Richard and Emily Gilmore’s home, Friday night dinners. A period that began with an insidious creature lusting after “The Precious!” and ended with a character, beset by far more treachery, named Precious.
Below is my compendium of 200 favorite pop culture contributions from 2000s, the first decade of the last century (working from the Mayan calendar). It may not be all that you can’t leave behind, but it’s much of it.
Be forewarned: the list is subjective, i.e. wholly self-indulgent. I never got into “Lost”, never made it to “27 Dresses” I just never caught them.
There was more than enough to savor, though. Were you not entertained?
200. “At my signal, unleash hell”
Released in 2000, “Gladiator” was the first Charlton Heston movie in which Charlton Heston did not appear. It also had parallels to “Saving Private Ryan”: an extended, awesome opening battle scene and a field commander whose only wish—to get home—is denied at the bloody end. When Russell Crowe asks, “Are you not entertained?” to the blood-thirsty hordes, he may as well be scolding every moviegoer who would later buy a ticket to the Saw franchise.
199. “I got a fever, and the only prescription…is more cowbell!”
Can you imagine the pitch meeting at “Saturday Night Live” when the “More Cowbell” skit was suggested? This could have bombed epically. Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken have never been better. The members of Loverboy probably sit around wondering how come “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend” was passed over in favor of Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.”
198. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
David Eggers’ audacious (see the title) memoir featured what may be the lengthiest preface and list of acknowledgements any book has ever contained. At one point of the acknowledgements section he writes, “I wish to acknowledge the senator from Illinois.” Don’t know about the staggering part, but he got “genius” correct.
197. Rock-and-roll stops feeling sorry for itself.
Garage rock made a comeback via three bands that could play guitar without staring dolefully at their shoes: the Hives, the Vines and the White Stripes. Behind a lead singer who seemed to be channeling Mick Jagger, the Hives, out of Sweden, strutted their way to stardom with “Hate to Say I Told You So.” The Vines, from Australia, released “Get Free”. And the White Stripes released the double entendre-entitled “White Blood Cells” album, which featured “Fell in Love With a Girl”.
The last song seemed the quirkiest of the three—a video in which the band did not appear seemed to do them no favors—but only Jack and Meg White would show real staying power.
196. “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) was not a “We’ll just have to agree to disagree” kind of guy. The unrelenting antagonist in “Sexy Beast” was, well, try and imagine a pit-bull with the world’s foulest mouth. If this character had given halftime pep talks for Notre Dame the past few seasons, Charlie Weis might still have a job.
195. Almost Famous, a film that was incin—incendiary
Penny Lane. Stillwater. “It’s all happening!” Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his “Detroit Sucks” t-shirt. “He was never a person; he was a journalist.” Frances McDormand. Zooey Deschanel. “Industry of cool.” Billy Crudup. Jason Lee. “There’s hope for you yet, Russell.” So, what do I love about Almost Famous? To begin with…everything.
194. “I have got to say/ that girl is like a sunburn”
The musical landscape in 2000 resembled the post-apocalyptic one revealed near the end of The Matrix. Creed. 3 Doors Down. Vertical Horizon. And while Third Eye Blind won’t be inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, either, “Never Let You Go” was a yummy Top 40 confection. It had a big ol’ fuzzy guitar riff and that wonderfully caustic simile as a final line.
193. Mark Ruffalo in “You Can Count on Me”
Ruffalo, as Laura Linney’s pained prodigal sibling, is so moving in this that it allows you to forgive him for “13 Going on 30”.
192. The final scene of Cast Away inspires the promo, nine years later, for “Men of a Certain Age”
We get it. The imagery, that is. You’re middle-aged. And you’re at a crossroads.
Two more notes on Cast Away. First, I actually was the only person in the theater in which I saw it, which was a little too close to life imitating art (this is what happens when you go to the movies on a Monday evening in West Hartford, Conn., in January). Second, by my unofficial count, this was at least the fourth film (Cast Away, A League of Their Own, Forrest Gump, The Green Mile) in the Hanks oeuvre that includes a scene of him urinating.
As Kenan Thompson’s DeAndre Cole might wonder, “Ooooooo-weee! What up with that? What’s up with that?”
191. “Yellow” Fever
The contrast of those power chords, driven and yearning, followed by Chris Martin’s falsetto (“Look at the stars/Look how they shine for you”), helped make Coldplay’s breakout hit the decade’s
first rock anthem.
190. Betty’s audition in Mulholland Drive
Who knows what this David Lynch film was actually about? What I do remember is a seemingly guileless Betty (Naomi Watts) walking into a casting room and then, playing opposite a distinguished older man (Chad Everett), making everyone’s palms sweaty. As Jon Lovitz might declare, “Ac-ting!”
189. “The Tribe Has Spoken”
With “Survivor”, a combination of Lord of the Flies and And Then There Were None, creator Mark Burnett did not just launch a hit television show—he introduced an entirely new prime-time genre, reality television.
188. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) deconstructs the work of Huey Lewis while committing an axe murder
American Psycho, and the title should be your first clue, was never going to have mass appeal. But Christian Bale, handed the role of an amoral investment banker (pardon the redundancy), crushes the scenes in which he analyzes pop music while breaking various commandments. If Bruce Wayne had gone to the dark side, this is what he might have looked like.
187. All That You Can’t Leave Behind
U2 has always operated on a different plane than their contemporaries; there is no comparing their music to more popular or prevalent styles of the time. The songs on this album sounded unlike anything you’d hear on the radio at the time unless you were listening to a station playing late ‘80s U2 songs.
“Beautiful Day” was the band’s best first track since “Where the Streets Have No Name.” As Bono said at the time, “We’re re-applying for the job, best band in the world.” You’re hired.
186. Wikipedia and YouTube
Without which this list would have been taken a lot longer to compose.
185. “You should have stayed with the soup question”
Finding Forrester has more than a little Good Will Hunting (including the same director, Gus Van Sant) to its plot. The film’s legacy is the term “soup question”, in which William Forrester (Sean Connery) explains to his protégé that “the object of a question is to obtain information that matters only to us”. A soup question.
184. The awesome breeding ground that was “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place”
The series lasted just four seasons (1998-2001) and still has yet to inspire a DVD. They even dropped the “Pizza Place” halfway through. The alums have done pretty well for themselves, though. Traylor Howard was a sweet sidekick on “Monk”, Ryan Reynolds has fashioned a Cusack-ian career for himself (and he put a ring on Scarlett Johansson’s finger. Dude!), and Nathan Fillion weakens knees weekly on ABC’s “Castle”.
Still, it’s a shame about the pizza place.
183. Jennifer Garner
You didn’t need to be an SD-6 operative to see that the “Felicity” alum was destined for greatness in “Alias”. She was also terrific in Juno.
182. Super Troopers
Every meow and then I wonder what it would be like if these Vermont state troopers meow were to pull over Harold and Kumar. Farva!
181. The Strokes of genius
“Leave me alone, I’m in control, I’m in control.” Is This It? is the sound of New York City below 14th street after dark. It is waiting on the stairway at Uncle Ming’s, playing skeeball at Ace Bar, jockeying for a spot at the bar at The Spotted Pig, or wondering whether the F train is ever going to pull into the station.
And, at about 35 minutes in length, you can nearly listen to the entire album on the cab ride home back to the Upper East Side or the boroughs.
180. Springsteen opens the post-9/11 “A Tribute for Heroes” special
Less than two weeks after the two towers of the World Trade Center fell, a world-class lineup of musical talent assembled (on stages in London, New York and Los Angeles) for a special that aired on all four major U.S. networks. With a starkness in production that was refreshing and appropriate, the show opened with Bruce Springsteen saying, “This is a prayer for our fallen brothers and sisters” before launching into “My City of Ruins”.
179. “Can we be funny? “Why start now?”
Nearly three weeks after 9/11 and with an anthrax scare on top of that, Saturday Night Live returned with a cold open featuring Mayor Rudy Giuliani surrounded by New York’s Bravest.
After native New Yorker Paul Simon performed “The Boxer”, producer Lorne Michaels walked onstage and asked the above question. Giuliani’s reply provoked the first laugh anyone had heard on live TV in some time.
178. Training Day
How was your first day at work, dear? L.A. cop Ethan Hawke rides along with Denzel Washington in his first day on the job as a narco. This wasn’t exactly Martin Milner and Kent McCord on “Adam-12”. If characters could jump films, I would like to have seen Matt Dillon’s cop from “Crash” sit shotgun with Denzel.
177. Bill Maher’s termination breaks barriers in irony
In the aftermath of 9/11 Bill Maher, host of ABC’s “Politically Incorrect”, uttered a remark about the courage of the Arab hijackers. Network suits found that comment to be a little too politically incorrect, so they fired him.
Maher got the last laugh, moving to HBO and launching a better and more mature politically-themed program, “Real Time”.
176. The World’s Worst Boss
Donald Trump in “The Apprentice”? No, David Brent (Ricky Gervais) in “The Office”. Cringe-worthy was the operative modifier in comedy this decade (“The Office”, “Extras”, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Borat”) and no one did awkward pauses better than the office manager of the Wernham Hogg paper company. The company slogan, fittingly, was “Life is stationery.”
My favorite episode featured the employee training seminar in which Brent utterly sabotages the role-play exercise. Later he is cajoled by Tim (the British version of Jim) to perform a tune from his days in the band Foregone Conclusion. “Free love on the free love freeway/Hot love on the hot love highway…”
175. Bend It Like Beckham
Two unknowns (Kiera Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Myers) on the verge of stardom and a third cast member (Parminder Nagra) who handles a Bali version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” with uncommon aplomb. Goaaaaaaaaal!
174. Hugh Grant’s guitar solo in “About a Boy”
Bachelor Will (Hugh Grant) befriends a fatherless lad, Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), who is so uncool that he fancies singing “Killing Me Softly” a cappella during a school talent show. Marcus dies onstage until Will, ordinarily an island unto himself, rescues the lad with an electric guitar and an accompaniment so over-the-top that the audience believes it was all a big joke.
173. Coldplay’s sophomore effort not sophomoric
With “A Rush of Blood to the Head”, the British band established themselves as the decade’s first super group while lead singer Chris Martin, in interview after interview, proved to be an amiable, self-deprecating bloke.
172. “Now everybody from the 3-1-3, put your (#$%*) hands in the air and follow me!”
The final rap battle in Eight Mile, the film based on its star’s life, was redolent of the climactic heavyweight fight in Rocky. If B-Rabbit (Eminem) had turned to Future (Mekhi Phifer) and yelled, “Cut me, Mick”, I wouldn’t have batted an eye.
171. “Is there anybody alive out there?!?”
Only one musician was born to write an album whose theme emanated from 9/11, and that of course was New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen. You can debate whether “The Rising” represented Bruce’s best album since “Darkness on the Edge of Town” (1978), but the eponymous opening track was inarguably his most passionate since that album’s “Badlands”.
170. “You’re fired!”
“The Apprentice” began losing some of its appeal once the unemployment rate began hovering around 10%. How many of us want to hear a real-estate mogul with a trophy wife say, “You’re fired” every week?
169. Bill Murray whispers to Scarlett Johansson
As asexual romances go, only the one between Ari and Lloyd in “Entourage” topped that of Bob (Murray) and (Charlotte) Johansson in “Lost in Translation”. When they bid farewell in Tokyo, Bob whispers inaudibly to the ingénue, who laughs. What did he say? Like the affair itself, that’s their little secret.
168. Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs
Chuck Klosterman’s “Low Culture Manifesto” married supposedly superficial topics (a week spent with a Guns ‘n Roses tribute band) with deep thoughts. For instance, he posited that all probability is 50:50, since something will either happen or it will not.
Forget John Malkovich. I want to be inside Chuck Klosterman’s head.
167. Smeagol versus Gollum
“We wants The Precious!” If only Beyonce’s “Put a Ring on It” had been released in time for the final installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
166. Brown versus bored of education
Author Dan Brown made learning fun for adults, as he mixed arcane historical facts, religious dogma and protagonists who never needed to eat or sleep in three best-selling novels: Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol. Quibble with the prose if you like, but it was kind of cool to learn, for example, that the Latin phrase “Laus Deo” (praise be to God) is inscribed on the east side of the capstone of the Washington Monument.
165. Anna Faris will not stop until she skewers every celeb to appear on the cover of US Weekly
In Lost in Translation Faris played the bubble-headed starlet and some noticed the similarities to Cameron Diaz. In Just Friends she played the insecure, substance-dependent nympho pop star and somewhere K-Fed was giggling.
164. Of buzzer beaters and bunker-busters
On March 20, 2003, the opening day of March Madness just happens to coincide with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. You were just as likely to hear the analysis of General Wesley Clark as you were that of Clark Kellogg.
164. “Welcome to the O.C., bitch!”
The best line of the decade from a TV pilot. If only Ryan and Seth had run into Veronica Mars at a taco stand in Laguna…
163. “Welcome to the O.C., bitch!”(Part 2)
Not since M*A*S*H did a writers’ room demonstrate as much an affinity for wordplay and bizarre characters as did the group who penned “Arrested Development”. A garrulous attorney named Bob Loblaw? “Solid as Iraq”? A son who has a forbidden affair with a woman named Lucille and then loses his hand to a loose seal?
They were all, except Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), bananas. But, hey, there’s money in that banana stand.
162. The power chords in “Seven Nation Army”
Now this is what Dewey Finn meant when he said, “Face-melting solo” in The School of Rock. The White Stripes unleashed the riff of the decade in 2003. Six years later it is as prevalent among college bands as the opening notes to A-Ha’s “Take On Me”.
161. The Black Eyed Peas wonder where the love is
In the summer of ’03 will.i.am, Fergie and the other two dudes who comprise the Black Eyed Peas said let’s get things started in terms of worldwide success with an irresistible ode to peace on earth.
The verses, each member taking a turn, were arresting (“Oversesas we tryin’ to stop terrorism, but we still got terrorists livin’, in the U.S.A., the big C.I.A., the Bloods and the Crips and the KKK…”) and the chorus was head-bobblingly infectious.
160. A book not found on the coffee table on the set of “Big Love”
With “Under the Banner of Heaven”, author Jon Krakauer took on a much more imposing obstacle than Mount Everest. The author of “Into Thin Air” and “Into the Wild” explored the history of the Mormon church specifically but also the nature of blind faith in general. Coming at a time when so many pilgrims around the world felt as if their God had given them license to kill, it was a timely read.
159. Tunes to listen to in the parking lot of your high school…or if you’re writing an episode of “The O.C.”
“The Taste of Ink” by The Used. “Sweetness” by Jimmy Eat World. “Vindicated” by Dashboard Confessional. “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” by Fall Out Boy. “California” by Phantom Planet. And anything by the All-American Rejects.
158. “Shuffle up and deal”
The World Series of Poker has been around for decades, but it was not until an amateur named Chris Moneymaker (seriously, that’s his name) won the main event bracelet in 2003 (and $2.5 million) that it became a national obsession. Now it is ubiquitous late-night programming on ESPN.
157. Don’t be disrespecting the Bing
Chandler Bing married Monica Geller on “Friends”. The Bada Bing served as Tony Soprano’s de facto office. And Borat, demonstrating his favorite type of music (Korki Buchek) to a group of black teens, sings, “Bing bong, bing-bong-bing”. No wonder Microsoft named its search engine after the term.
156. “She’s quite a Muslim!”
Where does everyone get the idea that Larry David is a misanthrope? When he isn’t playing matchmaker to a blind man and a Muslim woman, he is inviting an entire family of Katrina victims (the Blacks, who are black; Larry muses what it would be like “if my name were Larry Jew”) to move into his home. To please his Christian in-laws, he’ll hire an entire cast of nativity scene re-enactors to show up at his home. He even hired a chef with Tourrette’s.
So, occasionally he says the wrong thing at the wrong time, which is to say that he’s brutally honest. L.D., you’re alright with me.
155. The “i’s” have it
iPod. iPhone. If the Seventies were the “Me” decade, the ‘Aughts were the “i” decade.
154. Josh learns the hard way why you never comment on a message board dedicated to you
On “The West Wing” Deputy White House Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) notices some factual discrepancies on the site LemonLyman.com. He decides to take on his detractors directly, on-line. Big mistake. The bigger mistake was not listening to his assistant, Donna Moss, who advised against it and always knew what was best for him.
153. Paul Giammati in American Splendor
He may have won more hardware portraying America’s second president in the John Adams miniseries, or as a depressed oenephile in Sideways, but Giammati was never better than when he portrayed the irascible and agitated Harvey Pekar. If you’re looking for a poor man’s Larry David (although, fiscally, aren’t we all?), this was it.
152. The Devil in the White City
Author Erik Larson weaves two contemporaneous true tales from Chicago in the year 1893: the overwhelming task of putting on the World’s Fair and the devilish deeds of H.H. Holmes, one of America’s first serial killers, who preyed on an unknown number of victims. That the best and worst of mankind were situated so closely at the same time is what makes Larson’s account so compelling.
152. “History in the making!”
You got that right, Jay-Z. With “Crazy in Love” Beyonce’ served notice to all the single ladies (all the single ladies!) that she would be the decade’s reigning queen of pop. “Got me hopin’ you page me right now/Your kiss, got me hopin’ you save me right now.”
151. The awesomer breeding ground that was “Wings”
Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”), Thomas Haden Church (“Sideways”), Timothy Daly (name a drama) and Steven Weber (“Studio 60”) have all graduated from puddle-jumpers to wide-bodies.
In Sideways Church’s Jack was the loveable scoundrel you cannot help but cover for. How much better of a time would he have had if he’d gone to Vegas with the gang from The Hangover?
150. “I don’t know how to put this. I’m kind of a big deal.”
Sixty percent of the time the jokes in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy worked every time.
149. She went to Jared
The second-most telling scene from “Supersize Me” is when the nutritional clinic that Morgan Spurlock visits is forced to close its doors for financial reasons.
The most telling scene, though, involves an obese teenager who attends a lecture given by Subway pitchman Jared. Despairingly she tells him that she wants to lose weight and eat healthier, but that she “can’t afford to go to Subway three times a day.”
148. Green Day revives the musical suite
“Jesus of Suburbia”, a song in five movements, clocked in at a rollicking nine minutes and nine seconds. Nobody ever complained about the running time of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, either.
147. The Polyphonic Spree make a cameo on “Scrubs”
Few health-care professionals adore the closing montage as much as the staff at Sacred Heart. This scene, in which the preternaturally post-modern hippie band performed “Light and Day” as John Dorrian had yet another epiphany, was a high point in the show’s run.
146. “Married and bored. Single and lonely!”
Chris Rock doesn’t tell jokes. He gives sermons, and I’m a believer. In “Never Scared” he discussed the difference between “rich” and “wealthy” (“Shaquille O’Neal is rich; the guy who pays his salary is wealthy”) and between being married and single. And his “If it’s all white, it’s all right” screed was dead-on.
145. Ed and Carol tie the knot
You wonder what took Carol Vessey (Julie Bowen) so long to be convinced. Ed Stevens (Tom Cavanagh) practiced law, was a terrific pick-up hoops player and even owned his own bowling alley. That dude was a catch. Even Warren Cheswick (Justin Long) could have told her that.
144. Guster pens the better of the decade’s two “Amsterdam” songs
Coldplay enjoyed the world-wide success and found a way to wedge a dirge-like tune named after the Dutch city onto the end of “A Rush of Blood to the Head”. Guster operated in a much smaller orbit, but the Boston-based alternative band wrote an up-tempo update of Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky”. “I am finally ready to dispose, of all your vintage clothes,” sings Ryan Miller, “your drugs, and every secret code.”
My favorite couple? Ari and Lloyd on “Entourage”. Would Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) have been half as unhinged if his wife had left him last season? A few seasons back Ari ventured into a gay nightclub to rescue his assistant from the clutches of a game-changing prospective client who wanted Lloyd (Rex Lee) as his signing bonus.
“I may be a whore,” Ari said as he led Lloyd away, “but I’m not a pimp.”
142. There will be bud
Harold and Kumar, pals in search of bud…and some sliders. You walk into theater to see a Harold and Kumar movie and you say to yourself, “It’s not not going to be awesome!”
Special props for the “Square Root of 3” poem.
141. Give us this day, our Daily Show
Jon Stewart is the most trusted name in news—even if the host of The Daily Show protests that its lead-in is a “band of crank-calling puppets”. As long as there is absurdity in politics (and why wouldn’t there be?), Stewart and his brilliant staff of writers (“Mess o’ Potamia!”) and correspondents will have enough grain to make hay.
140. Modest Mouse releases a more than modest hit
“Float On” becomes the “Turn it up!” tune of the summer of ’04.
139. Samantha grows up
An original Cougar Town colonist, Samantha (Kim Cattrall) of “Sex and the City” becomes jealous at a party when women half her age flirt shamelessly with her boy-toy beau, Smith. So she takes a ride up an elevator and hooks up with her ex. When she returns to the party Smith, who knows what happened, is waiting for her. “I just wanted to make sure you got home okay,” the dude with the six-pack abs tells her.
Talk about your outrageous female fantasies.
138. The Killers write the decade’s best Eighties song
If “Mr. Brightside” came on the radio and you turned to another station, you’re a better man than I. That or you never owned a Duran Duran album or a Members Only jacket.
137. Sesame Street for adults
With song titles such as “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”, “What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?” and “It Sucks to be Me”, Avenue Q touched audiences with humor and honesty. It’s what “Rent” might have been if they’d used puppets and nobody died.
136. Double dose of Deschanel
Zooey was enchanting in (500) Days of Summer and Almost Famous. Big sister Emily stuck to the small screen as the title character in “Bones”.
135. “Stop. Stop. Stop hurting America.”
The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, appeared on CNN’s “Crossfire” ostensibly to promote his book, but from the moment his 14-minute segment began he begged co-hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala to stop engaging in “partisan hackery.”
Crossfire, which had been on the air since the early Eighties, was canceled less than three months later.
134. Karen O “Maps” out stardom
With “Maps”, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and lead singer Karen O became a band you no longer just read about in the pages of Time Out: New York. Karen O’s voice has tremendous depth. Are we sure she isn’t Chrissie Hynde’s love child?
133. Bourne free
As Jason Bourne and, in The Good Shepherd, as Edward Wilson, Matt Damon was the stoic agent who couldn’t come in from the cold war.
132. By the Way
Maybe it’s because the Red Hot Chili Peppers haven’t come out with anything new lately, but this 2002 smash made no “Best of Decade” lists I scoured (not that I scoured all that many.). Listen to this song while driving and you’re 38% more likely to get a speeding ticket.
131. The awesomest breeding ground that was “Freaks & Geeks”
It was canceled after one season, but Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jason Segel all went on to stardom. Rogen and Franco have hosted SNL and for Segel it’s just a matter of time. Even Busy Phillips is keeping busy in “Cougar Town”. The show’s producer, Judd Apatow, has become the Lorne Michaels of comedy films.
“Freaks & Geeks” debuted the same year “That 70s Show” did (1998). The former was canceled after one season, while the latter lasted just one less year than the 70s did. In case you were wondering what’s wrong with America.
130. Malcolm Gladwell
With Blink and The Tipping Point, the British-born Canadian journalist became the foremost pop sociologist of the era.
True story: While reading The Tipping Point I got to the chapter on “connectors”, gregarious types who are constantly introducing people to one another for professional and/or personal reasons. I called a friend of mine, Merry, and told her that she fit this description to a tee. “Yes,” she agreed. “Malcolm has told me that, too.”
129. Speaking of Connectors…
MySpace. Facebook. Skype. Smart phones. Twitter. YouTube.
We are constantly connected. It seems that the only time we are ever really alone now is when we’re in the company of other people.
Natasha Bedingfield tackles the blank canvas theme with an uplifting tune that showcases her priceless vocal chords. Do yourself a favor and YouTube the version by the collegiate a cappella national champions, Noteworthy, from BYU.
127. Are you ready, skeedaddy?
Mad Money, starring the hyper-caffeinated Jim Cramer, helped create the first cult figure in business news. With segments such as “The Lightning Round” and catchphrases like “bulls make money, bears make money, hogs get slaughtered”, the founder of TheStreet.com made populist investing his own evangelical pursuit.
126. Aaron Eckhart
All Aaron Eckhart does is play characters that you want to see onscreen more often. In Thank You for Smoking he was seductively charming as a tobacco industry lobbyist, while in No Reservations he was charmingly seductive as a sous chef.
125. Russell Crowe steps back into the ring.
Cinderella Man may have been the victim of bad timing. Maybe nobody wanted to see a Depression-era film when the stock market was up around 14,000. As boxer Jimmy Braddock, Crowe was no longer fighting for his life; he was fighting for his family’s livelihood.
They’re wheelchair-bound and muscle-bound quadriplegics who play a highly-charged version of rugby and they don’t need your sympathy. The fact is, they’re studs. This documentary focused on the U.S. and Canadian wheelchair rugby teams as they prepared for the 2004 Paralympics. If you’re out of shape and spend too much time on the couch, watch this. These athletes can’t get out of the chairs they’re in. What’s our excuse?
123. Uma Thurman’s audition in “The Producers”
Kill Bill? It was more fun watching Uma Thurman slay Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick during the “When You Got It, Flaunt It” number in “The Producers.” Ulla, la!
122. “I will die for these animals! I will die for these animals! I will die for these animals!”
And that’s just what Timothy Treadwell did. In fact a day or two later the titular character of Werner Herzog’s documentary, “Grizzly Man”, perished just a few yards away from the spot he uttered those words, the victim (along with his girlfriend, unseen in the film) of a bear mauling.
Loony, paranoid, fearless, inspired, bi-polar, selfish, passionate, delusional, hilarious, fierce: Treadwell was the decade’s most original and unforgettable character. And for all the memorable films that ended with a great song this decade (High Fidelity, Almost Famous, Lost in Translation, Juno, Once and Slumdog Millionaire, to name a few), nothing was quite as affecting and beautiful as Don Edwards’ “Coyotes” over the final montage.
121. Matt Damon draws a line in the sand, figuratively and literally, in Syriana.
Damon’s oil trader character is fed up with an Arab prince and who can blame him? The royal family’s negligence led to the death of his six year-old son. Standing atop a sand dune Damon uses a stick to sketch out a proposed pipeline route across Eurasia, telling the prince that he can develop that or his people can go back to chopping each other’s heads off when the crude runs out.
120. Not-so-Heartbreaking Works of Even More Staggering Genius
David Eggers. Augusten Burroughs (Running with Scissors). David Sedaris (Naked). JR Moehringer (The Tender Bar). Men in their prime reproductive years were instead producing memoirs this decade. All were excellent and the latter three hilarious.
The lesson here, kids: if you have a dysfunctional family, buy a journal and thank your deadbeat dad or radically unconventional mom later. But do take notes.
119. The “Three Stories” episode of “House”
In a lecture to medical students, Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) presents three different cases of patients who suffer from leg pain. How long will it take them to diagnose that one of the patients is House himself? The defining episode in this excellent series.
Laurie also represented the British invasion of American network television. Laurie, Simon Cowell, Craig Ferguson and Ricky Gervais, via HBO and Steve Carell’s character on “The Office” made us wonder if BBC America was not superfluous.
118. Ligers and sting rays and bears, oh my!
A famished grizzly bear had Timothy Treadwell for dinner. A sting ray sent Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, to an untimely and slightly ironic death. And while a liger (a lion-tiger mix) may only exist in the warped mind of Napoleon Dynamite, it must be pretty awesome. And more difficult to hunt than wolverines. Gosh!
117. Craig Ferguson: I love Scotch. Scotchy Scotch Scotch!
When the Scottish actor won the extended audition to succeed Craig Kilborn as host of The Late Late Show, the common reaction was: “Isn’t that Drew Carey’s boss?” Since then Ferguson has reinvented the monologue from the immigrant’s viewpoint. This is a man who requires no cue cards, just his own fertile and unconventional mind.
116. London Falling
How come so many movies imagined a post- or near-apocalyptic England? In both 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead, the Brits were beset by zombies while in Reign of Fire dragons scorched the earth. Children of Men saw England (the entire planet, actually) plagued by infertility. Does this have anything to do with Hugh Grant playing the Prime Minister in Love, Actually?
115. Springsteen’s induction speech for U2 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
“Uno, dos, tres catorce,” Bruce says fondly, referring to the opening lyrics of “Vertigo”. “That translates to one, two, three fourteen. That is the correct math for a rock and roll band.”
Should anyone be surprised that the Boss’ induction speech was wickedly funny and tremendously insightful? “See, bands get formed by accident,” Springsteen says, “but they don’t survive by accident. It takes will, intent, a sense of shared purpose and a tolerance for your friends’ fallibilities.”
The kicker? The speech was delivered on St. Patrick’s Day.
114. “I’m the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy.”
Mark Wahlberg, as Lt. Diegnan in The Departed, spoke for half the American work-force (most of them likely unemployed now) with that line. And say hello to your mother for me.
113. Dave Chappelle’s night out with Wayne Brady
Whose line (of coke) is it, anyway? Not since Barbara Billingsley said, “Excuse me, stewardess, I speak jive” have we been so shocked by somebody going gangsta.
112. The Slapbet Episode of “How I Met Your Mother”
Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) loses a bet to Marshall (Jason Segel) and is forced to host the 2009 Emmy Awards. Wait, that’s not it. Barney gets to choose whether he’d rather be slapped ten times immediately or five times, at Marshall’s discretion, for the rest of eternity. Foolishly, Goliath National Bank’s most eligible bachelor chooses the latter.
111. The Last King of Scotland (which is set entirely outside of Scotland)
Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) broke a cardinal rule of the “Doctors Without Borders” handbook: never have an affair with the wife of the brutal dictator whose personal physician you happen to be. If you think Forrest Whitaker got upset when they vandalized his car in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, wait until you see him here as a doubly betrayed Idi Amin.
110-101 Ten characters with whom I’d want to hang out, put out a restraining order against, or both
The Savage Brothers, Mystic River
Again, if characters could travel into other films, these two surely would have ended up in Frank Costello’s crew in The Departed.
Mel, Flight of the Conchords
She was every bit as committed to Bret and Jemaine as Timothy Treadwell was to bears. The Kiwi musical duo’s most loyal fan. Their only fan.
The coroner, Grizzly Man
Charged with describing a grisly death that was a grizzly death, he did so with uncommon pathos. If there’s ever a “CSI: Anchorage”, he’s a shoo-in.
Marty Funkhouser, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Larry David’s unpredictable buddy introduces himself to Jerry Seinfeld, tells him a truly revolting joke, and then sweetly says, “It was nice meeting you.” “I like that guy,” Seinfeld tells David. “He’s crazy.”
Uncle Rico, Napoleon Dynamite
This is what happens when you get sacked too many times as a high school quarterback.
Leon Black, Curb Your Enthusiasm
“I’ll white that s$%! up, L.D!”
Murray, Flight of the Conchords
“Good. Band. Meeting!”
Gob Bluth, Arrested Development
“Yeah, the guy wearing the $4,000 suit is holding the elevator for the guy who doesn’t make that in four months. Come on!”
Lester Bangs, Almost Famous
Dispenses great advice, has a top-notch record collection, and is always home because, “ I’m uncool.”
Dr. Cox, Scrubs
“Ohhhhhhh! I’m sorry, the correct answer she was looking for is a giant ego!” (after Carla asks Eliott what it is that he has)
100. The recording session from Once
“Falling Slowly”, the film’s other outstanding track, won the Oscar. This scene, though, is the emblematic moment. Guy (Glen Hansard), Girl (Marketa Irglova) and their session players enter a Dublin studio to record their demo. The weary technician is anything but impressed at first. Then the band launches into “When Your Mind’s Made Up”. He looks up from his magazine and tilts his head. That tiny gesture mirrors the happy surprise that registered in everyone who took a chance and saw the film.
99. Entourage= (The opposite) Sex and the (Left Coast’s) City
What would you do if you were young, handsome, rich and famous? If you’re Vincent Chase, you bring your big bro and your two best buds along for the ride. What makes “Entourage” engaging is that the group always comes before the individual (unless a smokin’ hottie is involved, which is often) and that Vince never forgets how lucky he is.
98. 007 reappears in ‘006
The James Bond franchise returned and then some in Casino Royale. Granted, there were so many hands of Hold ‘em that you half-expected Norman Chad to land a cameo, but Daniel Craig’s steely performance more than compensated for it.
“Shaken or stirred, sir?”
“Do I look like I give a damn?”
97. “I have had it with these mother-(bleepin’) snakes on this mother-(bleepin’) plane!”
Snakes on a Plane tops the list of in-flight movies I won’t ever be purchasing.
96. “Are you havin’ a laugh?”
Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais) discovers that overnight fame comes with a price on “Extras”. When he finds himself seated next to David Bowie in the VIP section of a lounge, the creator and star of the highly compromised—and, of course, extremely popular—sitcom “When the Whistle Blows” thinks he’s found a kindred spirit in the commerce vs. art struggle.
On the spot Ziggy Stardust composes an ode to his acquaintance. “He sold his soul for a shot at fame/Catchphrase and wig and the jokes are lame…”
95. Conan O’Brien traipses through TV shows for his opening Emmy number
The sequence: “Lost”, “The Office” (Jim: “No, I did not have Conan O’Brien fall through the ceiling”), “24”, “House”, “South Park” and “Dateline NBC: To Catch a Predator” (“I did it one time and I liked it and I thought I should do it again”).
94. “Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.”
Everything about “Friday Night Lights” is sublime, from the cast to the story lines to the on-location shooting in Texas. Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife Tami (Connie Britton) feel so real that you wonder whether you are watching a documentary.
93. United 93
Entertaining? Riveting is a better word. This reenactment of the one hijacked flight that failed to reach its intended target on 9/11 is powerful stuff. Ben Sliney, who was in his first day on the job as an FAA national operations manager on September 11th, 2001, played himself in the film and gave a performance that was every bit as credible as those of the actors.
92. What Simon says
Why is Simon Cowell the only judge American Idol hopefuls ever truly want to please? Because they know he’s the only one who is concerned more about their vocals than their feelings.
91. “Aubrie, open the case”
“Deal or No Deal” is the anti-Jeopardy: knowledge, and prudence, is a contestant’s greatest impediment to wealth. And not since Robert Palmer made music videos have so many lovely babes dressed up and shut up at one time.
90. That’s Incredibles!
What if Batman had to deal with traffic signals? If Spiderman had to apply for life insurance? If The Incredible Hulk had to mow the lawn? Brad Bird imagines the simple life for a married pair of superheroes and their two children. Jesus of Suburbia, indeed.
89. Where only a shirt can come out of the closet
Everyone says it, but it’s true. The final scene in Brokeback Mountain, in which Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) stares at the shirt of his dead partner, Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), was devastating.
88. Rock and roll annexes Finn land
Craig Finn of The Hold Steady proved it was okay to dress like your fifth grade teacher while being a rock star. Dewey Finn (Jack Black) of The School of Rock proved it was okay to dress like a rock star while being a fifth-grade teacher.
87. Tina Fey versus Aaron Sorkin
In the fall of 2006 NBC chose to premiere two shows with a seemingly identical premise: going behind-the-scenes of a late-night sketch comedy show. The running time in minutes of each was right there in the respective show’s titles: Sorkin’s “Studio 60” and Fey’s “30 Rock”.
Sorkin may have had the better track record (“A Few Good Men”, “The West Wing”), but Fey was the one who’d spent years as the first female head writer of Saturday Night Live. Speaking at a press luncheon after the first season’s dust had settled, Fey said, “Aaron Sorkin is delivering this same speech except that it’s twice as long and half as funny.”
86. Use Somebody
If you can place only one southern-inspired rock song in the time capsule, this Kings of Leon classic should be it. If they give you space for two, add “I’m Amazed” by My Morning Jacket.
85. Olympic Ice
For two weeks at the Torino Winter Olympics, Mary Carillo hosted a studio show that was ostensibly devoted to figure skating. With segments such as “He’s Here, He’s Weir, Get Used to It” and a heart-to-heart chat with Guido, the Zamboni driver, Carillo earned high marks for her short program.
84. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert bitch-slap reality TV at the Emmys
Stewart: “Awards show banter is not pablum…(pause) Reality television celebrates the human condition…by illuminating what’s extraordinary in the ordinary world.”
Colbert: “It warps the minds of our children and weakens the resolve of our allies.”
Stewart: “The results are often dramatic and always unexpected. We’re here to honor achievement in that category…”
Colbert: “…by giving you a golden idol to worship! Kneel before your god, O Babylon!”
83. Your move, Maury
To celebrate the 19th anniversary of her show, Oprah Winfrey gave each of the 276 members of her audience a brand new Pontiac G-6. They did have to pay taxes on it, though, some as much as $7,000.
82. Meanwhile, back at Luke’s Diner
In the series finale of Gilmore Girls, one of the best-written shows of this or any decade, Lorelai and Rory wind up at Luke’s drinking coffee as the camera pans out. It’s exactly the same thing the mother-daughter duo were doing in the series’ opening scene six years earlier.
81. Know how I know you’re gay? I just read the previous item.
The 40 Year-Old Virgin was both a male-bonding and a male-female bonding flick. Kelly Clarkson!
80. I went to a rock concert and an NFL championship game broke out.
U2. Prince. Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson. Sting. Paul McCartney. The Rolling Stones. Tom Petty. Bruce Springsteen. The world’s biggest acts played the halftime of the Super Bowl and most of the time you felt bad for the two teams who were unable to witness it. Forget Carnegie Hall; how do you get to midfield?
79. Alan Arkin’s oversexed Grandpa in “Little Miss Sunshine”
Grandpa: “There’s four women (in his nursing home) for every guy. Can you imagine what that’s like?”
Frank (Steve Carell): “You must have been very busy.”
Grandpa: “ Ho oh. I had second-degree burns on my Johnson, I kid you not.”
78. His palms were an eye-pod
There is no more suspenseful moment in Pan’s Labyrinth than when the Pale Man gains his sight, placing his eyeballs into his palm sockets after Ofelia disobediently snacked on two grapes. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for a faun-themed clothing store, Pants Labyrinth, to be launched at my local mall.
77. World War Z, by Max Brooks
Zombies were nearly as popular as vampires but this book, by the son of Mel Brooks, flew largely under the radar. What would be the consequences of a world-wide outbreak of zombies and how would different countries combat it?
Far more than science fiction, World War Z examines political and societal structures. As post-apocalyptic novels go, you may just enjoy this far more than you would “The Road”.
76. Your fire
On “Rescue Me” Tommy Gavin (Dennis Leary) and the gang at Engine 62 are always, as the show’s tagline says, playing with fire. How many other comedians could be so convincing as a leading man? Okay, Jim Carrey. Yes, and Jamie Foxx. You know what? Forget I asked.
75. “It just got easier out there for a pimp”
Hustle & Flow was Once for the crunk set. Different characters living a far different existence on a different continent, but the idea was the same: music as a way of getting out. Whoop that trick! Yeah, whoop that trick!
74. “Mom, where’s that meatloaf!?!”
Some of us could use a little less of Will Ferrell (Kicking and Screaming, Land of the Lost), but then he’ll redeem himself as Frank the Tank or Ricky Bobby or as Chaz, the funeral crasher in Wedding Crashers.
I’m more of a Wes Mantooth guy myself, but maybe that’s just because Ferrell spends so much time on the USC sidelines.
73. Supernatural SuperSerious
R.E.M.’s most infectious tune since their “Automatic for the People” days.
72. Shows I will watch on DVD someday (you must have your list, too)
The Wire. Mad Men. Breaking Bad. Pushing Daisies. 24. Lost. The Shield. Dexter. Sorry, I will not be tuning into Gary, Unmarried.
71. “If your erection lasts for four hours, consult your doctor…”
This was the decade where advertising for any type of erectile dysfunction began with a trickle and ended with a veritable Viagra Falls of commercials. Advertising for prescription drugs of all types reached an all-time high, while drugs that provide an all-time high remained illegal.
70. Jack Donaghy’s Therapy Session with Tracy Jordan on “30 Rock”
Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) does Kirk Lazarus one better in a role-play session with Tracy, improvising the voices of his problem star’s deadbeat dad, mom, her white boyfriend and the Hispanic neighbor who’s fed up with all their bickering.
“It’s too bad you didn’t know Howard Cosell growing up,” Jack D. tells Tracy as they leave the therapist’s office, “because I had that in my back pocket the whole time.”
69. “He’s nuts! They’re nuts! They know nothing!”
Thirteen months before the economy would crash in September of 2008, Jim Cramer goes ballistic during his daily “Stop Trading” segment with “the wonderful and fabulous” Erin Burnett and warns that “thousands of people will lose their homes”. He’s right, of course, but at the time people were making too much money to pay attention.
Besides, who could focus on the content of Cramer’s rant with Burnett clad in that giraffe-print dress?
68. Who taught Meadow Soprano how to parallel park, anyway?
The cryptic and climactic scene in the series finale of The Sopranos, with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” playing in the background, initially had viewers wondering whether HBO was experiencing technical difficulties. Series creator David Chase had no interest in offering a black-and-white resolution; only a black one. Interpret that as you wish.
67. The Yoko episode, “Flight of the Conchords”
The series’ fourth installment catapults the Kiwis to greatness, as Jemaine finds himself jealous of Bret’s girlfriend. Bret’s Coco is their Yoko, accuses Jemaine. Classic tunes include “If You’re Into It” (“In the buff/Being rude/Doing stuff/With the food”) and “Sello Tape” (“Love is like a roll of tape”).
66. Bizarre Deaths
Certainly Michael Jackson’s death was unexpected. The murder, on stage, of former Pantera guitarist Darrell Abbott was surreal. Was anything more tragic, though, than the deaths of 100 people when a fire broke out at a Great White show in Rhode Island?
65. In Rainbows
Radiohead released one of the decade’s most critically acclaimed albums (Kid A) in 2000, but their most memorable moment came seven years later when they self-released an album on-line and allowed listeners to decide what price, if any, they wanted to pay for it. That sound you hear is David Geffen’s head exploding.
64. When a Miss Teen U.S.A. contestant needs a map to locate a lucid response
Asked about a poll that said one in five Americans cannot locate the United States on a map, Miss Teen South Carolina stumbled through a reply that led viewers to believe she was one of them. It really is more terrifying to speak in front of a large audience than appear before them in your bathing suit.
63. Guilty Treasures
The ineffable Chuck Klosterman argues that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Of course he feels that way. His favorite band is KISS.
Here are some others that you can pretend that you never watch or listen to: Just Friends. Mika’s “Love Today” and “Grace Kelly”. Gossip Girl. The Rocker. Nickelback’s “Photograph”.
62. It really is all about the wordplay
It seemed both capital—and lower-case—punishment when musician Jason Mraz referred to himself as “Mr. A-Z” in the song “Wordplay”. Like Blues Traveler before him (“Hook”) and Sara Bareilles after (“Love Song”), Mraz penned a hit song about penning a hit song, adding tongue-twisting lyrics and puns that would draw the admiration of Dr. Seuss and any staff writer on “Arrested Development”.
61. One-named couples
Bennifer. Brangelina. TomKat. How about, “Conandy?”
60. Andy Millman’s climactic rant in the “Extras” series finale
Having been run fully through the celebrity cycle, the erstwhile star of “When the Whistle Blows” finds himself on a “Big Brother” type show with other B- and C-listers. Fed up, Millman (Ricky Gervais) unleashes a screed against our voyeuristic obsession with fame for fame’s sake: “Shame on you. And shame on me. I’m the worst of all ’cause I’m one of those people that goes, “Oh, I’m an entertainer, it’s in my blood.” Yeah, it’s in my blood, ’cause a real job’s too hard. I would love to have been a doctor – too hard. Didn’t want to put the work in. Would love to be a war hero – I’m too scared. So I go, “Oh, it’s what I do.” And I have someone bollocked if my cappuccino is cold, or if they look at me the wrong way. You know what a friend of mine once said? They said I’ll never be happy ’cause I’ll never be famous enough. And they were right.”
59. From my Buzz Bin
Musical tastes vary. Maybe you love Maroon 5. With that in mind, here are some lesser-known tunes beginning with “Oceans” by the Format, a now disbanded band, that deals with that old stand-by theme, getting dumped. A few other underground tunes: “Maybe We Should Fall in Love” by Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers; “Silver Stars” by Apples in Stereo; “Heart Attack” by Low vs Diamond; “Calling all Skeletons” by The Alkaline Trio, and “See These Bones” by Nada Surf.
58. Peyton Manning kills on SNL
It’s not that the Colts QB is the best actor among pro athletes. It’s that he’s a better actor than some of the cast members on SNL. “I’d kill a snitch,” Manning tells the kids surrounding him in the faux United Way P.S.A. “I’m not saying I have, I’m not saying I haven’t. You know what I mean.”
57. “We support your war of terror”
As Kazakhstan’s unofficial goodwill ambassador, Borat (Sasha Baron Cohen) punked everyone he met in his travels across America. Notice, though, that only the phony or pretentious came off looking bad.
56. “Call it.”
The NFL missed out on a great opportunity last year when it failed to invite Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) to do the pre-game coin toss for Super Bowl XLIII. Chigurh is not the angel of death. He’s your fate, the product of your choices in life. You may as well try to escape your shadow, friendo.
“What have I become? My sweetest friend/ Everyone I know, Goes away in the end” Trent Reznor wrote this elegy to pain, but after Johnny Cash’s performance Reznor rightfully acknowledged, “It’s his song now.”
It seemed like an idea that would fizzle quickly: Daily Show alum Stephen Colbert playing a Bill O’Reilly-infused version of himself. Instead The Colbert Report is fresh every night as Colbert deftly straddles the line between caricature and patriot.
51. Yelling, “Arcade Fire!” in a crowded theater
This Montreal-based band boasts more instruments than the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner: guitar, viola, cello and even glockenspiel , but anthems such as “Wake Up!” and “Rebellion” have helped the Quebecois build a fiercely devoted following.
50-41: Lines not to be forgotten
Curb Your Enthusiasm:
Larry: “I don’t like talking to people I KNOW, but strangers, I have no problem with…”
Elaine Miller: “There it is, your sister just used the ‘F-word’.”
William Miller: “I believe she said, ‘Feck’.”
Elaine: “What’s the difference?”
William: “The letter ‘u’.”
Lloyd: “Ari, swear to me that you will never say anything offensive ever again to me about my race or my sexual orientation.”
Ari: “I can’t swear to that, but I promise that I will always apologize after.”
Lucille: “Today at lunch, you were ashamed to be with me.”
Gob Bluth: “No, I was ashamed to be seen with you. I like being with you.”
Lorelai (as she walks into Luke’s Diner): “Give me a burger, onion rings, and a list of people who killed their parents and got away with it. I need some heroes.”
The Office (British version)
David Brent: “I am my own boss. I can wake up one morning and go ‘Ooh, I don’t feel like working today, can I just stay in bed?’ ‘Ooh, don’t know, better ask the boss.’ ‘David, can I stay in bed all day?’ ‘Yes you can, David.’ Both me. That’s not me in bed with another bloke called David.”
Tony: “Where you been? You’re late.”
Christopher: “Sorry. The highway was jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive.”
The Office (U.S. version)
Michael Scott: “This is our receptionist, Pam. If you think she’s cute now, you should have seen her a couple of years ago.”
Alan Garner: “I’m not supposed to be within 200 feet of a school…or a Chuck E. Cheese.”
Little Miss Sunshine
Grandpa: “Losers are people who are so afraid of winning, they don’t even try.”
40. Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack for Into the Wild
Pearl Jam’s lead singer was definitely inspired by the story of Chris McCandless.
For more than a decade the Zodiac killer terrorized the Bay Area and perhaps even southern California. He was never apprehended. Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey, Jr., are all fantastic as they hunt for a mass murderer who, for all they know, is also targeting them.
38. “The Boy of Summer”, GQ
The May, 2007, issue of GQ included a feature by Jason Gay about a 12 year-old minor-league baseball general manager, Jake Nettles Floyd, who had his own nine year-old intern. Some of the details begged plausibility— Floyd kept “outfield stolen hits” and “infield stolen hits” stats—but then at a time when a 28 year-old (Theo Epstein) was managing the Boston Red Sox, who was to say what was unbelievable?
Gay’s story was a hoax, but an awfully entertaining one.
37. Fleet Foxes give every college a cappella group a new arrangement to attempt
“White Winter Hymnal” is about slaughtering sheep, right? Who cares, it is one of the more hypnotically immaculate tunes you’ll ever hear on alternative radio.
36. Tears? No, it’s just dusty in here.
From the euthanasia scene forward, as those big brown doggie eyes stared right into your soul, Marley and Me was a weeper. “A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb,” intones John Grogan (Owen Wilson) in the final voiceover. “Just give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about?”
35. “I already ate my salad. This is my tenth salad today. I have a salad bar in my car.”
Saturday Night Live character Penelope (Kristen Wiig) has already written a list of the 400 best pop culture moments of the decade. She’s halfway done with the next decade’s list. She knows everyone on the list personally. Her list is better than this list.
34. Taylor Swift performs live with a bunch of dudes her dad’s age
The teen crossover sensation crossed over a generation or two to play with Def Leppard on CMT’s “Crossroads”. “Photograph” rocked but “Pour Some Sugar On Me” was as creepy as you get without being interrogated by Dateline NBC’s Chris Hanson.
33. Planet Earth takes viewers into the wild
Four years in the making, these eleven hours of programming provided a mind-blowing and unsentimental look at the diversity of life. Charles Darwin is very jealous of anyone who is alive and has cable.
32. Death Cab for Cutie’s song for stalkers
When lead singer Benjamin Gibbard pledges “I will possess your heart” after a tension-mounting six-minute instrumental intro, he seems to care little how you feel about it. Or whether the possession will be figurative or, in Touristas fashion, literal.
31. Did Juno go out for the cross-country team to shed the baby weight?
Among the many quotable lines from Diablo Cody’s clever script:
Juno: “You’re like the coolest person I’ve ever met, and you don’t even have to try, you know?”
Paulie: “I try really hard, actually.”
30. Joaquin Phoenix’s inscrutable Late Show appearance
Was it a stunt? Or just some bad clams? At the end of the Oscar-winning actor’s bizarre visit to the Ed Sullivan Theater, David Letterman, who handled it flawlessly, said, “I’m sorry you could not be here tonight.”
29. “I, drink, your, milkshake!”
In the climactic scene from “There Will Be Blood”, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis in yet another Oscar-winning role) inveigles Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) to disavow his beliefs, then turns the tables on him. Sunday is dead before Plainview even kills him.
28. Buzz and Will: Let’s not hug it out.
It was supposed to be a panel on sports blogs before a live studio audience in mid-town Manhattan. Almost as soon as host Bob Costas introduced the panel, author H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger (Friday Night Lights) hijacked the discsussion. Turning to Deadspin founder Will Leitch, Bissinger foamed, “I gotta be honest. I think you’re full of #*@!.”
One year later Joe Buck replaced the venerable Costas on the same network with a similarly-formatted show. In the premiere episode comedian Artie Lange expressed the same sentiment, if not in those exact words, toward the host.
27. The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget
Actress Cloris Leachman, not known for her stand-up prowess, killed. “Somebody punch me in the face,” the Oscar-winning octogenarian begged as she gazed at the C-listers with whom she shared the stage, “so that I can see some stars.”
26. If only they had both been on Facebook
Slumdog Millionaire is the story of a young Indian who becomes a game show contestant not for the money but in hopes, in a nation of one billion people, that the long-lost woman he loves will see him. A worthy and earnest Oscar-winner, this Danny Boyle film actually had more scenes involving trains than his earlier classic, Trainspotting.
25. “I am not the enemy.” “Then who are you?”
This exchange between Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) and the titular character in Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is a cold slap in the face to anyone who tries to play the middle in the old business-versus-ethics tug-of-war. In the span of 90 seconds Wilkinson goes from a feeble-looking guy carrying loaves of bread to the last negotiator you’d ever want to see on the opposite side of the table.
Give me Arthur Edens and Erin Brockovich and you can have the entire firm from Boston Legal.
24. Infant Sorrow, Adult Laughter
An impromptu performance by Infant Sorrow lead singer Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) in Forgetting Sarah Marshall causes fanboy waiter Matthew (Jonah Hill) to go “from six to midnight”. Infant Sorrow may be the best make-believe band since Spinal Tap (check out the videos for “Inside of You” and the philanthropy-themed “We’ve Got to do Something” on YouTube).
23. “To be a moron. To be moronical.”
The best part about watching Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) and Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.) discuss acting in the “Never go full retard” scene from Tropic Thunder? It’s the feeling that Stiller is every bit in over his head with Downey, Jr., as Speedman was with Lazarus.
22. “Raincoat” just does not roll off the tongue as well, uh, as umbrella
Rihanna ascends to stardom while offering shelter from the storm.
21. Opening Ceremony, Beijing Olympics
Imagine Cirque du Soleil times a thousand and you begin to appreciate the majesty and intricacy of the Chinese spectacle. I was fortunate enough to see it twice (the dress rehearsal) and it took my breath away both times.
20. Colin Farrell in In Bruges
If you thought it was impossible to root for a hit man who kills a boy in church as he is praying (okay, it was an accident; the target was a priest), punches out strangers in restaurants and karate chops midgets, then you need to meet Ray (Farrell).
This is the kind of film that your friends will thank you for recommending to them (if they can stand the profanity). Ray, as he punches out a diner he assumes to be an ugly American: “That’s for John Lennon, you Yankee (bleep). Diner: “I’m Canadian!”
19. “My name is Harvey Milk, and I’m here to recruit you”
Sean Penn won an Oscar for his portrayal of the slain gay San Francisco city council member.
18. The trailer for The Strangers
Torture porn—the Saw series, Hostel, Touristas, Fun and Games—was, sadly, its own genre. This film, in which Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler find themselves under siege in a country house late at night, was psychological torture porn. The trailer was more terrifying than most horror flicks. It was also all you needed to see.
17. The Blind Side
Author Michael Lewis (Liar’s Poker, Moneyball) looked up an old high school buddy in Memphis and met the family’s newest member, an adolescent giant named Michael Oher. When Lewis returned home to San Francisco his wife, Tabitha Soren, told him that he was staring directly at his next book. Smart lady.
16. Jim Carrey talks, no sings, a man off a ledge
Carl Allen (Jim Carrey) encounters a man who is about to throw himself off a building in Yes Man. What does he do? Finds a guitar, takes his own sweet time tuning it, and then serenades him with “Jumper” by Third Eye Blind. It may not be an Oscar clip, but it’s vintage Carrey looniness.
15. A confession of infidelity on the Jimmy Kimmel Show
Sara Silverman, Matt Damon and a guitar make for a rollicking video: “On the bed, on the floor, on a towel by the door/In the tub, in the car, up against the mini-bar.”
Well, it was just a joke.
14. A confession of infidelity on The Late Show with David Letterman
Catching his audience completely off-guard, Dave discusses an extortion plot built around allegations that he had sex with female members of his staff. “My response (to the allegation) is, ‘Yes I have.’ Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would,” Letterman said. “Especially for the women.”
Where’s Matt Damon when you need him?
13. Man On Wire
In 1974 Philippe Petit performed a stunt that would never, and will never, be repeated: he walked a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The documentary, in which Petit and his crew are shown plotting their stunt as meticulously as if they were planning a bank heist, is bittersweet. Looking back thirty years later, they realize life never again was as thrilling as that night and morning.
12. A maker meets his maker
The second season of “True Blood” attained its peak when Godric, a 2,000 year-old vampire who doesn’t look a day over twenty-five, opted to sacrifice himself in order to assuage tensions between humans and the undead. Sookie Stackhouse, everyone’s favorite fang-banger, kept vigil. A vampire with a Messiah complex? Yup.
It’s the summer of ’87 in Pittsburgh. Recent college grad James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is too smart to be working at a run-down amusement park but too poor to backpack through Europe. Sound familiar? Exacerbating his miserable existence: a near non-stop barrage of the worst pop song ever, “Rock Me, Amadeus.”
It might be hell except for co-worker Em (Kristen Stewart, fetching). You don’t have to leave your hometown to discover a new world.
10. U2 spends spring break at the Late Show
To promote “No Line on the Horizon”, U2 spent an entire snowy week last March with Letterman. The songs were magnificent, but the Irish quartet had a lot more fun shoveling snow, serenading callers to the melody of “Guantanamera” and reading a top ten list of “Things U2 Has Learned Over the Years” (No. 7: “Even my family asks, ‘Are you Adam or Larry?’”).
9. Sam Waterston just keeps rolling along
Jack McCoy (Waterston) has now been prosecuting bad guys (and girls) in lower Manhattan for sixteen seasons on “Law & Order”, which makes him the longest-running character currently on TV—outside of Andy Rooney.
8. “The Big Takeover”, Rolling Stone
No one in journalism has gotten more “mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” about the economic crisis than Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone. This piece, which appeared last March and chronicles the manner in which Wall Street brought millions of Americans to their financial knees, should infuriate you.
7. The Hangover
In the funniest film of 2009, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Stu (Ed Helms) arise on the morning after a bachelor party in Sin City minus the groom, a tooth and their collective memories. As Katy Perry would say, “That’s what you get for waking up in Vegas.”
6. Jan and Kevin’s Wedding Entrance Video
It’s up to more than 36 million views on YouTube now. Often imitated, never to be duplicated. It’s better because they can’t dance.
5. Adam Lambert somehow fails to win “American Idol”
That look of disdain on Simon Cowell’s face after America voted clean-cut Kris Allen the winner over flamboyant Adam Lambert said it emphatically. Maybe suffrage is not such a good idea, after all.
4. Neil Patrick Harris’ Emmy opening number is legen—wait for it—dary
“Put Down the Remote” is exactly the way to open an awards show: bouncy, light and topical. “Thank God ‘boob tube’/Rhymes with Tony Shalhoub/Or he wouldn’t be in this song.”
3. Fergie, fogie rock out at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert
Backed by U2 and will.i.am, Mick Jagger, 66, and Fergie lay waste to “Gimme Shelter” as the distaff Black Eyed Peas member stakes her claim to being the reigning queen of rock. My Humps? Girl, your pipes!
2. “It’s all about ‘The U’!”
ESPN’s “30 in 30” documentary series is consistently outstanding. “The U”, a portrait of the cultural revolution masquerading as the Eighties-era Miami Hurricane football team, is its ultimate triumph.
1. Spy games
Remember that song by Rockwell entitled “(I Always Feel Like) Somebody’s Watching Me”? No? That’s okay, it was a bad song, anyway.
Still, the title fits if you are a celebrity going into 2010: TMZ, Access Hollywood, The Insider, Perez Hilton, The Smoking Gun, US Weekly, The National Enquirer and others. They’re keeping closer tabs on celebrity (mis)behavior than Santa ever could.