[Editor’s Note: If you missed any of Courtney’s excellent “Goodbye 2009” retrospective, please enjoy part one, part two and part three.]
The Best Music of the Aughts
In the past decade I’ve learned that I’m apparently not cool enough for Animal Collective or The Hold Steady or any number of album Pitchfork keeps telling me I should like but I find myself physically unable to do so.
And perhaps the nicest thing about this decade is that I didn’t have to, because I had plenty of other stuff to listen to. The proliferation of indie has made the cool kids the popular kids for once, and not after a lengthy sell-out process.
To me, this is the music that mattered …
Ten best albums of the decade
10. Travis, 12 Memories
Best track: Happy To Hang Around
9. Band of Horses, Cease to Begin
Best track: The General Specific
8. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
Best track: Blue Ridge Mountains
7. Okkervil River, Black Sheep Boy
Best track: Latest Toughs
6. Wilco & Billy Bragg, Mermaid Hotel
Best track: California Stars
5. Patty Griffin, 1000 Kisses
Best track: Makin’ Pies
4. Arcade Fire, Funeral
Best track: Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
3. Hem, Rabbit Songs
Best track: Leave Me Here
2. The National, Boxer
Best track: Ada
1. Duffy, Rockferry
Best track: Warwick Avenue
Five best tracks of the aughts not on the aforementioned albums
5. “Long Time Traveler” by The Wailin’ Jennys (Firecracker)
4. “Still Fighting It” by Ben Folds (Rockin’ the Suburbs)
3. “Beautiful Child” by Rufus Wainwright (Want One)
2. “Breathless” by Dan Wilson (Free Life)
1. “Killian’s Red” by Nada Surf (Let Go)
The Best Movies of the Aughts
This was a spectacular decade for film. The 90s started independent cinema for mainstream enjoyment; the aughts perfected it. In fact, there were so many ridiculously genius movies in the past ten years that I couldn’t cut it down to a top ten. And then I couldn’t cut it down to a top five. With that, the three best films of the past ten years.
Three best films of the decade
3. Shaun of the Dead
If you didn’t love Shaun of the Dead, you are a bad person. I hope I’m not putting too fine a point on that. This movie had it all. It was a Britcom, it was a sweet romantic story, it was arm-rest-gripping horror, it was the funniest comedy of the entire decade and its popularity introduced legions of non-Brits to Spaced, a fantastic show, as well as a gentleman named Simon Pegg. May our love affair be forever-lasting, assuming he refrains from flicks like Run, Fatboy, Run and anything co-starring Megan Fox ever again.
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Possibly one of the most perfect films ever made. For everyone who’s seen his music videos, there was little to no surprise in how well Michel Gondry captures images that are at once surreal, nostalgic, inventive and familiar, but when paired with Charlie Kaufman, one whose writing can be described with those same terms, everything came together to form one phenomenal and beautiful film. It’s perfect. It is without a doubt the best film of the aughts. And yet …
1. Sweet Land
And yet I couldn’t in good conscience make it number one. You see, everyone reads end-of-year lists and checks out the number one pick. Well if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’ve seen Eternal Sunshine, and thus I am providing you with no instruction. So my pick went to Sweet Land, because while Eternal Sunshine may be the best film of the decade, Sweet Land may be my favorite film of all time.
I didn’t have to describe the others to you, because you’ve either seen them, or you lie to your friends that you’ve seen them, but you at least know what they’re about. Most people don’t know about Sweet Land and that upsets me. I saw it alone in the tiny theater at the Music Box in Chicago, the one just off the concession area with maybe 50 seats and vines painted on the walls. The curtains parted and I sat in awe for just under two hours as I viewed a simply beautiful picture. It’s the story of Inge and Olaf (Elizabeth Reaser and Tim Guinee), a mail-order bride and a Norwegian immigrant farmer, respectively, during World War I. Visually it was lovely, the story was lovely, the acting was lovely, everything about it was just that: lovely. There’s no other way to describe this movie except as something I love. Rent it, buy it, see it however you can.
The Best Television of the Aughts
My brother and I had a conversation about TV of the 90s versus TV from this decade. And it may sound erudite and snobbish, but the 90s was really a simpler time. Not just because it was before 9/11 and bipartisan battling that followed, but because, literally, things were just simpler. Take Friends. A simple show set up around simple characters who make simple jokes that can be enjoyed by everyone. Then take Lost. It’s whatever the fuck Lost is.
It’s possible that I’ve been wrong all along. Perhaps we’re not getting dumber. We’re getting smarter and thus the networks are trusting us with smarter television, and the vapid bullshit reality stuff is for the dumb people so they don’t have to think and hurt themselves. Whatever the case, this decade has been outstanding for TV.
The ten best television shows of the decade
Note: I opted to only include programs that began after 2000, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my single favorite episode of television of this decade, and that’s the episode “Conversations With Dead People” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Everyone else goes with “The Body,” which is spectacular to be sure, but “CWDP” was just brilliant. Three un-woven stories, all fun, smart and terrifying in their own ways, and the start of The First (I stand alone, but The First was my favorite Big Bad) and Spike’s return to evil form – even though he didn’t know it, bookended by Angie Hart’s stunning “Blue.” A fantastic hour of television, AND it didn’t even feature Anya, my pick for best television character of the decade, which CERTAIN EDITORS AHEM didn’t seem to agree with. Now on with the rest.
10. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Best episode: “Sweet Dee is Dating a Retarded Person”
The title pretty much tells you what happens. Most importantly, this is the episode in which we meet the Night Man and the Day Man. Ah-ahhhh-ah.
Best episode: “The Other End of the Line”
The misunderstandings in this episode reach heights Three’s Company never imagined. Steve and Susan struggle with their engagement, being off the market, a French bitch named Giselle and an Australian bar run by Dick Darlington. Confusion ensues leading to the funniest climax in television possibly ever.
8. The OC and Chuck – Yes this is a complete cop-out because I worship at the altar of Josh Schwartz.
Best episode: “The Escape” / “Chuck Versus Santa Claus”
The one where Marissa OD’s / the one where Chuck witnesses Sarah shooting a guy. Schwartzy, I love you.
Best episode: “Out of Gas”
This was hard to pick, but I have a soft spot for origin stories and finding out about the Serenity crew’s past was fascinating. Also, it’s nice to see Kaley get some.
6. How I Met Your Mother
Best episode: “Slap Bet”
This started two phenomenons in the Mother-verse: the notion of the “slap bet” and a Canadian teen pop star by the name of Robin Sparkles. Enjoy here.
5. The Office
Best episode: “The Injury”
Michael grills his foot and Dwight gets a concussion. “You can’t fire me; I don’t work in this van!” becomes the greatest quote of the decade.
4. 30 Rock
Best episode: I literally can’t choose, but for lack of another one springing to mind, we’ll go with “Rosemary’s Baby.”
3. Doctor Who (the new series [yes, this is technically cheating])
Best episode: “The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit”
The New Who had already presented itself as a darker version of the old, with a dash of atheism and a heavy dose of “if you must have a god, it’s the Doctor.” This is the episode in which the Doctor actually defeats Satan, and it does it remarkably un-heavy handed. It’s a really amazing feat and a great pair of episodes.
2. Arrested Development
Best episode: “Good Grief”
This actually wasn’t hard. This is the episode I pop in most often, and whenever I walk away from any situation sadly, I hum “Christmastime is Here.” A classic.
1. Six Feet Under
Best episode: “Everyone’s Waiting,” the last ten minutes of which are the single best ten minutes of television this whole decade. If you have to say goodbye to the best television program of the decade – and I’d wager I’m not the only one to believe it’s one of the best ever – do it like this.
Courtney Enlow is a writer living in Chicago and working as a corporate shill to pay the bills. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.