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Ten Greatest Entertainers of the Decade

Andrew Payne Andrew Payne
December 18th, 2009 9:39am EST
Greatest Entertainers of the Decade

This week, we've brought you the Ten Greatest TV Shows, Songs, Albums and Movies of the Decade. Now it's time to roll it all into one with the Ten Greatest Entertainers of the Decade.

This was a decade where entertainment became increasingly fractured. With 500 channels 500 bazillion websites and every medium on-demand, bringing together any significant chunk of people to one thing was a true sign of greatness. In an era when nobody had to agree - making them agree took something beyond the level of entertainer we saw in the past.

With that in mind, here are the Ten Greatest Entertainers of the Decade. First a reminder of the qualifications for Greatness:

Appeal - How well-liked something is by the masses. Simply put, how many people consider it their "favorite".

Acclaim - How the critics and cognoscente evaluated something. In other words, how often it is considered the "best".

Popluarity - Very simple - how many people experienced this piece of pop culture in the way it would be consumed.

Zeitgeist - How much something enters the public discourse. Catchphrases, clichés and a general buzzing determine this category.

Influence/Originality - Pretty much speaks for itself - One thing's impact on those that come after it is crucial in determining greatness.

And now, the Ten Greatest Entertainers of the Decade:

10. Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan began the decade as an unknown Independent filmmaker who'd made the black-and-white twisty "Following Sean" and not much else. That was until he stormed onto the scene with "Memento" - the other twisty indie that hit like a freight train in reverse and won him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

The decade saw him working with the likes of Al Pacino and Hugh Jackman on "Insomnia" and "The Prestige", respectively. Both solid films, both solid box office performers. Both underrated. That alone would give him a solid resume for the last ten years.

But that wasn't it for Nolan. He went on to lord over the decade in the midst of his solid filmmaking with two absolute behemoths: "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight". These movies not only made enormous amounts of money, but they brought a level of intelligence and sophistication to the popcorn genre - almost becoming a graphic novel while other hero flicks were mere comic books.

Christopher Nolan

Image © PR Photos

"The Dark Knight" itself would make Nolan a candidate for this list, but with other solid pictures - and the incredible "Memento" (easily one of the ten best movies of the decade) on his resume - Nolan is clearly the Greatest Director of the Decade.

9. Beyonce

So it's time to give Kanye a little credit. That video for "Single Ladies", the non-stop 17,000 calorie-burning dance marathon of a video, it really was one of the greatest videos of all time - and a nice cap to the decade for Ms. Knowles.

This decade saw Beyonce start as the Diana Ross to the rest of Destiny's Child's The Supremes and blossom into a full-blown diva capable of selling out arenas, topping the charts with albums and hits and even starring in movies - earning a Golden Globe nomination of her work in "Dreamgirls".

Beyonce

Image © Sony BMG

Mostly, it's been all about the music for Beyonce, who delivered ubiquitous songs like "Crazy in Love" and "Halo" earning over 20 Grammy nominations and seven wins for her effort, with a few more wins likely to come in February.

This was a decade where Beyonce managed to be ubiquitous but never annoying. Everywhere you turned, be it a commercial, an awards show, or a movie re-running on Showtime you'd see her face, but it never was unwelcome. That's a true sign of greatness.

8. Tina Fey

It's been quite a decade for Tina Fey who emerged from the The Second City mainstage to take over head writing duties for "Saturday Night Live" around the turn of the decade and never looked back.

In that time, she created several memorable SNL characters, anchored the Weekend Update Desk for more than half the decade, moved on to the big screen with the acclaimed and popular "Mean Girls" and finally settled in on the funniest show on television with "30 Rock". Not bad for someone with nerd glasses.

But it's been more than just a wild wave of success for Fey herself, little bits of Fey can be seen everywhere in comedy these days. Her brand of humor - a sort of hip bit of snark that allows for a an intelligent eye to dissect those who'd rather not be scrutinized - has permeated everything from "The Office" to improve troupes across the country.

Tina Fey

Image © PR Photos

She also gave a more powerful voice to women in comedy. Before Fey, women in comedy would essentially only act like men (Roseanne, Brett Butler), but Fey allowed women to embrace their femininity and awkwardness while still holding on to the entirety of their humor.

And, there was the Sarah Palin impression. In itself, probably enough to warrant a spot on this list.

7. Johnny Depp

Throghout the nineties, and a portion of this decade, Depp seemingly had an ideal career - he was able to keep is cred as a serious and offbeat actor, yet had the level of fame and success everyone dreams about. Of course, he managed to exceed those dreams with his role as a rum-drenched pirate.

"Pirates of the Caribbean" launched Depp into the stratosphere. Instead of being that fringe actor everybody respected, he was now a major movie star loved by children, and still respected by film nerds all the same. He managed to crossover to Tom Cruise-like heights without losing any of his Johnny Depp-ness.

Johnny Depp

Image © PR Photos



This decade also saw Depp's greatest critical success. He managed to earn his first three Oscar nominations (for "Pirates", "Finding Neverland", and "Sweeney Todd") and moved into the role of Hollywood leading man with performances that still delighted critics.

Going forward, Depp has both a Hunter S. Thomspon adaptation and mega-budget Tim Burton-directed "Alice in Wonderland" remake in the can. Seems like Depp will continue his delicate balance of fringe actor-cum-major movie star.

6. Superheroes

There used to be one superhero movie every few years and we were happy about it. A Christopher Reeve "Superman", a Michael Keaton "Batman", it was all good. That was before the superhero explosion of this decade.

It probably started when "X-Men" hit big in 2000, making a bazillion dollars and a star out of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, but the floodgates really opened when "Spider-Man" became a $1 Billion dollar ultra-smash that registered with critics as well as all types of fans. Superheroes weren't just for fanboys anymore this decade. They could create a tentpole film that appealed to any demographic.

X-Men

Image © PR Photos

This knowledge led to a deluge of superhero movies. Everything from Daredevil to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen got a film adaptation to massive variances in success.

The hits, however, hit huge. "Iron Man" brought a non-icon to a level that would rival any superhero. The "Spider-Man" sequels wowed both critics and audiences and the Batman films served as proof that superheroes were much more than tight-wearing comic book characters - they could be used to make grand thematic statements in filmmaking that rivaled anything else.

We may be on superhero exhaustion now, but for this decade they lived up to their names.

5. Pixar

Pixar is like the Rocky Marciano of movie studios - They're completely undefeated. Never made a bad movie, never made a movie that wasn't a massive hit. And this decade, they seemed to duplicate their transcendently successful feats every single year.

How about this docket of flicks this decade:



Is there any movie on that list you didn't see? Is there any movie on that list you didn't love? Is there any movie on that list you don't own?
Nobody - no director, no writer, no studio, nobody - can boast the sort of perfect record Pixar enjoyed over this decade.

The Incredibles

Image © Pixar

Cars

Image © Pixar



Next decade will be interesting to see if they can keep it up, but film of the aughts absolutely belonged to Pixar.

4. Cable Dramas

If there's one major sweeping change on television this year (other than the reality boom, which is detailed later) it's the unparalleled shift away from network drama and on to the upper reaches of the dial.

Yes, there'd always been cable dramas before this decade, but these were mostly shows like "La Femme Nikita" and other little action trifles that could never compare to their network contemporaries. This might have changed with "Oz", but it probably changed with the unbelievable success of "The Sopranos". That is when the cable channels became the place to turn for great drama.

The list of amazing dramas on cable is endless. "The Sopranos", "Six Feet Under", "The Wire", "Deadwood", "True Blood", and "Big Love". And that's just one channel! That list doesn't include the great dramas from Showtime (like "Dexter"), AMC (like "Mad Men"), FX (like "The Shield") or TNT (like "The Closer TV series"). It seems all four networks would kill for just one cable channel's drama lineup - yet it happened on more than a half-dozen such channels.

The Sopranos

Image © Home Box Office

It seemed the networks spent most of the decade trying to catch up. They had a few successes ("Lost", "24", and "The West Wing") but mostly the entire decade belonged to Dramas on Cable. These were the ones people dropped hundreds on for the DVD box sets. These were the shows that dominated Facebook statuses, these were the shows that, when discovered, would become an obsession. Nothing, no other form of media, can claim such devotion from its fans. Cable dramas were something savored, and thought about long after they aired, going along perfectly with the advent of the DVR.

Nothing else on TV can compare to the greatness of the cable drama this decade. Well, almost nothing.

3. iPod

Ever since "Sgt. Peppers" debuted in the 1960s, albums have been the dominant form of musical expression. Since that time, musicians strove to create complete works, 12 essential cuts that worked as a whole.

iPod


That's no longer necessary anymore. And it all changed with the creation of the iPod. With the iPod, music fans can now pick and choose what songs they want to hear. Why would you suffer through the 7 minutes of ambient noise that is "Treefingers" when you can just put "Optimistic" and "The National Anthem" on your iPod? The single once again became dominant in the 2000s thanks to this fact.

And nothing made it easier than the iPod. There had been mp3 players before it, but nothing else had the capacity, quality, or ease of use that Apples invention boast. Plus, with the iTunes store, they created a very simple way to buy digital singles to get them directly onto the iPod. No more shuffling around the Internet for that 56.6KBps digital download.

Yes, the iPod almost singlehandedly changed the way music was consumed, but it also altered TV and radio in a small way. Podcast became part of the vernacular, allowing people to listen to something of a talk radio show at their leisure, and the video iPods also allowed for easy portable consumption of television shows and movies. The iPod made this a truly portable entertainment world.

Most of all, however, the iPod made the song, not the album, the dominant form of musical entertainment again. It's all about being able to buy the individual song and having a convenient spot to play them.

2. JK Rowling

J.K. Rowling gave us Harry Potter, the boy wizard whose books have sold over 400 million copies worldwide, led to grown adults camping out and dressing up like wizards shamelessly outside of Barnes & Nobles, have been hailed by critics the world over, and were adapted into a movie series that's grossed over $5 Billion worldwide.

JK Rowling

Image © PR Photos

Do you really need any more of a reason that she's ranked number two?

1. Ordinary People

Nothing, no form of entertainment anywhere has come close to equaling the overwhelming demand we've created for ordinary people this decade. This thirst has driven everything from the Internet, to TV, to music.

Look at TV. Before this decade pretty much the only form of reality TV we had was the real world. Now you can't turn the dial to any channel, be it network, cable or otherwise without seeing the real something or other dominating the screens. This phenomenon led to ordinary people suddenly becoming famous. Take a look at the Gosselins or the Kardashians. Where would be without them now? Yet 10 years ago, nobody would have cared.

Okay, so maybe they still don't care, but looking at the TV schedule could have fooled anybody. We've gotten to the point where there are entire channels (TLC, A&E) that are nothing more than ordinary people with cameras in their faces. Clearly, we only wanted to watch people just like us throughout the decade.

Then there's music. Sure, "American Idol" is one thing - but what about Susan Boyle. This was a dowdy homebody from the north of Scotland who went on to top the charts like nobody in several years when she released her debut album a few weeks ago. All growing from the YouTube sensation of an ordinary person making good for millions.

Susan Boyle

Image © PR Photos

And it's on YouTube, and the Internet where the ordinary people wildfire really spread. Be it people uploading photos, or blogging (as antiquated as that may seem), updating Facebook statuses or Twittering - this became the decade where our entertainment attention turned more towards the everyday person than it did the professionals.

The ordinary people trend even carried through to celebrities. This was the decade where TMZ and all sorts of other gossip shows, sites and blogs were our chief sources for celebrity entertainment. We no longer gazed through the glass to watch them at glitzy premieres or their latest blockbuster. Instead, we wanted to see celebrities as they really are, even if that just involves walking down the street.

Yes, this was the decade that ordinary became extraordinary. Be it somebody singing 'Chocolate Rain' on YouTube or a woman comparing two other ordinary folks to snakes and rats on an island somewhere, we just couldn't get enough of people just like us this decade. So all of us can take solace in the fact that in some way, we were all The Greatest Entertainer of the Decade.

And how great is that?

Andrew Payne
Story by Andrew Payne

Starpulse contributing writer


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