Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Favorite Entertainers of the '00s

This is a cross-disciplinary category that covers authors and directors, as well as performers.

My choices are quite different from Entertainment Weekly's 15 picks for Entertainers of the Decade--which beyond solid choices whose work I didn't personally get into (Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, JK Rowling, Peter Jackson) also included the strange pick of Will Smith. An enjoyable actor, yes, but it seems he made just one decent movie--The Pursuit of Happyness--this decade along with a bunch of clunkers: I, Robot; Hitch; I Am Legend, Hancock, even the sadly mediocre Ali.

Anyway, here are those whose work I most enjoyed and admired throughout the decade:

1. Bruce Springsteen - Beyond remaining the best concert performer going, the Boss also put out 5 solid if not quite superb studio albums in his most prolific decade ever. He was also probably the decade's ballsiest voice of dissent, speaking out against George Bush, the Iraq War, the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger and most recently voicing his support of gay marriage.

2. Howard Stern - Although I still wouldn't listen with my Mom in the car, Howard is much more a voice of honesty in an artificial world than the lewd provocateur critics assume. And not only did he probably provide more entertainment than anyone this decade, he pretty much single-handedly legitimized a new media form when he moved to satellite radio.

3. Nathan Lane - Tipping off an upcoming list, My Favorite Musical of the Decade was The Producers, with Lane outstanding in the role of Max Bialystock. I was fortunate to see him play the role 3 times on-stage (I also saw Jason Alexander, Richard Kind and others play Max, and no one else came close) as well as in the movie, and also saw him in November and The Addams Family.

4. Paul McCartney - This pick, this high, surprises even me--and may seem 5 decades out of time--but Sir Paul put out 4 surprisingly strong albums this decade and delivered the goods the 4 times I saw him live, even easily justifying a road trip to Tulsa this year. His new live DVD/CD set, Good Evening New York City is excellent.

5. Jon Stewart - Quite admittedly, I haven't watched The Daily Show nearly as much as I should have, but even on YouTube, his even-tempered tenacity in delivering well-deserved thrasings to Jim Cramer and Sean Hannity, among others, showed how important he is as a voice of reason, as well as humor. I also loved his stand-up act and his America The Book.

6. Dan Brown - He wasn't the best author of the decade nor even my favorite, but The Da Vinci Code was a phenomenon nearly as good as its hype, while Angels & Demons, The Lost Symbol and Deception Point were all great reads. So as far as authors go, he was my favorite entertainer.

7. Pearl Jam/Green Day (tie) - #2 & 3 on "My Favorite Concert Performers of the '00s," list, both bands get extra points for tirelessly speaking out against the Bush Administration.

8. Michael Moore - You've probably noticed a liberal-bent running through this list, so this shouldn't be a surprise. But despite my appreciation for Moore's voice of discord, I think at times (particularly in Fahrenheit 911) he's over-preached to the choir and given his detractors too much ammunition by being sloppy with how he presents his opinions. Still, the importance of Bowling for Columbine, Sicko and Capitalism can't be ignored, if only for the public discourse they've engendered.

9. Anne Hathaway - Although she's given several top-flight performances of late (Brokeback Mountain, The Devil Wears Prada and especially Rachel Getting Married), the lovely Ms. Hathaway gets a berth on "My Favorite Entertainers" list for reasons beyond her acting prowess. It's not only her initials that are Hepburnesque (and I don't mean Katherine).

10. Chris Rock - The best stand-up comedian of our age. He should probably give up on making movies however.

Honorable Mention:

Philip Seymour Hoffman (I loved him in a bunch of movies but rarely went because of him), Tina Fey, David Letterman, Christopher Nolan (movie director), Billy Corgan, Artie Lange, Norah Jones, Ricky Gervais, Kate Winslet, Kiefer Sutherland (only in 24), Johnny Depp, JJ Abrams (director; would be higher if I liked Lost; but I loved Alias and Star Trek), Matt Damon, Lee Child, Harlan Coben (the last 2 are authors)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seems like you give a lot of credit to entertainers who choose to be politically active supporting your views. Perhaps you should have a political activism category instead of melding it into what you find as entertainment. Angelina Jolie criticized Obamas' speech looking for action behind his words, despite almost all saying it was a great speech, even Palin and Gingrich agree. Throwing stones is easy, if you want to find one fault, you are going to find it. The big picture is a different story. - tgem.