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End Of An Era: The Very Best Of Pop Culture In The 2010s

‘saratoga living’ team members reveal what kept us glued to our devices—and in darkened theaters—this past decade.

Veep
"Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the best comedic actress in recorded history," says Editor in Chief Richard Pérez-Feria about the actress' performance in HBO's hit show, 'Veep.' (HBO)

Richard Pérez-Feria, Editor in Chief

Film:

Bridesmaids (2013) Still laughing: “It’s happening! It’s happening! It happened.”

The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013) Leonardo DiCaprio at his primal best—should’ve taken home the Oscar.

Moonlight (2016) Scorching, heartbreaking, unforgettable.

TV:

Homeland (2011-present) The last episode of Season 1 is the finest hour of television I’ve ever witnessed. Period.

Veep (2012-19) Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the best comedic actress in recorded history. 

Jane The Virgin (2014-19) Sweet, sad, bilingual, sappy, sexy, funny—perfect.

Theater:

The Book Of Mormon (2011) The South Park creators unleashed on Broadway? Yes!

Cabaret (2014) Alan Cumming scorches in the best musical revival of the decade.

Hamilton (2015) I mean, what is there left to say about the single greatest theatrical achievement ever?

Book:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2011) It lands as softly as a feather and leaves us with characters we can’t let go of easily.

Becoming by Michelle Obama (2018) There are no words to explain how much I love this book, this woman and how sad I am she’s not running for anything in 2020.

Mama’s Boy by Dustin Lance Black (2019) The hero of Oscar-winning Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black’s memoir is his slightly homophobic, handicapable Mom, Anne—and I friggin’ love her. You will, too.

Album:

Lemonade (2016) by Beyoncé OK ladies: Are you in formation? Um, the don’t-mess-with-Queen B album is as brilliant as it is a cautionary tale for all cheating men: Who rules the world? Girls. Duh.

1989 by Taylor Swift (2014) The sheer gorgeousness of the choruses and precision of the lyrics make this damn near a pop masterpiece.

25 by Adele (2015) Have more heart-wrenching words ever been sung more powerfully and convincingly?

‘Ex Machina’

Abby Tegnelia, Publisher

Film:

Ex Machina (2014) The very first time I was truly haunted by the idea of AI—and how soon it would become a reality.

Spotlight (2015) Great story and great timing, just as people (including me) were wistful about the state of traditional media. And its Best Picture upset won me my Oscar pool.

Life Of Pi (2012) What really happened, though? 

TV:

Orphan Black (2013-17) Tatiana Maslany’s characters are a sci-fi game of Whack-A-Mole in this clone-packed thrill ride, anchored by a powerful cast of supporting actors. 

90 Day Fiancé (2014-present) There are, like, 18 spinoffs at this point, and I watch every single one of them.

Game Of Thrones (2011-19) I loved the books long before HBO announced its series, so throw in eight years of Sunday night viewing, and that’s one very long-term obsession.

Theater:

Hello, Dolly! (2017) Bette Midler movies were my favorite as a kid, so when she joined Hello, Dolly! I got to NYC as soon as I could.

Dear Evan Hansen (2015) Since I do social media for a living, this one hit home.

Beautiful (2013) I was sad to hear it closed this fall; if you’re a Carole King lover and missed it, shame on you!

Book:

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (2015) An epic tale of survival, this novel follows two sisters as they become very different types of heroes in World War II France.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (2013) I’m a sucker for books about fate; this one’s many different endings morph into a think piece on whether life-changing moments alter your ending, or just how you get there.

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara (2018) I’m obsessed with true crime and was living in California when it came out, so this masterfully written book (finished and published posthumously) about the Golden State Killer was a no-brainer pick for me.

Album:

Uncaged by Zac Brown Band (2012) Americana at its romantic best, the album’s “The Wind” and “Goodbye In Her Eyes” are songs I can listen to over and over again.

In The Lonely Hour by Sam Smith (2014) His angelic voice and emotional depth deftly make the despair and heartbreak of one night stands and cheating relatable to anyone.

x by Ed Sheeran (2014) “Thinking Out Loud” was the ballad of the decade.

Lin Manuel Miranda in Hamilton.

Kathleen Gates, Creative Director

Film:

Black Panther (2018) I love all the Avengers…Wakanda forever!

Amazing Grace (2019) This documentary about the recording of Aretha Franklin’s 1972 live album was finally brought to the big screen.

Birdman (2014) Michael Keaton in anything works for me, but this movie is beyond riveting.

TV:

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah (2014-present) “Trump Twitter Library?” Brilliant.

Homeland (2011-present) A spy thriller with plots that hit dangerously close to, well, home.

The Crown (2016-present) Looking forward to this new sure-to-be-amazing season.

Theater:

Book Of Mormon (2011) Andrew. Rannells.

Hamilton (2015) A revolutionary play about a revolutionary man in a revolutionary time.

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child (2016) Two parts in one day. Two thumbs Wingardium Leviosa-ed.

Book:

A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (2014) So vivid and heart-wrenching. It gives you the sense of living in constant war and turmoil. It’s difficult to read, but the writing is so good you can’t put the book down.

Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015) A must read. Actually required reading for all parents.

The Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (2013) Who knew botany could be so sexy?

Album:

Homecoming: The Live Album by Beyoncé (2019)

Lemonade by Beyoncé (2016)

Beyoncé by Beyoncé (2013) All Beyoncé. All the time.

‘Stranger Things.’ (Netflix)

Will Levith, Executive Editor

Film:

Skyfall (2012) A James Bond theme song by Adele, a Bond villain played by Javier Bardem and Bond himself, Daniel Craig, at peak badassery. 

The Social Network (2010) A two-hour-long account of why Facebook Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a total creep.

Room 237 (2012) The ultimate The Shining fanboy documentary. Scary good.

TV:

Breaking Bad (2008-13) A truly epic TV series that will never be bested. 

Stranger Things (2016-present) Stranger Things: scary, funny and witty all at the same time—my TV Holy Trinity. 

The Americans (2013-18) I took cello lessons at Skidmore College right after the guy who wrote the show’s score (i.e. Nathan Barr). ’Nuff said. 

Theater:

Hamilton (2015) A longtime Brooklyn resident, I never got to see Hamilton on Broadway, but it was just as good as I always dreamed it would be at Proctors. 

Book Of Mormon (2011) So hilarious, I saw it twice: once on Broadway, once at Proctors. I loved every maggots-on-my-scrotum minute of it. 

Dear Evan Hansen (2015) Rarely have I ever sought out songs from a Broadway musical after the fact and relistened to them. Evan Hansen’s soundtrack is soo catchy. 

Book:

Ten Percent Happier by Dan Harris (2014) Fellow journalist Dan Harris’ Ten Percent Happier changed my life. It comes highly recommended.

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011) “I know, authoritatively, that thinking you can’t do it has absolutely nothing to do with what you actually can or can’t do,” responded Jennifer Egan, when I told her, during an interview, that this book made me think “I will never be able to write as good as this.”

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (2016) Reading Barbarian Days and listening to The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ Safari” will make anybody want to go surfing.

Album:

Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves (2018) Top to bottom, Golden Hour is an absolute country-pop masterpiece. 

Southeastern by Jason Isbell (2013) Its album-opener, “Cover Me Up,” is one of the greatest love songs ever written. 

Get There by Minor Alps (2013) This album (and a lot of meditating) got me through a particularly tough time in my life. Ohm yeah! 

‘Chernobyl’ (HBO)

Natalie Moore, Managing Editor

Film:

Captain Fantastic (2016) So impactful I started reading Noam Chomsky, per Viggo Mortensen’s character’s recommendation.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) A worthy finale to the epic series that defined my generation.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) Better than the first and as good as the book, this sequel still makes my heart throb, more than six years later.

TV:

Veep (2012-19) Every character in Veep would be my favorite character in any other show.

Queer Eye (2018-present) I’m let down every time I go home and don’t have a new episode to watch. Also, JVN.

Chernobyl (2019) Right on the heels of the Game Of Thrones Season 8 letdown, this miniseries restored my faith in HBO being the best in the biz.

Theater:

I literally went to zero plays in the 2010s—sue me.

Book:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011) Easy to read and hard to put down.

Theft By Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris (2017) A genius stream of consciousness.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (2012) This beautifully written book made me seriously question my 16-year-old life. 

Album:

Pure Heroine by Lorde (2013) Every song on Pure Heroine is totally different and still totally Lorde.

San Cisco by San Cisco (2012) Catchy, upbeat, can’t-stop-yourself-from-smiling (-or-am- I-crying?) music.

The Heist by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (2012) “Thrift Shop” was the soundtrack to my senior year of high school.

Childish Gambino

Jeff Dingler, Senior Writer

Film:

The Breadwinner (2017) This film expertly weaves breathtaking animation and intricate storytelling into an incredible tale about an Afghani girl forced to disguise herself as a boy in order to earn money after her father is abducted by the Taliban.

Get Out (2017) As a horror movie, Get Out is one of the best in recent decades; as a statement on race in America, it’s absolutely timeless.

Coco (2017) A dazzlingly colorful Pixar movie based around the Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos? What more could you ask for?

TV:

Rick And Morty (2013-19) Wubba lubba dub dub! This animated show about an eccentric (and blotto) mad scientist might just be one of the most brilliant and mind-bending television comedies ever written. 

Orange Is The New Black (2013-19) This Netflix show about a women’s correctional facility in Upstate New York simply has it all: riveting drama and great comedy, all while tackling real social issues. 

Game Of Thrones (2011-19) OK, the last season was a letdown, but I still love rooting for the Mother of Dragons (pre-burning of King’s Landing, of course). Dracarys!

Theater:

Hamilton (2015) Yeah, this pick is obvious, but the music’s just too good, and as a history buff, I can never get enough of our founding fathers rapping and bursting into song.

The Book Of Mormon (2011) Sure, it’s deeply irreverent (and vulgar), but The Book Of Mormon also has a catchy and equally funny soundtrack.

Ellen West (2019) This one’s actually an opera, but it’s an absolutely phenomenal and groundbreaking work probing one woman’s struggles with an eating disorder. And it had its world premiere this past summer at Opera Saratoga. 

Book:

The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (2010) There’s no better contemporary fiction stylist than David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas), and this novel, set in 18th-century Japan, is simply a stunning, Zen-like literary masterpiece.

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Rinton and Laura Love Hardin (2018) This true story about an innocent man on death row in Alabama is one of the most harrowing books I’ve ever read and makes a compelling case against capital punishment. 

Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders (2017) Only Syracuse professor George Saunders could’ve written such a bizarre and beautiful novel about the passing of our 16th president’s son, William Wallace Lincoln, during the height of the Civil War.

Album:

Matangi by M.I.A. (2013) Both lyrically and musically, this is the most complex and cutting-edge album by one of my all-time favorite hip-hop artists. 

Traces Of You by Anoushka Shankar (2013) My sitar hero, Anoushka Shankar, and her half-sister, Norah Jones (who was one of the headliners at SPAC’s Saratoga Jazz Fest this past summer), teamed up to honor their late father, sitarist Ravi Shankar, with one incredible album fusing jazz, pop and Indian classical music. 

“Awaken, My Love!” by Childish Gambino (2016) Even if this album contained only the smash hit single “Red Bone,” it would still be on my top three; Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) is just a genius!  

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