Decade in Review - ARTS: Pop! Goes the culture

Ten of the last 10 years' most entertaining memories


On Sept. 2, 2001, Cartoon Network began an experiment with low-budget, grown-up themed programming called Adult Swim. In just a few years, the late-night animation block cultivated a passionate (if often stoned) following of college students and DVD collectors. Shows such as "Sealab 2021," "The Venture Bros." and "Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law" established a fresh, zeitgeist-defining comedic voice driven by dark slapstick and non-sequiturs, while reruns of "Futurama" revived the show canceled by Fox. Adult Swim's topsy-turvy rules spilled into the real world when 2007 promotional ads in Boston of the alien Mooninites, meant to hype the upcoming Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, were mistaken for terrorist bombs. Oops. – Curt Holman


Emory University kicked its global literary credentials up several notches with the acquisitions of papers of such prestigious authors as Nobel-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney, British poet laureate Ted Hughes (both in 2003) and The Color Purple author Alice Walker in 2007. The 2007 unsealing of some of Flannery O'Connor's correspondence set off few fireworks, but the university's grandest "get" of the decade turned out to be Salman Rushdie's stint as author in residence (2007-2012), allowing the Satanic Verses novelist to pop in, teach classes, and diss Slumdog Millionaire. – Holman


Speaking of O'Connor, character actor/filmmaker Ray McKinnon seemed to channel the spirit of the darkly comic Milledgeville author with his short film "The Accountant," which debuted at the Atlanta Film Festival in 2000, won the 2001 Oscar for Best Short Film, and happens to be one of the best depictions of the South you'll ever see. Over the course of the decade, the Atlanta Film Festival has shared the spotlight with a plethora of other cinematic events, including the Atlanta Underground Film Festival, Atlanta Asian Film Festival, DocuFest, Film Love, Atlanta Horror Film Festival, Urban Mediamakers Film Festival, Out on Film and the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. That's a lot of movies. – Holman


In 2008, the Alliance Theatre's August Wilson Full Circle double feature marked the end of several eras. Former artistic director Kenny Leon, who directed the Broadway debuts of the late Wilson's final plays, returned to the Alliance for The Gem of the Ocean, while then-associate artistic director Kent Gash helmed Radio Golf, two scripts that bookend the Pulitzer-winning playwright's 10-play cycle about the African-American experience in the 20th century. The Gem of the Ocean in particular was a must-see play that brought closure to Leon's tenure with the Alliance in the 1980s and '90s. – Holman


It's hard to believe that Atlanta's Plaza Theatre and the movie Gone With the Wind debuted in the same year, but both first attracted moviegoers in 1939. Now in its 70th year, the Plaza has been reborn as a special event repertory theater, featuring such unexpected delights as the so-bad-it's-brilliant The Room, the Movie and an Art Opening series, and the Silver Scream Spook Show. For a lucky few, one of the best evenings at the venerable yet charmingly scruffy moviehouse was the 2007 advance screening of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse, a double feature that offered both a hoot and a holler. – Holman


Marietta-based graphic novel publisher Top Shelf Productions inched closer to the big time in the past decade with such publications as Craig Thompsons' critically acclaimed, autobiographical Blankets (2003), and the sci-fi tale The Surrogates by Robert Venditti (2005-2006), adapted as an action flick for Bruce Willis. Most impressively, Top Shelf became the primary American publisher for one of the medium's greatest talents, English visionary Alan Moore (best known for Watchmen). In addition to reprinting Moore's epic Jack the Ripper tale From Hell and launching new chapters of his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series beginning in 2009, Top Shelf published Lost Girls (2007), an erotic tome featuring characters suspiciously similar to the heroines of Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. – Holman


The 2000s were the decade of the Zombie, mostly in movies like 28 Days Later but even in books from World War Z to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Georgia served as the backdrop for several zombie-themed film productions, including the big-budget Zombieland (2009), the high school comedy Dance of the Dead (2008) and the indie horror flick The Signal (in which the crazed marauders aren't technically undead), an entry in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. A summer 2004 screening of the English comedy Shaun of the Dead on the eve of Dragon*Con took the grisly genre to giddy heights. – Holman


The Decatur Book Festival bears the proud title of largest independent book festival in the country – so maybe you can judge the DBF by its cover. Since its 2006 debut, the event has become one of the local calendar's most anticipated cultural events. Live readings? Check. Poetry? You betcha. Free entry for tens of thousands of bibliophiles? Oh, yeah. The 2009 festival showcased more than 300 authors over Labor Day weekend, making the small Atlanta suburb a major player in the national lit scene. – Holman


At the start of the decade, Atlanta's performing arts theaters were hurting, with several teetering on the brink of closure. Riding to the rescue in 2001 and 2002, respectively, were the Loridans Foundation and the anonymous Kendeda Fund, which were created to dole out private grants to ailing arts groups. And in 2003, Mayor Shirley Franklin helped launch what would become the Metro Atlanta Arts & Culture Coalition, a publicly backed, regional arts advocacy organization that sponsors the AtlantaPlanIt website. – Scott Henry


The decade has brought big changes for classical music fans. Despite a resurgence in opera's popularity, the Atlanta Opera was forced to leave the Fox Theatre and downsize staff – including longtime music director William Fred Scott – under the weight of a $2 million deficit. Now a tenant of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, the Atlanta Opera celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2009. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has gained international attention under conductor Robert Spano, who came on board in 2001. In addition to notching Grammy wins, Spano has been an effective champion of contemporary composers such as celebrated Argentinean Osvaldo Golijov and Atlanta's own Jennifer Higdon. – Henry

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