Our Picks: The Most Entertaining Web Videos of 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
The viral Web is infinitely vast, highly personal and totally ephemeral. A video that enthralls one viewer perplexes another, and either way it's replaced within hours by a new meme. Talking cats give way to precocious toddlers give way to Barack Rolling. So in a fragmented medium with something for everyone, the most astounding alignment is when there's one thing for everyone, when for a single moment the whole country seems to be laughing, groaning and forwarding the same thing.
Here's a recap of some of the best -- silly, meaningful, meaningless -- of what landed in your in-box in 2008.
(Be warned: A few of these videos contain language not appropriate for minors or office computers.)
Tom Cruise and Anonymous
Way back in January, before he made nice with Matt Lauer, Tom Cruise was still Creepy Tom -- a state of being exemplified nowhere better than this leaked Scientology promo video. Cruise rambles, he cackles, he avoids proper nouns and he proclaims himself "the only one who can really help" at car accident scenes.
It was classic unhinged celebrity voyeurism, but the story got really interesting when a group calling itself "Anonymous" posted a response video, in which it vowed to bring down the Church of Scientology. The two minutes of eerie digital voice-over eventually led to real-life protests in more than 100 cities.
Will.I.Am's 'Yes We Can'
How do you choose a political video in a year that just kept on giving? Do you go with the high concept (the Obama/McCain dance-off)? The topical ("Wassup 2008")? Or do you just go with Sarah Palin pardoning one turkey while another is decapitated in the background?
In the end, we went with Will.I.Am's "Yes We Can." Slick, yes, but a stirring videotorial that helped unify Generation Obama. With nearly 15 million views, it's hard to argue the impact.
Single Men Do Single Ladies
Seemed that nothing could be more euphoric than watching Beyoncé strut her butt off in the music video "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)."
But then came all the boys. The boys and their leotards. We're not talking "SNL's" Justin Timberlake/Andy Samberg flabby version; that came after. We're talking fierce, fierce dancing, filmed in bedrooms and studio apartments. We're talking Shane Mercado, wearing what looks like two pieces of dental floss.
Re-creating music videos is an art (how many ways can Soulja Boy be cranked?) and this -- worshiping, improving, sassifying the original -- represents the best of it.
Cellphones and Popcorn
Did anyone really believe that pointing four cellphones at kernels of corn would pop them? Probably not, and debunking memos began circulating online just days after the originals -- in many languages -- appeared in June. This video went viral not because we thought it was true but because it tapped into the paranoia and guilt of our dependence on technology. We shuddered to think of cellphones frying our brains, then we used our cellphones to forward the video to everyone we knew.