I’ve decided to not attempt any kind of regular ‘best of’ list for 2008, due to the fact that there are still so many quality films and albums I haven’t been able to see or hear. Instead I thought I would just compile a quick list of things that thrilled, interested, entertained and gave me a million and one jolts this past year. 2008 had its rough spots for me personally but all of these films, actors, collections, books and albums made the trip a little easier.
In no particular order:
Mickey Rourke Finally Gets His Due:
Even if Mickey Rourke doesn’t win an Oscar for The Wrestler, the reception granted to his performance from the critics and the public has been overwhelming and, for many folks my age who grew up adoring and idolizing him, incredibly heartwarming.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona:
The stone cold classic a lot of Woody Allen fans have been waiting for, and still easily my favorite film of the year.
The Return of Portishead:
It was incredible enough to have Bristol’s best back on vinyl, but the fact that the long awaited 3rd proved to be so masterful, audacious and unexpected was absolutely thrilling.
James Franco in Pineapple Express:
Count me in with the folks who consider David Gordon Green’s newest film as one of the years best, and few performances had more of an impact as Franco’s delightful and hilarious turn that already feels like a legend in the making.
Sylvester Stallone Shows You Can Go Home (again):
Two years after the masterful Rocky Balboa gave a more than fitting and elegiac farewell to Sly’s most beloved character, Rambo proved to be a an absolutely ferocious and jaw dropping return for his most misunderstood persona. I'm still recovering...
That Goldfrapp Cover (and the music inside is just as great):
I posted early in the year about how mesmerizing I found the cover shot was of Alison Goldfrapp on her pivotal fourth album Seventh Tree. Well, after nearly a year spent listening to it I can now say safely that the music contained within Seventh Tree can stand with the finest of the decade and is easily among Alison’s best.
Tim Lucas Keeps the New Flesh Alive:
Tim Lucas' probing, entertaining, and essential book, Videodrome: Studies in the Horror Film is the absolute treat many of us knew it would be. It's hard to imagine my Criterion set now without this valuable, intelligent and pssionate literary companion.
Criterion’s Two Lane Blacktop set:
One of America’s finest films finally gets proper treatment with this splendid double disc set that is among the finest the mighty Criterion have ever delivered.
I seriously can’t get enough Jason Statham and 2008 was a huge year for him, with a career best performance in the terrific The Bank Job starting things off and two more infectiously charming and ass kicking turns in Death Race and Transporter 3 delivering the bloody cherry on top.
The Double Disc Set of Elvis Presley’s That’s the Way it Is:
Follow That Dream’s extraordinary CD collection offers up the original masterpiece in never bettered sound along with dozens of mind-blowing rare and unreleased outtakes. Heartbreaking, exquisite and vocally never bettered by Elvis or anyone else for that matter.
Kate Beckinsale, Actress:
Anyone who has seen Kate’s earliest British performances can attest to what an incredibly thoughtful and effective actress she is, a fact that has made her American career all the harder to swallow. Thankfully this year, with Snow Angels and Nothing by the Truth, Kate is finally getting the chance to show off her considerable skills for American audiences.
Aimee Mann’s Finest Hour:
With a lot of heavy competition, Aimee Mann’s newest album is still my favorite of the year and twenty five years into her career it might very well prove to be her finest.
Derek Hill's Charlie Kaufman and Hollywood's Merry Band of Pranksters, Fabulists and Dreamers: An Excursion Into the American New Wave:
Derek was kind enough to grant Moon in the Gutter an exclusive Q&A earlier in the year, and his book turned out to be a real winner. Sharply written, intelligent and infectiously readable, Derek's great book will be remembered as on of the first key studies on what will someday be regarded as a pivotal movement in American cinema.
Men of Good Fortune Live:
Lou Reed’s stunning DVD and Live CD of Berlin is masterful all the way through but special kudos have to be given to the live take of track number three on the legendary record. I am still attempting to recover from the brutal guitar solo at the end that instantly takes its place as one of the great Lou Reed moments on record.
Elizabeth Banks Kicks Out The Jams:
Prolific, tireless, hilarious and, with the one-two combination of W. and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, incredibly versatile, I can’t get enough of the infectious (and quite unlike anyone else) Banks.
I stand firmly behind my support of Chris Carter’s brave and heartfelt return to The X-Files and am still grateful everyone got together to revisit my favorite series for what appears to be the last time.
"I Am Iron-Man":
The untouchable Robert Downey Jr’s resurrection has been amazing to watch, and nowhere was it more exhilarating than in the final moments of Iron Man, a role that I would love to see Downey getting more kudos for.
In Plain Sight:
This terrifically engaging USA Out Of Sight/Karen Sisco inspired series gave me the opportunity to watch Mary McCormick each week over the summer, and I look forward to the privilege again in 2009.
Olga Kurylenko in Quantum of Solace:
Never mind all the debate about the film, I still find Olga’s performance to be among the strongest and most moving in the Bond Canon (and let’s face it, following Eva Green would have been an impossible feat for even the most experienced actor).
Jess Franco Gets a Goya:
Spain’s most maverick director finally got some respect from his home country when he received a life-time achievement award that has previously been given to several key filmmakers he has had a huge influence on, including Pedro Almodovar.
The Wonderfully Monotone World of Scarlett Johansson:
I am absolutely in love with Scarlett's deliberately cold but emotionally resonate delivery she has has perfected in the past few years, and found her much maligned work (on film and vinyl) in 2008 to be among the year's most enduring treasures.
The last shot of HellBoy 2:
I got a huge rush out of Del Toro’s great sequel as a whole but something in the film’s last couple of shots between Selma Blair and Ron Perlman continues to resonate strongly with me. A tribute perhaps to both his wonderful actors, but even more so to Del Toro’s wonderfully unique and individualistic vision that has a real heart and goodness at the center of it.
Heath Ledger’s Joker:
I suspect and hope that Heath will win The Oscar for his haunting and mesmerizing turn in the year’s biggest film, and he deserves it. Many of us still can't comprehend his loss and his Joker instantly took its place as one of the screen's most original and audacious characters.
The Marco Ferreri Collection:
Who could have predicted that one of Italy’s most intriguing and sometimes infamous characters would get a mammoth Region I Box set like this? Every film is an jaw-dropping winner and finally having the full version of Bye Bye Monkey is cause for celebration.
Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue:
I’ve been in love with this album for many years, but hearing it sound so great and presented so lovingly was a chilling and moving experience. Wilson’s music remains so fresh, and so alive, and it feels like it could push into the mainstream at any moment (it’s currently featured very effectively in the solid Marley and Me, where it is no doubt causing many audience members to stay through the end credits for the song list).