Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things from 2008

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.

2008 1

2008 2

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.

Jason Statham:
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.

Mulder? Scully?:
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).


Tony Dayoub said...


As my own list will soon demonstrate, Rambo, The Bank Job, Iron Man and The Wrestler are definitely worth a look.

Loved the X-Files and Hellboy sequels also, evne though they didn't make it into my top tier of 2008.

Tim Lucas said...

I'm humbled and honored to see my work here, among so many other artists and works I admire. Thank you, Jeremy.

Kotto said...

as you'd expect from two humans, we seem to agree and disagree on about as much.

the wrestler was my favorite US film in 2008 and rourke has almost everything to do with that as you'll see in my post.

didn't mind x-files (although it just felt like a top-notch episode, not a movie), but disliked hellboy a LOT.

really not sure why you or any others are so impressed with VCB. in my mind, it's just another allen retread. this was the 2nd most overrated movie of the year for me.

rambo is #2 in the franchise with a bullet, but wasn't something that blew me away (no pun intended).

my #1 overrated movie of the year was slumdog millionaire. loved the first half, hated the second.

2008 had a lot of good, middle of the road movies for me, but was nowhere near 2007 was for instant classics.

2008's most underrated movie for me was burn after reading, which suffered from the initial fate lebowski had. overshadowed by NCFOM, BAR was a deceptively genius black comedy that i think will be revered like lebowski over time.

stay tuned for my year end top 5 or 10...if i can find 10 i loved, then so be it.

BTW, i finally landed a copy of diva. still no luck on MITG though.

Kotto said...

one last thing, thanks for giving props again to 2-Lane Blacktop. For years this has been one of my favorite US films. i can't help but gush over this classic/contemporary western.

Lastyear said...

Agree somwhat with most of your choices although Rambo makes my list as worst film of the year. Can't find anything to like about it, spent most of time while watching it pondering Stallone's HGH enlarged head. Bizarre.

Derek said...

What a fabulous surprise to see my book listed as well. Thank you very much, Jeremy.


Keith said...

Hey Jeremy. Great post. I definitely agree with you on these things. There is so much that was wonderful in 2008.

By the way, I tagged you in a meme that I created myself. I hope you will check it out and participate in it. I know you've been busy, but I hope you'll be able to find the time. I'd love to see your choices. Thanks so much.

Cheers! Keith

Keith said...

P.S. I forgot to mention that the meme is on my Dino Lounge blog.

hansa25 said...

I'm so glad that someone else loves the Goldfrapp album. I'd be losing a lot more, now, if I were to lose my iPod. Great stuff, again, Jeremy. Hans.

Bob Turnbull said...

I love posts like these - not necessarily top 10, but a grab bag of things that catch our attention.

I've been curious about the Portishead as I have their previous two, but I think you just sold me with that YouTube link. That sounded great.

Less convinced on the Goldfrapp side, but there was enough there to warrant another listen. There's potential.

"Two Lane Blacktop" - boy, I need to see this again I guess...It just didn't reasonate with me at all. I didn't like or care about the characters and some of the acting was just terrible. But...I've said before about other films that there may be good reasons to allow for certain elements that may appear inferior and that it may be OK for things like style to trump something like acting. With so many people whose opinions I respect liking this film, I'll have to return to it someday.

Aimee Mann - I love her music. I haven't picked this one up either, but it's a no-brainer. I just watched Magnolia again the other night and it meshes with her music so incredibly well - "One", "Momentum" (my fave), "Wise Up" and that closer "Save Me".

Though the X-Files movie plot didn't quite grab me (some neat ideas that I thought lost their way a bit), the characters were as great as always. I loved how they moved through the film and where they ended up.

That Derek Hill book will also be mine one day.

As for Olga...Well, she's not unattractive is she?

Steve Langton said...

Enjoyed reading your list, and a nice idea with regard to your approach. Like you, I'm a fan of the X Files movie and have a feeling we haven't seen the last of Mulder and Scully on the big screen. Also enjoyed Rambo more than the other films in this franchise, but hated Iron Man. Have yet to see/hear/read the other stuff in your post, which is down to cash rather than lack of interest in any of them. I guess Tim's book is number one on my list (still in awe of the Bava book), and look forward to renting the titles you mentioned. With you all the way re Olga. Awesome.

Jeremy Richey said...

I look forward to your list...glad you enjoyed some of this stuff as well.

Thanks Tim,
Your book was absolutely one of the essential releases of the year. Any sort of year end best of list should include it. Thanks for all your support.

Thanks Kotto for the comments...I will check out those links you offered and look forward to your list as well. I have still yet to see Slumdog...oh, and no problem on the Two-Lane mention. I was thrilled to see it get such a great release finally.

Thanks LastYear,
Of the films I have listed here, it seems that Rambo and VCB are the two that cause the biggest splits in taste.

No problem Derek, I love the book and was happy to highlight it again here. Thanks again...

Thanks Keith,
I will check that meme out...sorry about my lack of comments. It's just been a busy time.

Thanks Hansa...I love the Goldfrapp album. Absolutely love it. In fact she is batting a 1,000for me with no slip ups yet.

Thanks Bob for the comments. Glad this came across as not being a typical 'best of' list as I don't feel I can make one of those right now.
As for seems to be one of those love it or hate it films. It hits me with an emotional punch few films match, but you are not alone in your complaints. I hope you will give it another go someday and the extras on the Criterion set are just dynamite.
Also, always nice to read positive words on Magnolia, a film I adore.

Thanks Steve for your continuing comments and support. Tim's book is terrific and, yes, Olga is awesome.

Larry Aydlette said...

Oddly enough, even though I actually happen to know the people Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston play in Marley and Me, it's the news that Dennis' music is in the movie that will now have me going to see it.

I've long been a DW fanatic. Glad to see there are others.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Larry,
Only one song is featured in the film but it's used very effectively. After years of any of this music being virtually impossible to hear it was quite moving to hear part of it played in a big blockbuster film.
Btw...I know Marley and Me has gotten a mixed reaction but I found it to be a winner. I can't comment on how it compares to the book or real life family but it worked for me (as a film and animal lover).
Thanks again...