Film

PopMatters Picks: The Best TV, Film, and DVD of 2008

PopMatters kicks off our week-long special highlighting the best TV, film and DVD of the past year with the 30 Best TV Shows of 2008 and the Top 10 TV Guilty Pleasures of 2008.

Edited by Bill Gibron / Produced by Sarah Zupko

Schedule for features...

Monday, January 12:

TV: The 30 Best TV Shows of 2008

TV: Top 10 TV Guilty Pleasures of 2008

Tuesday, January 13:

DVD: The Top 30 DVDs of 2008

FILM: Top 10 Film Guilty Pleasures of 2008

Wednesday, January 14:

FILM: The Top 20 Female Performances of 2008

FILM: The Top 20 Male Performances of 2008

Thursday, January 15:

FILM: The Top 20 Foreign/Independent Films of 2008

FILM: The 20 Worst Films of 2008

Friday, January 16:

FILM: The 30 Best Films of 2008

In 2008, there was very little gray area. Either you achieved or you didn't. Either you found a way to win over a reluctant regular viewer, ready to bail on you and everything you stand for, or you simply lost the audience forever, never to gain back their often fickle affections. Don't believe us? Look at last year's celebrated series Heroes. Who would have thought that, 12 months after sitting at number eight on PopMatters list for 2007, it wouldn't even make the '08 cut? Of course, it probably does stand as this season's biggest disappointment. Or how about Pushing Daises? Last year, it took our number one slot. This year, while it's still ranked, ABC went and canceled it. The claim, of course, was ratings. So it's clear that now, more than any other time in entertainment, studios and their overpaid suits are struggling to make sense of what a future former fan really wants. Of course, the prolonged writer's strike didn't help, but when dealing in such definites and extremes, money and market share remain monochrome.

It's the same for cinema. This was definitely a year for a love/hate reaction to what was playing at your local Bijou. Mike Myers tried to revitalize his comedy career and ended up delivering one of the year's biggest motion picture atrocities. Similarly, acting greats Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro paired up for the first time since 1995's Heat, and the resulting Righteous Kill stunk up Cineplexes from Maine to Hawaii. Thankfully, greatness didn't go unnoticed. Audiences couldn't get enough of Christopher Nolan's Batman revamp, pushing The Dark Knight ever closer to beating out billionaire Titanic for the all time top box office slot. Jon Favreau did something similar for Marvel, Robert Downey Jr., and comic book geeks everywhere with his superb Iron Man adaptation. Even Will Smith managed to take a weak superhero premise and turn it into commercial gold. Hancock was one of 2008's unexpected hits -- and it had a lot to do with the man behind the virtual mask.

Certainly you can argue over some entries that seem to sit on the fence. Was the latest installment of archeologist Indiana Jones' aging adventures really one of the year's worst, or simply a financial stop-gap for a producer who doesn't know when to quit? Does the failure of American remakes of foreign comedies (like Kim and Kath) prove that certain humor just can't translate, or does the success of HBO's Little Britain USA prove otherwise? Is the horror film really dead -- considering the number of garbage genre films currently filling theaters -- or does something like the French New Wave of nastiness (Inside, Ils) or Swedish sensation Let the Right One In still give macabre mavens reason to hope? Whatever the case, 2008 is clearly a case of no middle ground -- either you engaged the consumer with your attempt at creative invention, or you took an express elevator to direct to DVD Hell.

Hopefully, within this medium maelstrom, we can make some sense. Some of PopMatters' choices here may appear obvious. Others will definitely have you scratching your head in slack jawed disbelief. More than a couple will be controversial. Many will seem so obvious as to resemble a blatant bandwagon jump. In the end, however, each represents the staunchest staff belief in either its quality or lack thereof. There's always room for argument, but very little position for fence sitting. Either you loved WALL-E or you were bored. You thought Sex and the City: The Movie was smart and snarky, or you despised every pandering, Prada-intoned minute of it. It was just that kind of year. You either "got it" (Funny Games) or didn't (Blindness). You either cried (Marley and Me) or cringed (Star Wars: The Clone Wars). In any case, here are the picks for 2008. As with everything attached to this unsettled year, the final choices seem fairly black and white.

-- Bill Gibron


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.

Film

Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.

Music

3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".

Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.