Film

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

PopMatters continues our week-long special highlighting the best TV, film and DVD of the past year with the Top 30 DVDs of 2008 and the Top 10 Film 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 Kath and Kim) 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 is 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
By the Book

Jack Halberstam's 'Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire' (excerpt)

Enjoy this excerpt of Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, wherein Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the 20th century.

Jack Halberstam
Music

Sotto Voce's 'Your Husband, the Governor' Is Beautifully Twisted DIY Indie Folk-rock

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Gabos releases another odd, gorgeous home studio recording under the moniker Sotto Voce.

Music

Numün's 'voyage au soleil' Is a Trippy, Ambient Ride and Ambitious Debut

Eclectic instrumental trio numün combine a wealth of influences to create a vibe that's both spacey and earthy on voyage au soleil.

Music

L7's 'Smell the Magic' Is 30 and Packs a Feminist Punch

Abortion is under threat again, and there's a sex offender in the Oval Office. A fitting time, in short, to crank up the righteously angry vocals of feminist hard rock heavy hitters like L7.

Books

Can Queer Studies Rescue American Universities?

Matt Brim's Poor Queer Studies underscores the impact of poorer disciplines and institutions, which often do more to translate and apply transformative intellectual ideas in the world than do their ivory-tower counterparts.

Music

Jim White Offers a "Smart Ass Reply" (premiere)

Jesus and Alice Cooper are tighter than you think, but a young Jim White was taught to treat them as polar opposites. Then an eight-track saved his soul and maybe his life.

Music

Ed Harcourt Paints From 'Monochrome to Colour'

British musician Ed Harcourt's instrumental music is full of turbulent swells and swirls that somehow maintain a dignified beauty on Monochrome to Colour.

Music

West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".

Culture

Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.

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

Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".

Music

Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.

Music

Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.

Music

The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.

Music

Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.

Books

For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?

Music

Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".


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.