My year end list is somewhat hampered; my old laptop was stolen back in June, and so half a year's worth of new music and movies disappeared. Out of sight, out of mind.
As usual, this is a list of things I encountered for the first time in 2008, not necessarily material produced in 2008.
The Dark Knight - A completely obvious choice for best movie of the year. I know there was something of a backlash, and it has always had its haterz, but these people are wrong. This movie showcased Oscar worthy performances and the final action scene with the Joker is the most perfectly crafted superhero action scene ever. Perhaps not as spectacular as X-Men 2's opening White House scene, but far more intelligent.
There Will Be Blood - A 2007 movie that I saw perhaps a week after writing my 2007 best-of list. This movie is an absolute tour-de-force. Every last second was engaging; I was either staring in awe or laughing and clapping, overcome by movie's sheer power. Good stuff.
That's all for movies, I guess. I just can't think of any others I really liked. Death Race?
The Wire - If I had to find a comparison for this series, it would be The Lord of the Rings. Vast, epic, sprawling. This is the finest series ever to appear on television, and I have a difficult time believing it will be topped anytime soon - at least, in terms of the series as a whole. The finest single episode ever is from...
The Shield - Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare have been compared to one another by saying that if Shakespeare is the high-minded, carefully crafted Beatles, then Marlowe is the gritty, working class rock of The Rolling Stones. This works for the Wire and the Shield - the Wire might have Shakespearan perfection, but the Shield brings the badass ownage at every turn. The final three hours of the series are the best 3 hours of television ever, topping any single episodes of the Wire. It is absolutely necessary to protect yourself from spoilers.
30 Rock - Tina Fey stars as a non-threatening nerdy sex symbol. All sorts of liberal anxiety surrounding race. My praise for this show: at least once an episode, every episode, I laugh out loud, while alone, while sober.
Mad Men - The early 60's period piece about ad execs. Part of the appeal is certainly the feeling of cultural superiority we get from watching clips like the ones I linked to, but these screwy moments are surrounding by fantastic acting, writing and visuals. Highly enjoyable.
After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency by Quentin Meillassoux. Deleuze claims that real thought only takes place in response to a shock; this book delievers a few hundred volts. Usually when I come across something I disagree with, I have one of two responses: I can dismiss it as stupid and wrong, or I can search for a way to make peace with the idea. Incorporate it into my standing opinions, re-interpretting the idea. It is very rare that I come across something that resists both of those options; Meillassoux is telling me that I am wrong, completely wrong (and on fundamental issues to boot) and I suspect he might be right. I still don't know what to do with this book.
Difference and Repetition by Gilles Deleuze. I'm starting to think of this book as a guide to intellectual anarchy. His smackdown of common sense is refreshing. Good fun.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. I'll simply link to my review of the book.
I'm going to take more time and do more reading this year. This past year was a clusterfuck for me, in a lot of ways.
Half a year's worth of new music disappeared back in June, so this is a truncated list.
Skeletal Lamping by Of Montreal. The over-the-top-band that has replaced The Flaming Lips in my crazy catagory. I liked their previous album more, but this one has plenty of fun to be had.
Gogol Bordello. No particular album. Just watch this, and imagine them on a stage twice the size, singing and dancing insanely like that for two hours. Best concert I've ever seen. I can only imagine the horrible damage the lead singing is wreaking on this vocal cords, but you know what? Good on 'em (and admit it, those two girls are hot).
New category. Find all of these on Itunes.
The History of Rome - A witty, charming recap of Roman history from the beginning to the end. On-going. This is my favorite podcast.
BBC's Ideas - Informative discussions on everything ranging from Spinoza to the Romantic Poets to the Great London Fire to late 19th century British/German relations.
CBC Radio 3 - An hour of fantastic Canadian music. Now is a good time to jump in, given that their best-of-the-year stuff is now out.
Another new category.
Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett. High flying cosmic adventures starring characters rehabilitated in the amazing Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest. Funny dialogue and great art.
Homunculus by Hideo Yamamoto. The follow-up manga from the creator of my favorite comic, Ichi the Killer. A man gains the supernatural ability to see the physical manifestations of people's personalities. Insanity ensues.
There you have it.