Things I Loved in 2008
Friday, January 02, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Well, 2008 has come and gone, which means it's time for the annual publishing of "Top 10 of the year" lists from all the regular sources. Looking at the Onion AV Club's Top 30 albums of the year list, I came to realize that I'm totally, tragically, un-hip. I haven't listened to more than 2-3 albums on that list. I also have a full time job and a social life, and therefore have not managed to consume 100% of the content released for any given pop culture genre. I haven't seen every movie released, or played every game.

So, rather than act like an expert on any given topic, instead I'm going to share with you things I loved this year, regardless of when they came out. It's a strictly personal series of Top 5-10 lists, but perhaps some of you may enjoy it (and even find an overlooked gem or two that you might want to check out for yourself). Here goes:

Top Video Games I Loved This Year
I usually don't buy games brand new. I usually just can't justify spending $60 for a game for the privilege of having it on launch day. I know that if I wait around 6-12 months, I can get the game for 50% off (or greater). So, several titles I have been playing the crap out of this year were actually released last year. Also - fyi, I own an Xbox 360, a gaming PC, and a Wii (that's been gathering dust for 6+ months now).
  1. Team Fortress 2. Not a new game to the video game world in general (it was released as part of Valve's amazing Orange Box last year), but new to me. I, like perhaps many people, had ignored TF2 in lieu of the more highly praised Portal and Half Life 2 series. But once I got around to exploring this little gem, I never left again. I've been playing consistently for over 8 months now, with plans to play well into the new year. I say this as a person who isn't generally interested in multiplayer games online.
  2. Mass Effect. I've spoken at length about why I love this game, so just go read the old posts, if you need a refresher on my opinions. Now I can't wait for ME2. I would totally wait in line to buy Mass Effect 2 the day it releases.
  3. Left 4 Dead. Again, I've raved about this game before. However, I violated my rule about buying full price games, only to see the title drop to $30 (from the $50 I paid) on Amazon a month after I bought my copy.
  4. Rock Band 2. I bought the Guitar Hero World Tour just for the instruments (guitar = A+, drums = A when they work and D- when they don't), and haven't played GH:WT since the first day I brought it home. Harmonix demonstrated yet again that they're such a saavy, fan-focused company by improving on 90% of user complaints from RB1, allowing users to port over all their songs from RB1 into RB2, and by continuing to release new song packs every single week.
  5. Bioshock. A brilliant game that won tons of Game of the Year honors when it was first released. I got it for Xmas last year and got into it in early 2008. Just amazing.
  6. Auditorium. Is this free flash game really a "game" or just an amazing artistic experience? I don't know, but boy, it's addictive not only as a puzzle, but as a music and visual generator.
  7. Texas Hold 'Em - Zune edition. This is awesome, because 1) it's free via the Zune marketplace, 2) well-designed, 3) utterly addictive.
Top Movies I Loved This Year
Unlike some other categories, such as music, books and video games, I do keep up on the movie scene from year to year. Here are the films I've seen this year that I really enjoyed. Also, please note that there are several films "released" in 2008 that I can't comment on, as they are only playing in enough theaters to qualify for Oscar noms.
  1. Iron Man. I'm not a huge Robert Downey Jr. fan, but the man was born to play arrogant playboy Tony Stark. A fantastic superhero movie, with Jon Favreau rewarding comic book fans by taking the radical step (*gasp!*) of actually respecting the source material. The clever dialogue popped effortlessly, and the special effects were amazing - I felt like I was really watching a guy fly around in a suit, not some computer generated bot.
  2. The Dark Knight. Though I felt the movie had its flaws, there's no denying that Heath Ledger's performance took The Joker in directions few could have imagined, thus forever defining the role (and making it near impossible to ever cast another actor in the role).
  3. Wall-E. Is there anything Pixar CAN'T do?
  4. Cloverfield. Okay, so the camera work made me want to barf. And some sections suffered from "BlairWitch-itis" where the characters get a little too shrill for a little too long. However, you can't deny that that was one awesome monster. It was also a better 9/11 movie than any "official" 9/11 tale released since that fateful day, truly capturing the sheer terror citizens must have felt.
  5. Bigger, Stronger, Faster*. A hypnotic look at steroids from all sides of the argument. The filmmaker has two brothers who use steroids, yet resists the temptation to either endorse or condemn their stance.
  6. Zak and Miri Make A Porno. This choice will probably be criticized, and most people rank comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall higher. However, this is the one comedy that really sticks with me, and joins "Chasing Amy" in my list of favorite Kevin Smith films. It's not for everyone (it's unbelievably vulgar), but there's a lot of heart in this one.
  7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army. I love Ron Perlman, who brings humor and heart to everyone's favorite demonic red guy.
  8. Role Models. I don't approve of people putting random apostrophes in their children's names, but Bob'be Thompson is a young star who steals this movie out from underneath his 3 co-stars.
Movies I still need to see that might make this list: Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, Gran Torino, Milk, Doubt (I loved the play version, so if it's even 80% as good as that, consider this movie on the list for sure), Revolutionary Road.

Shows I Loved This Year
Yes, yes, I know that Lost has apparently had a good run of it, but I'm just not going to bite, so don't email me about how great it was this year.
  1. 30 Rock. I f'ing love this show. Hands down, this is the show I look forward to the most each week. When it's not airing new episodes, I'm more than happy to rewatch old episodes over and over again. I could write a whole post about all the things I love about this show, but really - why isn't every single person in America watching this fantastic show? If you somehow missed the boat, check out the episode "Rosemary's Baby" for sheer comic perfection.
  2. Battlestar Galactica. While not quite as soulful and shocking as Season 3, Season 4 was still chock full of goodness. If you didn't squee and/or tear up at the reunion of Admiral Adama and President Roslin, you have a heart of stone. When they look back at the annals of TV history, and decide the largest crimes against TV, the total lack of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for this breathtaking drama will rank at the top of that list.
  3. Damages. Now THAT'S how you do a serial-drama right. Even though we were shown the "ending" within the pilot episode, this tense thriller kept you guessing right up to the explosive finale. Glenn Close was spellbinding as cut-throat Patty Hewes, crafting a portrait of a determined, powerful and relentless woman, while still giving her enough soft edges and surprising moments of vulnerability to keep her from being a one-note villian. Plus, we got to see Ted Danson banging a prostitute while snorting coke, which was just insane to watch.
  4. Mad Men. Again, there's not enough adjectives in the world to express how incredible this show is. Some of our favorite secondary characters got some great fleshing out this year, particularly poor closeted Salvatore. It was also the year of the woman, with the 3 female leads all getting great material to work with. The last episode left us screaming for more, particularly the Peggy/Pete scene at the end. Tragically, we have to wait for what feels like an eternity to get to next season.
  5. True Blood. There were some clunky moments (and clunky accents) in this, but boy was this a fun show to watch.
  6. Dexter. The season started slow, but paid off big in the end, with Jimmy Smits really acting the crap out of his guest starring spot.
  7. The Office. Like most people, I hated that they kept Jim and Pam apart this season. However, the on-going Andy/Dwight/Angela triangle has been comic (and dramatic) gold this season. The showrunners may have shot themselves in the foot by bringing on Amy Ryan as Michael's new love interest, since she was so fantastic in the role, fans are now at a frenzy to have her return. Is Amy Ryan's star too bright for her to accept a permanent role in the show? I hope not, because I too will be forced to riot if Holly doesn't come back to Scranton soon.
  8. Venture Brothers. This Hanna Barbara cartoon parody is hilarious. This season we got some nifty backstories for our main characters, plus Brock Samson decapitating a henchman using a shark. A shark wearing an aloha shirt. Yeah. If you can roll with that image, you're gonna love this show too.
  9. Pushing Daisies. Goddamn you, ABC network execs, for killing this wonderful show.
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On 2:11 PM , John M said...

Tammy and I are both a bit ticked about demise of Pushing Daisies too. It was one of the few shows that we both dug. Funny, original and unique. They should have at least wrapped it up with an episode where Ned accidentally bumps Chuck then burns down the pie hole in his grief.

On 9:52 AM , Johnathon Sykes said...