It’s time for this week’s Whatever, and please feel free to go back and contribute to past installments.
I’m still working hard on my review of The Dark Knight, which has been delayed because I spent my weekend beating deadlines for real publications. (Not that my own little website here isn’t real, but you know what I mean.)
And I loved The Dark Knight so much, and I have so much to say about it, that I don’t want to sell it short with a review that isn’t worthy of it.
So, I’m working on it.
In the meantime, let’s do this:
What are the five best movies you’ve seen so far this year?
(Click here for a list of everything that’s been out this year if you need to jog your memory.)
1. The Dark Knight
I’ve been thrilled by movies. I’ve been moved by movies. I’ve never seen one that did both of those things to me as capably and as confidently as this modern-day masterpiece.
2. The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Given how badly the TV show ended, I was terrified about this one. But this beautiful, moving movie was exactly what I needed. “The truth is out there,” but this is more concerned with the truths within: conscience and faith, forgiveness, hope, and a whole lot of love in the face of paralyzing darkness and doubt. The investigation is gruesome and massively disturbing, but it’s secondary. This movie is all about Fox William Mulder and Dr. Dana Katherine Scully. Believe it.
3. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Make no mistake. This is not Mike Mignola’s Hellboy from the comics. It’s Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy as lovingly endorsed by Mike Mignola, and that’s okay by me. It’s fun, it’s funny, and it has lots more action, monsters, and imagination than the first one. (And the scene where Hellboy and Abe drown their sorrows in beer and Barry Manilow is an instant classic.)
4. Iron Man
This movie is fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, thanks to Jon Favreau’s smart presentation and Robert Downey Jr.’s massively charismatic performance.
5. The Incredible Hulk
Though not as fun as Iron Man, it’s just as good in different ways. Respectful of the spirit of the television series (with crowd-pleasing cameos by Lou Ferrigno and even Bill Bixby) but action-packed in the spirit of the early comics, it’s a lean, mean movie that moves well and features stellar work by Ed Norton and Liv Tyler.
Honorable mentions: Despite how unapologetically vicious it is, Rambo is actually a very beautiful movie. I was bothered by some technical things about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but Harrison Ford was every bit as Indiana Jones as he’s ever been. Get Smart was a lot of fun, too, with a surprising amount of truly thrilling action. Well done, Steve Carell.
And since I didn’t do a Whatever on either of the weeks I was on vacation, here’s a bonus question:
What are the five best albums you’ve bought so far in 2008?
(And if you haven’t seen five movies or bought five records, just tell me about the ones you’ve liked. Just make sure they were released in 2008.)
1. Kay Hanley: Weaponize
Letters to Cleo graduates Kay Hanley (vocals and lyrics) and USA Mike (production and guitars) — partners in marriage, music, and massive amounts of amazing — are back and better than ever with a dazzling rock record that will blow your socks so far off that you’ll never find them again. Just go to Kay’s MySpace and listen to “Think Bad Thoughts” and try to tell me I’m wrong. What’s that? You can’t? I thought so. And when Nina Gordon drops by to lay down some sunny backing vocals on “Cellars by Starlight,” well, that’s about as sweet as it gets.
2. Glen Phillips: Secrets of the New Explorers
Toad the Wet Sprocket’s singer and songwriter blasts off into new orbits with this always beautiful, sometimes quirky, ever-brilliant space-themed exploration of self, life, and love in the great beyond.
3. Neil Diamond: Home Before Dark
This warm, weathered album really helped me put some bad times into perspective earlier this year, and it gets better with every listen. Natalie Maines shows up on the gorgeous duet “Another Day (That Time Forgot),” and the rollicking “Forgotten” should be required listening for anyone who’s been dumped. Brilliant stuff. A lot of this album sounds like it could be stripped-down acoustic versions of songs Neil would have written back at the absolute height of his talent and popularity, and I hope he’s got another one as good as this one in him. What am I saying? Of course he does. He’s Neil Diamond.
4. Old 97’s: Blame It on Gravity
Rhett Miller and the boys ride again, and they’re above and beyond the top of their game with this bold, boozy, brilliant collection that’ll leave you dancing and smiling and begging for more. I can’t get enough of it.
5. She & Him: Volume I
Blue-eyed beauty Zooey Deschanel sings the songs with earnest charm, and M. Ward makes sure the music sounds like a love-letter to old-school California AM radio pop. My favorite song is the string-laden bopper “Sweet “Darlin’,” co-written by Deschanel and Jason Schwartzman.
The album I’m most looking forward to in the second half of 2008 is Jonatha Brooke’s The Works, featuring a duet with Glen Phillips (and they’re also touring together, so please go see that if you can) called “Sweetest Angel” that I can’t wait to hear.
And … your turn!