The Whatever: Mid-2008 Movie/Music Summit

Hey, Gang,

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!


  1. Movies:

    1. The Dark Knight – DUH. ;D

    2. Iron Man – You’re right: Soooooo much fun! I really didn’t know much about Tony Stark/Iron Man comic-wise going in, but I came out a fan.

    3. Indiana Jones 4 – Whee! Not as good as the originals, but still, this was fun. This gets spot #3 for nostalgia’s sake.

    4. The Incredible Hulk – I liked it! I haven’t read a lot of Hulk and I hadn’t seen any of the old tv show … but I’m definitely a fan now, too. =)

    5. Lol, the only other 2008 movie I’ve seen so far is The Ruins, and that SUCKED. But Be Kind, Rewind is on my Netflix list, so hopefully that will be good.


    Hmm, what HAVE I bought? Okay, no special order here …

    1. The Dark Knight soundtrack – Okay, so I didn’t buy that, but I still have it. Does that count? =D Because this score rules.

    2. Coldplay – Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (Deluxe)

    I like Coldplay, and that’s that. =) Good cd. Some great songs, but really, there’s not that many on here. Still, it’s a good cd. I mean, it’s Coldplay. ;D

    3. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

    FANTASTIC cd. I’m definitely a fan of this band now, they have such an awesome sound.

    4. Weezer – The Red Room (Deluxe)

    Another great cd (by a great band), definitely check this out.

    5. Counting Crows – Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

    A good listen, but I feel the same way about this one as Coldplay: it’s not mind-blowing, but it’s still good.

  2. John says:

    Stephanie! You have excellent movie tastes. But we knew that already. I didn’t see The Ruins but I’ll never forget the text message I got from my friends Courtney and Bob, who warned me after seeing it that it was stupid and vile. Bob and I both liked the book, though. I’ll never see the movie. But you’re in for a real treat with Be Kind, Rewind. And I really like that Counting Crows album, too, but, like you said, it’s a little uneven in spots. My favorite song is “Come Around”; it’s one of the best cuts they’ve ever recorded. We’ll have to agree to disagree on Coldplay, however, given that my official policy on Coldplay is “Fuck Coldplay!”

    But I still think you’re brilliant anyway. ;)

  3. Melissa says:

    Best Movies of 2008

    1) Looking through the list, I realize that I have either not seen a lot of movies this year or the ones I saw weren’t that good. Think I will skip to albums.

    Best Albums

    1) Adele ~ 19

    I want to be Adele when I grow up.

    2) Rilo Kiley ~ Under the Blacklight

    I want to be Jenny Lewis when I grow up.

    3) Sarah Bareilles ~ Little Voice

    Love this album! Every song is a gem.

    4) Missy Higgins ~ On a Clear Night

    John, I think you’d really like her.

    5) And since I cannot think of another album, I will mention songs that are rocking my world currently:

    “American Boy” by Estelle featuring Kanye West
    “Shake It” by Metro Station
    “Give it 2 Me” by Madonna
    “L.E.S. Artiste” by Santogold

  4. dianne says:

    Well, I don’t go to many movies. ..Okay. I’ve only seen one movie so far this year. But it was Wall-E. And it was fantastic.

    As for music, it’s been a fairly unimpressive year thus far, but this is what I’ve enjoyed the most:

    1) Teitur – The Singer.
    There’s nobody out there like him. There’s a song on this album called “You Should Have Seen Us” that sounds like a funeral, but in a good way. Beautiful.

    2) Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – Real Emotional Trash.
    I think I’m going through another indie rock stage, because I could listen to the song “Gardenia” from this album over and over and over and over again. Actually, I already do.

    3) Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs.
    It’s not Plans, but it didn’t need to be. It’s gorgeous indie pop goodness.

    4) Conor Oberst (self-titled)
    What? It’s not officially released yet? Then forget that I even mentioned it, except for the fact that I’m certain from all the imaginary listens I’ve had thus far that I will enjoy this disc when it arrives in my mailbox.

    5)… really? yup. I have nothing for this spot. It kills me to say it, but it’s true. Hopefully the 2nd half of 2008 will wow me.

  5. Kerstin says:

    Best movies so far this year:

    1. The Dark Knight. I had seious trouble deciding if it was this or Wall-E, but I chose this because I finally saw it on IMAX last night and it was amazing.

    2. So two is obviously Wall-E. :) A fabulous film. One of Disney’s best for sure.

    3. Iron Man. Love, love, love every bit of this movie. Even Gwyneth, who I normally don’t like.

    4. Indiana Jones. I know people poo poo’d it, but I loved it. Maybe because of the reunion of Indy and Marion. Maybe because of Shia. But most definitely because it brought back the good old fashioned Indy fun.

    5. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m almost positive Mama Mia will be my next fave for this year. That or Get Smart. Both are on my list to see this week.


    Eeek. I haven’t gotten any new music this year. At least not “new THIS year.” I’ve bought a few older albums like Michael Buble, Boston and an old Red Hot Chili Peppers album. Man, I need to get some new stuff. I did however just purchase the single “Green Grass and High Tides” by the Outlaws. Since my kid got Rock Band, I’ve been obsessed with that song.

  6. John says:

    Melissa: Excellent choices, though I’m disappointed that Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins wasn’t on your favorite movies list. And I’m disappointed in myself for the same reason. Thanks for convincing me to give that Rilo Kiley album a listen; “Silver Lining” and “Under the Blacklight” are my favorites. I love me some Jenny Lewis. Also, nice job as always playing iPod DJ on the way home from Garrison last night.

    dianne: I caught Malkmus and his Jicks in Louisville a few years ago and he was awesome. I’ll have to check that out. And yes, that Death Cab album is awesome from start to finish.

    Kerstin: My nephew Oliver is obsessed with Wall-E. I can’t wait to check it out. And yes, Gwyneth was amazing in Iron Man; I loved the sweetness that came out of her character’s awkwardness. I think Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. really got something special out of her. And there are still few thrills greater than hearing Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood bite the words “Indiana Jones” out of the air. Amazing. Have you caught Mamma Mia or Get Smart yet?

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