Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 DVD's

I don't really have any favorite movies list yet, since I haven't seen any of these end-of-the-year films. Seems like a weak year compared to 06 and 07. But I can at least list my favorite DVD releases.

Blast of Silence - the best film I saw this year. I reviewed it here.

Spaced: The Complete Series - Fucking finally! I had seen the first season when it ran on BBC America a while back, and I had liked it, but watching it again without any incorrect expectations, I see what a fucking brilliant show this is. Spaced is to twentysomething slackers what Freaks and Geeks is to teenage misfits.

Trafic - Criterion comes through again, with a late-period Tati film centered around car culture. So many great gags and awesome cars in this film! I also got to see The Big Day for the first time this year, which is maybe even funnier than the Hulot films.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains - Admittedly, I haven't watched this DVD yet, but the fact that it exists is awesome. This movie was a white whale for me for so long. They used to show it on NightFlight, but somehow I always missed it. Finally found a VHS of it a couple years ago. The cautionary tale of trying to keep your integrity in the high-stakes world of rock n roll, starring Diane Lane and Laura Dern, is essential.

This American Life, Season 1 - I didn't think this could be as good as the radio show. I was wrong. So many great stories, from the 14-year-old who says he won't fall in love (more painfully embarassing than anything in My So-Called Life or Freaks and Geeks), to the comedian trying to tell jokes about her husband dying in 9/11 (Ira Glass seems to have a fascination with comedians bombing), to the unfortunate guy whose mom married the bassist from OXO, this is like the cool version of Real People. I guess the storytelling pieces don't translate as well as the journalistic pieces, so none of the rock stars of the show like David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell make appearances, but they do have footage of the girl reading from her teenage diary onstage (a great piece carried over from the radio show). I should also mention--you know how sometimes you see your local radio dj, and they don't look anything like what you thought they would? Ira Glass looks FUCKING EXACTLY LIKE you'd think he would.

John Adams - I don't know that everyone would dig this HBO miniseries, but I have fond memories of that year-and-a-half around the Bicentennial when there were educational specials about the American Revolution everywhere. This series has the most amazing cast of character actors I've ever seen assembled (how awesome is Tom Wilkinson? In one year, he plays Ben Franklin, James Baker and a Nazi general!). Plus, you get all the grizzly details of colonial life. I love seeing how they went about vaccinating for smallpox or performing masectomies. Or tarring and feathering British officers. Episode 2 would make a great 4th of July double feature with 1776.

30 Rock: Season 2 - This is so the funniest show on TV, even putting it up against punk sitcoms like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman. The Carrie Fisher episode was one of my favorite episodes of any sitcom, between Liz's encounter with her idol (that must have been based on real experience, right?), the in-jokes about the different generations of SNL alumna, and Baldwin and Morgan's therapy session. And God, the recent episode about Liz's high school reunion really felt painfully true to my life. That one's not on the DVD, I just wanted to mention it.

Iron Man - I don't think this is as good a superhero movie as the first couple Spider-Man flicks, but I can see why people like it. It's because Tony Stark, as played by Robert Donwey, Jr., is a character that you would watch a movie about even if he never got superpowers. And after Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, A Scanner Darkly, Zodiac and Tropic Thunder, I'm just very happy to finally have Downey on the A-list.


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