I am choosing only one from each because while I love Top Ten lists as much as the next guy (probably significantly more even), I find that the only part of the list that truly matters to me is the work that occupies the one spot. It is a powerful statement to whittle down all the films, shows and albums in a year into a list of ten, but it is another thing all together to find just ONE. In choosing one from each category, I am saying that if there were a nuclear holocaust imminent, I would choose these three works of art to place in an indestructible box so future generations could see the very best of what Western culture had to offer.
Just know that these choices are completely subjective and I am clearly not the most qualified person to choose the best of anything. I feel I know a lot about films and see enough of them in a given year to make an informed decision. I feel similarly strongly about TV shows, but I do not see quite as many shows as I do films. I know virtually nothing about Music, however, so if there is one category to take with a big ol' grain of salt, it would be Best Album.
Movie of the Year: The Dark Knight
Was there ever any doubt in your mind?
The Dark Knight was the best film I saw in 2008. And really, nothing else even came all that close. The Dark Knight is a film visceral and exciting enough to be experienced, yet complex and intellectual enough to be analyzed. It is the best kind of pop culture one could ever hope for, especially from a franchise as worn and depleted as Batman.
Christopher Nolan's film takes a simple cops and robbers formula then introduces a catylist that changes everything about it. In Gotham City organized crime is as strong as ever. Gangster Salvatore Maroni picks up where previous kingpin Carmine Falcone left off and is moving his "product" on the street, trying to grind out a little profit. Meanwhile, the Gotham City police led by Jim Gordon's Major Crimes Unit is trying to shut them down one by one. It is a perfunctory little game of cat and mouse and it is also, as a certain made-up psycho later describes it, "so boring."
Enter Bruce Wayne, son of two of the city's most famous entrepreneurs and community leaders. Bruce spends his nights fightine crime as a masked vigilante and trying to make his city a safer place. If this sounds a little familiar, it should. This is the basic set-up of every superhero film or comic ever devised. But there is an aspect that makes Christopher Nolan's masterpiece different from every other superhero film: consequences. The Dark Knight shows the ENORMITY of one man's decision. Bruce Wayne's decision to take the law into his own hands in the name of justice isn't some little thing to be winked at and immediately accepted. Instead it is an absolutely massive decision that could change the fate of an entire city. There are consequences, very real consequences...a concept that very rarely makes an appearance in superhero stories.
One of the consequences is the aforemetioned psycho in clown make-up who goes by the name of The Joker. The Joker has no name, no past, no feelings and no desire other than to bring down the fair wrath of Chaos. He is anarchy, pure and simple, and he exists just to show everyone else that the only sensible way of living in this crazy world is without rules.
Without Batman, there would be no Joker. Without Bruce Wayne's decision to cloak himself in dark armor and fight crime on the streets, there would be no precedent for a cheerfully crazy lad to dress up in bright colors and take to the streets himself reigning destruction in the name of Chaos while Batman locks criminals up in the name of Order. Batman and Joker's dark dance with each other makes up the majority of the film and has major reprocussions for every person in Gotham including the idealistic new ADA Harvey Dent.
From here, I could probably write about a dozen essays on why The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. I could devote time to the brilliance of Nolan's direction and Wally Pfister's cinematography. I could write about the city of Chicago as a backdrop and how it gives the film such life. I could write about how certain decisions Batman makes regarding surveilance are socio-political statements. Or I could write about how this film is a tragedy marking one man's true fall from grace and the loss of innocence of an entire city in the face of true evil.
And that's the point: I could talk about and write about The Dark Knight forever. I have seen the film five times now and its macabre images and sad themes have not left my head since the moment I have seen it. I could think of so many technical aspects as to why The Dark Knight is the best film of 2008 but I can really just some it up in easier fashion.
The Dark Knight is the best film of 2008 because Christopher Nolan's powerful themes, and brilliant lines of dialogue, the city of Chicago's dark grandiosity and the Joker's excited laugh in the face of discord will all forever be echoing in the back of my unconscious.
"As you know, madness is like gravity: all it's takes is a little push."