2008 was a pretty awful year all around. Economic distress, blah blah blah. However, there were a few things worth cheering and we thought we’d recount them here in our inaugural list of the best things of 2008. You’ll note that there’s not a lot connecting the items on this list other than the fact that A) They happened in 2008 and B) They’re quality. We’re sure we’ve overlooked some of the people and work that made 2008 stand out so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section!
8. Milk – Sean Penn never struck us as the type of actor who could do restraint. He seemed to embody everything bad about Hollywood overacting — don’t get us wrong, he’s great — but when it came to yelling and shouting we thought he was a bit of a one-trick pony. We were wrong. The thing that people keep overlooking about this movie is how funny it is. I mean, who else expected James Franco to drop the line “I peed in the pool” into a movie not titled Pineapple Express?
7. Bill Murray, 58-year-old party boy – Okay, a recently divorced actor starts carousing around New York, bar-hopping and making cameo appearances at Halloween keggers for the 20-something set. After taking a few minutes to display his dance moves in the living room the courteous guest helps clean up before vanishing into the night. The story is weird and a little sad, like a Wes Anderson screenplay waiting to be written for the man whose career he helped introduce to the same crowds whose parties he now frequents. I love the idea of Bill Murray showing up at my place randomly but I’m a little worried for the guy at the same time. Let’s hope this is all part of some kind of preparation for a movie or at least a cameo on 30 Rock.
6. The Nightman Cometh – If you say “Boy’s Soul” enough, pretty soon it starts to sound like “Boy’s Hole.” If you think that’s funny, then you’ll love the breakout episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and it’s “classy” rape scene. Watch it at Hulu.
5. Bottle Rocket Criterion Edition – Before Wes Anderson learned how to stick his head up his own butt (he must have studied Yoga while filming The Darjeeling Limited in India), there was Bottle Rocket. His scrappy debut with the Wilson brothers, Bottle Rocket hit all the right notes of whimsy and melancholy that made his early career so revered and later became his trademarks in films like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. The Criterion folks have repackaged the previously-bare-bones DVD with extensive notes on the film’s creation, a making-of documentary and the original short that inspired the full-length version of the film. It almost makes you forget about that stupid animatronic tiger at the end of The Darjeeling Limited.
4. Air Yeezy’s – They haunt us. But word is they’re finally, finally coming out this March so hopefully the long distance relaysh we’ve been having with them will come to an end then.
Top three after the jump.
3. Celtics/Lakers Championship – For the remaining five of us who consider ourselves NBA fans and the two of us who considered ourselves Celtics fans, this series was a thing of beauty. Capped off by a 39-point beat down in the final game, it made the two basketball capitols of the NBA universe matter again and has only managed to make last week’s Christmas day blow from the Lakers all the more meaningful.
2. The Return of the Mustache – Robert Downey Jr. made it playful, Jude Law made it dapper, Clooney stamped it as legit and Josh Hartnett is doing his best to ruin it for everyone again. 2008 was a down year for most things, but when it came to facial hair, we’re glad to welcome back the pepper to our upper lips. Long disposed by the goatee, the stache — or “mo” as the Australians like to call it — returned to its rightful place in mainstream society like the prodigal son of facial hair. We welcome its return wholeheartedly.
1.GQ’s 50th Anniversary Issue — Yes, this was the same year that Esquire turned 75, but for anyone who’s read the two magazines for the past year (or more), it’s clear that GQ is hitting its stride and putting distance between itself and Esquire. Under Editor-In-Chief Jim Nelson, GQ has managed to make itself contemporary and relevant during a time that many books are struggling to find identities, let alone keep their doors open.
Anchored by their study of the 50 Most Stylish Men of the Past 50 Years, The Anniversary Issue managed to boil down the GQ formula to a simple formula consisting of timeless style, inspiring heroes and work that’s built to last. Maybe they said it best, and hopefully we can apply this to ourselves in 2009 — Look sharp, live smart.