The Best of 2008

With 2008 approaching its end, Paul Fennessy and Kate Rothwell revisit the year’s best films and music.FILMS1. The Diving Bell and the ButterflyPenned by Englishman Ronald Harwood, but filmed in French, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly deserves to be recognised as not only the best film of 2008, but as one of the finest movies ever made. Based on the memoir of the late Jean-Dominic Bauby, it is essentially a film recounting the former fashion editor’s struggle to cope with life after a near-fatal stroke paralyzes him. The aftermath of this incident, in which he painstakingly learns to communicate through blinking, is infused with a remarkable level of dry humour and emotional warmth, making it perhaps the most life-affirming movie about death ever conceived.2. There Will Be BloodThis bold, brazen and biblical tour de force of filmmaking cemented Paul Thomas Anderson’s status as one of the few genuine auteurs working in Hollywood today. Continuing his acute examination of familial relations which he had previously explored in Magnolia and Boogie Nights, it is no surprise that the director’s most mature film to date coincided with him becoming a father for the first time. Moreover, his inveterate love of cinema bursts through every frame and is epitomised by the film’s startling, dialogue-free opening. While Daniel Day Lewis’ suitably manic acting and Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood’s atmospheric score were rightfully commended, Anderson’s sprawling, Citizen Kane-aping masterpiece was patently greater than the sum of its parts.3. The Dark KnightAt 152 minutes, some people felt this movie outstayed its welcome, while others wished it had gone on forever. Yet regardless of any perceived flaws, there is no denying that The Dark Knight is so much more than just another comic book film. It was also one of those rare instances where an event movie actually lived up to its hype, as opposed to being obfuscated in a stream of explosions and witless dialogue. While Heath Ledger’s intense embodiment of the Joker stole all the headlines, Gary Oldman’s accomplished portrayal of Lieutenant Gordon was equally praiseworthy. Furthermore, with an engrossing story incorporating a stunningly photographed Gotham City, the film mesmerised audiences and critics alike.ALBUMS1. Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaustSigur Rós’ mesmerising album combined singer, Jón Þór Birgisson’s gorgeous pure vocals and have proved yet again that they could take their lyrics from the phone book and still mesmerise anyone who listened. Single ‘Gobbledigook’ chattered its way through many a head over the summer months. ‘Vid spilum endalaust’ is hugely uplifting and ‘Inní mér syngur vitleysingur’ is unashamedly upbeat. If you’re looking for hope that contemporary music can still be breathtakingly beautiful then Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust is one album that you have to put on your Christmas wishlist.2. Bloc Party – IntimacyAfter the less than edgy A Weekend in the City, Bloc Party returned this year with Intimacy; a magnificent turn towards the darker rock sound that they do so menacingly well. Single ‘Talons’ wields guitars like nobody’s business, whereas ‘Mercury’ takes a serious attack on synths. ‘Trojan Horse’ is just as wonderfully electro-heavy, and the chiming, more playful sounds of ‘Signs’ show that they haven’t gone completely over to the dark side just yet. Whatever side they are on though, it seems to be the right one.3. Jape – RitualRichie Egan’s wonderful Jape returned after four years, with their third album, Ritual. This record reminded us in the midst of our European electro obsession that we have an established Irish artist who is, as the keyboard blips of ‘Graveyard’ prove, quite fond of his synths. The enchanting jolty ambience of ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ lies alongside the pared down tribute ‘Phil Lynott’, and more swaggering single ‘I was a Man’. Here’s hoping that the follow up to Ritual doesn’t take another four years to come about.