December 26, 2008

The 2008 Grantie Awards

As per annual nerdy tradition, it's time for me to take a break from work to bring you my ever-important list of what I loved THE MOST in 2008. Lots of tough choices this year, so I expanded each category to 3 instead of 2, and I gave comics their own category. I obviously didn't choose Wolves of Odin or the Clone Wars comic, since that would be a shameless plug, and I would never EVER consider slipping a shameless plug in here. :P Anyway, on with the list...

I was incredibly moved and impressed by Milk. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best and most important thing Sean Penn has done yet, and I really can't say enough good things about it, or the actors, or director. Absolutely amazing film from start to finish.

Kung Fu Panda
What can I say, I fell in love with this movie. There have been a lot of great animated features in recent years (for example, the excellent WALL-E), but Panda just kicked my butt and made me laugh and I can't get enough of it. I think it's easily one of the best family-friendly films of the past decade.

Iron Man
There were a lot of fantastic superhero movies this year... I loved The Incredible Hulk, I loved The Dark Knight... But the one that stands above the rest in my mind (and may possibly be my new all-time favorite superhero flick) is Iron Man. He was one of my favorite Marvel characters as a kid, and they got him right.

Battlestar Galactica
We had 10 new episodes early in the year: the first half of season 4 (the final season). Some fans were divided and frustrated by the show's mystical, ballsy turns, but for me, these were some of my favorite episodes of the entire series. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best the show's ever been, and I love that the writers and the actors aren't afraid to take the characters on a real journey, whether that journey ends in happiness or heartbreak. Enduring this looong midseason break has been torture, but the wait's almost over, and I can't wait to see how it ends.

For a long time, fans (including myself) were kinda worried about Lost... It sometimes felt directionless, like we weren't sure the writers had a plan, though we hoped they did. But, man, season 4 really kicked things into high gear and proved once and for all that they DO have a plan, and we're moving full speed ahead, and the sci fi elements are no longer simply hinted at -- they're in your face and there's no turning back! Season 4 also introduced some great new characters (the Freighter Folk) and we got some truly standout moments from characters like Desmond and Penny and the awesomely creepy mastermind of coolness, Benjamin Linus.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Despite the fact that I work for Lucasfilm and am friends with some of the creative minds on the show, I was pretty pessimistic in the beginning... When I first saw the characters in their new 3D animated form, I didn't love how they looked. But as soon as I saw 'em in action, I was completely won over. Seeing the characters move and seeing the complete visual style, and seeing that the writing's far above "prequel level quality," I have nothing but love. Some people roll their eyes at the goofball elements, like the battle droids, and that's fine -- some fans don't wanna share their galaxy with the kiddies. But I genuinely enjoy all of it. I think it's the best Star Wars we've gotten since the original trilogy.

Battlestar Galactica: Season 3
While I wasn't crazy about some of the second half of season 3, the first half is some of the best TV I've ever seen in my life. And I love the middle storyline (algae planet, Temple of Five, you know what I'm talkin' about). What can I say, it's the best show around, and this is a must-own. Lots of quality extra features too -- webisodes, commentaries, deleted scenes, and an extended cut of "Unfinished Business" (one of my favorite episodes).

Lost: Season 4
I love the matching packaging on all the Lost DVD sets, and they always impress with the oooodles of extras. Commentaries, behind-the-scenes stuff, a cool "Oceanic 6" conspiracy video, a documentary on the guy who keeps track of all the guns on the show... It's crazy. I love it. And Lost is a show that's even better when you watch it a second time, marathon-style on DVD.

The Clone Wars - Best Buy 'Steel Book' Edition
First of all, I loved the Clone Wars movie. I think critics are morons. But the reason I chose this as one of my favorite DVDs is because (A) I picked up the exclusive Best Buy version, which has a rockin' metal tin case and looks awesome, and (B) the extra features really impressed me. A sneak peek at future episodes, a behind-the-scenes on the score, the voice actors, etc. It was one of the most enjoyable DVD-viewing experiences of my year. And again, the Best Buy case is awesome. I'm so glad I nabbed one before they were gone.

BSG Cast & Crew Wrap Book
At the Battlestar wrap party, the cast and crew were given an amazing gift -- a hardcover, slip-cased, 200+ paged, full-color book filled with goodbye letters, photos, and much more. Someone who works at Universal contacted me and asked if they could put some of my BSG art in the book, and I was obviously flattered beyond belief.. AND they sent me a copy of the book as thanks! (Here's the page with my art.) So it was a huge honor and it's easily the most treasured book I've gotten this year (or ANY year!!).

My Word is My Bond: A Memoir - by Roger Moore
Let's get one thing straight.. I don't necessarily think Roger Moore was the best Bond... But for me, he was the Bond I grew up with, and he'll always be my favorite Bond. I'll always love the guy, and the minute I heard he was writing a memoir about his life, I couldn't wait to read it. I just picked up the book about a week ago -- as I write this, I'm only halfway through. But I love it so far. He's every bit as funny and self-aware and ridiculous as I could have hoped. If you're a Roger Moore kid like I am, and can appreciate a good filthy sense of humor, pick this puppy up.

And Their Memory Was a Bitter Tree - by Robert E Howard
This one really stood out to me, even though it doesn't offer anything new in terms of content (aside from an intro that isn't worth reading). It's essentially a "Best of Conan" collection, and it's a beautiful book. A great cover by Brom, tons of amazing Frank Frazetta art inside... It's an awesome-looking volume, and it's one that any Conan fan should want on their bookshelf. Definitely one of my favorite book purchases of '08.

Y: The Last Man
"Y: The Last Man" finally reached its epic and long-awaited conclusion... and it didn't disappoint. It was the most heart-wrenchingly perfect finale to any comic series I've ever read. Brian Vaughan and Pia Guerra have created a masterpiece that will go down in history as one of the best comic series.

Guardians of the Galaxy
I'm a lifelong Rocket Raccoon fan (I loved the original Mignola mini-series when I was a kid) and as soon as Rocket re-emerged into the Marvel universe, I knew I'd have to check out whatever book he landed in. Turns out, "Guardians of the Galaxy" (despite the appropriately super-cheesy title) is a really fun book, and they didn't screw up Rocket (.. yet...) and I love the art by Pelletier. Guardians doesn't take itself too seriously and it satisfies that part of me that misses reading superhero books. I love it. It's good light-hearted cosmic escapist craziness.

Written by Brian Wood and drawn by the awesome Ryan Kelly, "Local" is a B&W 12-issue series. Each issue (or chapter) represents one year and gives us a peek into the life of a girl named Megan. It's a chronicle of her journey, and a look at some of the strange things that happen to her while she learns to find direction and contentment. The collected edition is out now and it's gorgeous. I think it's probably the best-looking graphic novel on my shelf. They went above and beyond. And I love the format of the storytelling.. It's a quick read, but it sucks you in, and I can't imagine anyone not digging this series.

As an aside, I know there are a lot of people who were turned on to Iron Man and Batman this year, thanks to the butt-kickin' movies. For those of you wanting to check out some recent (and awesome) graphic novels involving those characters, here are two I'd whole-heartedly recommend:
Iron Man: Enter The Mandarin
Batman: Private Casebook

Duffy - Rockferry
Earlier this year I discovered Duffy -- I saw the cover of the CD and thought she was hot, and that's pretty much why I gave the songs a listen (yeah, I know, I'm shallow). But, man, I fell in LOVE with the music.. I've heard people compare it to Shirley Bassey, and I wouldn't argue with that. Over all, I listened to this CD in '08 more than any other, and I still have it playing in my car all the time. When I'm feeling smooth and mellow, I pop in some Duffy. Love her. LOOOOVE her.

Nine Inch Nails - The Slip
Trent Reznor's still king. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't love all the songs on this CD, but the songs I do love, I really love. And the fact that he first released this on his website as a FREE download for fans, and wrote a "thank you" to the fans for supporting him over the years... I just have huge respect for the guy, and I think he's a legend, and he's classy in his own dark electronic rockstar kinda way, and I'm always gonna be a NIN fanboy.

Shiny Toy Guns - Season of Poison
I feel like a dork for making this one of my favorites (maybe because I feel like I'm too old to be listening to bands that are clearly aimed at the younger cooler crowd), but I can't help it.. I enjoy the hell outta this CD. The songs are all over the place, but in a good way. One minute it's dancey, the next minute it sounds like a power ballad. And "Frozen Oceans" is one of my favorite songs of the year. I dunno, over all, just a great CD and I listen to it a lot. I would be a dirty liar if I didn't put it in my top three.

The podcast I've most enjoyed this year is hands-down the SModcast. Each episode is essentially an hour of Kevin Smith and his producer pal Scott Mosier chatting about incredibly random and incredibly non-work-safe (adult) things. I'm not even a huge fan of Kevin Smith's movies, but, man, listening to these guys talk has me peeing my pants every time. If you're not offended by crude humor, give this one a shot if you haven't already.. It's the most entertaining podcast out there.

I gotta give props to the guys at the Force-Cast. They're consistently the go-to guys when it comes to ANYthing Star Wars related. They keep up with the news, they interview actors and artists and anyone else who's associated with Star Wars. They have ongoing "Clone Wars Roundtables," where they discuss the episodes. They have music specials, they do convention reports. They go above and beyond in every way, and it's been a pleasure to both listen to the show every week and to meet the guys in person. They do a rockin' job.

The Devil & Me
This podcast is hosted by the awesome duo of artist Skottie Young and musician Casey McCauley. I've been a fan of Skottie's work for years, and followed him when he was on Around Comics, and this show sort of branched off from there.. But these two are hilarious. They talk about random stuff - music, relationships, movies, TV, whatever. It's always funny and entertaining. Not exactly a kid-friendly show. But, man, I look forward to every new episode.

Wow, and I made it to the end...
Thanks for reading, everyone. Time for me to get back to work so I can finish some stuff up and maybe actually enjoy my New Years! @.@