This past December 2008 marked the one-year anniversary of The M Report, my column on WBOC.com. For a whole year now, I have been writing and blogging about the entertainment media with specific focus on major and minor movies. As is appropriate, I thought I'd take a look back at my first year as a columnist.
One of the first articles I posted on my Web page back in the beginning was the best of the year, the year being 2007. I wanted to keep stock of what was good and what was bad. So, I made a list, like Santa, of which movies, music, and books were naughty, and which were nice, actually my list was more of the latter.
It is by far the most comprehensive thing I do, and it literally takes me an entire year to do it. On my webpage, you can find the best, or my favorites, in all those same categories, for the year that was 2008. It's hard to shop for an entire peninsula, but the things on my lists I feel many out there would like as well, but in the end, they're all still things that I, and probably I alone, would love.
But, getting back to this monumental past 12 months, for me, 2008 will always be the year that the United States elected its first African-American president. As an African-American myself, fully aware of this country's history, it is extra meaningful to have seen what happened on Nov. 4.
Time magazine put former Illinois senator Barack Obama on the cover of its magazine this past month, naming him its Person of the Year. GQ magazine did the same. Barbara Walters, whose memoir and tell-all autobiography revealed she had an affair with a black senator, also named the president-elect as her Most Fascinating Person of the Year.
With as much love as there was for Obama, there was just as much fear and loathing. The media for the most part, besides FOX News, was pretty easy on Obama, as exemplified in a hilarious Saturday Night Live sketch.
Yet, if SNL ribbed one candidate more brilliantly, it would have to be Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. SNL immediately followed Palin's first appearance on the scene with a hilarious mock sketch, starring Tina Fey. In fact, the Associated Press named Tina Fey as its Entertainer of the Year. Fey's impression of Palin was pitch perfect, and it capped off a banner year for the female comedian that began with the release of her hit film Baby Mama, eased along with her Emmy and other award wins, and concluded with the ratings surge of her sitcom 30 Rock.
But, really if 2008 can be called anything, it can be called the year of women. Women had a pretty good year this go around the sun. Tina Fey, Sarah Palin, and Hilary Clinton, who came closer than any woman has ever come to the Presidency.
In the film world, Mamma Mia!, Sex and the City: The Movie, as well as Twilight, three big movies dedicated to the female fans, broke many box office records. And, in the music world, Billboard magazine recently announced that Alicia Keys was its best-selling artist of the year. Yet, the female music artist to make the most news has to be Britney Spears.
Everybody loves a good comeback story, and after a very rocky time, which included flipping out, cutting her hair, going to rehab, and losing custody of her kids, it could be argued that Spears' life was in the toilet. Yet, this year, she co-starred on CBS' How I Met Your Mother. She dropped two albums, the latest debuting at the top of the charts, MTV dedicated a whole TV show to her, and many awards were thrown at her. Yes, the Spears is back!
In other news, MSN.com did its year in review as well, and the Web site posed a single question. Has this been the "gayest year ever?" Hilary Duff did a TV ad to try to discourage teens from using the word gay as a slur. Lindsay Lohan, Clay Aiken, and Wanda Sykes, all came out of the closet. Ellen DeGeneres got married. So did George Takei, the Japanese-American actor from the original Star Trek series. One of the top songs on the Billboard charts was a lesbian-themed track by Katy Perry called "I Kissed a Girl." One of the films slated to score some Oscar awards is Milk, a film about a gay politician played by Sean Penn. Not to mention the level of homosexuality on TV dramatically jumped.
Speaking of TV, the Writer's Guild of America protests resulted in a strike that had large effects to TV. Many television shows immediately were shut down. Not only TV, quite a few movies were delayed as well. Some films that were supposed to play in December 2008 were pushed back till May and July 2009. The strike also killed or took the steam out of quite a few award shows, including the Oscars.
The best picture prize at that show was given to No Country for Old Men, which could be seen as a perfect precursor for the conclusion of John McCain's presidential campaign. But, in the movie field, the complete opposite was true. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman kicked off the old man parade this year with their hit film The Bucket List. Old men like Harrison Ford and Sylvester Stallone also did their best to avoid kicking the bucket with their action flicks, reviving Indiana Jones and John Rambo who only slightly showed their ages.
Even though his death overshadowed last year's Oscars, it's looking more and more likely that Heath Ledger will also get a nomination. His along with the deaths of Charleston Heston, Brad Renfro, Sydney Pollack, George Carlin, and Paul Newman, this year, took away some of the greatest talent to ever grace Hollywood.
There are of course some rising stars in LaLa land of young men and women who could conceivably win our hearts just as those aforementioned performers did. Odds are that Amy Winehouse won't be one of them. Despite winning a handful of Grammys, her life has appeared to take Spears' place in the toilet. However, Shia LaBeouf appears to be on his way to becoming the next big movie star. He was handpicked by Steven Spielberg to be Indiana Jones' son, and his big-budget solo vehicle Eagle Eye raked in $100 million.
Anne Hathaway is another of those young rising talents. She had a hit this summer with the action comedy Get Smart. Her performance in the fall film Rachel Getting Married will probably garner her an Oscar nomination. James Franco also had a banner year. He put acting on hold for a little while to pursue a college degree at Columbia University, but before that, he managed to appear in three films this year, all of them showing his phenomenal range. From a stoned out, drug dealer in Pineapple Express to a gay activist in Milk, Franco could certainly be the next Paul Newman.
Speaking of the movie landscape, Stephen King indirectly pointed out that this year was a good one for horror films. The Ruins, Funny Games, Cloverfield, and The Strangers were some of the best-reviewed movies by me. Each got fairly good reviews nationally as well.
Yet, I think if any film genre was a standout in 2008, it would have to be the comic book movie. This year's success of Iron Man and The Dark Knight solidified that alone. It also solidified that Americans like flawed heroes, flawed when it comes to their on-screen heroes.
When it comes to real life heroes, they prefer them to be squeaky clean. Perhaps a little juiced a la Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, but squeaky clean for the most part! Take Michael Phelps, the 8-time Olympic gold champion. His squeaky clean, swimming skills put him on the cover of Sports Illustrated several times in just a couple of months. He hosted SNL, and he also became a pitchman in various commercials.
In other sports news, this year's Super Bowl 42 was the most-watched game in the history of television with 97.5 million viewers. It was the second most-watched TV program of all-time, behind the series finale of M*A*S*H* with 105.9 million. The game was considered one of the biggest upsets in football history with the New York Giants preventing the New England Patriots from achieving a perfect, no-loss season. Another surprising game was this year's World Series championship between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays. Games 3 and 5 were both delayed by weather.
Sporting events are always big TV draws. Most great things that occurred on TV, however, were supremely overlooked, as the ratings for many of the networks continued to fall. The spillover into cable TV is probably yet to come. If you missed it, though, Lost decided to flash forward instead of backward. Two highly acclaimed cop shows, The Wire and The Shield, both delivered their swan songs. CNN illuminated the summer with a stunning mini-series on what it's like to be "Black in America." HBO gave us a look at John Adams and Saddam Hussein, and Oprah Winfrey gave us Thomas Beatie, the world's first pregnant man, though not really.
Half-nude photos of Beatie, a la Demi Moore, appeared in The Advocate magazine. Begging the question, what would any year be without its nude photo scandals? You had Miley Cyrus with her provocative pictures in Vanity Fair. Then, you had Adrienne Bailon, a Disney Cheetah girl, with semi-nude photos of her spreading around the Internet, a la Vanessa Hudgens.
It was the two Davids, David Archuleta and David Cook, who made it all the way to the end of this year's American Idol, but it was early hopeful David Hernandez who made headlines when it was revealed he used to be a male stripper for a gay nightclub. Personally, I preferred Chikezie who kept his clothes on.
It wasn't controversial, but Daniel Ratcliffe, the young star of the Harry Potter franchise, shocked Broadway audiences when he bared all in the play Equus. Speaking of which, there have been a lot of penis shots in movies this year. Raunchy comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Zack and Miri Make a Porno made the male external organ quite fashionable.I think, however, that most people will probably remember 2008 more for its poor economy than for anything else. From the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac crisis to the automobile industry bailout, the recession in which we've found ourselves is a little heartbreaking. People will more than likely struggle through 2009, but hopefully, we'll make it through by finding entertainment here and there.