The Boyfriend of the Week

January 12, 2009 [comment on this write-up]

Hi, everyone! Below is the annual list of my favorite movies and books from the previous year -- as usual, this list is made up of movies and books I saw or read in 2008, not necessarily ones that were released or published in that year. Thanks again for putting up with me for another twelve months in your life, despite the fact I think this year I did the worst ever in terms of getting Boyfriend write-ups written and posted! Here's hoping I do a better job in 2009 -- I certainly can't imagine doing any worse! Does it help if I state I have awesome intentions? Like, a list of over 30 guys I am dying to feature? In theory? Does it help at all in theory? Srsly, as the kids say, I will do my bestest.

If you still haven't bothered checking out the companion blog to this site, by the way, make that your resolution for 2009. We've got quite an awesome batch of regulars who read and comment frequently and we'd welcome your contributions. We're a pretty nice group, so don't be shy about posting your thoughts on the blog! Since I almost never post about "Boyfriends in the News," but instead seem to focus on book, movie, and TV reviews, I'm thinking of renaming the blog in 2009. And if there are any graphic artists out there who want to design the masthead after I come up with the new name, drop me a line at meg@megwood.com? You can find links to the most recent posts over there on the right -->

And now, without further ado, here are my favorite good movies, my favorite bad movies, and my favorite books from 2008. If I missed one of your 2008 favorites, be sure to let me and the readers know in the comments! (By the way, for quick links to Netflix or Amazon for any of the movies or books below, just click on "read full review" and scroll to the end of the text.)

Favorite Good Movies of 2008

1. The Fall (2006) -- Drama -- Starring ex-Boyfriend Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru, Justine Waddell.

Set in a Catholic hospital in 1920's in Los Angeles, this movie focuses on two patients: a stuntman named Roy (Lee Pace) who has recently suffered two devastating injuries: one to his body and one to his heart; and a six year-old girl named Alexandra who has a broken arm. The two meet by chance, and Roy quickly sees in Alexandra a way to put an end to his miseries. He sucks her in by telling her pieces each day of an "epic" story about a group of adventurers who have joined forces to put an end to an evil villain, and once he has gained her trust, Roy asks Alexandra to steal drugs for him from the dispensary. The way the epic tale unfolds, and the growing relationship between Roy and Alexandra, are both so poignant and so beautiful that this movie literally took my breath away more than once. A wonderfully made and thoughtful film, this is one that will be a favorite of mine for a very long time to come. If you pick one film from this list to see in 2009, make it this one! [read full review]

2. In Bruges (2008) -- Comedy/Drama -- Starring ex-UnBoyfriend Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes.

This fantastic, clever, and extremely bizarre movie is one of the most thoroughly entertaining flicks I saw in 2008. It opens with two Irish hitmen, Ray and Ken (Farrell and Gleeson), who have been sent to Bruges, Belgium after Ray accidentally killed an extra person during his first assigned hit. As Ken spends his time touristing around, a miserable and depressed Ray gets mixed up with a girl. And also, a midget. And then Ralph Fiennes shows up. And, well, I think it's best you discover the rest for yourself. All in all, this is a hilarious and charming flick -- moving, funny, and sweet. And it's definitely the movie that finally made me fall head over heels with Gleeson, a crush on whom I've been toying with for years. Watch for him to show up as a Boyfriend of the Week in 2009! [read full review]

3. WALL-E (2008) -- Animated/Kids -- Starring Ben Burtt, Jeff Garlin, Elissa Knight, Sigourney Weaver, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy

This animated film about a solitary old trash-collecting robot who lives on a deserted, filthy Earth and spends his lonely days cleaning up the clutter and wishing for companionship was, much as I hate to throw out this cliché, my "feel good movie" of the year. Of course, it helped that I watched it with my almost-three year-old nephew -- it's hard NOT to be charmed when you are sitting next to the cutest and most thoroughly rapt toddler of all time. But I think even if I'd watched it alone, I would've been smitten by Wall-E himself, his love for super-bot Eva, and his dedication towards making the Earth a habitable, beautiful place for humans to enjoy again. Seriously -- even if you aren't a fan of Pixar or cartoons in general, you still to have to see this one. It's on everybody's list of 2008 favorites, and for darn good reason. Wonderful! [read full review]

4. No Country for Old Men (2007) -- Drama -- Starring Josh Brolin, Javier Barden, ex-Boyfriend Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson

This brilliantly paced Coen Brothers movie is about three men chasing each other all over the Southwest because of a bunch of stolen drug money. First, there's Llewelyn Moss (Brolin), who is out hunting one day in the desert when he comes across a group of trucks -- and dead bodies -- in the middle of nowhere. Investigating the scene, he discovers a huge stash of heroin and a suitcase full of cash hidden in the back of one of the trucks and he promptly takes off with the dough. That sets off a hunt of another kind, when a hitman working for the owner of the money is hired to find Moss and get the suitcase back. The hitman is a quiet dude with a very silly haircut named Anton Chigurh (Bardem). But don't think he's harmless just because he has dorky hair, as it is quickly revealed to us that Chigurh is one seriously bad mofo. And when he starts leaving behind a trail of bodies while looking for Moss, that sucks in the third of our major players, Sheriff Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones). It's a riveting story, for sure, but even more, it's absolutely brilliantly acted and expertly filmed. A work of genius and one I think film students will be discussing for many a decade to come. [read full review]

5. Iron Man (2008) -- Action/Sci-Fi -- Starring ex-Boyfriends Robert Downey Jr. and Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, Gwyneth

You can believe the hype. You can believe ALL that hype. 'Nuff said. [read full review]


6. Sunshine (2007) -- Science Fiction, Space Disaster -- Starring Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Mark Strong, Cliff Curtis, Hiroyuki Sanada

This movie, written by the same team that brought us 28 Days Later (Alex Garland and Danny Boyle), opens with a group of astronauts on a mission to save the sun, which has begun to burn out billions of years too early, leaving Earth to slowly freeze. From there, it takes us through some of the best spaceship-livin' scenes I've ever seen, loading us up with tons of fascinating hard science and letting us know over and over that this is a sci-fi movie made for smart people, not people who thought Armageddon was, like, "totally deep." They didn't name the spaceship "Icarus" just to sound cool, in other words -- you want foreshadowing, you gots foreshadowing. And while, granted, this movie eventually spirals into a lame knock-off of Event Horizon, getting there makes the silly final act well worth having to sit through. One of the most thoughtful and beautifully-shot science fiction/space films I've seen in quite a long time. Recommended to geeks and dorks alike!

7. [REC] (2007) -- Horror/Zombies -- Starring Manuela Velasco, Javier Botet, Ferran Terraza, Martha Carbonell, Claudia Font

Once again, seeing this movie reminded me of how totally AWESOME other countries are at making truly terrifying horror movies. We dumb 'Mericans could sure learn something from them. Instead, we seem wholly dedicated to taking their ideas and turning them into total unscary crap (which is why I have yet to brave the American remake of this brilliant film, Quarantine -- I'll muster up the courage for that in 2009, though, I promise). This movie is about an extremely adorable young TV reporter who has decided to spend the night with her cameraman following a group of local firemen around on the job. When the firemen are called to an apartment building to look into some kind of accident on an upper floor, the reporter and cameraman go along with them, expecting at least to get a little action out of the gig. Instead, what they get is, yep, ZOMBIES. Awesome, brilliant zombies. This movie scared the pee right outta me, people, and I've been housebroken for DECADES. It's absolutely brilliant and hands-down one of the best undead movies I have ever seen. As soon as this one hits DVD in your country, do yourself a favor and rent it. And keep an eye on my blog for reviews of its American version soon (it comes out on February 17). Fingers crossed that it doesn't completely suck. [read full review]

8. Catch and Release (2006) -- Romantic comedy -- Starring Jennifer Garner, Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Smith, Juliette Lewis, Fiona Shaw, Joshua Friesen, Sam Jaeger

You know, much as I proclaim to hate romantic comedies, the truth is that if I come across one that's been done well, it can end up becoming an all-time favorite. This one is not quite good enough to make my "Top Ten of All Time" list, but it definitely warrants a spot on the yearly one. It's about a young woman, Gray (Garner) who, as the movie opens, has just lost her fiancé in a boating accident. Struggling with her grief, she's taken in by her former fiancé's two best friends, Sam (Smith) and Dennis (Jaeger). To her dismay, though, her fiancé's other best friend, an LA filmmaker-slash-total-cad named Fritz (Olyphant), is crashing on their couch and won't leave, no matter how much stinkeye she sends hi way. Of course, anybody who has ever seen a rom-com knows that the girl is going to end up with the guy she totally HATES. And that at some point, there will have to be the ubiquitous "she slaps him so he grabs her arms and pins her to the wall, which makes her react with sudden lust for him" scene. Whatever. What makes this movie truly fun to watch is primarily Jennifer Garner's adorableness and secondarily Kevin Smith's hilariousness. The rest is just gravy. Delicious, delicious gravy. FYI: there will be a few Boyfriend write-ups in 2009 that were inspired in part by this film -- and that's all I'm sayin' about that one. [read full review]

9. The Lookout (2007) -- Drama/Heist -- Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Carla Gugino, Matthew Good, Isla Fischer

This is an extremely well-written and thoughtful film, with a suspenseful heist story at its root to keep things moving along. It's about a young man named Chris struggling with brain damage (mostly short-term memory loss) as the result of an accident when he was a teen. Though he has two jobs and lives in an apartment, Chris’s parents still treat him like an invalid, making it that much harder for him to shake free of his past. He struggles to seem as "normal" as possible when around others, which leaves him vulnerable to anybody who wants to sucker their way into his life. Such as this guy he meets one night at a bar -- Gary -- who claims to have known Chris in high school. Not wanting to admit that he has no memory of him whatsoever, Chris just goes along with Gary and the two become friends. But what Chris doesn’t realize is that Gary has been targeting him for weeks, after discovering that the brain-damaged Chris works the night shift as a janitor at the local bank. See, Gary and his buddies want to rob that bank, and they need someone on the inside who can help them do it. Someone they can trick and manipulate. Someone just like Chris. This is an absolutely engaging and wonderfully-made film, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt -- damn -- he's turned into quite a force to be reckoned with. I look forward to seeing what he does next. [read full review]

10. Batman: The Dark Knight (2007) -- Science Fiction -- Starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Anthony Michael Hall, William Fitchner, Michael Caine

I almost didn't put this one on the list, to be honest. For one thing, EVERYBODY writing a "best movies of 2008" list has this movie on it, and so it's not like you haven't already heard it was really great. And for another: Christian Bale is just utterly laughable in it, I'm sorry. But the thing is, I really liked this movie. It made me think. And I figured I just couldn't leave it off the list, if only because of Heath Ledger's amazing turn as uber-villain The Joker. Ledger's scenes alone make this movie one of my favorites of the year, and I look forward to exploring his role even further with repeated viewings in 2009. [read full review]

Favorite Bad Movies of 2008

1. The Return of the Living Dead (1985) -- Zombies! -- Starring Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Matthews

It some ways, it feels like cheating to make this the number one good-bad movie of 2008, since I've seen it more than once in twenty-plus years since it first came out. Then again, I'd forgotten so much about it by the time I rewatched it last October that it was ALMOST like I was seeing it for the first time. Besides, any movie that contains the phrase "rabid weasels" and features punk rockers battling the undead deserves to be at the top of this list EVERY year. In fact, it'll probably be here next year too. Unless, of course, Phantasm V ends up being totally awesome. [read full review]

2. The Manitou (1978) -- Horror -- Starring Tony Curtis, Burgess Meredith, Susan Strasberg, Jon Cedar, Paul Mantee

If you aren't already a dedicated fan of Final Girl, you may find it even more difficult to resist her charms when I point out that THREE of the five movies on this list were part of her 2008 Final Girl Film Club (numbers 2, 3, and 4). This one was the first one I ever reviewed as a Film Club participant, and it remains my favorite, if only because it's hard to resist an insanely bad horror movie that stars both Tony *gleam* Curtis (fans of The Great Race just chuckled) AND Burgess Meredith. As for what this movie is about, it's about a Native American spirit that reincarnates itself into the upper back of a young lovely, only to emerge in a hospital "birthing" scene that had some of the most spectacularly bad special effects I have ever seen. Oh god, it's absolutely wonderful. Do not miss! [read full review]

3. Lifeforce (1985) -- Science Fiction -- Starring boobies, boobies, boobies, Patrick Stewart, boobies, boobies.

This is a sci-fi movie made by Tobe Hooper, a man I consider to be a good-bad movie god. And this one is the perfect example -- it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and it just hellaciously entertaining because of it. Essentially, the movie is about a bunch of aliens that look like humans and were "rescued" from Halley's Comet and brought back to England. There, they begin to smooch everybody they come across, sucking the "lifeforce" out of them (with lightning bolts!) in order to sustain themselves. One of them is a totally hot chick. We see her boobs a lot. No really. A LOT. And you know what else we see? PATRICK STEWART barfin' up naked lady all over the place! Really, need I say more? I thought not. [read full review]

4. Scarecrows (1988) -- Horror/Zombies -- Starring Ted Vernon, Michael David Simms, Richard Vidan, Kristina Sanborn

Another of Final Girl's brilliant discoveries, this completely, COMPLETELY stupid(ly delightful) horror movie is about scarecrows that come to life and kill for procreation. It's even got the cajones to ask us to suspend many of our beliefs in the laws of physics, which, by my book, instantly makes it a shoe-in for this category. Also, it gave me the excuse to call someone "Deadbert," for which I will be eternally grateful. [read full review]

5. Organizm (2008) -- Science Fiction -- Starring Johnathon Schaech, Erika Leerhsen, Jason Wiles, James McDaniel

Finally one from this millennium! The year 2008 was sorely lacking in good crap, I'm afraid. This one was one I rented with my mom, who is, bless her soul, always, ALWAYS in the mood for bad sci-fi movies. We fully expected it to be utterly awful -- name one GOOD movie in which the "s" in the title has been replaced by a "z" and not one but TWO of the actors have silent-and-superfluous h's in their names (Johnathan and Leerhsen). Hah, see? Never happens! But, as it turns out, there's a first for everything, and this movie was surprisingly entertaining. You know, for total crap. It's about a bunch of hazmat specialists who accidentally unleash a funky disease that sort of looks like a plant and then proceeds to attempt to consume the entire planet. In that respect, it's kind of like The Ruins, except not nearly as annoying and stupid. And yes, you did read that right, Stephen King. [read full review]

Favorite Books of 2008

1. Blood Meridian:Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy.

I read two McCarthy novels before I finally got to this one, and nearly quit after the first two (The Road and No Country for Old Men) because, while I enjoyed them and thought they were both very good, I was annoyed by the fact everybody I knew kept describing McCarthy as "Faulknerian" and I just wasn't seeing that at all. Until I read this book, which completely BLEW MY MIND. It's a little hard to explain the plot succinctly, but in essence, it's about a bunch of white people killing a bunch of Native Americans and Mexicans back in the 1800's. It's extremely violent, but so brilliantly written that I absolutely could not put it down. I look forward to discovering more McCarthy of this caliber in 2009 and highly, highly recommend this novel to anybody who loves to read novels written by incredibly, ridiculously intelligent people. [read full review]

2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Been feeling pretty upbeat and happy so far in 2009? Does this book have the cure for you! Okay, okay, yes, it's incredibly depressing -- it is, after all, the story of the last 30 or so years in Afghanistan told from the perspective of two severly traumatized women, so you know it's not going to be a laugh a minute. But at the same time, this novel is brilliantly, beautifully written and tells a extremely important and poignant story of a war-torn country most Americans simply consider the land of our enemies. Trapped in that land, though, are people who are just like us. And their lives are bleak and hard. We should know about them. They can teach us things.  Though this novel made me cry -- not easy to do, I might add -- I'm incredibly glad I read it, and I think you will be too. [read full review]

3. The Terror by Dan Simmons.

You know how sometimes when you read an incredibly awesome book, the book gets forever linked in your brain with the setting in which you first read it? That happened to me with this one, which I read while on vacation at my parents' house last February. It was the perfect setting because I often read it at night, alone in bed with the winter wind howling outside and the window cracked to make my room extra cold for improved slumber. Cold, windy, dark, alone -- dude, it was like I was stuck in the Northwest Passage myself. Except that I wasn't stranded there, my ship lodged in a huge sheet of ice from which there seemed to be no escape. And also? No man-eating monster! I've always loved stories of the exploration of the Northwest Passage. And I've always loved (good) stories about monsters. Put 'em together, and you get my number three favorite book from 2008. Wicked! [read full review]

4. Last Days of Summer by Steve Klugar.

Here's another one I debated leaving off the list because I didn't discover it in 2008 -- I read it for the first time several years ago and loved it, and then reread it a couple of months ago and loved it even more. But since in my review of it, I declared it to be one of my top ten favorite novels of ALL TIME, I felt like it warranted a spot on the annual listing as well. If you have not read this book, YOU ARE A FOOL, and that is all I'll say about that.

The story is about a little boy, Joey Margolis, growing up precocious, sarcastic, and stubborn in Brooklyn in the early 1940's. Through sheer will and annoyingness, he manages to befriend New York Giants third baseman Charlie Banks, and the two spend the rest of the book exchanging the wittiest of witty banter via notes, letters, telegrams, newspaper clippings, and other forms of correspondence. It is UTTERLY HILARIOUS, I'm telling you. And even if you don't like A) little boys or B) baseball, you will still love this book. I guaran-damn-tee it. [read full review]

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

This wonderful young adult novel is about a teenage boy named Arnold Spirit, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, Washington. As the book opens, Arnold has just started high school, and is dismayed to discover that the school on the reservation is still using thirty year-old textbooks. He quickly decides the only way to salvage his education is to get off the rez and start traveling 20 miles away to a mostly-white public school instead. But by leaving the rez and joining a mostly-white school on the outside, he suddenly finds himself an outcast in both communities. How he copes, and eventually "comes of age," is hilarious, powerful, and packed with highly relateable stories of typical teenage problems (falling in love, losing a friend), as well as intense tales of reservation life (poverty, alcoholism). Recommended for teenagers and adults alike! [read full review]

6. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale.

This fascinating non-fiction book tells the story of a gruesome murder and the undoing of one of England's first and most respected Scotland Yard detectives. It began in 1860, when a three year-old boy named Saville Kent was found dead in the family's outhouse. After struggling with the case for two weeks, the local cops decide to call in Scotland Yard, who sends Detective Inspector Jonathan Whicher to the house to investigate. At the time, Whicher was one of only eight detectives in England, and was the inspiration for many a detective story by Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and other writers of the time. But, this case ends up ruining Whicher's career forever, as he becomes obsessively convinced that the person responsible for the boy's murder is a close family member -- a woman, no less. Society turns against him, and his reputation never recovers. But aside from the story of the actual case, this book is packed with fascinating tidbits about crime-solving and detective-ness in the 1800's. Riveting, smart, cool, and totally edumacational, man. If you liked The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, I think you'll like this one too. [read full review]

7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

This wonderful epistolary novel, set in the post-war 1940's, is about an author and a group of Guernsey Islanders (one of the Channel Islands of the UK) who begin writing to each other when the author expresses an interest in putting together a book about the Islanders' experiences during the war. Guernsey Island, as it turns out, was actually occupied by the Germans, and wow, do its residents ever have some amazing stories to tell as a result. There's sadness, love, hope, inspiration, and comedy all rolled into this one single, short book of letters. I never knew the story of the German occupation of Guernsey, and it's an amazing one. This is definitely not a novel to be missed I can't recommend it highly enough. [read full review]

8. Saturday by Ian McEwan.

This novel is set not long after 9/11 and opens with a neurosurgeon, Henry Perowne, awake in the wee hours of the morning for a reason he can't quite pinpoint. On a whim, he rises and goes to the window, where he suddenly sees a plane crash in the distance. Though he's startled, his reaction to the crash is surprisingly subdued. Nevertheless, the plane is about to serve as a motif for the day Henry's going to have, as things in his own life start to collapse and burn shortly thereafter. On his way to the gym later that day, Henry has an encounter with a group of hoodlums, who eventually follow him home and take him and his entire family hostage. But it's not even really the plot of this one that so sucked me in -- it was the characters and the variety of conversations they had with each other, touching on everything from marriage, to art, to the politics of the post 9/11 world. McEwan is definitely one of the greats, and this would be a great novel for McEwan n00bs to start with. [read full review]

9. Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott.

This enthralling novel opens with the mysterious death of a present-day Cambridge scholar most widely known for her studies of Isaac Newton and his involvement in the world of alchemy. She had been in the middle of writing a book about that very topic when she was found drowned in a creek near her house. The historian’s son asks his old lover, Lydia Brooke, also a Newton scholar, to finish his mother’s book. Lydia agrees and accepts his invitation to live in his mother’s old house while she works on the project. As she delves into the work, Lydia discovers her old mentor had a complex, detailed conspiracy theory about Newton — one that gradually becomes more and more ghostly and spooky. And though Stott goes a little overboard with the foreshadowing in the first 100 or so pages, eventually, the writing evens out and the story just really sucked me in. A great book to pick up on a weekend when you're stuck at home and feel like snuggling up on the couch with a spooky and smart story. [read full review]

10. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.

This utterly delightful young adult novel is set in a small Arizona high school and focuses on a teenage boy named Leo Borlock. Life for Leo is pretty good, but things are about to get a lot more interesting for both Leo and his entire school. A new girl, previously home-schooled, has just joined their class and she’s. . . well, she’s a bit of a weird one. She goes by the name “Stargirl,” and definitely marches to the beat of her own drummer. She plays the ukulele and sings to people at lunch. She gives people surprise gifts. She wears odd clothes and decorates her desk before every class. She shows up uninvited at events. She cheers for both sides during basketball games. The list goes on and on. Thing is, she may be weird, but to Leo she's also. . . pretty amazing. But befriending the school geek? That's never an easy task for an adolescent boy. This is a story that is about the importance of embracing your inner dork (as well as everybody else's inner dork), and not only does it have a great message, it's also funny, sweet, and thought-provoking. Another one great for both teens and adults alike. [read full review]

Okay, folks! That's it for 2008! Coming up next on the Boyfriend site will be the first Boyfriend of the year, a coveted slot, no doubt. Who will it be? Damned if I know -- I told you I was working with a list of thirty hotties, right? Narrowing that down to just one? Whew -- it's not a task you should envy me. In the meantime, I've got three book reviews and two movie reviews in the works on the blog, plus a whole lot more. Thanks for listening, reading, chatting, supporting, and here's to another year of total inanity at the Boyfriend of the Week!


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