The Denby Awards 2008
December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, lovers.

It's weird - I've only been writing here since June, yet this feels like my home on the internet. I've really enjoyed my time on the freelance pool, and hope to continue churning out my views on games for a long while yet.

This is the first time my blog's been here around Christmas time, so you probably won't know that every year I get extremely bored and post some Best Of awards. I usually wait until New Year to do it, but it's going to be a busy week and there's nothing particularly interesting happening in it anyway. Except, y'know, Christmas and my birthday and all that.

So, without further ado, let's get going. For the uninitiated: the awards focus on pop culture in the three areas I'm most interested in. Two music awards (best album, best single), and one each for gaming and film.


A year in which I've seen a lot of films, but not many of them recent. The new releases I have seen, however, have been largely brilliant, and a huge improvement on last year's cinema. Oddly enough, I doubt many will go down as real classics, being very much works 'of this era', but let's judge them on that alone. It seems infinitely fairer.

Cloverfield managed to be absolutely stunning, and the surprise of the year, but I have a sneaking suspicion it may have only excelled due to the big screen. I've not seen it on DVD yet, but at the cinema it certainly benefited from being projected in all its enormity in front of me. Sweeney Todd is one I enjoyed thoroughly from start to finish, and a long-awaited return to form from Tim Burton, but it was adapted so little from the original musical that I'd feel unfair giving too much credit to this version. The Dark Knight is the one that stands head and shoulders above the rest, though. I can understand people's criticism of it, but I don't think it was ever supposed to be deep and intellectually engaging. Some characters could have done with a little more fleshing out, but the Joker alone was worth the price of admission. Shame about Bale's stupid Batman voice, but the direction and Ledger's acting elevated this one to greatness. All the more haunting since Ledger's death, and the best action-fantasy since The Crow.

WINNER: The Dark Knight
RUNNERS UP: Cloverfield, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Where has all the good music gone, please?

I've really struggled to get excited about music this year, which makes me incredibly sad. This has always been my true love, and yet I've not been particularly engaged by any albums released this year. I'm not really sure what to say.

Vessels put a nice album out. It's bigger and heavier than I would have expected from their debut, and it's the delicacy of their early material that shines through on it, but it's a decent recording nevertheless. Yuki stands out as one of my all-time favourite tracks. Moving towards the mainstream, I suppose I quite like Robyn's offering, though it's mainly the singles that stand out, and it's a re-release of an old album. Ultimately, though, I'm compelled to give the top award to a blisteringly high-octane record I first yeard in November 2007, but which wasn't onsale in the UK until February.

WINNER: The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in Goliath
RUNNERS UP: Vessels - White Fields and Open Devices, Robyn - s/t

AWFULLY LATE EDIT: Knock Robyn off the end of the list, and add Forward Russia - Life Processes in at the top. Worryingly, I completely forgot about it.

There's one single that sticks in my head to this day, one which I absolutely hated upon release, and one which couldn't be more throwaway if it tried. Its lyrics barely make sense. It's shamelessly cheesy. And it's brilliant.

Alphabeat's Ten Thousand Nights is a brilliant single: one hundred per cent about the melody, one hundred per cent about first-listen catchiness, and worrying precisely naught about whether it'll stand up in the future. I love how absolutely, horrifically annoying it is. For that alone, it must be commended.

Dream On is Robyn at her predictable dance brilliance, but with something else. This one manages to capture a real emotional pull somehow, with its glorious melody and simple but effective chord sequence. I love Robyn. I really do. She's marvellous to the point where I'm cheating and citing old re-releases as the second best stuff of this year.

The new Middleman stuff was okay, too, wasn't it? Oh, no, wait - that was the end of last year. Erm. Erm. God knows. The Ting Tings.

WINNER: Alphabeat - 10,000 Nights
RUNNERS UP: Robyn - Dream On, The Ting Tings - Shut Up And Let Me Go

This is more fucking like it.

Where the hell do we start in a year like this? Fallout 3, for being the first (successful) game that played to what I love about the medium in, Christ, at least four years? World of Goo, for its lovely indie goodness? Left 4 Dead, for eating up more of my time than is fair? Little Big Planet, which I've not played yet? No, we probably shouldn't do the last one, then. If I'd played it, it might be in with a shot. Sorry, LBP.

This is tough. Left 4 Dead is more refined and more 'fun', but it's not exactly revolutionary. Fallout 3 isn't, either, really, but it's closer to what I'd think of as a gaming classic. Both are utterly, utterly brilliant (as is WoG, to be fair). In the end, I'm going to go with HG scores alone, and opt for Fallout. And then I'm going to realise I forgot about Mass Effect's PC release, and cry. Beautiful tears of joy.

WINNER: Fallout 3
RUNNERS UP: Left 4 Dead, World of Goo. Plus BioShock's PS3 port and Mass Effect's PC port. Plus probably Little Big Planet if I'd played it. And I forgot about Grand Theft Auto 4, which is ridiculous. All of them are runners up. I love everything.

Most recent blog posts from Lewis Denby...

EmP EmP - December 24, 2008 (03:57 AM)
Volta? Alphabeat?!?

Sorry, man; I'm going to have to disown you, now.
Lewis Lewis - December 24, 2008 (04:37 AM)
Go on then, Gazza. Let's see your taste in music.

Yeah, I'm eclectic and so random...
EmP EmP - December 24, 2008 (05:09 AM)
It's genreally accepted now that me and music don't get on anymore so I tend to dislike pretty much anything. Volta happen to be one of the bands I violently dislike because I heard one of their albums a while ago, thought it was a complete mess of ambient sound effects being overly spammed to try and hide mediocre-tier musician's fragile egos and have narrow-mindedly stuck with that mindset FOREVER.

You're very right, though: 2008 has been a god awful year for music. The only ablum I showed even a passing interest in was the new Feeder one, and I've still not made my mind up if I like it enough to drop a piddling amount of cash on. I'm, begrudginly, coming to realise that I don't hate the Wombats album much, either.

There's been too many good games out, though. I only actually sat down to watch The Black Knight last night, and spent the entire filming ripping the piss out of poor Bruce's throat cancer.

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