Best date movie::
'Slumdog Millionaire: ':
This riveting drama about an Indian orphan's unlikely rise on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is a rare coup. Yes, it's a great flick, but because it's playing at the "arthouse" theater, you get to look smart and cultured without the French subtitles. Now in theaters and look for it to be among this year's Oscar nominees.
Most improved show::
Season 4 of 'Lost' :
Who knew leaving mystery island would give this ailing castaway adventure its groove back? The producer's bold and seemingly counterintuitive move made for some of the best TV of the year. Fans finally got some answers, but, of course, they came with even more questions. It's now on DVD, and new episodes start Jan. 21 on WMAR, Channel 2.
Best use of a supergroup::
Coldplay's 'Viva La Vida' tour:
In the current age, digital downloads and splashy arena rock aren't supposed to co-exist. But by turning to the basics of pop music (old-fashioned creativity and hard-core touring), this British band was able to rise above the niches and sell some albums. The band released its fourth, Viva la Vida, in June and another is planned for next year.
'Grand Theft Auto 4':
Yes, irony is apparent: The most sophisticated video game of the year also allows you to drive around drunk. Yet if you can get past the seedier side of this gangster game, you're in for an epic virtual experience. There are miles of city streets to explore and even the smallest details - like whether you answer your cell phone - can affect the game. Available on PlayStation 3, XBox 360 and PC.
Best salve for Potter fans::
'The Tales of the Beedle Bard':
This year has been tough for Potter addicts: The final book bowed out in 2007 and movie No. 6 was pushed into next year. Thankfully, J.K. Rowling provided us with the fairy-tale book that was used as a plot device in the last Potter novel to keep those Hogwarts withdrawals at bay. Now in bookstores.
'The Dark Knight':
It wasn't the masterpiece it has been made out to be, but it was the movie we all desperately needed. Amid the glut of new media, water cooler moments that everyone can feel a part of are all too rare. But for one summer at least, Batman had most of us watching and discussing the same thing. Now on DVD, the film will be back in theaters next month.
Best new series::
HBO's 'True Blood':
: An antidote to the cheese-fest that is Twilight, this surly vampire drama actually has teeth. From Six Feet Under's Alan Ball, the raunchy series has the bloodsuckers "coming out of the coffin," trying to live "normal" lives. Yes, there's romance, but there's also plenty of action. New episodes and the Season 1 DVD should land in May.
Most promising debut::
Duffy's 'Rockferry' :
This young Welsh singer - who performed at this year's Virgin Festival - looks a little like Lindsay Lohan and sounds a lot like Amy Winehouse. But instead of a tabloid trainwreck, we got (for now) a polished pop star. Her single, "Mercy," was a hit on the radio, but also on TV. While Rockferry wasn't a huge hit, it skillfully showcased Duffy's potential.
Best for all-age gamers::
'LittleBigPlanet': on PS3:
: Don't let the fact that this is probably the cutest game of the year deter from the charms of LittleBigPlanet. Its developers have infused this adventure game with a cheeky wit and a stunning visual style. That alone would have made it noteworthy, yet LBP's biggest draw is its interactivity. Players can share levels and comment on all the cuteness.
Most talked about in D.C.: :
'Team of Rivals':
This book was released in 2005, but President-elect Barack Obama made it a hit in 2008. Sure, the political merits of conflicting advisers is open to debate. But it makes for interesting reading as Doris Kearns Goodwin deftly retells the story of the Civil War through the lens of Lincoln's unusual Cabinet. Found in most non-Beltway bookstores.