Film in 2008: Hands up, lady, and step away from the Abba LP

Whether it was to check out Carrie Bradshaw's frocks or Daniel Craig's pecs, women of a certain age couldn't keep away from the movies in 2008
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The Independent Culture

Seems ages ago, doesn't it, but No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood both came out in 2008, and both were impressive.

The film that didn't just impress me, but also gripped me, moved me and wrung me out was The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a gorgeous adaptation of Jean-Dominique Bauby's memoir of paralysis, directed by Julian Schnabel. Since then, no film has topped Pixar's sublime Wall.E, which was half a wistful silent movie, half a fast and furious space adventure, with a love story linking them. It wasn't really for children, of course, but never mind. They got Kung Fu Panda.

Another highlight was James Marsh's Man on Wire, which told the thrilling story of Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the World Trade Center's twin towers. I also loved In Search of a Midnight Kiss, a low-budget rom-com which, beneath its cynical banter, was a tender ode to Los Angeles.

Atonement of the year

Ben Affleck's crimes against cinema are myriad, but he made up for Gigli, Jersey Girl, Surviving Christmas and the rest by directing and co-writing Gone Baby Gone, a potent whodunnit which epitomised 2008's trend for doom and gloom. His brother Casey – the acting talent of the family – plays a Bostonian private eye who's faced with the most gut-wrenching moral dilemma of any film I can remember.

Face of the year

No mere fizzog could be as expressive as Terence Davies's godlike voice as he narrates Of Time and the City, his essay on post-war Merseyside. It overflows with lip-smacking relish when he evokes the transporting wonders of cinema, mischievous scorn when he dismisses the Beatles, thunderous ire when he recalls the expense of the Queen's wedding, and theatrical hauteur when he bids us and Liverpool farewell.

Newcomers of the year

It may seem odd to label Steve McQueen and Martin McDonagh as newcomers, considering how pre-eminent they are in their own fields, but McQueen – a Turner-winning artist – and McDonagh – a Tony-winning playwright – charged their directorial debuts with all the energy and originality of newcomers, as well as incorporating everything they'd learnt in their other careers. McQueen's Hunger evinces an artist's eye for composition in every shot, while McDonagh's soulful gangster romp, In Bruges, glows with a playwright's love of dialogue and depth.

Phenomenon of the year

If Sex and the City or Mamma Mia! had flopped, I'd have been the first to declare that it was inevitable: who'd pay to see a long episode of a defunct TV show or Meryl Streep doing some Abba karaoke? But both films were colossal hits, thereby teaching Hollywood that it's not teenage boys it should be aiming at, but middle-aged women. And can it be a coincidence that Daniel Craig, Jason Statham, Robert Downey Jr and Josh Brolin kept getting their shirts off in their films, while their leading ladies remained fully clothed?

Turkey of the year

It would be too easy to pick one of the films we all knew would be loathsome, such as the fatally unfunny spoofs, Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie, or the grisly Paris Hilton vehicle, The Hottie & the Nottie. But Incendiary was a film with potential. It starred Michelle Williams and Ewan McGregor, was adapted from an acclaimed novel, and grappled with a weighty subject – the aftermath of an Islamist bomb in London. It was either going to be a searing triumph or a crass, tasteless insult. It was the latter.


The brooding, humourless James Bond. Let's hope so, anyway. Quantum of Solace raked in the same box-office millions as every Bond film does on opening weekend, but the mood of 007 fans I spoke to on Monday morning was angry disappointment. They all said that unless Daniel Craig gets a twinkle in his eye, a smutty pun on his lips, and one of Q's gadgets in his briefcase, they'll spend the next Bond opening weekend at home with their Octopussy DVDs.