This year we were a lucky lot to have 340 films released over 366 days (go, leap year, go!). With such a grand number of films, it is no surprize that there were common threads amongst the films. Here are the trends I found to be most interesting or notable in 2008.
The Year of The Vamp
Be they teenage, Swedish or southern, vampires hit the big and small screen in a big way in 2008. Let the Right One In / Låt den rätte komma in, the Swedish vampire film that hit the festival circuit by storm also graced the regular theatres to many filmgoers delight. We also saw the screen adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's teen romance vampire novel Twilight which exploded in the theatres in November and was such a success that the next book in the series "New Moon" is going ahead to become a film as well. For more vamp fun, the HBO series 'True Blood' made its restless and racy debut on the small screen. Word is, 'True Blood' has been greenlit for season 2. Personally, this is one category where I loved each and every vampy delight.
Comic Book, Superhero and Animated Films Transcend to Legitimacy
Looking back at 2008 it would be amiss to not mention the phenomena that was The Dark Knight. Overall I would say this was the most talked about and most seen mainstream film of the year. It brought people out to the theatre multiple times, set a new precedent from a technological stand point by having action sequences in IMAX format. To top it all off it had one hell of a performance by the late Heath Ledger. It wasn't the only film to make waves though, right from the get go back in June we had across the board acclaim for WALL-E to the point of it breaking out being not only a great animated film but acclaimed to be one of the best film of the year overall. More notable comic book and superhero films from 2008 and the bad boys that are Hancock, Iron Man, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Breaking more walls down in the world of animated film we have the war documentary Waltz with Bashir.
Docs That Rock You
What a year for documentaries. I cried, laughed and cheered my way thought this years fantastic documentary scene. What other year brought us not only one but two documentaries about Antarctica (Encounters at the End of the World and The Last Continent / Le Dernier Continent)? The other documentaries literally rocked out, showcasing artists & performers such as wirewalker Philippe Petit in Man on Wire, Sam Dunn's journey to discover the International heavy metal music scene in Global Metal, breakdancing troupe train and perform in the "Battle of the Year" competition in Planet B-Boy or enjoy time with the iconic Patti Smith in Patti Smith: Dream of Life. We also saw the envelope pushed this year with films that busted through the boundaries of what would be defined as a documentary with the 'docu-fantasia' film My Winnipeg and a rather meta slice of narrative with JCVD. Speaking of JCVD...
The Comebacks Kings (aka the men we secretly never stopped loving)
I don't know anyone who wasn't touched by Jean-Claude Van Damme performance in JCVD, the opening night Midnight Madness film at the Toronto International Film Festival which took people by storm and is one of the few films that was so good I saw it not only at the festival but went again for more at it's theatrical release. Of course the big news of the moment centring on comebacks is all about Mickey Rourke in the recent release of Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke is truly astounding in the film, I thought I was seeeing Randy "The Ram" Robinson and not an actor at all. Quite a feat. If you think back to May of this year, you will find that there is one more name to add to this category. The charisma of Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man charmed the socks off of everyone in sight.
And finally, the underlooked trend of 2008:
Plants Gone Wild
Saying no more. That would be telling.