Otherwise known as the lazy blog post of cultural stuff I’ve quite liked in 2008, namely film, TV and music.
Film-wise, 2008’s film of the year should, by rights, be The Dark Knight, which was fantastic in every way. But an understated Pinteresque  comedy that starred both Colin Farrell and racist dwarves was also equally as good and, as such, I can’t pick between them.
In Bruges should have probably been discarded the moment you mentioned Colin Farrell’s name in conjunction with comedy and existentialism. But then it’s just possible writer/director Martin McDonagh saw Farrell’s performance in the sadly underrated and little-seen Intermission and decided he’d be perfect for the restless, foul-mouthed, hyperactive naive first-time hitman Ray. And the film world, it can safely be said, is all the better for this casting decision.
In Bruges’ joy lay in the characters and the script, while the plot took a back seat. Watching Farrell and Brendan Gleeson’s mismatched hitmen lay low and bicker in the boring but culturally rich city of Bruges while waiting for orders from their psycopathic boss (Ralph Fiennes) was one of the cinematic highlights of the year. It’s also not often you manage to get a film that has a very soft, sweet centre but such a hilariously profane script that manages to offend pretty much every minority and country, often in just one sentence.
On the flipside was Christopher Nolan’s brooding, intense masterpiece. Had this been a cop film, it would be a shoe-in for Oscars. As it is, it may still get one.
If Heath Ledger picks up posthumous awards then there’ll always be a suspicion that, well, the academy voted for him because he’s dead. But that takes nothing away from his performance as the Joker, which is thoroughly deserving of every accolade anybody wants to throw at him. While Christian Bale’s Batman takes a back seat, almost out of necessity, Ledger’s Joker steals the show completely to the point you’ll completely forget Jack Nicholson ever hammed it up under the facepaint.
Such a majestic graphic novel adaptation has been a long time coming (the first Hellboy probably got closest in the action stakes, with Ghost World leading the way elsewhere) and, with the Dark Knight, Nolan’s raised the bar so high that most other superhero films might as well give up now. Or at least wait a few years. Certainly it puts a lot of pressure on the forthcoming Watchmen film, as if there wasn’t enough already.
On the small screen, sports aside, there’s been one show that has stood head and shoulders above the rest. Britain may be a bit behind on getting Dexter, but it’s been worth the wait.
Michael C. Hall is perfect as the police blood splatter expert cum serial killer, while the scripts are gripping, tight and very playful indeed. It takes a lot to make you root for a serial killer, even one who only offs bad guys, but Dexter pitches the show exactly right – somewhere between extreme black comedy and taught police thriller. Season 2 has already been on FX but comes to terrestrial (ITV1) in the New Year. I’m halfway through it on DVD and it’s every bit as good as the first.
Finally, music wise, the album that’s rarely been off my iPod since I brought it: TV On The Radio’s Dear Science. A mixture of funk, downbeat, noodling experimental electronica and, finally after several albums that promised but never delivered, some tight, killer tunes. A masterpiece from start to finish. Here’s a quick clip of the band performing The Golden Age on Later…
 I’m not using this word just to show off I know about his stuff now that he’s dead (although I’ve studied a lot of Pinter in the past). Rather that the film really did remind me a lot of the Dumb Waiter.