Why I Love 2018 in Created Things
2018 was an exceptional year for art and created things. From amazing music to powerful films and epic and thrilling video games, this was one of the best years I have ever experienced. Please find below my favourite artworks of the year.
1) My Dear Melancholy, by The Weeknd. The return of the Trilogy/Kiss Land Abel and I couldn't be happier to hear him. All six tracks are incredible but I particularly love "Try Me" - that last chorus when the synth line comes in... kills me - and "Wasted Times" - What they got that I ain't got? Cause I got a lot. A beautiful, bleak, brilliant thing.
2) Scorpion by Drake. Half Rap and half R&B and I couldn't be happier to hear Drake finally pulling the trigger on his promise to finally do something purely in the latter's genre. Maybe too long, but who cares? If less is sometimes more, more is even MORE than that. "Nice For What" is a killer track. "Summer Games," "God's Plan," "Don't Matter To Me" are all quality. The only thing that could have been better is if Abel was on a track. Oh well. Still, I remain OVOXO for life.
3) Piano and Microphone by Prince. I have heard my share of bootlegs but I had not heard these recordings before, at least not more than once and very briefly when I used to have dozens of CDs worth of bootlegs. "17 Days" is transformed. A genius near the peak of his powers.
4) Beerbongs & Bentleys by Post Malone. I'm still somewhat confused as to why Post is considered a rapper and not a singer, as this has some beautiful melodies and dead on delivery and performance. This is the album that got me hooked, suggested I believe by my friend Matthew Jacobs. Thanks Matty!
5) Invasion of Privacy by Cardi B. Not the masterpiece I was hoping for, but really, really damn good all the same. She has a great lyrical flair and knows how to work her persona for big rewards. I find it upsetting and disappointing that she seemed destined to feud with Nicki Minaj, as if there was only room for one woman in the genre. Fuck that shit. I hope Cardi stays with us for many more years, and Nicki too.
6) Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae. Janelle Monae is a genius and this was a superb showing from her. I love everything about her: her theatricality and flair and forward thinking and sounding music. A good place to start with her. Up there with her best.
7) Daytona by Pusha T. My least favourite thing about Pusha T is his desire to have beef with Drake, but boy can he write and perform. This is tight, vital and brilliant. One of the best rappers working today. Superb production from Kanye West.
8) KOD by J Cole. The third of the Big 3, again shows why he does indeed deserve to be considered as just as artistically interesting and lyrically powerful as Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Up there with 2014 Forest Hills Drive.
9) Ye by Kanye West. This was the year for great EPs, and I enjoyed this a lot more than Life of Pablo. Great production, hooks and lyrics. Doesn't overstay its welcome like so many modern rap albums.
10) Kids See Ghosts. Kid Cudi and Kanye are a formidable team. I hope that they produce many more projects together.
1) Christopher Robin, Directed by Marc Forster. This was all of the good things of my childhood turned into a beautiful and emotional picture. Hearing the Winnie The Pooh from my early days return to guide me and Christopher Robin, through a crisis of self, was more than I could have hoped for. It is everything that Steven Spielberg's Hook should have been and was not. It is exceptionally moving, bittersweet and gorgeous. The best film of the year.
2) Mandy, Directed by Panos Cosmatos. Nicolas Cage is the greatest actor of his generation and proves it again here. More than a stunning, batshit crazy performance from Cage though is a visually incredible, provocative piece of work. Dreamlike, surreal and terrifying. A revenge picture for the ages.
3) Hereditary, Directed by Ari Aster. A straight up, knockdown killer Horror movie, that is traditional in its form but oh so surprising in its details Exceptionally scary, of course, but it also has great insight into grief and love, similar to modern classics The Babadook and A Dark Song. I can think of no higher complement than that. Contained within this wonderful storytelling is a devastating lead performance from Toni Collette, who deserves all of the awards.
4) Annihilation, Directed by Alex Garland. Netflix were responsible for two of my top ten picks this year. In spite of the regrettable decision to cancel Luke Cage and Daredevil, they have proved again that they are perhaps the best place to go to see quality films and shows. Annihilation is a Science Fiction Horror piece that I loved almost as much as Prometheus. Very smart, top performances with some truly mind altering ideas.
5) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Directed by The Coen Brothers. I heard a lot of noise from One Perfect Shot about this being the Coen's worst, and I honestly don't know what movie they were watching. This picture holds together in a way few anthology movies do. Starts VERY funny and ends VERY somber and contemplative. Viciously dark sense of humour, with quite a lot to say about surviving in a hostile environment. Their best Western and high up the list for best Westerns of the 21st century.
6) Solo, Directed by Ron Howard. One thing I am proud of is rightly identifying that the hatred for the Star Wars prequels was not because nerds suddenly got good taste, but that the fanbase is plagued with toxic, cynical people who want to be catered to in every way. Solo is a REALLY FUN TIME, as much a Western as it is a Space Opera. Ron Howard does a fine job here filling the movie with excellent set-pieces and colourful characters.
7) The Avengers: Infinity War, Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. One of the densest and most satisfying comic book movies that I have ever seen. The payoff to a decade of hard work, and boy it doesn't disappoint. I am very excited to see how things continue.
8) Black Panther, Directed by Ryan Coogler. An excellent villain and a charismatic lead make this a brilliant comic book movie. Empowering in a way that I cannot fully comprehend given my reality as a white man, but from that limited position I appreciate somewhat why this movie meant so much to black people. I loved it.
9) A Quiet Place, Directed by John Krasinski. Quite simply the best Horror concept since Wes Craven created A Nightmare on Elm Street, with that immortal tag-line: Never Sleep Again. I had a couple of small issues with A Quiet Place, but none of much consequence. Good performances, tight direction and a build up and payoff of tension to rival Hitchcock.
10) Ant-Man and The Wasp, Directed by Peyton Reed. I only saw this last night but it was a sheer delight from start to finish. Paul Rudd is such a great lead, and there is top chemistry between he and Evangeline Lilly. Inventive and bombastic action scenes that are so much more clever than the vast majority of action movies.
1) Red Dead Redemption II, Developed by Rockstar Games. It couldn't have been anything else this year. I was waiting for this game for a long time; ever since the original was released in 2010. It did not disappoint. I am just approaching my second playthrough and I am still finding new details and secrets. While I cannot quite compare it to other games this year, as I have played quite few, I can compare it to other Westerns, and please take my informed opinion: it is as good as the best in the history of the genre. Rockstar addressed all of the legitimate criticisms of GTA V and did so not with box ticking but with flair and artistry. Sadie Adler is one of the best characters they have ever written and I really hope we get to see more of her in DLC or online. The Native American storyline is on point, fair and desperately sad.
"I was born here and I'll die here, against my will. I know it looks like I'm moving, but I'm standing still. Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb. I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from. Don't even hear the murmur of a prayer. It's not dark yet, but it's getting there."
The ending, while not as shocking as the original, is just as powerful. The slow decay, the embracing of fated destruction. The dramatic irony of what we know is coming for the characters hits like a cement block. This is a prequel done right. It, in no way, diminishes the power of the first Red Dead Redemption, and instead builds and expands with confidence and a dead on sense of place and time. It's a history lesson in one way, but more importantly a righteous and moral work of art. Destined to be remembered generations from now as one of the greatest Westerns of the last hundred years.
2. Spider-Man, Developed by Insomniac Games. Anything that stands beside Red Dead Redemption II is going to be diminished, but I had a lot of fun with this game. I am not as big a fan of the character as I am of Batman, but I had enough of a knowledge to really enjoy this. Looks gorgeous and has deep and satisfying combat. I hope Insomniac get another shot to build on what they did here, as it is a wonderful start.