2018 Game/Film/Anime/Series/Book/Album/Song of the Year

2018 was an amazing year for the arts and for entertainment in all mediums and genres. It felt like every time I settled on a favorite movie or game, another one would come out and beat it. Even stories in the same medium, exploring familiar tropes (A Quiet Place and Netflix’s Bird Box), stood apart and delivered quality experiences. I’m not too picky about genre or subject matter so I’m not sure what the general consensus was, but I thought there was something for everyone.  Let’s start off with my favorite game of the year.

Game of the Year: GRIS and Marvel’s Spider-Man

Marvel's Spider-Man_20180921110902.png

This is a tough pick and I just can’t choose at the moment. I need more time for them to sink in. With that being said, these games are nothing alike. Spider-Man for PlayStation 4 is one of the best action games I’ve ever held a controller for, while GRIS is one of the most beautiful, emotional experience I’ve gone through. They both nail what they set out to do and I can’t wait to see what both studios will produce in the coming years. 2018 was a nonstop ride for gaming fans and keeps proving that it’s the best and most versatile medium for storytelling.

Honorable Mentions: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Film of the Year: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Verse

I don’t watch too many movies. It’s not really my favorite medium, although I don’t deny its effectiveness. I just think the period of time to tell a story is so short that the development of characters is significantly held back.

That being said, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse did something few movies could. It took an established character, with several movies of material to pull from, and did something unique and memorable. Because we know the characters, they were able to put a new spin on them and introduce new characters while also poking fun at the old. The comedy is golden, along with the script, art style, and soundtrack. Everything about this film is nearly perfect.

Spider-Verse is such a labor of love that every second spews evidence of that. The people who made this film absolutely LOVE Spider-Man. You couldn’t have hired a better crew of artists for this project. The amount of joy I feel every time I watch Spider-Verse is unparalleled and I quite honestly think it’s my favorite film of all time. Time will tell, but I just can’t get enough of this film. In my opinion, nothing I saw last year came close.

Honorable Mentions: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Avengers: Infinity War

Anime of the Year: Devilman Crybaby

Devilman Crybaby

Devilman Crybaby is shocking; it’s brutal and deep; Devilman Crybaby is like nothing I’ve watched. It isn’t really my style of anime, but it still managed to keep my attention the whole way through. The plot takes a backseat to the relationships between the characters and symbolic themes but that doesn’t hold this anime back. There’s something about the horror of the world that is presented that kept me engaged, despite wanting to look away.

Honorable Mentions: Attack on Titan Season 3

TV Series of the Year: The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House

2018 told some of my favorite stories, and most of them were TV series. Television has evolved and no longer sticks to that medium. We watch it on our phones, computers, and gaming consoles. I’d say that television series have overtaken films in quality of storytelling. They’re approaching films in their production values, which is crazy to me. The Haunting of Hill House is a drama disguised as a horror show. It’s a story about family and about how much they can hurt us. But it’s also about how important family is, no matter what terrors are thrown at it.

What hit me the hardest was how real and well-developed the characters on this series were. I felt for them, both because I related with some of them and because of how broken they were. The season seems to be self-contained so don’t worry having to wait for the story to continue. I heavily recommend a watch-through or two, if you can stomach some of the dark themes.

Honorable Mentions: Barry, and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Book of the Year: ???

I have a confession to make and it hurts to admit it, but I didn’t finish a single book in 2018. It was one of my few goals for 2018 and I definitely started some books but I just didn’t take it seriously. Here’s to reading at least one full book in 2019.

Honorable Mentions: None.

Album of the Year: Kids by The Midnight

Kids by The Midnight

Alternate album cover by The Midnight

I’ve only been following The Midnight for a couple years but they’ve quickly become one of my favorite artists. Their yearning-for-the-past-infused-tracks just don’t get old, no matter how many times I listen to them. There’s something deeply saddening about almost every one of their tracks and yet, totally comforting. With Kids, The Midnight went for softer instrumentation but heavier tone. Sure, the past is nostalgic, but there’s pain there too, pain we didn’t even realize.

One of the deciding factors for this category was the unity of the album. Kids tells a complete story, with every track 100% necessary to the plot. Miss one song and it’s like you tore out a chapter in a book.

Honorable Mentions: Ultraviolet by 3LAU and Wide-Eyed Said the Sky

Song of the Year: “Don’t Think Twice” by Hikaru Utada

Don't Think Twice

This song is important for many reasons. It’s the ending song to the soon-to-be-released Kingdom Hearts III but it’s more than that. It’s Hikaru Utada returning to form. She’s back with a piano-led ballad and it’s full of heart. “Don’t Think Twice” isn’t what I expected but I just can’t help but get emotional every time I really listen to it.

“How did I live / in a kingdom of thieves.” As Utada continue the song, it’s clear she’s matured these past 10 years or so. “I want you for a lifetime / so if you’re gonna think twice, baby / I don’t wanna know, baby.” This is a romantic song, sure, but it’s fed up with wasting time on fleeting relationships. The back-and-forth has gone long enough and there’s a resolution that needs to be reached.

It’s a perfect song for ending Kingdom Hearts III and stands alone as a phenomenal song. It’s not a song that falls into my genre of choice, but that’s just another reason it’s so special. I’ll be playing this one for years.

Honorable Mentions: “Dragon” by Built By Titan and “Take You Down” by Illenium

This Review Will #DEFEND You From Spoilers

So I expected at least a couple tons of quality after the excellent Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Didn’t-Finish-Because-I-Lost-Interest-Iron Fist seasons. Netflix and Marvel gave these characters and their version of New York City a level of care that is rare for most any TV series out there. Despite the similarities between them, each series has a distinct feel to it. I was honestly skeptical when it was announced that these 4 incredibly diverse characters would somehow be forced into unification for 1 season.

So is The Defenders worth the buildup? It really depends on what you were expecting from the show.

Cheese PocketsThis Review Will DEFEND You From Spoilers

There’s no doubt that Iron Fist’s storyline adds cheese-encrusted cheese to the The Defenders, but there isn’t really any option but to either fully embrace it or laugh at it as if it were some dare[devil]ing pun. The series decides that a mix of both is appropriate and I think the choice pays off explosively.

Jessica’s snarky quips about all the mystical elements in the show are hilarious and right in line with what you’d expect from her. The Defenders is able to keep sight of the gravity of the plot while still not taking itself too seriously. That being said, the supernatural influence in The Defenders is pretty heavy handed. As a sucker for all things fantasy, I ate it up like so many unclaimed carbs.

Did it work? Absolutely. I don’t eat junk food.

Good Chemistry or a Bad Math Equation?

This Review Will DEFEND You From Spoilers

Our 4 leads play off and against each other like I hoped they would. Teamwork is an unseemly trek through the mud, and these characters prove that. My favorite interactions are the ones that frequently take place between Jessica and Matt. Murdock sets himself up for some great lines from Jessica; they’re exactly what you’d expect from her character. It isn’t like he doesn’t hit back with his own wit either, he definitely does and it’s glorious.

The whole “dysfunctional team” trope is handled with oozing style. It makes sense, due to the differing motivations and personalities they each have. Luke isn’t going to trust some blind lawyer who decides he needs to cover his face when the other teammates have theirs exposed.  Jessica is going to prefer a drink to saving the world. And Iron Fist is the idealist who thinks a team of heroes is something the group can be.

He’s gotten a lot of hate from audiences, but I’d say Danny is actually quite likable in The Defenders and earns his spot on the team, even if he’s not pragmatic like the rest.

An Issue of CharacterThis Review Will DEFEND You From Spoilers

All the main characters have their own shortcomings and struggles that they bring along with them. This isn’t some idealistic “justice league” of super buddies where everyone loves each other through the power of friendship and pretty sunflowers. The protagonists don’t even like each other all that much, if at all.

Most of the supporting cast from each show make an appearance in The Defenders, even if their screen time isn’t remotely equal. It’s great to see the new dynamics sprout up due to the insane crossover that happens. It’s nice to know where characters like Foggy are in their lives and how they contribute to the overarching drama.

The villains are intense, although the show still suffers from the common “this group of expendable enemies gets knocked down like nothing because they’re not the boss” concept. There are some truly insane characters in this show and they all fit right into the world.

Should You Defend Against Watching The Defenders?

Watch the series. It may not be your glass of whiskey, but you’re sure to find plenty of entertainment from just the characters alone, even if you haven’t watched all the other shows. The cinematography is on point, music hits the right chord, and few moments go to waste in this exceptional series.

9.5 fingers out of 10

13 Reasons Why: Reflection

[No Spoilers]

Our culture is built on hyperbole. That in itself is hyperbole.

“He’s more evil than Hitler.”

“That ice cream was the best thing I’ve ever tasted.”

“I hate when you call me Alice.”

“That’s the best TV series I’ve ever seen.”

I could say that 13 Reasons Why is the best show I’ve seen, but that would do it a disservice. The show is so well done. SO well done. But the most important part of the show (and the book, I’m sure [despite my not having read it]) isn’t how well it’s written or filmed, or scored, or even acted; the most important part of the show is the message.
That cheesy enough for you? Well, guess what? Life is cheesy. And what is cheesiness anyway? Life is a giant cliched wheel of cheese that we think we’re not a part of. We’re all part of this screwed up abomination of a world. Our lives aren’t all that special. But they are. Each life holds more meaning than anything that can be expressed through my try-too-hard keystrokes. That doesn’t mean that we should give up trying to find the meaning in each and every life.

True Art Is Truthful

I’m an art addict, and even moreso for excellent art. Excellent art, to me, makes me understand people a little bit more; sometimes a lot more than I would like. 13 Reasons Why deals with topics that a lot of people don’t really understand; a lot of people also understand them too well. Some people need to understand them. Others can’t handle these topics. Some people should even stay away from this show because it could make them relive things they shouldn’t have to relive.

This show isn’t gentle. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s uncomfortable to watch. It even hurts to watch at times. Now, I don’t know where you are in your life, but chances are, you need to watch this whole series and you need to watch it soon.

Hell Is Hell

People are suffering. There are so many people out there that are living in hell and we overlook them every day. Maybe we’re making their lives hell. Maybe we’re one of the people living in hell. Maybe it’s a cocktail of blended hell. I’ve been part of both. Maybe we all have, to some degree.

I’m being really vague in this all, but I won’t be anymore; not completely. This show deals with suicide, rape, bullying, and more. It shows some pretty graphic stuff. Is it senseless? I don’t think so. Sometimes we need a glimpse of someone else’s hell so our perspective can change even a little. That perspective change is different for every person. For me it was, well, a lot of things. What it boils down to is- I’m not really 100% sure. Like I said earlier, it helped me understand people a little bit more.

Suffer Through Another 2 Paragraphs?

Human suffering is real. We don’t do enough to stop it and sometimes we even cause it. Sometimes we enjoy making others suffer. It’s not a “well he’s worse than me” thing either. It’s not about comparisons or contrasts. It’s about understanding. We need to try and see where people come from, what they’re feeling.

Humans are freaking complicated freaking beings with freaking problems. This show is not for everyone, but if you have problems, and you’re complicated, even a little, this show is probably for you.

Tell someone you love them. Really ask them how they’re doing. They won’t be around forever. Neither will you.