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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Logan Review

I’ve had about a week to let my thoughts on Logan percolate. Here they are.

(No spoilers in this review)

Darkening the Doorstep

Logan is centered around loss of many things, but it’s also undoubtedly about renewal as well. A renewal of relationships between characters and a renewal for the superhero movie genre. Don’t go into this movie expecting a fun time, cause you won’t get it. This film is tough to watch, and that’s not just due to the high level of violence. Logan deals with humanity on a level that no other superhero movie has done yet.

I wouldn’t even call Logan a superhero movie, although it’s unfortunately tied to the genre. There’s plenty of action and there’s a main villain, but I think those are just tropes that are being used to tell an incredible story of a human being who’s lost everything. Everything that happens in the film isn’t tossed in without some heavy thought.

This movie is dark, and although we’ve started to overuse that word, it still applies. This is the mature Wolverine movie that fans have been craving for years. Logan finally gets to use his claws like we’ve been hoping he would and drop those lovely words he loves using so much in the comics. I found this to be less convincing for Professor Xavier, who favored them just as much as Logan. Despite the heaviness of the film, there are plenty of hilarious moments sprinkled in. The amazing part is that these moments don’t disrupt the narrative flow of the movie. They feel natural, like they’re not written into the film as breaks from the gravity of the other parts.

A Child’s World

Logan deals with a world where children are just as much a part of the world as adults are. There are some gritty scenes involving children that will make you think about parallels between Logan’s world and ours and if we’re doing enough to protect our children. Adults’ actions don’t exist in a vacuum apart from what goes on in children’s lives.

This film isn’t preachy or overbearing in its content, it just tells a good story. There are a couple moments where it’s obvious people came up with the story; it’s kind of hard to escape that with the genre, but they feel real despite that. This movie is just really genuine all around, and I really appreciate that.

Act It Out

The acting in Logan is phenomenal, with both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart putting their all into their roles. Dafne Keen, who plays Laura, does a great job for her age and given the stoic nature of her role. All the supporting actors aren’t left in the dust either, with strong performances from basically everyone.

Even so, this film is very much Logan’s movie. Hugh Jackman does the character a huge service in his last appearance as the character before he lets someone else take on the role.

I walked away from this film a bit of a changed person and I think that’s what all good films should strive for. It made me reevaluate some things about my life and the lives of those around me. When it comes down to it, I couldn’t ask for more in a film. Go and watch it, but but be prepared to walk away with a few scars of your own.

5/5 Stars

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

(No Spoilers)

I have many thoughts on the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; most ALL of them in the realm of positivity. That may be an overstatement, but honestly, this is the time for high praise; lots of it. I honestly didn’t expect this film to exceed my bated expectations in the way that it did. I’m still a little bit in shock at the experience that this film was for me. Definitely one of the highlights of 2016.

This is more of a rant than a review, so keep reading if that sounds intriguing to you.

Not Harry Potter

I think the biggest thing going for this film is that it doesn’t want to be Harry Potter. Beasts could have easily have been another more-of-the-same entry in the franchise and I would have taken it in eagerly; maybe too eagerly. Yes, the film uses familiar terms and name-dropped a few… “concepts” from the Harry Potter universe, and, yes, that’s why we all went to watch it, but Beasts is its own entity. That’s what was so amazing about this film. It knows where and what it comes from and maybe that’s only because J.K. Rowling wrote the script, but- well, that’s probably why. Even so, the whole film just feels original. At the whimsical core, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them bears the distinct mark of Rowling, but is still distinct.

Positively Genuine

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Can I just say “Thank you” to Rowling for writing a protagonist that isn’t a jerk? As much as I love the books and the universe, Harry Potter was kind of a total jerk faucet. I know he had a rough upbringing and all that (and that’s another topic) but well, read the parenthesis. Yeah. Let’s leave it at that. They’re both different characters anyway.

Newt is honestly one of the most likable protagonists I’ve come across in any medium. He was a gigantic gulp of fresh oxygen in a world of “whoa is me” and “my life sucks” protagonists that our world is littered with. Now those characters have their place and I’m not saying every character should be like Newt, but he felt… special (as cliche as it sounds).

But Wait, There’s More!

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I could say so much more about Beasts, but let’s jump into bullet-point-thoughts for time’s sake (or length’s. I don’t know how fast you read):

  • This movie was genuinely funny, and not in a “cheap laughs” kind of way.
  • Dialogue was spot on. “Just a smidge.”
  • Casting? Couldn’t have done it better myself. Actually, I would’ve had no idea what I was doing. Moving on-
  • As an artist, art direction pleased me very much. Oh, so very much. 10/10 would look at again. Bravo to the artists.
  • Characterization was out there in full force. Rowling knows her characters and how much they need to be developed without crowding the story.
  • Parts of the film were predictable, but it handled that fact really well.
  • Some may say the film was too long, but I felt it could have been even longer and I would’ve still enjoyed it. I think it was the right length when it comes down to it.
  • Where is my Netflix Original Series about Aurors?!

What’s Next?

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This franchise has a future that is beyond promising. I can’t wait for 2018, when the next entry is scheduled to be deliciously fed into our eye-sockets.Until then, back to the theater for another watch.

I’m not going to obligate you to watch the film, but…

Do it.