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

Don’t Talk

Let’s talk of love,
Of sunsets,
And peace,

Let’s talk of roses
And romance,
And full glasses of champagne.

Let’s,
Talk of joy
And having a baby,
And windchimes,
And feasts,
And,
Well,
Anything.

But let’s not talk of hate,
Or war
Or crimson rivers;
Wounds crackling with pus,
Popping scabs,
The sizzling gashes on my face.

Don’t speak of lost soldiers with forgotten limbs.
Don’t think,
Of discrimination,
And sorrow,
And divided skin.

Don’t waste a single breath
On misfits,
Outcasts,
Or widows.

Ignore conversing about infants
Left in the gutter,
Or orphans without arms,
Or bombings,
Or fire in the streets.

Don’t mention parents
Who kill their children.
I don’t want to know
About incest,
Trauma,
And rape.

Don’t look at the spires
Constructed of bodies,
With insects crawling out holes,
And eating out frowns.

Absolutely never speak,
Of anger and sadness
And anything in between.

Why bother with illness
Of mind,
Body,
Spirit.

Forget about the times
When liberty bled.
That’s not on my conscience.

Why mention families,
Torn,
Apart.

Why speak of agony,
And brokenness,
And death?
Don’t speak,
Of suffering
At all.

But let’s talk,
About anything,
And everything,
Anything at all.
As long
As it’s not,
You.

I’ve Tasted Galaxies…

I’ve tasted galaxies of life

And death

And sorrows past feeling.

Of joy without limit

And the doubting of self.

 

I’ve drunk rivers of peace

And oceans of boundless wonder.

 

I’ve breathed in clouds of self-pity

And enjoyed the smells of meadows

Filled with unending mystery.

 

But I’m not you.

I will never be like you.

 

And even when our souls do

Touch.

I feel more distant when we part

Than before we met.

 

But you feel fulfilled,

Enlightened even.

Like I’m just another self-help book

On your shelf of past experiences.

Like I’m a pass or fail college course

You can take in eight weeks

And forget about in three.

 

So I cover my scars with a cloak of shame

As they spread down my twisted back.

And I hide my broken tears

In the lyrics I sing to the world.

 

You sing along,

Calling my suffering, “art” and saying,

 

“It’s beautiful.”

 

“I wish I could write like that.”

 

“It makes me want to cry.”

 

If you knew what it cost,

To create the art you marvel at,

You’d draw your eyes anywhere else.

 

The beauty you see

Is the mask worn by the fallen angel of who I am.

 

If you could write like I write,

You’d cry tears

You could never take back.

 

I wish you never have to cry the tears

I’ve cried.

 

And I’d cry them again

If it meant saving you

From it all.

 

But even then, inside of me,

I feel the rusted inner-turmoil of a Saint who killed his god.

Who can’t get over the death,

Cause it was a senseless pleasure murder

Disguised as a mercy killing.

 

All else died on that day,

The day his god died.

And I can taste,

The ever-running-tears from the Saint’s face,

As I hold it next to mine,

And I wish he could forget

When his god died.

 

But then,

I wish you suffered

Like I did-

 

Honestly,

I wish you suffered worse than I did.

 

Because I’m tired.

I’m so tired.

Cause every bed is a bed of thin needles.

So I stand and bite down on my hand

So the blood distracts me from my failing heart.

But when I grow tired of even that,

And the blood dries,

I’m left with a swollen, teeth-marked palm

And a heart struggling to even gasp.

Then I remember

your worth,

And take back the tar-smeared words I never said to you,

And put out the livid torch with my fingers.

Because I love-

I love you more,

Than I could ever love myself.

An Album Review: Taylor Swift – Reputation

You know that feeling when you fall in love with an album and can’t stop listening to it on repeat for months? That was Taylor Swift’s Red for me. I’m not a fan of country, but her foray into pop was gold for me. I enjoyed 1989 when it released, but it didn’t live up to Red for me.

Preparation

Now we have Reputation. I wasn’t the biggest fan, or really a fan at all, of either of Taylor’s leading singles for this album. They actually made me nervous for what the entire album would sound like.

If I had to summarize Taylor’s Reputation in one word, it would be “um-what-did-I-just-listen-to-and-who-thought-this-was-a-good-idea-oh-it’s-because-she’s-dead.” I’m all for artists trying to reinvent themselves and experimenting with new sounds and ideas. I think it’s bad for an artist to stay in the same place just to please people. But sometimes artists make missteps; sometimes artists fall off a cliff and never hit the bottom.

Amputation

Reputation is like someone thinking that getting on a train to collide with a jet head-on will cure her cancer.  It’s just a bad album and I don’t think I’m saying that from a subjective perspective. Almost every song is dripping with an abnormal amount of pretentiousness that takes over even the instrumental backing tracks. Some of the melodies are pleasant, but they’re never consistently that way. Some songs are trying really hard to be good, but they quickly nosedive into the nothingness of mediocrity.

The lyrics themselves may resonate with with some people, but the level of depth they have is in the negative. I’m not asking for a philosophical manifesto on the meaning of life. Despite being a writer, I don’t need lyrics to be incredibly meaningful to enjoy them. The fact is that almost all the lyrics on this album are trying too hard to be edgy and it comes across like a whiny teenager from a rich family who didn’t get her yearly $10,000 birthday present.

Turn Your Face From the Music

It’s a shame. There are some solid ideas and sounds on this album, but they’re drowned out by all the useless white noise. I can’t and won’t recommend this album to anyone. It borrows too much from what I like to call “trash-pop” and ends up like a rotten animal on the road: putrid and stinking.

P.S. New Year’s Day is the exception on this album. It’s a beautiful, heartfelt song that doesn’t belong on this album.

Reputation Score: 3/10

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.

Days of Summer

Enclosed in his,

She mistook the bliss

For days of Summer

When the Sun was higher

And brighter, yet calmer.


Beside the One

Who gave it all up

When no one else would.

She took the pain

But with him remains.


Tell me,

Should Love ever go one way?

Because the current

Never washed my way.

The waves were my own,

And the perils, I braved alone.


She took the risk

Where there was none.

She jumped into

The Future not knowing,

The Past hadn’t received its due.

Binge-Watching You

I’ve tried binge-watching you,

But the script is inconsistent.

Something about the characters

Is forced.

Each episode is too long,

Overly dramatic.

You think you’re a comedy;

You’re horror.

The production values are stellar,

But they’re wasted on you.

At 155 episodes and 7 seasons,

You should have ended after the first arc.

Your ratings are high.

So what?

Enjoy the attention.

I’m not coming back.