My 'Best Ofs' for 2018 (Movies, Music, Books)
In a year that felt like a real, hard grind for many (including myself), I turned to film, music, and books, as a way to escape. While I only caught 52 films – roughly an even split between online and in theatres – I also read 25 books, and listened to, and felt, countless music that moved me in more ways than I care to share. So read on if you’d like to know what my year was like in film, song, pages.
While cinema seemed to be more miss than hit for me, much like 2018 was, there is always a silver lining in the dark clouds that circle above, and this year I was moved to tears by a couple of films, for very different reasons.
There’s no denying having a beautiful, young son of my own who I wish only the best and greatest things for, deeply affected my choice for my number one film, but I’m glad it did. It was a beautiful, heart wrenching movie that made me wonder about life and my role as a devoted, doting, and loving dad. So if cinema is meant to be my escape from reality, yet makes me reflect on my present more than ever, then I for one am happy it aroused something in me to ponder as I raise my own boy as best I can.
So with that said, read on to see the movies that moved me, made me laugh, made me cry, made me nostalgic, made me think, or were simply, just a way to escape the drudgery of everyday life for two hours at a time.
TOP 10 MOVIES
Quite simply, the most resonant, moving cinematic experience for me of 2018. Perhaps it’s because I have a son. Maybe it’s because we all want the best for our kids. But what happens when it doesn’t turn out the way we hope? Incredible performance from Timothée Chalamet (he really has the acting world at his feet). Just a heartfelt, emotionally engaging, moving story of a father’s undying love for his deeply troubled son, no matter what. Hard to take; Impossible to forget.
Isle of Dogs
Just one enjoyable, all round impressive film! Wes Anderson delivers a captivating, fun, funny story all set in on a trash island full of dogs. The animation is top notch.
Leave No Trace
A slow burn of a film that crept up on me and never let go, even long after the credits rolled. Was really touched by this father-daughter journey, where this film stayed with me long after I saw it.
Andre The Giant (doco)
I was never a fan of the over the top WWF wrestling but if you were a kid of the ‘80s, you knew the names: Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Junkyard Dog, King Kong Bundy, and co. But none dominated the ring more than Andre The Giant. This colossus of the scene not only stood at over 7’4” tall, and weighed over 520 pounds (235kgs), but he dominated opponents and won over fans. This moving documentary showcases his rise to fame, his battle with disease, knowing he was destined for an early death, and his gigantic heart. A true legend, in, and out of the ring.
This dark, edgy film based on a true story, captured more than my imagination. It also did something I’ve never seen a movie do, using the real life people the movie is based on, in scenes with the actors, bouncing dialogue off of each other in a clever, witty way.
Mission Impossible: Fallout
I love a good action romp – if it’s done right. This franchise continues to push the envelope, while also creating an engaging film, that while it’s sometimes hard to follow with all the plot twists, is simply an enjoyable cinematic experience.
A truly entertaining film based on the life of one of the greatest singer/songwriters of our time. While I wished it had ventured more into the darker nature of his personal life, there’s no denying this was a crowd pleasing, stadium rocker!
A really well told story that hooked me from the get-go and by film’s end, had me questioning the writing establishment. As a writer and storyteller, I thoroughly enjoyed this.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Had initially dismissed this, not feeling like I needed a Han Solo backstory, because truth be told, I felt like we all knew it. But based on trusted friends’ recommendations, decided to relent. Boy am I glad I did. Much better than the Star Wars sequels and just a good, fun trip through the galaxy far, far away.
Can You Ever Forgive Me ?
Melissa McCarthy shines in this true story of a writer who’s lost her way and seeks alternative methods to generate an income. Totally engrossed in this movie, which did more than surprise me, it wowed me! Loved Richard E. Grant’s star supporting role, too. Deserved Oscar nominee. Hope he brings home the gold, shiny statuette for his efforts. If you want a good, solid story to be engrossed by, then this is it.
BlacKkKlansman, Game Night, Vice
As an aside from my Top 10, I thought it would be fun to add a couple that just missed the cut. BlacKkKlansman was there all year but finally gave way for better, grittier, more enjoyable films but it was no less a deserved candidate, which for mine, also contained the single greatest, emotionally powerful scene I saw of any film all year! Game Night was a bloody good, fun, hilarious film that pitted two actors alongside each other as a trivia obsessed husband & wife team who get in over their heads. Loved it, and it offered us the chance to witness Jesse Plemons play arguably the creepiest character I’ve seen in years. Deserves more love than it got. And Vice, proved it was not all style over substance, but one very cool, well put together film on quite possibly the single scariest US politician to ever sit second in charge. Bale does a superb job of Dic Cheney, who quite possibly changed the course of world history as a result of his actions.
The King (doco): An interesting road trip take through a broken U.S. as told inside the King’s former Rolls Royce.
Spiderman – Into The Spiderverse: A clever, well devised animated film that will be copied for its cool effects for a long time to come.
I’ve been slowly coming off the music mountain I stood atop of for many years. One where I used to take home in excess of 30 albums in any given month. These days, most, if not all, my music comes from three hours of the greatest radio I have ever heard anywhere in the world. If not for that humble little show, ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic’ my music collection would have long since stalled. While the radio and music, is always on at my house, I’ve always had an ear for what I consider, truly great music.
So while I may not get my hands dirty the way I once did rifling through old record stores, scouring music for hard to find or hidden gems, I still know great music when I hear it.
Art Of Doubt – Metric
Got onto this album very, very late, as in December late! Am I glad I did, though. This edgy, electro, almost disco-esque, indie rocker of an album, really wowed my speakers. A few songs that always demanded to be turned up past 11 or on constant repeat, and that’s a sure sign this album would slot nicely among my many others. A very worthy number one that felt like it came from nowhere yet seemed liked it was here all along.
Rare Birds – Jonathon Wilson
Almost a complete album for me, with some exceptional, grandiose songs that conjured up the sweeping epics of the past. Just a couple of songs shy of being the fully played album from song 1-13, but a great contender. One very talented man who seems to straddle different genres as well as eras. Loved it!
Love Yourself – The Boxer Rebellion
At a time when I was in an emotional and mental funk for what felt like most of 2018, and where I had forgotten to love myself, this song came along and reminded me of what’s important, and where we should all start from. Just exquisite.
Roll Back – George Fitzgerald & Lil Silva
Like a slow creep, this tune bored deep down into my soul, kept seeping into it, and never left me. Pushed hard all year for that number one slot, and in any other year, would have taken it out. As it stands, one mesmerising song that deserves its place in the pantheon of greatness.
Loving You – Jonathon Wilson
A beautiful, sweeping, epic ode of a song on love. Jonathon Wilson conjures up a dreamy atmospheric track that lifts you up and transports you to a whole other place.
Vertigo – Shey Baba
There is no denying this gem of a hidden artist, is a treasure to behold. After proving his first song, the sumptuous ‘Requiem’, was no fluke, he follows up with an equally impressive, mesmerising number. Cannot wait to hear a full album from this clearly talented maestro.
Suspirium – Thom Yorke
From that eerie opening of the repeated piano tinkling, to the haunting lyrics and soulful voice, it all feels like the perfect accompaniment to the horror film it was written for. Could listen to this over and over, hypnotised by its delicate beauty.
Now Or Never Now – Metric
With its bold, strong song title to the moment this edgy, electro, almost disco-esque, indie rock track hits, it’s all killer! Always found myself cranking the volume whenever this came on. In short – bloody infectious. That groove, those melodies, the singing, it’s one retro-vibed, dance floor track that will shake more than your body. Feel it!
You & Me Now – The Record Company
From those jangly, stirring guitar strokes to the raspy vocals, this song buries itself deep inside you, right where it belongs. Beautiful.
Done With Those Days – DeVotchKa
A lilting tune that sounds a lot like a haunting Western. The echoes of the opening whistle, the sublime chorus, this infectious number mesmerises in ways I’ve yet to fully understand but adore.
Treasure – Sampha
In this fragile, emotive tune, you can feel every quavering heartbreak, and it’s the stuff of beauty. It not only comes off the soundtrack to my fave movie, where it feels like it packs an even greater emotional punch, but even on its own, it’s sublime in every way.
This Wild Darkness – Moby
In a year many would love to forget, where it felt like we were all in the darkness for most of it, myself included, this one brought light to an otherwise difficult, trying year. Could have easily come off his highly successful ‘Play’ album, yet was very much of the now. Thank God for Moby and all he stands for and believes in.
For Me, It’s You – Lo Moon
“Just when I felt like giving up,” and with those opening, forlorn words, this song is imposing as it is sublime. As majestic as it is passionate. Tough to leave this one out of my Top 10, but greatness still deserves recognition.
Bloodless – Andrew Bird
Found it so bloody difficult to leave this delicate, sincere song out of my Top 10 also, but it was just impossible to squeeze it in. But wanted to give it its place in the light, even if it narrowly missed out. Just a lovely, sincere tune that washes its beauty all over your soul.
Unlike movies, which I see a lot of, and music, which is always on in the background where I hear countless tunes, books are a trickier proposition. They take a longer commitment, though the rewards are often more enriching than most popcorn fare. It’s also near impossible to catch everything that comes out in any given year and race through them to start the next new novel wonder.
So that said, I take a different tack with books. I read what grabs my attention. What sits on the communal shelves. What piques my interest. Sure, the books are not from 2018, occasionally one or two slip through and make my way to my bookshelf to be read. It’s a big shelf and only getting bigger but when I find a book I truly love and adore, I devour the thing in days! As was the case with my number one choice. Done and dusted inside four days and loved every single second I poured into it.
There’s also the other end of the spectrum, where I’m genuinely excited about a book only to waver or suffer through it. So I’ve learnt to simply abandon any book if it doesn’t move me inside 50, 60 pages, sometimes less. Life’s too short to waste on things that don’t inspire, excite, intrigue or capture my attention. Same goes with movies, music, TV shows… people! I also found I read more non-fiction than I ever have before. Not quite as much as fiction (still where my heart and mind lies) but was surprised by the amount I did. Read a total of 25 books (15 fiction, 10 non-fiction), which I think is bloody good going with a young toddler son under two!
There were definitely a few very memorable, amazing reads to be had among them. I think I have a writer’s crush on my first choice, the writing and story, so engrossing, while I was blown away by the facts of the historical fiction second book. It totally rewired my brain and made me question everything I thought I knew of our world history. That’s impressive. So, if you love great books and incredible storytelling, then read on, and discover the ones that moved me to not only finish them, some inside four days or less, but disappear among their pages.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This one, not only captured everything I love about a great book, but it crashed my all time Top 10 books! That in itself is an impressive feat, as I thought that an impenetrable list. I was wrong, and happy to be so. Gillian Flynn has not only captured my imagination, but my (writer) heart. A damn fucking great read that doesn’t let up from page one to the last. Seek it out, devour it, love it, the way I did.
1421 by Gavin Menzies
This sat at number one for the longest time and was only relegated to the second slot late in the year, but the fact this book blew my mind wide open and made me question everything I thought I knew (or was taught) of world history, makes me wonder what other bullshit we’ve been fed and believe. Simply unputdownable!
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Sure, I’m coming into this one super late, but I’ve never bought into the hype of anything (book, movie, TV, fame). However, while I was slow to discover it, when I did, I smashed through this fast paced, taught, epic thriller. It was everything a book should be and more. An incredible feat from a writer I can only be envious of yet admire for their incredible storytelling technique.
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Yet another one I got into super late, but like Dan Brown, Chuck Palahniuk delivers a compelling novel that tears at the heart of society and makes you question what we do, and where we are going. Every bit as good as the edgy, fun movie but better. It’s a book after all.
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
So after demolishing The Da Vinci Code, I lucked out and discovered his earlier book on the shelves. Every bit as good as his runaway bestseller, there’s no denying the talent and devotion Dan Brown has to his craft. A true storyteller of the highest order. Now have his newer ones in my queue as well. That’s devotion and respect!
The Magic Strings Of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
And for those interested on what just missed the cut, was this magical story by Mitch Albom (yes him, of the heartfelt Tuesdays With Morrie). This delightful novel was a sheer joy to read as I envisioned the magic being conjured up and told. Would make one hell of a great movie, too – here’s hoping.
Invisible Selling Machine by Ryan Deiss
For an entrepreneur that’s been attempting to get his online business, which I’m told people love and think would do well, we often need a little extra inspiration and motivation to keep us on course. This book, while simple in its message, cut through the chase and bullshit, and delivered a better, smarter, more succinct way to get your message and brand across. Loved it as I felt re-inspired and motivated again!
I’m not going to include any other non-fiction books this time around, because although I read nine more, none really stood out or deserved further mention, though not for lack of trying. Hopefully there’ll be even more non-fiction gems to discover and uncover for 2019. Always my hope and belief.