December 2018 Digest

Best of 2018 Lists

Movie Reviews
*** = PopCult’s Choice

Comic Book Reviews

My Favorite Films I Watched in 2018 – Part 2

Here is the second part of my favorite films I viewed in 2018 and the final blog post of 2018. I will continue in 2019 starting with a State of the Blog post tomorrow.

15. Loveless (2017, dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev)
From my review:
It is entirely understandable to be at the frayed edges of a relationship and want to drag them down in the mud with you on the way down. It’s not a right way to live, but it is a behavior that is very natural to humanity. It is reasonable to want to start a new life and experience that nostalgic freshness that a burgeoning relationship can bring. Are Zhenya and Boris unrealistic in their expectations for their new partners? Oh most, definitely and we see that as the film slowly spirals to its conclusion. Zhenya and Boris are so entirely ordinary, and that is what makes Loveless cut so deeply. These are not exaggerated, grotesque characters. These people could be us if life got bad enough.

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My Favorite Films I Watched in 2018 – Part 1

As always these are films I *watched* for the first time in 2018, not necessarily that were released this year. Part 1 contains #30 – 16.

30. Lean on Pete (2018, dir. Andrew Haigh)
From my review:
Charley has never really experienced love, except for that one short time with Aunt Margy. She truly loved him, and then they had to go away. So, when Charley meets Pete, a horse considered valueless, he wants to repay that love. Charley begins to see the beauty in Pete, old but still strong, full of opinions and not easily tamed. He wants to rescue Pete in the same way he needs someone to save him. No one’s coming for Pete, so Charley takes it upon himself without ever asking if anyone is coming for Charley. So often the rural corners of our nation are portrayed as the warm, moral centers, the “Heartland.” Director Haigh has no qualms pointing out how stark and lonely the landscape and its people can be, just as devastating as any urban nightmare conjured up.

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My Favorite Television I Watched in 2018

Here are the best shows I watched over the course of 2018.

Detroiters Seasons 1 & 2 (Comedy Central)
It’s always my luck to get into a show as soon as the network decides to cancel it. That is also true of the best thing I (re)watched on this list which you’ll see at the end. Detroiters is a show co-created by and starring Sam Richardson (Veep) and Tim Robinson (SNL). The series tells the story of best friends Tim and Sam who are running Tim’s dad’s advertising agency after his father ends up having a nervous breakdown and is committed. So the duo goes about creating advertisements for clients that aren’t something you’d see airing outside a local market. However, the show isn’t even really about the workplace; its strengths are the friendship between its two central characters and the highlighting the city of Detroit. The comedy here is not meant to shock you, but it also isn’t without an edge, it’s a wonderful balance you don’t find too often anymore. You can’t help but genuinely feel good after watching an episode.

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My Favorite Documentaries I Watched in 2018

City of Gold (2015) – Directed by Laura Gabbert
I watched this film earlier in the year only to be shocked in July when the news came that food critic Jonathan Gold had died. In this documentary, we get to know the LA Times premiere food writer. There are interviews with the man himself as well as his family, coworkers, and the chefs he has brought into the spotlight. Gold was very well known for helping to promote small immigrant-owned businesses in the Los Angeles area. These entrepreneurs and little old grandmas speak about Gold with tears in their eyes, grateful for how his kind words brought them to a new level of success. While he is gone, his words and influence remain as vibrant as ever.

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My Favorite Fiction Books I Read in 2018

As I did with non-fiction, here are the fiction books I read this year that I loved.

The Shadow Year – Jeffrey Ford
From my review:
The aspect of this novel that struck me the hardest was the strength of the narrator’s voice. Ford does an excellent job framing the story through the eyes of an adult man remembering the events. From the first pages, events flow in a dreamlike and hazy fashion. There are not many places where the author lingers in detail. Instead, we get the broad brushstrokes of childhood memory. Even better, the fantastic elements of the story are met with little fanfare by the children. They live at a point in their lives where monsters, ghosts, and other supernatural things are just as real and mysterious to them as the complicated relationships of their parents and the struggles of school.

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My Favorite Non-Fiction Books I Read in 2018

This year I committed myself to read three books at a time: One comic book collection, one fiction book, and one non-fiction book. As a result, I read some very informative books, filling in my knowledge on subjects I realized I only understood tangentially. Here were my favorites, in no particular order, expect the last book which is my favorite.

The Second Amendment: A Biography – Michael Waldman
After the shooting at Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School in February was moved emotionally in a way that none of America’s previous school shooting tragedies had hit me. I think I’d chosen to be numb to what had gone before, notably Sandy Hook, despite being an elementary school teacher out of pure psychological survival. I knew I had issues with the proliferation of guns in the United States but was unable to articulate my views and wanted to clarify facts so that I could clarify or possibly change my understanding. Author Waldman does an excellent job of giving in-depth explorations of gun ownership from colonial America to the most recent Supreme Court cases surrounding the issue. I walked away having a firmer, never final, viewpoint on an issue and was able to navigate past my emotional response to holding a much more reasoned one, while not eschewing the humanity involved.

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