Best of 2018: 30 things that made this year better than it should have been

It’s that time again, my best things of the year which not necessarily were produced or released this year but which I read, watched, listened to or otherwise enjoyed this year. So it will be full of stuff that makes you go: Geez, Juliane, that’s like, totally old news, in what kind of cave are you living?” And I’ll be like “I live in one of those parts of town in Berlin that no artist would ever move to because they all think it’s sad and dangerous and poor, so it’s actually kind of like a cave but a metaphorical one!”.

Anyways, let’s enjoy this list (or not, what do I care).

1. Janelle Monae “Make me feel”

It’s the pop album of the year, there’s nothing better, don’t fight me, I will BITE YOU! Personally, it’s the crime of the century that Janelle Monae still is not the biggest pop sensation celebrated by all because every song on this album is a hit, she got late Prince’s blessing and she is so smart, funny and creative with everything from the look of her shows/videos to the sound, to the production to the lyrics. “Make me feel” is so beautiful, the last time I loved a pop album so much was when I finally managed to listen to “Lemonade” and couldn’t believe its power.  

2. “The Gritterman” by Orlando Weeks

Although released in 2017, I saved this book until 2018, like a hidden stash of pralines. That was a good decision, though, because when I finally read the book and listened to the accompanying music/audio narration, it tore out my heart and crumbled it into tiny little pieces that drifted away like snowflakes. Honestly, “The Gritterman” is lovely but also so sad. Because it’s not something that wants you to cry but just wants to tell this story of an old man on the last day at his job with his snow mobile, years after his wife died, the melancholy slowly creeps up and then small lines will completely gut you.

 I also really appreciate that Weeks did a few live shows with the music, narration and visualization which is such a beautiful thing, to try to create an experience that differs from the usual.  

3. “I don’t feel home in this world anymore”

Melanie Lynskie is a favorite of mine for years now, in fact, she’s one of those actresses who I will watch in pretty much everything (except “Two men”). The way she started as the forever sidekick in teen movies and romantic comedies, to that awful show and then suddenly appeared in all the right indie movies is just a lovely thing. In this movie, her character goes on a revenge spree together with Elijah Wood to get back at the people who robbed her.

But this is not just a really funny action thriller, this is also a very dark analogy to getting kicked in the shins despite wanting to lead a good life being a good person and how sometimes it’s impossible to do everything right when the world is this fucking dumpster fire. It’s quite lovely, really.

4. “The Hunger” by Alma Katsu

I don’t really like historical fiction unless you sprinkle some horror in it. As soon as you do so, I am all in. Alma Katsu’s book about the mysterious disappearance/slaughter of some settlers in the midst of Winter is a fantastic read because she really gives you an amazing look into this world (like “a house on the prairy” only depressing) and manages to juggle a lot of characters without losing sight of the plot. It was an absolute joy to read and I actually bought one of her research books she mentions in the afterword because she really intrigued me. I am hoping that she will write a few other horror novels in the future, Sarah Lotz can’t carry all the load of my well-researched-horror-stories alone.

5. The Decemberists “I’ll be your girl”

By now, listening to the Decemberists evokes a really weird feeling of yearning and feeling like I am home that hardly any other band can conjure up. Their newest album experiments (successfully but also surprisingly) with some 80s electro vibes but still keeps that slightly timeless campfire feel of their previous albums. With every new album, I think that this will be the album that is a little less exciting and then at some point, the songs creep into my head and won’t leave until I love them. And so I do love them, oh by god, do I love them.  

6. “Sharp Objects” by Gilian Flynn

I know, everyone was obsessed about the TV show this year but I read the book because I finally wanted to read a Flynn book and since I already saw the movie adaptions of her other two novels, I gave this a go and hoo boy, Flynn cuts sharp and is super depressing. But the way she navigates her characters through their desolate relationships is really artful and the way she gets to the point of describing the ways that women are expected to appear and perform in society is absolutely stunning (and, again, depressing).

7. Pen Pals

I got two pen pals this year and even though I am awful at replying in time, it’s super cool to hear about other people’s lifes and exchange letters. Since all my colleagues work in other cities and I see my friends rather rarely, it’s really nice to connect on this level. Especially, since letters are such an amazing keepsake.

(So, just in case, you’d like to strike up a penpalship with me, just write me an email and we’ll see how it goes)

8. Mattiel “dto”

I love the completely head-on clarity that Mattiel puts into her retrograde mix of Wild Western-solitary blues-rock. Her debut album is such a gigantic, loud force of nature, it’s absolutely bedazzling, I love it.

9. Hereditary

Sorry for being boring and recommending that one movie everyone talked about. I don’t know whether I want to watch “Hereditary” again in the near future because it’s one of those movies whose horror lies not necessarily (only) in the supernatural but also in the gigantic tragedy of life. The emotional rollercoaster that the movie puts its protagonists (and its viewers) through is quite a ride but so so exhausting. Because I respect a movie that goes there and because Toni Collette is a joy to watch but also because Alex Wolff is an amazing contrast to her intensity and because it’s such a wild ride, it was one of my favorite horror movies this year (it actually reminded me a lot of “The Witch”). Especially, since “The Quiet Ones” was such a disappointment for me after all those raving reviews.

10. Nicole Munoz in “Pyewacket”

“Pyewacket” is a lovely little horror movie about a teenager who makes an occult mess after a fight with her mother. The movie is subtle with the special effects but makes the lack of big CGI or other shenanigans work with a lot of atmosphere.
But the best of all is Nicole Munoz who is so good. There’s an early scene where the protagonist’s mother says something really horrible to her daughter and Munoz’ face tells everything within a few seconds, it’s a delight. She’s generally fantastic as an awkward, unsure teenager who has no idea what she unleashed and only gets better the more chaotic her life gets. I kinda hope that she does more horror movies but I am generally interested what her future projects will be.

11. “Kitchen” by Yoshimoto Banana

I saw this book recommended on Twitter and was intrigued. The story is one of grief, love, loss and a lot of food. It’s such a weird story from my Euro-centric, German perspective but it therefore felt like a dream and it’s written so light and softly, that it’s a wonderful experience to read it. I highly recommend it for everyone who loves wondrous imagery, sadness without despair and amazing descriptions of food.

12. “Annihilation”

I am still not quite sure how much I like the story or rather how it’s being told but this movie is such a visual piece of art that it really left a mark. From the creature design of THAT bear to the choreography of the next to last scene (without any dialog, it really is like performance art) this movie is just disturbingly beautiful and occasional asks, rightly so, the question whether a new life form that supercedes humanity would really be as bad as most of our Sci Fi-movies make it out to be (at least, that’s what I got from some of those scenes, especially given how horrible humanity as a whole can be). 

13. JD McPherson “On the lips” 

I am absolutely obsessed with this song, it’s so alluring and melancholic and beautiful. It’s like a long forgotten Roy Orbison song and JD McPherson really shows his vocal chops with this one, being a little bit more sensitive (dare I say “sexy”) than usual. It’s probably one of the songs I listened to more than I would openly admit to anyone (but Spotify knows all my dirty little secrets).

14. “To all the boys I’ve loved before”

So, I watched that Buzzfeed-celebrated “Kissing Booth” and was pretty much disgusted how such a problematic on ALL levels-movies could be anything but ripped to shreds by critics. Which is why it took me a while before I finally succumbed to “To all the boys” expecting the same outdated and alarming tropes of “girl falls for violent dude and gets slut shamed on the way”. But “To all the boys” is absolutely adorable, has a great, nay, amazing female lead and the heartthrob is actually sensitive, considerate and an all-around lovely guy.

15. Marriage

Yeah, so I married by Bae this year and that’s kinda cool, I guess.  

16. “Die Wand” (The Wall) by Marlen Haushofer

My partner suggested this book and although it’s on this list, I actually cursed him out for doing so because it’s probably the most devastating, sad and nihilistic thing I’ve read all year (apart from the news). Since I usually prefer my books to be somewhat escapist and since I especially try to avoid anything involving the death of ANY animal, this dystopian novel of a woman getting trapped in a bubble in the middle of a forest whereas the world seemingly stands still, was a great read. But it also wrecked me, a lot.

17. Graphic Novel “Black Magick” 

Since everybody was talking about “Chilling adventures of Sabrina” in 2018 when it came to witches, I want to recommend this awesome graphic novel based on detective and witch Rowan Black who uncovers a sinister plot by strange magic and also has to be on the lookout for witch hunters. This story is really wild, brutal but (personally) more successful at drawing you in than “Sabrina” because it doesn’t throw gazillion characters at you and therefore is more linear and can spend more time on the mystery, Rowan’s backstory and convincing world building.

18. Amy

We got a second cat this year because we thought our other cat Lisa would appreciate the company (narrator’s voice: she did not). Amy is really small, super active, the greediest little beast I’ve ever seen and she’s so brazen that it’s always a toss-up between being really angry and really entertained by her antics. We love her.

a cute cat yawning

19. “Teaching my mother how to give birth” by Warsan Shire

I saw this poem by Warsan Shire im Tumblr and it really moved me, so I got one of her collections of poems and they are really sad and beautiful and I recommend them to anyone, really.

20. “Apostle”

Quite possibly super inspired by that unnerving otherness of “The Witch”, “Apostle” goes ye olden route with weird rituals and a mysterious cult as we follow Dan Stevens to find a missing woman. The movie is less scary than the “The Witch” but keeps you interested and it’s kinda interesting how far it goes out with the origins of the cult. I really liked it and am glad that horror movies are getting a bit more diverse (thanks to Netflix as well who produced quite a few good movies this year).

21. “The Sinner”

Jessica Biel is absolutely fantastic in this really dark and really sad mystery crime thriller as Cora Tannetti who suddenly out of the blue kills a young man she sees at the beach. It’s up to Detective Harry Ambrose to find out why Cora went berserk.

I haven’t yet seen the second season which came out recently but the first one is quite amazing at telling a well-paced, sad story. The plot is A LOT but I enjoyed it even though it was a bit too much at times, mainly because the performances are great and the mood/atmosphere is my cup of tea.

22. Killjoys

I admit, I already got on the Killjoys-train last year but since this year the 4th season was released and I enjoyed it so much, again, I just wanted to give a shout-out to this fun sci-fi romp that is not like “Firefly” because it is so much better. What “Star Trek: Discovery” lacked in the sometimes goofy levity of other Star Trek-series’, “Killjoys” has in abundance. There is such a joy in the characters and their banter without losing sight of an underlying, political and oftentimes quite serious plot line.

It’s not a big budget show, which it masks quite cleverly with plots that don’t make gigantic CGI-fireworks necessary but the cast is amazing, the choreography for fights is beautiful and the world building is very convincing. I love it and everyone involved.

(I will be really mad, though, if creator Michelle Lovretta pulls a Whedon and kills off a beloved character for some stupid self-sacrifice. I want all my babies save and sound and happy by the end of the final episode, please, that especially includes Turin and Pree, my favorite side characters of the show)

23. “White is for Witching” by Helen Oyeyemi

This haunted house-story is less scary and more unnerving and also incredibly melancholic. It’s about a brother and a sister trying to come to terms with their families history and a house that seemingly doesn’t want to let go of them. On that account Oyeyemi created a coming of age-story for the weird kids. The writing is absolutely beautiful and very dense, so it’s not one of those breezy read-throughs but it’s really worth it.

24. Cardiff (& Bath)

We spend our very short honeymoon in pre-Brexit Great Britain and as usual, it was very lovely, very unhealthy and just pittoresque all over. As a Cardiff-fan, I loved returning (again) and seeing how the city changed, even though it’s mainly into more malls and gigantic ugly architecture. I highly recommend visiting Bath, especially if you can stay for the night because the city is a tourist-flood during the day but empties out in the evening and turns into a beautiful little town as soon as the streets are empty. 

25. My favorite Let’s Players – same, same

By now, I realized that I will probably stick with these three let’s players and not really look for others because it’s always such a disappointing journey to make those lists, watch lets plays and realize that in the end, my three favorite players are simply the best when it comes to calm, funny, and nearly exclusively horror lets plays. I don’t have to be tense in case something really sexist, homophobic or racist comes out of their mouths which is honestly one of my biggest issues with most other lets players in the horror genre I tried out (that, or REALLY LOUD PLAYERS THAT GET SUPER ANNOYING AFTER A WHILE).  

GG Gab – Gab is especially amazing since she does translations of Japanese games that have no English translation and therefore gives you horror goodies that you otherwise couldn’t have enjoyed. She also plays the occasional puzzle game and I personally enjoy her very much in action games like Resident Evil because unlike me, she elegantly maneuvres through even the hardest boss battles which makes watching these games entertaining.

MrKravin – Kravin is my go-to guy for feel-good horror let’s plays because he thoroughly enjoys games and gets tickled by good scares as well as horrible not very good, very bad indeed games. His reactions are also priceless and I don’t mean over-the-top reactions but his wit and humor. Kravin makes you cackle a lot. Especially with story-driven games, he also really goes into the lore and explores a lot, which is particularly great with games like “The Last of Us” et al.

John Wolfe – John is an amazing text-based let’s player because he doesn’t get tired of long-ass scripts and documents and he does voices (more or less convincingly, but always fun). It’s particularly fun to watch bad/mediocre/overhyped games with him because he doesn’t hold back and explains quite well why certain things don’t work for him. I usually agree. He also puts a lot of work in pre-produced interludes and intros that are very funny (more than they need to be).

26. Channel Zero

The third and fourth season of Channel Zero were released this year and it still is the most interesting, weird and unnerving horror anthology out there. The way the show works with unsettling and surreal imagery is so smart for the budget they have and the characters and themes are well thought out, evading the pitt-fall of most “American Horror Story”-seasons (getting to muddled and superficial at some points). I know that a lot of people talked about and loved “Haunting of Hill House” but even though I liked the show very much, as an avid horror fan, it was a bit tame and only managed to disturb me personally a few times in contrast to the constant uncanny valley feeling I get with Channel Zero.

27. “I kill Giants”

My tear jerker movie this year goes to this coming of age story of Barbara who thinks that she has to fight giants to prevent disaster that could harm her family and the town she lives in. The way the movie visualizes Barbara’s ideas and continually makes you wonder whether she maybe is not imagining it, makes for a compelling watch. It’s a gorgeous movie with great performances.

28. HP Lovecraft Podcast

Since I finally can pay the subscription to this podcast with PayPal, I got back to one of the two podcasts (the other being “Knifepoint”) I actually listen to regularly. They’re still very funny, very entertaining and very informative if you want to get into HP Lovecraft lore or other horror writers who got inspired by him (or inspired HP himself).

29. “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power”

I love Noelle Stevenson’s work from “Nimona” to the “Lumberjanes” and her reboot of “She-Ra” is such a fun, bright and amazing thing that can be enjoyed by adults as well. The voice acting and the character diversity is a joy (differenty body types, characters of color and lots and lots of LGBTQ-representation). Overall, the storyline is gripping and even the villains have moments of likeability (in fact, one of my favorite characters is a giant evil scorpion lady who oozes charm). I love it.  

30. This guy 

One of my Christmas presents this year was this teddy bear and even though I prefer almost all other plush animals (especially weird animals like spiders, ant eaters or fish) but this design is ADORABLE!

cute teddy plush bear by Koesen

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