Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Alexa & Macky's Best Movies, TV Shows + Music of 2018

Happy new year, readers! A new year is always exciting because, to me, it means there are 365 days (well, in all technicality, it's 364 days since this post is going up on the second of January) to make memories and to fall in love with new things. But before we start on a new list of favorites for this year that's unfolding, it's only right that we take a look back at some of our favorites of 2018 in film, television and music. Hope you find something new to fall in love with and, if you feel so inclined, please share your recommendations too! (You can check out our 2017 favorites too!)



Macky says: This was, like most years for me, the year of the great Mouse. Yes, Disney has produced most of my top films of 2018. Let's start with the late additions, two films Alexa and I watched on the most meta movie morning ever (Mary Poppins Returns and Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet). Tons of feels. Lots of crying. Because, well, why bloody not?

We then have the superhero block: The Incredibles 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War and, arguably our favorite 2018 film, Black Panther. No superhero film outside of Wonder Woman (Can you say no man's land?) until this one, and you get all things Wakanda in all its great majesty.

A special mention goes out to Pacific Rim: Uprising (because it's a "me and my friends save the world" film that was feels enough for me to half forgive that it did not nearly have enough giant robots fighting monsters) and Hotel Artemis (starring Jodi Foster as a night nurse for a hospital especially for criminals, and while I don't normally do that genre, it was a gem of a film and something I would recommend to anyone who wants a pretty dark but satisfying narrative.


Alexa says: Macky has already mentioned a few films up there that I also loved: Black Panther (which is honestly one of top films of the year on my list! I saw it three times in theaters, and have watched it a couple more times since and everything about it blows me away), Avengers: Infinity War (I'm really mostly just a sucker for ensemble films, especially when they're filled with a lot of characters that I really, really love),  Mary Poppins Returns (I did not expect the copious amounts of nostalgia and feels I'd get watching this one, but it happened and I'm delighted) and Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet (another case of me thinking that Pixar would not succeed in making me sob like a baby and being completely wrong when this film hit me on all the personal levels with the feels).

But I've also got a few more that deserve a shoutout (and a watch, if you haven't seen them already). I'll start by talking about A Christmas Prince, one of the holiday films I watched with my sisters this season. It's certainly predictable in plot and characters but it was fun to watch and gave me all the warm fuzzy feels by the end, which is usually what I look for at that time of year. I also ended up somehow watching all four of the Bleach animated films that have been released and the live action film, and my favorite of the collection is Fade to Black, which showcases a world where Rukia (a main character in the series) is kidnapped and everyone's memory of her is erased... except for Ichigo Kurosaki (the actual central character of the series). It's a well-executed plot, it features plenty of my favorites and it succeeded in making me cry... so what's not to love?


I'm going to end this section with my three crowning contemporary films of 2018: Love, Simon (an incredible movie adaptation of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli), To All the Boys I've Loved Before (my beloved Netflix movie adaptation of the novel by Jenny Han) and Crazy Rich Asians (the wonderful movie adaptation of the novel by Kevin Kwan). All three films were pure magic with the script, the cast, the cinematography, the soundtrack; all three films had me sobbing like a baby and laughing like crazy. I fell head over heels in love with these three, and if you haven't seen them, please do yourself a favor and add them to your watch list!



Voltron | Macky says: This is one of the best (if not only) examples of a remake paying extreme heartfelt homage to the original, while eclipsing it in the coolest way possible. The Easter eggs alone are insane - well placed enough that fans of the original show will see them coming like a runaway freight train of feels, but subtle that people new to the franchise won’t lose an ounce of the intended experience. And, in spite of the questionable deus ex machina moments (one too many for my taste), the characters and their developments overshadow anything bad about the series and cement this as one of the greats in my book. (That said, I will protest that ending from now until forever. That’s all.) | Alexa says: What Macky said, basically. I really will emphasize again how much of my love of this series is rooted in the characters, specifically all the paladins and their individual character development. I'll sum it up by saying I never thought I could be so invested (to the point of tears) over giant robots, but I am, and so here we are now.

Boruto: Naruto Next Generations | Alexa says: It's been another year of episodes from this spin-off show, and I have loved every second of it. We actually mentioned this one last year as well, but it has still continued to charm and surprise us at every turn. We're very invested in this new generation of characters in this world, and I will faithfully follow all of their adventures until the end. | Macky says:  I loved Naruto so much. And now, there is a series about the children birthed after the war he helped win. Since I loved everyone from that series, I immediately love everything that has been done to tell more stories about that next generation. I get why people don’t like it as much as the first. But it’s a new story that never promised to deliver more of the old, and I can’t get enough of it!

Yona of the Dawn | Macky says: User warning: this amazing anime only ends at the first 10ish manga volumes (note: it's actually at volume 9) and the manga themselves are not completed. That said, this is an absolute all-time favorite because it takes the “princess thrust into a no-choice-but-to-get-her-kingdom-back” story and gives it a rewarding character arc that already is so promising this early on into the narrative. Add memorable characters and a GREAT BIG SHIP and go figure this bears the golden standard of fantasy shoujo for me and Alexa. | Alexa says: Again, what Macky said. We were both really surprised to find ourselves head over heels in love with this show after just one episode, but it happened. And the fact that it continued to only grow in our esteem afterward? Surprising and very welcome indeed.


Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day | Alexa says: I don't think I've ever cried as hard as I did watching this anime. Can you blame me, however, when this is an anime about a group of friends who have fallen apart in the years since one of them died in a tragic accident only to be brought together by the ghostly spirit of said friend all these years later to make peace with a lot of unacknowledged emotional baggage? It's heartbreaking, it's lovely, it's hopeful, it's sad. It made me feel so strongly about all these characters and their stories, and that's why it made it onto my list. (P.S. This one was a recommendation from Macky!)

X | Alexa says: I was immediately into this premise - two warring sides, the Dragons of Heaven and the Dragons of Earth, fighting for the earth's survival or demise depending on which side you're on. The entire conflict finds its central point in Kamui, a teenage boy who returns to his hometown to confront his role as the deciding factor in the earth's destiny, and grows outward from there to involve a very large cast of characters. It was beautiful and brutal, and basically was a sucker punch in the feels with every single episode. (P.S. This one was also a recommendation from Macky!)

My Hero Academia | Macky says: This was the sleeper hit of 2018 for me, because I remember dragging Alexa to watch the first two episodes and us both feeling like we didn’t have to watch the next one right away. Then, my brother visited and sat me through the next few episodes and I was IMMEDIATELY hooked. Almost against my will, really, because my brain could not understand why I had previously thought it was fine to watch the rest some other time when I now needed the next twenty episodes. So, to you, I will say what was told to me: get through the first four episodes and it’s all downhill from there. The exposition is long, but it's worth it.


The Ancient Magus Bride | Alexa says: I'd actually started this one last year, but finally finished the entirety of the prequels and the season this year and loved it. The visuals are beautiful, the story is equal parts enchanting and haunting and I just have a lot of love for Chise, Elias, Ruth and their friends. (P.S. This one was a recommendation from Kristin!)

Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku | Alexa says: If you've ever been into slice of life anime, if you're totally an otaku, well, you should immediately add this anime to your watch list! The entire premise is basically this: four office workers in Japan all act fairly normal at work, but really, they all happen to be otaku. It's charming, it's funny, it's got romances that feels swoony even though they're semi-unconventional and I just love it to pieces. It's my go-to at the moment when I want to watch something that will just make me happy! (P.S. This is another Kristin recommendation!)

Re:Life | Alexa says: I loved this anime, friends. It centers around an unemployed young man who is offered the opportunity to "relive" high school life for a year (after downing a pill that will change his age) and potentially acquire a job afterwards, and it is so well-done. It's always interesting to explore the possibility of reliving a time period of your life with the benefit of hindsight, and I think this anime does that extremely well! It also has a very satisfying ending, which pleases me greatly. (P.S. This is also a Kristin recommendation!)


Elseworlds | Macky says: The DC television Arrowverse has done it again! Epic crossover between three shows (Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow), and while I'm disappointed that Legends of Tomorrow didn't make it, we did get Batwoman instead (and frankly, I am living more for that than all the legends combined! I love me some Sara Lance, but Kate Kane is where it has always been in terms of the future of DC TV). So, between Oliver Queen, Barry Allen and Kara Danvers finding the superhero way to a better multiverse and an ominous call-out to next year's big crossover event, I was nothing less than thrilled.

Doctor Who, Series 11 | Alexa says: It's necessary for me to mention this old favorite for this year's list, primarily because Jodi Whittaker is an incredible new Doctor to follow. I've really enjoyed seeing her take on this extremely well-known character with each new episode of the show (though we've got plenty to catch up on at this point)! I particularly wanted to mention that the first episode of this series, her "introduction" to the world as the Doctor, is one of the best in recent Doctor Who history (to me, anyway) and well worth checking out.

Titans | Macky says: The first two episodes totally threw me off. It wasn't even the super dark tone. I actually appreciate that there is a darkness in Dick Grayson that is being juxtaposed with him having to take Raven under his wing. And I am one of the (perhaps few?) people who did not have any problems with Starfire and loved her immediately when she appeared on screen. But I just couldn't feel the synergy between the script, direction and acting initially. Though it got off to a rough start for me, the entire season is just gold. Then again, I am biased because of my favorite characters has shown up and done a thing that brought to life on screen one of the top five reasons I love the Titans, so I'm so there for that.

The Good Place | Alexa says: Funny, clever and all-around entertaining, I'm so mad I didn't actually watch this show sooner! The premise seems fairly straightforward - Eleanor is dead and has arrived in the Good Place because of all the wonderful things she has done in her lifetime on earth... only she's not the actual Eleanor in question, but one with the same name who happened to die around the same time. The entire cast really shines in this show, and the themes, oh, the themes are so juicy and give audiences a lot to think about. Would definitely recommend checking it out!


Taylor Swift | Macky says: She was my Spotify #1 artist (thus cementing my status as a Swifty for the nth year in a row). Had no plans to actually see the Reputation Stadium Tour since I think I loved 1989 a little more in comparison, but ended up watching anyway... in the rain... seeing her dance... in her best dress... fearless. Yup, I ended up watching. See what she made me do? | Alexa says: To be completely frank, I just really love Taylor Swift's music. Her songs always have strong narratives (and I've been inspired by many of them to write ficlets), and her lyrics just hit me in the heart when I least expect them to. So yeah, it's no surprise she's on this list for me this year too!

Jason Robert Brown | Macky says: I am always eternally grateful for Jason Robert Brown. Not only is his music life-changing (both if you are a singer or a kind-of-musician who digs musical theater), but his body of work has also yielded so many songs I just cannot stop singing over and over again. With a new album out this year and a residency at the SubCulture theater here in New York (where concerts are roughly $50 and you get to see him jam with greats like Sutton Foster, Jeremy Jordan and Cynthia Erivo), it’s been a great year for JRB.

James Bay | Alexa says: Honestly, if you've been following me for a while now, you'll already know how much I love James Bay! He's an excellent songwriter, and he has written some of my all-time favorite lyrics ever. I was also incredibly pleased to discover that he's even better live (and I can't wait to see him in concert again this year)!

Shoshana Bean & Cynthia Erivo | Macky says: Speaking of JRB things, Shoshana Bean was cast in a remake of Songs for A New World this year and she killed it. She killed it so hard that Alexa and I had to go see her concert at the Apollo where she also murdered me where I stood with that amazing voice and also because she sang her cover of T. Swift's "I Did Something Bad" live with Cynthia Erivo… who covered it with her in the first place. So yeah, dead.

Shawn Mendes | Alexa says: For years, I've always had songs by Shawn Mendes on my radar because they're so catchy and I tend to live for his brand of pop. I'd even gotten to see him open for Taylor Swift on tour! It makes me laugh (and also slightly despair) now, since I've been listening to his newest album on repeat for months. (I've also listened to his older stuff, and like a lot of it, mind you.) His newest album is just my kind of music from start to finish, and I'm pretty much obsessed. (P.S. I'm giving my sister Rachel the credit for this new musical obsession!)


Sara Bareilles & Waitress the Musical | Macky says: So, I am new to the Sara fandom, but I ADORE Waitress and have started to listen to her non-Waitress music. Spotify has noted Hold My Heart as my number one song and rightfully so. That song hurts like a fist in the stomach, and I am in love with it. (Alexa's brief note: I love Sara Bareilles and she is phenomenal.)

Sam Smith + Ariana Grande | Alexa says: I really enjoy music from both of these artists, but 2018 brought such a strong resurgence of this love on a personal level. I was obsessively listening to Sam Smith and his body of work in the months leading up to his concert (which was incredible, mind you!) and continued to listen to him exclusively on many days afterward. And while I don't love all of Ariana's music, I did love her newest album Sweetener so very much as it felt like a callback to her old work while still embracing something very new.

Basia, Goo Goo Dolls + Sarah McLachlan | Macky says: I watched concerts by artists from my childhood (Basia) and waywardish youth (Goo Goo Dolls and Sarah McLachlan) and frankly, the clips I was able to take of them singing my favorite songs are worth their weight in gold. It was a real treat to see them all at the top of their game still long after their heyday, and to be a part of celebrating them well and deeply with other fans was great.

Maggie Rogers, Jess Glynne + LANY | Alexa says: I had to include these three musical acts on this list, because I'm obsessed with their particular sound and their latest releases. Rachel is the reason I first heard of Maggie and Jess, while Mel is the reason I've been listening to more LANY! All three artists have been in heavy rotation this year, and I'm anticipating that also being the case this 2019 (especially Jess, who I am seeing in April!)

1 comment

  1. I still have to see Crazy Rich Asians! But I totally agree with you and Macky re: Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and of course, To All the Boys I've Loved Before. I really need to catch up on Voltron and YAY Yona of the Dawn! I'm so glad you made me watch it! Oh man, Anohana sounds SUPER sad. I love that you grouped my three anime recs together<3 The Good Place is AMAZING! And I need to finish Capaldi already so I can enjoy Jodi's season!

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