Sorry to Bother You
This was my top movie of the year. It was a shock to I think everyone who saw it, but an important one. With themes ranging from animal rights to capitalism and racism, this film had a strong message delivered in a smart and memorable way with help from stellar performances and a genius story line. See this movie, maybe not even because you want to, but because you have to. Dark comedy delivered the strongest message of the year about the state of this country and you can’t miss it.
This history-making film is a no-brainer for the list. I never really cared about superhero movies because they always feature white men as heroes and never seem to focus on world issues. Black Panther turns the superhero movie on its head, with black and female representation and a thought-provoking story line which depicts Africa had it never been colonized. The leaders of Wakanda must decide if they should threaten their peace and stability to help other nations. I love this movie for many reasons but mostly because it provides representation which is vital on the road to equality, and because the heroes are accurate to who has contributed positively to the world- not even in the slightest white men. With comedy, action, and a relevant message, Black Panther couldn’t have come out at a better time.
Roma is a painfully beautiful movie set in the political turmoil in Mexico in the 1970s. The cinematography is remarkable and the moving story line qualify it as a masterpiece. Though some critics say none of the actors’ performances stood out enough to make them a star, I disagree. The actor who plays Cleo, the protagonist who survives much turmoil, did an excellent job portraying her persistent character and I can see her gaining many more roles after this one. Roma to me started out as visually intense, but hit me with emotional intensity towards the end. Heartbreak, disloyalty, and chaos don’t stand up to the central theme of the film: unbreakable love.
A Star is Born
I definitely cried the most in this movie out of all the movies I saw this year. I’ve been a Lady Gaga fan since her debut and I was so relieved after watching this that it wasn’t a flop and that both her and Bradley’s acting and singing abilities shone through. Their chemistry was impressive and Gaga showed a true gift for acting by acing her emotionally complex character. The soundtrack to this movie is probably the best movie soundtrack I’ve heard in a long time, which makes sense considering it was co-produced by the pop star of our generation. I gauge movies by how much they make me feel, and this one was like a kick to the heart, but one I didn’t mind getting because of how beautiful and painful the story line was delivered.
Mid90s is like a love letter from Jonah Hill to his childhood, full of skating, friends, and growth. The young actors kept up great chemistry the whole time and the movie reeks of the 90s, with every detail meticulously tailored to reflect this era. The film is provocative and uncomfortable at times, but it’s 100% real and I appreciate that authenticity. It is nostalgic and a fair portrayal of youth- as confusing, rebellious, and painful as it was.
A Quiet Place
This inventive horror film was not very horrifying in terms of disturbing content, but the idea of safety hinging on silence is thrilling and enough to keep you on the edge of your seat for the length of this movie. The ASL representation is important and John Krasinski did well crafting an original nightmare of a movie that definitely gave its viewers an irrational fear of monsters with supersonic hearing. His experiment in horror was daring, and it worked because it is frightening, but you can ultimately fight back. Family vs. beasts. It’s a hell of a fight.
I chose this one mostly for the music and Rami Malek’s astounding portrayal of Freddie Mercury. I’ve heard much displeasure over this movie, from complaints that it fudges facts and glosses over details, to that it doesn’t show Freddie’s sexuality enough, and while these are valid complaints, I don’t know enough about the history of Queen to join the naysayers. Instead, I revel in the fact that a whole new generation can now learn to cherish one of the greatest bands of all time led by a queer, brown man who was intent on making history.
This was another movie that made me bawl my eyes out in the theatre. Spike Lee did an incredible job presenting this unbelievable true story, but not only as something in the past, but as a part of an ongoing issue of systemic racism which is being so vehemently advanced by the Trump administration. David Duke is portrayed as charismatic and charming, and it’s important for people to realize that white supremacists can be our neighbors, peers, and president- because so much of the hatred is implicit and when we treat racism as only an explicit thing, we allow it to dominate even further. Amerikkka is presented as its true self in this film and it’s something everyone needs to see to realize their role in dismantling white supremacy.
While this movie did not receive as much praise as I had hoped, I chose it because of Timothee Chalamet’s performance. He is young but he is oh so talented, and from what I’ve read the real life Nick of this story was pleased with how his struggle with addiction was portrayed. I was disappointed by Steve Carell in this one, and I think he should stick to comedic roles, where he comes off far more naturally. The movie wasn’t perfect, but it did a good job showing the repetitiveness of addiction and Chalamet is undoubtedly a star.
This Netflix movie starring Dave Franco did not get enough recognition and with a year of movies about addiction I feel it could have stood out amongst them all, had it been released more widely. It shows a very real, very complex view of addiction and uses a unique approach to describe a sister who is coming to terms with the fact that she is not in control of her brother’s struggle. Franco really shined in this movie and I appreciated the realness. It is important to show these story lines and I’m glad Netflix is investing in important and impactful movies like this one.
This was my favorite show from the year because of the queer representation, realistic storyline, and artful execution of each episode. It reminds me of Master of None in how real it is, plus it is similarly inspired by creator and main actor’s life Desiree Akhavan. As a queer person, this show meant a lot to me since it showed the confusion and discovery associated with coming to terms with one’s sexuality, which is also fluid. I’m also sort of in love with Desiree Akhavan, so there’s that. And British accents and cool lesbian bars we don’t have!! This show has everything: weird love triangles, fluid sexuality, and multilayered characters. You can find Season One on Hulu.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj
This show is awesome! I’ve loved Hasan since I saw his standup special and it’s incredible seeing a brown Muslim man get a platform to speak on social issues- and people actually listen! The topics of each episode are varied but they all show in an unbiased way how unjust the world is. Hasan delivers information and jokes coolly and confidently, and he genuinely seems to be learning along with the audience. You can’t walk away without experiencing the full spectrum of emotion. You can find Season One on Netflix.
I haven’t actually finished this show yet but I included it because it is pretty great even from where I am at. Again, the accents sold me as well as the fact that half of the main characters are black. In this show, no one is simply moral or immoral, good or bad, which is a more accurate portrayal of humanity. Rupert Grint portrays the panic of a man faking his cancer convincingly, and the show keeps you on your toes as his plan, and the plot, becomes more tangled. You can find both seasons on Netflix.
Black Mirror- season four
I’m including this because it came out in the last days of 2017 and, wow, is it haunting. The story lines are widely varied, but all intriguing, thrilling, and thought-provoking. This show disturbs me to my core at times, but it takes the modern world we are living in and amplifies things to show the danger we are headed in if we allow certain technologies to take over our lives. Each episode is its own story, and each one is executed artfully enough for it to stand on its own. This is definitely one of the smartest shows of today. You can find all seasons on Netflix.
Queer representation, improving people’s lives, and fashion. What more do you need in a show? Funny and heartwarming, authentic and caring, this show is a hit for a reason. The people on the show aren’t just changing their appearance, but they are changing their habits and building routines that make them happy, healthy, and confident. This is a makeover show done right, and it is meaningful because it convinces us that the results for each person are not just for the camera, but something that will last and actually improve their lives for good. You can find both seasons on Netflix.
I really got into this show later in the year and now it’s probably one of my favorites and that’s just because it’s funny. This is Tru tv’s best show by far. The pranking shenanigans of four lifelong friends are hilarious because of the real chemistry of the Jokers, which is why every prank generates laughs, regardless of its outcome. You can find it on Tru Tv and Netflix.
Kids See Ghosts, Kid Cudi and Kanye West
No album impacted me this year as much as Kid Cudi and Kanye West’s collaborative Kids See Ghosts. It came out while I was living in LA for my internship and I was going through a period of great growth, so of course I took to this album like my lifeblood. “Reborn” is my favorite song on the album. The triumph of Cudi and West despite both of their mental health issues is such an inspiration to me, and them two together talking about their demons and their survival is pure poetry. The effect is mesmerizing- the songs hook you in, with constant additions to each one, building up to the end, creating a heavy emotional effect, and piecing together an ode to the human spirit.
Ye, Kanye West
Ye came out around the same time as Kids See Ghosts and was also pretty impactful for me. Since both albums were produced by the same two artists, there are both lyrical and stylistic similarities. For example, “Ghost Town” and “Freeee” are like two different versions of the same song. I’ve been a Kanye fan for years, and I’ve struggled defending him after he’s had some problematic behavior but I’ve realized it’s not my job to defend or attack him and regardless of his actions I have to give it up for him for being so honest about his mental health struggles and for being, in my eye, the greatest artist of our generation. He pours all of himself into his work and it shows. While Ye did not receive mainstream recognition, Kanye isn’t making music for critics these days, and he may not even be making it for fans anymore. He’s creating something for himself, something he can be proud of, something that is evidence of his greatness despite the world trying to get him down. This album is evidence of that. It is deeply personal, with no radio bangers but with 7 songs straight from his life experiences. He bares his soul to us and doesn’t worry about making it easily digestible. Say what you want about Kanye, but he’s a black man who has reached God-like status because of his devotion to his art, not because of his personality. Kanye is making history. Favorite song: “Yikes”
Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B
I became a huge Cardi B fan this year and played this album on repeat for weeks. Cardi B is a stripper turned rapper and a total icon and badass for being a great mom and strong woman who owns her sexuality (see: Money music video). She can really rap and it’s her strong personality that brings it all together. She is becoming a star for being totally, unapologetically herself, and I’m excited to see where she goes from here. Favorite song: “Get Up 10”
Astroworld, Travis Scott
Astroworld is the psychedelic dream of a young rapper who is aiming for a spot at the top. While the lyrical skill is nowhere near that of my rap idols, I don’t consider Travis one of my rap idols, but this album is honestly great. It has never ending energy, a million different beats, all-star features, and the gusto of a young man determined to make his mark. Favorite song: “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD”
KOD, J. Cole
KOD is not only one of the best albums of the year artistically, but also one of the most important albums of the year. KOD stands for “kids on drugs,” which is a huge issue in our society right now and which J. Cole tackles with understanding and warning. He knows he has certain influence over kids due to his stardom, and he uses it for good, and always has. J. Cole is definitely one of the greatest lyricists of today and he is purposeful and impactful with his art. KOD came out at the perfect time, as the prevalence of kids self-medicating has blown into epidemic proportions. J. Cole is a gift to the music industry, and I just hope people heed his warning in this album. Favorite song: “Friends” (feat. kiLL edward)
Everything is Love, The Carters
Everything is Love by the Carters is a beautiful montage of love, forgiveness, growth, and success of the most successful couple in Hollywood. Beyonce is the true queen of music, and she dominates on the album (and, presumably, in their relationship). I have loved witnessing their evolution together, and this moving portrait of their relationship is so intimate that they did not have to share it with us, but I am grateful they did. Black excellence. I bow down. Favorite song: “Heard About Us”
Nation of Two, Vance Joy
This is one of the only non-rap albums on this list, but it earned its spot. This heartfelt and intentional album brings me feelings of joy and warmth, and it is great for my yoga practice. The moving lyrics are poetic, and the combination of various instruments creates a sentimental work. I can’t help smiling while listening. Favorite song: “Call If You Need Me”
Bobby Tarantino II, Logic
Logic is one of my favorite artists. He is so positive, passionate, and powerful with his words and messages. He has truly used his position to bring awareness to racial injustice, and to help remedy it by embracing his blackness and encouraging others to do the same. His honesty about his mental health struggles has meant a lot to me, since I have struggled from many of the same afflictions. He released two albums this year and both made my list. Any album Logic releases is guaranteed to be on a Best of the Year list. Bobby Tarantino II is like Bobby Tarantino and Everybody in it storytelling. It has several bangers and strong features. My favorite track on this one is “Indica Badu” but there are definitely more meaningful songs on the album, like “Midnight” (choosing the “best” Logic song is hard, okay?).
YSIV is a love letter to his fans, beginning with the heartfelt “Thank You.” Logic details all he went through to get to where he is and thanks those who have helped him achieve his dreams. I’m not sure if he will actually be done with music any time soon, and if he is, I’ll be heartbroken, but for now, I am thankful for all his music has meant to me and the inspiration he has been to so many young kids who are struggling with mental health issues, poverty, and general oppression. Logic worked hard to get where he is, and he is proud of his success but humble and recognizes how fortunate he is to be one of the ones whose dreams work out. My favorite song on YSIV is “Everybody Dies.”
Isolation, Kali Uchis
I got really into Kali Uchis’ music this year and even went to her concert. While she doesn’t share all the intimate details of her life, she finds clever ways to discuss her struggles in her music. Her voice is mesmerizing, her personality is enchanting, and the sound of her music is a perfect blend of retro and modern, with killer hooks and a killer “with me or without me” vibe. She is showing young women how to own their sexuality and their talent, while gracefully moving on from anyone who isn’t on their side and harnessing their pain to create something beautiful. I love her first album as well, but this one is more produced and shows her evolution as she becomes more of a star. It’s awesome to see a Colombian woman who came from poverty on a path to stardom, and I’ll continue supporting her on her journey. Favorite song: “Dead to Me”
TESTING, A$AP Rocky
A$AP Rocky has a great gift for creating music, and I’m not sure how much of this album was created by him, but we can definitely attribute the artistic vision of it to his mind. The features on this album are stellar, and each song really does stand on its own as something special. I hadn’t been huge into A$AP before this album, but I definitely am now. He is an icon for our generation, for his fashion, for his cool personality, and for his serious talent. For my favorite song, how could I pick anything other than “A$AP Forever REMIX”???
I have been a fan of Amine for some time, and this album is a great follow-up to his debut. It is a lot more personal, and he speaks of love, heartbreak, strained relationships with family, and sadness. Amine presents himself as a real, authentic person and I enjoy his humorous approach to his fame. Each song has a catchy hook and genuine lyrics, and Amine as a person and not just a star shines through. I love them all, but my favorite song on this one is “Dr. Whoever.”
Glory Sound Prep, Jon Bellion
I have been a fan of Jon Bellion since he was only releasing music on Youtube, so it has been so awesome watching him become more known and have a wider reach. He is truly a storyteller with music, and he uses a unique blend of rap, electronic, and pop to create music that can’t really be justly labeled as one thing. Nothing from his life is off limits for him to mention, and it seems like he can turn any experience into a song. I’m grateful to have witnessed his evolution, and I’m glad that he has stayed himself throughout his journey and has worked hard, waiting for the fruition of all his work, rather than selling out and creating something he didn’t believe in. Favorite song: “Cautionary Tales”
Amala, Doja Cat
Doja Cat became one of my most listened-to artists in the last months of this year. I absolutely adore her fun, sexy, and extremely danceable music and think she is building a persona that has great potential to become widely recognized. As I started owning my own sexuality this year, this album has been my go-to for dancing and feeling myself. I love her confidence and security in who she is and the bright energy she exudes by doing so. I’m interested to see if she will become a mainstream artist, but either way, I will keep up with her music. I should say half of her music is only on Youtube, so make sure you check that out, and if you say anything called “MOO!” do not, I repeat, DO NOT, click on it. Favorite song: “Wine Pon You”
HOOLIGANS, Vic Mensa
Vic released this one right before the end of the year and made the list! Vic Mensa is one of my favorite artists, and I don’t want to be redundant and say I have been a fan of another artist since they first came out, but it’s true! I’m a loyal fan! Most people only know Vic from his collaborations with mainstream EDM artists and other rappers, but I think he shines best on his own. He’s not only a talented artist but a racial justice activist and someone I really admire for his vocalness on important issues and his undying love and commitment to better his hometown of Chicago. This album is brief, but packs a punch and shows Vic’s dark side. He hasn’t hidden the struggles he has gone through, and I appreciate his honesty and ability to admit his own mistakes. HOOLIGANS has well-executed features, strong lyricism, and killer beats. Hopefully I will finally be able to see him on tour for this album! Favorite song: “In Some Trouble” (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
2018 was a great year for entertainment and art! Thanks for reading, and look out for my round-up again next December!