As 2018 concludes, we had a look back at some of the best cultural gifts the year had to offer, how do these compare with your favourites of the year?
Film: Creed II
This year provided a cornucopia of moments rather than any cohesive whole that stood out. There truly were some excellent scenes: La Binoche going apeshit about the pretensions of a fellow guest at a country retreat and spoiling the social niceties of middle-aged France in Let The Sunshine In; Ben Foster pulling out all the stops as a man who wants to change but can’t at the close of Leave No Trace; and even the entire climax of Infinity War, as a decade’s worth of Marvel heroism literally turns to ash (“Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good” is the moment that will leave a Spock-shaped scar for the weans). For me, old softie that I am, the dam for the tear ducts broke at the close of the otherwise lightweight Creed II. Seeing Rocky Balboa take the plunge and finally leave Philly to try and make amends with his estranged son was sad enough, but the unexpected sight of Milo Ventimiglia (reprising his role as Robert Jnr.) opening the door, introducing the slugger to his grandson and then giving his old man a conciliatory hug fully sent the waterworks going. Enjoy your second retirement, Rock.
Book: Fear by Bob Woodward
The return of Murakami with Killing Commendatore, plus Stuart Turton’s The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle both pricked my interest, and the titular creep of Stephen King’s The Outsider burned a hole into my imagination in a way the book ultimately couldn’t sustain, but not even the King could come up with the biggest monster on paper this year: Bob Woodward’s Donald Trump. Facetious, petty, ignorant, and addicted to both paranoia and golf, Trump dominates Fear (an apparently true account of 2017-18) even when the focus is on the senators, general and aides trying to keep him from inadvertently destroying both their careers and the world. Woodward presents The White House as a Camelot currently overrun by thieves and fools, with the court jester on the throne. Terrifying.
Album: The Beatles
There was plenty to listen to this year, but none of it as substantial as the numerous re-issues, including excellent sets that saw The Kinks and R.E.M drop some reminders of why they take up space in the Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame. Not even those leviathans could hold a candle to the grande fromages of not just rock, but modern music in general. The Beatles by The Beatles – forever known as The White Album – came back with an almighty new mix (you can hear Eric Clapton warming up) and several hours worth of new material, including the mythical Esher Demos that spawned not just the majority of the 1968 monolith, but several decades worth of solo material as well. Essential.