A&E's Best of 2018

TV Series

“Wild Wild Country”

CASEY ROEPKE ’21

A series full of archival footage and investigative information, “Wild Wild Country” tackles the documentary genre with amazing care and effort. The series follows the infamous and controversial Bhagwan Rajneesh, a guru from India who amassed a tremendous following with his teachings on meditation, religion, advocacy for sexual liberation and a break from traditional Indian values. The show focuses on Rajneesh, his personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela and other pivotal players in the controversial criminal activity that followed the movement’s relocation to the U.S., including the Rajneesh community’s takeover of Wasco County, Oregon. Throughout the whole, the directors, Maclain and Chapman Way, did their best to keep their own opinions out of the documentary, which leaves the fundamental question — who the bad guys are —unanswered. With a gripping narrative style, detailed historical recreations and incredible interviews, “Wild Wild Country” was popular among true crime fans and historians. It’s worth a watch and a rewatch. (Netflix)

“Dogs”

There is no better premise for a show: lovable, fluffy and heartwarming, the dogs in this six-part documentary series will steal your heart a million times over. From a service animal for a girl with epilepsy to the refugee willing to do anything to get his dog out of Syria, the series features stories illustrating the unbreakable bond between dogs and humans. It’s impossible to enjoy this television series without a box of tissues in hand, but it’s the emotional catharsis the world so desperately needs right now. (Netflix)

Video Games

“Octopath Traveler”

ERIN CARBERRY ’19

Released exclusively for the Nintendo Switch in July, “Octopath Traveler” is an unconventional version of the sprawling adventure and turn-based monster-fighting games that have earned a place in every gamer’s heart. The game was developed by Nintendo and Square Enix, known for the “Final Fantasy” and “Life is Strange” series. Rather than a single protagonist, “Octopath” follows eight different adventurers, each with different personalities, abilities and stories. Players select their main traveler at the beginning of the game and can choose to cross paths with as many of the other seven as they want, gaining allies in battle and another piece of the intertwined narrative world. What makes “Octopath” stand out is its cast of compelling characters and its distinctive aesthetic — 16-bit avatars travel a refined landscape full of glistening oceans, rocky ravines and countless types of monsters. The world is immersive, the graphics beautiful and the storylines engaging.

Movies

“Black Panther”

ERIN CARBERRY ’19

The single greatest film in the decade-long Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Black Panther” is an outstanding achievement in every way. Following the favorite newcomer from 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” home to the rich and vibrant kingdom of Wakanda, “Black Panther” tells the story of King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman, “42”) as he struggles with his newfound royal responsibility and a challenger who threatens to change Wakanda forever. The film’s villain, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan, “Creed”) shines, thanks to both excellent writing and Jordan’s performance. Killmonger’s depth elevates the film as both T’Challa and the audience are faced with the reality that the world is not always as simple as good guys and bad guys. In a world where Hollywood white washes role after role and puts on a rather pitiful show of ‘diversity’ when it bothers to attempt it, “Black Panther”’s social importance cannot be understated. The movie’s success shows definitively that it is far past time to change that broken system.

Music

“Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino” - Arctic Monkeys

NADIA BABAR ’19

If ever there was a tough act to follow, it was the Arctic Monkeys’ 2013 LP, AM. But Alex Turner proves his boundless potential for musical innovation with “Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino,” a fearless experiment that demonstrates Turner’s lyrical genius. With songs about a taqueria on the moon and subdued notes from Harpsichords and vintage keyboards, the album is a true experiment that definitely disgruntled some hardcore fans of one of Britain’s most popular indie rock bands. Songs such as “Four Stars Out of Five” and “Batphone” make obscure references to consumerism, set to the background of Turner’s suave, velvety vocals. “Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino” is an amalgamation of hubris, a desperate search for meaning and surrealist narrative, but at the same time it bleeds authenticity and creativity. Either way, the experiment pays off.

“Nina Cried Power” - Hozier

SABRYNA COPPOLA ’22

Hozier’s newest album features his signature ethereal ballads, but with underlying themes of activism and hidden strength. The album’s titular song is a bluesy anthem that pays homage to artists of the civil rights movement, including Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. It is the most raw and energetic of his songs so far, celebrating music as a form of protest and the voices of change-makers. The songs on “Nina Cried Power” feel more structured and directed than some of Hozier’s earlier works, while still employing the same heavy rhythms, emphasis on folk-style guitar and cryptic messages of nature, pain, broken love and strength as his 2014 self-titled album. This is my favorite album of 2018 because it empowers protest and the poetry of the planet we live on.

“thank u, next” - Ariana Grande

TESS TUITOEK ’21

Ariana Grande’s new single “thank u, next” was the anthem we needed to end 2018 with a bang. Her music video paid homage to all our favorite rom-coms from the early 2000s like “Mean Girls,” “Legally Blonde,” “Bring It On” and “13 Going on 30.” The video broke a record for YouTube’s most watched video in 24 Hours. We can’t wait to see what Ariana has in store for 2019.

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