Joseph Hallenbeck
January 01, 2019

2018 Cultural Review

Filed under: Literary Criticism part of Annual Reviews

One sentence micro-reviews of each film, show, book, and game that I watched, read or played over the last year. Each item recieves a letter grade from F (terrible) to A (a must watch/read).


Reserve for items that are so good and re-watchable/readable that they deserve to bought as a physical addition to my library.
This is a re-read or re-watch of a volume in my library.
A multi-episode show, an ongoing comic, or series of books instead of a single contained volume.

Film & Shows (33)

Q1 (5)

Made in Abyss B (S)
The environment and creativity that goes into the ecology of the abyss makes for an interesting show. It’s a pity it abruptly ends.
The Greatest Showman C
An okay film. Entertaining to watch, but not memorable.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi B+
A mess. Like most of the new films, it isn’t bad, it just isn’t great.
Oscars Short Animations 2018 C
A mixture of good and bad as can be expected.
Ready Player One C-
Like most of the 80s era directors, Spielberg has quite lost his touch.

Q2 (4)

The Shape of Water B-
Held off on this, because I had low expectations. But was pleasantly surprised by an interesting inversion of the swamp-thing type film.
Blade Runner 2049 A (B)
The only honest, non-cyncial cash-in on Ford’s career. This is actually a good, stand alone film and a better than good sequel to the original.
Solo B-
Didn’t really need the backstory to Solo, but surprisingly didn’t entirely destroy the character.
March Comes in Like a Lion C (S)
A rather slow slice of life. Probably would enjoy it more if I was in the right mood. Difficult to really watch more than an episode or two at a time.

Q3 (12)

Elysium C
Blockbuster of the big graphics, guns, explosions variety. Entertaining while I watched it.
Arrival C+
I really liked Ted Chiang’s collection of short stories, but they really don’t translate into movie form nearly as well.
Citizen Kane A (R)
Brilliant work by Orsen Welles. A classic that I alone in my household enjoy.
Delirium C
Above average horror film, which puts it at about average for most films.
Synecdochee, New York B+
Film took me by surprise. Synecdochee captures a kind of creative ennui and stuckedness in life that I could relate. The surrealism and direction made for a wonderful film similar to the works of Gondry.
Dark City B+
A neo-noir with Jennifer Connelly set in a bizarre dystopian world. Another film that is worth a watch.
Uresai Yetsura: Beautiful Dreamer A (B)
Never saw any of Uresai Yetsura before this, but it left me itching for more. The film wonderfully captures a kind of adolescent dreamscape and capitalizes on animation’s ability to break rules.
Looper C+
Theirteen Monkeys but with a much more straightforward plot.
Mullohland Falls A- (B)
An excellent entry in the noir genre. It hits all the beats just right with a more modern tempo.
Your Name A-
Beautiful. Gorgeous. I can see why this film raked in so much cash. It has a little bit of everything in it for everyone – science fiction, adventure, romance.
Lost Highway C-
Lynch misses more balls than he hits. There are films like Mulhollland Falls or the original Dune that I love, but so much else is just lost on me.
Let the Right One In B+
Swedish films have this strange way of just being extraordinarily creepy.

Q4 (12)

Cloak and Dagger B+
Strangly don’t remember watching this, but I must’ve liked it.
Evil Dead II B- (R)
The king of the “B” reels. The Evil Dead films still hold up.
No Country for Old Men B- (R)
Great film for the Southwest, and having now lived out here, I can see how it captures both the landscape and the people.
The Sixth Sense C
Finally watched this film, and I can say, it was mediocre.
Number 23 C
Jim Carrey does his best work when he’s not trying to be funny.
Miss Hokusai B-
Great period piece about the life of Hokusai’s daughter who apprenticed and followed him in his work.
American Psycho B+
Perfect film for this era, truly captures the American Dream.
The Resident D
Santa Sangre A-
My introduction to the works of Alejandro Jodorowsky (outside of the Metabarrons that is). Brilliant explosion and truly an expansive attempt to push the medium into new realms. Horrifying all the same.
El Topo A (B)
A stand out in Alejandro Jodorowsky films and perhaps my favorite of the lot. A brilliant splash of style, an exploration of Christian and Eastern thought, wrapped up with a dark plot.
The Usual Suspects B+
Excellent heist film, perhaps the best that I’ve seen in the genre.
Vanilla Sky C
Extremely slow start with an eventual payoff. Debatable on whether it’s worth it.

Books (11)

The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas C
An excellent collection of advise for the professional developer.
Test Driven Development by Kent Beck A (B)
This book really grows on you. It’s like pair programming with a master. Really boring to read. But transformative in how you approach problems.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius A
A great introduction to classical stoic philosophy, but greatly overrated by the Hacker News crowd.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo A (R)
Kondo’s ideas on consumerism and focusing on owning stuff that brings joy is certainly worth a look.
Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein C
Dirty old man’s adventures through time and space. Heinlein is overrated.
The Nine Princess of Amber, The Guns of Avalon, The Signs of the Unicorn,
The Hand of Oberon, The Courts of Chaos, and Trumps of Doom by Roger
Started my way through the Chronicles of Amber series, and I must say that it is a great alternative take on modern fantasy that actually adds to the genre.
Solanin by Inio Asano A (R)
This is my third or forth run through Inio Asano’s Solanin. It has become a rather core entry into my personal philosophy.
Queen Emeraldas by Leiji Matsumoto B+
Great to see more of Leiji Matsumoto’s works make it into English. I’m getting tired of having to read them in French.


Minecraft A
I stayed away as long as I could, but it got me in the end. This game is genius.
Mario Kart 8 A-
Another great entry in the series that maintains the same level of quality as other entries in the series.
Team Fortress 2 A
The last FPS that I still play. Worth checking out since it still maintains a nice casual feel to the servers.
Super Mario Odyssey A-
Probably the best 3D entry since Mario 64. There are some truly great levels in this game, although there are also some truly forgettable levels as well.
Rocket League B
Worth playing if you have some friends to play it with, otherwise a pass. I don’t know how anyone actually controls the cars themselves, it’s utter chaos.
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