101 Things I Loved in 2018
Less, Andrew Sean Greer: My favorite book of the year. The misanthrope’s Eat, Pray, Love, Greer’s Pulitzer Prize winning comic novel also happens to be a new LGBT classic, containing single sentences that are both stinging and tender. A must read.
What’s the Story, Anne Bogart
Calypso, David Sedaris
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson: A formally experimental and probing work, deeply complex in its ideas but absolutely approachable. Made me consider the inherently radical nature of queerness and how we respond to that in the social structures we’ve been born into.
Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin
Atonement, Ian McEwan
Movies Are Prayers, Josh Larsen
The Folded Clock, Heidi Julavits
Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
Blow Out (1980, d. Brian DePalma): I spent a great deal on DePalma this year, starting with this. A firecracker of a movie, it’s everything I want: pulp, melodrama, bombast, and espionage. A thrilling experience. *now streaming on Amazon Prime*
Diabolique (1955, d. Henri-Georges Clouzot) *now streaming on Amazon Prime*
Blood Simple (1984, d. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
Harold and Maude (1971, d. Hal Ashby)
Stepping Out (1991, d. Lewis Gilbert): It’s a travesty it took me this long to see this Liza Minnelli star vehicle, which features a roster of Broadway vets and is pure Liza magic from beginning to end. A new addition to my regular rotation.
The Exterminating Angel (1962, d. Luis Bunuel)
A Room with a View (1986, d. James Ivory)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, d. Stanley Kubrick): I’ve been waiting to see this on the big screen and it was worth the wait. The 50th Anniversary IMAX presentation was life-altering. Kubrick’s seminal work demands to be seen on the largest, clearest screen possible.
Opening Night (1976, d. John Cassavetes)
After Hours (1985, d. Martin Scorsese): Another of my favorite moviegoing experiences was attending the Film Forum ‘Double Feature’ series they do each summer. This was paired with “Desperately Seeking Susan,” but I found Scorsese’s Kafka nightmare to be sinewy and provocative and unforgettably New York.
Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime)
Gilmore Girls (Seasons 2-5- Netflix)
The Bold Type (Season 2- Freeform): No other show is as, excuse me, bold about portraying women on television facing contemporary issues. The show deftly handles women’s health, relationships, the workplace, etc. The kind of voices we’ve desperately needed more and one of the few shows I consider mandatory viewing.
At Home with Amy Sedaris (truTV): I have rarely laughed as hard this entire year than I did watching this. Amy Sedaris takes the essence of Martha Stewart, pulverizes it in Pee Wee Herman’s blender and seasons it with indescribably macabre comic sprinkles.
Killing Eve (BBC)
Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette (Netflix)
Salt Fat Acid Heat (Netflix)
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Netflix)
Ugly Delicious (Netflix)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime)
Three Tall Women, Golden Theater
Follies, National Theatre 2017 (NT Live)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Lyric Theater: I got to see both parts in one day. My mom flew in from Ohio just to see it with me, and it was pure magic onstage, but the truly profound experience was sitting next to the woman who read me the first book.
Sweeney Todd, Barrow Street Theater
The Ferryman, Bernard B. Jacobs Theater
A.O. Scott from the New York Times contends with his love of Woody Allen movies and how we re-evaluate art as time reveals more about the artist.
The magic and mystery of literary maps. (Robert Macfarlane, The Guardian)
Two pieces meant to be read in tandem: a reporter grapples with blowing up a small town burger joint with a top spot on a “Best of” list (Kevin Alexander, Thrillist). The story twists as Helen Rosner of the New Yorker spotlights the ethical issues with the piece, all together a one-two punch of how viral features are impacting small town food scenes.
Joan Acocella’s lovely analysis of the ways Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women has impacted female writers for generations. (New Yorker)
Manhattan is becoming an empty shell of the glorious city it once was. Here’s how. (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic)
One of my favorite random pieces this year: a passionate defense of the oft-maligned, underrated Nintendo star Waluigi. (Gene Park, Washington Post)
Film critic Matt Zoller Seitz keeps getting better. I especially loved these two essays on the osmosis effect pop culture has on our memories and our lives. One details the movies of his life as he turns 50 (RogerEbert.com) and “all the things that remind me of her;” a pop culture tribute to the memory of his late wife Jennifer. (Salon)
Alan Richman’s terrific feature on Maguy Le Coze, who’s been running New York staple Le Bernardin for decades. (The New York Times)
My favorite feature of 2018 was definitely Pulitzer Prize winner Jerry Saltz on How to Be an Artist…the most concise, definitive and inspiring guide to consuming, making, buying, and creating art. (Vulture)
The TED Interview: If I were to choose a single podcast episode that has stayed with me in a palpable way, it’s the premiere episode of the TED Interview podcast. Here’s Elizabeth Gilbert giving a typically transformative interview about loss, showing up, and moving on.
Still Processing: The New York Times’ excellent race and pop culture podcast had an incredible year, with Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham unpacking everything from relationships onscreen to reckoning with Kanye West to understanding the fundamentals of Roseanne and the bastion clinging to “white culture”.
This Had Oscar Buzz: A fun new addition to my weekly roster of shows is Chris Feil and Joe Reid’s investigation into forgotten films that had awards chatter but never made it to the finish line. Their obsessive knowledge and breezy back-and-forth is a delight from start to finish.
Fighting in the War Room and Filmspotting: Two of my all-time favorite film podcasts, truly one of the few things I look forward to every week. Ethan Hawke’s interview on Filmspotting was an inspiring highlight, as was their Top 5 Movie Missives episode.
The Long and the Short of It: Tiny jolts of creative fuel, Jen Waldman and Peter Shepherd’s podcast is a new staple in my weekly routine. If you’re looking for a place to start, may I recommend their episodes on favorite questions they like to ask and be asked.
Food 4 Thot: Gay podcast lovers rejoice. The thots are always controversial, highly opinionated, loud and hilariously smart. LGBT author luminary Alexander Chee stopped by to discuss stories we tell about ourselves and Bowen Yang joins to boys to get real about being gay and dating in 2018.
Katie Couric: I am a huge Katie fan and was disheartened to hear that the podcast is not planning on making regular episodes past the end of this year. Here’s Katie during one of the year’s singular (and most illuminatingly polarizing) political events: the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice.
/Filmcast: What’s impressive about the /Filmcast is how it has grown from it’s nerd-based fanboy roots into a legitimate critical discussion, and their awareness of the limited male perspective has broadened the show in intriguing directions, including the welcome addition of the show’s first regular female co-host in it’s near-decade run. Some of my favorites this year were this must listen interview with director Rian Johnson in a candidly self-reflexive and captivating discussion about his film The Last Jedi, the rousing review episode of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Britt Hayes joining the crew for a hearty roundtable on the splendor and puzzles of Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria.
Downstage Center and SDCF Masters of the Stage: As far as theater podcasts go, I tend to listen to them years later, letting my avenues of interest lead me exactly where I was intended to go. Diving back into a childhood favorite, I obsessed over Downstage Center, particularly interviews with three amazing female artists: Elizabeth Marvel, Cynthia Nixon, and Anne Bogart (whose book of essays on theater and art is one of my favorite books I read this year). SDCF interviews are bare bones and fascinating. Here’s Sam Gold and David Caparelliotis speaking frankly on staying close to the front lines of fighting for those with disability on the stage.
Dear Sugars: Parting is such sweet sorrow. Thank you Steve and Cheryl for the hours of empathy and giving us all the courage to continue.
Lindsay Ellis was a newfound minor obsession for me this year. I plowed through several of her 30+ minute videos with verve, and nothing sums up what she does better than her autopsy of The Hobbit “franchise” and how Peter Jackson took a masterpiece film trilogy and spun it in horrifyingly lame directions.
This year I was introduced via my trusted queer alliance to the heart-stopping sublimity of ‘60s underground song-and-dance icon Joey Heatherton, best exemplified with her campy twist on “Nobody’s Baby.”
My friends from work got me hooked onto Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared, a series of bizarre comedic shorts that wind up feeling like David Lynch-directed Sesame Street episodes.
My Zelda fandom knew few limits this year. A convergence of two things I exalt: Beyond Ghibli on how Studio Ghibli inspired Breath of the Wild.
Spike Jonze directed an Apple commercial, and it was my favorite short film of the year.
Mario Spinetti’s addicting midnight rendition of Sondheim’s “Johanna.”
Estelle Caswell at Vox gives us the oral history of the gated reverb, the ‘80s most iconic contribution to modern music. It spun me on a two month obsession, handy with her absolutely awesome Spotify playlist.
Celebrated the late Delores O’Riordan of The Cranberries with this epic NPR Tiny Desk Concert.
Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer was one of my favorite albums of the year (see below), but what really drove it home was her knock-out visual album, safely catapulting Monae to the Best of the Best.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack): We were gaslit by reviewers who told us they used all the good ABBA songs in the first one. This was a direct attempt to dissuade fun-loving homosexuals and women over 40. They will not stop us. My most played album of the year, by far.
Bloom, Troye Sivan: The first time I heard the title track, I sobbed in my bed. To hear a blatant celebration of gay sex, and in a bop no less, was nothing short of radical. That it was treated so casually makes me cry tears of joy. That the rest of the album totally rules is a plus.
“Thank U, Next,” Ariana Grande: You know it, I know it, we all know it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
By the Way I Forgive You, Brandi Carlile: Maybe Brandi’s most penetrating album yet, and that’s saying something for my favorite artist. May she win all the Grammys.
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, The 1975: Progressive soundscapes coupled with the band’s singular lyrics, it’s a worthy successor to their last effort, which was my favorite album of 2017.
I finally listened to Prince’s Purple Rain in it’s entirety, and, well…you know how that went.
I am a certified homosexual, so it is safe to say that I very much enjoyed Cher’s album of ABBA covers.
Gated reverb, the 1980s beat that defined an era, became an unexpected constant during the first part of the year, thanks to Estelle Caswell’s epic Spotify Playlist.
Oh crap, I’m at #10 and didn’t get to talk about my love of The Cranberries, Johnny Greenwood’s score for Phantom Thread, or returning myself to middle school with a revisit of Imogen Heap’s Speak For Yourself. In that case, you should check out my Top Songs of the Year over on Spotify.
AND EVERYTHING ELSE
Performing next to my all-time hero in one of the most unforgettable nights of my year (and life).
Seeing one of my favorite artists, jazz siren Stacey Kent live at Birdland TWICE.
Completing all 12 weeks of Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. Journaling every day for the second half of the year. Writing again. Recovering my artist child.
Along with The Artist’s Way, I finally found myself reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, which I enjoyed very much. Together, they inspired me to start praying again. It feels nice.
Saying au revoir to some of my favorite salves: MoviePass, Dear Sugars podcast, and the real blow… the beloved Filmstruck.
Receiving Austin Kleon’s newsletter, sometimes the highlight of my week and a constant reminder that art is all around us. And life is beautiful. God bless him, he’s practically my second therapist.
Escaping the city at the end of the summer to Hudson, New York and snuggling up to watch Murder, She Wrote in my truly idyllic room at Wm. Farmer and Sons.
Recreating YouTube videos with my best friend Melissa at our old apartment.
Finishing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on my Nintendo Switch. I still can’t stop thinking about it. I am pretty sure it is my favorite game I have ever played.
Seeing Ari Aster’s Hereditary in a packed 42nd Street theater on a Saturday night with friends and freaking the fuck out.
Treating myself to an unbelievable (and unbelievably expensive) cocktail at the cozy and swanky library bar at the Nomad Hotel.
Sweating my ass off and loving it with Vinyasa Flow at Modo.
Working with my creative partner Kevin Shotwell on our Christmas spectacular, this year being a “radio play” of It’s a Fabulous Existence, our twisted gay spin of It’s a Wonderful Life.
Clacking around work with a weekly drag parade.
Gasping at the stunning new Book Culture in Long Island City.
Almost getting mugged on my birthday and making up for it with an extra cocktail at Patent Pending.
Joining Matt Rodin’s crazy world when he asked me to be a part of his hilarious Queer Eye parody.
Celebrating the 15th anniversary of a show I really love, AND getting to be in it’s new commercial AND getting to be on the NBC’s Wicked Anniversary Special! AND having my best friend make her Broadway debut in that show. Still trying to understand how this can be real life?!
Sidestepping my anxiety and talking to a boy I thought was cute at the gym. Baby steps.
Oh yeah! I bought an apartment!!