The best in films, books, music, games and TV from the year.

A new experiment for Slow News Weekly this week. We’re a few days away from the end of March, closing out the first quarter of 2018. As the Easter long weekend approaches, I’ll be doing my best to sort through my gargantuan to-consume list of books, music, TV, film and games. I know I’ll barely make a dent, but it’s worth a shot.
If you’ve been too wrapped up in sexy government tax policy, the Italian Election or water shortages in Cape Town, you may have missed some of the larger cultural milestones from the top of the year. Here’s a quick guide.
In Australia, the Stella Prize is just a few weeks shy of announcing a winner from their very sparkly short list. The Stella Prize is awarded every year to a female writer of extraordinary talent. I’ve made my way through about half the shortlist and am positively jumping up and down about An Uncertain Grace by Brisbane’s Krissy Kneen – a daring novel about sex, science and intimacy. It’ll make you feel lots of things. The winner is announced in April. If you haven’t checked out winners from previous years, The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood and The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose are certainly worth your time.
Also making waves at the moment in the world of literary fiction is Tim Winton’s new release, The Shepherd’s Hut, which is collecting its predicted bunch of glowing reviews.
If literary fiction isn’t your taste, or you’d just something a bit more easy going over the long weekend (can’t say I blame you), Australian authors Jay Kristoff and Amie Kauffman have just released the final volume of their stunning Illuminae trilogy, titled ObsidioThese extraordinary works (technically defined as young adult fiction), are beautifully designed science-fiction thrillers and feature amazing graphic design. The narrative is built from ‘found documents’ – surveillance notes, e-mails, memos, posters, computer logs, and more. You won’t have ever read anything quite like it.
In international popular non-fiction, clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson’s controversial tome ’12 Rules for Life’ is making waves. Is it what the world needs to hear? Or is it another straight-y white man telling everyone to settle down?
Last year’s ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’ by Mark Manson also clings to the top of the charts – which is a far more laid back guide to keeping your life chilled.
It may also be the perfect time to read the work’s of influential artists who have passed this year. Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ is widely acknowledged as the most successful popular science book of all time. Ursula LeGuin’s stunning literary backlog is a treasure trove of fantasy and sci-fi classics – perhaps begin with ‘The EarthSea Quartet’.
Vulture has a great summary of some of the year’s best comics so far, and Esquire have their own list of more American-centric literary hits. You can also glance at Amazon’s top sellers from the year to see what’s causing a fuss. If you’re still struggling to get on top of 2017’s greatest reads, I can highly recommend the stunning NPR Book Concierge, which practically guarantees you’ll be able to find something you fancy from an overwhelming list of American-centric hits.
The Grammy’s were held back at the end of January, and you can see the full list of winners here. Bruno Mars took out Album, Record and song of the year for ’24K Magic’. Ed Sheeran took out Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album. (Take all of this with a grain of salt, as Leonard Cohen won ‘Best Rock Performance’ for his bone-shattering track ‘You Want It Darker’. It’s a brilliant song, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it was rock…)
In Australia, the Triple J Hottest 100 was held on January 27th for the first time. American rap artist and astonishing poet Kendrick Lamar got first spot for his song Humble. Aussie indie band Gang of Youths took out two songs in the top five, along with fellow Aussies Angus & Julia Stone and Methyl Ethel. Full results here.
Australian pop/indie artist Vance Joy released his much anticipated new album ‘Nation of Two’ this month to much acclaim.
In January, the Golden Globes awarded big gongs to The Handmaid’s Tale (available to stream on SBS On Demand – a dystopian thriller based on the Margaret Atwood novel by the same name) and Big Little Lies (available to stream through Foxtel Now, produced and starring Nicole Kidman and Rhys Witherspoon about the private lives of Californian mothers). Netflix has made big splashes with second seasons for Stranger Things (80’s inspired spooky sci-fi) and The Crown (British drama about the modern family royal family). They’ve also made some hits in hard-hitting, compelling documentaries such as FlintTown, which follows police officers in the volatile American city of Flint, Michigan.

The second season of Atlanta (Dramaedy written, performed and directed by Christopher Glover) is now streaming on SBS On Demand, and is once again receiving rave reviews. In reality television, Ru Paul’s Drag Race, available to stream on Stan, has dominated social media with its back to back All Star season and tenth regular season.

In Australian television, SBS On Demand is now streaming Safe Harbour, a critically-acclaimed thriller that has ensnared many viewers in its first week. ABC’s new drama Harrow is also receiving positive attention and is available to stream on iView. ABC’s has put full thrusters on its comedy programming with the 2018 rebrand of ABC2 to ABC Comedy. Tom Ballard’s stab at political talk show ‘Tonightly’ is finding its feet, along with a host of other new comedy programming all available on iView.
The Oscars and the Golden Globes have just been. The Shape of Water took out Best Picture and Best Director, but the acting categories were spread between I, TonyaThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Darkest Hour. For my money, the more interesting films are in the Original screenplay category, with The Big Sick (pleasant romantic comedy), Get Out (outstanding twist on the horror genre) and Lady Bird (beautiful coming of age film) all worth your time. (You can now stream The Big Sick and Get Out from your usual services.)
In box office, Black Panther has broken all sorts of box office records around the world. This is a super hero film starring an almost exclusively African American cast.
The awards season has just about wrapped up, and no one was surprised to have Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild top almost every list. This sprawling, beautiful RPG is a worth playing if you have 100+ hours to kill. The most frequent runner up Super Mario Odyssey is a wonderful return to form for the Mario franchise. Together, these two make the Nintendo Switch the most desirable console on the market. It turned one year old this month.
March will end with the release of Far Cry 5, one of 2018’s very first AAA game releases.
Hope you find something in there to fill your time. We’ll be back at the end of the week with our regular slow news roundup.

Image at the top is from the film Get Out.

If you like this blog, share it around. Have a fantastic weekend.

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And thanks, as always to Jennifer McDonald, who proofs these posts and makes sure I’m making some kind of sense. You can read Jen’s blog here.

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