The best things you didn't watch, read, and listen to in 2018
'Tis the season for "Best of 2018" lists, and already there's consensus: Everyone loves Alfonso Cuarón's Oscar-favorite Roma; Mitski's Be the Cowboy was a hit; Tommy Orange's There There and Sigrid Nunez's The Friend are flying off shelves; and The Americans, Atlanta, and Killing Eve are among the top TV shows of the year.
But what about the books, movies, shows, and music that fell through the cracks? Here are some really wonderful things that have been unfairly overlooked in 2018.
Most overlooked book: No Place to Go by Lezlie Lowe
Canadian author Lezlie Lowe wants you to think about the bathroom. To really think about it: Where would you go if you needed one right this second? Your answer to that question is inextricably tied up in privilege: Roughly 900 million people worldwide don't have access to a toilet, and 2.3 billion live without basic sanitation.
But where you "go" also reveals truths about access, or lack thereof, to restrooms in the Western world — if you aren't at your home or office, you might be stuck buying a latte at Starbucks just to take care of your basic human needs. Stunningly, access to a toilet isn't a right in North America, in part because city planners still claim it is impossible to keep public bathrooms safe and sanitary. Local governments would rather pretend like bowel movements don't exist.
In No Place to Go, Lowe synthesizes decades of research on unequal access to bathrooms in places like the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.; unravels the cultural stigma around having these necessary "impolite" conversations; and strides boldly into the fray over "how public toilets fail our private needs." The result is one of the best and most urgent books of the year. Get it here.
Most overlooked movie: Unfriended: Dark Web
This was a great year for horror films. Fan favorites like A Quiet Place and Hereditary are topping year-end lists, along with more artsy titles like Cam and Mandy. With such an impressive genre slate, it might seem only natural to have overlooked the desktop film Unfriended: Dark Web, which on the surface appears to be a rote sequel to 2014's Unfriended (not to mention its unfortunate title — the better-suited Game Night was already taken).
Early reviews of Dark Web didn't help either: The film has a middling 57 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, I'm confident in saying this is one my fellow critics got wrong. Dark Web is an impressive techno-horror film that couldn't exist outside its computer-screen format, and never slides into using the medium as a gimmick (unlike other desktop films to come out this year). Dark Web also leans into the modern way of watching movies — on your laptop — and when its "desktop" fills yours at home, the experience is unexpectedly immersive.
That's in part because Unfriended: Dark Web is a film that understands how real people use technology. The characters multitask between windows; they start and stop and rewrite messages; they flip through Spotify, Google words they don't know, and visit Wikipedia for hasty research. Unfriended: Dark Web might veer into being an outlandish horror story by its end, but it is a great ride. Stream it here.
Most overlooked TV show: AMC's The Terror
The Terror is one of the best shows on television, and has gone almost entirely unrecognized. Utterly unique in concept, the show is based on the doomed search for the Northwest Passage by Captain Sir John Franklin in the late 1840s. The Terror relies on historical facts — many of the men on board the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus likely died from complications with lead poisoning, for example — but also introduces new horrific possibilities, including a mythical monster called the Tuunbaq.
As great as the premise of the show is, the acting is even better, and it is difficult to pick a favorite performance. Jared Harris as Captain Francis Crozier? Ciarán Hinds, who contorts his face in horror and awe as Captain Franklin? Or the supporting cast — a diabolical performance by Adam Nagaitis as Cornelius Hickey, or a stirring turn by Inuk actress Nive Nielsen as Lady Silence?
The Terror is creepy (it has rightly been recognized for having one of the greatest TV intros of the year), but perhaps most upsetting is the way it interrogates European imperialism and man's hungry consumption of the North American continent. The Terror is "non-Newtonian, it's mythical, it's esoteric," Tobias Menzies, who plays Captain James Fitzjames, explained to GamesRadar, "and I feel like that's the real terror of the piece." Stream it here.
Most overlooked album: Sandro Perri — In Another Life
Sandro Perri's four-track, 44-minute LP In Another Life is only the 276th best album of 2018, according to list aggregator Album of the Year. It deserves much more appreciation.
The Canadian producer is hard to put a finger on — Pitchfork calls Perri "genreless," while others use a whole pile of genres to describe him: "Both instrumental and vocal, dance, noise, drone, ambient, pop, folk, jazz, and electronic — his music is borne of a curious ear and a love of reinvention," Perri's label Constellation says.
That love of reinvention is how In Another Life ended up with "Everybody's Paris" parts 1-3, a sleepy trilogy of songs featuring a different vocalist on each linked track. Ambient and flowing, they blend into the background like pleasant natural white noise — the burble of a brook, maybe, or a rustle of leaves. Thanks in part to its 24-minute lead-off track, In Another Life demands listeners slow down and sink into the experience.
Perri writes music for headphones and daydreaming; the only way I can imagine playing it over speakers is on a lazy, overcast Sunday morning alone. It's easy to see how this slipped through the cracks in 2018. But if you pause long enough to give it a listen, you will realize what a gem it is. Buy it here.