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Recess picks the best culture of 2018

<p>Clockwise from top left: Mitski performs in 2016; Georgia O'Keeffe, whose work is now on display at NCMA; Bill Hader stars in “Barry”; and the Parr family returns in “Incredibles 2.”</p>

Clockwise from top left: Mitski performs in 2016; Georgia O'Keeffe, whose work is now on display at NCMA; Bill Hader stars in “Barry”; and the Parr family returns in “Incredibles 2.”

Here at Recess, the year wouldn’t be complete without compiling our favorite art, literature and pop culture from the last 12 months. From the much-hyped return of the “Incredibles” series to a new exhibit at Raleigh’s N.C. Museum of Art, here are the Recess staff’s picks for the best culture of 2018:

Mitski, “Be the Cowboy”

Indie darling Mitski Miyawaki shattered expectations and hearts alike with her stunning fifth studio album “Be The Cowboy,” a record that examines the various absences, voids and losses of modern life and love with a lyricism in turns graceful and brutal. The album’s lead single “Nobody” was the alternative world’s song of the summer, its boppy, expertly crafted orchestration and wrenching lyrics perfectly encapsulating the melancholy of Mitski’s thematically rich work. More than just a fantastic record from a phenomenally talented artist, “Be The Cowboy” is a masterpiece that made the isolating chaos of 2018 a little easier to bear. — Sydny Long

The Weeknd, “My Dear Melancholy”

I'm not particularly interested in the drama and debate surrounding to whom The Weeknd’s latest album is dedicated, but I love every single song on it. The Weeknd is finally back to his original dark R&B style, and every note and lyric is soaked in emotion. My favorite piece is “Wasted Times,” and I remember listening to it over and over as I was trapped in Lilly during reading period last year and trying to get over my crush. “My Dear Melancholy” really helped me get through that time. Even after I got home for winter break, playing the vinyl version of the album while watching snow fall outside my window and sipping dark coffee was such a mood. — Eva Hong

H.E.R., “I Used to Know Her: The Prelude”

In her new EP, H.E.R. graces us with six songs that help mark a welcomed resurgence of quality modern R&B, alongside artists like Noname, Daniel Caesar and Ella Mai. Artfully informed by Lauryn Hill’s brilliant balance of quick-witted lyricism and jazz-inspired beats, along with her fearlessness in confronting deeply-rooted social ills, H.E.R. completely embraces her power in this work of uninhibited authenticity and vulnerability. Its poetry is both invigorating and incredibly calming, matched only by the dexterity of her voice. The best part is that the lyrics could have been about literally anything, and her silky yet incredibly strong and versatile voice would still have induced an appropriate amount of goosebumps. She didn’t have to give it to us like this, but she did. — Miranda Gershoni

“Isle of Dogs”

Directed by Wes Anderson and featuring stars like Bill Murray, “Isle of Dogs” is a tale about the fictional city of Megasaki, which decrees that all dogs will be sent to the infamous Trash Island after deeming them inferior to cats. This film is not only politically relevant for a country of “us” and “them” but a perfect representation of Wes Anderson’s magnificent style and abilities as a director. With beautiful scenes and endearing characters, Anderson creates another incredible story to fall in love with and a plot that questions what we value as a nation. — Kerry Rork

"Game Night"

So when "Game Night" came out at the beginning of this year, I had minimal hopes for the quality of both its comedy and filmmaking, confident that it would be predictable industry fare. I couldn't have been more wrong. Daley and Goldstein created a movie that is as funny as it is smart, creative and heartfelt. Its laughs are endless, but it keeps you on your toes, too, something that the genre has long cast aside as unimportant. "Game Night" is a reminder that comedies are capable of much more than Hollywood has convinced us that they are, and they certainly don't need to rely on cheap humor for their biggest laughs. — Nina Wilder

“Incredibles 2”

I was a big fan of the original “Incredibles” movie when it came out more than a decade ago, but I thought “Incredibles 2” was going to be mediocre like a lot of Disney and Pixar movie sequels. I was wrong. Edna remains my favorite character for her sassiness, but Jack Jack is now my other favorite. He was adorable when he battled a raccoon and tested his new super powers (although the scene made me wonder why he had so many powers compared to his siblings and parents). I couldn’t stop laughing when he transformed himself into a baby Edna, complete with her iconic bob cut. — Ashley Kwon

"Hannah Gadsby: Nanette"

Released this summer, "Nanette" was immediately a worldwide sensation, with many critics claiming it had changed the face of comedy forever. Gadsby announces she's quitting comedy halfway through the set. She says being a gay comedian puts too much pressure on her to use her own trauma for a cheap laugh, cutting off the best part of the story for the sake of a joke. This bold statement sets the tone for the rest of the set, where she weaves art history, her personal narrative and critiques of comedy itself into a mesmerizing hour. As someone who enjoys John Mulaney perhaps too much, "Nanette" reminded me of the power of marginalized voices when they have a captive audience. — Christy Kuesel 


With only eight half-hour episodes, “Barry” was something of a dark horse of a TV show when it premiered this spring on HBO, mining an unexpected amount of intensity (and comedy) from an unlikely premise: Barry, a put-upon trained assassin played by Bill Hader, seeks to turn his life around in a Los Angeles acting class. The show is about Barry’s inability to leave his violent past behind, but on a deeper level, it's about the dangerous consequences of his deep ambivalence and diffidence in all aspects of his life — often, “Barry” acknowledges, the decisions you don’t make are as harmful to others as the ones you do. Featuring a characteristically hilarious supporting role from Henry Winkler and a slate of directors that includes Hiro Murai (of “Atlanta” and “This is America” fame), “Barry”’s first season was one of the most cohesive, engaging moments in television this year. — Will Atkinson

“Backpack” by Tony Earley

Published in the Nov. 5 issue of the New Yorker, this touchingly powerful short story takes the reader on a bizarrely ordinary bus ride from North Carolina to fictional Cohee, Indiana. Its protagonist is a history teacher named John, who enjoys a picture-perfect family life and a stable job. A white, middle-class male, the shallow perfection of his life bores him so painfully that he seeks to escape it by becoming someone else: Jimmy Ray Gallup, a mysterious proletarian, tough as nails, who “had never been loved the way he’d wanted to be.” Author Tony Earley brilliantly alternates between his present journey and recollections from the past. As these heartwarming episodes of quirky memory unwind, the façade of Jimmy Ray Gallup begins to crumble, revealing a man shattered by the emptiness his depression has carved into his life. — Joel Kohen

Skate Culture

This year's premieres of Bing Liu's "Minding the Gap," Jonah Hill's "Mid90s" and Crystal Moselle's "Skate Kitchen" point to a resurgence of skateboarding in representations of popular culture and fashion. In what seems to be its third wave, 2018's skate culture is imbued with attributes of '70s West Coast temperament and the effortless cool of the '90s skater scene. Teenage renegades of localized communities with familiar political overtones have reclaimed the skateboard as their preferred mode of transportation. The subculture has become exceedingly inclusive and intersectional, with femme skateboarding crews including the real "Skate Kitchen" and Brooklyn's "Brujas." Although today's fascination with skate culture has been noted as an uninspired preoccupation with nostalgia (particularly in "Mid90s"), the revolutionary act of flying down a city street or a suburban neighborhood generates an invincibility and agency not easily evoked otherwise. –Sarah Derris

“The Beyond: Georgia O'Keeffe and Contemporary Art” at the N.C. Museum of Art

An amazing museum and sculpture park, the North Carolina Museum of Art is hosting an exhibition entitled "The Beyond: Georgia O'Keeffe and Contemporary Art" from October 2018 to January 2019. Far more than the wife of famed photographer Alfred Stieglitz and a painter of flowers, O'Keeffe was a visionary and one of the most influential female artists of the twentieth century. The exhibition pays homage to O'Keeffe's legacy by placing her in the context of contemporary artists of multiple media. With engaging pieces of painting, photography and sculpture, the gallery leads the viewer from colorful room to colorful room, with O'Keeffe's famed "Radiator Building" in the last. — Jessica Williams


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