My best movies, music and other moments from 2018

When, around this time last year, I posted my round-up of my favourite movies, music and so on of 2017, I felt the need to say what a difference the arts had made for me in a time of depressing political confusion and chaos. I’m not going to kick off another rant this year, even if the same still holds true; in these dark times, solace needs to be sought somewhere, and I myself have found it in the films, CDs, concerts, books and exhibitions listed below. If you check out the creative personnel responsible for these gems, you too may discover a similar source of enjoyment. Hence this seasonal post – I hope you’ll manage to find something that gives you as much pleasure as it gave me. (If you want to know more about the individual titles mentioned here, just click on the links.)

I’m not going to comment in detail, but I’m certainly not alone in considering 2018 a pretty good year for the cinema, and for me at least it was a very good year in music. I attended around 100 concerts and watched around 170 films; in both cases, but especially the former, it was difficult to whittle away the contenders until I finally reached the ‘best of’ lists in question. If one looks beyond the multiplexes, there are many very fine films being made – though whether you’ll ever be able to catch them in a cinema is another matter entirely. Sadly, there were inevitably a few titles which I keenly wanted to see but managed not to; I suspect a few (Leave No Trace, for example) might have made it onto by year’s best list. As for music – and I mostly restrict myself to ‘classical’ and ‘jazz’ these days, whatever those terms might mean – we are spoilt for choice in London, with truly great musicians performing throughout the year in a range of venues. I even ended up including on my list one concert that I caught during the last few hours of 2018.

As last year, I’d like in passing to draw attention to the excellent contributions made to both music and movies by women. I’ll add, too, that Britain currently boasts a great many fine composers. That much, I hope, is clear from what appears below. 

Finally, I hope that 2019 gives us less reason to have to seek solace. May peace, tolerance and reason prevail!

20 films released or premiered this year (very approximately in order of preference, though the first half dozen or so are all equally excellent):

The Green Fog (Guy Maddin, Evan and Galen Johnson)

The Wild Pear Tree (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, still at top)

Burning (Lee Changdong)

The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles) 

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel & Ethan Coen)

First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

Mug (Malgorzata Szumowska)

Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher)

Cold War (Pawel Pawlikowski)

Shoplifters (Koreeda Hirokazu)


Shock Waves: Diary of My Mind (Ursula Meier)

I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians (Radu Jude)

Joel (Carlos Sorin)

Eldorado (Markus Imhoof)

Shirkers (Sandi Tan)

Infinite Football (Corneliu Porumboiu)

All Good (Ewa Trobisch)

Capharnaüm (Nadine Labaki)

Gwendolyn (Ruth Kaaserer)

6 films made before 2018 which I caught up with this year:

Die Puppe (The Doll) (Ernst Lubitsch, 1919, 1932)

Daïnah la Métisse (Jean Gremillon, 1932) 

When Tomorrow Comes (John Stahl, 1939)

Le Silence est d’or (Silence Is Golden) (René Clair, 1947)

Le Amiche (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1955)

Logan Lucky (Soderbergh, 2017)

Gosford Park

5 DVD/BluRay releases:

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Eureka)

The Old Dark House (Eureka)

Le Crime de Monsieur Lange (StudioCanal)

The Touch (BFI)

Gosford Park (Arrow)


12 new ‘classical’ CDs, in no particular order:

Jörg Widmann, Tabea Zimmermann, Dénes Várjon: Es War Einmal/Once Upon a Time (Myrios)

Arditti Quartet: Hans Âbrahamsen String Quartets 1-4 (Winter & Winter)

Erkki-Sven Tüür: Illuminatio, Whistles and Whispers, 8th Symphony (Ondine)

Jörg Widmann: Viola Concerto, Duets, Jagdquartett (Harmonia Mundi)

Arvo Pärt: The Symphonies (ECM)

John Adams: Dr Atomic (Nonesuch)

Kian Soltani, Aaron Pilsan: Home (Deutsche Grammophon)

Huw Watkins: Flute Concerto, Violin Concerto, Symphony (NMC)

Igor Levit: Life (Sony)

Charlotte Bray: Chamber and Solo Works (Nimbus)

Kim Kashkashian: Six Suites for Viola Solo (ECM)

Julian Anderson: Heaven Is Shy of Earth/The Comedy of Change (Ondine)

6 new ‘non-classical’ CDs, in no particular order: helsinki

Kit Downes: Obsidian (ECM)

Frode Haltli: Avant Folk (Hubro)

Liran Donin’s 1000 Boats: 8 Songs (PRS)

Trygve Seim: Helsinki Songs (ECM)

Near East Quartet (ECM)

Susanna (Wallumrød): Go Dig the Grave (Sonata)


Live music:

25 ‘classical’ concerts:

Miklós Perényi: Britten, Kurtág, Ligeti, Bach, Reger; Wigmore Hall, 2/1

Jørg Widmann, Tabea Zimmermann, Dénes Várjon: Widmann, Schumann, Mozart, Wigmore Hall, 4/1

Bjarte Eike, Jon Balke: Biber, Bach, Holborne, Dowland, Balke, Eike, et al, LSO St Luke’s 7/1  

Jörg Widmann, Hagen Quartet: Widmann, Webern, Mozart, Wigmore Hall 30/1

Mark Padmore, Roderick Williams, Julius Drake, Rory Kinnear: Songs of the Sea, Wigmore Hall, 1/2  

Daniel Barenboim, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Simon Rattle: Dvorák, Bartók, Janácek, Berlin Philharmonie, 22/2

Jeremy Denk: Prokofiev, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Milton Court, 3/3

Roderick Williams, Iain Burnside: Winterreise, Wigmore Hall, 29/3

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: Schubert, Huw Watkins, Brahms, Wigmore Hall, 10/4

Igor Levit: Rjewski, Mendelssohn, Mahler, Wigmore Hall, 13/4

Loré Lixenberg, Siwan Rhys, George Barton, Stefan Baur, CoMA: Rolf HInd, Kagel, St John’s Smith Square, 21/4

Tetzlaff Quartet: Beethoven, Wigmore Hall, 20/5

Anu Khomsi, Philharmonia: Christian Mason, Royal Festival Hall, 24/5

Steven Osborne: Prokofiev, Debussy, Berg, Prokofiev, Gershwin, Wigmore Hall, 7/7

Heath Quartet, Ruth Gibson, Marie Bitlloch: Bach, Widmann, Schoenberg, Wigmore Hall, 20/7

Angela Hewitt: Goldberg Variations, Wigmore Hall, 26/7

Alina Ibragimova, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Edward Gardner: Wagner, Rolf Wallin, Sibelius, Royal Albert Hall, 21/8

Heath Quartet: Bach, Gubaidulina, Britten, Beethoven, Wigmore Hall, 23/9

Kirill Gerstein, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Thomas Adès: Stravinsky, Adès, Lutoslawski, Royal Festival Hall, 26/9

Alasdair Beatson: Birtwistle, Beethoven, Ligeti, Messiaen, Schumann et al, Kings Place, 14/11  

Isabelle Faust, Steven Isserlis, Alexander Melnikov, Katharine Gowers, Rachel Roberts: Schumann, Fauré, Wigmore Hall, 17/11

Nash Ensemble, Christine Rice: Schumann, Wagner, Brahms, Wigmore Hall, 24/11

Viktoria Mullova, Matthew Barley, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrés Orozco-Estrada: Enescu, Dusapin, Martinu, Ravel, Royal Festival Hall, 28/11

Thomas Adès: Janácek, Wigmore Hall, 9/12 

Dunedin Consort, John Butt: Bach’s Magnificat, etc, Wigmore Hall, 31/12

Thomas Adès (photo by Geoff Andrew)

6 operas:

Janácek: From the House of the Dead, Royal Opera House

Shostakovich: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Royal Opera House

Philip Venables: 4.48 Psychosis, Royal Opera House at the Lyric Theatre

George Benjamin: Lessons in Love and Violence, Royal Opera House

Huw Watkins: In the Locked Room and Maxwell Davies: The Lighthouse, Royal College of Music

Mark-Anthony Turnage: The Silver Tassie, concert performance, Barbican

2 ‘non-classical’ concerts:

Django Bates Belovèd, with Marius Neset and Claire Huguenin, Wigmore Hall, 9/6

Susanna (Wallumrød), with Frode Haltli, Giovanna Pessi and Sarah-Jane Summers, Rich Mix, 28/9

15 books read this year (fiction and non-fiction):

Philip Roth: The Plot Against America

Allan Hollingshurst: The Sparsholt Affair

Colm Toibín: The South

Jonathan Coe: What a Carve-Up

George Gissing: Our Friend the Charlatan

Penelope Fitzgerald: At Freddie’s

Robin Robertson: The Long Takelong

Guy de Maupassant: The Necklace and other stories

Julian Barnes: Levels of Life

Mark Cocker: Crow Country

Tom Service: Music as Alchemy

James Stourton: Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation

Sarah Bakewell: At the Existentialist Café

Nick Coleman: The Train in the Night

John Banville: Mrs Osmond

3 exhibitions:

All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life (Tate Britain)

Picasso 1932 (Tate Modern)

August Sander: Men Without Masks (Hauser & Wirth)

And finally…  5 moments from the year, mostly as stirring to me as any piece of art, so impossible to put into words. First, a reunion with old friends and colleagues from the late lamented Electric Cinema Club – find out more here. Thereafter, images from nature – locations mentioned but that’s not quite the point…

The Electric Cinema Club  - 3rd November 2018
Peter Bell, Peter Howden, Alvin Leong, Dave Hucker, Geoff Andrew, Rob Small, David Thompson. Georges Meisner 
Holkham Beach, Norfolk
Hautes-Pyrénées, France
Thornham Marshes, Norfolk
Hampstead Heath, London


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