A short time ago I received a request for an illustration to be printed on a black hoodie and now that I have pictures of the final product I would like to share them as my last project of the year.

Originally I was given a very rough notebook sketch of a boy drinking over a tram, from which I drafted my own version. The main limitation was to use only two colors besides black and white.

Sketch
Final illustration
Printed on hoodie

Happy New Year!

Not everything was good in the media landscape during the last decade, so to balance out my previous top 10 lists I have to talk about the bad stuff. These are six games, movies, shows, or albums that greatly disappointed me. Disappointment involves having a previous liking, fondness, or hope in something, so I don’t necessarily hate the following but rather was severely let down by them.

6. Pokémon Sword/Shield

Pokémon Sword and Shield are fun games, I’ve already clocked more than 30 hours in my file. Despite this, they are very disappointing to me. These were the first mainline Pokémon games on a home console (Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee don’t count) and developer Game Freak’s laziness is apparent everywhere.

The most obvious example is the cutting of more than half of the Pokédex, “Gotta catch ’em all” no more. The 3D models are evidently recycled from previous games, but they couldn’t bother to port all the previous ones over. Graphics look like upscaled 3DS visuals and feature horrendous pop-up that’s inexcusable in 2019. The world design is exteremely linear and boring, except for the Wild Area (that’s a cool idea). Max Raids are not fun, but rather frustrating and uninsipired. And the list goes on.

Still, these games sold like crazy and they do have some good stuff in it. The new Pokémon designs are still pretty creative and inspired and the music is amazing. Pokémon, I love you, but you can do A LOT better.

5. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

crimes grindelwald

I consider myself a moderate Harry Potter fan. I read all the books, even the fanfic-y script for Cursed Child (which I cannot judge as harshly without seeing the play) and watched all the movies. I respect and admire J.K. Rowling for her creativity and imagination that created a worldwide beloved franchise. I thought the first Fantastic Beasts movie was OK, I did enjoy it and hence thought that things could only improve in the sequel, right? Wrong!

The worst sin of The Crimes of Grindelwald is just how BORING it is. The plot is convoluted and suffers from too much characters doing nothing interesting. There are some very stupid story decisions, like the lame romantic misunderstanding between Newt and Tina, the shying away from Dumbledore’s sexuality, random, unnecessary baby murder (twice!), a surprise Dumbledore sibling (this might change in the following movies), Nagini is a human and serves nothing to the plot, and some more I’m probably forgetting.

J.K. writes good stories, but not good scripts. WB shouldn’t let her write the following movies, or at least bring in some help.

4. The Handmaid’s Tale (TV Show)

handmaids_tale

The Handmaid’s Tale started out as a faithful adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, the first season covering the original book. It was shocking, gripping, tense, frightening, and very socially relevant. Without more source material to adapt, however, the show turned into a repetitive, glacially paced torture porn borefest.

When you set up the rules for a fictional world, disregarding or ignoring them constantly breaks the suspension of disbelief and makes the story fall apart. June should’ve been killed a thousand times by season three, but her plot armor is so thick that there is no suspense anymore. The fakeouts of her escaping Gilead are so tiresome now that I don’t care anymore. Those lingering close-up shots with a monologue from Elizabeth Moss were interesting the first times, but after seeing them for the hundreth time you feel exhausted.

Meh. At least Atwood released The Testaments and gave a (arguably) satisfying conclusion to Gilead.

3. Utopia by Björk

utopia_cover

I’m all for experimentation in music, but Björk is just fucking with us now. Utopia is avant-garde pop that is not pleasurable to listen to. There are almost no hooks or interesting melodies to latch on to, the Arca beats are cringe-worthy to put it mildly, and songs are just too long without creating an interesting progression to justify it, they just fall flat.

To give her credit, she creates some pretty unique fairy-tale-esque atmospheres that are enjoyable, but would probably serve better as background music for a movie or videogame. By trimming the excess fat, getting rid of those awful glitch drums, and adding some more interesting melodies, this album would actually be very nice. Those nice flutes and inventive music videos are wasted here.

2. Silent Hill

silent_hill_revelations

Silent Hill was once a very respectable survival horror franchise (I love 2 and 3 to death). Although it never reached Resident Evil popularity, it steadily gained its good reputation with its unique setting, monsters and psychological horror. The last decade, however, saw this reputation being dragged through the mud by stupid choices made by Konami.

The games after the fourth were not developed in Japan anymore and thus lost their unique Japanese horror sensibility. The two Hollywood movies were a mess, the second one in particular is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in a theater. The Silent HD collection was a horrible glitch-ridden mess that performed worse despite being in newer generation hardware.

And when things started to look promising again with a new game developed by Hideo Kojima, Guillermo del Toro and (almost) Junji Ito, Konami shut it down. How the hell do you fuck this up? Ugh. RIP Silent Hill.

1. Game of Thrones

Daenerys-Game-of-Thrones-Season-8-Episode-4

By now everyone knows Game of Thrones’ ending sucked. but this was a special kind of sucking because it retroactively made the series impossible to rewatch now, knowing it’s all for nothing. All the fascinating, complex characters and mysteries built during the previous years came crashing down violently. Nothing mattered in the end, the plot became nonsensical, characters turned into complete idiots, others were killed just to get rid of the clutter, and some others were kept alive because of fanservice.

The number one show in the last decade, the global phenomenon, the ratings (and piracy) king was killed in front of our eyes and we sat and watched and died inside. This show will go down in television history as a perfect example of how to turn gold into a turd. At least we have the books for a satisfying conclusion… Just kidding, George R.R. Martin will never finish them ☹️.

Music enjoyment is quite subjective, a lot more than any other types of art in my opinion. Sometimes you just can’t describe, or don’t have the vocabulary to describe why you like something, you just FEEL it. So I’ll try my best to explain or comment on why these are my favorite albums of the past decade. I know some of this stuff is not too mainstream, so I’ve included the Spotify (and Soundcloud in one case) links to listen. Hopefully now I can answer the question of what kind of music I listen to, because I never know what to say.

10. Metric – Synthetica

synthetica

Metric’s fifth studio album is pretty well rounded collection of energetic, catchy, rock-pop songs. As the name implies, the lyrics and music revolve around the concept of the real vs. the artificial/synthetic. The very first opening line: “I’m just as fucked up as they say”, just oozes cool.

Favorite Tracks:

  • Artificial Nocturne
  • Breathing Underwater
  • The Wanderlust
  • Nothing But Time

9. Gotye – Making Mirrors

making_mirrors

I already knew about Gotye from his previous album Like Drawing Blood and when Making Mirrors broke out to the mainstream with Someone That I Used to Know song and its video I was quite surprised. This relatively unknown musician suddenly had a massive hit and was EVERYWHERE. Something about that song just clicked with the general public I guess, but then it went away. The album is actually quite good and a bit more subdued than expected. The video for State Of The Art is fun and creepy too.

Favorite Tracks:

  • Easy Way Out
  • Eyes Wide Open
  • State Of The Art
  • Bronte

8. NOMAN – Roaring Children

roaring_children

NOMAN is the name of Belgian Kaat Arnaert’s solo project. This first album is full of angst, sadness, sorrow, frustration, gloominess… you get the point. So if you’re into that kind of dramatic, downtempo and slightly experimental music, this is a very recommended listen.

Favorite Tracks:

  • Baby Come Home
  • Fish
  • Honey
  • Wait

7. Goldfrapp – Tales of Us

tales_of_us

Tales Of Us finds Golfrapp at its most dreamy and cinematic. Every song (sans one) are called by a person’s name, reavealing short stories about these people. Alison’s voice is breathy and heavy with melancholia, as if she were revealing her secrets to your ear. It’s a quite sophisticated and rich listening experience. 

Favorite Tracks:

  • Annabel
  • Drew
  • Thea
  • Stranger

6. Geike – Lost in Time

lost_in_time

On her second solo album, Geike Arnaert, former Hooverphonic vocalist, let go of her former band’s sound, instead opting for a more bare, clean sound that lets her voice carry the songs. Her singing is rather restrained and modest here, without feeling the need to show off . You can tell this songs are meaningful to her, and that makes for a beautiful listen. There’s also an very cool b-side that wasn’t included in the record for some reason.

Favorite Tracks:

  • Sea of Fools
  • Question
  • Sirens Call
  • Orion

5. Garbage – Strange Little Birds

strange_little_birds

For their sixth studio album, Garbage went a little bit darker than usual, and that is definitely a good thing. The opening Sometimes sets the mood very clearly. It seems like reflecting on the current state of the world has given Shirley new lyrical ideas to play with. The general sound is unmistakeably Garbage rock-pop, so no big surprises. The slow songs kill it as usual and Amends is a fantastic closer which builds and builds until the very satisfying release.

Favorite Tracks:

  • If I Lost You
  • We Never Tell
  • Teaching Little Fingers To Play
  • Amends

4. Hooverphonic – Reflection

reflection

Ditching their trademark strings and studio sound, Hooverphonic created an album recorded outside a regular studio, instead prefering to perform inside other people’s houses. This pecularity gives the album a very warm, organic, and a bit imperfect sound. The songs are all accesible, short. and sweet, resulting in a constantly pleasent pop experience, which is sometimes all you want.

Favorite Tracks:

  • Amalfi
  • Boomerang
  • Wait For a While
  • Copper (CU)

3. Tommigun – Pretenders

pretenders

Belgian indie rock band Tommigun are relatively unknown (this album is not in Spotify for whatever reason) and it’s a real shame. I find their sound very appealing, especially the mix of male and female vocals. There is something so unpretentious about their sound that I can’t help but like a lot.

Favorite Tracks:

  • Ride With Me
  • Moonshine Moon
  • Sun On My Face
  • Pretenders

2. Kashmir – E.A.R.

e_a_r

The first time I listened to Kashmir I thought they sounded like Radiohead wannabes, but as their sound matured they’ve established their own experimental identity. I would describe E.A.R. as an introvert album, sometimes gloomy and subdued, but also revealing a hidden beauty from time to time. There are some really beautiful melodies here and the lyrics are poetry to my ears.

Favorite Tracks:

  • Piece Of The Sun
  • Peace In The Heart
  • Milk For The Black Hearted
  • Seraphina

1. The Gathering – Disclosure

disclosure

The evolution of Dutch band The Gathering from doom/gothic metal to trip-rock (self described term) is fascinating to me, and Disclosure is the logical and perfect culmination of their many years of career. It ticks all my boxes: beautiful female vocals, melancholic melodies and lyrics, rich, layered atmospheres and a blend of pop sensibilities with a more experimental prog-rock. In an era of consuming media as quickly as possible, these songs take their time to breathe (some are very long) to create an immersive and rewarding experience. I Can See Four Miles blew my mind the first time I listened to it and still does today. I will always love this album.

Favorite Tracks:

  • Meltdown
  • Heroes for Ghosts
  • Gemini I
  • I Can See Four Miles

Choosing my top movies was a very hard process, maybe because you watch too many movies in the span of ten years. I decided to be honest with myself and put the ones I enjoyed the most instead of the ones I know are “objectively” the best.

10. The Big Sick

big_sick

The Big Sick is a poignant romantic comedy based on the real life story of its protagonist. Kumail is a struggling stand-up comedian that falls in love with a girl he hooked up with, and after dating and breaking up, she falls severly ill and has to be hospitalized. The movie doesn’t fall into the usual rom-com clichés and actually explores intercultural relationships though its characters. There is a palpable honesty to this love story that fills my heart with warm feelings.

9. Annihilation

annihilation

A group of scientists have to enter a continously expanding quarantined zone called the Shimmer, which was created from fallen meteorite. Inside, biology doesn’t follow Earth rules and instead goes very, very wrong. There is some disturbing and bizarre imagery that is also very beautiful in a weird way. It is not a perfect movie, but the concept alone sells it for me. The ending creature is just so incomprehensible that I loved it.

8. Bridesmaids

bridesmaids

Kristen Wiig is hilarious and so is this movie. The jokes are continuous and the whole cast seems to be always having fun, so even if a joke doesn’t land (they can get raunchy) you can’t help but smile all the way through. And there’s also a heartfelt story centered around the friendship between two women, which was refreshing to see at the time. Very rewatchable.

7. Logan

logan

I’ve always had a notalgic soft spot for the X-Men because of their popularity in the 90’s. The movie franchise under FOX was pretty uneven to say the least, but Logan stands out as the best one if you take it as a standalone piece (continuity be damned). It’s a mature exploration of Wolverine as a character and how he deals with failure and a world that doesn’t need him anymore, until he meets Laura, aka X-23. In some regards, it reminded me of Joel and Ellie’s journey in The Last of Us game. Logan finds a reason to live by protecting and caring for her surrogate daughter and it’s a beautiful relationship that leads to a bittersweet send-off for the iconic superhero.

6. Coco

coco

Pixar did what no Mexican animation studio has been able to do yet, honor our culture while delivering a tight, well written and emotional story (looking at you crappy Día de Muertos movie). As a mexican, you recognize the hard work the animation studio did because all the little details in the characters, settings, and soundtrack (I actually own the CD) give it a very authentic feel. The story of Miguel travelling to the underworld and reconnecting with his family is really touching and when he plays Remember Me/Recuérdame to Mamá Coco you might just be dead inside if you’re not moved by it (tears are optional).

5. Spotlight

Spotlight

An actual Best Picture Oscar winner, Spotlight is an all-around great movie: great script, acting, directing, pacing, etc. What makes this an important movie is its subject matter: the real case of the Boston Globe’s investigation on child abuse by Catholic priests and the Church’s systematic covering and concealment of it. Shedding light on a real-world crisis through art is a pretty big deal, so props to this film.

4. Black Swan

black-swan

Being an Aronofsky movie, you know from the start that Black Swan is gonna get dark, and it does, and I love it. Nina is a ballet dancer that works hard for her dream of becoming the lead in the Swan Lake, maybe too hard, to the point of losing her mind in the process. This is pure psychological horror with beautiful cinematography and a captivating performance by Natalie Portman.

3. Blue Jasmine

blue_jasmine

Cate Blanchett is enthralling as tragic Jasmine. After losing her wealth and getting back in touch with her estranged sister Ginger, she has to learn to get her life back together by working hard and being a good person. Only she cannot, or more precisely, does not WANT to do that.  This is a black comedy where shitty people get what they deserve and there is a certain satisfaction to be had when you watch an unlikeable wealthy, privileged person descend into misery by their own doing (schadenfreude is normal, right?). 

2. Hereditary

hereditary

Recently, mainstream horror had become too predictable and reliable on jump scares, so Hereditary was a fresh breath of air, taking its time to become more disturbing as it goes on and actually delivering a plot twist halfway that severely impacted the plot. The first half of the film actually plays out like a drama about a grief-stricken family, and later on when the supernatural occurs we know these people well enough to understand why they act like they do. Toni Collette gives an amazing performance and practically carries the movie herself. There is very haunting imagery throughout but just as unsettling are the scenes where the family speaks out their repressed anger and trauma. 

1. Toy Story 4

toy-story-4

Instead of creating a bigger, more out-there story (like, I don’t know, a war between toys and humans), Toy Story 4 scales down the scope and deals with the natural progression of Woody’s journey after leaving Andy. I find it fascinating that a kids’ movie doesn’t shy away from mature themes like finding meaning in life after abandonment or leaving your family behind to pursue your own happiness. There are very clear human-God and parent-child metaphors in display, which make for very good food for thought. And above all that, the movie is very funny and stunning to look at. This movie shouldn’t be this good, but Pixar somehow did it again! 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Roma
  • Parasite
  • Your Name
  • Melancholia
  • Ex Machina
  • The Witch
  • The Favourite
  • Spider-Man: Into de Spider-Verse
  • Two Days, One Night

It’s time to list my favorite TV shows from the last decade. Since they tend to last several seasons, some might have not begun during the decade but did end in the 2010’s.

10. Game of Thrones

GOT

Game of Thrones was a phenomenon like none seen before in TV, a series that proved fantasy could be taken seriously as a prestige drama AND be immensely popular. For the first five or six seasons (debatable) the writing was top-notch and it seemed it was destined to become the best show of all time. Then the last two seasons happened and it all went to hell. Though the production values were always a sight to behold, even the best cinematography, score, acting, and special effects could not save an atrocious script. I don’t ever want to watch this series again and wouldn’t even recommend it, but it was superb before it crashed and burned.

9. Parks and Recreation

parks_burger

On first impression Parks and Recreation would appear to be a The Office knockoff, but soon the show develops its own identity. It reminded me of early Simpsons when the humor was still grounded. The town of Pawnee is like Springfield, filled with goofy side characters. Leslie Knope is a refreshing main character, her comedy comes from being TOO positive and caring for others, which is very refreshing and makes the show very feel-good. Though it’s an episodic series, there were plot and character arcs that got resolved in the very emotional season finales. And above all, I have a massive crush on Adam Scott.

8. Dollhouse

Dollhouse - 2009

This extremely underrated Joss Whedon series barely made the list (the last episode aired in January 29, 2010). While never gaining the same cult following as Buffy or Firefly, Dollhouse was really entertaining TV. It had action, drama, sci-fi, comedy, and witty dialogue. The show also dealt with heavy existential themes and ethical dilemmas, some very similar to the ones Westworld would touch upon years later. And the plot twists were many and always very clever (except maybe one in the last few episodes).

7. Bojack Horseman

bojack

An animated comedy about an antropomorphic horse celebrity living in Hollywood shouldn’t also work as an effective drama, but it does. Visual gags and quirky characters are everywhere, but undeneath it all there is an ongoing reflection on depression and mental health. It is fun and sad and very enjoyable. It would be higher in the list if it wasn’t for Todd (which annoys me to no end).

6. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

madoka

Growing up I was a huge Sailor Moon fan, so the premise of Madoka was immediately appealing to me. What would happen if a magical girl show was deconstructed in a similar vein as Evangelion and the mecha genre? Young girls in super cute outfits, an adorable mascot, magic, and battles against mosters; these elements are all there but there is also darkness, grimness and real stakes at play (girls can actually die). The artstyle is very unique too, with monsters (aka witches) being represented in bizarre or abstract artstyles. The show is only 12 episodes (and a movie) but it was enough to leave a great impact on me.

5. XY

xy

Mexican TV series don’t really have a good reputation. Even today, the mexican shows put out by Netflix or Amazon tend to be average at best. But at the beginning of the decade XY proved that quality television can be achieved in my country. The show revolves around an editorial group that runs a men’s magazine. The show is unique in that it tackles issues of masculinity (hence the title) and what it means to be a man in contemporary mexican society. The show’s social critique is so sharp and the magazine eventually touches upon themes of politics and media influence that there was a rumor going around that higher ups wanted to cancel the show to avoid controversy. It is a crime that this show isn’t easily available to watch. 

4. Breaking Bad

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Everyone knows Breaking Bad is one of the best shows of all time, it is common knowledge by now. Walter White’s journey from unremarkable chemistry teacher to coldhearted owner of a drug empire is done so, so well that without even noticing you end up rooting for a despicable man, because we understand his reasons. The cat and mouse game between Walter and the authorities is always suspenseful to watch and the tragedy that befalls the family and Jessee is trully heartbreaking. When Walter finally (SPOILER) dies, after all the damage he caused you’re left with tons of conflicting emotions.

3. Peep Show

Peep Show

This show is HILARIOUS. The series follows Mark and Jeremy, two young men (I’m tempted to say losers) living their average lives in a flat in London. Mark is an uptight office worker and Jeremy is a slacker. They’ve got a very disfunctional and codependant relationship, that is very amusing to watch unfold. The gimmick of the show is that it’s shot in first person view and we hear the protagonists’ inner monologues. The formula works so well I don’t know why it hasn’t been replicated (to my knowledge). Episodes and seasons are short, so it is a very binge-able show.

2. Succession

succession4

Succession is only two seasons as I’m writing this, but it has already blown me away. It shares some similarities with my number 1 pick, it’s a grounded drama elevated by its writing and acting, with some dark humor from time to time. The main characters are all interesting, (very) flawed people and watching Logan’s children struggle and fail to become the successor for a powerful media empire is a delight. 

1. Mad Men

mad_men

Mad Men is a show about an ad agency in 60’s New York and the people that work in it. There are no big special effects, action sequences, or crazy plot twists, just excellent writing and incredible acting. No other series has such fleshed out and flawed characters like Don, Peggy, Betty, Joan, Roger, Pete, or even Megan. They feel like real people and we care about them. Protagonist Don Draper is tragic yet compeling, a womanizing man who appears to have it all while self-destructing underneath the facade. Watching Mad Men feels like reading a novel, it’s very dense with content and themes that you could write tons of essays about it. The series is a slow burn, but so effective that Don and Peggy arguing over a commercial is a series highlight and one of my favorite scenes of all time. 

Since it’s almost 2020, it’s time to look back at the past ten years and make lists, because everyone likes top 10’s. Here are my favorite games from the past decade.

10. The King of Fighters XIII

kof-xiii-may-yuri

This game is GORGEOUS. The pixel art is super detailed, vibrant and incredibly well animated. We will probably never get a 2D fighter as pretty as this one. The gameplay is very tight as well. I’ve been a longtime KOF fan and the mix of classic gameplay and eye candy fills me with joy.

9. Portal 2

portal2-screenshots-7

Clever, charming first-person puzzle-shooter with nice writing too (GLaDOS and Wheatley are the funniest robots ever). Where’s the Switch port of Portal 1 and 2?

8. Hollow Knight

wiiuds_hollowknight_08

A Metroidvania with a bit of Dark Souls flavor set in a moody underground bug world. Everyone should download this game, it’s crazy cheap for so much quality content.

7. Celeste

celeste

An insanely difficult platformer made less frustrating by charming pixel art and a great soundtrack. The plot deals with mental health issues, handled in a very touching way. Even though I died thousands of times, I smiled all the way through.

6. The Last of Us

The Last of Us™ Remastered_20160414141835

Videogame storytelling at its finest. There’s no survival horror as visceral and poignant as this one. The production values are top notch too. 

5. Undertale

undertale-bar

An instant cult classic, made almost entirely by just one guy (Tobyfox)! Deconstructing the old school RPG formula, think Earthbound, Undertale creates a unique experience that couldn’t be replicated on any other medium. The cast of characters are all very lovable, even random NPCs are full of personality. The soundtrack is a gem, so much that it has been played by video game orchestras. Don’t be fooled by the naive graphics, this game is spectacular.

4. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

super-smash-bros-ultimate-switch-4

A crossover that no one could’ve imagined 20 years ago. It is truly incredible that this game even exists with so many characters and such respect for them and gaming history. Ultimate makes all previous Smash games obsolete and is still expanding its content with DLC. Smash is always fun.

3. Dark Souls

dark-souls-remastered-moonlight-butterfly-boss-walkthrough-guide-1.900x

I got into Dark Souls a little late, after playing the remastered version on Switch. I’d mostly heard that its ruthless difficulty was its main appeal, but it is so much more than that. Lordran looks like a common medieval fantasy land, but you soon get to know it’s actually a cruel, decaying land filled with people and creatures that want you VERY dead. It’s an action RPG that punishes and rewards both in great measure. You will die, hundreds of times, but getting better at the game is extremely addicting and satisfying. Trying to figure out the cryptic lore if also very entertaining.

2. Bloodborne

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Dark Souls, but with a more aggressive gameplay and a Gothic-Victorian horror setting. If H.P. Lovecraft were alive he’d love this game.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

legend-of-zelda-breath-of-wild

This game has been so hyped before and after its release, and it DESERVES it. A true open-world game like none before, Hyrule feels like a real place you can (and will) get lost in. Just walking around and exploring the huge world is fun in itself. The sense of wonder and discovery is one that I had not felt in a long, long time. This game sets the bar very high for future Zelda games and adventure games in general. 

An illustration for an upcoming Culturico article about self-sacrifice and being your true self.

I’m going to paraphrase the main idea: human beings are a not static, but a myriad of ideas and concepts, sometimes contradictory or random. We perform to adjust to other people’s expectations, but if we were true to ourselves, we might become unrecognizable to others.

And we’ve reached the end of Inktober. Overall, it has been a really fun and useful activity for me. Thinking of an image for each word prompt was a nice creative challenge in itself, and I got to practice my hand-drawn drawing skills, which were a bit rusty. I’m quite fond of how some of them turned out.

21. Treasure
22. Ghost
23. Ancient
24. Dizzy
25. Tasty
26. Dark
27. Coat
28. Ride
29. Injured
30. Catch
31. Ripe