The 2018 Hot List

Films, television, books, exhibits: Wander through our recommendations for the year in arts and culture.

The Hot List 2018 - Watkins College of Art

This may be the time of year when the mercury goes down, but it’s also the time of year when our anticipation for new films, television programs, interior design trends, books, exhibits—artistic adventures of every kind—go way up. We know you’re busy, which is why we’ve taken the time to act as your guide to some of the great offerings in the coming months. So, sit back in your office, on your sofa, or aboard your flight—with a nice hot cup of tea or coffee—and browse our recommendations for the days and weeks to come.

And if you have a recommendation, let us know!


Let’s talk movies first. It’s roles for women that are showing up strong in 2018. Alex Garland follows Ex Machina with a new brain-teaser (and Natalie Portman) in Annihilation. Alicia Vikander, who was the “machina” in the aforementioned film, takes over from Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, and Jennifer Lawrence is a ballet assassin in Red Sparrow. Rooney Mara takes on Mary Magdalene in this new interpretation on the Biblical character; Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart join forces for a new take on the Lizzie Borden tale; and Keira Knightley plays the intriguing French novelist Colette. Steve McQueen of Hunger and 12 Years A Slave has cast Viola Davis in a new, feature version of the crime drama Widows. No one’s planning on missing the reboot of Ocean’s 8 with a cast to die for, and we’re curious how Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz team up for Yorgos Lanthimos’s new offering, a period drama entitled The Favourite. Not that there aren’t some good vehicles for the men. Lars Von Trier heads to Washington State during a 1970s serial killer investigation with Matt Dillon and Uma Thurman in The House that Jack Built. Canadian director Xavier Dolan presents Kit Harington in a non-Jon Snow piece (with Susan Sarandon) in The Death and Life of John F. Donovan. Also promising: a neo-noir with Andrew Garfield called Under the Silver Lake and a film about Ireland during the Famine in Black 47. We’re greeting the news of Daniel Day-Lewis’s rumored last role in The Phantom Thread with mixed feelings but pure feelings for Claire Foy’s turn as the new Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web. And we’re hearing great things about Beast, which is set on the remote isle of Jersey. Acclaimed writer Ian McEwan continues to be adapted, and this year sees his novel On Chesil Beach (with Lady Bird’s Saoirse Ronan) screened, as well as The Children Act, directed by the talented Richard Eyre. Speaking of Eyre, he’s reuniting Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in an adaptation of King Lear. Martin Scorsese is also rumored to be reuniting Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel in a script by Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List) called The Irishman.


Television keeps getting stronger and stronger, and the BBC is giving good competition to homegrown Netflix and Amazon. In particular: the police drama Hard Sun, the psychological thriller Apple Tree Yard with Emily Watson, the adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike detective series, Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of the bemused misanthrope Patrick Melrose in the eponymous comedic series, and Hugh Grant in the true story of an astonishing British political scandal appropriately called A Very English Scandal. Nearby, Ireland offers up Striking Out, about a female attorney whose life is upended just prior to her wedding. Across the pond—aka here—we await Michael Shannon and Taylor Kitsch in Waco about the Branch Davidian cult, Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects with Amy Adams (all episodes directed by Jean-Marc Vallée), and a series that aggregates the world of Stephen King in Castle Rock. On Netflix, we’re looking forward to Alexander Skarsgård in Mute, about a man who cannot speak taking on the Berlin underworld as he searches for his missing girlfriend, and Maniac, which features Emma Stone and Jonah Hill in a remake of a Norwegian dark comedy (is there any other kind of comedy from Norway?).


For the aurally inclined, podcasts are blooming. The dark side is the subject of S-Town, which explores the Southern gothic, and Homecoming brings together actors like Catherine Keener and Amy Sedaris for a conspiracy thriller series. Music aficionados can be sated with Song Exploder (which asks musicians to analyze their own work) and Soundtracking with Edith Bowman (cinematic music). We like academic projects, too, like 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy, Crowdscience (which puts curious everyday questions to scientists), and The Guilty Feminist, which focuses on topical issues in comedic and intellectual ways with Australian Deborah Frances-White.


Maybe start your reading this year by reading about reading. The Art of Reading by Damon Young has received terrific reviews. We also are interested in photographer Peter Lindberg’s long and praised work on female portraiture. Speaking of women, the 100 most important nonfiction books was recently a conversation and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (mother of the author behind Frankenstein) was named one of the 100. As were the art-related The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, Kenneth Clark’s book, and Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation. Since the beloved Judi Dench let us in on her passion for trees, we’ve been a bit tree-happy, in particular for the famed school of painters called The Arborealists, as well as the new book entitled Into the Woods: Trees in Photography. For more sober topics, look into mortality with Kathryn Mannix and kindness with longtime nurse Christie Watson. If you need some culinary inspiration, try the creative recipes of Garrett Fitzgerald from his Brother Hubbard restaurant.  There’s so much fiction we want to read, too, which would make this list 10 times its size, but people are already buzzing about Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight, Zoe Gilbert’s Folk, Alan Hollinghurst’s The Sparsholt Affair, and Christine Mangan’s Tangerine. And for those who want to better understand how to make 2018 the best year yet, well, there’s  Self-Care for the Real World. Such self-care might start with learning how to create better posture from Roger Frampton, a man who might be one of those who increasingly argue sitting is the new smoking. You could pair all of the above with Thomas Keller’s new adventure in chocolate.

Interior Design

One of the best ways to keep up with trends of house and home—bohemian lighting making a comeback, for example—are via the Instagram feeds of some thought-provoking interior designers. We like Rita Konig, who is known for “low-key luxe.” Also Design Milk by Californian artist Jaime Derringer, who picks a space to each week to showcase and explores how the owner did it. There’s Ciara Elliott, who left city life for the English countryside and offers up visual meditations; Rose Uniacke, an antiques dealer turned designer; and Matthew Grzywinski of architectural firm Grzywinski+Pons.


Over on Twitter, we posted about the exhibits we didn’t want to miss this year before they closed. Photographer Peter Hujar gets an in-depth look at the Morgan in New York until May. Laura Owens’s pioneering approach to painting is featured at the Whitney for just a few more weeks. David Hockney, who is making the retrospective rounds in various places, can be found at the Met until February; also at the Met until February is the widely praised Michelangelo show. Another master, Rodin, can be appreciated at the Cleveland Museum of Art until May. We’re hearing great things about Mark Bradford’s Pickett’s Charge at the Hirshhorn, Turner Prize-winner Laure Prouvost’s They Are Waiting for You at the Walker in Minneapolis, and Sheila Pepe’s Hot Mess Formalism at the Everson in Syracuse, NY.