Having recently had my Nick Hornby interest piqued by the film adaptation of “Juliet, Naked” (based on his 2009 novel), I finally read his 2014 entry “Funny Girl.” The description sounds sort of like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”: A young woman in the 1960s wants to be a comedy actress rather than working in her hometown department store. The novel ends up being quite different from “Maisel,” but the genre is the same: It’s historical fiction that reflects the reality of the time and place but invents fictional famous people and touchstones.
The dominant genre of 2018 continued to be superheroes; even with the “X-Men” Universe and DC Extended Universe releasing only one film each, the three Marvel Cinematic Universe movies were impossible to overlook. Still, this was a less blockbustery year than 2017, and by year’s end I had seen at least one really good film in every genre. From a throwback thriller to an arthouse gem, here are my 10 favorite films of 2018.
Just as I was thinking that 2018 has been a down year for comedies, along comes “Juliet, Naked,” which got a limited release in theaters and is now on home video. It’s the sixth Nick Hornby book to be adapted for the screen, and my personal favorite. (And no, I’m not forgetting “High Fidelity” and “About a Boy.”) Featuring the pitch-perfect cast of Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Chris O’Dowd, it left me misty-eyed with laughter and sadness – sometimes within the same scene – and features a funny yet sober examination of extreme music nerdery.
“About a Boy” — This is the latest film adapted from a novel by witty Brit Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity”). Featuring Hugh Grant as a 30-something layabout, “About a Boy” features even more of Hornby’s wry humor than “Fidelity,” and great backing music by Badly Drawn Boy. Eschewing the book’s subplot about Kurt Cobain and a pretty dire ending, directors Chris and Paul Weitz wrap this film up in their own clever way.
—John Hansen, NDSU Spectrum, Aug. 27, 2002
Although I’m a big fan of the Nick Hornby novel and the Hugh Grant movie, when I heard that “About a Boy” (8 p.m. Central Tuesdays on NBC) was being made into a TV series, I wasn’t all that excited. It seemed like the book and the movie effectively told the full story of how a cool 30-something and an uncool 11-year-old boy helped each other find what was missing in their lives.
Author Nick Hornby writes the words and musician Ben Folds puts the music to them. The September album “Lonely Avenue” is, on the surface, hard to resist. It features one of my favorite authors and the man responsible for what I think is a perfect album, 2001’s “Rockin’ the Suburbs.” And I can’t think of a previous example of a musician and novelist teaming up for an album (let me know if there are any), so they get points for an original gimmick.
“An Education” is one of those movies that I can acknowledge is good, yet I didn’t particularly like it. This is because I’m starting to develop a low tolerance for watching supposedly new movies that I feel like I’ve seen many times before.
Nick Hornby taps into a gold mine of insider humor in “Juliet, Naked” by making fun of extreme levels of music snobbery. Hornby invents a cult-favorite 1980s musician named Tucker Crowe and provides so much analytical detail about this made-up musician’s songs that I almost wanted to google Crowe to make sure he wasn’t a real person.