New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Staff Recs: la fin.

Join WSN’s Arts Desk in celebrating some of this year’s artistic triumphs.
Alisia Houghtaling
(Illustration by Alisia Houghtaling)

The final stretch of the year is both cherished and chaotic with its never-ending festivities. Before you gorge yourself on Christmas cookies or get tipsy on spiked eggnog, though, we encourage you to look back on some of the highlights of the past year. Whether it was the Barbenheimer craze, or one of the million things Taylor Swift released, acknowledging and celebrating some of the year’s brilliant media is a lovely way to bid farewell to 2023.

As the year comes to a close, the Arts Desk would like to invite you to join us in highlighting some of our favorite works from this year. From films that may have slipped under your radar to Annie Ernaux’s latest book, we’ve curated a list of personal favorites that we hope you’ll enjoy.


“Anselm” by Wim Wenders

Art enthusiasts and historians, this documentary is for you. Described as one of the greatest contemporary artists, Anselm Kiefer is known for his thematic paintings and sculptures on the complex history of Germany. “Margarethe,” one of Kiefer’s most acclaimed paintings, explores racial identity in Germany during World War II. If you haven’t been acquainted with his work, “Anselm” is the perfect place to start. The film explores his life, creative process and his fascination with history.
If you need any more incentive to watch “Anselm,” director Wim Wenders will provide it. As a pioneer of ’70s New German Cinema, Wenders directed legendary films such as “Paris, Texas” and “Wings of Desire.” He continues to deliver, and “Anselm” is no exception — don’t miss it when it comes out in select theaters on Dec. 8.

— Clara Scholl, Arts Editor


“What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” for Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” is a soul-crushing ballad about internalized misogyny. As a movie, “Barbie” celebrates womanhood and confronts the unrealistic standards set for women with iconic monologues like “I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us.” Eilish’s song is a stark contrast of melancholy from the rest of the album’s pop hits. As Barbie confronts her humanity in the film’s climactic scene, Eilish’s vocals pierced straight through to the vulnerable eight-year-old inside me. The song has been nominated for three Grammys this year, and rightfully so as Eilish explores her terrifying struggles to find her passion in life through elegant lyrics and soft piano.

I rarely listen to the song without feeling goosebumps and shedding a few tears. As a girl who has refused to fall behind the boys since elementary school, this song hits close to home as I now navigate a scary world. One of my goals for 2024 is to let go of the internalized misogyny I was taught. As Eilish sings “Think I forgot how to be happy / Somethin’ I’m not, but somethin’ I can be / Somethin’ I wait for / Somethin’ I’m made for,” I have hope that the young girls growing up today know they have the potential to be great.

— Julia Diorio, Music Editor


“The Shadowless Tower” by Zhang Lü

In another year loaded with high-profile, million-dollar blockbuster releases, some projects inevitably fall under the radar. “The Shadowless Tower” from Chinese filmmaker Zhang Lü is one of these under-appreciated festival releases. Having made its North American debut at this year’s New York Film Festival, Zhang’s film is a tender slow-burn portrait of urban nostalgia.

The audience follows Gu Wentong (Xin Baiqing), a divorced, middle-aged food blogger, as he struggles to reconcile his past trauma and seemingly empty future. He is stuck in the liminal present, meandering the empty streets of Beijing — silently reminiscing about the past and contemplating the future. Somewhere between a love letter and an elegy, Zhang’s film captures a metropolis and its denizens in flux.

— Mick Gaw, Film & TV Editor


“The Young Man” by Annie Ernaux

French Nobel laureate Annie Ernaux’s newest book made its U.S. debut this September, chronicling her relationship with a young man whom she calls A. Ernaux manages to craft an all-consuming and impactful recounting of her love affair in only 64 pages. The author was 30-something years older than her lover when they were together in her 50s. As she is brought back into a relationship that feels juvenile, she watches her own fleeting youth start to slip away. A. also finds himself stripped of his own youth as Ernaux’s lover, which is evident at such moments like when he proclaims he wants her to bear his child.

What makes Ernaux’s writing special is the way that she masterfully balances showing and telling — we watch her struggle in this relationship while reading her interior reflections. The difficulty in having to be the mature one while in love and simultaneously going through a period of self-discovery is prominent, and it’s hard not to appreciate her vulnerability on the page. Anything Ernaux writes will forever take up a sliver of my heart, and her newest book is no different.

— Alexa Donovan, Deputy Arts Editor

“Coward” by Matt Maltese

This bluntly named track is probably one of the simplest songs on Matt Maltese’s newest album, “Driving Just to Drive.” Its lo-fi, hip-hop beat — you could probably study/relax to it — turns an otherwise melancholic song about being too afraid to admit your feelings for someone into a groovy bop.

Spotify Wrapped recently informed me that “Coward” was among one of my top ten most-played tracks of the year, and it’s easy to see why. The song is ear-wormy, easy listening that’s enhanced by Maltese’s gorgeous, crooning vocals. Biig Piig even pops in for a few verses, her delicate voice bringing a subtle intimacy to the track. What more could you ask for?

— Stephanie Wong, Arts Editor

Contact the Arts Desk at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Julia Diorio
Julia Diorio, Music Editor
Julia Diorio is a sophomore studying journalism at CAS. When not reminiscing about 2000s pop-punk music, she can normally be found drinking copious amounts of Dunkin' iced coffee, curating hyper-specific Spotify playlists or struggling with the NYT crossword. Find her variations of all-black outfits and dog pictures on Instagram @juliadiorio_. Send song suggestions to [email protected].
Alexa Donovan
Alexa Donovan, Deputy Arts Editor
Alexa Donovan is a sophomore majoring in Journalism and Art History and minoring in Creative Writing. Her favorite drink is lemonade and her party trick is listing the U.S. presidents in chronological order. You can find her in Bobst Library most hours of the day, on instagram @alexadonovan/@lemonadequeen5678 and on Goodreads @alexafdonovan.
Mick Gaw
Mick Gaw, Film & TV Editor
Mick Gaw is a junior double-majoring in History and Public Policy. When he’s not holed up in a cinema, he's probably perusing the aisles of an Asian grocery store, wandering around museums or taking ugly pictures of his meals. You can find him on Instagram as @gawmick and occasionally on Letterboxd as @micks_canon.
Clara Scholl
Clara Scholl, Arts Editor
Clara Scholl is a Gallatin junior studying philosophy, politics and economics. She’s from New York City and hosts a radio show on the Riot Grrrl movement. You can find her on X, formerly Twitter, @scholl_clara or on Instagram @cllscholl.
Stephanie Wong
Stephanie Wong, Arts Editor
Stephanie Wong is a junior double-majoring in Media, Culture and Communication and Journalism, with a minor in English Literature. In her spare time, she loves watching bad movies and curating esoteric Spotify playlists. You can find her at @_stephaniewong_ on Instagram, @normalstephanie on Spotify, and unfortunately, on Letterboxd as @emima.
Alisia Houghtaling
Alisia Houghtaling, Illustration Editor
Alisia Houghtaling is a first-year in Applied Psychology in Steinhardt and one of WSN's Illustration Editors. In her freetime, you can find Alisia drawing, painting, reading, eating pasta or autopilot walking around SOHO to window shop or stare into windows and say "I want to live there." You can find her on Instagram @_alisiart_ and send Italian restaurant recommendations or ridiculous real-estate listings in the city.

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