2022 in media

Alright gang, here we are, end of another year!! This one snuck up on a me a bit but I am nonetheless glad to be here with all of you for another go around.

Same idea as last time, but probably marginally shorter & with a slightly different vibe. Apologies for any typos, broken links, bad grammar, etc. I hope you enjoy <3


Movies

The Fabelmans

The worst new release I saw this year was Disney’s Pinocchio. The worst old release was Hearts of Fire. Now for the good stuff…

New releases

You can find my fully ranked 2022 list here.

I’ve been to over 30 press screenings over the last year and a bit and none have even come close to the feeling in the room during Top Gun: Maverick. What is usually a half-asleep crowd of critics and cultural commentators had the energy of drunk teenagers at a football match, bursting into applause as an ageless Tom Cruise broke the sound barrier again almost three decades on. A victory for big, stupid, old-fashioned filmmaking; for movie stars; for maniacs.

My other favourite cinematic experience of the year also involved maniacal old men: Jackass Forever at Peckhamplex, London’s finest establishment. Made me laugh so hard I almost forgot about the mouse running around the cinema. Johnny Knoxville and Tom Cruise are the closest we have to a modern day Buster Keaton.

As a movie about Elvis Presley, Elvis is not as good as Presley’s own starring turn in the wonderful King Creole, but as a tone poem about how it might’ve felt to be Elvis Presley, it’s pretty fantastic — the most insane bender of all time, tinged at the edges with paranoia and nightmarish visions; then, in the days after, the comedown to end all comedowns, over and over, sweaty and frightened, caught in a trap.

In White Noise, Baumbach applies the Spielberg patina — invoking his position as the defining filmmaker of every American’s childhood — in order to peel away the cheery packaging around the nation’s black heart: denialism, individualism, the worship of great men. By adapting a book from forty years ago that happens to also function perfectly as an allegory for the world in 2022, he’s able to remain nonspecific enough to avoid the instant outdatedness of more direct satires like Glass Onion — if it doesn’t get memory holed (or even completely deleted) by the overlords at Netflix, I think this has remarkably high potential for future cult classic status.

Same goes for Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future existenz

Avatar is a textural nightmare, a festival of body horror to rival Cronenberg at his peak; Avatar: The Way of Water is a 3 hour video game cutscene that made me cry over a talking whale. I like them both!

I don’t want to contribute much to the Tár discourse — it works far better as comedy than as drama, but it’s ultimately a mess in either genre. We get it, Todd Field, you went to university.

If Brendan Gleeson didn’t want to be my best friend anymore I’d lose my mind too The Banshees of Inisherin Possible that I feel this way because his is the character I relate to more, but I think The Banshees of Inisherin misses out on a lot of potentially fascinating avenues by sidelining Brendan Gleeson’s character in favour of Colin Farrell’s. By failing to explore why he feels the need to push his best friend away McDonagh We get a little glimpse through the brilliant Kerry Condon as Farrell’s sister — she has to live with him too, more than anyone else — but not enough to build up a true picture of Gleeson’s inner life.

Two true statements:

  1. We should, as a nation, be able to produce films that aren’t exclusively about working class people having a hobby
  2. The Duke and Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris are two of the best films of the year

In Living, Bill Nighy gives the finest performance of his career as a man whose upper lip is so stiff it kills him. It’s the best representation of middle-class Englishness I’ve ever seen and my favourite film of the year.

Nothing I could say about Decision to Leave could ever approach the heights of this tweet:

The Batman, Kimi

  • After Yang

Had the unfortunate experience of having to watch My Policeman — a completely empty piece of filmmaking not worth wasting any more words on — for work, which would have been a painful and pointless use of my time had it not made me reconsider Benediction, a movie of such markedly higher quality I feel quite bad even for putting them in the same sentence.

2021 leftovers

My favourite book as a kid was Michael Morpurgo’s The Sleeping Sword; my favourite show was Merlin — obviously I loved The Green Knight and all its twisty, cursed mythology. More movies should have cum in them.

Possible that I literally clapped with glee during Paul Verhoeven’s typically audatious, transcendent Benedetta: Jesus’ lesbian bride, a born scammer; genuine ecstatic faith at war with vampiric institutional religion. Honestly, work!

I want to go to the Bergman Island and make art with the beautiful European women. This is my Worst Person in the World, etc.

I watched two Nightmare Alleys (Nightmares Alley?) this year, and I’m totally fascinated by them in comparison and opposition. Power is broadly better than Cooper, or at least more committed — willing to be utterly cold behind the eyes, a man who lost his soul long before we meet him. But Cooper does particularly well when Stanton is trying to persuade himself and those around him that he does have a soul — all winning smiles and big-eyed stares. We know Power’s Stanton killed on purpose; with Cooper’s, we can’t be sure. If there’s more nuance in our lead in the 2021 version, there’s less in every other aspect — themes are hammered home, faces are hammered in, actors ham it up. Still, I liked both versions; the puritanical restraint of Goulding’s and the feverish tactility of Del Toro’s.

Old releases

Tried & totally failed to categorise these in any useful or fun way so I’ve given up and just done it by genre. I’m tired! All of these movies are great!

(Melo)drama

Letter from an Unknown Woman, Short Cuts, Heavenly Creatures, Opening Night, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, The Passionate Friends, The Big Chill, King Creole, What Lies Beneath, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Maps to the Stars, The Magnificent Ambersons, It’s a Wonderful Life

Western

Tombstone, The Searchers, The Quick and the Dead, The Shooting, Rango, Johnny Guitar, Two-Lane Blacktop (it’s really a road movie, but isn’t that the modern Western?), Near Dark

Crime/Thriller

Light Sleeper, Blood Simple, Nightmare Alley (1947), Pickpocket, King of New York, Duel, The Third Man, Peeping Tom, New Rose Hotel, A Simple Plan, The Lady Vanishes, The 39 Steps, The Long Good Friday, Star 80, Fail Safe, Shadow of a Doubt, Cop Land

Action/Horror

Evil Dead 2, The Addiction, Big Trouble in Little China, The Fog, GoldenEye, Shivers

Comedy

Steamboat Bill, Jr., The Last Days of Disco, Sullivan’s Travels, The Palm Beach Story, Joe Versus the Volcano, Valley Girl, Tootsie

Indefinable (honourific)

Holy Smoke, Darkman, Being John Malkovich, Under the Silver Lake, Cosmopolis, Speed Racer (mark my words: in twenty years this will make the Sight & Sound critics’ list), The Keep, Altered States

Anticipated/Missed

Corsage, France, Babylon, More Than Ever, The Fabelmans, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, EO, Saint Omer, The Whale (morbid curiosity), Blue Jean, Broker, Close, Boy From Heaven, Sick of Myself, Renfield, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Oppenheimer, Barbie, Dune: Part Two, Wonka, Scarlet, One Fine Morning, Stars At Noon, Showing Up, The Master Gardener, The Eternal Daughter, Asteroid City, Murina, The Novelist’s Film

Aftersun, Bardo, Both Sides of the Blade, The Wonder, Argentina 1985, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, Three Thousand Years of Longing, Armageddon Time, The Woman King, Triangle of Sadness, Mad God, Happening, Sharp Stick, Pleasure, Apollo 10 1/2, Fire of Love, Nanny, Neptune Frost, All Quiet on the Western Front, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Cow, Hit the Road


TV

Good soup scene from Girls

New shows

The Gilded Age

Bad. Gave up after about three episodes. Stream The Age of Innocence!

Barry

The only kind of LA insider bullshit I enjoy is LA insider bullshit where people get murdered.

Severance

Serving PlayTime realness. Wish my employer would sever me. Best of the year!

The Bear

I want to swaddle Jeremy Allen-White in a huge blanket and feed him soup until he stops being insane.

The Last Movie Stars

Pro-marriage propaganda. Made me cry multiple times.

Russian Doll

Almost gone from my brain but I remember some solid difficult mum content and a fun psychedelics episode. My ideal gender presentation is Natasha Lyonne.

Tuca & Bertie

RIP to a perfect brain-off show. I love cartoons for adults & I hope Hanawalt goes on to make more.

House of the Dragon

In way too much of a hurry with the plot but the dragons are great and so is Matt Smith. No one wants to admit that Milly Alcock is a better actor than Emma D’Arcy.

Andor

Lovely little show about political insurgency within a fascist system that just so happens to be set in a galaxy far, far away. Diego Luna has such kind eyes.

The White Lotus

Has the opposite problem to HoD — absolutely glacial; a movie-length concept stretched pointlessly to 7 hours. Michael Imperioli a babe, F Murray Abraham MVP, “these gays are trying to murder me”.

Taskmaster

Always a complete delight, no different this year. Had me googling “John Kearns comedy genre????”

Old shows

Midnight Mass

Love the freaky angel and the gay priest. Not sure about the rest.

Wild Wild Country

Genuinely fascinating both on its face and as microcosmic view of the rot at the heart of America. Still probably not as good as the Documentary Now parody.

The Trip

Could watch these two do warring Michael Caine impressions in fancy restaurants forever.

Deadwood

A perfect show about capitalism’s first inroads in the American West and also about being so hot and so moral you drive yourself insane.

Freaks and Geeks

Jason Segel call me <3

Our Friends in the North

Something uncomfortably familiar about the 1970s episodes of this show in particular — storylines about Metropolitan Police brutality and corruption and a cowardly, complicit Labour Party set against a backdrop of strikes and power cuts (”anything’s possible, except the things we really want”). Incredible that a BBC drama from before I was born can illustrate so clearly what we all already knew — that every tactic employed against Corbyn by the PLP and the Tories was part of an age-old playbook designed to keep this country on its knees; that the only viable option for working class liberation has been and always will be direct, collective action. We used to fund political art in this country.

Girls

Pretty great, regrettably. Fun to watch in real time as Adam Driver very gradually figures out what to do with his hair.

You Season 2

Delicious trash! Loved when they showed a 16 year old character’s Instagram and she’d posted about The Drowning Pool and A Face in the Crowd.


Books

Al Pacino reading

The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante

Started last year, finished in January, now totally merged with the film in my head. Far from the best Ferrante I’ve read, but a nice gentle entry point. Motherhood!

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Churned through this whole thing on one train ride to Scotland, but I loved all of its horrible imagery. I want to go to the lighthouse and read the words on the walls. Will get around to the rest of these whenever I next hit a reading rut.

Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher

As Carrie always was — acerbic, heartbreaking, full of love. It’s such a treat to listen to her reading her own words.

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

The reason I quit Twitter, although it’s much more than that — a perfect literary vocalisation of what the internet does to your brain and then, just when you think you’re settled into the tone, it turns on a dime into something else entirely.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Read it in a day. It’s fine!

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

(My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, The Story of the Lost Child.) I spent so many hours this summer with Lenù and Lila I feel as though I grew up with them. This quartet means so much to me I don’t really know how to talk about it??

Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón

Lovely little book of poetry about grief and nature and family; you’ve probably seen Accident Report in the Tall, Tall Weeds reposted in part on some kind of social media (“I can’t help it, I love the way men love.”) My favourites were The Quiet Machine, Relentless, The Long Ride, Oranges & The Ocean, Oh Please, Let It Be Lightning, and The Great Blue Heron of Dunbar Road.

Consumed by David Cronenberg

Not as funny or as visceral as his films but I think it offers more of an insight into Cronenberg the man, and I think it proves that underneath all the gore he’s really just interested in love.

The Years by Annie Ernaux

A perfect pair with The Neapolitan Novels — perhaps more circumspect than Ferrante, often generational rather than consistently specific, but both writers speak with incredible clarity and perceptiveness on half a century of intense and endless change. I can see myself rereading both many times over my life, and them gloriously mutating every time I do. Gave both to my mum (honourific).


Music

George Harrison holding a paper which says "Elvis is alive!"

New releases

Let’s hear it for the depressed girlies!

  1. Dance Fever by Florence + the Machine
  2. Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You by Big Thief
  3. Wet Leg by Wet Leg
  4. Laurel Hell by Mitski
  5. Big Time by Angel Olsen

Old releases

Lots of overlap with last year, with a few new entries amongst my standard golden oldies.

  1. The Beatles: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Abbey Road, Let It Be, The Beatles
  2. Bob Dylan: Nashville Skyline, Bringing It All Back Home, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
  3. Radiohead: The Bends
  4. Wings: Band On The Run, Back To The Egg
  5. Elvis wasn’t really an albums artist, so a few songs for him instead: Suspicious Minds, Fever, Heartbreak Hotel, A Little Less Conversation
  6. Joan Baez: Baez Sings Dylan
  7. Paul Simon: Hearts And Bones, Paul Simon, The Rhythm Of The Saints
  8. The Zombies: Begin Here, Odyssey & Oracle
  9. Otis Redding: Otis Blue, The Soul Album, The Dock Of The Bay
  10. The Rolling Stones: Some Girls, Aftermath, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers

And an honourable mention to Mr Tim Buckley for Once I Was, which is so good I didn’t feel the need to listen to any of the rest of that (probably great) album.


Podcasts

Bob Dylan recording We Are The World

Old faithfuls: Blank Check, Who? Weekly, You Must Remember This, Maintenance Phase, This Had Oscar Buzz, Trillbilly Worker’s Party, You’re Wrong About, Off Menu, Fighting in the War Room, Night Call

New additions: Heidiworld, Trashfuture, Tech Won’t Save Us, Tides of History, Internet History Podcast (a little uncritical for my taste but interesting nonetheless), The Town (also a little uncritical, also interesting), TrueAnon, New Books in Film, The LRB Podcast


Games

Anthony Head in costume on Merlin playing on a Nintendo DS

Forgot that I included this last time & ran out of time/energy to write anything of interest but this is what I’ve been playing: Stray, Jedi: Fallen Order, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, The Sims 4 (cracked version w/ full expansion packs), Barnacle Goose, Eastshade


Articles

Debbie Harry with a newspaper saying "Women are all slaves"

I have a lovingly curated page full of these, but here’s a selection for you anyway, not in any order. Seems most of the good writing I read this year was either about The Beatles or Godard.

Everyone Is Beautiful and No One Is Horny by RS Benedict for Blood Knife

The Beatles Were Friends by Jeremy Gordon for Gawker

Queer & Now & Then: 1947 by Michael Koresky for Film Comment

To Where You Once Belonged by Frank Falisi for Bright Wall/Dark Room

Queer, There, and Everywhere by Michael Koresky for Criterion Current

Classic Corner: Cutter’s Way by Jason Bailey for Crooked Marquee

The End of Joachim Trier’s “Oslo Trilogy”; The End of Art and Community by Laura Staab for Another Gaze

Good Boys by Mark Asch for Animus

The Top Gun Volleyball Scene Is Not Homoerotic. It Is Homosexual. by Dave Holmes for Esquire

TCM Diary: Elvis, Actor by Sheila O’Malley for Film Comment

All That Jazz: Stardust by Hilton Als for Criterion Current

Digital Rocks by Will Tavlin for n+1

‘It took me years to see how responsible Terry Gilliam was for my terror’ by Sarah Polley for The Guardian

Remember Me on This Computer by A. S. Hamrah for n+1

‘No Aliens, No Spaceships, No Invasion of Earth’ by Rachel Handler for Vulture

Celine Sciamma’s Quest for a New, Feminist Grammar of Cinema by Elif Batuman for The New Yorker

Francis Ford Coppola’s $100 Million Bet by Zach Baron for GQ

Nicolas Cage Can Explain It All by Gabriella Paiella for GQ

Where the Magic Happens: On Set with Mary Ellen Mark by Rebecca Bengal for Criterion Current

David Cronenberg’s Dreams and Nightmares by Adam Nayman for The New Yorker

Normal Novels by Becca Rothfeld for The Point

Hanya’s Boys by Andrea Long Chu for Vulture

I’ve Got a Feeling and The Banality of Genius: Notes on Peter Jackson’s Get Back by Ian Leslie

The Alternative Press in Retrospect by Eugenia Williamson for The Baffler

The Radical Woody Guthrie by Gustavus Stadler for Tribune

The Other American Frontier by Evan Malmgren for The Baffler

The Age of Houseplants and The Secrets of the Plant People by Anne Helen Petersen for Culture Study

That Ol’ Thumb by Mike Jay for London Review of Books

Despair Fatigue by David Graeber for The Baffler

Against school by John Burnside for New Statesman

The Communal Mind by Patricia Lockwood for London Review of Books

Where water used to be by Rosa Lyster for London Review of Books

A Coal Mine for Every Wildfire by James Butler for London Review of Books

Closing Time by Hettie O’Brien for The Baffler

The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel for GQ

How Do We Write Now? by Patricia Lockwood for Tin House

Lessons from Bob Rafelson by David Hudson for Criterion Current

Collective Turn-off by Sophie Lewis for Mal

What Bob Dylan Wanted at Twenty-three by Nat Hentoff for The New Yorker

Smash the Computers! by Kieron Monks for Tribune

Our Godard by Blair McClendon for n+1

Jean-Luc Godard Interviewed by Hal Hartley for Filmmaker Magazine

Slay by Heather Havrilesky

Attica Prison Diary by Celes Tisdale for The Paris Review

His Dreaminess Had Will by Janique Vigier for The New York Review of Books

Annie Ernaux’s Total Novel of Life by Jamie Hood for The Baffler

Godard is perhaps dead by Martin Scorsese for Cahiers du Cinema

What Was Brangelina? by Angelica Jade Bastién for Vulture

Police and Thieves: On Tony Gilroy’s “Andor” by Aaron Bady for LA Review of Books

Shortsighted by James Wham for The Baffler


Thank you for reading this whole thing and happy New Year! I’m stealing my resolutions from the ones Woody Guthrie wrote 80 years ago:

Woody Guthrie's New Years' Rulin's, 1943

Take care of yourself, feed your mind & body, make good art, love others, fight fascism. See you next year (or maybe sooner) <3