Seth’s Favorite Television of 2022

While we are in the midst of watching Better Call Saul, I decided to hold out on including it on a list until we finish in 2023. It would be on here if I didn’t. That said, there are some incredible shows I got to see in 2022. In a media landscape that is exploding like the universe after the Big Bang so many things get lost in the shuffle. Have you ever just browsed Netflix and found dozens of shows multiple seasons in that you have never heard of before. Warner Discovery started what could be a horrific trend this year, by shelving completed and close to finished projects for the sake of tax write-offs. I am guessing it is scary time to want to develop your own series, afraid to pursue you passion project as it might become someone’s tax loophole and your potential audience never sees it. In these instances, piracy is an ethical act, a form of curation & preservation that the major media conglomerates are blind to. There were animated series made by queer & BIPOC creators that got trash canned by Warner this year, even physical DVDs pulled off the shelves. Fuck that corporation and fuck the new owners. My hope is we can see creative people using the self-distribution models and smaller streaming platforms to get their passion projects out there. Let the big boys starve to death. They deserve it. On to my favorites.

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Movie Review – The Banshees of Inisherin

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
Written & Directed by Martin McDonagh

The jury is still out for me on my feelings about Martin McDonagh’s films. I know they are great showcases of his sly storytelling and filmmaking skill. I just don’t know how much I like them or not. It’s a strange thing I haven’t encountered with many directors where I acknowledge that they make great films, but I feel passionately ambivalent about them. I can’t say I have loved his movies, but I have been entertained and impressed by some of them, including this one. Perhaps it’s something connected to his Irish sensibilities, a constant struggle between seeking approval while having a fiery determination to tell anyone giving it out to “feck off.” McDonagh makes movies that are distinctly Irish (even if they aren’t all set there) and very distinctly him.

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Movie Review – Aftersun

Aftersun (2022)
Written & Directed by Charlotte Wells

Many people will never know their parents as real human beings. That could be because the parent puts up emotional barriers to hide their vulnerabilities. The parent may not want to overwhelm the child with adult emotions they are far too young to understand, which continues into their child’s adulthood. Or the parent could simply not respect the child as a person and think they couldn’t understand. I know for me, my parents will always be enigmas. Estranged from my dad for 14 years and counting and my mom for 3+. It’s better for me that way; they are both broken, toxic people who I don’t think will ever seek out the help they need. I don’t have the bandwidth to do it for them, and honestly, I was neglected in so many ways, so a relationship with them is nothing I desire. But, unfortunately, that’s how life can sometimes be. We don’t choose to be born, and we don’t choose who we are born to. Some people have parents that are grounded, open, and loving. Others have parents who are distant, closed off, and confusing. All we can do is try to make sense of the cards we are dealt.

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Movie Review – The Passenger

The Passenger (1975)
Written by Mark Peploe, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Peter Wollen
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

This will be our last stop with the filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, though he kept making films. It will have to be another time when we look at his work outside his four Monica Vitti films and his MGM trilogy, but we’re ending on an exceptionally high note. Financially this was not a success, and in the aftermath, Jack Nicholson was sold the rights after a dispute between him and MGM over another picture in development. The Passenger would sit on a shelf for three decades after its initial release, a film thought to be lost and only recaptured by going back to read the old reviews. In 2006, it finally received a DVD release and could be rediscovered by a new generation. It’s a dense picture, full of Antonioni’s common themes but lots of new settings and political ideas surfacing. The result is another enigmatic film that performs a kind of hypnosis on the viewer, a picture that is multiple things at once and deserving of considerable examination. 

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TV Review – The White Lotus Season Two

The White Lotus Season Two (HBOMax)
Written & Directed by Mike White

The first season of Mike White’s surprise HBO hit The White Lotus delivered an acerbic examination of the lives of the privileged while vacationing in another culture’s home. That setting was Hawaii, and the interactions between characters, both local and foreign, resulted in some pretty strong dark comedy about colonialism. For the second season, White drops all but one guest and switches the setting to a White Lotus resort in Taormina, Sicily. Once again, we have three sets of guests intermingling with the staff and local people, exploring ideas of ennui, sex, and alienation. The quality here does not skip a bit, but I did find that White was pulling his punches, being a little too gentle with the same people he would have skewered a year ago.

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Movie Review – Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point (1970)
Written by Michelangelo Antonioni, Fred Gardner, Sam Shepard, Tonino Guerra, and Clare Peploe
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

Michelangelo Antonioni experienced his first commercial failure with Zabriskie Point. I never really thought of his movies as something that sought mass audience approval. His work in Italy felt extremely niche, but that could be because today, popular media is often so broad & so shallow that we aren’t used to seeing thoughtful, challenging works shown in the cineplex. The United States in 1970 was an incredibly different time than now, especially with film. Influenced by the revolution in filmmaking making happening in Europe, American directors and studios were trying to crank out fare that would appeal to the youth counterculture. Easy Rider crafted the mold, and everyone else chased it. Zabriskie Point is a movie that’s part of that shift, but it’s still Antonioni’s particular perspective on existence in the modern world and once again follows two people adrift in this strange new world.

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Patron Pick – One True Thing

This special reward is available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 monthly levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.

One True Thing (1998)
Written by Karen Croner
Directed by Carl Franklin

Movies like One True Thing weren’t on my radar in the late 1990s. I was a teenager, a year away from college, sheltered & homeschooled, working at my local public library and discovering all sorts of exciting niche things I would cultivate over the decades. So something like this movie wouldn’t have even been a blip for me. Instead, I was far more interested in exploring weird movies, inching my way towards becoming the art house snob I lived as during college. Now, at age 41, I appreciate this type of movie more, particularly in the face of its near extinction, as something you can see in a theater. The cineplexes are dominated by blockbuster incoherence, and streaming seems to be a flood of mediocrity devoid of soul. So while One True Thing sounds like a Lifetime movie in its description, the performances, mainly Meryl Streep’s (coming as no surprise to anyone), elevate the picture to something of note.

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Movie Review – Decision to Leave

Decision to Leave (2022)
Written by Jeong Seo-kyeong & Park Chan-wook
Directed by Park Chan-wook

Part of me is surprised at the moderate reviews Decision to Leave has garnered from audiences. However, I can understand it if you focus entirely on the plot. This is an homage to Hitchcock that is very obvious from the start. The shadow of Vertigo looms large, and that’s not a bad thing. A good crime thriller is rare, and South Korea certainly knows how to make good movies. It’s a pairing that meshes perfectly. But yes, you’ll not be blown away by the story, at least on the surface. It’s still a tremendously compelling story. Where Decision to Leave blew me away was with the cinematography. Holy shit! Park Chan-wook is one of the greatest directors of all time, but you forget in between watching his movies. Then when you sit down and watch one, it doesn’t take long to be reminded you are in the hands of a genuine master of the form. There are shots in this movie that blew my fucking mind! Even a person simply driving from one location to another always looks interesting. The camera is always put in a spot you wouldn’t expect, and it always works.

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Patron Pick – Sweet Smell of Success

This special reward is available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 monthly levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Written by Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman, and Alexander Mackendrick
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick

Possessing a title that drips with as much irony as grease seems to exude from its central character, Sweet Smell of Success is a bold reminder that America in the 1950s was not some picket fence, sunny side wonderland. It was the same festering sore before, and it remains a place where no one gets ahead because they have talent or have cultivated a skill. Nope, the only skill that counts is how well you can lie, cheat, and steal your way to the top. Success is defined as power, and you get that power with money. How do you get the money? Well, with power. See what a con job it is? Some gatekeepers sit on makeshift thrones, not in throne rooms but in nightclubs where they humor desperate politicians and desperate talent who want a kind word thrown their way in tomorrow’s paper. But what will they do for that bit of ego-boosting fluffery, hm? There seems to be no bottom.

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Movie Review – The Family Stone

The Family Stone (2005)
Written & Directed by Thomas Bezucha

To say The Family Stone is the least bad movie out of the seven I have watched for this series would be accurate, but also not a sign that I enjoyed watching it. I just suffered the least amount during this one. Everything about the story would work better as part of a television series. You have a family dynamic with one person coming from outside, conflict arises, and we get a maudlin sitcom-ish happy ending. The movie is confusing in who this is trying to appeal to as it features incredibly unlikable characters (even the ones we are supposed to like) but then is also wall-to-wall unfunny when it attempts comedy yet also poor at its attempts for pathos. 

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