So this year I think I’m going to start up a new tradition. With the impending end of the year upon us, ‘tis the traditional season of reflection on the year that was. Ergo for the next couple weeks, rather than focus on the things that I have made, I’d like to share my favorite things that other people have made. Media that I have consumed this year, that has stuck with me, and influenced my outlook and my work.
So, without further ado,
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things, 2022
(Movies and Series edition)
Note: This is not necessarily stuff that came out in 2022, rather it’s stuff that I consumed in 2022.
Let’s take it away! In no particular order…
I have been hoping for some kind of live action (or animated) adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s comic opus for literally decades and, against all odds, the Netflix series was worth the wait. Not only that, it stands as a testament to Gaiman’s vision, his ownership and control of his work, and his dedication to creating the best possible version of it or none at all. A rare example of the behind the scenes stuff being just as interesting as the work itself. I watched it, I went back and read the comic series, and then I watched it again. In an age in which we are spoiled for adaptations, The Sandman, stands next to Lord of the Rings, and Interview with the Vampire as gold standard examples of how to do it right.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds/Lower Decks
Together these two shows reminded me of what I love about Star Trek: It’s optimism. A lot of stuff has trended toward grimmer and darker material of late, and between Star Trek: Discovery and the reboot movies, I had emotionally parted ways with my favorite sci-fi franchise. Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks brought me back to the fold, though. There’s been a lot of fear and uncertainty in the world for a while now, so it’s only natural for that to be reflected in art and media. But that’s also why we need stuff like Star Trek. To give us hope, show us that things can get better, and that one day we will outgrow all the problems that hold us back.
And speaking of optimism…
I resisted watching this show soooo hard. I’m not a sports guy, I don’t go for saccharine stuff, and relationship dramas just don’t do it for me. So trying to get me to watch a feel-good interpersonal drama about soccer/football was going to be a hard sell. But, when I was finally made to watch it, I was hooked halfway through the first episode. Ted’s unreasonable positivity, the wittiness of the writing, an unending torrent of dad jokes, characters that handle their problems like adults (mostly) and come together in emotionally intelligent ways, all conspire to make Ted Lasso a show that consistently defies my expectations with plot twists and by being just really damn charming. I have yet to meet anyone who has seen this series and doesn’t love it.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
I’m not even going to use the “I have daughters excuse” for this one because the truth is I tried to get them to watch it, they weren’t interested, so I binged the whole thing on my own. And holy crap She-Ra nails it, inspiring both my childhood desire to jump up and join the action and my adult appreciation for sophisticated stories. Magical girl transformations with kick-ass music, long form anime-style story arcs, self aware humor, fun action, and oh my god I could write a psychological profile on each of these characters’ damage. Beneath the bright colors and light-hearted girly charm is a show about trauma, cycles of abuse, and the coping mechanisms each character uses to manage their issues. This is a show that will simultaneously entertain your inner child while surprising your jaded adult.
This was my sleeper favorite for the year. I’d been aware of Shin Godzilla for a while, but only really had a passing interest in watching it until I discovered that it was written and directed by Hideaki Anno, creator and show runner of Neon Genesis Evangelion, probably my all time favorite anime. Anno takes the king of the monsters back to his roots as a metaphor for man-made disaster (specifically nuclear ones) and takes plenty of digs at the inability of governmental bureaucracy to handle them. Prescient much? Fans of Evangelion will appreciate Anno’s distinctive visual style and tropes which translate well to live action, as well as a few musical spikes lifted directly from the anime. Even if you’re not a fan of Godzilla or Evangelion, this is worth a watch. It is the big guy at his best, not battling other kaiju, but showing us more than we’d like to admit about ourselves. It’s the smartest Godzilla movie in years and my personal favorite since the 1954 original.
Hope that gives you some good ideas for your 2023 watchlist. Did you see anything good this year? What spoke to you? Or what was the worst thing you saw?
Coming soon: My favorite books of 2022!