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2022 in films and television
And a short love letter to movie watching during the holidays
Here we are again in the weird no-man’s-land of the Gregorian calendar: that week of aimless drifting between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Festive stasis. The holiday interregnum. Whatever you want to call this time of year, movies have always been part of it for me for a couple of reasons.
Historically this was the last seven-day theatrical window that Hollywood studios could use to qualify for the Oscars, which set the stage for some spectacular end-of-year blockbusters over the past two decades. The Wolf Of Wall Street, 1917, Hidden Figures, Catch Me If You Can, and Children Of Men were all released on Christmas Day. And this isn't a 21st-century thing either. The Exorcist and To Kill A Mockingbird were released on Dec 25 too.
This is also the week when my family would watch a lot of films. When I was too young for the theatres, my younger sister and I would pull out the VHS copy of Dirty Dancing and hit play for the thousandth time in the basement. A decade later, this was the time of year when my oldest sister and I would buy tickets for the earliest matinee at the Odeon Theatres in downtown Victoria, our coats stuffed with snacks and pop cans, and spend the rest of the day there, sneaking into other screenings, watching films back-to-back until our eyes burned.
The reason why I'm writing all this: I can count the times I've been to the cinemas on two hands since 2020. I miss the heckling in a packed movie theatre, the communal laughter with hundreds of strangers, the collective held breath that happens during a tense scene in a really good film. That experience has been and will continue to be hard to replicate outside of a movie theatre and I’ve been thinking about that a lot during these pandemic years.
There are films on my watch list that should have been a theatrical experience (Emily the Criminal, Tár, Dune) but I ended up watching them at home. So maybe that's my resolution for 2023. To go see at least two films in the theatres every month over the upcoming year.
2022 was also another year of high-caliber episodic series. There were so many (The Bear, Made For Love, Station Eleven, Foundation, The Peripheral, The White Lotus, Tokyo Vice, Heartsopper, Severance, Gaslit, Slow Horses, etc) that I had to come up with a theme for a shortlist. One of my favourite things as a viewer is when you think a film (or series) is going to be one thing and it turns out to be something completely different. So if there's a unifying idea for my top picks, it's that. Read to the end for a complete 2022 watchlist.
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How much easier would our lives be if we could anticipate the unexpected? Using a practice-makes-perfect approach, Vancouver comedian Nathan Fielder sets out to help people rehearse potential outcomes before they make a major life decision in the six-part docu-comedy fever dream and quickly gets sucked into the process himself. There are actors, elaborate sets, and a nagging feeling that some people might not know they are being filmed. The Rehearsal is equal parts squirm-in-your-seat and laugh-out-loud funny—cringe comedy at its best—but Fielder is also asking some bigger questions about the search for meaning and purpose in our lives. I've never seen anything quite like this show and am looking forward to the second season.
HBO, Crave in Canada
EMILY THE CRIMINAL
I've been a fan of Aubrey Plaza since Parks and Recreation but she is having a moment right now. As much as I loved her opening monologue at the 2019 Independent Spirit Awards and her knockout performance in this season of The White Lotus, her performance in Emily The Criminal is next level. Explosive. Raw. Pitch-black. This debut feature by writer/director John Patton Ford doesn't waste a single moment on screen either. Every beat is a set-up for something later and every ball he tosses in the air is caught—even the ending is intensely satisfying. Excellent direction, excellent story construction, and excellent performances.
This 1970s period dramedy follows a young feminist who ends up working with a low-rent men's magazine publisher to create the first erotic magazine for women. Set in LA's San Fernando during the Golden Age of Porn, the onscreen uproar over male frontal is as controversial today as it was fifty years ago. Look no further than the coordinated troll campaign in the audience review section of Rotten Tomatoes for proof. Hats off to showrunner Ellen Rapoport for keeping this a light and breezy affair instead of going dark like The Deuce (also HBO). The chemistry and rat-tat-tat dialogue between the leads and the supporting players are a joy to watch. HBO Max canceled the show before the holidays before Season 2 was wrapping production. Hope this finds a home on another streamer.
Formerly on HBO Max, Crave in Canada
This biographic dramatic series tells the life story of La Veneno (Christina Ortiz), a famous 1990s television personality and trailblazing transgender icon in Spain. The show is told across multiple decades spanning from 1960 to the early 2010s, and includes the parallel stories of two journalists investigating La Veneno's life in the past and present day. The end result is outrageous, in-your-face, and unapologetically queer. It's about mythmaking and storytelling and magical realism. I don't think the HBO Max trailer does the show justice but would be curious to hear if you feel the same.
HBO Max, Crave in Canada
This film. On one level it’s a ghost story but also so much more than that. Cate Blanchet's performance as musician Lydia Tár is staggering. There's a scene in the beginning that takes place in a classroom that I still can't get out of my head all these weeks later. The music, the sound design, the editing, the cinematography, the direction…I don’t want to spoil anything else so just go watch it and let’s leave it at that.
Rental on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, etc
You might know writer Mark Boal from The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. He is the writer and co-showrunner of this ten-part black-ops spy series and also directs three episodes. I'm not the target audience for this show by any stretch and almost stopped watching after the first episode. But it's an entirely different show Episode 2 onwards. I watched five episodes in a row and would've binged the entire thing if all the episodes had been released at once. Filmed mostly on location in Columbia. it's beautifully shot and the action sequences are comparable to Sicario.
And here's my full watch list. Not a lot of documentaries or factual series this year. I have a hard time watching documentaries while making one and hope to get my fill at film festivals in 2023.
I've bolded the films and shows that stuck with me. Everything is organized in order of date watched.
Misha and the Wolves
The Power of the Dog
The Hand of God
The Lost Daughter
Don’t Look Up
The Tindler Swindler
Everything Everywhere All At Once
Fire Of Love
The Good Nurse
An American Satan
The Beta Test
No Time To Die
Good Night Oppy
Emily The Criminal
Hit The Road
The Witcher Season 2
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Ozark Season 4
The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes
Raised by Wolves Season 2
The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel Season 4
The Parisian Agency
Formula 1: Drive To Survive Season 4
Russian Doll Season 2
Barry Season 3
Tehran Season 2
Bulls*t The Gameshow
Hacks Season 2
Stranger Things Season 4
Westworld Season 4
Made For Love Seasons 1 & 2
Iron Chef: Quest For An Iron Legend
Great British Bake Off Season 12
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars
Industry Season 2
Island of the Sea Wolves
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Aftershock: Everest and the Nepal Earthquake
Drag Race UK
The Great Canadian Baking Show Season 6
The White Lotus
The Crown Season 5
The Big Brunch
Harry & Meghan
Snack vs Chef
Slow Horses Season 1