a mid-year review
thoughts on the year of 2022
It’s the middle of the year already, and a lot of publications are publishing mid-year reviews, which detail all the best things you might have missed in the worlds of music, film, TV and video games. Of course, trying to write one myself, I just realise how behind the times I am - especially when it comes to TV and games.
I’ve only really played two new games this year - Pokemon Legends Arceus, which I wrote about previously on this substack, and Elden Ring, which I have a full review of up on my blog. These are both good games, but it does leave me with a slight sense of nerves thinking about how I’m ever going to write a year-end list with only a couple of months to catch up on all of 2022’s biggest releases. Even looking forward, there’s very little I find myself excited for. I’m undoubtably going to love Splatoon 3, but that’s just because it’s the first game again. And I’ll probably play Pokemon Scarlet/Violet, but even I can’t justify putting two Pokemon games on my list. If anyone has recommendations for short indies I can play, please feel free to reply to this post.
In terms of TV, I feel similarly out of the loop. Maybe it’s because the only show I watched on Disney+ wasn’t one of the many Marvel or Star Wars spin-offs, but Pam and Tommy, the decidedly un-Disney show about Pamela Anderson’s leaked sex-tape that ended up on Disney+ in the UK thanks to a series of strange licensing decisions. As a fan of I, Tonya by the same director, I enjoyed Pam and Tommy much more than any of the other “recent scandal dramatised” shows I saw (The Dropout, Dopesick, WeCrashed, Inventing Anna etc) - even though it shared the same underlying problem of stretching out a story that’s a bit too thin for a full TV show, it was formally far more inventive than those - it pushed itself visually in a way that elevated its material.
Like everyone else, I was also smitten by Severance, Ben Stiller’s new Apple TV show about workers having their memories split between their work and home lives. I think Stiller has always been underrated as a director, even during his days playing with the Jim Carrey persona in the unfairly scorned The Cable Guy, but Severance finally pushes him into the department of “prestige” director. Although Severance is more of a thriller/drama, what makes it sing is likely due to both its director and star coming from a comedy background. As a result, they aren’t afraid to inject funnier elements - doing so in a way that only accentuates the strange, claustrophobic atmosphere of Lumon, rather than detracting from it.
In terms of films, I have a bit more to say. I want to recommend as many films as possible here, so I’m going to give a short alphabetical bullet-point list of my current top 10 of the year, along with ways to watch them. Hopefully you find this useful, and if not, there will always be a more thought-out list nearer the end of the year.
A Hero (Prime Video) - Although director Asghar Farhadi has been accused of stealing the idea for this film from one of his students, this moral dilemma drama is still worth a watch. Similar to A Separation, Farhadi takes a difficult situation and keeps snowballing it, switching the viewer’s allegiances on a minute-by-minute basis, making this drama about a debtor’s good deed into a rumination on the impossibility of morality in the 21st Century.
Bergman Island (Hulu, Mubi) - A film about relationships and creation, Bergman Island focusses on two filmmakers who go to stay on the island of Faro, where Ingmar Bergman shot most of his films. Don’t worry about being a Bergman expert - most of this film makes only passing reference to his films. Although it does draw itself into conversation with his legacy, it’s more concerned with the personal trials of artistic creation.
Everything, Everywhere, All at Once (Rent or Buy) - Undoubtably the best trailer of the year, I didn’t connect with A24’s latest massive success as much as many others, but this is still one of the best times at the cinema you can have this year. Directors Daniels and the immensely talented cast throw themselves fully into an incredibly made action film that plays like it was taken from the drawing board of immature but inventive teenagers, including a fight scene involving butt-plugs which has to be seen to be believed.
Fresh (Hulu, Disney+) - Sometimes, the less said about a film, the better. Fresh, which includes a completely winning performance by Sebastian Stan, is maybe not much more than an enjoyable B-movie, but a lot more films need to have the confidence to fully commit to that in the way that Fresh does. Don’t look up anything, get a few drinks and enjoy the ride.
Licorice Pizza (Rent or Buy) - It’s the new Paul Thomas Anderson. You’ve probably seen it by now if you’re a fan of the filmmaker, and if you aren’t, you should be aware that this isn’t his greatest, but it might be his sweetest. A series of nostalgic vignettes of the 70s that revolves around two young people, played by Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim, falling in and out of love.
Memoria (Curzon Home Video) - Worth watching for the scene where Tilda Swinton’s character tries to recreate a sound in her head alone, Memoria is the new film by video artist Apitchatpong Weerasethakul. It’s a slow, dreamy vision - shots linger sometimes for minutes and nothing is explained quite in the way you expect, but the overall effect is dreamlike and mesmerising. Worth seeing in a cinema, or at the very least with as few distractions as you can get away with.
Red Rocket (Rent or Buy) - I’ve written about this film on my blog already, so I’ll keep this short. This is so far my favourite film of the year, an unflinching portrait of one of the worst people in recent cinematic history that somehow manages to also walk the tightrope of being the best comedy of the year.
The Worst Person in the World (Hulu, Mubi) - An absolute stunner of a film, one that is brimming with the kind of cinematic empathy that makes it genuinely moving and emotional. The Worst Person in the World follows the romantic relationships of a woman in her early 30s; it’s the rare kind of film that can make you cry without even having to tug on a heartstring, but instead by just appealing to an emotional authenticity of feeling. A perfect film for any mood.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (Rent or Buy) - A film that squarely tackles internet subcultures in a way that remains profoundly cinematic. Relishing the blurry division of the real and the surreal that occurs in all online encounters, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is the first film I’ve seen that truly understands the sometimes horrifying and almost always confusing effects of growing up on the internet.
Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Rent or Buy) - A collection of short stories from Drive My Car director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy puts its worst foot forward, but slowly gets better and better. Sharing an underlying theme of coincidence, the final story of this collection is truly profound and amazing, and raises the quality of the others in comparison.
Enjoy! And let me know if there are any of these films you have thoughts on, or anything you can recommend to me.