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CoramDeo's Best of 2022

2022 was an excellent year for film, and I've enjoyed the TV I've seen. The year was a Trekkie's dream as far as I'm concerned, I got some more of the Superman content I've always dreamed of, cinephile catnip was consistently delivered both on television and on the big screen, and Survivor put out one of my all-time favorite seasons. Even Star Wars managed to hold my interest for pretty much the first time since The Clone Wars ended. I don't keep up with very much TV lately, but I do enjoy a few shows that I'm still pretty attached to. This is gonna be a fun list, so let's get into it, shall we?

Television:

Top 5 Episodes:

1. Hear All, Trust Nothing (Star Trek: Lower Decks)
  • Lower Decks has consistently been like a Star Trek nerd Christmas present every single episode. This third season took a lot more risks, leading to some less than successful swings. But it still hit some great plays, including this extremely welcome return to my favorite place in all of Trek, the majestic Deep Space Nine.
2. Caterpillar to a Butterfly (Survivor 42)
  • On the heels of the somewhat lackluster return of the reality juggernaut in Survivor 41, a season that was exciting but lacked the narrative flow of the best outings, Survivor 42 came in and blew my expectations out of the water with brilliant narrative editing, excellent characters that got the focus over the advantages that took up so much of 41's time, and a storyline I could get behind. The aptly named 'Caterpillar to a Butterfly' depicted the transformation of my favorite player from an awkward outcast into the driving force behind the game, and it was the perfect way to set up a finale that cemented 42 as one of my favorite Survivor outings ever.
3. Spock Amok (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds)
  • Body swap comedy is hard to do well. Comedy with the Vulcans has been hit or miss on Star Trek in the past. So I went into 'Spock Amok' with low expectations, and was overjoyed to find that the episode was brilliant. Avoiding so many of the pitfalls I expected and reaching comedic heights I was certainly not anticipating, 'Spock Amok' is my favorite episode of Strange New Worlds' excellent first season.
4. The Terrible Wedding (Irma Vep)
  • It's sort of hard to express why Olivier Assayas' new miniseries variation on his own 1996 classic Irma Vep was so enchanting to me. Assayas' brand of metanarrative playfulness and digital integration has made his films a ton of fun for me as I've discovered them of late. This new series, though less substantial than his other work I've seen, was also just a delight each episode. The finale, featuring a guest appearance from Assayas regular Kristen Stewart and showcasing the talents of stars Alicia Vikander and Vincent Macaigne once again, proved to be every bit as much a delight as the rest of it was. It's an odd little show, but all the details added up to be exactly the right pleasant diversion for me.
5. Time Amok (Star Trek: Prodigy)
  • I do love a year that lets me put episodes from not one or two, but three different Star Trek series on my best-of list. As Lower Decks nails the referential comedy angle and Strange New Worlds brilliantly satisfies the classic boldly going formula, Prodigy brought Star Trek to a whole new dimension, broadening the horizons of the franchise going forward with an appeal to children. As the show moved forward and began to introduce more and more Trek-focused elements, the storytelling and characters deepened, leading to this interesting and compelling story for one of the show's sweetest regulars.


Best Lead Performance: Anson Mount (Strange New Worlds)

Anson Mount continues his brilliant and compelling turn as Captain Pike, carrying it effortlessly from Star Trek: Discovery over to Strange New Worlds. Combining the gravitas necessary to convincingly lead an intrepid crew with the tenderness necessary to sell the internal pain of a man who knows he's doomed to die, Mount's Pike is the backbone that Strange New Worlds is built on. Although it shines just as much from the efforts of the other cast members, nothing in the show would work without the strong foundation Mount provides.

Best Supporting Performance: Vincent Macaigne (Irma Vep)

And here we go from the most stable to the least. Vincent Macaigne, a regular in French cinema but virtually unknown here in the US, was a revelation to me in Irma Vep. Perpetually straddling the line between desperately sad and desperately funny, Macaigne absolutely destroys his material and paints a picture of a deeply broken man trying to make art. Macaigne's René Vidal is not quite sympathetic, not quite depraved, and not quite competent, and if the parallels between himself and Olivier Assayas' actual life are to be extended to their logical conclusion, a fascinating portrait of the artist.

Best Guest Performance: Kether Donahue - 'A Mathematically Perfect Redemption' (Lower Decks)

I'm not exactly... the biggest fan of this episode of the show. Let's just say that a little bit of Peanut Hamper, played by Kether Donahue, goes a long way in my eyes. But regardless of how well the character is used, it's hard for me to deny that Donahue's performance is immaculate. She fits her character well, and it's honestly only the charm of her vocal intonations that kept me from getting outright fed up with Peanut Hamper in this episode. We'll see how it ages, but I'm quite a fan of this performance, all things being equal.

Best Score: John Williams and Natalie Holt (Obi-Wan Kenobi)

Look. This may not mean much (anything) in the grand scheme of things, but Williams is retiring, and each last bit of greatness we get from him is worth celebrating. Since I haven't seen The Fabelmans yet, this is the most I can give to him, as much as the great composer deserves. Besides, I quite liked Obi-Wan Kenobi, despite the shrieks of so many incensed Star Wars fans (possibly because I have much lower expectations for the franchise now than they do), and the score was a great part of it.

Best Direction: Dan Liu - 'Memento Mori' (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds)

One of the best episodes of the show so far, which I didn't get to recognize previously due to the limitations of the Top 5. 'Memento Mori' is in my book the height of the dramatic storytelling from this season of Strange New Worlds, as director Dan Liu kept the pacing relentless and the tension high, juggling a few different narrative threads back and forth. The result was a brilliant outing that showcased the potential of a modern show that's truly in the classic Trek family.



Movies:

Normally, by this point in the year I've seen a great deal more films than I have in 2022. Financial limitations have prevented me from catching all but the stuff I absolutely had to see in theatres, so my list is a little drier than it was last year. As a result, I've cut it from 10 to 5. After all, I've only seen 11 films from this year, and I'm not about to list Moonfall or Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on my Top 10.

Top 5:

1. Everything Everywhere All At Once
  • It's the film everyone was talking about. The hype around Everything Everywhere was unreal, so it's not exactly the most original choice, but I absolutely adored it. The sheer creative gall it represents is gobsmacking, the scope of the project is breathtaking, and the emotional impact for me was earthshattering. I think I wept for the entirety of the last thirty minutes. It works on so many different levels: as a fun exercise in loony sci-fi, as a celebration of a legendary actress' monumental career, as a grounded emotional exploration of a mother and daughter's relationship, as an apologetic for empathy in a tired and broken world, and on many, many others. Is it the best film of the year? I'm honestly not sure. But there has never been, nor will there ever be, a film quite like it, and something that singular is deserving of such honor because there will never be another chance to bestow it.

2. Petite Maman
  • Speaking of films I wept through the last thirty minutes of, here's a French feature that absolutely wrecked me. Although it played in select festivals in 2021, the wide release of Petite Maman was on Hulu in 2022, so I'm counting it because I wanna talk about Petite Maman and it's my list and you can't tell me what to do anyways. Petite Maman is perhaps one of the most 'me' films ever made. It's like the vibes of My Neighbor Totoro applied to the premise of Frequency, and if that sounds confusing and mismatched, you're probably overestimating the degree to which the premise matters. This film is tender in the best way possible, gentle and child-focused. It unpacks grief, generational legacy, and female friendship in a easygoing 72 minutes. It feels like being seven years old, wrapped up in a blanket and snuggling with your mother on the couch.
3. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
  • Speaking of films I cried during, I don't think my eyes were dry past ten minutes into Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, based on a series of viral YouTube videos a few years back. The most adorable star of 2022 has arrived: voiced by Jenny Slate, he's a one-inch tall shell with a googly eye, sneakers, and a touching relationship with his grandmother. He has a perspective on life that all the humans in his movie could really use. Elaborating on the relationship between filmmaker Dean Fleischer-Camp and his subject Marcel, the film uses Marcel's unique vantage point and wise outlook to contrast with the broken human relationships in his world. Sometimes I need a rousing action-adventure story to help me escape from my problems for a while. But other times what I need is an elderly shell with sneakers (touchingly voiced by Isabella Rossellini) that reminds me a little bit too much of my Nana.

4. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
  • It's hard to talk about my thoughts on Glass Onion without spoiling it, so I'll keep it short and sweet. Legendary indie filmmaker – who has never made any big budget or franchise movies, especially not ones set in space – Rian Johnson follows up his intricately crafted murder mystery Knives Out with a sequel that amps up the scale in every aspect, effectively proving that the Benoit Blanc detective story formula can be applied over and over. And I hope it will be for many who-donuts to come.

5. Nope
  • Nope is former sketch comedian Jordan Peele's third successful voyage at the helm, and it continues the trends of his filmography. Get Out is a sledgehammer of a horror film but its narrow and laser-focused approach leaves less to chew on once it's 'solved'. Us doesn't have half as much of Get Out's simple power, but its broader scope makes for much more rewarding and thoughtful repeat viewings. Nope fits very neatly in here, dulling down the blunt-instrument thrills and scares, expanding the scope, and leaving more questions than answers. Symbols, themes, and motifs abound, making for a sprawling and rich text. Although his filmmaking has been more precise, it has never been grander or more engaging on an intellectual level.


Best Lead Performance: Joséphine Sanz (Petite Maman)

Those that know my tastes will be well aware that a child's perspective is an easy way to my heart and favorites list. And when children are giving performances as incredible as Joséphine Sanz' in Petite Maman, it's not hard to see why. Nearly every scene in the film follows Sanz, and the film is grounded totally in her point of view. Sanz' chemistry with her sister and co-star Gabrielle is wonderful, and her gentle, reserved tenderness grounds the film perfectly.

Best Supporting Performance: Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All At Once)

The best supporting performances are the ones that embody the heart and soul of the film without overstepping or overwhelming the lead performers. That's exactly what Ke Huy Quan as Waymond does in Everything Everywhere, as his kindness and gentleness offer Michelle Yeoh's Evelyn the answer she needs to connect with her daughter and keep from losing her forever. Quan's tender spirit and inspired physical performance collide, yielding my favorite character of the year.

Best Direction: Céline Sciamma (Petite Maman)

Sometimes it's the understated touch that moves me best. Petite Maman under Céline Sciamma is one of those times. Where many films would heighten the drama of the situation, emphasizing the craziness of the film's fantastical setup or stoking the fires of dramatic tension between characters, but Sciamma understands that she doesn't need any of that. Instead, she softly and gently probes the layers of the film, never raising her voice in order to make a point. She doesn't have to. It works perfectly at its own whispered level.

Best Score: Michael Giacchino (The Batman)

As I left my first screening of The Batman, I complained that it was a film with only three characters: Zoe Kravitz' Catwoman, Paul Dano's Riddler, and Michael Giacchino's score. Although a second viewing and some mulling it over has improved my opinion of the film (and its central character) a bit, my commitment to Giacchino's score as one of the few truly incredible parts of it remains. It begins by resting on a simple four-note sledgehammer of a motif that overwhelms with its bombast but ultimately gives way to a calmer, more interesting piece. In this way, Giacchino's music is the perfect accompaniment to a film whose bombastic feigned edginess often disguises the elegance of what lies underneath.

Best Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema (Nope)

There's one line from Barry Jenkins' 2016 Best Picture winner Moonlight that may have influenced my thinking about the cinematic art form more than any other. It's the line: 'In moonlight, black boys look blue.' Listening to Jenkins talk about the film, one of the things he spoke about was the way that this line influenced the way that he and his crew lit their picture. It's really changed the way I look at lighting in cinema and the way, in particular, they light black skin. So many films are really bad at lighting black people. Perhaps it goes without saying that Jordan Peele's films tend to avoid this pitfall, but I'd say he has a knack for choosing Directors of Photography that do it better than most. The nighttime look of Hoyte van Hoytema's images in Nope is gorgeous, and his day-for-night techniques light black faces at night brilliantly.

Best Screenplay: Rian Johnson (Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery)

I have no idea how you would start writing a script this intricate. Twist by twist, layer by layer, somehow Rian Johnson reached a draft of this detailed and complex tapestry of metaphor and theme that somehow also serves as a delightfully satisfying mystery caper. Although I still appreciate the original Knives Out script more for the way it successfully fooled me twice, I consider this one nearly on the same level.

Best Stunts: Casey O'Neill and Ensemble (Top Gun: Maverick)

I mean. Come on. They flew actual frickin' fighter jets and sustained actual frickin' G-forces. Like... WHAT?!?!


Everything I'd like to see but haven't yet:

Aftersun
All Quiet on the Western Front
Amsterdam
Armageddon Time
Athena
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
The Banshees of Inisherin
Barbarian
Black Adam
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Bodies Bodies Bodies
Both Sides of the Blade
Corsage
Decision to Leave
Don't Worry Darling
Dual
Elvis
Emily the Criminal
Entergalactic
Eo
The Fabelmans
God's Creatures
Kimi
The Lost City
The Menu
No Bears
The Outfit
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
RRR
See How They Run
She Said
Skinamarink
Tár
Three Thousand Years of Longing
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Vengeance
Wendell and Wild
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
Werewolf by Night
The Whale
White Noise
Women Talking
Andor
Ms Marvel
Only Murders in the Building S2
She-Hulk
Star Trek Picard S2

As always, it feels like my list of stuff I still have to see grows longer each year, and the list of what I've succeeded in seeing grows shorter and shorter.

It's been a pretty excellent year for cinema and television, but I feel like I've only tapped into a bit of it. Still, some of the films and TV I've seen have been some of my favorites I've seen in quite some time.

--
CoramDeo is like that classic tale of the bunny rabbit eating its dinner in the mailbox.

3 comments:

  1. Always fun to see Survivor pop up on a list! I didn't love 42 quite as much (mainly because of the winner, who got on my nerves, even if they genuinely do seem to be a sweetheart.) But 42 is also probably the strongest season out of this newest iteration that we got.

    Agree on your pick for Best Movie Score as well. I absolutely loved the movie as a whole, despite some last act "meh"-ness which I've just come to expect from superhero movies in general.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I will join you in your praise of both Strange New Worlds and Everything Everywhere All At Once. They were two of the best things I saw in 2022. I was going to argue with you on Best Cinematography until I realized Dune came out in 2021. :)

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  3. Nope is definitely on my to-watch list!

    ReplyDelete

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