Let’s not belabour this with introductory tedium. What we have here is a nice round top ten for the year, with a long stretch of Honourable Mentions Word Vomit below. I wrote this over the course of like four months, so apologies if the tone is a little scattered.
TÁR speaks its shibboleths with an easy confidence. It spends its first hour seducing the audience that’s most susceptible to its knowing charm: we’ve all heard that weird Glenn Gould recording of the C major prelude, right? And then it tells you to go fuck your shibboleths. This film’s flattery of an audience that knows just enough demonstrates one of the ways that powerful creative people can be dangerous.
In a way, it says everything it intends to say right at the beginning, when Todd Field forces the audience to sit all the way through the credits before the movie even starts. All of those names are important. It’s a spit in the face of auteur theory from a filmmaker who’ll be regarded as an auteur regardless. Also, this is one of Cate Blanchett’s top two performances, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s assistant conductor gets a mention for some reason. Hyperspecific, uncompromising and magnificent. My other top movies of the year will not be Oscar favourites, so here’s hoping it sweeps.
ApArTmEnT fOr SaLe
YoUr SiStEr’S iN jAiL
YoU’rE gOiNg To HeLl
ApArTmEnT fOr SaLe
Sam Barlow makes games that obsess over the boundary between performance and authenticity. Presumably, that’s why he’s put his focus on full-motion video: games featuring live-action footage rather than animation. I strongly disliked his acclaimed indie debut Her Story, because I felt Barlow wasn’t able to get a subtle enough performance out of his leading actor. I found it hard to tell whether the character was being dishonest or if the actor was just uncertain. As much sense as it makes to use human actors in games that revolve around the theme of performance, this is a major risk.
With Immortality, Barlow found a story he can really tell. This is a Hollywood story: specifically, a story from the late 60s and early 70s, the age of “New Hollywood” and Andy Warhol’s superstars. Warhol is a spectre haunting the game, promising fifteen minutes of fame to anybody with the drive to do a screen test. Thus, everybody in this story is performing at all times, even when they’re not specifically “acting.” The boundary between performance and “authenticity” is still muddy here. But unlike in Her Story, that’s a feature and not a bug. When trying to come up with comparisons that describe Immortality, other games don’t come to mind. It feels of a piece with Roeg and Cammel’s Performance, Leos Carax’s Holy Motors and David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.
8. Blank Check with Griffin and David
The highest purpose of criticism is to enable its audience to see a work of art from another perspective. That is perhaps a lofty thought to begin with, given that Blank Check is a nakedly stupid and indisciplined podcast, where two dudes make dumb jokes and talk about movies for hours at a stretch, regardless of whether the movie in question merits the expenditure of time. Nevertheless, when I recently went to see The Fabelmans having already listened to Griffin Newman and David Sims discussing it, the echo of that conversation in my head made me walk away adoring the movie rather than just liking it. Normally I prefer to go into movies without having read or heard much about them. In this case, I’m glad I didn’t wait.
Blank Check was the podcast I appreciated most this year for many reasons, but mainly because I’m exhausted by the churn of discourse surrounding new releases and present-moment pop culture ephemera. By dedicating full seasons to the filmographies of individual directors, Blank Check invites listeners to watch along and be part of something, without having to engage with whatever tedious new thing people are talking about on Twitter. Instead, you can watch the complete works of Stanley Kubrick, about whom Griffin and David actually had insightful and funny things to say this year, even though he made several of the most talked-about films of all time. Or you can dive into the work of more cultlike figures like Jane Campion or Henry Selick. Take a break from the discourse drumbeat.
Granted, I know I’m currently ranking my favourite things of 2022 on my blog. Just know that I’m aware there’s a better way to live. Thank you, Griffin and David.
7. Hellfire (black midi)
I feel like there’s a certain type of music nerd for whom the only albums of consequence this year were Hellfire by black midi and Ants from Up There by Black Country, New Road. Sometimes I am that kind of music nerd. But honest to god, I didn’t hear another rock album this year that could touch Hellfire. The BC,NR album is huge and anthemic and cathartic, but is it deranged carnival funk? No? Then get it out of my face.
Hellfire is easily black midi’s best album, but not because it’s more mature than its predecessors. If anything, it’s a little more precocious. Its brilliance outstrips its discretion at every turn. But even writing that, I feel like one of those writers in the ‘40s who were so anxious to take Orson Welles down a peg. I see why they might have wanted to: they were old, and he was better than them.
No matter. I haven’t gone a day since this album’s release without the guitar/drum break in “Welcome to Hell” looping in my head for at least a couple minutes. And I haven’t gone a day without thinking to myself “LIZZEN: the SWEET PEEEELS of moon-LYYYYYGHT in-JUUICED luv-MAKE-ing on the STREETS to-NYE-yyyt.”
6. Everything Everywhere All At Once
When I went with a friend to see Swiss Army Man in theatres in 2016, we were the only people at our poorly-attended screening laughing. Shame on those others present, because Swiss Army Man is the best extended fart joke in cinema history. One of the many miracles of Everything Everywhere All At Once is that it carries over the sheer, joyful, puerile spirit of its directors’ previous film into a story with real emotional intelligence and sensitivity. It’s a movie that’s equally concerned with the dynamics of a Chinese-American family and the possibility of a universe where everybody has hot dogs for fingers.
There’s not much more to say, except that there’s a sequence in this movie featuring hundreds of still photographs of Michelle Yeoh in different costumes, flipping past at incredible speed–and I noted that a couple of them have subtitles, on screen for no more than a couple frames. It’s a movie you’d have to pause every few seconds to take in all the detail.
5. Better Call Saul (Season Six)
I almost left this off the list entirely, simply because I have nothing original to say about it. Better Call Saul is one of the best television shows ever made, easily surpassing its predecessor, and its final season is probably its best. After watching the finale I was so preoccupied by its absolute bleakness that I couldn’t think about my own problems for a while. I’m not sure other people read it the same way, but to me it’s darker and messier than anything in Breaking Bad, and I sat in silence for a long time after. I can’t think of another series finale that shook me up this much.
Better Call Saul is one of the rare shows that manages to be more ambiguous in its writing than with its visual storytelling. Frequently, a scene driven by dialogue would leave me wondering what exactly it signified, while its wordless montages left no ambiguity at all. It is frankly virtuosic how the directors of this series can offer up a seemingly impressionistic series of images, without dialogue, and still communicate one specific idea.
Finally, Rhea Seehorn’s performance as Kim Wexler is maybe the best in the history of television. I can usually manage to maintain some distance from what I watch: I don’t tend to become invested in fictional characters. But Kim might as well have been a relative. Not for nothing, Seehorn is also maybe the most articulate living actor on the specifics of process.
4. Two Ribbons (Let’s Eat Grandma)
The first Let’s Eat Grandma album felt like it was made by two people who’d barely spoken to anybody else in their whole life. It was the first public statement in a secret language that wasn’t fully translatable. Two albums later, having experienced the pressures of success and personal tragedy, they made a record explicitly addressing the forces that have started to cause complications in their friendship. Two Ribbons finds Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth acting with grace and kindness in spite of those complications. It’s like the opposite of Fleetwood Mac.
I’m not sure that Two Ribbons has hit quite as hard for the world’s music nerds as I’m I’ll Ears did. That makes sense: it’s more vulnerable, more melancholy and personal, which is why I like it better. It’s rare to get this kind of a glimpse into a creative partnership. Let’s Eat Grandma has made their own Peter Jackson documentary, in the form of this open and warm record. You come away from it understanding exactly how these two have managed to make such eccentric, singular music: they make it for each other.
As a person who was born and raised in Fort McMurray but has spent his whole adult life elsewhere, I have two frustrations. One is that people who’ve lived in Fort McMurray for a very long time tend not to recognize how abnormal a place it is. The other is that people who’ve never lived in Fort McMurray tend not to recognize how ordinary a place it is. Kate Beaton’s graphic memoir of her two years working in the oil sands is the first depiction of my hometown that rings true to me, because it takes up residence in this very contradiction.
Beaton’s memoir deals with the rampant culture of sexual abuse in the work camps outside of Fort Mac, the massive environmental toll of Alberta’s oil industry, and the ongoing legacy of settler colonialism that manifests here as dire health issues in Indigenous communities downstream of the sites. Beaton has no time for the ridiculous defensiveness of Fort McMurrayites who refuse to acknowledge these realities. But she also has no patience for the blithe condescension of the rest of the country towards the people who work in the oil industry.
The moment in this book that has stuck with me most of all is a conversation Beaton has with an older coworker from Newfoundland. She asks him if he used to be a fisherman. “I’m still a fisherman,” he responds. “I’m just here.” Fort McMurray is a place that nobody wants to call home. Ducks is why.
2. Critical Role
Dungeons & Dragons was a silver lining of lockdown: I can hardly imagine another circumstance in which I could have spent two years playing make-believe every week with a group of six to eight full-grown professionals. I started watching Critical Role to get a better handle on the game. But at some point, after I’d seen about 50 four-hour episodes, I had to confess to myself I was just watching it because it’s good.
Critical Role is one of those now-commonplace internet phenomena that is massively profitable and all-consuming for its community while also being invisible, or at least inscrutable to everybody else. So for the sceptical, what is the appeal of watching a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons? How does one reckon with all the lore? The episode lengths? The fact that every player comes to the table with the exhausting theatre kid energy of ten million Lin-Manuel Mirandas?
Best I can describe it, you’re watching three things at once: a game, a story, and a reality show. The strategy of the gameplay, the unfolding drama of the story, and the personalities of the people around the table all take precedence in their turn. It’s a dense thing to watch, and a viable alternative to the increasingly predictable narratives of genre television and film. Plus, it’s thrilling to watch as an ambitious storyline teeters at the edge of a cliff, pending a literal roll of the dice.
2022 was Critical Role’s strongest year yet, with shocking developments in its third campaign and the apocalyptic miniseries “Exandria Unlimited: Calamity,” which is probably the best tabletop role-playing story ever recorded. At the best of times, the cast of Critical Role visibly forgets that the cameras are there. In this belated internet age, we’re accustomed to feigned spontaneity, fake unselfconsciousness. But you can tell the real thing when you see it. It is as beautiful as it used to be, and rarer.
1. Crimes of the Future
She: Surgury is sex, isn’t it? Surgery is the new sex.
He: Does there have to be a “new sex?”
She, with great haste: Yes, it’s time
It’s been a year full of old master storytellers summing up their lives’ work. George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing is an obvious example. The Fabelmans, even moreso. Neil Gaiman has been obsessed with the purpose of storytelling for decades, and this year it culminated in the belated television adaptation of The Sandman. But none of those grand statements can match this warm, funny, wise, poignant and gross late masterpiece by David Cronenberg. Trumpeted as his “return to body horror,” it’s actually a completely new kind of movie from him. Cronenberg’s previous body horror movies used gore to illustrate some central anxiety or psychological irregularity. But the gore here is largely incidental to the film’s central concerns, which are how to age gracefully as an artist, and how to leave the world better than you found it. This film’s story introduces a world where pain is rare. Thus, gore can at last be divorced from violence, and addressed in purely aesthetic terms: let’s stop saying things, and just make something uncannily beautiful, it says.
Evidently the script for Crimes of the Future dates back to the 90s, with both Nicholas Cage and Ralph Fiennes attached to star. We should be grateful the project was shelved at the time. This is a story best told by a filmmaker with as much life behind him as possible, and it benefits from the casting of Cronenberg’s one genuine muse: Viggo Mortensen, whose prior work with Cronenberg lends weight to his casting as the director’s self-insert figure.
Is it Cronenberg’s best movie? Maybe! Certainly it wouldn’t hit as hard without the legacy of The Fly, Videodrome, Scanners, etc. behind it. But of all his movies, only Dead Ringers is equally moving, none are funnier, and certainly none have better across the board performances. Kristen Stewart is the scene stealer, conveying the weirdest horniness ever captured on camera. But this is Viggo’s career-best performance as well, and Léa Seydoux is arguably the funniest person in the movie because she’s the only one taking it completely seriously.
It’s one of the weirdest, most perverse films of 2022 and I came away from it a little choked up, with a big dumb smile on my face. Nothing made me happier this year.
Honourable Mentions Word Vomit
I feel like the above list doesn’t quite reflect a few things that changed in the time since I stopped blogging regularly. For example, I’ve mainly swapped television for movies. I watch way more movies now. Also, I’ve promoted video games from a C-tier to an A-tier beloved pastime. On the other hand, the list does reflect the fact that I don’t really listen to podcasts anymore, and that the ones I do listen to are totally different from what I was listening to back then. Music taste: largely the same. And I still don’t read very many new books.
In any case, the following wall of text probably represents the way I’ve spent my time better than the things I selected above for special recognition.
Movies. I managed to shoehorn some of my thoughts about the year’s other movies into the proper list, but here’s a lightning round. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is adorable and sad, and really hit that sensitive Toy Story spot that every millennial has. Mad God is a gross, singular and incredibly technically impressive feat of stop-motion animation from a practical effects master. I saw it on the middle night of a three-night stand at the Rio, between Alex Garland’s least excellent movie and Crimes of the Future. A satisfying build. Also, I swear this is true: during one of the gross parts I started to feel an uneasy, itchy sensation around my neck. I reached up to scratch around my collar, and there was a caterpillar crawling out of my sweater.
The Banshees of Inisherin was my first Martin McDonagh movie, so I came to it without the baggage of his divisive previous film and completely adored it. It has four of the best performances of the year. Similarly, I also hadn’t seen any of Park Chan-wook’s movies prior to Decision to Leave, which I think probably made me like it more than most people on account of my having nothing to compare it to. It might be the most visually stylish movie I saw this year, though there sure is an argument to be made for RRR, another movie by a director who’s new to me. It is fully unhinged, and easily my most memorable cinemagoing experience of the year.
Nope is another terrifying experience from Jordan Peele, but it’s also his “movie about movies”: a statement on the occasionally harmful act of looking. Catnip to me. On the note of “movies about movies,” The Fabelmans is one of the best in the history of that tradition, and a “family falling apart” movie to boot. Supercatnip to me.
The Northman is pretty much exactly what I wanted from a big-budget Robert Eggers movie. It certainly doesn’t top his less expensive previous films, but as cinematic spectacles go it has more originality than most. Glass Onion doesn’t hit the highs of Knives Out, but the series is proving a reliable source of twists, turns, and emotional catharsis for people who dislike the rich. Finally, Moonage Daydream didn’t totally live up to my extremely high expectations, but it does provide a road map for how to make visually compelling documentaries about artists that aren’t governed by tedious tropes and the same old structure.
That’s all I feel like mentioning. I ranked all of the new movies I saw this year here, on my favourite website.
Television. At first I didn’t like The Sandman. But consider the challenges. Thirty years, it took them to make this show. In the intervening years, the Sandman comic’s big ideas have been stripped for parts and thoroughly incorporated into other people’s stories. For several years, Doctor Who served as the Sandman show that wasn’t. Undertale has a little Sandman DNA, I’d wager. Even this year’s Three Thousand Years of Longing feels like it might owe a little to Gaiman. And so, the long-awaited adaptation felt like diminishing returns for the first few episodes. A victim of its own influence. But once the show gets past the worldbuilding and into the specific storytelling it’s clear that while the generalities have been ripped off over and over, the specifics are still unique. Good chance I’ll watch season two.
I wasn’t certain that Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared would survive the transition from freakish little online shorts to half-hour television. And I wasn’t sure that its blend of children’s television tropes with gore and surreal horror would still feel daring more than a decade after it debuted on YouTube. Frankly both of these concerns were valid: the narrative format doesn’t quite work and the genre subversion is a little played. But it has some really funny writing, a few genuinely disquieting moments and most importantly, incredible puppetry and animation. The visual style and effects alone make it worth the time. Also the Channel 4 streaming service has the worst recommendation engine maybe ever: “Because you watched Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, you might enjoy… Frasier.”
The Bear is a delight, full of likeable characters and extremely good food photography that genuinely threatened my vegetarianism. It has a few rather pat, too-easy character arcs, which are one of the reasons I ostensibly don’t like television anymore. But it’s got chaotic overlapping dialogue and achieves clarity without undue exposition; what am I supposed to do, not like it?
Andor is a good thriller but it’s not as good as Better Call Saul and it’s not as good as Michael Clayton.
Finally, Jerrod Carmichael’s Rothaniel is one of the few stand-up specials where it genuinely feels like anything could happen. The audience is as important as the performer.
Games. I somewhat regret not having the hardware to play the consensus game of the year, Elden Ring. But Zach Gage is the FromSoft of casual puzzle games and Knotwords is his Elden Ring. It very nearly made the ten until I had to acknowledge that I haven’t felt compelled to play it in several months. Nevertheless, it is a thing of profound elegance. Gage has spent years making low-barrier, deeply thoughtful puzzle games that are addictive without being predatory. Having made the best sudoku app that will probably ever exist, and the beloved word puzzle game Spelltower, it feels natural that he should combine sudoku and crosswords. Knotwords is a word puzzle game that doesn’t rely on your vocabulary or trivia knowledge. It relies solely on your willingness to learn how to solve this specific kind of puzzle. It’s the best word game ever made. Plus, Gage’s collaborator Jack Schlesinger contributed design and music that changes throughout the day so that the vibes are always flawless: Knotwords is a pump-up jam if you play in the morning, and a lullaby in those all-too-frequent moments when you boot it up at 3am. My streaks have lapsed recently, but this is still probably the most honourable among these honourable mentions. Call it number eleven.
There’s nothing better than being set free to explore a rich environment and talk to interesting characters, and that is pretty much all you do in Pentiment. I was bound to like it, given that it’s a story about art, history, art history, and how making things isn’t a compulsion or a calling but a social role like any other. (It serves as a worthwhile counterbalance to Immortality in that sense.) Early Renaissance Bavaria is a great setting for a game, because it’s just intrinsically interesting and filled with tensions that are visible on the surface. Everybody’s life is dominated by the church. The church is facing massive changes, thanks to Luther. And to complicate things even more, the old folks in the villages still remember the old pagan ways. Nobody’s sure how to live, and the game shows us the effects of that by allowing us to explore a town over the course of twenty-five years of rapid change. Also it’s definitely the only game I’ve played where the credits end with a bibliography that includes Hildegard von Bingen.
Speaking of communities on the brink of massive change, I also want to single out NORCO. It’s the tale of an environmental catastrophe striking a community that is defined by the industry that caused that catastrophe in the first place. Somehow it hits almost as close to home as the graphic novel that’s literally set in my hometown. NORCO was sold to me as “Kentucky Route Zero in an oil town,” but it is only similar to Kentucky Route Zero in that it is anti-capitalist art set in the American south, a tradition that predates video games by generations, and is bound to continue for generations more.
Earlier this year, we learned the sad, ironic news that the core members of the team that made Disco Elysium had been forced out of their own company and aren’t working on the sequel that’s currently in development. That’s a shame, but 2022 also made it clear that Disco’s influence has been felt, and it’s starting to show up in smaller, scrappier titles. Citizen Sleeper is the most noteworthy of these, with a compelling science fiction setting and a dice-spending mechanic that’s unique from other comparable RPGs. Better still, in my opinion, is Betrayal at Club Low, a music-themed RPG with entirely customizable dice that I have written more than enough about already.
The other unlikely microtrend of the year was what I’ll call the “Popelike,” i.e. games that take after the work of Obra Dinn developer Lucas Pope. The Case of the Golden Idol is the only other game I’ve played that requires the same kind of deductive reasoning that Obra Dinn does. It differs mainly in that it presents a number of smaller puzzles, rather than one huge one with everything interconnected. Depending on how much you like Obra Dinn, this could be a selling point rather than a demerit. In far more unlikely news, somebody finally had the guts to repurpose the famously mundane gameplay mechanics of Pope’s Papers, Please for a story about running a flower shop. Strange Horticulture is as oddly relaxing as Papers, Please without any of the ethical torment.
(It’s worth noting that every game I’ve mentioned except Immortality and Pentiment can be finished in less time than it takes to watch a modern season of television. Some are only three or four hours long. The fact that games can be short now is the industry’s biggest innovation of the last decade.)
Music. Tell you what, it sure wasn’t a year for discovering new faves. One exception: Darklife proved a good introduction to Death’s Dynamic Shroud. That’ll be one of the things I regret not putting in the top ten a year from now. A transcendent record, from extremely online vaporwave nerds who grew up. Never heard anything like it. But henceforth, every one of these honourable mentions comes from an artist I’ve been into for years. Sometimes it’s like that.
The two biggest artists in the world both released albums I liked this year. RENAISSANCE is certainly the more accomplished of the two, but ultimately it’s a record for extroverts, so I prefer Midnights. While by no means experimental, that album outpaced recent records I’d expected to prefer by more idiosyncratic pop singers. Now Taylor, if you’d only send Jack Antonoff out to pasture and find a less boring producer, we’ll really be cooking. I’m sure Lana Del Ray can get you Congleton’s number.
Moving on from global superstars to the biggest superstars of my personal music universe: my two most-listened bands of the last few years both put out good-to-great albums in 2022. Meshuggah’s Immutable is as subtle as extreme metal gets, and a huge improvement over their previous album. We’re talking about a band that’s been around for more than thirty years, and they’re well into their diminishing returns era, so good on them for treading new ground. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for my years-long Mountain Goats fever to break. They’ve been my most-listened to artist for three years running, and I’ve come to embrace their whole catalogue, from the earliest lo-fi recordings to their slickest recent Memphis/Muscle Shoals records. The common read on Bleed Out seems to be that it’s a return to form, but I reject the assumption beneath that. I have mixed opinions of some of the recent records, but 2021’s Dark in Here and the lo-fi throwback Songs for Pierre Chuvin are both minor classics. Bleed Out takes vintage action movies as its subject and thus has a lot of energy. But to me it’s still only the third-best of their last five albums. It’s growing on me.
My ambient music hero released a real stinker this year. A well-intentioned, environmentalist stinker that the NYT named a critic’s pick, but a stinker nonetheless. And another hero who makes similar music in a more acoustic vein also put out a record that smacks of diminishing returns. Alas. Good thing my favourite Vancouver-based musician Ian William Craig had 80 minutes of ambient music stocked up for release on a video game OST. I played the game and gently bounced off of it, but Music for Magnesium_173 stands alone and is detailed, tense, and beautifully sung as always. Two artists featured elsewhere in this post also put out OSTs that I spent a good bit of time with: Cosmo D’s Betrayal at Club Low OST and Let’s Eat Grandma’s The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself OST. The latter of which is probably the soundtrack I’ve listened to most enthusiastically while having absolutely no interest in ever watching the thing it’s a soundtrack for.
Finally, Ghost’s Impera is an album that I thought was going to be a bit of a grower, but then I didn’t listen to it for most of the year. I still think it’s nearly up to the standard of other recent Ghost albums, if a little more uneven. I still think it might be a grower, but I haven’t put the time in to know for sure.
Books. Aside from Ducks, I only read one other book this year that was published in 2022. It was definitely a year for reading (and re-reading) things from decades or centuries ago. Appropriately enough then, the other “new” book I read was Yin Mountain, a newly translated collection of poetry by three Chinese poets from 1300 years ago. These poems are often far more relatable than you’d expect. Better still, sometimes they’re not relatable at all.
Podcasts. There is a degree of familiarity you can acquire that leads to the death of a thing in your heart. As such, I haven’t listened to a narrative journalism podcast for several years. I’ve got their number: the stories are all different, but the beats are all the same. The podcasts that kept me company through the worst of the pandemic were built around conversation, which is inherently less predictable than storytelling. The last three years have been marked by obsessive phases with several McElroy properties and an abiding appreciation for Melvyn Bragg. But 2022 specifically was mainly about pop culture shows, both broad and specific.
On the more general side, FANTI is probably the best combination of smart and funny available on podcatchers right now. The more specific shows I listened to were mainly concerned with either movies or games. Or Shakespeare. Into the Aether is my current favourite in the vast world of game podcasts. It’s hosted by two funny people with chill vibes, and they build the show around what they love rather than what’s new. Sometimes that’s all it takes. You Must Remember This releases infrequently these days, but the “Erotic 80s” series is one of the best things Karina Longworth has ever written, and if its follow-up on the 90s had arrived by the end of the calendar year, it probably would have made the ten. The Folger Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare Unlimited is the finest podcast produced by an arts institution of that sort, featuring interviews with imminent Shakespeare-adjacent people from Ian McKellen on down. Barbara Bogaev is low-key one of the best interviewers alive, and her main gig is focussed entirely on Shakespeare, which doesn’t seem at all inappropriate to me. Finally, Screen Drafts is the most uncompromising and ridiculous show in the universe of movie podcasts, and maybe in the world of podcasting generally. Its episodes frequently stretch past the five hour mark, with guests competing to get their favourite movies in high positions on ranked lists. It is cinephilia as an endurance sport, and it is beautiful.
YouTube. While we’re on the topic of cinephilia, I’ll bring up the YouTube channel I discovered this year that I’ve appreciated most: The Cinema Cartography. It’s full of beautifully made long-form video essays about specific directors, national scenes, and particular themes running through the work of various filmmakers. This year, they started a series on the history of cinema, handling the standard Film Studies 101 material with an interpretive flair seldom seen in these sorts of sweeping surveys. All of this is presented with a sincerity and earnestness that you don’t see much anymore, especially on YouTube. To talk about art anymore you have to be lighthearted and funny. Glib, even. It’s refreshing to see this channel’s two hosts taking what they love totally seriously.
A couple more, in the interest of pushing the full list to an even 50: Dan Olson’s essay-documentaries on Folding Ideas are the new standard bearer for media about media, and specifically about the way the internet is the new frontier for grifters. And Noah Caldwell-Gervais‘ video essays are the most thoughtful, personal games criticism on the internet. He martyred himself this year by daring to produce videos about Dark Souls, thus inviting abuse by FromSoft’s horrible fan community. From my perspective, if not his, it was worth it.
That’s it. 40 honourable mentions plus the main list equals 50 wonderful things. A few subtotals before we go:
Movies: 13 (3 on the list, 10 honourable mentions)
Music: 11 (2 on the list, 9 honourable mentions)
Games: 8 (1 on the list, 7 honourable mentions)
Podcasts: 6 (1 on the list, 5 honourable mentions)
Television: 6 (1 on the list, 5 honourable mentions)
YouTube: 4 (1 on the list, 3 honourable mention)
Books: 2 (1 on the list, 1 honourable mention)