(Even If Some of Them Were Not Movies)
Rather than do the typical Best of or Top Ten Movies of the Year list I’ve decided to talk about some of the greatest images that graced my TV this year (because I didn’t go to the movies much this year).
If you are a film and TV fanatic like me, then by the time you’re my age you will have amassed a ton of images that will sit with you and affect you for your entire life. I can’t list the number of movie and television scenes and images that have emotionally affected me in ways I’m still assessing today, and this year added another bunch of images that made me laugh, brought me to tears, terrified me, changed my thinking about the world and the people in it, or were sometimes just plain fun!
Last year, my mother (a devoted Horror movie fanatic) passed away in hospice at the age of 71. Every image of every movie that she carried with her is gone but I can still feel close to her through the movies she watched. I have always used stories (in books, movies, and songs), as therapy and this past year was exceptionally therapeutic for me in dealing with my grief. What I was going through didn’t feel quite so bad because I didn’t feel as if I was going through some singular event that other people had not experienced. I was able to process my feelings while watching some pretty intense cinema or alleviate my anxiety with laughter, and I was able to share these feelings with you guys by writing about them in this space.
This year was an incredible year of cinematic (and musical) healing for me.
May the next year be even better!
Keep Moving Forward
1.Moon Knight (Season 1: Episode 6)
This is my all-time favorite television series for this year (with Interview with the Vampire being almost a tie). This series is full of some great moments that are just plain fun, like the moment when Stephen, having stumbled upon his own version of being the Moon Knight gets into a final battle with the show’s primary antagonist. Stephen’s clueless version of Moon Knight wears an actual 3 piece suit. In the middle of the final boss fight, Stephen and Mark are expertly switching control of their shared body between them. Stephen gets knocked down, immediately hops back up, and brushes the dirt off his still immaculately white suit!
That there is what’s known as “swag”, or “attitude”.
I identified with Mark and Stephen’s journey of personal unification because I’ve been on that journey myself. When I was little, being on the autism spectrum meant there was a clear division between my intellect and my emotions. Like Mark and Stephen, I’ve spent my life attempting to unify the two sides of my personality, to join them together to work for each other. This is not a journey I’m ever going to finish, I think, but I have made enormous headway, and one of the greatest cathartic moments in the series was when Mark and Stephen finally did so, thus proving that the whole really is greater than the parts.
All of the fight scenes in this show are fire, and change and evolve as the relationship between Mark and Stephen evolves, to reflect their characters. I can fault Disney for a lot of things, but stinting on Action scenes isn’t one of them. I can always count on the MCU to bring me the very best ultra-violence. The choreography for their shows and movies is insane and watching heroes kick ass (and doing so with style) has always been a cathartic experience for me. I can identify with the hero and express my badassery in a perfectly safe environment while in my bunny slippers, and this series was awesome for that.
2.Everything Everywhere All At Once
I can’t say watching this was a mistake because I had no idea what I was getting into when I first watched it. EEAAO is very one of the most profoundly moving, touching, and hilarious movies in a year full of great films. It stars Michelle Yeoh, so I suspected there might be some Kung Fu, but the movie has a wealth of lovely surprises. It is about the frayed relationship between an overworked first-generation immigrant named Evelyn, who runs a dry cleaner with her annoyingly upbeat husband Waymond, and their nihilistic disaffected daughter Joy, all while undergoing a tax audit, planning a work party, and hosting her disapproving father.
One of the greatest treats of this movie was the re-emergence of Ke Huy Quan, from his decades-long retirement from acting, and who I fondly remember as Short Round from the second Indiana Jones movie (and Data from The Goonies). I don’t even begin to understand why but Short Round was always one of my favorite childhood characters and his name just stuck with me over the years until eventually, it became a nickname for my Mom, who was a whole inch shorter than me, which made me obnoxiously smug. I cannot explain why I had so much joy at seeing him alive and well, and being happy about this role.
That said, despite identifying with all the characters, my absolute favorite is Ke Huy Quan’s Waymond, and it is his philosophy of life that neatly cleaved my brain because he explains so much about how I try to approach the world, and why, despite this being one of those mother/daughter relationship movies you would think I’d be overcome by (and I was) it is Waymond who most easily resonates with me. Where Joy has fallen into despair and wants to end it all, it is Waymond’s philosophy, the exact opposite, that ends up saving Joy and the rest of the world from the annihilation that is the Everything Bagel:
Waymond: When I choose to see the good side of things, I’m not being naive. It is strategic and necessary. It’s how I’ve learned to survive through everything.
This is a philosophy I adopted because, like Joy, I’ve seen the opposite end of that spectrum and it’s not a philosophy that’s survivable. There were a lot of moments in this movie that made me cry because they just happened to hit me at the right time to affect me, like the conversations between Evelyn and Joy, but it was Evelyn’s conversation with an alternate universe Waymond that opened the floodgates and allowed me to mourn in a way I had not been able to in the wake of my mother’s death, (because I was still mostly in shock). This movie just showed up when I needed it.
Like all good mothers, my mom never liked seeing her children in distress, and I think she would be proud of how well I’m doing right now.
This is one of those movies that changes or reaffirms your thinking about the world, the people around you, and how you approach life.
Yeah, it’s one of those.
I think a lot of people avoided watching this movie because of the title, but things are not as they seem. The title is provocative, but the movie isn’t about castigating men. It’s about one woman (Harper Marlowe) dealing with the particularly harrowing loss of just one man, and I’m convinced that most of it takes place solely within her own mind. In other words, the movie is a lot deeper than it looks.
One of the most interesting images is the only other actor in the movie, Rory Kinnear, has his face creepily (and sometimes unconvincingly) superimposed onto the bodies of all the other men in the movie, signifying that what’s being critiqued here are certain types of men and their behavior. That at base all of their behavior comes from one source, and are really just different manifestations of only one issue – misogyny.
There’s the husband who threatens suicide if she divorces him, and then hits her, the priest who blames her for his death, then makes a pass at her, the child who calls her a stupid bitch when she refuses what he wants, the cop who dismisses her concerns and later tries to assault her, and there’s the naked man who is symbolic of natural masculinity in the form of the mythic Green Man, who keeps trying to get into her house to do…what exactly? All of this is tied into images of the Green Man, the Earth Mother, Christianity, the cycles of nature, and the lies patriarchy has created about women.
My favorite scene however is just a touching and beautiful moment about a woman literally discovering her voice. Harper takes a walk in the countryside and comes to a large open tunnel. She spends a minute or two singing into the tunnel and listening as her voice boomerangs back to her. Her voice is high and pure and she takes an almost childlike delight in just making as much noise as she wants, in a public place, in a free and uninhibited manner. It just looked like she was having so muchf un, and every time I watch that scene I feel the urge to sing along with her.
The entire movie stops to accommodate this moment and I was as thoroughly delighted by it as Harper!
4.Thor: Love and Thunder
Sometimes, I love movies that everyone else likes to hate on, and you know what? I’m good with that. I love what I love for my own reasons, not theirs, and I stand by and will back up my reasons why I do, even though sometimes my reasons are just because I do. I know a lot of people hated this movie. I do not particularly care if they did or why because this movie just brought out the feels and the kid in me, and I needed that. I’ve watched this on Disney + multiple times and it brings out both the pathos and delight in me each time.
One of the more interesting aspects of this phase of the MCU is that much of it deals with mourning the deaths of loved ones and people’s response to mourning. From dealing with death badly in WandaVision, to how humanity dealt with the aftermath of The Blip in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, to the aftermath of Tony Stark’s death in Spiderman No Way Home to the death of Chadwick Boseman in Wakanda Forever, to this: Thor, mourning the loss of his entire family and homeworld and finding new love and purpose, against an antagonist who dealt with his loss through anger and revenge. Thor and Gor the Godslayer are mirror images of one another and each of them deals with loss in a way that heals or harms other people. Thor chooses to love while Gor chooses to kill.
But my favorite scene has nothing to do with that part of the plot, and it was difficult choosing between this scene and any scene that involved Thor’s screaming goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. There’s a scene in the movie where Thor is able to pass his powers to a group of frightened children to help them defeat the shadow enemies invoked by Gor, and that entire scene just gave me life! My favorite of all the children turned out to be the young Black boy who happens to be the son of Heimdall, The Bifrost Guardian. He has at least some of his father’s powers, but what was most admirable to me was his ability to step into a leadership role for the other children in the absence of the adults. I’m not normally into watching little kids engaging in acts of ultra-violence but Taika Waititi has a knack for making things that seem mildly subversive look like a great deal of fun. It doesn’t hurt that all the kids in the movie were the children of the staff on the set!
Oh, and the little girl with the laser-eye death bunny is the mood I’m carrying into 2023!
5. Interview With the Vampire (Season 1: Episode 7; The Thing Lay Still)
Interview with the Vampire was just voted by Vanity Fair as one of the best series on TV this year and I am here for it. This also showed up on my favorite TV series list too, because the show is simply wild. It’s crazy and beautiful, and sexy, and campy, gory, bloody, and brutal, but also deeply hilarious. Just when we thought the year was ending and there were no more high notes to be had, AMC handed us this beautiful gem of a series and we are all smitten.
Yes, they race-swapped Louis De Pont Du Lac from the books. He is now being played by Jacob Anderson (Greyworm in Game of Thrones), and he is (literally) killing it in this role. Anne Rice signed off on all this before she passed and her son Christopher (who is openly gay) also signed off on the rest, and those gay sensibilities show in the plot and themes. By changing the race of the character and making his sexuality explicit the writers have deepened the story considerably. Even moving the timeline to the early 1900s has made certain elements of the plot more interesting, since it’s now set during the Jazz age of the Jim Crow South. Also, changing Louis’s race has seemingly attracted a few straight Black male fans, which is not the demographic I first thought of when I heard this was getting made. They seem to really be enjoying the show too and good for them.
Sam Reid is also literally killing it as Lestat. In fact, he is so good he almost makes me forget the Tom Cruise version from the 1994 film. Almost. Reid so embodies this character though that fans are saying he is possessed by the spirit of Lestat, and when he and Jacob are onscreen together it’s like lightning, their chemistry is just that good. (It doesn’t hurt that they’re friends in real life.) Bailey Bass is an aged-up Claudia, and all those people who thought an older version of Claudia wouldn’t carry the same dramatic weight as someone much younger (in the books Claudia is about 6, which would be a logistical nightmare to film) well, those people were wrong. Claudia brings all the drama and hysteria of a teenage vampire to this role and she is great in it. And let’s not forget the award-winning playwright Eric Bogosian as Daniel, an older, less patient, and curmudgeonly version of the Daniel from the books, since this series is set 50 years after his first interview with Louis, which was never published.
For all the things that were changed, some things remain the same and that is the tumultuous relationship between Louis and Lestat. I’d say my favorite episode was the very first one in which the very closeted Louis meets and is successfully seduced by Lestat into becoming a vampire, but my favorite scene is the culmination of Louis’ season-long character arc in the final episode. He goes from being a deeply closeted gay Black man, unwilling to acknowledge it even to himself, to an out and proud gay Black man, and Lestat’s lover, at a grand New Orleans Ball, sharing a passionate kiss after inviting Lestat to a waltz, and something which thoroughly scandalizes their guests. It is one of the most beautiful scenes of the entire season, followed by one of the nastiest, goriest bloodbaths of the season.
This show was renewed for a second season before the first episode even aired, and I just don’t know what I’m going to do until it starts. The show is just really juicy and you have some idea of what’s coming in the future if you’ve read the books. The writers are doing everything right here. The writing is messy and florid and overdramatic, just like Anne Rice’s writing, and a lot of the dialogue is kept intact from her books. I hope the series lasts at least as long as Buffy, and it will be a miracle if it lasts as long as The Walking Dead, and I want to be right there until the end.
6. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is one of the few Horror/Superhero movies out there and I loved it, especially since it’s directed by one of my all-time favorite directors, Sam Raimi, who included more than a few moments of sheer terror in his Spiderman trilogy of ten years ago. He kept that same energy here and there are more than a few of his favorite Horror movie tropes included in the imagery of this film, including a scene of The Scarlet Witch climbing out of a mirror, a multi-handed zombie version of Doctor Strange, and a scene where two wizards attack each other using musical notes. (Sam Raimi loves musicals so you know there was going to be a musical scene in here).
But above is one of my favorite scenes of Doctor Strange along with the young girl he’s trying to save getting blasted through multiple portals through other universes, paralleling a scene from the first movie where Strange gets blasted through different universes by the previous Sorceror Supreme, all of which look compellingly fun or nightmarish depending on which suit your fancy. There’s a world of dinosaurs, giant human bones, and cartoons, but the prettiest one is a world made of liquid crayons, I guess. ( And in a callback to something a character once said on Buffy the Vampire Slayer I think one of those universes was full of shrimp!)
Disney is finally starting to make movies that feel different from one another and include other genres, and this movie is a great parallel to Disney’s introduction of Horror themes and Supernatural creatures into the MCU this year in shows like Werewolf by Night and Moon Knight. I’m still going to call this the first MCU Horror movie because all of the tropes are right there. There are zombies, specters, jump scares, blood and gore (within reason), chase scenes from red-eyed phantoms, giant eyeball creatures, and a child in danger! If you liked the first Spiderman trilogy, and the Evil Dead movies, then check this out.
7. Love Death and Robots Season 3: Episode 4 (Tiny Zombie Apocalypse): Night of the Living Mini-Dead
This year’s Love Death and Robots season 3 was really strong this year, with some absolutely gorgeous animation based on Scifi Horror stories from my favorite writers, like Neal Asher, Michael Swanwick, Alan Baxter, and John Scalzi, in stories that range from poetic nightmares like Bad Traveling to comedies like Mason’s Rats, to tragically beautiful stories of conquest like Jibaro. I had several favorite episodes this year.
This one episode though is, hands down, one of the most hilarious zombie apocalypses I have ever seen. Yes, it’s even funnier than Shaun of the Dead, not just because it takes place in speeded-up miniature, but because of the incredible attention to detail in its homages to Night of the Living Dead, the Dawn of the Dead remake, Train to Busan’s and Peninsula’s fast zombies and Mad Max vehicles, an Attack on Titan shoutout, and Resident Evil mutated zombies. But my all-time favorite scene is the one with the tiny monks Kung fu-ing zombie ass at a mountaintop Shaolin Temple, echoing a scene from the book World War Z. In fact, I would watch an entire full-length movie that included all the scenes from this short.
It’s truly the attention to tiny details that had me rolling though, from the opening scene of the desecration at the cemetery (and how it sounds) which awakens the zombies, to the jogger who pushes her friend at the zombies only to be eaten and revived herself, to the Popemobile spewing gunfire while donuting outside The Vatican. And I love how the zombie apocalypse just goes from bad to worse with irradiated and mutated zombies spewing green fire.
Good lord! This needs to be a full-length film! I’d watch 90 minutes of this utter mayhem!
8. The Northman
The single biggest factor in people’s attraction to this movie was the trailer and the scene where a scantily clad Alexander Skarsgard reaches up, catches a thrown spear, and lobs it back to hit the thrower. I’m not gonna lie, that was what originally attracted me to the film as well, and thankfully, the movie proved to have as much substance as style. See! Not everything I watched this year was frivolous!
The Northman is based on the Scandinavian story which inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Amleth watches as his father, a man he idolizes, is murdered by his uncle. His mother is seemingly kidnapped and he vows to avenge his father save his mother, and kill his uncle in that order. Amleth grows to adulthood, learns of his uncle’s location, and decides to implement this plan, while the audience heckles the screen to suggest that he could maybe let it go.
The movie is also about fate and destiny, and how that figures into the choices a person makes. Amleth is told several times by psychics that it is his destiny to avenge the destruction of his family but he is also challenged to give up his vendetta and settle down with his wife and children. He chooses his vendetta and although the motivation for his choice isn’t exactly wrong, at any point along his journey of revenge, he could have stopped and let his uncle live out his life in relative peace.
This movie turned out to have a surprising amount of depth. Surprising because I was expecting more flash than story, and I was expecting more of a Hamlet retread, and what I got was an exploration of the concepts of fate and destiny, and how much of a choice we have in what happens in our lives and the lives of others.
What can I say? This movie had all of my favorite things. ufos. blood, gore, excellent horsemanship, and two incredible lead characters, the brother and sister duo of Emerald and OJ Haywood, but my all-time favorite moment was when Emerald does this particular bike maneuver, called The Akira Slide. Since it was first seen in Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 anime film Akira this moment has been imitated and recreated in almost every animated series worth watching since!
The idea of a live-action Akira has been bruted around for over three decades and this scene is as close as we’ve come outside a few concept videos. In fact, Jordan Peele himself was slated to direct a live-action version but that fell through when he decided to devote his energy to his own projects. He said that an homage to the project he dropped seemed in order, though.
That’s it! Just a fun nostalgic moment in a great Horror movie that had me kicking up my bunny slippers!
(Note: I do not actually own a pair of bunny slippers.)
10. The Batman
I would not call this movie fun but I did enjoy it, and that kind of surprised me. I didn’t think anything was going to come close to being as good as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy but this was a nice try and I liked it. I think this is a baby Batman in his first few years in Gotham and you can kind of see that in his fighting style, but this scene is the one that I found the most compelling. This is the audience’s first sight of The Batman and I loved the sound design of this scene.
The music, the ominous sound of his footsteps just before he fades out of the shadows, and the sound of rain in the background. The whole movie sounds great, which is not something I usually pay a whole lot of attention to, but I’ve started to pay attention since Villaneuve’s Dune did it so well. This was a superb introduction to this version of Batman, who has yet to learn that it’s not enough for him to just scare Gotham’s predators. He needs to protect the innocent too, something he begins to understand during the course of the movie.
11. Wednesday Season 1: Episode 4 – Woe What a Night
I think this particular scene is definitely going to go down in history as iconic. For context, this is Wednesday Addams getting down on the dance floor at the new High School she was exiled to after she released predatory fish into the swimming pool at her last one. There was blood. I have always liked this particular character, especially the movie versions since she always represented things I have either actually said to people (I know right?!!) or wanted to say to people. I even liked the 1960s baby-girl version of her, and if you look really close you can see Jenna reproduce baby Wednesday’s iconic dance moves from the earlier TV series. Wednesday dances like she’s challenging her partner to a duel.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this series. I was cautiously excited about it because it’s Tim Burton, who has made it clear that he feels about Black people the way I feel about finding a worm in my apple, and its teenagers being teenagers in a TV show. I’m not normally attracted to shows about teens but I will, on occasion, try them out and I actually liked this. It’s not a great show, but it is a lot of fun, not too deep, and worth a watch. The best thing about it is Jenna Ortega’s performance as Wednesday and her relationship with her bubbly roommate, Enid. From her demeanor, there is also the implication that Wednesday may also be queer, in which case people are already shipping her with Enid, and I’m cool with that. I did enjoy watching their friendship develop, since Wednesday is heavily, (and I do mean heavily), coded as autistic. She is touch averse, sensitive to bright colors, single-minded, and extremely focused, with a pronounced flattened affect, and I kind of liked that, since Autistic girls and women are rarely shown onscreen. There were a couple of times when something she said about how she sees the world resonated pretty sharply with me, and I had to pause and reflect.
But mostly the show was just good fun. I was initially put off that the only two Black characters in the series were assholes, but they were redeemed by the end of the season and turned out to be two of Wednesday’s strongest allies. I didn’t especially care for the drama between Wednesday and her mother (or the side plot that showed some of her parent’s history at the school) although I understand why it was added. Parental mismanagement of their children is a recurring theme in the series, although Luis Guzman was excellent as Gomez and the series does play up Wednesday’s Latino heritage a little bit. My favorite episode was the one where Uncle Fester comes for a visit. He is played by Fred Armisen and while he is never going to be in Christopher Lloyd’s league as Fester, he gives it a very good try. Christina Ricci also shows up as one of Wednesday’s teachers and her role is good, but not all that surprising.
This was a fun watch and I’m willing to check out the next season, especially if there is more weird dancing scenes!
The Eternals – There were so many great moments in this movie, although ultimately I feel it fell flat of what it was trying to do, I still enjoyed a lot of it. My favorite characters were, of course, Kingo and his personal valet, Karun. All of the characters had great chemistry with each other but I especially enjoyed watching these two. (Okay, The Eternals was, technically, released in 2021, but I didn’t watch it until 2022, so this counts in my book.)
Umbrella Academy – The opening dance number (The Footloose Dance Off) was one of its great highlights. I love a good dance battle! I love that the series continues this level of ridiculousness for the entire season. Another great scene was Victor coming out to his family as transgender and announcing his pronouns, and his brother’s quite unsurprised/semi-surprised reaction to having another brother.
Prey – The fight scenes in this movie were incredible. This movie was awesome, setting the Predator down in 1800s America among the Comanche People.
Black Adam – I’m an old-school Hawkman and Doctor Fate fan. I expected to like Hawkman and didn’t expect to like Pierce Brosnan’s version of this character, but he was most excellent (he predates Doctor Strange by twenty years y’all) and I hope to see more of him in some sort of prequel. I remember reading Doctor Fate’s books as a kid and I didn’t know I wanted to see this character onscreen so much until, of course, I got to see him!
The Woman King – The entire movie is simply gorgeous. The fight scenes are rigorously excellent.
Sandman – It was really hard to pick one scene from this series. Every episode had some truly gorgeous and meaningful scenes. Here, The Sandman (Dream) gets to find out what a day in the life of Death is like…