film

I Watched 304 Movies in 2022

That’s not a typo. I knew I watched a lot of films, but in 2022 I vowed to track them all via Letterboxd.com and I broke 300 just after Christmas. Here are the highlights of the 2022 movies I’ve seen thus far, and the breakdown of older films I watched.

Here’s the Letterboxd list

Best of 2022 (that I saw) – 66 in total released this year):

  1. Top Gun: Maverick – This movie slapped so hard and I had zero expectations going in.
  2. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once – A gem of imagination and execution. Rocks made me tear up.
  3. Do Revenge – A sleeper hit that paid homage to the best of the teen movie genre. Maya Hawke rules.
  4. The Black Phone – A fun thriller with an imaginative plot, well executed. Hawke is a perennial favorite.
  5. Vengeance – BJ Novak kills with this indie about true crime podcasting that takes a turn.
  6. The Northman – I love a movie that makes me think and this one inspired Hamlet, so there you go.
  7. The Fabelmans – Spielberg looks back at his formative years. Worth the time to see the master at work.
  8. Prey – This is how you reboot a franchise; don’t go bigger, go smaller.
  9. Ambulance – The most Michael Bay, Michael Bay, has ever Michael Bay’d. Fun romp.
  10. On the Count of Three – Two dudes decide to kill themselves. But first, maybe a few bucket list items? Great film.
  11. Honorable mention: Armageddon Time – Banks Repeta and Hopkins kill this look at identity and belonging.

Worst of 2022 (that I saw) in no particular order:

  1. Spin Me Round – A half-finished cash grab. I actually got angry at this one.
  2. Black Adam – CGI to death. No heart. DC swings and misses. Again. Ugh.
  3. The People We Hate at the Wedding – I like the “Kristen Bell is a bad person” schtick, but this was just unlikeable.
  4. The Lost City – Who was this for? Don’t answer that.
  5. Brainwashed – This was actually the worst doc I may have ever seen.
  6. Spirited – What should have been a home run turned into a bunt to first. CGI & writing killed this one.
  7. Morbius – Sony can’t get the Spider-man EU right to save its life. This was water trash.
  8. Vesper – Such a great premise and cool look were wasted.
  9. The Man From Toronto – Who thought this was a good idea? Even Kevin Hart couldn’t save this.
  10. Uncharted – With a proven cinematic video game, this should have been easy. As bad as anything.

Here are some stats:

DecadeCount
2020s97
2010s72
2000s59
1990s34
1980s27
1970s4
1960s3
1950s6
1940s2
GenreCount
Drama148
Comedy115
Thrillers87
Action72
Crime65
Romance52
Sci-Fi45
Mystery31
Family, Music, Doc, War, Western14, 12, 9, 6, 3

The Movies that hung with me the longest- first-time watches only:

  1. Rumble Fish (1983) – I can’t fully explain how much this movie rules. 2022 was my first viewing and it felt incredibly fresh and evocative. The choice to shoot in B&W was inspired. I fell in love with the motif of repetition. This is a masterpiece.
  2. Do Revenge (2022) – I wasn’t expecting anything and I got a feast for the eyes. Put this Netflix gem on your watchlist ASAP.
  3. Carol (2015) – Fun fact about me, I like period pieces about LGBTQ relationships. Who knew? Cate Blanchett embodies the hopeless and hopeful nature of being trapped in a world where you can and can’t be who you want to be.
  4. The Mercy (2017) – I saw this over the summer while thinking about how I wouldn’t get a boat day this year and it hasn’t left me since. Another true story adventure that you can’t shake.
  5. Night of the Hunter (1955) – Robert Mitchum rocks as a creepy priest that needs to 86 a pair of kids. The performances and tone are a revelation of filmmaking.

Rewatches that made me bump up my previous ratings

  1. The Gentlemen (2019) – My youngest son wanted to watch it so I gave it another go and it’s far better than I recalled. Guy Ritchie’s Opus? This is neck and neck with Snatch.
  2. Trading Places (1983) – I saw this a lot on TNT growing up and didn’t realize they cut out whole scenes that elevated this to a real winner. Give it another watch and you’ll see a lot to like.
  3. Filth (2013) – I remember seeing this one and being turned off by, well, the filth. A little older and I found it brisk, fresh, and well-assembled. James McAvoy should have been nominated for an Oscar, though he did win a BIFA Best Actor award for this.

Pleasant Surprises:

  1. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers – Samberg & Mulaney turned a nostalgic cash-grab into a fun noir romp.
  2. Boiling Point – Stephen Graham is fantastic in everything but he owns the screen as a head chef working through the busiest night of the year, and his own demons.
  3. Cha Cha Real Smooth – Cooper Raiff (Star, Writer, Director) has a big future in front of him. If you haven’t seen Sh!thouse (2022) check it out. His work is personal, compelling, and honest in the best ways.

Long Awaited Watches – I don’t know why or how I put off watching these for so long but I did until this year.

  1. The Godfather Part II: Electric Boogaloo – Honestly, I wasn’t smitten by part one enough to run out and see it but I’m glad I did. Not in my top 20 of all time, but I get the reverence.
  2. Miracle on 34th Street – I don’t know why but I never bothered until this year and I found it better than I expected.
  3. Some Like it Hot – I’d never seen a Marilyn Monroe film and I get why; not great. Curtis and Lemon make up for it.
Rumble Fish is the best film from 1983 you never saw.

I don’t watch regular, casual TV or sports (outside of College Football), but I did get through these as well:

The BEST TV in 2022:

  1. Better Call Saul – I’m going to say it, the series is better than Breaking Bad. Rarified air for sure.
  2. Station Eleven – This was a wildly transfixing apocalypse drama that I couldn’t get enough of.
  3. The Afterparty – A stellar cast and songs that I lol’d over plenty of times.
  4. Our Flag Means Death – So much heart and hilarity rolled into one. A truly innovative series.
  5. The Bear – Yes, Chef. Thank you, Chef.
  6. We Own This City – Jon Bernthal is my ride-or-die and starring in the heir to The Wire? Hell yes.
  7. Severance – Weird concept that sucks you in when you consider the implications.
  8. Succession“You can’t make a Tomlette without breaking some Greggs.” This is the best series on TV, bar none. Long may it reign.
  9. Only Murders in the Building – So. Much. Fun.
  10. Ted Lasso – I hate soccer and love this.

“Her” – What does it say about “Us?”

Having just watched Spike Jonze 2013 Oscar Winner for Best Original Screenplay, “Her” last night, I’ve been flooded with questions the last 24 hours, and not a soul to discuss them with that thought anything other than “that was… weird.”

Some SPOILERS beyond this point:

In fairness, it was weird. That’s what completely new things feel like – weird. Not the familiarity of the tried and true and too often repeated. And being so original it can make one uncomfortable with its intimacy. Not just the kind shared between the lonely poet-of-sorts and a computer program, but the unveiled honesty of the whole experience.

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From the start we see a famous pregnant woman’s photo (Demi Moore’s 1991 Vanity Fair cover, anyone?) come to life in Theodore’s mind as pure fantasy (weird, right?) and further to his brief, anonymous phone call with a woman who encourages him to choke her with a cat in order to bring the interlude to climax. Super weird. These aren’t things we’re used to seeing or thoughts of a nature we’re used to sharing.

Theodore is alone, and as he’s not surrounded by another person, there is no reason for artifice. He communicates like we all do with our most intimate selves – we just happen to be watching – and that’s the problem apparently. It is fully accepted and understood that we all live private lives that we don’t share with anyone – something always is held back for fear of how it will be construed. But Theodore doesn’t have this limitation: telling all to an insanely curious operating system (desperate to know the world and to know this man) he’s not at risk of being judged the same way his blind date will judge him.

In that last part there’s the bit of the ultimate male fantasy, I suppose: The woman who exists (it appears) to do little else but to love and care for us. Lest Ted get bored too quickly, he tells Samantha that he’s not ready for anything too serious. To our surprise she responds not as the demure, emotionally attached woman, but as an honest-to-goodness person of her own. She has dreams and wants, and doesn’t just live to make our guy’s life grand. That’s interesting and refreshing – because this is a love story and not just “guy has interactive phone-coitus with his OS and it’s totally weird but beautiful, kinda, because Spike Jonze put cool music over long shots of Phoenix riding a train.”

These characters are real and more importantly, honest. The normal bet-hedging we all do when we meet someone gets eliminated here. She’s forthright with her fears, though appropriately hesitant (for effect) and does her best to grow as a person. She wants him to be happy and wants the same for herself. Instead of being the trapped housewife we might imagine, she’s actually living an incomparably full life – one Theodore can never match.

Being that close (as viewers) to the unbelievable highs of new love and the (inevitable?) growing apart that these two go through, is an unsettling experience. So yeah, “weird…” is a perfectly appropriate description of “Her” but also woefully incomplete. It’s also about the scars of losing someone and the scariness of loving someone else again. It’s about selflessness and shared existence, about our desire to find happiness almost anywhere.

Could you love a computer program? I think most will be quick to dismiss the notion as too fanciful, but isn’t (sufficiently bright) Artificial Intelligence, still “Intelligence?” And isn’t that half or more of what we come to love about another person – or at least the part that really sticks? Sure, the way they wrinkle their nose when they’re about to sneeze, or the way they hold their coffee with both hands when it’s cold, are super cute, but is it the lion’s-share of why we love them?

In the end, isn’t it the relationship between our intelligence and another’s, that pulls the lever in our brain, the one releasing the dopamine and serotonin that cause us to get so insanely high that we act all kinds of crazy in love?

Amy: “Are you falling in love with her?”

Theodore: “Does that make me a freak?”

Amy: “No, no, I think it’s, I think anybody who falls in love is a freak. It’s a crazy thing to do. It’s kind of like a form of socially acceptable insanity.”

Would it have made a difference had Theodore reached Samantha on the phone randomly at the start of the film, as opposed to uploading her onto his computer? His having never known she was a program – would we view it any differently? There are plenty of people who have relationships that are entirely long-distance, one’s where they’ll never meet the person on the other end of the phone, or computer. Little odd? Maybe, but not dismissively so. 

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I’m haunted by so many aspects of this film: What does it say about the connections we make and the connections we don’t? Towards the end it kind of dawns on Theodore that everyone is having these silo-like-relationships. It’s almost a “Soylent Green is made out of people!” moment. But far less ominous, of course. Would such a relationship, undertaken knowingly, be “healthy” in any way? There clearly aren’t any ethical implications, right? Wouldn’t an unchecked AI with the power and sophistication of Samantha be incredibly dangerous? I mean, Terminator starts with far less in the way of operational processing power, doesn’t it?

More importantly: if Samantha can feel things, emotionally, what kind of responsibility does that place on Theodore (or anyone) to treat her in a respectful manner? Is an AI, regardless of how sophisticated, just a series of switches and impulses sending out hyper-realistic communication, but ultimately nothing more than so many magnetically positioned ones and zeroes?  And if so, should it be excluded from the same respect we pay to animals? Or the mentally deficient? If an AI (like the newly resurrected Alan Watts of the film) is created with a sufficiently complex “personality” does that mean it should be afforded the same rights as a person? Meaning it would be unethical to shut it down without due process?

Much like an iceberg, the total mass of questions this movie represents are largely unseen, I just wish more people saw the exposed parts for how intricate they are.