The Batman (Matt Reeves, 2022)
The richness of Reeve’s vision for this reboot of the iconic character is made immediately known through a stunning mix of cinematography and powerful soundscape. Once this is established the film settles in with a measured pace, leaning heavily into the noir and highlighting the Detective motif. The Batman takes center stage with Bruce Wayne being used to accent the vigilante’s character study. The fiilm reads like the Planet of the Apes trilogy, with the films wonderfully imperfect presence settng the stage for what seems like it will grow into a truly exceptional whole once the full vision is made complete.
Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957)
A breathtaking romp through the mud of some generally disgusting and nasty human behavior. This film is chock full of memorable and great lines, but one word rings true- they are all “snakes”. No other way to describe this mash up of characters.
The story essentially follows a columnist writing for the New York Times and his efforts to break up a romance he disapproves of between his sister and a jazz musician. He has a way with words of course and is used to being in a position of control. The more things spin wildly out of control the deeper he sinks into this increasingly self interested and merciless scheme. This is where charachter and motivations and the desperation of the damaged ego rises more and more to the surface.
The fllm translates readily across eras and feels uncomfortably familiar to certain traits of modern society. While the treatment of women on display rings loud as a product of its time (making its commentary that much more profound) what’s perhaps more scary are the ways this still expresses itself today in different forms.
The black and white sinks this all into the wonderful noirish vibes, making this a real visual delight along with a near perfect script and outstanding performances.
Scarborough (Rich Willimsn, Shasha Nakhai, 2022)
I laughed and smiled, cried, gripped my chair in some serious moments of tension related anxiety. The film brings out all the emotions. Mostly though I was enraptured by the stories of these individuals, adult and child alike. A dstinctly Canadian story, the film has the feel of a doc which blurs into a subdued and constrained narrative style in a way that feels natural and accentuates an understated realism. The unhurried structure allows the script to let everything unfold in its own time, sitting in the necessary and reflective space and staying attentive to the different moments that capture and inform their constatly shifting emotional state. It results in a powerful finish that is bittersweet in its own way, holding tragedy and hope together as equal parts of the same human story as it follows these families living in a low income area and struggling to figure things out. One of my favorites of 2022 thus far.
Turning Red (Domee Shi, 2022)
Yes, I’m the clueless man who had no idea Turning Red was a grand metaphor for puberty and periods. Nicely done Pixar. Love how it anchors this developmental stage in the larger world of family and friendship and that gradual process of becoming, and the way it does this from a distinctly woman’s, and an even broader cultural perspective.
“We’ve all got a messy, loud, weird part of oursleves hidden away. And a lot of us never let it out.”
Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (Pawo Choyning Dorji, 2021)
Lunana: a Yak in the Classroom is a film from Bhutan contending in the International Feature category at this year’s Academy Awards and it is genuinely one of the most uplifting stories of 2021. It’s sweet, deeply affecting and refreshingly simple in its approach, following an urban teacher discontent with city life and looking for a change as he relocates temporarily to a remote school high in the mountains of the Bhutan countryside.
The Yak is symbolic and also very much real (and adorable). Yak dung is also symbolic and very much real. The film also operates, in a symbolic and very real way, as a love letter to educators. This should be mandatory viewing for the many teachers who have tirelessly and faithfully navigated a pandemic. Its both inspiring and therapeutic and a great reminder of the power the teacher-student relationship holds.
Honorable Mentions: Two great 2022 horror releases in the cerebral social commentary Master, and the atsopmheric Irish tale You Are Not My Mother. Also three new releases from 2022 on the dramatic front- the surprisingly well crafted The Outfit a quiet but confident low key thriller, Luzzu, the equally quiet human drama about the intersection of family responsiblity and economic/societal demands, and the sweet but complex family drama Beneath the Banyan Tree.
Index, A History of the: A Bookish Adventure From Medieval Manuscripts to the Digital Age by Dennis Duncan
I love interesting and off the beaten path histories. They often provide a unique window into the world I otherwise would not be able to see otherwise. Here we step into history by way of the Index, learning how this changed the way we process, document and remember information forever and walking through how it plays out and expresses itsef in different areas of society. Such an inconspicuous invention, but one that brought about an incredible shift in humanity and human function.
Grace By Natashia Deon
An exciting new author (for me). She writes somewhat in the horror genre, but of the strong social commentary type. This epic story spanning generations delves into the black experience by way of these connecting experiences, showing how experiences hold the power to reach basckwards and forwards within the lives of these inheriting inviduals. Strong effort, and I’m ready to dive into her second work.
When Everythings On FIre: Faith Forged From the Ashes by Brian Zhand
A book about reconstructing by way of deconstructing. Takes aim at some of the serious shortcomings of conservatives and progressives alike while gracefully imagining a more helpful way forward out of the ashes of struggle, doubt, new learnings and reshaping.
Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt
A little bit too tied to his Reformed roots for my liking, but nevertheless much of what he has to say is quite good and helpful. Doubt it not the enemy, and certainty is not the opposite of doubt.
The Bible For Normal People, Episode 198: Anna Sieges- The Minor Prophets and Why We Shouldn’t Call Them That
A great episode with a young, leading thinker in the field of the Minor Prophets. Lots of information, and so much of what Sieges says helps to open up these books in a whole new way, challenging us to read them not in the way man of us have been trained- as individual writers and author, but as a thematic whole with a very real arc.
Amateur Traveler Travel Podcast, Episode 794: Texas Hill Country Road Trip
One of my favorite travel podcasts. When episodes really click they are often full of great information and really practical tips. In this case it made me want to visit the Texas Hill Country soon.
The Film Comment Podcas t, Episode 348: Ukranian Cinema with Anastasiya Osipova and Lukas Brasiskis
Loved this walk through Ukranian cinema especially with its an eye on the current state of it. Very informative and quite enjoyable.
The Book Review, Episodes 390 and 391: The Sciene Behind Mental Afflictions and A Personal Tour of Modern Irish History
Two great episodes in a row. One on the science behind mental afflcitions- hint, its far more integrated with the physical body and with food then we think. The other is a romp through Irish history and identity.
The History of Literature, Episode 377: Writers in Odessa, Ukraines “Black Sea Pearl”
A wonderful look at Odessa and its cultural roots. Beautiful city, beauitful place, and it has given the world important and beautiful art.
Mike Edel- Threshholds
Neon Dream: Sweet Dreams till Sunbeams
The Band Camino- The Band Camino
Scenic Route to Alaska- Long Walk Home
The Sheepdogs- Live At Lees