Favorites of 2022: TV

This was a great year for TV, overstuffed with brilliant finales and new offerings. Sadly, I haven’t had time to watch all that I’ve wanted — I’m still sitting on UNDONE S2, ANDOR, PACHINKO, FOR ALL MANKIND, STATION ELEVEN as well as personal favorites EVIL and much much more — but if I waited to watch everything I wanted in order to pen this, this post would never see the light of day.

BARRY (Season Three)

BARRY so consistently delicately threads drama and action and dark comedy while also being one of the most emotionally draining and enthralling shows on television. Visually it has its own amazing language, which paid off major dividends in 710N and the striking season finale.

BETTER CALL SAUL (Season Six, Part Two)

If there’s any justice in the world, BETTER CALL SAUL will be more influential than BREAKING BAD. Its plotting, action, and character work takes everything they learned from BREAKING BAD (and THE X-FILES, don’t forget Gilligan’s on-the-job training) and finely hones it into a brutal deconstruction of two unconventional misfits.

While so much ink was spilled about the finale, the end of Jimmy’s arc, I found the penultimate episode to be far more affective, as it laser-focuses on how the fallout of Kim’s entanglement with Jimmy has affected her in a way you simply don’t often see portrayed.


“[BETTER THINGS] makes time to luxuriate in life and the little joys: the tranquility of cooking, a brief nap in the park, people-watching, while never turning a blind eye to the harder parts of living, especially when you have to tend to the ever-changing needs of your children and yourself.

No, the show is not a gut-buster; it’s not meant to be. However, it always makes me laugh, and then two minutes later my eyes are welling up.”

While I’ll be forever grateful that FX gave this show five seasons, it feels like a goddamn injustice that — apart from a handful of critics — it mostly came and went unnoticed. It’s such a vivid and singular depiction of home and family and aging that everyone should be exposed to.

DOOM PATROL (Season ?)

Yes, not one, but two DC TV shows on this list. (And, tellingly, no Marvel shows.) Unlike HARLEY QUINN, I was already in the bag for DOOM PATROL having read and loved Grant Morrison’s iconic run, albeit probably later in life than I should have.

However, I was skeptical that they could capture the wild wonder of their world. To some extent, they do not — while it has a far bigger budget than I would expect, it’s still difficult for the show to do justice to a sentient block mirroring Haight-Asbury — but they’re trying their damnedest.

And that’s okay, because the show leans in a different direction. Like HARLEY QUINN, this show doubles-down on the found misfit family facet, trauma-bonding, while adding savior complexes to the group. It also includes Cyborg who seems like a strange fit, but they work him in as well as possible.

Also like HARLEY QUINN, it is a voyage of trauma-exploration — it even features a similar ‘dissociative event/we have to enter their mind’ episode — however, where QUINN sees a light at the end of the tunnel, DOOM PATROL is far more dour, perhaps more than Morrison initially intended. These are castaways who have lived with too much for far too long and, consequently, feel rudderless.

I’ll note that this year’s season has barely kicked off, and I’m still working through the prior seasons, but as a show it really hit me in the gut and I couldn’t leave it off this list.

GIRLS5EVA (Season Two)

This season didn’t quite hit the highs of the first, but it still provided effortless laughs and brilliant performances.

HARLEY QUINN (Season Three)

Before I’d watched a single episode, I had written off HARLEY QUINN as a filthy lark — hyper-violent, intentionally offensive snark — but enough critics boosted it that I thought it’d be a fun comedic, mindless watch at a time when I desperately needed that midway through this year.

I was absolutely 100% wrong on all counts. (Well, not about it being filthy and hyper-violent because it most certainly is.) I also watched it at a time I most certainly shouldn’t have been watching it, during a period in my life when I was explicitly told to stay away from trauma-centeric works after a bout of enduring extremely difficult works and processing waaaay too much.

HARLEY QUINN is all about dealing with/confronting trauma and abusers and people-pleasing and recovery, but despite the fact that the show is so dirty that I of all people had to consult urbandictionary.com, it’s surprisingly healthy. Ultimately, it’s about Harley realizing herself, her potential, and growing as a person, as opposed to the standard misery porn most shows lean on.

This year’s season isn’t as concise as the prior two, nor is it as emotionally brutal, but it finally coupled-up Poison Ivy and Harley and portrayed the two as a very complicated, but fulfilling, relationship. The writers bend over backwards to underscore that their relationship doesn’t ‘solve’ Harley, that there’s still work to be done. The fact that they can do so while firing off lines like “I can’t listen to ya when you’re dressed like a 40s housewife who is fucking her husband’s boss.” is just an added bonus.


The story of two beautiful people with big beautiful problems, all extremely graciously handled by the ever-empathetic Ethan Hawke.


I’m still working through the second season, however this show has such a taut command over its characters and tone and what they want to say that it has to be included. A heartfelt raw nerve of a show.


On paper, every Green/Hill/McBride show should not be for me; immature, petulant male bravado is not my bag.

However, they are absolutely amazing at giving their mostly terrible characters nuance while still being hilariously quotable -and- instilling them with genuine humanity and pathos. Crazily enough, HBO has also given them a budget that allows them to create some shockingly JOHN WICK-worthy set-pieces.


An absolute mindfuck of a reality show in all of the right and wrong ways. By the end I couldn’t help but feel like numerous crimes had been voluntarily committed.


An absolute joy of a humane comedy. The writers are restless and endlessly inventive, and the cast as always game for it. –Go Flip Yourself– is an instant classic.



“[A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN is] about rewiring cultural attitudes and figuring out what’s best for yourself when you’re actively able to make said decisions.”


The Home Shopping Network is an easy target to lampoon, but I LOVE THAT FOR YOU never punches down, opting instead to tell a serious-but-often-comedic character story about what happens when you get the spotlight you want, and what you’ll do to keep the spotlight on you.


I grew up in Vermont and I’m old, so I was part of a select few of those in the United States who actually saw KIDS IN THE HALL via antenna way back in the day.

If you haven’t seen the original run: I implore you to do so.

That said, I was a bit worried about this return, that it might feel a bit tired, but they still hit all of the right notes. Also, it was all worth it solely for Doomsday DJ.

MYTHIC QUEST (Season Three)

Given the history of all of the creators and writers of this series — notably from IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA folks — I expected MYTHIC QUEST to be an even filthier SILICON VALLEY and, while I’m sure so many folks would have been happy with that, instead it’s a surprisingly tender — though still barbed — workplace drama that I’m shocked exists, partially because it actually showcases how gaming culture and audiences have significantly changed.

It’s no longer about tech dudebros — although yes, they’re there — but the show isn’t so pre-occupied with that. It’s genuinely supportive.

It recalls WKRP and 30 ROCK, because with most workplace sitcoms you already know how the sausage is made, but with those, you really didn’t.

Also, Polly uses the exact same faceless, pitch-black mechanical keyboard I’ve used for years, which is a really, really nice touch.


The queer CABIN BOY/CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS TV show no one knew they wanted or needed.

SEVERANCE (Season One)

Finally, an emotional, character-centric high-concept show that fills the LOST-shaped hole in everyone’s heart. Immaculately designed, perfectly cast; it was a treat of a wintertime show.


For the theatre nerd in all of us; an affecting homecoming story that reminded me of the sadly overlooked ONE MISSISSIPPI. It’s also one of the last performances from classic character actor Mike Hagerty, and he gives it his all here.


An absolutely delightful sci-fi throwback that captures the wonder and excitement of exploration.


Some of the finest surrealism on TV, at least until it was canceled. At least it went out with a bang.


(Prime) As a youth I loved baseball. I loved the rules, the rigidity, the anything-can-happen pacing, but most of all I loved the underdogs. I’m not going to say I moved to Chicago — within spitting distance of Wrigley Field much less — because of the Cubs, but it didn’t hurt.

When I first played Little League baseball I was always tucked away in right field until one friend’s father saw something in my arm, then moved me to shortstop, then tried me as pitcher.

Reader: I sucked. And after every loss, I’d weep. Hell, I’d cry whenever I struck out, which was often because I was so nervous at performing in this sport I loved. So, yeah, while I realize Penny Marshall’s A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN is singularly about ostracized and misfit women to literally fill the void of men, I nonetheless identify with it.

Abbi Jacobson’s & Will Graham’s A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN repositions the narrative as a queer coming-of-age tale instead of one of self-actualization. That may sound like I’m splitting hairs, but the film was boosterism and the show is not. The show is a journey of people finding themselves, and discovering a world beyond them apart from baseball. Yes, only one character in the show is a teenager — and seventeen at that — but it’s the 1940s and a good number of these characters lived a pretty sheltered, demonstrative and fake life until they found the impetus to put themselves out there.

While the Rockwell Peaches act more as a found family, it’s the activities that occur on the fringes that really makes the show interesting. Front-and-center is the team’s catcher Carson (Abbi Jacobson, BROAD CITY) who falls in love with teammate Greta (D’Arcy Carden, a.k.a THE GOOD PLACE’s Janet), but there’s also aspiring pitcher Max (Chanté Adams, BAD HAIR) and both are finding and navigating their queerness on-the-side.

I’ve seen a lot of shows and films that try to portray that vibe and often it feels too heightened, not heightened enough, or downright disingenuous. However, A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN — thanks to the time and patience they take with the characters — unfurls slowly in ways that felt rather singularly to my youth. There’s an enlightened bewilderment portrayed by the show — the wonder that people can live these sort of misfit lives — that was absolutely eye-opening when I was a young teen goth. There’s one scene in a later episode when Carson follows someone to a club and, when she realizes that she’s in a queer underground club, you can see in her face just how life-changing it is for her.

Unlike other club depictions in media, this club is surprisingly quiet and chill (and also headed by Rosie O’Donnell) and it feels warm and safe (until it isn’t). While I’m not the club kid I used to be, I’ve lived in predominantly queer neighborhoods for most of my life, and when you know who you want to be surrounded by, you know, and that’s what this show is all about — both on the team and off of the field.

Given that Amazon sat on this show for so long gives me doubts it’ll receive a second season, and I’m not even sure it’s terribly sustainable unless they jump ahead in time — someone please pitch that! — but the first season is an exceptional love letter to Marshall’s film and also to all of the weirdos and misfits out there that reach out, that try to forge bonds and communities at great risk.

It’s about rewiring cultural attitudes and figuring out what’s best for yourself when you’re actively able to make said decisions.

Favorites of 2022: Film

This was not a great year for prestige films or flyboy-less blockbusters, but it was a fantastic year for small-scale genre films. Granted, I have missed out on a lot of films — I have yet to see ARMAGEDDON TIME or EO or WOMEN TALKING or a bunch of others as there’s never enough time — but below are my current favorites of 2022.


Brilliantly nuanced work about youth and child rearing. One of the most intriguing body horror films since Cronenberg’s THE FLY.


“[An] absolutely outrageous film; it’s mind-bogglingly high-concept, often amusingly puerile, always inventive, but also remarkably emotionally grounded.”


“This is a quiet film, both in tone and in scope, but it confidently speaks volumes. It’s a work about ennui and minor victories and emotional stumbles while also being about longing for an accepting crowd. It’s a melancholy, complicated film told simply, one that’s destined for cult status, simply because it defies tonal categorization or, perhaps, because it’s so cute, so initially innocuous, while ultimately being a measured existential tale, one so immaculately put together in a way that will almost certainly have you smiling through tears.”


High-concept filmmaking with the heart of Cahiers du Cinéma; an audacious look at Hollywood’s role in representing history and people.


The film that made me ask myself: “Why the fuck do I put myself through this?” A brazen and tautly constructed spiral of trauma.


“A meditation on finding one’s identity and transformation [and] how people reach out through technology when there’s no other way. It’s a heartfelt, singular work.”


“Equal parts Truffaut’s THE WILD CHILD, Virginia Woolf’s novel ORLANDO and Sally Potter’s film adaptation, and Angela Carter’s THE BLOODY CHAMBER and Neil Jordan’s adaptation, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES.”



Cronenberg returns to body horror in a big way, letting Kristen Stewart do whatever she wants, indulging Viggo Mortensen in breath work, all while showcasing Tarkovsky-esque backdrops.


If life is fair — and we all know it is not — this film will become a cult-classic, at least as long as long as it’s available to stream. It starts off as a private high-school STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and then becomes something completely different, all backed by an astounding 90s soundtrack. Shades of a modern JAWBREAKER from the creators of SWEET/VICIOUS.


Extraordinarily winsome character drama that puts the delights and desires of the best features of attire forward.


A surprising “paean to 50s Technicolor melodramas” from one of the most humanist genre filmmakers working right now.


(Cinemas/Prime) I was one of the few folks who watched HBO’s GIRLS simply because it was from the director of TINY FURNITURE. I know that Lena Dunham is a rather polarizing individual in media, but I love her voice, while realizing that it is extremely selective, it is also very distinct.

CATHERINE CALLED BIRDY is no different, despite the fact that it’s based on a children’s book that Dunham didn’t pen. It’s the story of a medieval youth, Catherine, often called Birdy (the brilliant Bella Ramsey, who stole every scene she was in on GAME OF THRONES as Lyanna Mormont), trying to navigate life while her alcoholic father (Hot Priest Andrew Scott) tries to sell her off to a suitor.

While that sounds rather tragic, it ultimately isn’t. It’s a carefully calibrated tale of life and emotion and struggles, and features Dunham’s quick wit and humor (as well as all of the trappings that come with her work).


Few novels can evoke the feeling of a Kurt Vonnegut work, of leaning on the crafting of an internal sci-fi novel, one that speaks just as much as the text it’s buried in, but Caroline Woods’s THE LUNAR HOUSEWIFE manages it.

Louise Leithouser inhabits 1953 New York City as a romance writer who pens articles for her boyfriend Joe’s upstart culture magazine DOWNTOWN under the name of ‘Alfred King’. She met Joe while waitressing an industry party, and passed herself off as someone with a higher station in life than in reality and, while she’s still insecure about her lower-class background, she’s slowly adjusting to being part of the upper-crust party, instead of being party to hand out hors d’oeuvres.

As Louise spends more time with Joe and Harry, the other half of DOWNTOWN magazine, her suspicions are raised as she overhears murmurs of fear and paranoia from the two of them. By the time she’s assigned an interview with Papa himself — Ernest Hemingway — she’s fraught with anxiety, which he stokes with off-the-cuff remarks about government surveillance and the like.

To process her suspicions, Louise writes her life into the star-crossed romance novel she’s always wanted to pen: THE LUNAR HOUSEWIFE, which focuses on a fuckup of a single American woman who defected to the Soviets in hopes of feeling useful again, who is then shot into space to be a ‘housewife’ to a single man while the two of them inhabit a pod on the moon.

Woods’s interweaving of second-halves, literary aspirations and influences, along with the singular thorough-line of cold war insecurities, sets the stage for Kilgore Trout-ish digressions, which are a fine second-side to the same coin; Woods leans on romantic fiction tropes instead of Trout’s action and wartime scenarios to spread her, and Louise’s, deeper messages.

While THE LUNAR HOUSEWIFE isn’t as intricately wound as one might like from a thriller, it trades the intrigue for ruminating on a more realistic portrayal of the end-result of confronting others with your paranoid instincts. This is a singular tale of a woman with artistic and autonomous aspirations, of a woman who, in her own words, learns that “the government lies to you. Men lie to you.” and is constantly endeavoring to keep herself open, while protecting herself.



Sarah Waters often traffics in thrilling historical lesbian romances, which is obvious by the names of her earlier novels, such as TIPPING THE VELVET (1998) and FINGERSMITH (2002).

THE NIGHT WATCH (2006) is a bit of a detour, as it’s far more Dickensian — in spirit, not time as it takes place in various times before, during, and after World War Two in London — and far more of an ensemble, which features not only a lesbian couple, but also a straight couple, and one jailed man whose sexuality is slightly more complex. (There are additional supporting characters, but those are the major players.)

If that description sounds maddeningly vague, it’s by intent. THE NIGHT WATCH is incredibly restrained with doling out character particulars, and jumps around in years to intentionally provoke intrigue and drama, but also serves to contrast how these characters have coped with wartime and recovery.

In that sense, it feels remarkably relevant in this age of COVID-19, as you read how the characters shelter-in-place, experience how they put themselves at risk by venturing out into the world, tales of first responders, and the like. More than anything, it’s about living with an invisible threat while also living a hidden life, and yes, it’s just as loaded as it sounds.

While all of the characters are richly drawn, I can’t help but wish that Waters had dialed back the scope a bit, as I found myself drawn to the queer relationships lived by Helen, Kay, and Julia, as opposed to the straight and male romances lived through Viv, Reggie, and Duncan, all of which felt like their relationships were hitting the same notes, but with less-satisfying results.

Regardless, Waters is an expert at balancing literary storytelling while also penning extraordinary steamy content, and it’s worth reading THE NIGHT WATCH solely for the more tantalizing passages and the relationship dynamics that she details.


If forced to describe YOU WON’T BE ALONE, the first film from Goran Stolevski, in a simple log line, I’d say: it’s equal parts Truffaut’s THE WILD CHILD, Virginia Woolf’s novel ORLANDO and Sally Potter’s film adaptation, and Angela Carter’s THE BLOODY CHAMBER and Neil Jordan’s adaptation, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES. (Then again, every single one of those works were very formative for me, so I’m perhaps not the most reliable narrator for this write-up.)

While that may sound very specific, it doesn’t quite do YOU WON’T BE ALONE justice. Set in 19th century Macedenoia, it’s about a young girl promised to a wolf-eateress named Maria (a ruthlessly great Anamaria Marinca) — for all intents and purposes, a witch — by her mother to account for being set fire to at the hands of their community. Her mother then forces her daughter into an enclosed cave for the rest of her youth, in an attempt to prevent the witch from absconding with her and turning her into a wolf-eateress/witch.

Once the feral girl is grown, Maria kills the mother, takes on her disguise, and abducts Biliana (Alice Englert, who also appeared in THE POWER OF THE DOG), predictably changing her into a witch with the hopes that she’d be the daughter she never had.

What follows are a number of physical transformations, of Biliana exploring her humanity but in a rather flailing way, and often being disappointed by the results, all portrayed by depictions of fundamental elementals; hair, water, fire, earth, blood and skin.

It’s a bewildering work, one far more sensitive than I thought it’d be, with a wildly roaming camera that knows how to sit still when necessary. It’s visually astounding while also being quietly desperate; a stunningly heartfelt first film.

Favorites of 2021: Films

Here are my favorite — note, not what I feel are the best — films of 2021, in alphabetical, non-prioritized, order:


“I miss this sort of comedy, the kind of comedy that doesn’t call attention to its jokes, the kind that’s sharply written and doesn’t meander or rely on extended improvised riffs. It’s tightly wound silliness with a ton of great talent”

“It was a real tit-flapper!”


“[U]ltimately this is a human drama, one which showcases how very little has changed over hundreds of years.”


“[A]n extremely mannered film until, well, until it isn’t. Stick with it and it will fuck you up.”


A surprisingly sincere triptych from Wes Anderson.


“We’re all healing as we (hopefully) come to the end of this awful era, and seeing JOY RIDE under these circumstances was such an immensely enjoyable time, and I’m so happy I could see it with such giving artists.”


“I can’t recommend these two films enough, but I would suggest watching them relatively close together. I hadn’t seen PART I since it screened in theaters in 2019, and felt like I was missing out on a lot in PART II because, uh, my memory, and the past two years have been particularly harrowing.”


I’ve had the goddamn hardest time getting people to watch this film, solely because of Kristen Stewart, but hell, the way she casts her eyes … I wish folks would just watch the trailer and see her transformation.

“You are your own weapon.”


“Will they kill me, do you think?”


“I can’t remember the last time I so extensively averted my eyes from watching a film. However, those moments are not exploitative — they are meant to be uncomfortable, they are there for a reason. I simply felt that I was able to glean that reason by listening, instead of watching.”


  • PLAN B
  • ZOLA

SPENCER (2021)

Truth be told, I signed up for this screening solely because of Kristen Stewart’s depiction of Princess Diana. I’m not one who cares about the British monarchy. I barely paid attention to either the anointment of Diana or her death, although I do vividly remember seeing it in print …because it was being used as kitty litter at the pet adoption agency I visited shortly after moving to Chicago. I had a panic attack when my wife tried to walk me through the primary Harrods shop, back when it housed -all- of the Diana memorials, solely because of how populated it was. I haven’t even watched Pablo Larraín’s initial film in his ‘(doomed) princess’ trilogy, JACKIE (2016). Consequently, I expected to find SPENCER well-made, but not terribly engaging.

I certainly did not expect it to be a brilliant, skewed take on THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER. While I often read a lot of Greenaway influence into works, I think it’s undeniable here, as Greenaway’s film was explicitly about the suffocation that climate invoked, the prison one is placed in when bending the knee, and SPENCER is all about feeling trapped, about being boxed in and unable to breathe, and similarly about obligation and servitude, while also mimicking THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER’s visual tropes, notably making Diana the camera’s magnet, fixated on following her across rooms and through walls, flat-framing her, exchanging Gautier for Chanel, even color-coordinating her wear with the wallpaper and meals, such as the inaugural dish served at the opening of the three day Christmas decadence: pea green soup capped with a white foam, while she’s attired in a pea green frock lined in white. Also, her primary confidant and connection throughout this debacle? The chef; food being her only comfort apart from her sons.

SPENCER is a bold tale, singularly focused on Diana mentally spiraling downward, unfurling, and realizing that she’s rebuking this life, struggling to return home and to her roots. She’s opting-out, but yet is still trapped. It’s a story of acknowledging service, service to one’s family, to one’s nation, and of knowing yourself and unceremoniously rejecting your place in that hierarchy.

I’m on record as being a Kristen Stewart booster but even I was a bit on the fence about having her portray Diana, but she’s a goddamn revelation in the role, all wild, sad eyes and angered and antagonistic in a way I’ve never seen from her. It’s brilliant casting and writing, with deft camerawork, and surprisingly one of my favorite films of the year.


(Cinemas) BENEDETTA, the latest from the always inventive and thrilling filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, is based on the true story detailed in Judith C. Brown’s text IMMODEST ACTS: THE LIFE OF A LESBIAN NUN IN RENAISSANCE ITALY. Benedetta Carlini (Virginie Efira) was pledged to the church by her rich family after a very troubled birth. Benedetta felt that Jesus spoke to her from a young age, and then when she was a youth, her parents paid for her to stay at a nunnery, which according to the film was a slightly disillusioning experience, partially because of the very brusque, practical abbesse Soeur Felicita (the always exceptional Charlotte Rampling) at least until — later in life — a young Bartolomea (a wide-eyed Daphne Patakia) stumbles into the nunnery and Benedetta’s life, chased by herd of sheep and her abusive and rapey father. Benedetta convinces her parents to pay for her to stay there, and she and Bartolomea spiral into a very complicated, charged relationship, with severely uneven power dynamics on both sides.

Apologies for yet another ‘hey I saw an advance screening of this film’ post, but I saw an advance screening of this film a few weeks ago, and it’s the first film I’ve seen in some time to have protestors castigating those walking through the Music Box doors. (Heads-up: I didn’t capture this footage and this isn’t my account.)

The screening was at least two-thirds populated and, if you can attend a nearby screening, are vaxxed, and are comfortable with it, I would suggest attending. The film looks great — although two loud film nerds of a certain type directly behind me complained about the ‘shit CGI’ without realizing that’s part of Verhoeven’s cartoonish violence schtick — but, given the nature of the material, you wouldn’t think that this film is funny, but it is. It’s Verhoeven — it’s irreverent, but it comes from a place of wanting better from people and society. Always has been, hopefully always will be. There’s a purpose behind his cutting humor beyond sugar-coating some rough moments and being clever; it helps to provide insight and flesh out the characters. Consequently, hearing how people laugh and respond to the material in a crowd situation is surprisingly enlightening, although I will note that at least a good third of the laughs were of the nervous kind.

Yes, Verhoeven did take certain liberties — I won’t mention what they are as one is pretty important, one could say the crux of the film — so there is definitely some fictional sensationalism, but ultimately this is a human drama, one which showcases how very little has changed over hundreds of years.