Best of 2022: Film and Television

It’s that time of year again folks. While we realize you might not lean on The Metropole for its pop culture sensibilities, if the explosion in streaming has made one thing clear, choice is great, but sometimes choice feels overwhelming. A tip here, a tip there, can uncover a hidden gem lost among the digital trees of the proliferating streaming ecosystem or help us avoid descending down an eight-episode rabbit hole of mediocrity. Our editors offer their favorite film and television series from 2022.

Best Films of 2022

Francesco De Salvatore (assistant editor): These days I am stuck in the 1970s watching cop shows/films for my dissertation. But, I have had a few chances to watch some contemporary movies! As a lover of horror and sci-fi, it was an average year, unfortunately. That said, I enjoyed horror/thriller movies like Barbarian (this one is especially of interest for urban historians!); Bodies, Bodies, Bodies; and Nope (Ryan will be receiving hate mail from me). For sci-fi, Everything Everywhere All at Once was great! If you’re looking for an interesting documentary, I definitely recommend Fire of Love. And if you need more Nicolas Cage in your life, go see Pig from 2021; Cage is back! The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent wasn’t bad either. Anyhow, back to the 1970s for me! 

Avigail Oren (senior co-editor): I really enjoyed Adam Sandler’s basketball passion project, Hustle. Juancho Hernangomez manages to wow with both his acting and basketball, and I loved Boban Marjanović and Anthony Edwards’s performances as well—both make more than a cameo appearance. I do think you need to minimally enjoy basketball to get into this movie, but I liked it for how Sandler portrays the desperation after a long, grueling career to prove oneself and leave a legacy. 

Charlotte Rosen (Disciplining the City/Disciplining the Nation series co-editor): Maybe not a favorite film, but I thoroughly enjoyed the stakes-free drama surrounding Don’t Worry Darling. Dare I say it united the nation in a time of discord and division? At least it made Twitter fun again. I saw it in theaters, and while it was not the slightest bit Oscar worthy, with more (plot) holes than Swiss cheese and an a vaguely feminist argument that felt derived from a quick skimming of Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique, it was entertaining and visually interesting. (Spoiler maybe…) Seeing Harry Styles as a vile incel was a bonus!

Angela Stiefbold (copy & formatting editor): Because I am still rather risk-averse when it comes to going to a theater, I have a long list of 2022 films I want to see when they are available on streaming. However, I did accompany my significant other to see Top Gun: Maverick on the big screen, because how could you watch it on a little one, and I have to say it was much better than I thought it would be. All of this year’s available-on-streaming offerings that I’ve watched I give a “meh.” Of last year’s movies now available to watch at home, my favorite was Coda, the coming-of-age story of a hearing teen in a deaf family that is struggling to succeed in the fishing industry.

Matthew Guariglia (Disciplining the City/Disciplining the Nation series co-editor): This was a busy year, so I didn’t get a chance to see everything I wanted to, but two of the standouts have to be Everything Everywhere All at Once, which reminded me for the first time in years just how fun a movie could be while also really tugging at those old heartstrings. You have to love a sci-fi movie that commits to the premise without really taking itself so seriously. Nope also spoke to my love of classic mid-twentieth-century sci-fi while lacing through ideas about race, American spectacle, and the West that give you a lot to think through. On my list of hypothetical movies that I probably would have enjoyed and didn’t see yet: 3000 Years of Longing (who doesn’t love a movie about a sad academic) and Triangle of Sadness, because I loved Ruben Östlund’s two other movies, The Square and Force Majeure

Ryan Reft (senior co-editor): Half the time I don’t actually watch films until the year AFTER they are released. Case in point, I watched The Lost Daughter, Don’t Look Up, and other notable 2021 releases in 2022. I was going to prattle on about how even though it’s one of his more uneven works, I found The French Dispatch from twee-king Wes Andersen to be funny, melancholic, and effective, particularly in the film’s second half, but again, it came out in 2021.

What does that leave me with?  I could go on about how Top Gun: Maverick was the most enjoyable advertisement for the military industrial complex since…well, Top Gun, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll point you to All the Old Knives, a tense, slow-burn thriller with Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton at its center. Absolutely worthy of a late December watch. The only kind of superhero films I’m into are the weird ones like Thor: Ragnorok or 2022’s Everything Everywhere All at Once, which manages to incorporate absurdity, pathos, and action into a story about family, immigration, and generational change.

On the documentary tip, Elvis Mitchell’s Is that Black Enough For You? delves into the history of Black film. Reminiscent of L.A. Plays Itself, but less cranky, Is that Black Enough for You? ruminates on just how Black filmmakers and actors managed to reshape the larger industry—creatively, commercially, and cinematically—in the face of discrimination, under investment, and disregard. Finally, I’ll leave you with this hot take. I dig Jordan Peele. Get Out is one of the best films of the twenty-first century. I did not like Nope. I sat there for two hours waiting for something to happen, and it didn’t. I know, I know “meta this” “meta that”. Peele is immensely talented and Nope was a critical darling, but I thought it was one of the more boring movies I’ve seen in a long time. You can send all your hate mail to my twitter account, that site’s a tire fire anyway. 

Students watching television in a “TV class” in a Rushville, Indiana school (1952), Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Favorite Television Series

(2022 season from an ongoing show, or a new one that premiered this year) 

Avigail: Based on the trailer for HBO’s House of the Dragon, I suspected we were in for a poorly written, nonsensically plotted Game of Thrones knockoff money grab. I was wrong! It is a well written, enthralling Game of Thrones money grab! If you liked the first seasons of GoT, you will probably enjoy this prequal centered on women rivaling to control Westeros. 

Francesco: If you want to watch wealthy people suffer at a resort, White Lotus comes highly recommended. If you’re looking for a little horror and sci-fi in your life, Archive 81 was great! 

Charlotte: I watch an ungodly amount of TV. I want to make the case that a trio of new shows offer a really interesting and clever critique of neoliberal austerity and the privatization of social services: Abbott Elementary, This Fool, and Loot (Insecure in many ways pioneered this genre, it should be said). While these shows are entertaining, hilarious, and brilliant for other reasons, too, I’ve been thinking a lot about how they slip in subtle digs at the defunding of public education, absurdity of billionaire-backed philanthropy, and racialized/classed politics of nonprofit service work. 

Also, as an avid Bravo fan, I just watched my first episodes of Below Deck, a reality tv show about the people that work on fancy yachts. Everyone is hooking up with and/or fighting with each other, sleeping in cabins the size of closets, all while catering to some of the worst rich people in the world. In one episode, one of the workers was frantically asking bars on some island in Greece if they would show a Steelers game at like 3:00 a.m., because their guests were adamant they watch it (and one of them stated he had not missed a game in something like 30 years). Harrowing stuff. I’m already obsessed and scared for what’s to come. 

Matthew: Like Charlotte, I watch far too much television. As a fan of classic sci-fi and horror, you can’t go wrong with 1899, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, or Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. As a fan of camp and a historian of the Progressive era, I quite enjoyed HBO’s The Gilded Age. But I also devoured the first season (and now part of the second) of the spy procedural Slow Horses.

Ryan: After the existentialism of Atlanta season three, season four’s return to a (somewhat) more coherent narrative, though one admittedly still punctuated by a sour magical realism, was welcome. For the record, I dug season three’s weird Europeanness and trolling bottle episodes, but if this is the last season, well then, it needed to return home to where it all began. Honorable mention to Andor. Most of the Star Wars stuff kind of sucks now, but Andor, a descendant of arguably the best film of the series since the original two, Rogue One, has just the right balance of darkness and light, so that the show actually carries real adult world tension. Great season finale too. Finally, I second Charlotte’s Abbott Elementary pick. I taught high school history and English in the NYC public schools for almost a decade, and this show hits all the right marks.

Angela: I echo Ryan’s endorsement of Andor, for exactly the same reasons. I also really liked the second season of Reservation Dogs; it continued the story of four indigenous teens growing up in rural Oklahoma, but I also appreciated that it branched out to tell more of the stories of their mothers. Another show I really liked, which I note is also focused on teens but included more about the lives of their parents this season, was the third and final series of Derry Girls, set in Northern Ireland in the 1990s. Finally, I’ll put in a plug for Blown Away, which released its third season of competitive glassblowing. It is amazing what creative works can be made with glass!

Featured image (at top): Movie theater in Greenbelt, MD (1940), Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

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