Cultural Highlights (2022)

BOOKS

I don’t think I read a single thing that came out in 2022, so this is simply a list of the things I read that made me think, cry, laugh, feel seen, furiously turn down pages and seethe with envy.

Favourite Fiction Reads: My Phantoms – Gwendoline Riley, Beautiful World, Where Are You – Sally Rooney (would love to see another Element Pictures adaptation of this one, can see White Lotus’ Leo Woodall as Felix and Stacy Martin as Alice and James Norton as Simon and Aisling Franciosi as Eileen), Sorrow and Bliss – Meg Mason, America Is Not The Heart – Elaine Castillo, Oh William! – Elizabeth Strout, A Passage North – Anuk Arudpragasam

Favourite Short Story Collections: Self-Help – Lorrie Moore (just wow, I think I’ll be trying to get Lorrie Moore imitation stories out of my system for a while), Send Nudes – Saba Sams, Certain American States – Catherine Lacey, Whereabouts – Jhumpa Lahiri, Her Body and Other Parties – Carmen Maria Machado

Favourite Non-Fiction Reads: Happening – Annie Ernaux (also loved the film adaptation), Experiments in Imagining Otherwise – Lola Olufemi, Little Weirds – Jenny Slate, These Precious Days – Ann Patchett, Aftermath – Preti Taneja, On Freedom – Maggie Nelson

Reading intentions for 2023…

Trying to read a book a month that defies my usual boundaries or preferences, i.e. an author I’ve never read before, a genre I rarely dabble in, a subject matter new to me. Lining up some Emily St. John Mandel to get more acquainted with speculative fiction and thinking about getting Lizzy Stewart’s Alison to dip my toe into the world of graphic novels. Might even see about reading some crime novels and trying to squeeze some more male authors into the mix.

MUSIC

  1. Hold The Girl – Rina Sawayama
  2. Wet Leg – Wet Leg
  3. Dance Fever – Florence & The Machine
  4. Preacher’s Daughter – Ethel Cain
  5. Big Time – Angel Olsen
  6. RENAISSANCE – Beyoncé
  7. Harry House – Harry Styles
  8. SICK! – Earl Sweatshirt
  9. Lucky Me – Phoebe Green
  10. Surrender – Maggie Rogers
  11. Being Funny in a Foreign Language – The 1975
  12. Ramona Park Broke My Heart – Vince Staples

This was the year I succumbed to the hype around Harry Styles (purely on a musical level, to be clear); fell back in love with musicians who defined my late teens and early twenties: Florence and Earl (hello, names for hypothetical children); listened to a handful of songs on repeat: This Hell, King, That’s Where I Am and discovered a new love in the form of Ethel Cain.

TV

Severance and Pachinko were early favourites, having watched them back in February and March and cementing Apple TV+ as the MV(S)P – most valuable streaming platform – of 2022, with HBO Max a close second. They felt to me like two of the most complete TV series I had ever watched. White Lotus meanwhile was a joy from start to finish and was even more joyous in that it felt like people were watching and speculating together.

There were a bunch of big shows I missed because I have yet to splash out for a Disney+ subscription: Andor, Moon Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi. And I still haven’t watched a single episode of Better Call Saul because I still haven’t finished Breaking Bad.

In other TV watching news, I finally saw all six seasons of Line of Duty, Couples Therapy is genius and I’ve watched both seasons twice, The Crown was infinitely watchable and instantly forgettable.

And my favourite TV performances of the year include:

  • Julia Roberts and Betty Gilpin in Gaslit
  • Gabrielle Creevy in In My Skin (which was released in 2021, but I only saw this year. Hers and Gilpin’s casting in the upcoming Three Women adaptation is hugely exciting).
  • John Turturro, Britt Lower and Tramell Tillman in Severance
  • Alison Oliver in Conversations With Friends
  • The whole cast of Pachinko
  • Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss-Bacharach and Ayo Edebiri in The Bear
  • Gbemisola Ikumelo in A League of Their Own
  • Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy in House of the Dragon
  • Meghann Fahy, Aubrey Plaza and Tom Hollander in The White Lotus
  • Amrit Kaur in The Sex Lives of College Girls

FILM

I always struggle with film lists because one of the privileges of working in the ‘industry’ is you get early, pre-theatrical release access to many films, so this list is indicative of what I saw this year, rather than what officially came out in cinemas this year.

The full list…

  1. Aftersun (Charlotte Wells, UK)
  2. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, Norway)
  3. Happening (Audrey Diwan, France)
  4. Close (Lukas Dhont, Belgium)
  5. Corsage (Marie Kreutzer, Austria)
  6. Godland (Hlynur Pálmason, Iceland)
  7. Decision To Leave (Park Chan Wook, South Korea)
  8. Alcarràs (Carla Simón, Spain)
  9. One Fine Morning (Mia Hansen-Løve, France)
  10. Compartment No. 6 (Juho Kwosmanen, Finland)
  11. Murina (Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović, Croatia)
  12. Blue Jean (Georgia Oakley, UK)
  13. The Quiet Girl (Colm Bairéad, Ireland)
  14. Broker (Hirokazu Kore-eda, South Korea)
  15. All The Beauty and the Bloodshed (Laura Poitras, US)
  16. The Blue Caftan (Maryam Touzani, Morocco)
  17. Bones and All (Luca Guadagnino, US)
  18. Fire of Love (Sara Dosa, US)
  19. Emily the Criminal (John Patton Ford, US)
  20. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (Dean Fleischer Camp, US)
  21. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Japan)
  22. Everything Everywhere All At Once (The Daniels, US)

Film-watching intentions for 2023:

Thanks to BFI Southbank programming Sight & Sound’s 2022 Greatest Films of All Time Poll I should manage to tick off a few classics that have long been on my to-watch list, including the one that claim a number one spot: Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.

Elsewhere I’m going to try and pick a decade each month to theme my ‘first-time watches’ around, i.e. for January I’m time-traveling back to 2002 and aiming to watch 25th Hour, Infernal Affairs, Adaptation and Punch Drunk Love.

OTHER MEDIA

Podcasts I loved: (in no particular order)

Thresholds, an interview show with writers and artists, hosted by Jordan Kisner. Climavores, which explores how what we eat affects our planet. Ologies with Alie Ward, hands down one of the best podcast hosts out there and a gorgeous resource for learning about our weird and wild world. Still Processing, J Wortham and Wesley Morris’ cultural criticism podcast, which always holds space for empathy, evaluation and re-evaluation. Finding Our Way, a podcast about imagination, abolition, power and change. The Town with Matthew Belloni, my go-to for understanding the latest trends and headlines in Hollywood. Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso, probably my favourite interview podcast both for the calibre of guests he secures and the gentle way he probes their minds. Literary Friction and its hosts Carrie and Octavia are who I call upon for book chat and recommendations. Anthems, short, empowering manifestoes themed around a particular subject. I also regularly listen to Code Switch, The Ezra Klein Show, Death Sex & Money, The New Yorker: Fiction, Adam Buxton and Criticism Is Dead.

Newsletters I loved: (in no particular order)

Haley Nahman’s Maybe Baby. The Ann Friedman Weekly. Story Club with George Saunders. Nicole Donut about the writing process and creative practice. HEATED, Emily Atkin’s updates about the climate crisis. Austin Kleon’s creative inspiration. Dense Discovery.

Long-form writing I loved: (in no particular order)

Sophie Gilbert on the Will Smith slapping Chris Rock incident for The Atlantic. Jia Tolentino’s commentary on the overturning of Roe vs. Wade and abortion for The New Yorker. Sarah Polley’s piece for The Guardian about starring in a Terry Gilliam film as a child. A New Yorker piece on pickleball! The absolutely devastating piece Merope Mills wrote about losing her 13-year-old daughter for The Guardian. Simran Hans diving into the role of the critic-influencer for WePresent. No profile could quite top Jeremy Strong’s in The New Yorker (December 2021), but I continued to enjoy Michael Schulman’s work regardless, especially this piece on Elisabeth Moss. Imogen West-Knights on ‘the Queen of crime-solving’ for The Guardian. And although it came out five years ago, I did revisit Sam Knight’s piece about what happens when The Queen dies, also for The Guardian.

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