This a continuation of the movies and shows I am watching during the writing of a YA trilogy. However, in the spirit of recent awards shows, I have decided to include my favorite movies and shows of 2022. By “of 2022,”, I mean I watched them in 2022. They may be 100 years old (they aren’t) and several of them are actually from 2022 and were featured in the aforementioned awards shows, but the point is I watched them last year (or early this year) and I think they’re worth watching.
YA WRITING MOVIE REVIEWS, CONT’D:
HAUNTED MANSION (2003)
I can’t imagine how this movie ended up on this list, but Haunted Mansion is THE stupidest movie ever. Just really, really bad. Can’t wait till the new one comes out really soon, because it looks like it’s going to be so much better and I like the idea of turning the classic ride into a movie.
SEE YOU YESTERDAY (2019)
I didn’t hate this movie as much as some people, for sure, but I suspended my need to have real science in science fiction and also I liked that it was about societal issues and personal issues more than a sci-fi adventure. I didn’t love the ending, (no one liked the ending), though I thought there were ways they could have given better clues and landed there. And I did think all obvious fingers were pointed at police brutality when there were other issues rankling under the surface of the narrative like neighborhood violence and other American, racial problems. Which means in the end I thought it was okay.
Which I had seen and forgotten about. Perhaps that says something? My journal says: “Good. Maybe not as good as I wanted. Also a little boring/flat. There are better in the subgenre. But good. The mom is horrifying.”
THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL (2022)
I had read the first two books of this book series in 2017 and reviewed them. I actually did not like the books, but thought the then-unfinished series could make a good movie (or movie series. I imagine they are trying to make more). So I gave it a shot. This is what I posted on the book review page:
Some years later (2023), I found The School for Good and Evil on a list I had made of YA adventure fantasy movies that I was using to give me certain vibes while I wrote a YA adventure fantasy trilogy. I remembered not liking the book series but thinking that it could make a good movie. So I watched it, despite pretty dismal reviews. Huh. On further research, I discovered that though the reviews are pretty abysmal, the movie has been popular and there is a strong likelihood the movie series will continue (possibly for even another two or three movies). I totally didn’t hate the first movie. True, it gets off to a rough start and there are definitely some cringe-worthy moments (especially with CGI) up front. But everything improves. And I found the acting, the world, the soundtrack, and the costumes (surrounded by emoji faces with hearts for eyes) to be really enjoyable. The story was much better than the original, in a pared-down, simplified version that actually had a point and a moral that made sense. Plus, (at least in the first movie) we get to have a friendship that is loving and even physically affectionate without having to call it a sexuality or sexual identity and dang was that refreshing, something I have been longing for contemporary books and movies to tackle (instead of doing the reverse and reading homosexuality into old, platonic stuff). Yay for friendship! Yay for friendship as a powerful, loving thing! Yay for physical contact that isn’t always sexual! Whew. All in all, if I’m being honest, I am bucking the trend of reviews here and saying I rather liked this movie. I would totally watch it again. I recommend it. I am going to list it in almost-favorites because, like I said, the soundtrack and COSTUMES. (Also acting and world and FRIENDSHIP.)
I mean, I love Tim Burton. I am tired though, lately, of everything (and I mean everything, not just Tim Burton) being so gory. I really don’t enjoy gore and it seems that every genre out there is exploring the gory side of things or combining with horror. I was a little afraid to watch Wednesday (series, first season), but I also was super intrigued by the preview. (The costuming! The setting! The music! The faces!) Here’s the other thing: I don’t like the Addams family. I have never been able to relate to these characters and while it’s interesting that the darker side of humanity is being explored through them, I have never found any of the adaptations I watched to be very compelling, character-wise. The whole dark thing just became spoofy, or, if you will, “kooky.”
Enter Wednesday. From the first minutes of the first episode, I was hooked. I was hooked by the saturated colors, the stunning Romanian castle, the acting, the complex characters, the COSTUMES, the YA intrigue, the Tim Burton-ness of it, the sound track! And for once, Wednesday and It (the two main Addams who we see featured here) have some depth. They’re not just creepy. There are nuances developed relating to their darkness. It is inborn. It is unapologetic. It is finally interesting. Sure, the whole thing might have been a tab predictable (or very), but I was willing to go with it. I might have been wrong about who has what secrets and what’s really going on, but I kept guessing. In the end, I was basically right, but I still enjoyed almost every minute of this lush, action-packed series (so far) and I am ALL IN for the Wednesday dance this Halloween. Waiting for the next season.
EASY A (2010)
I think I liked this Scarlet Letter-esque movie. It wasn’t a favorite, but there was a humor and a spark to it that I rather enjoyed. Sure, it was kinda predictable and also much of it was simply unrealistic (including her relationships and her parents), but not so far outside the usual bounds of similar, YA storytelling. I would even watch this one again. My daughter didn’t like it. I’m not sure why. And I did. Maybe I’m also not sure why, it just felt like it had a spark. I was a little confused about the male characters for most of the movie, since many of them looked similar and weren’t completely distinguished from one another, but other than that, a satisfying movie for the YA crowd about gambling with your reputation and also about letting yourself be walked all over, or in positive instead of negative, the importance of your reputation and standing up for yourself and your privacy. There were also some great and a couple terrible characters (and a few forgettable ones, too).
WEST SIDE STORY (2021)
I am a little surprised that this movie gets the high praise that it does. It’s a good movie, objectively, I guess, but it is also not in synch with the beat of modern entertainment. It’s a blast from the past, just done to the quality standards of today’s movie-making at the highest levels. I mean, it began with Romeo and Juliet—a story which, as much as I love it, is already a little out of touch in its main story arch, these days—and then a musical based on the Shakespearean play by some of the all-time greats which hit Broadway in 1957, taking place in then-current times in the a blue collar Manhattan full of racial tension and (dancing) street gangs. A 1961 film version swept the Academy Awards (basically) and was forced upon high school students for decades and decades. Then 2021 (has it already been two years?!) and Steven Spielberg gathers a near-perfect cast for a remake. A direct remake. Like this is the original Broadway musical with a few interesting camera angles and staging decisions. It still takes place in the 1950s and Romeo still dies (though Juliet never did, here). I did think the acting was great, the cinematography notable, and the story full of twists and turns. But, I’m gonna say it, it was long and therefore got boring, the music not one note different from the original. I thought that Spielberg needed to mess with it a whole lot more to keep me interested in a tale almost as old as dirt in a recycled version from my grandmother’s day. What he gave us, I thought, wasn’t enough. I mean, it’s still great cinema to show to a classroom of highschoolers who have just read Romeo and Juliet, but to me, if felt outdated and basically redundant.
OVER THE GARDEN WALL (2014)
I can’t really relate, but maybe that’s why I’m watching these movies and shows and reading all these YA books. I am writing YA, so I have to relate to teens, and—like it or not—my gen Z son has watched year after year of these nonsensical cartoons while I balked at them. Actually, I believe the trend started when I was a teen, but TV is full of them now: animated series meant for anywhere from kids to adults that are so odd, so absurd, that I never figure out why, let alone what. The absurdity feels like it might be the point: just for kicks. Or like a competition. Over the Garden Wall felt like it must be an allegory, but for what, I’m not at all sure. I do love that it was a limited series (ten VERY short episodes of like ten minutes) because then it had a point (well, sorta) and could be easily consumed. After watching two episodes, I pulled my son in, and—as I expected—he did like and relate to it. So would I recommend it? Um. If you like this sort of thing. I am really the last person to ask about it, since I don’t even like Sponge Bob.
BEST MOVIES OF 2022 (AND A FEW I WATCHED IN 2022):
As the title of the section implies, I only included the ones I liked and would recommend. I did not mention the ones I didn’t like and would advise you to leave on the shelf.
- EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE, ALL AT ONCE (2022). Despite sweeping the Oscars, this is what the journal says (from last summer): “It’s too long and missing something. It got too talked up and is more startling than anything. It’s crazy and odd and funny but too (visually) dark and there are WAY too many words and speeches. They should have cut ½ hour and then it would have been much better, considering this is right up my alley. It was cool to have a middle-aged female lead and Asian actors, esp. Ke Huy Quan (I love The Goonies, but I also love Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). The multiverse NEVER quite works, but that’s not totally the point here. Was disappointed by all the hype.”
- ELVIS (2022). I love Baz Luhrman and there was plenty of Baz-y stuff here to enjoy as eye-candy and attention to detail. However, I found this (exaggerated) biopic to be too depressing since it was basically from the perspective of the abuser and not in a Amadeus way (where we don’t feel trapped in the downward spiral and grossed out by our own narrative skin as Salieri looking at Mozart). I loved much of the movie, but left feeling kinda grossed out and sad.
- NOPE (2022). Okay, so this was a good movie that somehow missed out at the Oscars despite some early hype. Maybe because it’s horror? I found it had plenty to say and was impeccably done, but it was just not for me. Why? Because it was horror. Even though it was far better than your average slasher, there were moments that still live in my nightmares. So for me, nope. For you, depends on your level of scare/gore-tolerance.
- VIOLENT NIGHT (2022). This one is also not for me or for plenty of other people, due to its extremely violent (it’s in the name) nature. It’s go-ry! But for a violent, action movie, it’s really good, and I happen to be a sucker for mixing things up, especially mashing together genres. And I’m rooting for David Harbour, whether he’s a lovable cop or a Viking-based, skull-smashing Santa Claus.
- *THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT (2022). Surprise! This might have been my favorite movie of the year, and I wish it had gotten some sort of recognition. But there’s no accounting for taste. It helps when you go into a movie or show not expecting too much, but my husband and I were very pleasantly surprised by this one. Purposely goofy at times, it was a perfect genre-mashup with its tongue continuously in its cheek. I can’t even believe someone would green light a movie starring Nicolas Cage poking both fun at and honoring his own career, but I am glad that they did. Props, Nick. Props.
- *ENCANTO (2021). My kids are getting older, so I don’t have to rush out and see the new Disney or other animated/kids movies. But when I finally got around to this one I ended up dancing around the house singing for weeks. It is one of my faves, for sure, at least in the genre. It’s not perfect, but I loved many of the elements, most especially the music.
- JUNGLE CRUISE (2021). Looking for a family movie? Enjoy those old, nostalgic flicks that are adapted from theme park rides or picture books about board games? Then this is perfectly adequate viewing for your family on pizza night. Has the same feel as like Goosebumps, Jumanji, Zathura, etc., but not quite as good as some of those.
- SAVE YOURSELVES! (2020). The jury’s still out on the ending, though I think it worked despite its unconventionality. Starring my all-time favorite commercial actor (Sunita Mani), this alien invasion movie is funny and nothing like other alien invasion movies, focusing much more on modern life and relationships and then filling the sci-fi gaps with quirky twists. It is a little violent and gut-level creepy, but I found this to be an entertaining winner. For some reason, IMDB kinda hates it and Rotten Tomatoes absolutely loves it. I say go for it.
- DON’T LOOK UP (2021). Perhaps a little too close to climate-home (and a little too political satire) for some people, I also enjoyed this apocalyptic movie which hinged on nobody listening to the scientists who knew the end was coming. Star-studded, for sure, I thought they did a good job and I found it both intellectually stimulating, at times touching, and funny in a maybe-I-shouldn’t-be-laughing-at-this way (aka dark comedy).
- FREE GUY (2021). A family movie with all the bells and whistles. In the end, I found it a decent film and another good watch for pizza night with lots of timely, cultural allusions.
- INTERSTELLAR (2014). Another decent movie that was mostly well-done despite a few holes. It stayed interesting for three hours, so that’s saying something.
- TICK, TICK… BOOM! (2021). There were definitely a great many references that I could not appreciate, making it not my fave, but I thought it was very good. I like musicals. This is a good one.
- THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD (2019). A racially diverse adaptation of a Charles Dickens novel, this is one of my favorite, recent movies. Did anyone else even notice it? I really liked it.
- SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008). I love all the pieces of this movie and we all know how enthusiastic everyone is about it. I like it. I find it a bit gritty and I don’t love the ending. Otherwise, I agree with the hype. I hadn’t seen it in awhile and was on a Dev Patel kick.
- *CYRANO (2022). If The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent isn’t my favorite movie of the year, then Cyrano is. And I am also irritated it got not a single awards nod. I read the book before seeing it, and here is my review from there: “So yeah, Roxanne with Steve Martin was a tad goofy, but not terrible, even after a few decades of building dust. Then again, I could have done without this modernized version. As for the 2022 version with Cyrano as a little person as opposed to large-nosed (and also the contemporary practice of casting people who would not have been historically accurate, racially-speaking), I luuuurved this movie. Surprise! It’s a musical. And not surprise! It’s well-acted and beautiful to look at. It follows the story pretty darn close (including the French ending that by now you are hoping they’ll fluff on) and even retains some of the original dialogue. I don’t want to talk it up too much, actually, but I thought it was beautifully done and entertaining, to boot.”
- Already reviewed elsewhere: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, West Side Story, Blinded By the Light, Love Simon, Donnie Darko, The School of Good and Evil
- ANNIE (1982). I hadn’t seen this movie in a long time and ended up turning it on on a family vacation. This was one of my favorite movies growing up, and besides being appalled by the racial stereotyping, this is still an amazing movie. I also really like the 2014 version.
- THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD (2022). I didn’t glom on to this movie the way the reviewers and the Cannes festival people did, but I did find it interesting and like it had plenty to say about modern times and millennials. It kinda goes on and on, but a one-watch movie for film types, for sure.
BEST SHOWS I WATCHED IN 2022:
Meaning, the list of only the ones I liked and would recommend, not the ones I didn’t and wouldn’t.
- BRIDGERTON. At this point we are at two seasons. I had been avoiding it because it seemed like it was just an excuse for regency-era sex, but I finally gave it a try because I am basically lifetime-obsessed with Victorian literature. So, the first season is quite gratuitous with its sex, but after the obligatory, early-series stuff, the later sex is, well, almost real and involves people in actual relationships. It’s unrealistic, sure, but it is also meant as commentary on sex and married women and sex in Victorian times (and all of that together which actually speaks to girls from the 80s and 90s and purity culture) and I found some of what it had to say as interesting. By season two, we’re left with way less on-screen sex and can just indulge in the intrigue that is Bridgerton. Ideally, there will be five more seasons marrying off all the Bridgerton gang, and for now I am loving the costumes, music, and many twists and turns of high-society intrigue and romances that truly sizzle.
- ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING. I mean, I was on board for the first couple seasons of this almost-quirky, on-the-border-with-acting-and-about-everything-else show, but the lights along the walls of the secret passageway about did me in. Are they trying to be silly? I’m still going to keep watching, because there is some magic about it that I like despite what I know are clear faults.
- *WEDNESDAY. Reviewed above. Two thumbs up for me.
- COMMUNITY. My daughter is now watching this wrapped-up show on our recommendation, and I just bought my husband a Troy and Abed (in the morning) mug for Valentines Day. We almost missed it, though. The first season is a little bland and I kept saying “maybe we won’t watch any more.” But if you’ll stick with it, seasons two through six develop into this smart and quirky show with top-notch, individual episodes. While I never got over some characters being annoying, at least the writers realized their true center was in a couple of the side characters. They just should have wrapped up the series when first one and then the other of those two characters left.
- *THE GREAT BRITISH POTTERY THROWDOWN. A fan of The Great British Baking Show, I gave this pottery version a try despite not being a potter myself. I love this show. Seriously. It’s very similar to the other, but with potters, and the warmth, good-naturedness, British humor, and teaching/learning aspect of it stays the same.
- BEAT BOBBY FLAY. One of my favorite Food Network shows, I find this one in particular to be of the friendly variety when it comes to competition shows. Some people can’t stand him, I guess, but I find Bobby to be endearing and his guests to be fun. But the real draw is all the food and techniques. It is inspiring, for me. And there are more than 30 seasons, so plenty to watch.
- SPRING/HOLIDAY/HALLOWEEN BAKING CHAMPIONSHIP. Basically the same show at three points in the annual calendar, this series had been going on for almost a decade. I look forward to the new season at all three calendar seasons and I’ll be watching this until it eventually folds up and dies, which I hope is no time soon. Again, the main draw for me is the food and techniques. I learn so much and I fantasize baking my way through it, if not actually being on the show myself.
- TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS. Let’s see. This is the Olympics of the food world, including a strange nepotism of top-echelons personalities. That said, I get all into this, and I have my annual favorites, my teams, as it were. Go Jet! And go Alex!
- DERRY GIRLS. This is a watch-once, for me, but was well worth it. It ticks boxes on so many levels: humor, history, acting, nostalgia, culture, good writing, etc.
- *STRANGER THINGS. 2022 saw the split-in-half fourth season and the promise of the end with the fifth season (which will probably be like two years in the making). I have been a fan since day one (with my family). It has had its moments. I almost stopped when my favorite character was brutally destroyed in cold blood, but I couldn’t shut out the nostalgia (of both the time and the flavor of delivery), the pitch-perfect characters, the bizarre twists of the world in directions you couldn’t have seen coming. Season four was, I thought, almost goofy, and I couldn’t decide if they were doing it on purpose or if it had just gotten goofy. Jury’s still out, but I’ll definitely come back for the finale knowing full well (favorite) heads will roll.
- INVENTING ANNA/THE DROPOUT/THE THING ABOUT PAM. I got into documentary/biopic series, this year, and these three were my top picks. Inventing Anna got a little weird and actually-made up by the end, but for the most part I could not look away from any of these miniseries about truly bizarre women.
- NO DEMO RENO/GOOD BONES. I also occasionally watch home renovation shows, and these are my top two from this past year. No Demo Reno—despite being full of demolition—features the literatlly cutest personality on television of all times, and Good Bones is full of a supporting “cast” that makes you wish these were your friends.
- TED LASSO. Right before we started watching Wednesday, my husband and I finished the two available seasons of Ted Lasso. It took us a long while to get AppleTV in order to watch this one, very-recommended show, but let me say, IT WAS WORTH IT. Sorry about yelling. But the hype is good stuff, this time. This is one of the best shows ever made, hands-down. It’s funny. Every Single Character is relatable and special. It’s heart-warming. It’s wise. It’s subtle. It’s British (at least in concept). It’s witty and quick. It has a great concept. (Midwestern high school football coach gets hired to coach a London, pro-football (read: soccer) team. The newly divorced and bitter owner is secretly orchestrating the downfall of the organization, but Ted shows up and his contagious optimism and complete vulnerability threaten to throw the whole thing off course as he not only saves the team but every member of it including the staff, one short biscuit (read: cookie) at a time. It’s just a great frickin’ show.