Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Adieu, 2022

Among the lessons of this odd year was one that shouldn’t have needed reinforcing: corporations are not to be trusted. As social media continues its death spiral—I’m still working out how I feel about that impending collapse—I toyed with other outlets. Medium? Substack? ThoughtHub? OverShare? Maybe even, God help us, a newsletter?

Then I remembered how this all started for me: with this blog. In 2023, I plan on making a concerted effort to update this site on a regular basis. Each post, of course, to be touted on every platform that has not yet winked out of existence. May as well start with a rundown of what I liked in the year we just put to bed.

Books—Show Business

I read so many of these as a result of my Renee Patrick and Noir City duties that they warrant their own section.

The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act, by Isaac Butler

“Method acting” has become a catchall term. In this electrifying book, Butler traces the twisted (in every sense) history of this school of performance, from Moscow to New York to Hollywood, bringing each milieu to brilliant life while not being stingy with opinions.

Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century, by Dana Stevens

Not a biography of the Great Stone Face but an atlas of his times, using Keaton as a prism through which to view a host of subjects: child labor laws, early chain restaurants, the evolving understanding of addiction, and the Hollywood disappointments of F. Scott Fitzgerald, with Keaton’s genius as the thread somehow holding it all together. Fascinating, endlessly playful.

Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers, by Mary Rodgers and Jesse Green

Rodgers was stage royalty—the daughter of composer Richard Rodgers and mother of Tony winner Adam Guettel, she wrote the music for Once Upon a Mattress and the novel Freaky Friday—and seemed to know everyone involved with American musical theater. Her book, cowritten with New York Times critic Green, more than lives up to its title. 


Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin

Breathlessly inventive, spanning decades in a partnership between two videogame designers that’s deeper than a friendship but never quite a romance, this is my favorite novel of the last few years.

Silent Parade, by Keigo Higashino

Technically a December 2021 title, but I didn’t get to it until this year. Higashino is perhaps the best current writer of traditional mysteries, and Silent Parade is his latest triumph, riffing on both locked-room stories and Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express while offering a dense, idiosyncratic portrait of contemporary Tokyo.

Everybody Knows, by Jordan Harper

Technically a January 2023 title, but I got to it early. The big, bruising LA noir we need right now.


Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity, by Devon Price

This look at people on the autism spectrum who “mask” as neurotypical hit hard.

The Storm is Here: An American Crucible, by Luke Mogelson

A war correspondent returns home to the US in 2020 and covers the country … like a war correspondent. Ends with Mogelson’s harrowing reportage from inside the Capitol on January 6.

G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century, by Beverly Gage

Drawing on new research, Gage’s biography depicts Hoover as a creature of Washington DC (he was born and raised there, which shaped him more than you’d think), of racist fraternities (the impact they made on him was considerable), and of bureaucracy, all of which molded the FBI and in turn 20th century America.

I also would like it noted for the record that 2022 was the year that I started and finished Robert A. Caro’s The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. I even took a photo to commemorate the occasion, with Godzilla added for scale.


The Offer (Paramount+). I went in to this 10-episode limited series about the making of The Godfather with low expectations. It ended up being my favorite program of the year, the one I recommended non-stop. Sure, it’s a love letter to the Paramount lot where Renee Patrick’s Edith Head novels are set, but it’s also a canny piece of mythologizing boasting some terrific turns, chiefly Matthew Goode’s as studio kingpin Robert Evans. If this show had aired on HBO, Goode would be a slam-dunk to win an Emmy. Instead, it’s the performance that got away.

Irma Vep (HBO). I didn’t think Olivier Assayas needed to remake his 1996 film, itself about the attempt to remake the 1915-16 silent film serial. I was wrong. With a beguiling Alicia Vikander and Vincent Macaigne in a terrifically funny/sad performance as a director who loses his confidence and his mind.

Severance (Apple+). As good as everyone says it is.

Reservation Dogs (FX). No sophomore jinx here. Season two was every bit the equal of season one.

Ghosts (CBS). A big network hit and a comedy to boot that still doesn’t get enough love for the quality of its writing.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo (Netflix). I haven’t finished the show yet, so according to my own rule I should reserve judgment. But the way I’m rationing episodes of this South Korean series about a novice autistic lawyer is the highest compliment I can pay it. Related: it would have been great to get a second season of As We See It, with actors who are on the spectrum playing similar characters seeking their places in the world, but Amazon recently announced it wouldn’t return.


Decision to Leave. I could describe Park Chan-wook’s film as a brilliant contemporary noir, or a policier with heart, or a dazzling reinterpretation of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Instead, I’ll call it the movie that utterly wrecked me.

The Banshees of Inisherin. Quotes from this movie are already cropping up in my conversation.

Nope. A horror film that is truly horrifying, and that left room for awe.

Top Gun: Maverick. Does some of my affection stem from its status as The Blockbuster That Saved Theaters? Sure, probably. (It’s worth noting that I saw the first four movies on this list on the big screen, which only added to their impact.) But seeing a movie star do movie star things on a huge canvas is no minor thing.

RRR. The one movie I wished I’d seen on the big screen.

Tár. Halfway through, I asked myself if I hated it and considered tapping out. Then it clicked into place for me, and I understood the huge swing writer/director Todd Field was taking.

All that said, the 2022 movie I will end up seeing the most times will likely be Confess, Fletch. And after I’d badmouthed the trailer to anyone who would listen. We’d better get another of these movies with Jon Hamm. We deserve it.