Mackenzie’s Best of 2022 Entertainment and Music

Twenty Twenty-Two was the year of renewal after two years quite literally plagued by Covid-19, which although not gone seems to finally be taking a back-step. Twenty Twenty-Two was muddled with the feeling of hope and heart wrenching tragedies that even when thought impossible, further diminished faith in humanity.

 Entertainment was also a mixed-bag, trying to find footing after the pandemic, with shows like Tim Burton’s Wednesday making waves for Gen-Z and becoming the most watched English TV show on Netflix, being more of the Hallmark-ification of the camp enterprise of the Addams, than anything particularly groundbreaking. The cost of appealing to a larger audience being a cookie-cutter teen drama storyline. 

Marvel released multiple new shows, most of them being controversial to a fan base full of contradicting values. I personally liked Ms. Marvel, it served its purpose as a family-friendly action-comedy. However, what they did to She-Hulk was unseemly. Evidently due to the quality vs. quantity issue in Marvel Studios, She-Hulk promised feminist anthems and twerking with Megan Thee Stallion in the face of haters, but ultimately decided this subpar CGI’d superhero’s biggest foe would be finding love and sex as the Jolly Green Giant. Did we really need another TV-show adding to the patriarchal narrative that for  women who have an active sex life they are bound to be “punished”? 

Now after addressing the obvious pitfalls of the year, let’s dive into the best entertainment and music of 2022.

Music: The Car, Arctic Monkeys

The day for this album’s release could not have been a worse day, the same as Taylor Swift’s Midnights, so unfortunately it was largely overlooked at first release. Arctic Monkeys capture the smooth sultriness of a retro-futuristic music lounge, where sound is stripped down, made the unembellished album a timeless experience that can be played again and again each time finding a new meaning to lyrics or layers of sound. 

The album starts with the line, “don’t get emotional,” a line that could be interpreted as a warning or a sort of removal that sets the tone for the 10-track album, which goes through the multiple emotions of throwing your hands up and saying, “whatever happens happens,” my mantra for 2023. Songs like “Jet Skis on The Moat” and “I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am” transport listeners to a hotel pool vacation, where coherent thoughts are unnecessary and perhaps it’s best you aren’t fully aware of your surroundings. 

My personal favorite, “Sculptures of Anything Goes,” is a bit more sharp in its futuristic undertone, and guides the listener through the dark mysterious lure of delusion. Which hints of the album’s deeper theme of a show cleaning up, a retrospective of sets and lives that actors adopt, pretending in a way similar to how everyday people do, for others and sometimes themselves.

Music: Midnights, Taylor Swift 

A total 180 from the bitter mellowness of the Folklore/Evermore-era, Midnights is unbridled truth and emotion in the medium of bouncy love-sick pop. Capturing the fear of growing up, the weirdness of love, the back-breaking, heart-ripping pain of loss of love and innocence, and the all too familiar fluctuations of self-image and confidence, Swift makes an album in which perhaps anyone could find an anthem. 

My personal favorite, “The Great War,” reads like a love-letter to the phrase, “all is fair in love and war,” with the sound of battle-drums reimagined from a mongerer of battle to a percussive symbol of the persistence of passion. “The Great War” captures the feeling of fighting a losing battle, the glimpses of hope, the futile petty exchanges that come with love and brandishes it in metaphors like, “Sucker punching walls, cursed you as I sleep talked,” that belong in the Louvre. 

Music: Impera, Ghost

One of my favorite bands, Ghost’s funky 70s Swedish- satanic (in a Scooby-Doo way) rock materializes industriously to make Impera an album oozing authenticity and inspiration. Often inspired by macabre themes such as their 2018 album Prequelle which was inspired by the bubonic plague, the album brilliantly balances darkness and sweetness. Respite on the Spitalfields, track 12 on the album, tells of Jack the Ripper’s England, a time of fear, despair, and mistrust in White Chapel England. Yet songs like Hunter’s Moon, Twenties, and Watcher in the Sky play like soundtracks to government rebellions and secret societies that go too far to rise up against oppression. Even stranger, Darkness at the Heart of My Love could be easily mistaken for a 70s rock ballad about love, and induces spiritual ecstasy in musical form similar to that of their earlier song He Is, that mocks the hymns of Christianity, and makes them better.

TV Series: Peacemaker

A satirical action-comedy of proud American nationalism, the peacemaker was a bright spot for an otherwise dreary year for the DC Universe courtesy of James Gunn. James Gunn worked on the Suicide Squad, and Guardians of the Galaxy, and as the new co-CEO of the Detective Comics Universe, gives a new hope to the otherwise underwhelming movies and TV shows of the DCU. Capitalizing on raunchy and slap-stick comedy, it’s refreshing to see that heroes can be just as messed up as normal people, and often worse. With his best friend Bald-Eagle the hero Peacemaker (John Cena) is the personification of the right wing Deep South, good old fashioned, God bless America sentiments wielding two guns and zero brain cells. My favorite character, antihero Vigilante (Freddie Stroma), is a psychopathic justice giver, who sees any criminal action as an invitation for a personal death sentence from Vigilante, yet is emotionally-stunted and fills the role of the naive younger brother to Peacemaker. I must admit, by the end of the series, I too was screaming the opening theme, Do Ya Wanna Taste It against my better judgment, and the un-self-aware anthem will be looping in my subconscious well into 2023. Overall the show is the phrase, “It’s so crazy, it just might work” in film, and therefore a highlight of 2022. 

TV Series: The Essex Serpent

The picturesque aesthetic of religious mania in a sea village in Victorian England is captured effortlessly in Clio Barnard’s The Essex Serpent based on the book by Sarah Perry. Cora (Claire Danes) a recently widowed woman, has to heal herself after being shattered by her abusive husband, and to do so moves to rural Essex, where she meets lively (to put it lightly) townsfolk and Will Ransome (Tom Hiddleston) with whom she gets entangled in an affair throughout the series. 

The best part of the show, in my opinion, is the depiction of religion and its fundamental role in the storyline, becoming malleable as a motive, and satirical side narrative. The show balances socialism, adultery, trauma, religious mania, and the often costly ambitions of new science, in a six episode lifespan, making it an easy binge. The show contains envy-inducing cinematography of the tangled swampy grasslands of Essex and ashy Victorian England, and one of my favorite shots, a museum in London where the lighting gives Will an angelic halo, adding to his holy complex. Due to its star studded cast, historical set, social metaphors, and cryptid excited town comparable to Mothman’s West Virginia, the show deserves a spot on this highlight reel.

TV Series: Andor

A new addition to the Star Wars enterprise, Toby Haynes’ Andor is a pristine vision of the cost of an oppressive state, and a call to action against injustice. The episodes carry a narrative that although complex, never is lost in the differing perspectives of the characters in the series. The series offers shocking twists, and the watcher finds themselves thinking the story is over, but again and again when the light of the end is within reach, it extinguishes and reappears elsewhere. Andor (Diego Luna) perfectly portrays the archetype of a distrusting man on the run, reminiscent of Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment. We see a new side of the High Republic, wearing bureaucratic suits to cover deep dysfunction and the driving fear of losing power. The series takes the viewer to new planets, to the past, and to prison, and widens the scope of the already expansive Star Wars, and beats out Marvel’s 2022 TV shows for the best on Disney Plus, again because quality was prioritized over quantity. 

TV Series: Bluey Season 3

It’s impossible to overstate the true ingenuity and purity of this Australian children’s show. Bluey encapsulates the excitement of childhood, the sadness of loss, and the imperfections of parenting in the brilliantly palleted world of the Heeler family. Creator Joe Brumm draws inspiration from his own family, instead of adopting the standard flatness of children’s show characters, giving the Heeler family a quality of being real. By giving the characters flaws, the children can be excessively goofy and emotional, the parents can be lazy and not always right. Embracing the world from a child’s viewpoint as fantastical and full of fun, the show uses the already comedic nature of being a child, without overwhelming musical numbers or “learning” experiences. Episodes often have a lighthearted veneer and a deeper meaning that can be tear jerking to full grown adults, tackling topics from death and growing up to embracing the messiness of life. Making The New Yorker’s “Best Jokes of 2022” list, and being called the “best kids show of our time” by New York magazine, Bluey took 2022 by storm.

TV Series: Abbott Elementary

An Office-esque comedy, Abbott Elementary uses direct inspiration from real, often-ridiculous asks teachers are met with on the daily. Winning awards for supporting actress (Sheryl Lee Ralph), among others, 2022 was Abbot’s year in the spotlight. Following the daily struggles of optimistic and possibly overbearingly positive Janine Teagues (Quint Brunson), who is full of passion for changing old ways for her students, the ABC series created by Quinta Brunson touches on issues of school funding and the age-old conflict between younger and older generations. 

Movies: Top Gun Maverick

Any movie where the actors are actually flying jets is due for praise. I mean it’s like buying a 500 dollar EEG scanner for an AP Research project; it’s buying reward with risk. Joseph’s Kosinski’s Top Gun: Maverick was a blast from the past made for audiences of all ages. The creative choice to put the safety of Goose’s son, Rooster (Miles Teller), in Maverick’s (Tom Cruise) hands made the back and forth bitter feelings between the two even more high stakes when it was thousands of feet above ground. It’s comforting to see that some things never change, the bar near the Air Force base, the camaraderie of the pilots, and Maverick’s young at heart witty remarks to his superiors, and now his own squad. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Top Gun movie, without a banger ballad that tops the charts: Lady Gaga’s Hold My Hand, suitable for riding into the sunset on a motorcycle with a leather jacket.

Video Games: God of War Ragnarok

The much anticipated sequel to the award winning game of the year God of War, the sequel expanded the Norse mythology world in game, while still exploring the father-son dynamic of Atreus and Kratos, with the added layer of Atreus finding his identity whilst, and as in the first game, dealings with other gods become petty, dangerous, and confusing as they often do. The character design of Odin is absolutely flawless and unique to the game, with tattoos that turn into ravens, and an appearance that matches the twisted back-stabbing nature of the King of the Gods. God of War Ragnarkok is deserving of the awards of Best Narrative and Best Score and Music to the fullest extent, and even as someone who is by no means a video game connoisseur, I do know that the majestic and artful storytelling and design of the game is worthy of its praise as a champion of 2022. 

Podcasts: The Last Podcast on the Left, Nighttime, The Case., Morbid, CounterClock

Although none of these podcasts were created in 2022, I discovered them in 2022, therefore are on the list. The Last Podcast on the Left is perhaps the most shameful of the podcasts, on account of it being three middle-aged men screaming hysterically into the mic about crime and conspiracies, and oftentimes the conversations can veer so off topic, I am not sure what a given episode is about. Yet, it is comforting to hear people who clearly know nothing about anything and are just having fun with it, and to my surprise, I find myself listening to this podcast the most. The Case. and Counterclock take a more linear approach to true crime, breaking down cases in minuscule detail, trying to solve cases that are mishandled or questionably solved, and both hosts Kirk Minihane and Delia D’Ambra get accounts from people close to the case, rather than just recounting statements on record, to fully immerse themselves and the audience into the living, breathing heart of the case. Morbid and Nighttime lie in the middle of the two extremes of true crime, offering lighter episodes about hauntings and conspiracies, and more serious episodes about serial murders and homicides, giving listeners the option to listen to whatever fits their current mood.

Looking Forward: Top 5 Anticipated Entertainment for 2023 

  • Taylor Swift’s “The Eras” Tour
  • The Last of Us Series on HBO Max
  • Lana Del Rey’s Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd
  • Loki Season 2 on Disney Plus
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse