4 min read

The defining thing I watched in 2022

OK, really it's 3 things.

Continuing on with the 2022 year in review. If you missed it, I shared a bit about how the year went overall, and my favorite cup(s) of coffee.

I thought this was signed, sealed, and delivered as far back as March of this year - that I had seen the singular thing that would stick with me and become the defining movie or TV show of my year...and while I still think it was the best top to bottom, beginning to end thing I saw this year I got thrown for a loop recently from an unexpected place with the defining moment of any movie or TV show. Oh, and I've got an honorable mention because there was another moment that is vividly imprinted in my mind that I just need to call out. So...

The best top to bottom, beginning to end thing that I watched this year

Here's what you need to know about this: I watched this show with my wife while we were on holiday in Rome with our kids. Every night after we got the kids to sleep, we would huddle around my ipad because the Airbnb didn't have a television and sit enraptured by this show. We had an incredible holiday in Rome1 full of amazing food and sites...and this still makes it into my top 3 memories of that whole trip. Also, there's a pretty good chance that you haven't seen this show and that it's flown under your radar completely.

Let's talk about Station Eleven. Wow. Station Eleven just repeatedly took my breath away with its weird, counter-intuitive approach to the end of the world. It takes this dramatic occurrence and chooses to linger in the mundane parts. It doesn't spend nearly as much time as its counterparts in the genre on man's savage fight to survive and instead focuses on the small acts of tenderness and reconciliation that makes humanity endure.

Has Mackenzie Davis ever been in anything you shouldn't watch? Not that I'm aware of.
Has Mackenzie Davis ever been in anything you shouldn't watch? Not that I'm aware of.

Before you go off and watch it, there's a pretty obvious trigger warning: this is a movie about a devastating pandemic. That might feel like a lot still. For me, there was a certain amount of catharsis in watching it and coming to terms with the fact that things can chance dramatically after a widely felt societal event - but my direct experience of pandemic trauma was low stakes at worst. So if you've still got a lot of pandemic fatigue or trauma, maybe stay away from this one for now.

But the best single moment (technically 2)

I thought it was a little bit weird when my friend Tolu encouraged me to watch Midnight Mass with such great vehemence. Like, look at the poster for it and tell me it doesn't look like some schlocky horror thing that Netflix makes cuz the algorithm:

And, honestly, one episode in I still wasn't sure why this deserved my attention...except that there's one really long single take that kind of serves the same purpose as the chess scene in season 1 of the Wire, which is to say: it tells the audience, "trust us. We know what we're doing."

But that wasn't the moment. There are several fine long takes throughout the show, and I appreciated them and all. But the real moment, the one that really did stop me dead in my tracks happens in the 4th episode2. The premise is relatively simple: two characters are grieving a death together, and one character asks the other what he thinks happens when he dies...and he answers. His answer is precise, scientific, and profound at the same time. And then he asks her how she'd answer the same question...and she answers. Her answer is completely different from his; it's wistful and spiritual, both tragic and hopeful. And neither one of them is trying to convince the other or hoping to establish the primacy of their answer. It's two people relating to each other through a deep existential question.

This is a moment that has no place whatsoever in a horror show. It's not the only time that Midnight Mass completely subverts the conventions of horror in order to make a point about the role of will in how we exercise our humanity.

Oh...and then in the final episode they drop in one more "what happens when you die" moment, and it's every bit as good as the first two.

Alright, the honorable mention

Kind of an "If you know, you know." That screenshot above is from a scene in the movie Nope. I'm not going to tell you what is going on because I don't want to explain it or relive it. It is a scene of incredible craftsmanship and surprisingly restrained storytelling, and I think that's what makes it the most disturbing thing I've seen in a movie or TV show in a very long time. Kudos to Jordan Peele. The whole film is kind of living rent free in my head months later, and that one scene in particular seems unlikely to ever be evicted3.

  1. A Roman Holiday, if you will, which is also a thing worth watching.

  2. And if you've seen the show, I'm willing to bet you're already nodding your head.

  3. Fine, if you really want to know what's happening you can read about it here.The actual description of it comes nowhere near the experience of seeing it on screen in a cinema late at night.