2022 in review: a bit of everything

As 2022 comes to a close, I like to reflect on the things I enjoyed during the year. I try to focus on things that were released in the past 12 months, but some categories, such as books, are very difficult to summarize in this way. In the end, I decided to include things that I loved, even if they were a bit older. Let’s begin:

Movies

Licorize Pizza – Paul Thomas Anderson

My slow drift from movies towards video games continues, and this year I only watched 18 films (15 if you do not count re-watches, which I did to prepare for the podcast). However, I enjoyed some of those quite a bit. Licorize Pizza was beautiful in many aspects: the story was simple yet lovely, and getting a glimpse of The Valley in the 70’s is one of those experiences that only cinema can provide. Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the reasons I keep watching films, after all.

The Northman – Robert Eggers

While Lizorize Pizza used its lovely story as an excuse to visit an interesting place in the past, The Northman used the plot of Hamlet as a device to showcase brutal violence in a gorgeous way. This film was pure aesthetics – a two-hour, feral visual feast that I couldn’t stop looking at. Robert Eggers keeps delivering stunning films that you can instantly recognize as his work. Definitely someone to follow.

Mad God – Phil Tippett

We’ve had love and brutality, and I think Phil Tippett’s Mad God could best be described as a feverish nightmare. It’s definitely not a movie for everyone, but there’s no doubt that it is a truly artistic piece that will make you feel something (even if those sensations are not particularly pleasant).

Barbarian – Zach Cregger

I recommend going into this small horror movie blindly, as the story is told in a very cool way. I just want to say that I loved the first half of the movie, and while the second half is not as good, the twist was interesting enough to keep me hooked to my seat. If you’re into horror and are bored of classical movies, Barbarian was a very fun experience. I totally recommend it.

Jackass Forever

Half nostalgia trip and half recognizing that this gang is hilarious, this movie was the funniest thing I watched in 2022. There are a few recurring gags, but also new stuff (and people) that shine. As usual, it’s not something everyone will enjoy, but if you remember the TV show with a smile on your face, you will love this.

Video Games

There was a lot of good stuff going on in the video game world this year. I got a Steam Deck and loved every minute with it. It allowed me to play a lot of games on my bed that I couldn’t run on my small MacBook in Paris, and my playing time increased because of this.

Death’s Door

Zelda meets Hayao Miyazaki: the video game. Incredible music, nice story, super fun gameplay. If you like 2D Zelda games, you will love this one.

Disco Elysium

I’ve had Disco Elysium on my radar since its release, but I never managed to find the time to really get into it. It’s a game with a rich story set in a deep dystopian universe, and you have to slowly immerse yourself in its environment and characters to fully enjoy it. So this year, I decided to stream it on Twitch, which was a great way to share it with some friends and force myself to beat it within a reasonable amount of time. My playthrough lasted about 30 hours, and honestly, it exceeded all of my expectations. The story is incredible, but the storytelling is at a level I’ve never encountered in a video game. The voice acting is superb, the soundtrack is very good, and the visuals are top-notch. The gameplay feels really unique, and it’s the closest thing to a tabletop role-playing game that I’ve ever experienced in a video game. I can’t wait for the sequel to come out, hopefully in 2023.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

2022 was the year of Kirby, and I haven’t had so much fun with a Nintendo game in ages. Visiting the Forgotten Land was a wholesome experience. It was proof that great ideas can overcome hardware limitations, and that video games are the only medium in which you can tell a story about a pink little ball who kills inter-dimensional gods who resemble Akira‘s ending with a smile on his face, and not only you get inside the story but you want more and more.

Elden Ring

Best Dark Souls ever made. One of the coolest universes I have ever played in, with the coolest story in a From Software game to date. The gameplay is impeccable, with memorable combats and some of the best cinematic moments in boss fights that I can remember. People who say the last part of the game is bad either forget about Miquella’s Haligtree or did not even reach that legacy dungeon, which is probably the best zone Miyazaki has ever designed.

Last Call BBS

The last gift from Zachtronics, with a couple gems inside. I wrote about it during the year, but I had to say it again: these games are a true delight and something I will miss a lot. SpaceChem, Opus Magnum, Exapunks, TIS-100, Infinifactory – a list of masterpieces. Many developers would kill to have created just one of those games.

Return to Monkey Island

WTF was that ending, Ron Gilbert? Anyway, it was fun to go back to Mêlée Island. While the art style generated a lot of debate, I really liked it, and the soundtrack was super good. The last part of the game felt a bit weird, but overall, this was a pretty good point-and-click adventure, and clearly made with a lot of love.

Dwarf Fortress

Where do I start with this one? It’s the best colony simulator ever made, even if its final release is decades away. The Steam version has a user-friendly UI (even though people always say the ASCII version is fine after you spend a few hours with it, I always despised it), great graphics, and an astonishing soundtrack which I wish had 30 times more songs (hopefully they’ll extend it in the future). I already said it before, but I want to repeat it: losing has never been so fun.

Books

The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

I started reading John Steinbeck novels a few years ago with Of Mice and Men, which captured my interest with a simple but beautifully written story. I then followed that up with East of Eden, which I also loved. This year I continued with his works by reading The Grapes of Wrath. Besides his beautiful prose, what hooks me most about Steinbeck books is how he described the United States: its people, their customs, their way of thinking (in particular the American Dream). However, while his novels are dark and not particularly optimistic, Steinbeck always portrays some redeeming characters and/or deeds, which allow you to see the good in some people. The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the Great Depression, and contains some of the best descriptions I have ever read of how screwed up the capitalist system is. Many of the situations described in the book speak about the relationship between the powerful and the powerless, and you could read quite a few of its passages today in the news. A classic masterpiece.

Project Hail Mary – Andy Weir

This was a fun page turner, similar to earlier books by the same author such as The Martian. However, the story being told here hooked me much more than his previous work. You have a race against time to save humanity from the loss of the Sun, a contact with an alien civilization, and the archetypal Weir protagonist (who I always thought was a self-insert of the writer) solving a million problems with the help of Sunday morning science TV shows. While I didn’t like the ending much, it was certainly a fun ride.

Rhythm of War – Brandon Sanderson

This is the fourth entry in the Stormlight Archive saga, and it was an amazing journey. I can’t wait for the fifth book, which will mark the end of the first arc. I love seeing how Dalinar and Kaladin have developed as characters, and some of their scenes in this book really resonated with me. Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.

The Undying – Anne Boyer

A raw story about cancer treatment in the 21st century, exploring its various angles: economical, ecological, capitalist, and feminist… can be quite hard at times, but it really opens your eyes to many topics that we may optimistically overlook.

Remembrance of Earth’s Past: The Three-Body Trilogy – Liu Cixin

This was a massive read, as the full trilogy expanded over more than 1500 pages, but I really got into it. It had its ups and downs, though. I think that the author is very good at introducing cool concepts (for example, what would we do if we found an alien civilization? Would it be safe to contact them? How would people on Earth react? And many other interesting ideas). However, the prose is sometimes so bad that it completely puts you off from the story, which also has a lot of WTF moments coming out of nowhere (seriously, an assassin ninja android?). I honestly think that with the help of better editors, the author could have removed 300-500 pages and created an amazing trilogy. Despite this, the ideas in these three books are so interesting that they totally justify the read.

The Egyptians – Isaac Asimov

I keep returning to Asimov’s history books. They are very easy to read and provide a good, fast introduction to any point in history. They can be used as a starting point for more specific, in-depth books on topics that interest you. This book was no exception.

Simón Bolívar: A Life – John Lynch

Every now and then I like to read biographies. I enjoy reading biographies about interesting people with unique perspectives on the world and learning about their goals and motivations. That’s why I chose to read about Simon Bolivar this year. It’s hard not to wonder how Latin America would be different today if he had succeeded in achieving some of his goals.

Music

Unlimited Love – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Frusciante came back, and this album was a love letter to the fans. This album probably had the most RHCP sound the band has achieved in decades. It has some of the coolest songs the band has ever written, and the live shows were amazing. Flea keeps delivering incredible rhythms, John’s guitar is as magical as ever, Chad’s drums have aged like good wine, and Anthony wrote some of his most beautiful lyrics for this album.

Tasmanian Glow – Strawberry Girls

I had a glimpse of «Bay of Fires» while watching a random Twitch streamer speedrunning Elden Ring, and I instantly went looking for the whole song. That led to me listening to the whole album, and later all the discography of the band. If you like progressive/math rock, you will love this. It’s probably the best discovery I had this year on the musical front.

Illinois – Sufjan Stevens

I keep coming back to this album year after year. I discovered it long ago on a Spanish radio news show, where they used «Chicago» every day at the end of the program. Since then, this love letter from Sufjan Stevens to Illinois has grown on me (as all of his music has), and I can say it is already one of my favorites. Sometimes I find myself doing random stuff from my everyday life and something clicks in my head, making me listen to this on loop for weeks. A few months ago, I watched The Bear (more on that later), which is set in Chicago, and of course they used some of the songs on this masterpiece, which triggered me into another frenzied listening streak.

Return of the Dream Canteen – Red Hot Chili Peppers

And then, out of the blue, we were gifted with another 17 songs. This was a burst of creativity that I cannot remember from such an established band. «Eddie,» «Fake as Fuck,» and «Peace and Love» were some of my favorite songs on the album, which sounds even funkier than Unlimited Love. I hope to listen to this live during 2023.

Ventiladors – Zoo

And to close the music section, a band from my region. I had them on my radar since the people at NTMEP used «FAENA (RADIO MACRAMÉ)» as their opening, but I never really delved into their discography. 2022 was the year I amended this, and I am so glad I did. They have amazing lyrics with a mix of electronic music, rap, and ska, all done with love and social conscience.

TV Shows

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

Expectations: A fun, lightweight anime set in the Cyberpunk universe made with the sole goal of selling video games.
Reality: I am not crying. Your are crying. Rebecca best girl.

House of the Dragon

Old man Martin proves that he is better at writing scripts for TV than 99% of the writers out there. No fantasy show has come close to the level shown in House of the Dragon (yes, not even that show from that company that spent a billion dollars on it). This first season has laid the foundation for what could be among the best fantasy shows ever filmed. It’s an impressive start that I can’t wait to follow.

The Sandman

Neil Gaiman keeps adapting his works for television. First we had American Gods (the first season was really cool, but it didn’t hold up as well after that). Then we got Good Omens, which I loved. And now we get to follow The Endless and their stories. We started with the first two Dream arcs, and I loved every minute of them. Episode 24/7 is a masterpiece of horror, and if future seasons maintain this level, it will be an incredible ride.

Severance

I don’t want to say too much about this show because I feel that anything I say could be a spoiler. It begins with a science-fiction premise: would you implant a device in your brain that makes you forget about your personal life when you’re at work, and about your work when you’re off duty? This premise is what initially drew me in, but the show quickly evolves into a «mystery of the week» series that reminded me a lot of Lost. It’s still too early to know where the story is headed, but it has a lot of potential. The cast is good, the photography is nice, and it’s definitely worth following.

The Bear

Who would have thought that, in the year we returned to Westeros and The Sandman was adapted for TV, my favorite show would be a short drama about a chef who goes back home to take over his deceased brother’s small sandwich shop? I guess that’s one of the great things about TV shows: you can discover unexpected gems that you weren’t even looking for. While there are some comedic moments here and there, don’t be fooled – this is a wonderful drama with well-written characters, exploring the ups and downs of a small restaurant on the streets of Chicago. Themes of losing your loved ones, creating your own family with the people around you, fighting for your dreams, the stress of running a restaurant, and struggles with people close to you are all explored in depth. Jeremy Allen White is amazing in this show, and the rest of the cast is also incredible. The soundtrack is top-notch, the photography is astonishing, and I would kill to taste the food at The Bear. This is one of those shows where I can’t decide if I want a second season or if I want to keep this perfect memory forever. Go watch it!


And that’s it for the year recap. At first, I thought it was going to be much shorter, but the more I thought, the more cool stuff I remembered. It seems that 2022 was not so bad after all!

Featured image: The three body problem Doomsday war, by Enzhe Zhao

2 comentarios en “2022 in review: a bit of everything

  1. Project Hail Mary was my favouritest book for 2022! It really got me so invested in the characters, and Andy Weir really does have a way with storytelling. As for Disco Elysium, the gameplay was a bit too unique for me. I prefer much more classic (and straightforward) RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, but I appreciate your thoughts on the game.

    Le gusta a 1 persona

    1. Yeah, Andy Weir always writes with such a good rhythm, he is amazing on that.

      I can see Disco Elysium being «too much» if you are into more classical RPGs, but I really loved the way your character is built and how it affects the gameplay, I found it extremely fun!

      Me gusta

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