By Ben Olson
At the conclusion of every calendar year, it’s customary for journalists to wax poetic about their favorite creative endeavors that dropped over the past 12 months. Checking in with the rest of my colleagues around the world, it seems some of my favorites of 2022 jived with the others’ picks, but some didn’t even make others’ lists. So it goes.
Top Gun: Maverick
It’s rare that an action movie captures my attention, but I have to take my hat off to Tom Cruise for his performance in Top Gun: Maverick. The sequel, which came 36 years after the original, over-delivered. The movie is a banger, paying homage to the original while blazing new territory at the same time. Most of all, the stunts performed in Maverick show Cruise’s dedication to avoid CGI whenever possible. Aviators will be agog at some of the aerial moves performed by Cruise — who actually flew during the film.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
The second installment of the Knives Out franchise, Glass Onion is just a great movie from beginning to end. Featuring Daniel Craig playing Detective Benoit Blanc in a post-Bond appearance, this movie doubles as an action film as well as a murder mystery, featuring an excellent performance by Edward Norton playing brash tech billionaire Miles Bron (which seems to be a dig at human-dumpster-fire billionaire Elon Musk). From the first moment, you realize that everyone’s a suspect in this film, and it’s up to Detective Blanc to figure it out.
Better Call Saul: Season 6
When Breaking Bad wrapped its epic run, fans were left wanting more from creator Vince Gilligan. Then, Better Call Saul emerged from the ashes and did what nobody expected it to do: give Breaking Bad a run for its money. The spin-off showcasing Saul Goodman’s origin story before the events of Breaking Bad is a wild, creative and memorable ride that brought the curtain down on Goodman’s journey with an incredible amount of suspense and wonder. It’s on par with Breaking Bad as one of the greatest shows on television.
A prequel to a prequel doesn’t exactly sound that enticing, but when you enter Star Wars into the equation, anything is possible. After the success of The Mandolorian, streaming service Disney+ has released several side stories in the Star Wars universe, including Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett, but the one that truly captured the rugged “space western” quality that The Mandolorian nailed is Andor.
Set five years beforeRogue One, this film helps establish the rise of the Rebel Alliance. It’s a brutal, heartbreaking, inspiring and action-packed series that leaves Star Wars fans wanting more in this vein.
The Rings of Power: Season 1
After the mediocre reaction to The Hobbit film series, it seems there might have been a bit of Lord of the Rings fatigue setting in. Enter The Rings of Power on Amazon Prime. Not only is this series a faithful accompaniment to Tolkien’s prolific works, it’s also a comfortable fantasy you can get lost in, with characters that help attach plot threads throughout the Tolkien universe.
LIFE ON EARTH — Hurray for the Riff Raff
The eighth album by the band Hurray for the Riff Raff deserves a mention for one of my favorite albums of the year because it sounds different from just about anything else on the standard “best of” lists. The sound in LIFE ON EARTH is defined by electric synthesizers and catchy hooks throughout the album, leaning into the so-called “nature punk” style the band exudes.
Cool it Down — Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The band’s first album in nine years dropped like a meteor, and is perhaps the best of its career. This Brooklyn post-punk trio offers so much heart and soul in their song selections, with “Blacktop” as one of my favorite songs, featuring singer Karen O quoting Dylan Thomas over a droning Brian Eno synth sound. Very cool, indeed.
Blue Rev — Alvvays
Canadian dream-pop band Alvvays produced a powerful third album in Blue Rev, earning mentions on many “best of” lists. The group has a unique sound that lives somewhere between My Bloody Valentine shoegaze and The Pixies grunge rock, but this sound feels wholly theirs. Singer-songwriter Molly Rankin’s melodies are infectious, as is the band’s energy.
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