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The Dispatch's Best of 2022
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The Dispatch’s Best of 2022

The movies, TV shows, books, and music we enjoyed this year.

Happy Friday! Did you know bees like to roll around on little wooden balls for fun? You do now!

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Ukrainian defense officials said Thursday Russia fired at least 69 missiles yesterday, with Ukrainian forces shooting down 54 cruise missiles and 11 Iranian-made drones. The projectiles that did reach their targets caused mass power outages in Kyiv and Lviv, near the Polish border. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted the Kremlin won’t negotiate peace, despite Russia’s recent setbacks on the battlefield.
  • U.S. Indo-Pacific Command reported Thursday a Chinese fighter pilot performed an “unsafe maneuver” while intercepting a U.S. Air Force aircraft conducting “routine operations” in international airspace over the South China Sea. Per USINDOPACOM, the Chinese pilot flew within 20 feet of the American plane, forcing it to take “evasive maneuvers” to avoid a collision.
  • While vacationing with his family in the U.S. Virgin Islands, President Joe Biden on Thursday signed the recently passed $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill into law, averting a government shutdown that was set to go into effect over the weekend.
  • Richard Sauber—special counsel to the president—told GOP Reps. James Comer and Jim Jordan on Thursday that the White House won’t comply with oversight records requests they’ve already sent because they don’t yet have constitutional authority to make them. Comer and Jordan are expected to head the House Oversight and Reform and Judiciary committees, respectively, but will have to restart their records requests once they’re formally in those posts next month. House Republicans plan to investigate the origins of COVID-19, the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, the president’s knowledge of Hunter Biden’s business dealings, and a host of other topics.
  • Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in for his sixth term as Israel’s prime minister on Thursday. The coalition agreement of his government also assigns ultranationalist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir—convicted in 2007 of supporting a terrorist group—a national security post overseeing Israel’s border police, who often handle riot control and counterterrorism efforts. Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich—a supporter of Israeli West Bank settlements—will become finance minister and have administrative authority in the West Bank. The coalition also plans to give the lawmakers more oversight of the courts and undermine Iran’s nuclear program.
  • The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy statistic for layoffs—rose by 9,000 week-over-week to a seasonally adjusted 225,000 last week, remaining near historically low pre-pandemic levels.
  • The average number of weekly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States decreased about 12 percent over the past two weeks according to CDC data, while the average number of weekly deaths attributed to the virus—a lagging indicator—decreased 3 percent. About 33,800 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up from about 31,800 two weeks ago.

The Dispatch’s Best of 2022

A scene from Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. (Photo via IMDB.)

There’s not a whole lot going on in the news today as we head into the new year, so we at The Dispatch figured we’d take a few minutes to share some of our favorite stuff from 2022: Movies, TV shows, books, music. Let us know in the comments if you agree—or disagree—with our picks!

Movies

Andrew Egger, Associate Editor

  1. Everything, Everywhere, All At Once
  2. Top Gun: Maverick
  3. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

What do you say about the movie that has everything? Well, you can start with a caveat: Everything, Everywhere, All at Once is an infinite multiverse movie, which means talking about it requires tuning out the yammering of the plot-hole-junkie killjoys. Sit back and enjoy the ride, though, and it’s the ride of the year: an enormous, bombastic spectacle of a film, one where calling it “the best kung-fu/sci-fi crossover since The Matrix” somehow fails to capture the magic. Some random trivia might help: It’s got stop-motion animation! Pinky-based hand-to-hand combat! The universe’s most sinister everything bagel! An extended reference to Disney/Pixar’s 2007 classic Ratatouille! It could be too much sound and fury, if the core weren’t so simple: a drama of a poor immigrant family stretched to the breaking point, then restored. Oh, did I mention there’s people with foot-long hot-dog fingers who play piano with their toes? That’s in there too. Pretty good movie.

Esther Eaton, Deputy Editor of The Morning Dispatch

  1. RRR
  2. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
  3. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once
  4. Top Gun: Maverick
  5. Vengeance

RRR is a three-hour Indian epic imagining what might have happened if two real-life Indian revolutionaries—Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem—had met as young men before setting out to fight the British Raj. But please don’t get the wrong idea: this film is less historical fiction or political statement than it is an exuberant paean to the power of friendship and freedom, flaming tigers, and always getting your reps in. I didn’t know what to make of it at first (Fair warning: It features almost cartoonish violence), but by the 45 minute mark or so—as the first big musical number kicked in after our heroes met while bungee jumping off a bridge to rescue a boy from a flaming train wreck—well, I was hooked. If you have an ounce of joy in your body, you will be, too.

Declan Garvey, Editor of The Morning Dispatch

  1. Vengeance
  2. Top Gun: Maverick
  3. The Batman
  4. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
  5. Bullet Train

I thought, when I subscribed to AMC Stubs A-List earlier this year, I’d take advantage of the ability to go to the theater blocks from my apartment up to three times a week. I was wrong. The list of movies I haven’t seen this year is much longer than the list of movies I have. In another universe, Tár, Aftersun, The Fabelmans, The Banshees of Inisherin, and The Menu make up my top five. 

But you can only work with what you’ve got. Vengeance was a fine watch, although a bit of an overbearing one. A snobby New York-based journalist finds himself in Texas, expecting to tell a story about the broken and backwards people he finds there. But guess what! The people welcome him with open arms; it’s the journalist who’s the close-minded one. In the end, everyone learns a little something about their fellow countrymen.

Adaam James Levin-Areddy, Senior Multimedia Producer

  1. The Banshees of Inisherin
  2. The Fabelmans
  3. Glass Onion (for the schlock)
  4. Matilda (because of the songs)
  5. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once

Though the civil war allegory was a little ham-fisted, the personal drama was heartbreaking from the word go. In a deserted town of 8 and a half people, Colin Farrell can’t figure out why in the world his best friend Brendan Gleesen is breaking up with him. The characters are all brilliant and daft at the same time, full of blindspots that lead to gut-punching mistakes. I just love my comedies dark and tragic.

Alec Dent, Culture Editor

  1. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once
  2. The Northman
  3. The Menu
  4. Top Gun: Maverick
  5. Confess, Fletch

I said in my review of Everything, Everywhere, All at Once back in April that it was guaranteed a spot in every top 10 list of the year. I stand by that, and with the year now complete I’d argue that it deserves the top spot on all those lists. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once is cinema at its finest: moving storytelling and beautiful visuals. The cast is superb, the writing is clever and humorous, and even though the movie doesn’t quite stick the landing with its message, it is guaranteed to entertain.

TV Shows

Cameron Hilditch, Fact Checker

  1. House of The Dragon 
  2. 1899
  3. The Gilded Age
  4. Derry Girls 
  5. The Staircase 

I use an app called Taste to rate and record everything I watch, so I have a catalog of all the T.V. shows and movies I’ve seen this year in front of me right now. It strikes me that unlike the past two years, 2022 has been particularly poor as far as feature-length productions go. In light of this shortfall of quality, I’ve opted to present a list exclusively of the best shows I’ve seen on the small screen this year. At number one is HBO’s triumphant Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, which chronicles the build-up to an epic internecine civil war in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world of Westeros. It harkens back the earliest and best seasons of the original series in the way that it privileges family drama and palace intrigue over mere spectacle (though there is much of that, too). It also throws Amazon’s unwatchable drivel and rival fantasy production, Rings of Power, into appropriately unforgiving relief.

Price St. Clair, Reporter

  1. Rings of Power
  2. Severance
  3. Better Call Saul

Rings of Power isn’t much like Breaking Bad, but they share at least one key trait in common: The writers know where they’re going. Just as the writers of Breaking Bad knew from the outset that Walter White’s character had a five-season arc, the writers of Rings of Power are working within clear start and end points in the history of Middle Earth—or so my friends who have beaten me to Silmarillion-reading levels of nerdery assure me. As a result, the first season isn’t just a festival of stunning visuals and acting and Tolkien-esque dialogue. It’s also an exercise in universe-building that sets the stage for the rumored four seasons to come. If the quality can stay high—and Jeff Bezos is spending tons of money to ensure it does—Rings of Power has a chance to go down as one of the greatest TV series ever made.

Declan Garvey, Editor of The Morning Dispatch

  1. Andor
  2. Better Call Saul
  3. Severance
  4. Barry
  5. Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special

Who knew Star Wars had it in them?! For years, fans have begged Lucasfilm—and then Disney—for a story about the everyday people who make up that galaxy far, far away and set the stage for the Skywalkers (good and bad) to do their thing. Andor is that story. Rife with moral ambiguity, the prequel to Rogue One follows Cassian Andor on his journey from lowly thief to hero of the Rebellion. Along the way, the show illustrates—in remarkable detail—just how the Empire’s authoritarianism could drive a person to martyrdom. What’s it actually like to rot away in a prison on Narkina 5? How did the Imperial Security Bureau stumble upon its … unique torture methods? Where do the funds that power the Rebellion come from?

If the guns shot bullets instead of lasers—and the characters drove pickup trucks instead of spaceships—there’s no reason Andor couldn’t be an Emmy-winning spy thriller on HBO. There’s not a lightsaber to be found, and the force is mentioned only briefly in passing. This is a story about the conditions that spawn resistance movements and the ethical compromises that sustain those movements. 

“I’m condemned to use the tools of my enemy to defeat them,” a protagonist laments in quite possibly the best monologue to ever grace the Star Wars universe. “I burn my decency for someone else’s future. I burn my life to make a sunrise that I know I’ll never see. And the ego that started this fight will never have a mirror or an audience or the light of gratitude. So what do I sacrifice? Everything!”

Adaam James Levin-Areddy, Senior Multimedia Producer

  1. Better Call Saul
  2. House of the Dragon
  3. The Peripheral
  4. Rings of Power (less for the quality of the show, more for the discussions it engendered)

Speaking of tragic comedies, the conclusion of the Breaking Bad universe hit me harder than I expected. The series always knew how to skip between sinister playfulness to tragic consequences in a gloriously entertaining way, but in its final episodes everything was … subdued. No more circus, just a slow coming-to-terms. Some of the best TV out there.

Rachael Larimore, Managing Editor

  1. Yellowstone
  2. Stranger Things
  3. Reacher
  4. Letterkenny

I don’t pretend to understand how a great TV show can go relatively unnoticed for a few seasons and then become so successful that it’s all anyone is talking about, but count me among the millions of Americans who discovered Yellowstone late in 2021 when its fourth season debuted. Even after I’d heard about it, it had a lot working against it. Kevin Costner, for example, whom I’d come to remember mostly for bombs like Waterworld and The Postman. But then we started binge-watching it from the beginning. 

The scenery is beautiful and the story is relatable and sympathetic—a hard-working rancher struggling to preserve not only his family’s land but also a way of life that his family and others like it have known for more than a century. But Costner’s John Dutton is a flawed hero, a trait that reveals itself most obviously through his relationships with his three surviving children. (The oldest Dutton child died in the first season.) Jamie Dutton is a morally challenged and power-hungry lawyer who vacillates between seeking his father’s approval and challenging him publicly. Beth is a brilliant yet ruthless businesswoman who slices up rivals effortlessly. She has a complicated relationship with her father, but is loyal to the end. She’s been described as the show’s best character and worst person, an assessment that is hard to argue with. Only Kayce, the baby of the family, has escaped with his character intact, and he’s done so only by distancing himself from the ranch and the family.

What makes the show so compelling is that each child, even the entirely unlikable Jamie, reflects a different aspect of their father’s personality. Jamie and John are both entirely convinced they are right, even when they aren’t. Beth embodies her father’s ambition, and amplifies it a thousandfold. And Kayce represents his underlying good character and sense of duty. In a recent episode, John Dutton was talking to Rip, his ranch manager and Beth’s husband. “You know, I always thought Beth would calm down as she got older,” John said. “Every year seems like she gets wilder. Never seen anything else like it. What it must feel like to be that free. You know, I got one child I miss, one child I pity, and one I regret. That girl, that child, I envy.” Come for the mountains and the horses, stay to find out which aspect of John Dutton’s personality wins out.

Sarah Isgur, Staff Writer

  1. Station 11
  2. Bluey
  3. Mad Men
  4. Winning Time

Station 11 was original, consuming, and well-executed across the board. Twenty years after a global pandemic kills 90 percent of the world’s population, life continues on in Michigan. It’s poignant, and haunting, and beautiful. Very unlike what I usually go for, but well worth the watch. 

Books

Alec Dent, Culture Editor

  1. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
  2. Democracy: An American Novel by Henry Brooks Adam
  3. Ravelstein by Saul Bellow
  4. Lindbergh by Scott Berg
  5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Where is God when I am hurt? It’s a question that humanity has grappled with for all its existence, and one that C.S. Lewis struggled with in particular after the passing of his wife, Joy. A Grief Observed is a collection of Lewis’ diaries in the months after Joy died. It is heart-wrenching and powerful work, as Lewis works through all the questions one has for and about God after losing a loved one. Few would have faith more prepared for a loss of this magnitude than Lewis, one of modernity’s greatest apologists, and yet, even he struggled. A Grief Observed reminds readers that we are all imperfect, sinful creatures, but throughout all our struggles God is always present and always loves His creation.

Esther Eaton, Deputy Editor of The Morning Dispatch

  1. Rivers of London, series by Ben Aaronovitch
  2. Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe
  3. The World for Sale, Jack Farchy and Javier Blas
  4. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
  5. The Good American, Robert Kaplan

I didn’t read many new releases in 2022, but these books were new to me this year and I can’t resist sharing. I’m a sucker for police procedurals and urban fantasy, and Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London books are both. In the first, Midnight Riot, young London cop Peter Grant interviews a murder witness who turns out to be a ghost—and soon finds himself apprenticed to the Metropolitan Police’s melancholy wizard and trying to broker peace between feuding branches of the River Thames’ family of gods. Read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, the audiobooks are an utter delight. Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing—a chilling history of the Troubles focused on the story of one missing mother—is also well worth hearing on audiobook. I can’t speak to the other books’ audio versions, but I highly recommend them: an introduction to the big money small ethics world of commodity traders, a sci-fi stunner about a spaceship’s orphaned AI, and a biography of Bob Gersony, “the most influential humanitarian you’ve never heard of.”

Price St. Clair, Reporter

  1. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (2021)
  2. Europe’s Last Summer by David Fromkin (2004)

To say the scope of Anthony Doerr’s 2021 novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land, is ambitious is an understatement. Over the course of more than 600 pages, readers travel back and forth between 15th-century Constantinople, 21st-century Idaho, and a 22nd-century starship, discovering that these apparently disparate times and places—and the characters who inhabit them—are connected by their encounters with and care for a particular book.

The text in question is Cloud Cuckoo Land, a (fictional) fable by the (real) ancient Greek romance author Antonius Diogenes. Diogenes’ tale—narrated by Aethon, a simple shepherd who seeks to become a bird and fly to a paradisiacal city in the sky—seems at first like a comedic quest for utopia, with each of the main characters in some way mirroring Aethon’s journey.

Music

Esther Eaton, Deputy Editor of The Morning Dispatch

  1. Juniors by Tall Heights
  2. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once by Son Lux
  3. All 4 Nothing by Lauv
  4. Optimist (Deluxe) by Finneas
  5. Midnights by Taylor Swift

This is what it sounds like to write TMD. (And it’s an older release, but if you need me to suddenly crank out 900 words on monetary policy? Turn on the soundtrack to the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty—it’s a Pavlovian response at this point.)

Alec Dent, Fact Checker

  1. Once, Twice, Melody by Beach House
  2. People in Motion by Dayglow
  3. The Batman by Michael Giacchino
  4. Olly Olly by Penny and Sparrow
  5. Lucifer on the Sofa by Spoon

Beach House has the smoothest, dreamiest sound of any band out there today. Their biggest hit, “Space Song,” has picked up mainstream attention over the past year courtesy the CCP-data gathering app, TikTok, but the rest of their oeuvre remains criminally under appreciated. Once, Twice, Melody builds on the band’s earlier successes, and is an excellent entry point for new fans.

Declan Garvey, Editor of The Morning Dispatch

  1. (self-titled) by Marcus Mumford
  2. LP3 by Hippo Campus
  3. Things Are Great by Band of Horses
  4. Few Good Things by Saba
  5. Pastlife by Day Wave
  6. Leap by James Bay
  7. Being Funny in a Foreign Language by The 1975
  8. Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers by Kendrick Lamar
  9. Asphalt Meadows by Death Cab for Cutie
  10. Lucifer On The Sofa by Spoon

With rumors swirling that Mumford & Sons could be headed for Splitsville, Marcus Mumford had to have known the announcement of his first solo album would raise some eyebrows. Turns out, he could’ve abandoned his Sons years ago! (self-titled) is a hauntingly beautiful record, (mostly) devoid of the accelerating banjo licks and gravelly howls that have come to define Mumford’s career. In their place: a muted acoustic guitar, soft whispers, duets with Brandi Carlile and Phoebe Bridgers.

Given the subject—Mumford coming to grips with childhood trauma and the resulting shame—the sound fits. “Of course I deny it, can hardly believe it, dismiss or demean it, ‘cause I know I can’t speak it,” he sings on “Cannibal,” the album’s opening track. “But when I began to tell. It became thе hardest thing I ever said out loud. Thе words got locked in my throat. Man, I choked.”

Victoria Holmes, Associate Podcast Producer

I don’t watch television shows (hello YouTube and live sports) and I’m not a big movie-goer (sensory overload). I also don’t read “recent books”—I’m currently reading a Molly Ivins autobiography. So, when I was asked to contribute to this list, I figured I could best pitch in by sharing my epic running playlist: here are my top three songs from 2022.

Worth Your Time

  • For The Washington Post, conservative columnist Marc Thiessen rounds up his top ten best and worst things Biden did this year—and the president’s response to the war in Ukraine leads both lists. “After Russia invaded, Biden rallied our allies to support Ukraine’s self-defense—providing arms, money, intelligence and diplomatic support that stopped Putin from seizing Kyiv,” Thiessen writes in Biden’s praise. “At the start of the conflict, no one thought Ukraine could survive; today, Ukraine’s courageous armed forces are on the offensive, retaking territory Russia unlawfully seized. For all the flaws in his Ukraine strategy, Biden deserves credit for saving a free and independent Ukraine.” Now for the bad: Slowwalking military support that could make a decisive difference for fear of escalating the conflict. “As a Ukrainian reporter asked Biden at his news conference with Zelensky: ‘Can we make long story short and give Ukraine all capabilities it needs and liberate all territories rather sooner than later?’ Zelensky added: ‘I agree.’ Biden’s refusal to do so is dragging out the conflict, leading to thousands of civilian deaths and delaying Putin’s defeat.”
  • Pelé—the footballer so transcendent his name is synonymous with the sport—died yesterday at age 82. “According to him, his most personal aim was to achieve the unrealized greatness he glimpsed in his father, who’d been an admirable but obscure player, to redeem him from a failed soccer career,” José Miguel Wisnik writes, reflecting on the beauty of Pelé’s play and life. “Before he knew it, he was the top idol of the most popular sport on the planet, making his thunderous arrival at the 1958 World Cup, at the age of 17.” But his career also tracked with the increasing commercialization and systemization of his sport, Jonathan Wilson argues for Unherd. “Nobody should criticize somebody who grew up in the poverty Pelé did for pursuing every opportunity they can,” Wilson writes of his many sponsorships. “But that doesn’t mean that there cannot be sadness for what he became and what football has become. Amid the dictatorships, there was something beautiful about 1970. The feelings of wonder Brazil and Pelé evoked at the time were not fake, nor should they be invalidated by context: art can flourish in the most brutal of places.”
  • For those weary at the mere thought of New Year’s resolutions, consider English man of letters Samuel Johnson: Chronically depressed and a perennial late riser, Johnson nevertheless continually made resolutions. Writing in the New York Times, Garret Keizer commends Johnson’s example of hope amid failure. “His was the familiar case of two steps forward and one step back, a halting progress, to be sure, but progress nonetheless,” Keizer writes. “Religious or not, most of us know that heady sense of reprieve and possibility implicit in [Johnson’s prayerful] mention of ‘another year.’ I’ve made it this far. I’m not dead yet. I still have a chance—if only to take better care of those for whom ‘another year’ means another term of misery. Johnson seems never to have lost sight of that chance. He saw it all around him, sleeping in the ashes, collapsed in the mire, and he seized it with compassion. How much happier this New Year would be if we resolved to do the same.”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • 2022 was a whole lot better than a pessimist like Nick expected. “It was, all things considered, a bad year for authoritarians, a bad year for toxic narcissists, and a good year for the rest of us,” he wrote in yesterday’s Boiling Frogs (🔒). “And it’s been awhile since we could say that.”
  • With the year drawing to a close, Kevin joined Jonah on yesterday’s episode of The Remnant for some wide-ranging sociopolitical nerdery. How can you judge whether a given social policy is effective? Why does the American tax system make no sense? Should you always be skeptical of new ideas? Plus: a few minutes on the George Santos debacle and the state of the gun debate.

Let Us Know

Have you ever successfully stuck to a New Year’s resolution? Have any tips for us on how to do it?

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.