Y’know… I can handle all the jokes about how my Year-in-Review posts almost never appear in December or January anymore (unless it’s one I’m getting paid for). I can handle the idea of everyone searching for a “new normal” that will never come in this never-ending pandemic. But what I can’t handle in this Möbius strip-of-a-timeline is the fact that every world leader seems doggedly determined to push us toward destruction.
It was bad enough when it was a seasonal cycle – COVID numbers plateau without actually dropping; leaders say everything’s safe and that you should gather for the season; numbers immediately skyrocket; the season ends; rinse and repeat – but when the White House announces that it’s fully disbanding its COVID response team this coming May… that… I never thought I’d say this, but that’s actually worse than Dubya’s stupid, war-criminal ass standing in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner. This is Biden actively driving us over the cliff that
Trump already steered us toward.
The US is the only “major” country in the entire world that doesn’t have any social safety nets to protect its citizens. Oh sure, you can be pedantic and mention how nations that do are also struggling (just look at England), but at least they have those measures in place. Putting aside the record-high deaths from COVID (600/day in the US), Long COVID is predicted to be a “mass-disabling event” that will cost governments personally and financially, with the US expected to lose some $3.5 trillion (with a “T”) as a result. What do you expect that to look like in a country with no universal healthcare and where the rich pay fewer taxes than baristas?
Spoiler: it won’t be pretty. All because you’re too cowardly to wear a mask and get a jab.
Hell, one thing I did write this January was my then-latest COVID e-mail, which I’d been sending since March 2020. Back then, they started as mostly humorous messages of encouragement to support my distant colleagues through the unprecedented lockdowns. As the year went on and certain events (the murder of George Floyd, the election) came about, I tried to keep the messages light-hearted, even as they took a more overtly political stance.
After nearly three years, I put it on indefinite hiatus in January for the sake of my mental health. Depending on who receives the messages, it can be like talking to a brick wall. Folks who should fuckin’ know better are now the ones filling their social media profiles with restaurant photos, concert pix, and other such unmasked social events. They’re also mentioning that they’ve been infected by COVID numerous times. One actually called me “judgmental” for sticking with masking. Right… ‘cause following the science and cutting off an airborne virus’ access to my body makes me oh-so judgmental. I don’t know if that’s less or more condescending than the anti-vaxxer I argued with as part of this SF City Hall demonstration (I’m the one in all-black with a red mask).
But again, I could probably deal with all that the same way I deal with still being without a full-time job, if not for the fact that a lot of the social and creative outlets I frequented are now gone. After Lucky 13 went under, I found Zeitgeist to be the most COVID-safe dive bar in The City. Now, they’ve dropped all their safety measures, so I just have to walk by. DNA Lounge didn’t go under, but its dedication to being the most COVID-safe venue on Earth proved to be a battle they could only fight for so long without support on the political level. I had to stop going to the SF Ballet and Opera – not because they went under, but because they gave up their COVID safety measures (and I’d just done work for the Ballet).
Add to that my longtime theatre homes of EXIT Theatre and PianoFight have both going before their time, leaving a gaping hole in the heart of every Bay Area indie theatre artist. It’s no wonder the people I live with think I’m anti-social when I’m running out of places to go and people with whom I can interact safely. But if it’s a choice between not interacting or possibly-contracting-a-virus-that-can-kill-me-and/or-leave-me-disabled-for-life, I’ll take the non-interaction.
(Incidentally, not visiting the above businesses has kinda, sorta made me give up drinking and weed, both of which I only did socially.)
What I’m sayin’ is that spending three-and-a-half years trying to protect myself and others has been both exhausting and lonely. As easy as it would be to just give up and give in, I know what the consequences of that would be, especially after I spent last summer as caretaker for a COVID-stricken relative.
It sucks, but I’m not ready to give up my life – not for something so easily preventable.
So, now that we got that outta the way, let’s go over a few pop culture thangs that happened over the past 12 months, eh?
Other Bay Area losses from the past year included the great Pharoah Sanders (whose daughter I know), KOFY-TV (again),
I thought this would be more of my talkin’ about shit like Russia invading Ukraine (thus giving Putin his own Viet Nam); the retirements of Trevor Noah retiring (damn) Don Lemon (so what?); about the Stockton serial killings; about the butt-plug chess scandal; and maybe even about Kanye… fuckin’ Kanye.
A few things to mention:
- all my theatre thoughts are mentioned in the 48 Hills link up top, so I won’t be mentioning them here
- as with the past two-to-three years, social distancing has limited the number of films I usually see, so don’t ask me why this one’s shorter than years past
Anyway, here’s some things that stuck with me throughout the year of Will Smith slappin’ Chris Rock.
MOST FUCKED-UP CELEB – Kanye
If you’ve ever read my previous Year-in-Review pieces, you’ll know that I frequently put his name in one of the “Best of” moments as I desperately hoped he’d see that light and break free of his MAGA bullshit. A couple years ago, I realized that wouldn’t happen. This year got so much worse that I finally wrote an essay I’d been putting off for six damn years. It wasn’t any one thing he did this year – the WLM shirt, the stalking of ex-wife Kim, the secret school, the lies about George Floyd, the incessant stream of anti-Semitism, the purchase of Parler – it was fuckin’ everything!!!
- Ezra Miller – ‘cause they prove that white folks can get away with bad behaviour all the time
- Ray J – for ending his decade-plus beef with Kanye by joining him as a MAGAsshole
- Nick Cannon – for getting away with the shit that Kanye doesn’t
- Elon Musk – do I even need to list off the reasons at this point?
WORST MOVIE I FINALLY WATCHED AFTER HEARING ABOUT IT FOR YEARS – Side Effects
What the fuck, Steven Soderbergh? You and Scott Z. Burns knocked it outta the park with Contagion (which now seems predictive in hindsight); how did you two fuck up so bad with this flick? Why does it start off as a genuinely compelling film about corporate greed and white male privilege, only to devolve halfway into a “poor white boy” treatise blaming everything on the woman who’s just out to tear down a good man? For Christ’s sake, they even fall back on the “Evil Lesbian” trope!
Fuck this movie.
BEST MOVIE I FINALLY WATCHED AFTER HEARING ABOUT IT FOR YEARS – The Love Witch
Not only is this one of the most gorgeous films I’ve ever seen, it’s wonderfully surreal and unabashedly feminist. I honestly can’t wait to see it again.
Honourable mention –
The first film to truly take on the pandemic is, so far, the best to do so. Don’t know why I put this off for so long? It’s not only creepy as all hell, it’s a perfect time capsule of a specific point in 2020. The one and only thing that sucks is that it’s still spot-on three years later.
BEST HORROR FLICK – Barbarian
Based on the-tv-spots-I-glanced-at-as-they-went-by, I wasn’t looking forward to this. Still, folks I respect gave it good marks. I’m glad I followed their advice, ‘cause this is a cool, moody piece of tension. It’s like what Don’t Speak should have ultimately been. The ending doesn’t land perfectly, but I still dig it.
BEST MOVIE – Prey or Everything Everywhere All at Once
The latter won a duffel bag of well-deserved Oscars, the former was a much-needed shot in the arm for a limp franchise. Both were the best movie-watching experiences I had last year.
BEST DOCUMENTARY – Quaranteened
Shot during the first year of the pandemic, released (through festivals) during the third, (sadly) still relevant during the now fourth. If have the chance to watch it, do so.
BEST SHORT FILM – Kiana
Bay Area film-maker Shandaeya Caldwell’s heart-breaking character piece dramatizes the first year of the pandemic through the eyes of a Black woman attempting to mentally cope with a virus out of control and a world that (as shown through the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor) that hates Black people. One of the best short I’ve seen in years.
BEST ONGOING SHOW I FINALLY WATCHED – Star Trek: Lower Decks
Another work I’d have passed over, if not for some choice recommendations. I haven’t watched a Trek show since DS9 and the Kelvin Timeline films are all-but-dead at this point (thanks for that, Tarantino), so my enthusiasm for the franchise is back to mid-2000s levels. Yet, this animated follow-up to TNG almost feels like a “Fuck you” to Rick Berman – the racist, misogynist, homophobic, elitist asshole who all-but-ruined the franchise after Roddenberry’s death. This show and Strange New Worlds both breathe life back into the franchise that was rightfully dismissed as “dead”.
BEST TV SHOW – Atlanta (final year)
This was a tough one. In the end, I picked this one because you can now appreciate its surreal brilliance in its entirety. I won’t lie to you and say it was free of Donald Glover’s well-documented misogynoir (I spent all last season screamin’ “Where the fuck is Van?!” Her solo episode was great, but damn.), but I’d also be remiss not to mention it’s one of the best shows of the past decade. It’s modern Black America through Glover’s funhouse-mirror eyes, with an ending that proves others do Chris Nolan better than Chris Nolan does.
Peacemaker – Andor – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – Rick & Morty
The first one was funnier (and more intelligent) than it had any right to be. The second was my first Star Wars-Disney+ show and I’m glad I waited for the really good one. The third takes Trek back to Roddenberry’s original pitch, but evolves the series into a world of ethnic identities, gender identities, musical styles, and political machinations that came up after the ‘60s. The final one… I don’t know if I’ll ever watch again after its lead actor/co-creator was revealed to be a complete piece of shit. (Yeah, I know that Dan Harmon is the real creative voice behind the show, but the literal voice of the leads is still in re-runs.)
BEST OLD-SCHOOL ALBUM – Isaac Hayes’ …to be continued
This is one of the most heart-breaking albums I’ve ever heard, and I bought it the same time I bought Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours. Hayes’ combination of emotional depth, soul music presentation, and classical orchestra composition make for a timeless EP that has yet to be matched – even if it rarely gets that kind of credit.
Hon. mention: Dead Kennedys’ Bedtime for Democracy
SF punk legends can still put a fire in your belly.
BEST NEW ALBUM – Megan Thee Stallion’s Traumazine
After Neckbeard Aubrey attacked her with misogynoir and online trolls tried to push her to the brink, the Texas gal proved why she’s the name on all their lips with her profanely feminist second album.
MOST DISAPPOINTING TV SHOW (continuing series) – Euphoria, Se. 2
Remember last year when I said the first year was one of the best on tv? How it was more of a US version of Skins than the proper US version of Skins? How I hoped it could sustain its creativity beyond Year 1? Well, guess what?
Yeah… despite some flat-out amazing acting and one indisputable knock-out of an episode (Ep. 5), this year was an absolute mess, devolving into the very show critics dismissed it as from the start. And the behind-the-scenes bullshit didn’t help either. Success went to Sam Levinson’s head, and now he just can’t stop.
BEST STILL-GOOD TV SHOW – The Other Two
I accidentally found out this show still exists (on HBO Max) when I read about it in an article about the WB-Discovery clusterfuck of the past year. I’m pleased to say that Year 2 of this show is just as sharp as it was on Comedy Central, only now, everyone says “fuck” uncensored. Plus, the last episode ends with a fantastic COVID joke I didn’t see coming.
Chucky (Se. 2)
Pay attention, Euphoria: this is how you continue and evolve Year 1 brilliance into a second year.
BEST TV FINALE – Atlanta
As I said above…
His Dark Materials
They went for the heartbreak. Good for them.
MOST UNFAIR CANCELLATION – Los Espookys
It was a toss-up between this or Betty, but it turns out the latter’s cancellation was announced in 2021. HBO started hackin’ and slashin’ a lot of material recently, and those two were unfortunate casualties. They added much-needed diversity, laughs, and creativity to the “It’s not TV” channel. I mean, we still have A Black Lady Sketch Show (for now), but damn… I’m gonna miss these two shows.
BOOK I FINALLY FINISHED – The Rest I will Kill: William Tillman and the Unforgettable Story of How a Free Black Man Refused to Become a Slave by Bruce McGinty
I’ve had this non-fiction book for years. I started it, got a good 3/4 through, then simply didn’t finish it. Not because it was dull – quite the contrary, it’s incredibly detailed and engrossing – but because, well, life just got in the way. Since then, it’s been on my desk, in my bag(s), or even in my lap – each time demanding that I pick it up and finish it.
Well… in 2022, I finally did. It’s final chapters are just as compelling as those preceding it, and it’s an eye-opening document to an unsung hero who single-handedly stopped Confederate pirates (in the bloodiest way possible), only to get less-than-grand recognition in the end.
Categories: Creativity, Film, Journalism, Literature, Music, TV
And what do YOU think?