2022 Kaedrin Movie Awards: The Arbitrary Awards

The 2022 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners were announced last week, so now the awards get arbitrary. The idea is to recognize aspects of films that aren’t reflected in more traditional awards or other praise like a Top 10 list. However, any awards system will fail to capture all the nuances and complexity available; hence the 2022 Arbitrary Awards, an opportunity to commend movies that are weird or flawed in ways that don’t conform to normal standards. A few of these “awards” have become an annual tradition, some were stolen from other folks, but most are just, well, arbitrary. Previous Arbitrary Awards: [2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]

The “You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else” Award for Worst Dialogue: Morbius. I’ve always been somewhat amused by the weird, ironic, performative internet fandom that’s grown around this movie, in part because of the ridiculous dialogue. Plentiful choices, but one of the best/worst has to be: “It’s Lethal To Bats….But Deadly To Humans.” You don’t say! This is one of those awards that’s sorta painful to sort out, because who wants to relive bad dialogue? But I’m guessing some runners up might include stuff like Clerks III and Black Adam.

The Proximity to Jason Vorhees Award for Heroic StupidityHalloween Ends. The franchise just keeps getting stupider, which isn’t necessarily the worst thing (it’s a “bozo masterpiece” as someone once put it), but yes, the franchise “wins” this award for the second year in a row. At least it didn’t win the worst dialogue award too (as happened with last year’s Halloween movie). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake/reboot/whateverthehellthatthingis was a distant second in the voting.

The “Weiner” Award for Unparalleled Access to Documentary Subjects: Navalny. There’s a phone call scene in this that is pretty amazing. Otherwise, this doesn’t exactly have astounding access (like the namesake of the award), but that phone call is certainly something. Fire of Love is worth mentioning as a runner up here due to the gorgeous footage of volcanos, eruptions, lava flows, etc… that was made available.

The Garth Marenghi “I know writers who use subtext, and they’re all cowards” Award for Achievement in Didacticism: Smile. Of course, the movie’s literalizing of horror’s current obsession with trauma is part of the point, and I ultimately quite like the movie, but it does suffer from that impulse. I wanna say that The Bubble might also be a fit for this award, but quite frankly, I don’t remember much about that movie? Like, I know I watched it, and I do get a sorta didactic vibe from it in my head, but specifics are out of reach.

Best Treatment of the Pandemic: Kimi. Movies, for the most part, have ignored the pandemic. Some make fleeting references, some were clearly filmed during the pandemic and have the odd blocking and editing to show for it, but few have really embraced it. Steven Soderbergh has made a habit of tossing off zippy thrillers of late, and this latest one deals with the pandemic reasonably well, while also being pretty entertaining and relevant. It’s not perfect or anything, but it’s nice. Also of note: The way that Glass Onion acknowledges the pandemic then swiftly dismisses it with a pretty funny Ethan Hawke cameo is great.

Most Unnecessary Origin Story: Death on the Nile. I enjoy these Branagh Poirot movies (I mean, obviously the 1978 version is better, but the Agatha Christie story remains mostly intact, so how could you not enjoy?), but this one has an almost comical origin story for Poirot’s mustache that was just completely unnecessary.

Poirot and mustache

Achievement in the Field of Gratuitous Violence: It’s a special Holiday tie: Violent Night and Christmas Bloody Christmas. Both flawed movies, but the violence is indeed gratuitous (if you can get past the dumb setup or inane chatter, respectively).

Best Robot Manager: Gary the Robot from Moonshot. I mean, he’s sorta dumb comic relief, but I kinda loved Gary and wish he showed up later in the movie. The movie itself is an underseen and perfectly cromulent romantic comedy with SF trimmings. It’s got Zach Braff in it for some reason! It’s got teen actors that I don’t recognize, but who apparently have huge fandoms! It’s set on a trip to Mars, despite the title? Look, it’s not exactly fine cinema, but I enjoyed myself more than the reviews seem to indicate.

Most Underseen Romantic Comedy: I Want You Back. This Charlie Day and Jenny Slate romantic comedy didn’t get much play this year, probably because it was a direct to streaming release. Not sure it would have done The Lost City or Ticket to Paradise numbers, but I do think it’s better than those two movies, even if it’s lacking in starpower. But Day and Slate are great, and even Scott Eastwood is likeable here (which is saying something, cause he’s pretty bland everywhere else).

Best Losing Her Shit Monologue: Resurrection. About midway through the movie, Rebecca Hall just drops this amazing monologue that washes over you like a ton of bricks. And sure, I’ll also through a notice to Pearl here, as Mia Goth also unleashes a corker of a monologue towards the end of the film. I’ll let Rebecca Hall have this award though, as we’ll give Mia Goth:

Best Fake Freeze Frame: Pearl. It’s not exactly meant to be a fake freeze frame, I guess, but the camera holds on Mia Goth’s ridiculous smiling face for a comically long time.

Best Cameo: David Lynch playing John Ford in The Fabelmans. Absolutely perfect, and while this was apparently known before the movie was released, it was fortunately not spoiled for me.

Most Unexpected Appearance of Chain Mail: Decision to Leave. If you so desire, you can explore a lot of thematic depth in Park Chan Wook’s police procedural, but it’s still a thriller that features scenes where a cop, confronted with a knife wielding criminal, pulls out a chain mail glove, catches the knife blade in his armored hand whilst beating the criminal with his other fist.

Most Baffling Use of Color Grading: Emancipation. I get that digital color grading in post production can be a powerful tool, but I don’t know what on earth was going on with this movie. I mean, I get it – a desaturated color palette can emphasize certain thematic elements in a movie about slavery – but the execution was just painful. Like, literally painful, my eyes were so constantly strained throughout the film that by the end, I had a pounding headache. Just shoot the damn thing in black and white and digitally colorize the fire in those scenes, and you’d be much better off. I have not seen it yet, but Women Talking apparently has a similar feel to it (the trailer I saw was not quite as bad, but it was still hurting my eyes).

The Wholesome Frankenstein Award: Brian and Charles. This lovely low-fi story about a lonely beardo inventor who creates a robot out of an old washing machine is weird and fun and charming.

Best YouTube Release: Line Goes Up – The Problem With NFTs. Not exactly a traditional film, but this 138 minute long takedown of Crypto and NFTs is certainly well done for something done on a shoestring and released on a personal YouTube channel.

Should Host the Oscars: Johnny Knoxville. As paraphrased by longtime Kaedrin friend Dave: “Hi, I’m Johnny Knoxville and this is the Oscars!” *gets slapped in the dick by Will Smith.* Other potential hosts: Lydia Tár, Benoit Blanc, the aformentioned Gary the Robot, and of course, the Predator.

That does it for the 2022 Arbitrary Awards, but stay tuned, moar 2022 movie commentary incoming, including the traditional Top 10 list (this will probably take a couple weeks) and some Oscars commentary…

2022 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners

The nominations for the 2022 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. The overall awards season still has not especially recovered from its pandemic era woes. The Golden Globes, plagued by scandals and corruption, have faded. The Academy Awards struggle to find an unobjectible host, and though last year’s slap may boost viewership this year, they’ve still got a relatability problem (though there are some popular choices they could make this year to reverse course on that front). But through it all, the Kaedrin Movie Awards carries on with the same delayed schedule that befits my status as “not a critic with access to screeners”. So while I’m finishing up with poorly distributed prestige pictures, I’ll hand out these more ridiculous awards, let’s get to the 2022 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners:

Best Villain/Badass: Chef Julian Slowik, played by Ralph Fiennes in The Menu, I’m actually a little surprised that the voting came out this way (and yes, there’s only one vote, mine, but still). This partly speaks to a poor year in villainy, but The Menu is a film that was surprisingly well done and deserving of recognition. It probably won’t be making the top 10, so this is a pretty good place for it, and to be fair, Fiennes’ fed-up chef is a wonderful villain with a demented plan.

Ralph Fiennes in The Menu

Runners up to Stephen Lang’s performance in Avatar: The Way of Water, which is great, even if I wasn’t entirely taken with the story, and Jobu Tupaki, played by Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All at Once, who was pretty fun.

Best Hero/Badass: Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, played by Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick. In a much stronger year for heroism, there as still a pretty obvious choice in Maverick. This is Cruise’s second win in the category, and I’d have to look it up, but this might be the first time an actor repeats with two different characters (he previously won for one of the Mission Impossible movies).

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick

As for runners up, well, most of the other nominees are pretty great… they just can’t quite stand up to Maverick!

Best Comedic Performance: Saoirse Ronan in See How They Run. Another surprising win, I think, which befits the movie: I definitely wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much, and a big part of that was Saoirse Ronan’s dry humor and delivery. Just perfect comedic timing, and a really underrated movie. Jackass Forever suffers from the ensemble problem here (I nominated Johnny Knoxville as the putative leader of the group, but they really deserve recognition as a whole – this is a common problem with this award that I have no real solution for other than this parenthetical). Otherwise, I really liked Daniel Radcliffe in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story and John Hamm in Confess, Fletch – both underrated movies with poor distribution that are worth seeking out and very funny.

Breakthrough Performance: Mia Goth in ‎X and Pearl. Horror movies tend to underperform in awards season, but not at the Kaedrin Movie Awards! Got put forward a trio of performances across Ti West’s unexpected series of ambitious slashers (with another apparently to come!) She plays a wide gamut of emotions and challenging scenarios. Acting against herself in a scene, seducing a scarecrow, stalking the grounds with an axe, or giving a corker of a monologue, she does it all.

Mia Goth in ‎Pearl.

Jenna Ortega in Scream (2022)‎X, and Wednesday was also under consideration here, but her roles were smaller and less varied (and as great as she was in Wednesday, it’s a TV show!) Finally, it’s worth calling out Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans as a larval Spielberg stand-in that genuinely evokes the younger Spielberg character.

Most Visually Stunning: Mad God. I’m not entirely in love with the movie overall (I prefer a little more in the way of actual plot or story), but Phil Tippet’s stop-motion labor of love is truly something to behold, with wall-to-wall gorgeous grotesques populated throughout. A truly astounding and imaginative spectacle that’s unlike anything I’d seen before.

Mad God

Speaking of which, Avatar: The Way of Water also deserves a bit of a callout as a unique theatergoing experience. I normally hate 3D and I’m not entirely sold on high-frame-rate, but I suspect the confluence of those two technologies, combined with James Cameron’s innate visual prowess, made it so that I didn’t get a headache like I do for every other 3D movie I see. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is another stop-motion marvel that, in any other year, might have taken the cake. Also just wanted to mention Three Thousand Years of Longing, which does its best to use digital filmmaking for vivid colors instead of dark, dull, muddy visuals (seriously, towards the end of the film Tilda Swinton is walking around in a park and the vivid green grass and bright lighting was so refreshing in this age of too-dark cinematography and color correction).

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Nope. Jordan Peele does it again, and this is a sorta combo Horror and Sci-Fi picture, though it obviously leans horror. Honorable mentions to Everything Everywhere All at Once (best multiverse movie of the year), Crimes of the Future (Cronenberg’s back in body horror, baby!), Barbarian (surprising and deft tonal balancing act going on here), and X (Ti West’s ambitious, grimy sex and violence epic). A pretty solid and fascinating year of horror flicks, actually, and even stuff not nominated was pretty good.

Best Sequel/Reboot/Remake: Top Gun: Maverick. I usually try to spread the love around with awards, but like everyone else, I was taken with Top Gun: Maverick and I can’t really justify giving this to any of the other nominees. Which, to be fair, are a pretty good bunch for a category that I typically loathe. Special mention to Jackass Forever and the criminally underseen Confess, Fletch. Overall, a pretty solid list of nominees this year for a category I usually find difficult to populate.

Biggest Disappointment: Black Adam. I really wanted to get behind a Rock centered superhero movie, but this thing was an absolute mess, leading to probably the biggest chasm between expectations and disappointment. The other one that came close is The Bubble, which has a great cast and Judd Apatow, but was also just interminable. The other nominees weren’t particularly great, but I also wasn’t expecting that much out of them, so the disappointment was commensurately lower.

Best Action Sequences: Ambulance. Alright, who gave Michael Bay a drone? This award could very well go to Top Gun: Maverick, but I’ve already sung enough of its praises here (and this isn’t the last we’ll see of it), so I figured I’d spread it around to the underseen Michael Bay actioner that I really loved. Lots of other great nominees here, and I do want to call out a couple of DTV actioners like Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday and Lost Bullet 2: Back for More, both really fun little action flicks (and both sequels to same – all four movies are worth seeking out). The Big Four is another obscure one that I don’t see people talking about and is worth seeking out (it’s on Netflix). RRR also worth a mention, but I preferred the director’s previous work on the Baahubali films.

Best Plot Twist/Surprise: Barbarian. This is one of those awards where it’s a bit of a spoiler even talking about the vague concept of a surprise, so if you go into these movies with a “surprise me!” attitude, you might find it underwhelming. But Barbarian was one of those movies I went into knowing as little as I could about it, and so I was pretty consistently surprised throughout. Runners up nods to Bodies Bodies Bodies for almost retroactively making me love the movie, Athena for a comically provocative coda, and Decision to Leave for, well, let’s not spoil it.

Best High Concept Film: Crimes of the Future. Yeah, this category is a bit nebulous, but I’m always onboard with Cronenberg’s wholly invented areas of science like… whatever the hell is going on in this movie. Also high concept: whatever it is that Kristen Stewart’s performance is doing here (which, to be clear, I loved). I suppose Everything Everywhere All at Once deserves an extra mention, even if “multiverse” movies are all the rage these days. Brian and Charles is probably the most obscure but deserving nominee here as well, an earnest and oddly sweet mock-doc drama. Nope has sorta stealth high concept stuff going on, which puts a nice spin on familiar tropes. The other nominees are perhaps not as high concept, but all pretty decent…

2022’s 2021 Movie of the Year: The Rescue. I was really taken with this documentary about the rescue of twelve boys and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand, perhaps in part because it illustrates why I prefer documentaries over dramatizations of real life events… In other words, I preferred this documentary to Thirteen Lives, the Ron Howard dramatization of the same events which is actually pretty damn good. I just would rather watch documentaries about this sort of thing. Other nominees for this were also pretty solid, including a couple of Oscar noms that I caught up with late (or would have otherwise ignored) and some genre stuff that I let linger for some reason (but which were all worthwhile)…

Congratulations to all the 2022 Kaedrin Movie Award winners! And stay tuned, for next week, the awards go arbitrary!

2022 Kaedrin Movie Award Nominees

Welcome to the 2022 Kaedrin Movie Award season, which we’re kicking off with nominees in our standard categories! The idea is to recognize films for achievements that don’t always reflect well on top 10 lists or traditional awards. There are lots of formal award categories and nominees listed below, but once those are announced, we’ll also leave some room for Arbitrary Awards that are more goofy and freeform. Finally, we’ll post a traditional top 10 list (usually sometime in early/mid-February). But first up is the awards! [Previous Installments here: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021]

Standard disclaimers apply: It must be a 2022 movie (with the one caveat that some 2021 films were not accessible until 2022 and are thus eligible under fiat) and I obviously have to have seen the movie. As of this writing, I have seen 94 films that could be considered a 2022 release. This is precisely where I was last year at this time, which makes sense given how similar my movie watching habits were for these two years. It’s below what many critics have seen, but probably a lot more than your average moviegoer and certainly enough to populate the awards… which we should get to right now:

Best Villain/Badass
Not the greatest year for villainy, though the category did end up filling out well enough in the end. In accordance with tradition, my picks in this category are limited to individuals, not groups (i.e. no vampires or zombies as a general menace, etc…) or ideas. I’m kinda expanding this to include (er, exclude) creatures, even individual creatures. On the other hand, there is a robot on the list, so, I dunno, we’ll all just have to deal with it.

Best Hero/Badass
A better year overall for heroism and indeed, I actually pruned the list a bit (which, given how long the lists are for these badass categories, is saying something). One fun thing about both the hero and villain categories is that they are not as dominated by superhero movies anymore, even if there are a few token representatives from the genre… Again limited to individuals and not groups/creatures.

Best Comedic Performance
This is sometimes a difficult category to populate due to the prevalence of ensembles in comedy movies (this year being no exception). That being said, there were definitely a few standout solo performances this year that are definitely worth recognition.

Breakthrough Performance
This used to be a category more centered around my personal evaluation of a given actor (rather than a more general industry breakthrough), but it’s trended more towards the youngsters breaking through as time has gone on…

Most Visually Stunning
Sometimes even bad movies can look really great… But this is a pretty solid list!

Pinocchio

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film
It’s always nice to throw some love to genres that don’t normally get a lot of recognition in end-of-the-year lists. As an avid SF fan, it’s sad that the genre usually has to be combined with Horror in order to come up with a well rounded set of nominees.

Best Sequel/Reboot/Remake
Always an awkward category to populate, especially given my normal feeling on this sort of thing (i.e. not a huge fan of sequels).

Biggest Disappointment
A category often dominated by sequels and reboots, but original stuff has been picking up steam in recent years. Not sure if that’s good or bad… Note that these movies don’t necessarily need to be “bad” in order to be a “disappointment”. Basically, these movies scored poorly on Joe Posnanski’s Plus-Minus Scale.

Best Action Sequences
This award isn’t for individual action sequences, but rather an overall estimation of each film. We’ve got a pretty great, extensive lineup this year. The added accessibility of streaming DTV actioners has been a boon to this category.

Best Plot Twist/Surprise
I suppose even listing that there is a twist is a bit of a spoiler, but I guess we’ll just have to risk it.

Best High Concept Film
A bit of a nebulous concept for this category, but there’s some good stuff worth recognizing here because they took chances on a weird concept.

2022’s 2021 Movie of the Year
This is a weird category that is sometimes difficult to populate. During the pandemic, things were a little weird, but we’ve seemingly emerged from that weirdness. Still, there’s some decent stuff on this list that I’m glad I caught up with in 2022, even if I don’t know that any of these would kick something off my top 10 from last year…

So there you have it, please congratulate all of the 2022 Kaedrin Movie Award nominees! Stay tuned for the winners (probably next week, but you never know), followed by the Arbitrary Awards and Top 10 list. I’m still catching up with various flicks, because as usual, those 9 and 10 slots in the top 10 are a little difficult to fill (not, I should add, because there aren’t worthy candidates, but more because there are so many vying for those slots)…

Vintage Science Fiction Month: Voyage of the Space Beagle

Vintage Science Fiction Month is the brainchild of the Little Red Reviewer. The objective: Read and discuss “older than I am” Science Fiction in the month of January.

These are the voyages of the Space Beagle. It’s continuing mission: to explore intergalactic space, encounter new life forms, new civilizations, and survive their deadly advances. Yes, A.E. van Vogt’s Voyage of the Space Beagle is a pretty clear precursor to Star Trek, right down to the episodic nature of the narrative. Of course, that’s mostly because this is a prime example of what was called a “fix-up” novel, a book comprised of a compilation of four previously published stories. The title of the book is also a pretty clear reference to Charles Darwin’s book about his five-year mission (another Trek connection) of scientific exploration on the HMS Beagle.

The first story details an encounter with Coeurl, a starving, intelligent cat-like creature that plays dumb in order to trick the crew of the Space Beagle into allowing access to the ship. Several members of the crew are killed before they wise up and manage to trick the beast into an escape capsule and strand it in space.

The second story follows the chaos resulting from telepathic contact with a race of bird-like aliens. One member of the crew recognizes that the signals are meant to be a benign, friendly message, but the form of the message is incompatible with the human mind, and only quick actions by the aforementioned crew member saves the ship.

The third story has the Space Beagle picking up a red creature called Ixtl, which seeks to reproduce by kidnapping members of the crew and implanting eggs in them. Some details of this story are close enough to the film Alien that van Vogt actually sued for plagiarism (the case settled out of court, and for the record, the filmmakers deny any influence).

Finally, the fourth story shows an encounter with a galaxy-spanning consciousness that has, more or less, consumed its entire galaxy. The crew must devise some sort of strategy to deal with this situation, especially given that they don’t want to lead this entity back to our home galaxy.

In fixing these stories up for the novel, van Vogt would establish a new central character, Elliot Grosvenor, the lone “Nexialist” onboard the Space Beagle. Nexialism is van Vogt’s name for a sorta holistic approach to knowledge. As he describes:

Nexialism is the science of joining in an orderly fashion the knowledge of one field of learning with that of other fields. It provides techniques for speeding up the processes of absorbing knowledge and of using effectively what has been learned.

The problems which Nexialism confronts are whole problems. Man has divided life and matter into separate compartments of knowledge and being. And, even though he sometimes uses words which indicate his awareness of the wholeness of nature, he continues to behave as if the one, changing universe had many separately functioning parts.

In essence, Grossvenor is van Vogt’s equivalent of Heinlein’s competent man. As Heinlein famously quipped, “Specialization is for insects.” At times, you can feel the “fix-up” nature of the novel, as it seems Grossvenor fades too much into the background of the narrative. Also, though the stories have satisfactory conclusions, they do feel a bit repetitive, and while the holistic approach of Nexialism is certainly admirable, the solutions aren’t quite clever enough to really justify the idea. Still, there’s something fundamentally optimistic about van Vogt’s vision that is refreshing in this cynical age. It’s telling that the alien creatures are all undone by their own egotism and selfishness, while the crew of the Space Beagle prevail through decency, self-sacrifice, and cooperation. Of course, there’s plenty of infighting amongst various specialized factions of the crew, but that’s the point of Grossvenor’s holistic approach.

This is almost certainly one of those books that suffers due to it’s influence. So much of what has followed in its footsteps have improved on the ideas that going back to read this now makes it feel quaint. It is certainly an interesting exercise to see such ideas in their embryonic form, even if the terminology used can be a bit stiff or even laughable (the crew repeatedly brandish a weapon that van Vogt calls a “vibrator” – it’s not his fault that the term has taken on other meanings since then, but still), but at this point, it’s probably more suitable for students of the genre than anyone else.

None of which is to say that the novel is bad, per say, just that it doesn’t quite hang together as well as you would generally want from a novel. Not entirely unexpected, given the “fix-up” nature of the novel, but it’s ironic that a novel with the theme that holistic thought is critical would be so episodic and disjointed. From what I can tell, van Vogt’s concept of Nexialism lead him to start thinking about how humankind would need to transcend its limitations, and thus followed Space Beagle up with the novel Slan, which represents a more cohesive vision from van Vogt. Still, if you want to see how early Space Opera stories influenced much of the current Science Fiction landscape, Voyage of the Space Beagle is a pretty good place to start (if perhaps not the earliest).

2022 in Movie Watching

We’ve already taken a look at 2022 in book reading, so now it’s time to examine our year in Movie Watching. Yes, there’s a lot of important stuff going on the world, but contemplating the more mundane aspects of the year have value and besides, the time machine I’m building to make up for the tragic mistakes I made last year is difficult work and I need to take a break. As with book reading, I expected movie watching to revert to pre-pandemic levels, but as it turns out, this year was roughly equal to last year. However, last year was a dramatic decrease from the Covid heavy 2020, so I guess the movie watching just returned to pre-pandemic levels a little early.

I keep track of all my movie watching on Letterboxd, so if you’re reading this and are a member, we should be friends there. One of the neat things I can get from there is fancy stats and graphs and whatnot, so let’s take a deeper dive into my 2022 in movie watching:

Overall Stats

A general look at my 2022 in movie watching:

  • 389 films watched (+5 films from 2021)
  • 713 hours watched (-13.2 hours from 2021)
  • 32.4 movies a month on average (+0.4 movies from 2021)
  • 7.5 movies a week on average (+0.1 movies from 2021)

Breaking that down by decade:

Number of Movies vs. Decade

So even pre-pandemic numbers are a lot of movies, perhaps that will slide a bit this year, but who knows? Movies by decade was mildly surprising. Low viewing numbers from the 20s-40s isn’t especially uncommon (though perhaps I’m due for another 50 Under 50 type project?), but the modest increase in viewing from the 50s and 60s was nice. I was a little surprised at the decline in the 1970s viewing until I realized that I was still doing the 1978 project in 2021, which drove a fair amount of viewing. Otherwise relatively consistent viewing for the year, with only a slight divergence on the 80s and 90s.

Films by Week

Mildly more consistent week to week, especially considering that 7 week stretch where I watched 8 movies a week. In terms of days of the week, we see some fluctuations on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, which would be higher but for the resumption of various social events. Nature is healing, and so on.

Genres, Languages, and Countries

Genres, Countries, and Languages

The usual dominance of USA and English language here, with solid showing for other Anglosphere countries UK, Canada, and Australia (not on the list last year). The other addition this year was the triumphant return of Hong Kong. Dropping off the list from 2021 were Belgium and China. Every year I contemplate making a more conscious effort to watch foreign films, so perhaps I need to embark on another filmic project…

In terms of Genre, it’s nearly identical to 2021, with only Mystery and Adventure swapping places this year (though Action and Drama genres increased their numbers at the expense of the genres below them, even if the sequence is still almost the same).

World Map

Despite the US dominance overall, the global map has pretty good coverage overall, though obviously the number of movies in each country is relatively small. The only real shock from the map is the total lack of South Korea here (something that will be rectified in the next few days of 2023 as I will be catching up with some 2022 South Korea films soon).

Ratings and Other Patterns

Ratings and other patterns
  • 23.9% of my watches were a 2022 release, basically on par with 2021 (a difference of 0.3%). This is slightly above pre-pandemic numbers. 2020 was a big dip due to the pandemic, but the ascendance of streaming has really made more current releases more accessible than ever.
  • 24.4% of my watches were actually rewatches, which is, again, just about on par with previous years.
  • Ratings Spread continues to be roughly bell-curve shaped and centered on a 3 star (out of 5) rating. Modest increase in 3 star ratings this year, actually. One thing that’s not exactly prominent, but still notable is the number of 1 star ratings in 2022. Only 5 movies, but still, it’s a 500% increase over 2021. It was driven by a deep dive into the worst comic book movies of all time, part of a group effort that may or may not see the light of day.
  • Letterboxd has a watchlist where you can add movies you want to watch (or at least, not lose track of). This year wasn’t great – nowhere near parity between movies added to the list and movies watched. So the list continues to grow. Some of this has to do with availability – I might want to watch a movie, but it could be out of print or only available via physical media, or otherwise inaccessible etc… And some of it is just pure laziness.

Stars and Directors

Most Watched Stars

Bruce and Charlize take the top slots this year, Bruce due to following along with Blank Check‘s Sam Raimi marathon (which also drove the inclusion of Scott Spiegel and Ted Raimi on this list). Charlize Theron, on the other hand, made the list with completely spread out randomness – I had no idea she was going to be in some of the movies I watched this year, including a few obscure ones. Less black actors this year, but more women, so still not exactly diverse, but not totally generic either.

Most Watched Directors

Raimi heads up the list, again due to the Blank Check marathon. Kubrick also shows up due to a similar marathon, though I obviously didn’t play along with the whole thing. Overall, significantly whiter and more male than last year (and, like, there was only 1 woman on the list last year). The only diversity to speak of this year is Tsui Hark (driven by the Once Upon a Time in China movies). Otherwise some pretty standard stuff, with the only real oddball being Luigi Bazzoni, who shows up due to a series of Giallo films I watched this year during the Six Weeks of Halloween…

Highs and Lows

Highs and Lows

The Godfather takes its rightful place in the Highest Average slot (I even watched it a couple of times, as the 4K release is really fantastic.) Son of the Mask takes the Lowest Average rating this year; I only watched this due to the aforementioned effort to watch the worst comic book movies of all time (and this one is certainly in the running for that dubious honor). Knives Out picks up the Most Popular slot for the third year running (and I do truly love that movie). And finally, the Most Obscure movie I watched last year was One of My Wives Is Missing, a fantastic, twisty TV movie from 1976. It’s not exactly fine art or anything, but it’s really enjoyable stuff and it’s still on Amazon Prime if you’re interested…

So there you have it, 2022 in movie watching was pretty solid, though I think I have some areas to work on in 2023…

Vintage Science Fiction Month: SF Stories About Christmas

Vintage Science Fiction Month is the brainchild of the Little Red Reviewer. The objective: Read and discuss “older than I am” Science Fiction in the month of January.

When you think of Christmas stories, the first genre that comes to mind is probably not Science Fiction. But decades of initially flippant but increasingly earnest proclamations that “Die Hard is a Christmas movie!” indicate that perhaps the notion of what constitutes a “Christmas Story” is somewhat malleable. Naturally, none of this is new. Witness To Follow a Star, a collection of nine science fiction Christmas stories published in 1977, featuring stories from Golden Age stars dating back to the 1940s and 1950s. One of the great things about reading vintage SF is the continual discovery that everything old becomes new again at some point (in this case, debates about what makes something a “Christmas Story”).

To Follow a Star book cover

On its surface, the notions of Science Fiction and Christmas represent something of a contrast, but such conflicts can be useful in storytelling. As is typical of collections like these, the stories are a bit uneven, but it’s always nice to read something along these lines during the holiday season. Quick thoughts on each story:

  • Christmas on Ganymede by Isaac Asimov – Cute little short story written in Asimov’s traditional non-style, with a button of an ending that you might see coming, but which brought a smile to my face.
  • Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus by Frederik Pohl – Naturally Pohl takes on the commercialization of Christmas and imagines a far flung satirical future in which “department stores begin celebrating the Christmas sales rush in September”, imagine that absurdity! (I don’t talk much about my day job here, but I work for a digital retailer that starts their Christmas sales rush in July, so I had a nice chuckle at this part of the story.) Amusing predictions aside, this is perhaps not your typical romantic Christmas story, but that’s ultimately where its heart lies.
  • Santa Claus Planet by Frank M. Robinson – A man crash lands on an alien planet, and finds that the natives have rather odd and perhaps gift-giving traditions. An interesting, if exaggerated and fatalistic, exploration of the power dynamics inherent in gift giving. Not terribly Christmassy, to be sure, but interesting.
  • Christmas Tree by John Christopher – Short tale of a space traveler who plays with fire and ends up getting grounded (i.e. stranded) on the moon because his body can no longer the trip back to earth. Spoilers, I guess, but while the character will miss Christmases back home, this is not especially Christmassy either.
  • The Star by Arthur C. Clarke – One of Clarke’s most famous short stories, this won’t exactly put you in the Christmas mood, but pitting the cold hard science against the faith of believers (in this case Christians) will certainly make you think. This is not the first time I’ve read this story, and even knowing where it’s going – an excellent rug-pull at the end of the story where everything clicks in a devastating way – does not diminish its power.
  • The Christmas Present by Gordon R. Dickson – I guess they wanted to put all the bummer stories in the middle of the collection, which makes sense. This is another story about how aliens learn about Christmas, this time with tragic results. It stands in stark contrast to Asimov’s earlier story in this collection (which also deals with aliens trying to figure out Christmas), which is a nice touch.
  • Christmas Treason by James White – Much is made of the “lies” we tell kids about Santa and Christmas, and as you might expect, science fiction authors (and fans, for that matter) are the type who will not accept traditional explanations of the logistics of Santa’s delivery service. In the case of this story, kids with teleportation and psychokinesis powers assume that Santa must have a series of underground bunkers secreted throughout the world to support his Christmas Eve shenanigans. The only thing is: these bunkers are actually nuclear missile silos. While certainly a recipe for disaster, James White takes a decidedly more fun view of the situation and does a reasonable job balancing the tone of the story (which does need to walk a rather tight line).
  • The New Father Christmas by Brian W. Aldiss – In an increasingly automated world, will the machines and AIs adopt Christmas traditions in strange ways with unforeseen consequences? I suspect the writers of Futurama might have been inspired by this story in their conception of Robot Santa…
  • La Befana by Gene Wolfe – Christmas is about the birth of Earth’s savior, but what about other planets? Neat idea, and Wolfe uses one of my favorite Santa precursor legends in this short story.

As already mentioned, it might seem odd to see mixtures of Science Fiction and Christmas, but as it turns out, I’ve read several collections of Christmas Science Fiction stories, and there are probably a bunch of others. There are other collections from various authors, like Isaac Asimov’s Christmas (which is a collection of stories from Asimov’s magazine, rather than the author himself), but also some specific authors who seemingly specialize in the holiday, like Connie Willis’ A Lot Like Christmas and John Scalzi’s A Very Scalzi Christmas. All of these collections have their charms, in part because I like the contrast inherent in this micro-genre, and To Follow a Star is no exception (though I think I would probably recommend Willis and Scalzi books ahead of this one, for whatever that’s worth).

Next up for Vintage Science Fiction Month: Space Beagles!

2022 in Book Reading

Another somewhat arbitrary orbital cycle has concluded, which means it’s time to take a step back, contemplate our tragic mistakes the year that was and resume work on the time travel device that will allow us to go back and make things right. Given the tumultuous nature of the last few years, this sort of thing could get… dark. But one thing that is more mundane and thus not as existentially terrifying to examine is to review the year in book reading.

I keep track of my reading at Goodreads (we should be friends there), and they have a bunch of rudimentary statistical visualization tools that give a nice overview of my reading habits over time, especially now that I’ve been logging books there for over a decade. So let’s get to it…

Graphing Books and Pages Over Time

I read 52 books in 2022, pretty much right on target for the goal I set for myself (averaging a book a week), but this pace signals a return to pre-pandemic levels of reading.

You can see the full list of books I read in 2022 on Goodreads. Obviously Covid is still around and things aren’t exactly “normal” these days, but after a couple of years spent mostly cooped up in my house reading books and watching movies, I’ve been spending more time socializing and engaging in other activities, a welcome change of pace. As much as I love reading (and watching), the pandemic fueled excess of 2020 and 2021 was probably not healthy.

Average page length was 343, a significant improvement over last year’s 312 and precisely on par with 2020 (if still a bit below the record of 356, set way back in 2013). This does provide a bit of a clue about why 2021’s book count remained pretty high though – I read a significant amount of shorter fiction, serialized novellas, and so on. Which is not to say that there was none of that in 2022 book reading, just much less of that. Short fiction often serves to inflate the overall number of books, but this year was mostly full novels (or longer form non-fiction). Otherwise, overall page count is almost exactly on par with 2019 pre-pandemic numbers.

Of course, we must acknowledge the inherent variability in page numbers, and I read at least one book this year that Goodreads doesn’t have a page count for (no idea why). Are such outliers part of every year’s page count? Or is this truly a one-off? Whatever the case, the peak at the heart of the pandemic and decline as restrictions eased makes intuitive sense.

The Extremes

Not much to mention here, other than that the shortest book being 111 pages also speaks to the reason my average page number count went back up to a higher number (last year’s shortest book was 47 pages). It’s also the highest page count for shortest book of the year since 2011, so there is that. Shortest is often as low as 10-20 pages, so 2022 was pretty solidly in novella/novel realm. In terms of longest books, Rian Hughes’ XX was the longest thing I’ve read since the pandemic started (though it’s worth noting that Hughes’ extensive use of large typeography and graphic design probably inflate the page count a bit – it’s an excellent book, by the way). We’ll be covering the “Least Shelved” book in detail soon enough, it’s basically a short story collection of classic SF themed around Christmas. The Most Shelved was a non-fiction book about the Chicago World’s Fair and a serial killer who hid amongst the bustle of the city (very good, and not surprising that it’s so popular).

Assorted Observations and Thoughts

At this point, I’d normally show the graph of books read by publication date, but ever since I read Twelfth Night, by Shakespeare, the chart’s Y axis got so large that the graph is essentially useless now. That being said, while there’s certainly a bit of a bias towards recent releases (exacerbated just a bit by following along with the Hugo awards this year), there was a pretty good spread ranging from 1952 up to present day.

  • Judgement Night by C.L. Moore was the oldest book I read in 2022. Published in 1952 as part of Vintage Science Fiction Month, which is often a driving force behind the oldest books of the year. That being said, I did read several things from the 1950s and 60s throughout the year.
  • 16 non-fiction books in 2022, a decrease from last year in absolute terms (20 last year), but only a tiny decrease in terms of proportion.
  • 20 Science Fiction books in 2022, a moderate increase in absolute terms, but a larger increase in terms of proportion.
  • 22 books written by women in 2022, a significant increase from last year, but still not quite parity for the year. As per usual, this isn’t something I intentionally try to control throughout the year, but it’s interesting to look at…
  • My average rating on Goodreads was a 3.8 (out of 5 stars), but I will note that I tend to round up to 4 stars for the grand majority of books. A lot of those 4 ratings would be 3.5 if that option was available.

So there you have it, 2022 was a pretty solid year in book reading. I don’t see any significant changes coming this year. My goal will remain 52 books a year and I don’t see any reason to expect major differences from 2022. I’m pretty sure I won’t be participating much in the Hugos this year, and indeed, things seem like they’re running pretty far behind (usually by this time, the Nominations phase is open – that being said, I don’t think I have much that I’m prepared to nominate this year). Anywho, stay tuned for the year in movie watching, some Vintage Science Fiction Month reviews, and the kickoff of the Kaedrin Movie Awards, starting in mid-January and culminating in the traditional top 10 in February sometime (yep, two months after most people post theirs, I know, I know).

The Great Movie Catch-Up, 2022 Edition

Tis the season to draw up a list of 2022 movie releases that I want to catch-up with before embarking upon the traditional Kaedrin Movie Awards, Top 10, and other year ending nonsense. Of course, the professionals are releasing their Top 10s and year end summaries right now, but for us normals who don’t go to Sundance and Cannes or get screeners and other opportunities, it takes a bit longer. So the Awards happen in January and the Top 10 usually in February (hey, at least we’re faster than The Oscars!)

As of this moment, I’ve seen 75 movies that could be considered a 2022 release. This is just about on par with last year at this time, but definitely higher than previous years. Obviously the last couple of pandemic inflected years have been a bit of an anomaly, but it’s clear that streaming exclusives and collapsing theatrical windows have made movies much more accessible much earlier. There are pros and cons to this and I’d honestly like to see theaters doing better, but streaming certainly does make things convenient.

After a quick spin around the moviesphere, there are plenty of 2022 movies I still want to catch up with. Some have not yet come out, but others have been out for a while, I just never caught up with them. Standard disclaimers apply: I consider some 2021 movies a 2022 release if it didn’t get distributed in the US until 2021. This list is not comprehensive. I probably won’t watch everything on this list. I will probably watch things not on this list. And so on. Alrighty, that’s enough preamble, let’s get to it:

Blockbusters

Avatar: The Way of Water – Duh. I mean, sure, I didn’t love the first Avatar, and I honestly wasn’t pining for a bunch of sequels. That being said: James Cameron has made multiple of my all time favorite movies and he always makes interesting stuff.

Avatar: The Way of Water

Early word is that the sequel is better than the original. Perhaps not a high bar, but still, I wouldn’t count Cameron out. Maybe he’ll surprise me.

Babylon – Does this actually count as a “blockbuster”? I dunno anymore. It’s certainly got lots of stars and a big budget. Damien Chazelle! Brad Pitt! Margot Robbie! A three hour runtime! I honestly don’t know what to make of this, but it could be interesting.

Black Adam – The Rock’s superhero movie came out in October, but I never caught up with it. More because it was the Six Weeks of Halloween and I had other things on my mind than anything else, but then, it didn’t seem to set the critical or popular world on fire either. I’m doubting it’ll make the top 10 (I enjoy superhero movies quite a bit, but they rarely make the top 10), but I’ll certainly be catching up with it when it hits HBO Max soon.

Ticket to Paradise – Romantic comedies are back, baby! Or not, whatever. I’m doubting it will make the top 10, but it’s always nice to pepper something fun or cute into a list like this, otherwise things will get awfully depressing.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent – For some reason, I never caught up with this self-aware Nicholas Cage flick, which will have to change soon.

Streaming Exclusive

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Netflix) – As per usual, this just showed up unexpectedly this weekend. I’m usually interested in del Toro’s work, so I’ll certainly be giving this a look, even if I’m not entirely enthused at yet another take on Pinocchio.

Guillermo del Toros Pinocchio

On the other hand, I was shocked by how much enjoyed del Toro’s remake of Nightmare Alley last year, so who knows?

Emancipation (Apple TV+) – Can Will Smith rebound from “the slap” with this gritty slave drama? I guess we’re going to find out.

Emily the Criminal (Netflix) – Aubrey Plaza gets mixed up in some sort of credit card scam, sounds interesting enough…

We Met in Virtual Reality (HBO Max) – “Filmed” entirely in Virtual Reality, this is a documentary about burgeoning VR communities. Sounds interesting!

Independent and Art House

Three Thousand Years of Longing – George Miller’s strange little fantasy romance involving a djinn sorta came and went without making waves, but I’m intrigued enough, even if it’s clearly nothing like Miller’s other work…

Decision to Leave – Park Chan Wook has a new movie out? A crime thriller thing? Yes please!

Tár – Seems to be a pretty consensus critic’s choice, I never managed to carve out the time to see it in the theater (another Halloween conflict here, though I probably could have seen it the week after, it was gone from theaters pretty quickly though).

The Banshees of Inisherin – Martin McDonagh always writes interesting stories, so I’ll most certainly try to catch up with this one.

Return to Seoul – Another South Korean thriller, I know very little about this, but it sounds interesting and unconventional.

The Whale – Darren Aronofsky is always interesting, and it’s nice to Brendan Fraser making waves again. Not sure this will be a movie for me, but I’m certainly interested.

Speak No Evil – Scandanavian thriller about a couple that vacations with strangers, but some sort of hijinks ensue.

Miscellaneous, Genre, Mutant Fam, etc…

Something in the Dirt – The latest from Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, who are always making interesting stuff (though sometimes it’s more effective than others). This seems like a Covid production type of thing, but those sorts of constraints fit with Benson and Moorhead’s style pretty well.

Holy Spider – Story about a journalist researching a serial killer in Iran, sounds fascinating.

Resurrection – Rebecca Hall seems to be carving out her own little sub-genre of horror, and this is the latest entry.

You Won’t Be Alone – Something about a 19th century Witch living in other people’s skin to see what their lives are like? Sounds interesting enough!

Pearl – I just recently caught up with Ti West’s X, and this prequel might actually be something that works as a prequel.

After Yang – Something about androids and Colin Farrell, sure, why not?

Alright, we’ve peeked over twenty 2022 movies to catch-up with here, which is probably good enough for now. As usual, totally open to whatever recommendations you might have. Lists like this can be a little misleading because I’ve already seen a great deal of movies this year. This includes lots of recent stuff like The Fabelmans (it’s good!) and both (count em!) killer Santa movies.

SF Book Review – Part 39: Reunion and Moar!

Hard to believe it’s been over a year since the last one of these, though there’ve been plenty of other posts covering the Hugo Awards or Halloween Reading, and so on. Still, I’ve built up a backlog of SF books that need reviewing, so here goes nothing:


Reunion by Christopher Farnsworth – Four teenagers save the world in a small town during an event that became known as “New Year’s Evil.” Twenty years later, and the cyclical evil has returned. The four heroes, now cynical adults, must return home to go to their high school reunion and face the evil again. Or do they?

Reunion by Christopher Farnsworth

It’s a premise that recalls Stephen King’s It in more than a few ways, though Farnsworth obviously puts his own spin on it and clocking in at just 332 pages, it’s clearly not going for the epic sensibility King was working through in his novel. Farnsworth does make ample use of archetypes though, and it’s almost like he’s using It as a structural archetype. Each of our heroes follows a well established model. Eric is a magician, a la Merlin. Carrie is the girl detective, as in Nancy Drew. Alana is the Warrior Princess, like Xena. And Danny is the boy genius who goes on super science adventures in the manner of Jonny Quest. Each character is introduced in a sorta where are they now chapter, then they come together to confront evil (again), and each also gets flashbacks extolling their teenaged adventures. It all culminates in dueling climaxes, where we get the true story of “New Year’s Evil” cross cut with a redux in the present.

I was a little hesitant at first, but the book quickly won me over, and by the end I was wishing it was an It sized doorstop. It’s a story that does play to Farnsworth’s strengths, as in his President’s Vampire novels, where he gets to mix and match various bits of classic folklore and modern urban legends to craft a page turning adventure. There are some twists and turns and unexpected character revelations, which all worked well enough for me, even if some of them are a tad predictable. It’s still fun seeing each character leverage their talents, then team up to defeat a seemingly unstoppable evil by using clever combinations of said talents. It’s clearly drafting on its archetypes, right down to the structure, but hey: they’re archetypes for a reason. It all resonates quite well in the end. Solid page-turning beach-read type stuff, and a lot of fun.


Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells – NASA discovered an alien ship hidden in the asteroid belt in the 1960s and the entire space program has been a covert attempt to develop the technology to reach it. Dr. Jane Holloway is a linguist recruited to help decipher any alien language they stumble upon. When they reach the ship, Holloway discovers it’s not completely uninhabited. A disembodied voice guides and helps the astronauts as they make their way through the ship. But is the voice on their side? Or is it manipulating them for some nefarious purpose?

Straightforward space opera comfort food, this turns the pages and presents a few interesting conflicts that drive tension throughout, but it’s also not going to blow your mind with anything especially new. Plenty of SF tropes and info-dumps, but nothing too unusual for the genre. Alas, the biggest issue here is that it’s all in service of a larger series of books, and while the ending is a natural conclusion for some of the characters, there are still lots of open questions that will presumably be explored in later books. That being said, I might be amenable to reading at least one more of these, which is usually a good sign…


Travel by Bullet by John Scalzi – This is the third novella in a series about “dispatchers”, people who are legally empowered to take a life (except in this world, anyone who is murdered survives – they just wake up in their home after being murdered. Natural deaths still occur uninterrupted, only murders are affected). It’s a silly premise, but Scalzi has set up internally consistent rules and used them to tell tightly plotted murder/mystery stories that rely on the vagaries of the dispatching process in some way. As per usual, lots of snappy dialogue and light humor keep the tone playful and the pace moving sprightly. For some reason, this entire series was conceived as an audio book exclusive (though I think the first two eventually got a print edition), but they’re solid listens and Zachary Quinto does a good job reading the stories. This has been a fun series and I look forward to more installments (for the record: each story is a self-contained mystery, so it’s not the kind of series that leaves you with lots of loose threads and open questions.)


Freedom™ by Daniel Suarez – The sequel to and conclusion of the story started in Suarez’s Daemon, about a quasi-AI system that attempts to take over the world after its inventor dies. I found that first book to be enjoyable enough in a surface-level pulpy fiction way, but was not inclined to immediately seek out the sequel. But I did seek out more Suarez, and he’s grown on me as an author, so I have finally circled back to this sequel. The first novel primarily saw the Daemon as a villain, but in this book Suarez attempts to soften the image a bit. It’s still a situation where the Daemon has to break some eggs to make the omelet, but maybe that omelet is worth it?

There are some interesting ideas floating around here about better ways to organize a society and its various supply chains given a high tech base to start from, though it all still feels like we’re only really scratching the surface, and a lot of plot elements are far-fetched to say the least. That being said, that sort of thing can be a lot of fun if you can get on its wavelength and don’t ask too many questions. I’m glad I read it and enjoyed it well enough, but my complaints from the first book remain and this would not be the first Suarez I’d recommend (if you’re interested, go for Influx or Delta-V first…)


Still a few more books to catch up with, and we’ve got Vintage Science Fiction Month coming soon too, so stay tuned…

Weird Movie of the Week: Smoking Causes Coughing

Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we met Brian and Charles. This time we learn that Smoking Causes Coughing:

After a devastating battle against a diabolical turtle, a team of five avengers – known as the “Tobacco Force” – is sent on a mandatory retreat to strengthen their decaying group cohesion. Their sojourn goes wonderfully well until Lézardin, Emperor of Evil, decides to annihilate planet Earth.

Alright, referencing a Quentin Dupieux movie for weird movie of the week is almost like cheating. After all, this is the guy who brought us the touching tale of a homicidal tire and a talking deerskin jacket, amongst other oddities. As these things go, a Power Rangers-style parody featuring anti-smoking vigilantes named Benzene, Methanol, Mercury, Ammonia, and Nicotine, along with a green rat mentor, is perhaps not as uniquely weird as the rest of Dupieux’s filmography, but it’s pretty damn weird for everyone else. Who’d have thunk that Smoking Causes Coughing?