Welcome, one and all, to the 2798th annual Horny Awards! Every year since humans figured out how to count them, the Satyrs’ Forest has presented hand-made, custom trophies to the best works of the year that was. It’s an astoundingly long-lasting tradition, and definitely not something i made up just now.
2022 was one of the years ever. Things, i’m told, occurred. People were born; people were taxed; people died. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard released several albums. It will go down in the history books as “the year between 2021 and 2023”. On with our show.
The Laurel Wreath Award for Annual Achievement in Film
Our first category marks all the wonderful movies that were made in this past year — which is quite a lot, so my apologies to all those films who i either didn’t mention or didn’t have time to see!
There can only be one winner, but i’ll start off with a lightning round of honourable mentions. Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis was like being locked inside a room with an insane person for two and a half hours, and i loved every ridiculous, extravagant, kinetic minute of it. Tom George’s See How They Run and Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery were brilliant and funny throwback mysteries which really needed more time and appreciation in the cinema. And i dearly hope David Letich’s Bullet Train becomes the new Fast and Furious — 2Bullet2Train! Bullet Train 3: This Time it’s a Plane! Bullet ISS! The possibilities are endless.
An especially honourable mention goes to Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All, a tender horror romance which almost made it to the main list before i realised that i hadn’t actually all that much to say on it. It’s a metaphor for something, i tell ya hwat…
It could have done with less of the hot-dog fingers, but anyone who would leave our first “official” runner-up off of their year-end list is a heartless bastard. On paper, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a recipe for everything everywhere to go totally wrong: a riff on The Matrix with a tenth of the budget, directors whose last work was a movie where Daniel Radcliffe farts a lot, and a sense of humour firmly dated to Reddit circa 2012. Yet it pulls it off.
This is a movie where people beat each other up with dildos, where a hallway of people literally explodes into colour and light, and where the equivalent of the Death Star is an everything bagel. It is also one of the only movies to have made me bawl like a baby in the cinema. Everything Everywhere is an anti-cynical, anti-nihilistic manifesto for our time. Yes, nothing matters! and yes, you might not write the next great American novel or paint a masterpiece! but the world has so much joy and beauty, so many minuscule details that you pass by every day, so for goodness’ sake, even if you’re just doing laundry and taxes, take your time to enjoy the little things in life.
I need to go hug my mum.
Blockbusters aren’t what they used to be, are they? Ever since Endgame, Marvel have been running on autopilot, releasing a steady stream of snarky CGI sludge made more out of obligation than passion. They don’t even work as escapism anymore — the fantastical isn’t fantastic when every billion-dollar release is set in a world of superheroes and sci-fi.
Like Everything Everywhere, our other runner-up is a prime example of a movie that just shouldn’t work. It’s a sequel to a 40-year-old film so mediocre i turned it off halfway through, made as a cynical cash-grab recruitment ad for the navy, with a topic and plot designed to appeal exclusively to Your Dad.1 Yet, through sheer dumb luck, Paramount hit the jackpot on Top Gun: Maverick.
Obviously, Tom Cruise is an absolute charisma magnet and the best part of every movie he’s ever been in. But that seductive Scientologist smile only goes so far (just look at The Mummy), and that’s where our director comes in. Joseph Kosinski doesn’t have a particularly long track record; it would be easy to mistake him for a typical director-for-hire. His dialogue scenes don’t stand out from the pack, and he’s not particularly creative with the camera, but that doesn’t matter. What he excels at is spectacle.
2010’s Tron: Legacy is a profoundly middling film in terms of its plot and characters, but it gained a cult following thanks to the delicious combination of Daft Punk’s killer score with Mr Kosinski’s brilliant visuals and action. He took that computerised world of bits and bytes and gave it stakes, weight, and a sense of scale, where a Marvel hack would have told the VFX guy to just press render and go with whatever comes out.
So you take a director whose most known work is a spectacular CG effects-fest and a lead actor famous for his insistence on doing all of his own stunts, and what do you get? The best blockbuster film of the decade, that’s what. The original Top Gun’s plane scenes drag and drag with no real purpose; in Maverick, every flight has something at stake, with non-stop action — but the film still knows when to pull back and take a breather to give its characters heart. My icy, cynical heart knew that i was being manipulated every step of the way, knew that every pull of the strings was planned out in advance, knew that this film was made for money and nothing else… but i’ll be damned if i didn’t start crying at that Val Kilmer cameo.
Go and see Top Gun: Maverick on the biggest screen you can, whether that’s a 1080p computer monitor or an Imax cinema. You won’t regret it.
Our two runners-up were films that i would recommend to anyone, anywhere, of any age, and at any time. They have something for everyone. First place, on the other hand…
If you believe the lame-stream media, our winning film was the result of arthouse horror hero Robert Eggers being given a blank check by Universal to make a big period action movie. This is false. It was created by scientists in a lab in Durham to appeal to me and me specifically. (You can tell because i was the only person who actually went out and watched it.)
Based on the Norse legend behind Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Northman is an epic following Large Scandinavian Man as the viking Amleth, son of a deposed king, on his journey to avenge his father with the power of Odin and testosterone2 on his side.
When i call Amleth a viking, i do not mean that all-too-common sanitised Hollywood depiction of a 20th-century Christian in pagan clothing. No; his society and its ways are portrayed as they were, warts and all, regardless of what the audience might feel about it. The vikings of this film keep slaves, burn down houses, consult witches (memorably played by Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, and Björk, in decreasing order of screentime), mock Jesus, and pray to Gods as a fact of life. (The film never particularly demeans them for the latter three, which i found a welcome reprieve from paganism’s usual relegation to the villains of horror schlock.) The only concession to modern mores is the absence of polygamy, because splashing people with period blood and cutting off heads is okay but good heavens a second wife?????
Mr Eggers and his crew schlepped all the way to Iceland for filming and made good bloody use of it. Whether its long shots are focused on nature’s rolling fields and bursting volcanoes or humanity’s flame-lit funerals and grimy oarsmen, the result is consistently one of the most beautiful things of the year.
It’s not for everyone. It’s long, and those just there for the action will find themselves asking when they’re going to get to the fireworks factory. It’s gory. It’s grim. But it’s definitely for me.
The Zoetrope Award for Classic Cinema
Hey, did you like the Matrix sequels? Do you want to watch a three-hour-long film where every character is played by the same six actors? No? Well, too bad, because the best film i watched in 2022 that wasn’t released that year was the Wachowski sisters’3 Cloud Atlas.4
There was a point, about 60% of the way through this three-hour-long movie, where i started to wonder if it was all worth it. I’d seen Tom Hanks attempting a Cockney accent, Hugo Weaving in unconvincing Asian prosthetics, and a lot of people saying “tru-tru” a lot of times. Surely it was impossible to tie this all together into a satisfying conclusion.
I started having flashbacks to The Matrix Resurrections, an endlessly creative film plagued by its own self-obsessions and Lana Wachowski’s inability to not put the first thing that came into her head into the script. Was this going to be the same? Are the sisters trapped in an endless cycle of almost-but-not-quite?
And then there was a point, about 90% of the way through, where i started crying. They’d squared the circle, tied all six stories up into a neat bow; an epic told on the scale of centuries, where actors cross boundaries of time, nationality, race, and gender; a film that would be their magnum opus were it not for the long shadow of The Matrix. I don’t know how they did it, but they did — and thus nudged their record of hits against misses slightly to the positive side.
The Pebbledash Dildo Award for Cinematic Disappointment
2022 was a good year for bad movies. Moonfall was the peak of so-bad-it’s-good Emmerichian excess. Morbius morbed all across the internet. And the usual Marvel schlock was even shlockier than usual. But nobody thought those films would be any good anyway — it’s hard to be disappointed when you don’t have any expectations in the first place.
So, by God, was i disappointed in Nope. From Jordan Peele, critics’ favourite rising star, this sci-fi Hollywood horror brims with so many creative ideas and metaphors that they all boil over and don’t go anywhere. I can only imagine that a quarter of the script got sucked up into a UFO and they decided to just keep shooting. There are so many great ideas in this film, and it’s a darned shame they wound up such an anticlimax.
The Comfy Sofa Award for Peak Television
I don’t actually watch much television; i’ve always found it hard to get invested for the “long haul”. Ben Stiller’s Severance, made for Apple’s floundering streaming service, is a slow burner, the sort of thing i despise — but its slowness is methodical, carefully drip-feeding you bits of information whilst never wasting its time on fluff and filler.
It’s strange. It’s puzzling. It’s brilliant. And the final episode is some of the best TV i’ve ever seen. If i could, i’d sever myself — just to watch it all over again.
The Golden Lyre Award for Excellence in New Music
It’s The 1975.
Well, no point in dragging that out. They may not be the best band in the world, but they are my favourite band in the world; their eclectic pop-rock sensibilities are what got me into music, and i’ll always appreciate them for that.
This isn’t just a sentimental pick. Being Funny in a Foreign Language sees the band trim away the fat and bloat of their previous works and hold back on the eclectic experimentation of the Music for Cars era, settling on a distilled, refined version of the sound that defined their first record. There are no bloated instrumentals, no experimental noodlings; just, as their international tour proudly suggests, The 1975 At Their Very Best.
No album came close to blowing them out of the water — because i’m a soppish fanboy — but to whet your appetite, here are some more of my favourite songs of 2022. (In no particular order.)
- Alvvays, “Pharmacist”
- Djo, “Gloom”
- Heal and Harrow, “Lilias”
- Lichen Slow, “Hobbies”
- Munly and the Lupercalians, “Ahmen”
- Young Fathers, “I Saw”
The Hurdy-Gurdy Award for Enduring Musical Resonance
It was with some trepidation that i typed the word “Pagan” into RateYourMusic’s charts function, knowing the reputation that explicitly religious music has. The words “Christian rock” have always been accented with a sneer, and the most well-known Pagan musician of the modern age is an unrepentant church-burning neo-nazi.
Right at the top, after i’d filtered out all of the metal (apologies, metalheads; it just isn’t my bag), sat XTC’s Apple Venus Volume One. You won’t find it on streaming — frontman Andy Partridge has few kind words for the likes of Spotify — but i made do with a pirate Youtube playlist until i tracked down a physical copy at the shops.
Apple Venus is the group’s penultimate album, and even knowing nothing about them, I could tell. It drips with aching sincerity, the kind that dips into corny pastiche, in that particular way that only happens when a band who have spent their whole career dripping with snark and cynicism realise that they’re getting too old for this shit.
And that’s all i wrote.
Some other favourite old songs i discovered this year:
- Aphex Twin - Xtal
- Gorki - We zijn zo jong
- Holy Fuck - Lovely Allen
- Ride - Leave Them All Behind
- The Stranglers - Golden Brown
The Sad Trombone Award for Most Disappointing Music
I’ve been getting into post-rock recently, and there are a few albums which seem to be near and dear to fans’ hearts. Sigur Rós’ Ágætis byrjun, a surprisingly accessible masterclass. Godspeed You Blank Emperor’s Lift Your Skinny Fists, the best soundtrack for a movie that never existed. Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, a bit too jazzy for my tastes. A few more that i’ve yet to listen to.
Then there’s The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place.
Explosions in the Sky’s third album is widely beloved. It tops lists with the big guns. It often shows up on genre “starter pack” lists. There is a teensy, tiny problem with this: it’s shite.
Well, alright, i thought, two tracks in. Maybe it picks up by the end? Everyone is raving about that closing track, “Your Hand in Mine” — and then that was shite too!
This is music for a car commercial. It is the Imagine Dragons of post-rock. It’s the sort of music a TV network might play as inspirational backing for their Paralympic coverage. It is sappy, insipid, and uninspired dross of the purest and vilest sort, and it boggles the mind to think how it ever got the reputation it now has. See me after class.
The electronic arts
The King’s Dice Award for Interactive Entertainment
Just one game found its home amongst my digital shelves this years, and i have yet to find the opportunity to complete it. Lucas Pope’s Return of the Obra Dinn wins by acclimation — so far it’s stylish, intriguing, and fun to solve, but again, i’ve not finished it! We’ll see if it sticks the landing.
The Broken Link Award for Best Use of Hypertext
Homestuck isn’t very good. It has an undeniably appealing cast of characters and charmingly naïve art — you don’t get millions of fans without doing something right — that are sadly weighed down by its author’s baffling decision, faced with all the sprawling multi-media possibilities of the web, to tell its story entirely in walls of unreadable monospaced text.
Wired Sound for Wired People isn’t my thing. It has undeniably mastered a medium: its flickering pink pixels and eerie soundscapes build an unmistakable mix of intrigue and unease, beckoning you to follow it down the rabbit hole. But it lacks a message to go with it — there’s no story to speak of, just a collage of strange and trippy scenes.
So what if someone were to combine the best bits of both, and undo their shortcomings? Idiosyncratic, eerie audiovisuals, with relatable dramatis personæ, and a compelling story which uses the power of hypertext to its fullest?
Enter Corru.observer. Linked to me by someone whose homepage i’d complimented — with no other comment than that it was a friend’s “personal site” — Corru puts you in the seat of an archæologist(?) some decades(?) in the future(?), trying to piece together the memories of an alie… i’ll let you find out the rest. There’s only an “episode” and a half out right now, and i can’t wait to see where it goes.
The Fred Figglehorn Memorial Award for Online Video
2022 was not short of epically un-short videos. Internet Historian put together a fully animated retelling of the story of Floyd Collins, a 1920s farmer who found himself stuck upside down in a treacherously narrow cave. It clocks in at an hour and ten minutes. Kevin from Defunctland’s weirdly emotional investigation into the Disney Channel theme runs an hour and a half. Stuart Brown’s Xcom retrospective? 1:40.
But in the age of Tiktok and Vine, it pays to be succinct. Our winner by no means reaches the six-second nirvana of those two platforms, but at 25 minutes, it would fit comfortably into a half-hour broadcast slot on telly — not bad on a site increasingly dominated by 7-hour videos about people watching sitcoms for children.
That winner is Michael Stevens’s video on the origin of selfies. In it brief runtime, it answers every question i never knew i had about the selfie, while spinning in a number of fascinating tangents and eyebrow-raising questions (in the typical Vsauce house style). It even got me to renovate the gallery just to add that photo by Anastasia. Cheese!
The real world
The Spruce Panflute Award for Outdoor Splendour
I perused many places during my walks out and about this year, but none so consistently provided me with so many new sights as the Ouseburn, a small but mighty stream which winds its way in the east of Newcastle from suburbs to leafy woods to industry to hipster vegan cafés. Every time i thought i’d seen it all, the Ouseburn revealed a new cranny, some quirky establishment or warp in the city’s fabric, something different to explore.
The Crackling Heath Award for Indoor Wonder
Affleck’s Palace is the beating heart of Mancunian counterculture; a labyrinthine maze of shops which across their three floors sell everything from rose ice cream to bath bombs to incense to Hatsune Miku–themed fizzy drinks… and i can’t tell you any more than that, because i haven’t finished my post about it yet!
Really, though — Affleck’s has it all and more, and i’ll be sure to stop by next time i go down south.
The Hubert J. Farnsworth Award for Good News, Everyone!
Day in, day out, we are flooded with the latest news of disasters and terrors from around the globe. It gets the views, it gets the hits, and it gets the clicks; it’s no wonder journos love to accentuate the negative.
The Hubert J. Farnsworth Award is an antidote to doom and gloom, honouring the best thing that happened in 2022. It was a late entry, but it could hardly be anything other than…
…The National Ignition Facility, the U.S. government lab who reported that, for the first time, they’d gotten more energy out than they put in via fusion power. There are hiccups, of course; the facility’s magnets guzzled dozens of times more power than the reactor itself. But every stepping stone has its imperfections, and this is the first great step to a truly prosperous future — where energy is too cheap to meter, where power is so abundant that there will be hardly a grain of economic sense in the idea of tapping any more of Gæa’s precious little black gold.
Happy belated new year, everyone. And as always — may it be better than the last!