I know it’s a bit late for a list of things I liked in 2022, but here at the Gutter we do what we want. And like Angela Englert and Sachin Hingoo, I am taking care of some end of year business. Besides, what if you discover something you like in December? And I did. This year I already wrote in depth about a bunch of the things I liked in 2022–Travis Stevens’ A Wounded Fawn (USA, 2022), Ram V and Mike Perkins’ Swamp Thing (DC, 2022), Peter Strickland’s Flux Gourmet (UK, 2022), Horizon Forbidden West (Guerilla Games, 2022), and Mattie Do’s A Long Walk (Laos, 2019). I recommend them all. I do try to write about stuff I haven’t written about before, at least at any length. It’s more challenging to do that this year because there is so much stuff that has returned that I really like and recommend.
But let’s get to the list with its baseball players, antiheroes, pirates, space pirates, Queerness, surrealism, spirits helping out, bad workshops, cosmic and otherwise weirdness, and people figuring their lives out.
A League Of Their Own (Amazon)
A League Of Their Own is one of my favorite series of 2022–and one of my favorite series at all. It’s one of the best representations of Queer—esp. Queer women’s and Trans—culture and history I’ve seen. And it includes both Black and white Queer experiences during this time. So even if you are like me, largely indifferent to baseball, you should still definitely watch A League Of Their Own. It’s very well-written and the characters are wonderful.
And look at this magnificient picture of Rosie O’Donnell as the owner of a 1940s gay bar. You should read also Alex’s piece on A League Of Their Own stat. It’s damn good.
Bee & Puppycat: Lazy In Space (Netflix)
Bee & PuppyCat was originally a series of animated shorts created by Natasha Allegri (Adventure Time). Bee loses her job and then picks up temp jobs she receives via her space cat or possibly space dog, PuppyCat. With Bee & Puppycat: Lazy In Space, we’re getting full length episodes. Bee loses her job after taking the fall when the cat café she works at catches fire. PuppyCat falls into her life and, as in the shorts, she’s taking weird temp jobs in space doing things like making wish donuts and babysitting a giant baby. The cartoon feels far more anime and magical girl than Adventure Time–although Tempbot looks like she’s related to BMO. At the same time, the chill and cosmic focus reminds me of French animated science fiction. The new series also explores the mysteries of not only PuppyCat’s past, but Bee’s. There is a lot that is just plain enjoyable in the show–Puppycat’s high-pitched vocaloid voice, grumpy demeanor, and crushes on boys, Bee’s love of snacks and disinterest in work. And her friend Deckard’s sister and former wrestler, Cas Wizard, picking up a steel chair when she investigates a noise at night. I also appreciate that it’s hard to say what age group Bee & Puppycat: Lazy In Space is intended for, with its blend of cute outfits, cat jokes, and very adult sense of ennui about rent, unemployment, and work.
Cursed Pirate Girl: The Devil’s Cave (Archaia, 2022) writing and art by Jeremy Bastian
Cursed Pirate Girl isn’t for everyone. Not everyone likes undersea adventure. Not everyone likes 18th and early 19th Century pirates. Not everyone likes 18th and early 19th Century pirates that are girls. And not everyone wants to look at exquisitely drawn squids by someone who somehow recreates the look of engraved illustration with a .005 Pigma Micron pen. But I do and I cannot tell you how happy I am that there is a new Cursed Pirate Girl adventure, even if it takes so long to read because there is so much to look at. (And sometimes the lettering, while glorious, is not easy to read).
Doom Patrol, season 4 (HBO Max)
I’m only a few episodes into Doom Patrol‘s season 4, but there are weaponized were-butts singing. Not just singing, but performing a well-staged version of “Shipoopi” from The Music Man! One butt even sings “Ladies who Lunch” from the Stephen Sondheim songbook. Doom Patrol has always been queer as fuck, but it is taking a whole new direction as Rita (April Bowlby) decides to make a superhero team out of them, Dr. Harrison (Diane Guerrero and Catherine Carlen) has taken Crazy Jane’s place for now, and parts of Gerard Way’s run on the Doom Patrol comic make an appearance. Drag Queen superhero Maura Lee Karrupt (Alan Mingo, Jr.) and Danny the Ambulance (neé, Street) return. And Michelle Gomez is here for another season! Her chemistry with April Bowlby’s Rita is fantastic.
Michelle Gomez? Butts singing Sondheim? The potential return of at least one more of the Sisterhood of Dada? Isn’t that enough for anyone? You’ll forgive me if I am reflexively optimistic about where things are going. (Also, full confession, but I’ve written at length about season 1 here and season 2 here).
Harley Quinn (HBO Max)
It took a while for Harley Quinn: The Animated Series to click with me. I watched the first season with a friend and was just not in a place for modern Harley’s origin story—her break-up with the Joker. Sometimes one is not in the mood for a dickish ex. But now that Harley’s building her own life with Poison Ivy, I am there. Harley Quinn might be mostly based on Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor’s comics, but the writing and stories remind me a lot of The Venture Bros. This is mostly a good thing and I am only ambivalent about that in the way I am ambivalent about a world where every kind of story is being extruded through the structure of corporate IP. But it is what it is and part of that is Harley Quinn is well-written, clever, and funny. And I do prefer her new origin story wherein she ends a bad relationship and discovers who she is as a person and as an antihero to her original origin story.
Plus, Ron Funches voices King Shark, which is fantastic.
Reservation Dogs (Hulu)
Okay, I have written about Reservation Dogs before. But not extensively! And I really think that, like A League Of Their Own, Reservation Dogs isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora (Devery Jacobs), Willie Jack (Pauline Alexis) and Cheese (Lane Factor) are dealing with the aftermath of Elora’s lighting out for California not only without them, but with one of the NDN Mafia rival gang of teens, Jackie (Elva Guerra). Bear is angry with Elora, but won’t talk about it. Willie Jack is dealing with a curse and her losses. And somehow, Cheese is the one everyone is turning to for prayers. Admittedly his prayers are pretty rad and involve pop culture. I love the episodes where the kids go to a Native Youth workshop and while the specifics aren’t the same, it really captures collective work across the Left. I also loved the Aunties going to the Native health conference. Reservation Dogs is a funny, smart, thoughtful show that’s never cliché. One of the things that amazes me is how much the show covers in a single 20-25 minute episode, without anything ever feeling rushed or cramped. Just some fine writing all around.
RRR (India, 2022) directed by S.S. Rajamouli
The problem with RRR is that there are so many wondrous moments I want to share. And each one is the moment when I want to say I knew I loved the film. There’s the garden party dance battle, but there’s also this fight that I don’t want to reveal too much about and the other fight and brotherhood with a tiger. RRR has some nationalism that always leaves me uncomfortable—especially in a time of rising anti-democratic and openly fascist movements and sentiments. But I can join hands with my Indian friends and friends all over the world living in countries that were once part of the British Empire and enjoy seeing it overthrown—especially when it involves dance battles. I love seeing Indigenous people getting some respect, especially in a film industry that often portrays “Tribal” people in, at best, a dismissive manner. And yes, there is a tiger. If you liked Rajamouli’s Baahubhali (2015), Baahubhali 2 (2017) and the myriad hellaciously amazing Indian action movies of the last 10 or 15 years, you will enjoy RRR.
Saga, vol. 10 (Image, 2022) Brian K. Vaughan, writing; and Fiona Staples, art
It’s back! It’s back! I know! I’ve written about Saga before, but it’s back after 4 years and there’s still nothing else like it! Alana tries to keep herself and her daughter alive in a universe at war. Alana continues to make the best decisions she can and many of them are bad. There are punk space pirates in a space ship shaped like a skull! D. Oswald Heist’s romance novel, A Night Time Smoke, continues to promote peace. It’s still funny, sad, and mature not just about sex, drugs, and death but survival. Plus, extra Ghüs the harp-seal-like alien in a flashback!
She Will (UK, 2022) directed by Charlotte Colbert
She Will is an angry, gorgeous, and exquisitely made film. Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige) travels with her private nurse, Desi Hatoum (Kota Eberhardt), to an estate in the Scottish highlands to recover from a double mastectomy. Veronica’s anger is barely restrained behind her perfectly composed face and tight coif. But a deeper anger is revealed over the course of She Will–an anger not just carried for decades, but for centuries. She Will reminds me of 1970s Gothic horror in its pace, its psychological elements, and its focus on women’s anger. Jamie Di Ramsay’s cinematography is gorgeous. As are Colbert’s exquisite video collages and use of carefully curated photos, video, and stock footage in the film. Parts of She Will reminded me of Peter Strickland’s work–especially in how tactile visual elements like the peat were presented and in the use of small-scale natural imagery (like snails). I am cheating a bit again. I wrote a review of it on my own site, and will probably write more about She Will here, but in the meantime, it’s such a good film.
Read an excellent piece on She Will from the Gutter’s own Angela Englert here.
Shin Ultraman (Japan, 2022) directed by Shinji Higuchi
Shin Ultraman is like a bunch of Ultraman episodes smushed together and I have to say I like it. It has all the Ultraman things–kaiju, aliens, conspiracies, the greatest minds of Earth working together, space battles, and saving humanity. It’s also remarkably chipper for something scripted by Hideaki Anno (Neon Genesis Evangelion) and the follow up to the much darker and more satirical Shin Godzilla (2016). Shin Ultraman‘s cosmic dimension is delightfully groovy. The music is swank. The kaiju and Ultraman’s design and animation recreate the feeling of practical tokusatsu effects down to Ultraman’s action figure flying style. I love the film’s extreme angles and maximalist use of the whole damn screen. And I have a special fondness for Koji Yamamoto’s portrayal of the smarmy but polite alien Mefilas and his favorite and least favorite sayings.
Random things I liked in 2022:
I liked Jamie Clayton as Pinhead more than the movie she was in; watching Prey (USA, 2022) in Comanche and that bear fight; that Our Flag Means Death (HBO Max) exists at all; J.K. Simmons as a cosmic horror in a rest stop bathroom stall in Glorious (USA, 2022); The Girl On The Other Side (Japan, 2022) was my favorite film adaptation of a favorite comic this year and some damn fine animation; the use of art and Among Us (InnerSloth) in The Glass Onion (2022); Gordy from Dave’s Dehumidifier Warehouse’s haunted house speech in The Adventure Zone: Amnesty Halloween Special (2020) ; basically all of the Hilda (Netflix) animated show, but especially the creatures; the creatures of Skottie Young’s Twig (Image, 2022); many, many things about Cult Hero (Canada, 2022).
Carol Borden likes too many things.