By Dan Moren
December 29, 2022 11:51 AM PT
Dan’s favorites of 2022
See ya later, 2022—2023 is where it’s at!
Jason has already detailed his favorites from the year that was, but I suppose I owe it to you—to myself really—to see if I can remember the stuff that I loved over the past twelve months.
My gaming habits basically lie in one of two directions: mobile puzzle games or incredibly high-budget blockbuster titles.
Jason’s already extolled the virtues of Knotwords, which despite my usual frustration with anagrams and my love of crosswords, I absolutely adore. I only really do the Daily Puzzle, but I do it pretty much every day. (And the feature that lets you get your broken streaks back if you complete another seven days straight is 😙👌.)
I’m also one of the people still playing Wordle most days—it helps that it’s built into the New York Times Crossword app, which is another of my daily habits. I just don’t post my scores, because nobody needs to see that anymore.
On the other end of the spectrum, my lovely wife gave me a PlayStation 5 for my birthday this year; it’s the first of the Sony systems I’ve ever owned, so I’ve been working my way through a backlog of great titles that I haven’t been able to play over the years.
Marvel’s Spider-Man was at the top of my list and it was everything I’d hoped for from a game about one of my favorite superheroes. I’ve previously enjoyed the Arkham series of Batman games, which managed to capture the feel of embodying the dark knight, and Spider-Man (and its spinoff featuring Miles Morales) are just as good at nailing the essence of the webhead. In particular, swining through New York and running up buildings? A freaking delight. There’s a sequel reportedly coming later next year and I am here for it.
I also played through the entire Uncharted series, which several people had told me over the years that I’d really enjoy—and guess what? They were right! Yes, they’re highly linear to the point of being basically interactive movies, but they’re done well: extremely fun, solid writing, great voice acting performances.1 Some might be a little dated technologically (even with the remastered versions I played), but at this far a remove, they’re refreshingly spartan: no giant skill tress or endless fetch quests. By comparison I’m currently playing Ghost of Tsushima which, while beautiful and expansive, is riddled with that type of content.
I read somewhat fewer books this year than last, but I second Jason’s praise for Naomi Novik’s Scholomance series (which I read the entirety of this year) which was among my favorites. I’ve enjoyed many of Novik’s previous works, but Scholomance is probably her best yet.
Likewise Daniel O’Malley’s Blitz; The Rook is one of my favorite books of the last decade, and while its sequel Stiletto was still pretty good, something about this temporally bifurcated tale of people with supernatural powers in London nailed the vibe even better. It’s also a great entry point to the series that kind of stands on its own.
Locklands brought to a close Robert Jackson Bennett’s Founders trilogy and it was quite a ride. The first book in the series, Foundryside, was one of the best books I read in 2018, but the second—2021’s Shorefall—left me a little cold. As a result I wasn’t sure what to expect from the finale, but it ended up being an incredibly moving and heartwrenching conclusion to the story. It wasn’t an easy book to read, but I do think it was worthwhile.
Finally, on a recommendation from Jason I picked up Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series, which is a wild blend of sci-fi and fantasy. The first couple books were published back in the late ’80s, early ’90s, while the two more recent ones came out in the early 2000s. Supposedly there are a few volumes still in the offing, but who knows when they’ll appear—still, I enjoyed them quite a bit.
The one thing I’ve still managed to squeeze in plenty of this year is TV watching, which is good because there was a surfeit of great television.
Andor (Disney+) is my show of the year. I know there are other shows that might technically edge it out, but come on: it’s Star Wars. Or is it? I’m not sure it matters. Somehow a show about a secondary character in a recent one-off prequel turned into something much bigger. Unsurprisingly, the moral gray areas of spies and resistance fighters in space is right in my wheelhouse. I can’t wait for the second (and final 😭) season, whenever it actually shows up.
It was a great year for mysteries on TV: Only Murders in the Building (Hulu) season two managed to capture everything about the first season that I loved and somehow take its weird energy to new and delightful places. The Afterparty (Apple TV+), where a murder at a high school reunion features episodes each shot in a different film genre was a fun and engaging puzzle. And Reacher (Prime Video), while pretty brutal, was an engaging adaptation that demonstrated why the original is a page-turner.
Spy stories had some solid entries as well: Slow Horses (Apple TV+) put out two quality seasons about the disgraced operatives of Slough House, anchored by a fantastic performance by Gary Oldman. A new adaptation of The Ipcress File (AMC+/Sundance Now) was also fantastic, and needs to be seen by more people: Joe Cole’s version of Harry Palmer somehow manages to channel Michael Caine while also making him a far more interesting and sympathetic character than the original.2
On the sci-fi side, I’ll echo Jason’s thoughts about Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+) and the latest season of For All Mankind (Apple TV+), which we of course covered over on NASA Vending Machine. The former manages to capture the fun of original Star Trek, with a great cast and excellent production values. The latter is an edge-of-your-seat affair that’s just gotten better with every season.
I liked all of the Marvel series that aired this year, but if I had to pick one, I think it’d be Ms. Marvel (Disney+). Iman Vellani is a bonafide star and absolutely perfect casting for a character who deserves to be at the center of the MCU. The family dynamics were well drawn and the interweaving with the painful history of the partition of India was not a thing I ever expected to get from a comic book adaptation.
If there’s a contender with Andor for the best show of the year, it’s clearly Severance (Apple TV+), which came out of nowhere to absolutely captivate. The moments of dark comedy and tension elevate what is already a beautifully crafted story, all while critiquing our society’s fixation on work culture. Really just fantastic.
Now for my guilty pleasure: Blood & Treasure (Paramount+) finally aired its second season in 2022, three years after its first finished. Is a great show that deserves to be spoken in the same breath as Severance or Andor? No, but it is super campy and fun. This season wasn’t quite as strong as the first, but it still managed to deliver an entertaining story with no shortages of scenery-chewing and ridiculousness. If you, like me, felt the Uncharted movie left you wanting, this might scratch that itch.
Finally, a pending asterisk on my last pick, since its first season isn’t yet complete, but it’s in the weird position of airing from 2022 into 2023, so which year list should it go on? Anyway, I’ve found myself really enjoying Willow (Disney+), the continuation of the 1988 George Lucas/Ron Howard fantasy adventure, starring Warwick Davis. There’s been a bumper crop of fantasy on TV in the past year, but if you found House of the Dragon too grim and Rings of Powers good but overly earnest, Willow is a breath of fresh air. It’s not only fun but extremely funny, with a great cast—a particular call out to the comic chops of Amar Chadha-Patel as Boorman, an actor I’d seen in very little before this and I now want to see in everything.
Looking back, I watched more movies than I thought this year, but many of them were very very bleh.3 Here are my picks for the ones I enjoyed the most.
I’m sure you’ve heard someone rave about Everything Everywhere All At Once and it’s well-deserved. If nothing else, this movie reminds us why Michelle Yeoh is a star and marks the far-too-long return of 1980s child star Ke Huy Quan (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Goonies) in a sci-fi/action/family drama that I found fun and touching.
What was I just saying about it being a good year for mysteries? Glass Onion, the follow up to Rian Johnson’s surprise smash hit Knives Out debuted just last week, and while it may be hard to capture the je ne sais quoi of that first outing, I still found it a worthy successor. Daniel Craig is always watchable, and Janelle Monáe is a standout amongst a cast of standouts.4
Whatever you may feel about Tom Cruise personally, the man’s a movie star and Top Gun: Maverick is the perfect vehicle for him. I’m not really sure how this movie was this good—the original Top Gun is very of its era, and that era is long over, but the movie leans into that, and, man, it works.
Turning Red was yet another delightful Pixar movie, a coming of age story about a teenage girl who turns into a giant red panda. There’s so many layers to this metaphor and this movie lands all of them. You’re going to cry. You are.
A movie that deserved to be seen by more people, The Outfit is almost a play, taking place pretty much entirely in one location: a Chicago tailor’s shop in 1956. And yet it is utterly riveting. That’s most attributable to the star performance of Mark Rylance as the tailor in question, who finds himself embroiled in a mob war. I don’t want to say too much about it, but it is worth a watch.
Why yes, we do talk about technology here! I made a bunch of changes to my tech setup this year, and I feel like I should at least call out a few of them.
My desk now has a Studio Display after my iMac died. I really like it, despite the meh webcam, though that’s probably no surprise given that it’s almost exactly the same display that was in my iMac.5
I finally upgraded my iPad Pro this year and got a Magic Keyboard to boot and it has changed my experience of using that device. Which is good because with my M1 Air acting as my de facto desktop, the iPad has become my around-the-house computer.
After my Series 4 Apple Watch bit the dust, I upgraded to a Series 7 and I’ve been delighted by the big beautiful display. I’ll probably be holding onto it until the Apple Watch Ultra improvements start trickling down into the main line.
And it was a great year for me when it came to programming. Whether it was building an On Air sign from an e-ink display or slowly learning Python to build Discord bots, I really took great pleasure from solving these technological puzzles. It may be the only real hobby I have left! (The rest of them have somehow turned into jobs. 🤔)
The best of them all
I’ve saved the best of the best for last. Weirdly the two biggest moments of my year happened within a week of each other: my most recent novel, The Nova Incident, came out on July 26, adding to the Galactic Cold War series, and I’ve been delighted that people seem to be enjoying it. (More than a few folks have called it my best book yet, which is very flattering and also really ramps up the pressure for my next book. 😅)
And, of course, my wife and I welcomed our first kid into the world just a few days before the book came out. I lack the words to describe the experience of parenthood other than to say that it’s the biggest, best, and most daunting thing to ever happen in my entire life, and I’m immensely looking forward to seeing all the amazing things this next year brings.
- They even got me to watch the Uncharted movie, which…well perhaps the less said about the better. ↩
- And yes, I watched the original—which I had to go to my library to get on DVD because it’s not available anywhere online—and here’s my hot take: skip it and watch the TV series. It’s better. ↩
- I’m looking at you The Gray Man. How do you make a movie with Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling just flat out boring? ↩
- I know we’re talking favorites and not bagging on things, but as long as we’re on the subject of mysteries, we also watched Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile which was very very bad and should feel bad. ↩
- Now if Apple would just hurry up and ship the M2 Pro Mac mini I’ve been waiting for to compliment this. ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him by email at email@example.com. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]
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