Yours truly is on a mission to watch as much content as I can in the year 2022 to become a better consumer of film and refine my talent as a thoughtful critic for The Conservative Critic. In February I watched 25 new shows or movies (new meaning I’d never seen before, not necessarily new to the world) which brings my 2022 total to about 55.
Here are the best and worst of February:
Best: Somebody Somewhere, HBO/HBO Max
In a self-described “coming of middle age,” the endlessly charming Bridgett Everett, plays Sam Miller who has come home to Kansas after losing her sister and in a lot of ways, herself. Sam connects with a group of colorful locals who help her find her voice in music and in her life. Somebody Somewhere is truly special and one of the best shows on TV today. Often funny, always poignant and rarely saccharine, Somebody Somewhere reminds us to be vulnerable and have fun.
Additionally, as a former Kansan, I can verify that the show pays beautiful homage to Kansas culture highlighting everything from the undersung landscapes, the common danger of tornados, the hair styles, the farmhouse style decor, Boulevard Brewery beer, KU, and the complicated nature of Midwestern “niceness” which may not be as nice as you think.
Worst: Chaos Walking, Hulu
A futuristic space adventure following two major franchise stars (Daisy Ridley of Star Wars and Tom Holland of Spiderman/Avengers) did give me a lot of hope for Chaos Walking. The story is very muddy and sort of weirdly trying to be a feminist allegory but definitely fails at the attempt. The concept is that on this planet where humans have now settled for reasons unexplored in the film, male thoughts are externalized both audibly and visually whereas female thoughts are not externalized. Conceptually the story seems interesting but it takes some odd and unexplained turns and the story never really has the credibility to suspend belief. For example, without spoiling, there is a bad man who does bad things and definitely took on many dozens of people in fights but then was defeated in a fight by the rather small Viola played by Ridley. Further the villain monologues plans pretty openly and a lot of unanswered questions remain.
The film was also extremely boring and relied a lot on walking through the woods and talking. It also lacked appropriate climactic ebb and flow. Overall a pretty major failure even though the acting was quite credible and even featured multiple Academy Award nominees.
Best: The Gilded Age, HBO/HBO Max
I can’t say enough in favor of The Gilded Age which I reviewed in full for the Conservative Critic. Between the visuals, the storyline, and the talent it’s a major win for HBO and a more than adequate replacement for the void left in television by the conclusion of Downton Abbey.
If you want a show that is pro-America, pro-capitalism and a rich historical fiction then look no further than The Gilded Age whose heroes are railroad barons and real-life Christian activists like Clara Barton (played by Linda Edmunds). There are absolutely beautiful costumes and sets and viewers get to be transported to a special time in historic New York City. A cozy watch and a long franchise to come.
Worst: Spencer, Hulu
Setting aside whether or not I think Kristin Stewart is an extremely talented national treasure (which I do), and whether or not I thought she was styled very well to look exactly like Princess Diana (which I also do), Spencer was not good. The lens of the dramatized biography of a short time in Princess Diana’s life was meant to be from Diana herself (I think) but was often muddled and rarely compelling. The dizzying logic as well as camera work and the shoe-horned references to Anne Boelyn (a distant cousin of Diana’s family) were poorly done. Diana is not a sympathetic character in the story and perhaps she wasn’t meant to be but it was odd to be viewing a tale from the perspective of a character for which you felt no sympathy and primarily felt had lost her mind.
For me, the hype of Spencer is way overplayed and even though I am a major fan of Stewart I do think she was inappropriately nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress when women like Lady Gaga (for her role in House of Gucci) were not included in the list.
Keep checking in for updates on my march to use all my streaming services to their fullest extent! Remember: I’m not a couch potato if I call film art.