It’s a new year, and I’m trying to stick to a least one of my resolutions, which is to write more and more. Here’s the first of what I hope is many more, and here’s to you in 2022.
Ten Worth Your Time
A new year brings to mind a fundamental question: What will the future hold? This can apply to all spheres of life, but one in particular — technology — is sure to see its share of news and headlines. Gideon Litchfield, editor in chief at WIRED magazine, recently wrote down the new direction for the publication. He acknowledges that WIRED was created in a time of “techno-utopianism,” but now the world, rightly so, takes a harder look at the role of technology in our lives. He asks a fundamental question for the magazine going forward: “What does it mean to be WIRED, a publication born to celebrate technology, in an age when tech is often demonized?”
A new year means new obsessions, right? Have you joined the Wordle craze yet? It’s such a simple game: A five-letter word has to be guessed, and you have six tries. The game tells you when you have a letter in the right place, a letter in the wrong place but in the word somewhere, and when your letter is nowhere to be found. That’s it. But it’s a lot of fun, and if you’re on Twitter, you’ll likely see a lot of friends posting their results. (Here’s a not-great one from me.) The backstory behind the game is even sweeter, as this New York Times story revealed.
A new year, but same old problems. An Evangelical Climate Scientist Wonders What Went Wrong
Relatedly, when talking about politics supplanting the central messaging of religion, there was no better representation of that than January 6, 2021. This past week, that dark day reached its one-year anniversary. What’s disheartening, still to this day, is how divided people in this country remain on what they saw that day. Some of the very loudest voices to commemorate each passing year on 9/11 and decry what terrorists did to this country not only don’t decry what happened on 1/6 but actively celebrate it as something worthy of praise. The New York Times vowed not to let us forget what we saw that day, in a collection of excellent pieces for the anniversary. Its podcast The Daily did a three-part series of episodes over three days this week to remember one of the biggest stories of the past year, and for those of us not too blind to see, one of the biggest stories in the history of this country.
From a failure to think critically about what was clearly seen with our own eyes on 1/6 to another kind of failure of critical thinking, Kate Harding, in DAME, asks a relevant question right there in her piece’s title: Have We Forgotten How to Read Critically?
Harding uses as a reference point for her thesis that we have, indeed, forgotten how to read critically the recent death of Joan Didion, writer extraordinaire of 16 books, seven films, one play and countless pieces of journalism. In The New Yorker, Nathan Heller penned a touching remembrance of Didion, which included this gem of a passage: “Didion was a pattern-seeker—a writer with an uncanny ability to scan a text, a folder of clippings, or an entire society and, like a genius eying figures, find the markers pointing out how the whole worked. Through her efforts, the craft of journalism changed. She helped expand the landscape of what matters on the page.”
Didion’s was just one of numerous deaths that came at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022. Betty White and her comedic timing even in death (a joke that was made countless times on Twitter) was a terrible way to usher in the new year.
Another Hollywood death was that of director and film historian Peter Bogdanovich. Richard Brody, a big name in film criticism himself, remembered Bogdanovich for The New Yorker. The maker of all-time great films like “The Last Picture Show” led a full and interesting life, much of which was chronicled in the TCM podcast “The Plot Thickens.”
Yet another Hollywood legend, Sidney Poitier, the first Black man to win the Oscar for Best Actor, also passed away in recent days. The Times rounded up 11 of his best films to watch and where to find them streaming. I watched “No Way Out,” as part of the Criterion Channel’s Joseph Mankiewicz collection now being featured, where Poitier plays an upstanding young doctor and forced to deal with a murder allegation from a racist robber who’s brother died while in Poitier’s care. While you’re at it, don’t miss the Times’ Wesley Morris making the case for Poitier as the best American movie star, regardless of race.
With all this talk of Hollywood and last night’s celebration of movie stars at an untelevised Golden Globes ceremony, Alissa Wilkinson of Vox asks what moviegoers want from the movies now.
The director Steven Soderbergh is famous for not only the quality of his movies and the diversity in genre and styles he explores and the speed with which he makes his films; he’s famous for his omnivorous tastes in culture. He publishes, at the end of each calendar year, a simple list of everything he’s consumed in the past 365 days; he calls it his “Seen, Read” list. You can look it up on his website, Extension 756, under the tab of “Soderblog.”
His simple list inspired me to keep the same. In my note-taking app, I have a document called “Culture Diary 2022.” I completed one last year, “Culture Diary 2021.” It was one of the few resolutions I’ve managed to keep, despite my avowed love for them year in and year out.
I’m going to include this week’s submission, so you can see what I’m watching and reading. The legend for my list was stolen from Mr. Soderbergh, where ALL CAPS represents a movie, and Sentence Case is a TV show. A number in parentheses after a TV shows highlights how many episodes I watched. An asterisk after an entry means it’s a rewatch. The source of the movie or show, whether streaming service, physical media, or in theaters, is shown in parentheses as well. Some even have further reviews I’ve written attached as well.
If you want to follow along and talk movies with me, follow me on Letterboxd, one of the purest forms of social media out there.
1/3: Yellowstone, S4 (season finale) (Paramount), AZOR (MUBI), MR. JEALOUSY (Criterion Channel)
1/4: SUMMER OF SOUL (Hulu), WEST SIDE STORY (1961) (Pluto)
1/5: The Book of Boba Fett (Disney+), THE GREEN KNIGHT (VOD)
1/6: F FOR FAKE (Criterion Collection Blu-ray), A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (Criterion Channel)
1/7: TRAINSPOTTING (Showtime)
1/8: NO WAY OUT (Criterion Channel), WEST SIDE STORY (2021) (Theater), MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL (Amazon Prime)*
1/9: THE THIRD MAN (Criterion Channel)