Welcome back to Favorites Week here at the Rabbit Room. This week, we will be detailing some of our favorite finds of the last calendar year in the form of Recommended Reading, Recommended Listening, and Recommended Viewing.
This year, we thought we’d separate things a bit to allow each category to shine on its own, and we polled some of the Rabbit Room staff and contributors for their answers. Today, we’re looking at the TV shows and movies that pulled us in and refused to let go.
Read on and let us know your own recommended viewing from the last year in the comments!
Beautifully shot and hauntingly hilarious, The Menu encapsulates the perfect mixture of mystery and absolute absurdity. If you enjoy cooking shows, dark humor, and living in a state of fearful anticipation for an hour and a half, you will enjoy this! Also Top Gun: Maverick. I feel silly mentioning this blockbuster hit, but I can’t seem to leave it off of my list. A concrete reminder that Tom Cruise will forever reign supreme over all action movies and can make anything an instant classic.
My favorite film of the year is Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin. This is a film about what lasts. Is it art? Is it music? Or is it a life of kindness? When two best friends, played by the amazing Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, suddenly find themselves as enemies, what follows is a treatise on what it means to love someone and the viciousness that comes when that love is gone.
I imagine this has already been submitted, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each season of The Crown. It has influenced me to want to learn more about the royal family and led me to watch Victoria on PBS which I also thoroughly enjoyed.
Of course, The Wingfeather Saga. I watched Episode 2 last night. It’s such a delight to see Andrew Peterson’s characters appear on screen. Animation, acting, and music all have just the right feel for the story, which of course is brilliant. Also Andor, in the Star Wars universe. So well-done, believable, and not frenetic with constant action scenes like some of the Marvel movies. There’s time to get to know and enjoy the characters. I watched this episodically as they came out, but I want to go back and binge-watch over the course of several nights.
My 2022 television interests revealed I might be an anglophile. The Crown, The Great Pottery Throw Down, and The Great British Bake Off were on repeat after the Queen’s funeral coverage left me engaging with recent world history. I’d also recommend Andor and Rings of Power for the moments of poetry sprinkled within the entertainment. Both prompted exclamations of “what a wonderful cinematic time to be alive!”
My two favorite movies this year were Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (a delightful, feel-good movie) and Belfast (so many emotions about this one). I was very glad that another season of Shetland was out; I am not sure what I will do when that series is all done. The Last Kingdom kept my attention (except when I did cover my eyes at specific parts). I loved the characters and most of the storylines. One of my daughters introduced me to K-dramas. Crash Landing on You was the first one (and really good), but I loved The Silent Sea, a science fiction-mystery-thriller. After it finished, I said to Ned I did not think I would ever enjoy any television viewing again; it was very satisfying.
I’ve been faithfully collecting Marvel comic books since the mid-’70s so for me, any Marvel flick is always recommended viewing. That being said, the studio had a few more duds this year than I am comfortable admitting to. For example, if you haven’t seen it already, I would suggest skipping this year’s Doctor Strange and under NO circumstance at all watching Ms. Marvel (even fast-forwarding it made me cringe). But all was not lost. I did enjoy Wakanda Forever and She-Hulk (I know some folks didn’t like She-Hulk, but having collected her comic since it first came out in 1980, and being there for the whole John Byrne breaking-the-fourth-wall run in 1989, it made me extremely happy).
tick, tick… BOOM! by Steven Levenson, directed by Lin-Manuel Maranda is the biographical musical comedy/drama about the life of Jonathan Larson composer, lyricist, and playwright of the Tony Award-winning musical Rent. What compels us to create? What inspires us to create? Andrew Garfield as Larson helps you walk the thin line between hope, failure, and the reality of the life of an artist.
I had a ball with Welcome to Collinwood, a charming little heist movie from the Russo Brothers, long before they assembled Avengers or study groups at Greendale. Starring Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, and George Clooney, there’s a sort of sweetness about this gang of scoundrels with their odd exploits and rocky friendships that gives it a lot of heart. It feels like what would happen if the Lost Boys grew up and tried to rob a bank.
Princess Mononoke is a beauty to watch and adeptly navigates the nuances in our—oftentimes conflicting—responsibilities to care for the earth and for one another. The soundtrack is also breathtaking.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had a heavy lift. It had to work as a sequel without its title star, but it also had to properly mourn that star’s untimely passing. Ryan Coogler has achieved both, handling funereal grief and high-paced action at equal turns, without either feeling out of place. (And Angela Bassett is brilliant.)
John Michael Heard
I have BJ Novak’s Vengeance (2022) to thank for several rich discussions over the last few months. While I found the film’s ending problematic, overall, the writing is excellent—its critique of our modern, media-saturated culture is at times funny, astute, and self-aware.
Belle (2021, Mamoru Hosoda) is a beautifully animated film that reframes the story of Beauty and the Beast in an internet-based virtual reality. There are so many ways that the premise could have settled for a one-dimensional fable, but the film digs deeper, using its online world as an entry point for a devastating and beautiful meditation on trauma, loneliness, and connection.
The Woman King. Viola Davis was fantastic in this film. Davis plays the leader of 19th-century female warriors who protect their kingdom in Africa. The story is engrossing and Davis is fierce. I knew nothing about this one going in and I left completely satisfied. Plus, it gets bonus points for passing the Bechdel test with flying colors.
I love Friday Night Dinner (Netflix), and I suspect some of you in this realm would enjoy its dark humor, thoroughly ridiculous situations, and general irreverence, but it’s probably not for most of the folks here. But if absurdity and British humor are your thing, this show (it ran from 2011-2020) has brought me much laughter. Aside from that, I return to The Simpsons over and over again. I don’t know if it still is, but it was the smartest (and funniest) show on television. Call it escapism or avoidance, but I continue to go to The Simpsons to laugh. And it never fails me, no matter how many times I’ve seen Homer’s late-night free public advertisement jingle, “Mr. Plow, that’s my name. That name again is Mr. Plow.” In a world of idiotic reality (oddly enough, phony) TV, and gimmicky attempts to find something that “sticks,” The Simpsons—the early seasons especially—are onion-like layers of insight, fun-poking at EVERYONE, and witty humor. I still find myself discovering new moments or quotes that I’ve missed in earlier viewings.
Better Call Saul. It’s no secret that I loved Breaking Bad (minus a couple of skipper scenes, thanks to VidAngel!), and I was doubtful that BCS could come close. It’s an apples-to-oranges thing, so there’s no use really comparing them. The acting, the writing, the filmmaking were all as good as it gets. And Rhea Seehorn’s performance of Kim Wexler’s final scene on the bus made the whole thing worth it.
When I saw the announcement for this movie, I thought, “Oh, how cute, that’ll be terrible.” I could not have been more wrong (though it’s certainly cute). Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, completely captivated me. What began as a series of YouTube videos matures in feature-film length to a beautiful meditation on loss, grief, longing, community, and belonging. I wish I could make everyone watch it. It makes the world a better place just by existing.
I watch Encanto 6+ times per week with my toddler, and so far I don’t mind because the story is so rich with gospel truth about the way God has made us individually and as members of a larger community. Each viewing provides nuance I hadn’t picked up before and the new Live from the Hollywood Bowl released in December is equally delightful.