The Emerging Artist and I have drawn up for our traditional end-of-year lists.
Counting movies watched on TV and streaming, I saw about 80 this year, mostly in the company of the EA. We did a quick and ruthless thumbs-up/thumbs-down to reach a short list of 20, then a further short process to arrive at a list of favourite movies.
Three documentaries, all seen at the Sydney Film Festival:
Five feature films:
Out of so much excellent TV, both free to air and streamed, we limited ourselves to one documentary series, one comedy series and one more or less serious series. The Australian Wars merits an award of its own.
We went to the theatre an amazing 15 times. You’d think the pandemic was over!
Our unanimous award for best play of the year goes to The Jungle and the Sea, created by S. Shakthidharan & Eamon Flack. It’s an exhilarating, brilliantly staged epic about the civil war in Sri Lanka and the experience of refugees, with the magnificent Anandavalli as matriarch Gowrie at the centre, and wonderful music. It’s very long. We brought a picnic dinner and ate Lebanese take-away in the green room during one of the intervals.
Our runners-up were:
- RBG: Of Many, One, a one-woman play written by Suzie Miller, directed by Priscilla Jackson and brilliantly performed by Heather Mitchell for the SydneyTheatre Company
- Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, a two-hander by Canadian Hannah Moscovitch, performed at Belvoir in an MTC production directed by Petra Kalive.
The Emerging Artist read roughly 60 books. She has given me a list of her five best in non-fiction and fiction categories (art books were important but not for listing). Here they are, with comments dictated by her, with links to the LibraryThing pages or, at her request, to my blog post when I’ve blogged about her chosen book:
- Mick Herron, the Slough House series. Very funny, fast-paced, delightful plot twists. The EA stayed ahead of the TV series, which she says is very faithful to the books. She didn’t seem to mind that she generally knew what was about to happen.
- Ian McEwan, Lessons: Profoundly moving. She loved the integration of broad historical events with the stories of individual lives
- Rajorshi Chakraborti, Shakti: Your Power, Our Rules: A surprising book, stumbled across in the local library. It’s a fast-paced fantasy that links contemporary, westernised India with ancient mystical belief systems.
- Elizabeth Strout, Lucy by the Sea: Her usual close observation of intimate relationships. Like Lessons, it integrates these with wider world events, in this case the Covid pandemic.
- Abdulrazak Gurnah, Afterlives: I really loved it, and individual moments are vividly in my mind months after reading it.
- Kim Mahood, Wandering with Intent: I think she’s the best Australian writer about cross-cultural relationships. I imagine this is an essential read for any non-Indigenous person planning to work in remote First Nations communities.
- Claudia Rankine, Just Us: I loved the writing, the humour, the format, the thought-provokingness.
- Andrea Elliott, Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope on New York City: At times reading this I was filled with dread but was mostly wrong – underestimating how terrible the US welfare system is, but also underestimating people’s resilience and capacity to fight back.
As for me, I read 70 books (counting journals but not children’s books). I finished my slow read of the Iliad and began Middlemarch, both of which have been exhilarating when read a little each morning after Wordle and before the news. I’ve read 22 books of poetry, 21 novels and only two comics; books in translation from Homeric Greek, German, Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese; seven books by First Nations writers, and 14 by other writers who don’t belong to the White global minority. The book that was most fun was Niall Williams’s History of the Rain. Most instructive was With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix. Most deeply and warmly challenging was Claudia Rankine, Just Us. Scariest was Hugh White’s Quarterly Essay Sleepwalk to War. Most delightful discovery of a writer from the past: Charmian Clift in Mermaid Singing.
Happy New Year, everyone. Please add your own treasured movies, TV, plays or books from 2022 in the comments.