I often wonder how many lurkers The Solute has. I used to lurk on a few different online communities not too different from this one, where an obscure and tight-knit group of friends would analyse and criticise pop culture from an educated but otherwise amateur perspective, and they gave me not just ideas but a structure to filter my thoughts through. I remember being both admiring of and intimidated by these people, enjoying their chemistry and the way they would feed off each other – just some random voices stumbling their way to fundamental truths. Are there people that feel this way about us? Who come back every day to see us analyse, snark, argue, and occasionally agree? Who are afraid to post because they fear they’ll fuck up the chemistry and look foolish?
I also often wonder what the future holds. I think of a group of amateur nerds in the 1920’s, publishing cheap amateur journals with pop culture criticism, inviting an obscure geek named HP Lovecraft into the circle, publishing his criticism (and occasional fiction), creating a social circle in which he would meet a teenager named Robert Bloch, who would (with Lovecraft’s tutoring) go on to write a novel called Psycho, which would be adapted by Alfred Hitchcock into one of the greatest movies of all time. Do you think something like that will happen because of us? I like to think so. It would be very strange if great criticism didn’t beget great art.
And now, some of our beloved Soluters will share their favourite Solute works of 2022.
Pico: I haven’t tracked my favorite articles this year as well as I normally do, but I especially enjoyed the culmination of The Narrator‘s series on Revolution Studios, whose final two installments were posted this year, along with a final ranking of all the studio’s releases. Rarely has so much ink been devoted to such a persistent stream of mediocrity, but the Narrator approaches it with a sincerity and good faith that the studio itself didn’t deserve, and the result is more thoughtful than almost any of the films on the list.
I didn’t contribute anything this year, because it was a terrible year that I’m glad to leave behind, except for a persistent pessimism about the upcoming year. So with that in mind, I want to single out a few people I’m especially grateful for right now: first, Julius for setting up this forum in the first place, without which I wouldn’t have had as positive and fulfilling a distraction from Everything Else; and second, Ruck for keeping up the semi-regular live chats, where I’ve gotten to see and hear a bunch of avatars turn into real and interesting people. I’ve also really appreciated getting to know essie off-forum, since we’ve been able to commiserate about this whole mess of a year without turning it into a dirge. If there is anything I’m looking forward to in 2023, it’s continuing to get to know everyone better. Thank you all for the opportunity.
As usual there was some amazing stuff this year as well. Amidst all of her writing obligations The Narrator’s series on the rise and fall of Revolution Studios shines a laser like sharp light on the variety of genres, and their institutional basis, of films of that particular decade. BurgundySuit’s work on the history of animation is also exemplary. I really enjoyed Drunk Napoleon’s musings on Justice and film a few months back. I will take this opportunity to tell Pico that I enjoyed Tropic of Orange more than most on this site, and wallflower that I really felt that he reached the apex of what might be considered his epic, counter-enlightenment history of Western Culture with his The Book of J. article. That said, the biggest laugh I received this year was Babalugat’s WDWW review of Let’s All Go to the World’s Fair, particularly with regards to a certain content warning. Good work everyone, and to more in the upcoming year.
I need to start bookmarking favorite articles as I read them—and I feel like this is a lesson I learn every year only to immediately forget. But since I can’t hope to mention every Solute piece I loved this year, I’ll settle for rounding up a representative sample. I was delighted to see the start of Dad to the Bone, James Williams’s new series reviewing classic “dad movies.” The Solute Book Club produced some of my favorite writing of this year, including Tristan “Drunk Napoleon” Nankervis’s tour de force on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Babalugats’s breakdown of the highs and lows of Books of Blood, to name but two out of a whole incredible host of essays and commentaries.
And, as always, it’s an absolute pleasure to participate in any Movie Gifts Unwrappening—for pound-for-pound Solute insight of everybody talking insightfully, meaningfully, and entertainingly about movies, you can’t beat these pieces and their comment sections.
As for what I wrote—I had a couple Film on the Internet articles I liked this year, and I’ve got a soft spot for the one on the mind-bogglingly, delightfully bad Texas Chainsaw 3D … but I have to go with my article on 1BR, a.k.a., the introduction of Oven Cat.
The Ploughman: As in years past, it has been the highest of honors to hang with all ya’ll. You make me laugh, think and served as guides into new areas of culture I would never have found on my own. If you’re here every morning, I’m excited to see you. If you’re here every once in a while, I’m excited to see you. Also as in years past, it’s impossible to pick a “best” piece, especially when so much passion is on display so constantly. So once again – as in years past – I’m going to make some arbitrary categories to single out a few pieces and name a few more in the comments when I have a chance, knowing that there’s so many more I could have selected. Thank you everybody for enriching my life and here’s to the best 2023 we can manage. Favorite, Non-Movie Category: “Sonic Route: “High Water (For Charley Patton)” by Drunk Napoleon. Favorite, Movie Category: Lang the Mythmaker: METROPOLIS, Part 2 by Burgundy Suit. Favorite, Massive Opus Edition: But We Demand the Flame: The Book of J by wallflower.
My favorite of my pieces is my Children of Men bit for Year of the Month where I felt found something different to say about scenes that have been discussed much before.
Conor Malcolm Crockford: I didn’t get as much Solute writing done this year as I’d like considering my own freelance career really took off, though I’ve tried to bring this site’s subculture and voice into my own work, and I’m proud as always of the discussions and work we’ve all parsed through together and apart.
Now back to the good part! After knowing for a long time they were consistently one of the best things on the site, this was the year I tried to be more diligent in following ZoeZ’s Film on the Internet column. I was rewarded with her thoughtful, savage, or (an increasingly rare combination) both takes on Tattoo, The Blue Gardenia, Texas Chainsaw 3D, Onibaba, The Purge, Sunrise, and, of course, 1BR, the secret origin of my nomination for The Solute’s official mascot, Oven Cat.
The Narrator: It’s good to put words to deep, personal connections you’ve made to art, maybe especially to art it seems nobody else has been so impacted by. I wrote my piece on Zia Anger’s Maggie Rogers videos partly to get others to watch them (if you haven’t watched them yet, they’re really great!) but mostly because I needed to get it off my chest, to come to some understanding about why this girl dancing was all I could think about for several months. The writing was good but the personal catharsis it afforded me was even better.
John Bruni: This year, What The F? Babalugats on BOLERO [https://www.the-solute.com/what-the-f-babalugats-on-bolero/] really stuck in my mind. I doubt I’ve seen a more attention-grabbing lede: “Hollywood’s skeeviest filmmaker asks us to imagine a world where nobody wants to fuck Bo Derek, and succeeds.”This critical evaluation of Bolero ties in with this year’s extended look at sexuality in 80s movies, “The Erotic 80s,” from Karina Longworth’s well-regarded podcast You Must Remember This [http://www.youmustrememberthispodcast.com/episodes/2022/7/11/erotic-80s-archive]. It is rather curious indeed how the counter-revolutionary Reagan cultural regime countenanced, at least initially, more frank representations of making whoopee – under the aegis that sex sells. In the case of Bolero, the guiding assumption was that really trashy sex sells a ton of tickets, thus brushing aside the legal issues of underage nudity.
I recently saw Neil Young’s self-released homemade documentary, Harvest Time [https://www.neilyoungharvesttime.com], on the making of his blockbuster Harvest, the record that really put Young on the map as a singer-songwriter both immensely popular and intensely introspective. Besides the breathtaking footage of Young and his band jamming in his barn (that makes the film essential for fans of Young), the takeaway is that Young was flying high – his look of stoned bemusement in close shots says it all.
It’s hard to imagine what actually happened next. Everything turned: from a disastrous tour in support of the album to the drug-related deaths of his closest friends. If Harvest documents when Young was on top, Tonight’s The Night is a desperate transmission from his crash landing, and as I wrote this year about Tonight’s The Night [https://www.the-solute.com/year-of-the-month-tequila-and-hamburgers-the-making-of-neil-youngs-tonights-the-night/]: “Young never seems to doubt that you’ll feel what he’s feeling.”
vomas: When the Solute Year in Review rolls around I often find myself clicking back through the site trying to remember which of the consistently excellent articles I’d particularly like to highlight, but this year there was one that immediately moved into my brain in August and set up camp, ready to be deployed when the moment came. I’ve rarely felt such a varied procession of emotions as I did reading Miller’s article on The Glutton Bowl – disgust, horror, amazement, amusement, shock. As I commented at the time, I’m used to Solute articles expanding my watchlist, this is the rare case of an article describing something that I never want to see, ever, but in hilarious detail. Will never watch, would read again, A+++.
Aside from our always-terrific regular features, I have a few articles I want to highlight. Miller came through this year with two great pieces, one on a work I knew nothing about and one on a place I was intimately familiar with. The first was his writeup of The Glutton Bowl, which I’d never heard of but am always eager to read a terrific recounting of an absurd spectacle. The second was his elegy for the A.V. Club, probably my favorite piece of the year, written with the kind of loving detail that can only come from someone who knows through experience what exactly made the place special to all of us and why it isn’t that way anymore– and why and how we carry on what made it special here on this very site.
Babalugats came through with one of my favorite general topics at the Solute– our contrarian (but always sincere) takedowns of some critical darling. (I don’t really know if anyone else points out that the emperor has no clothes better than we do.) In his case, it was his review of Michael Schur’s How to Be Perfect, a book of moral philosophy from someone sincerely concerned with the topic but deeply limited in his imagination thereof.
My favorite of The Ploughman’s weekly Lunch Links was “When Triumph the Insult Comic Dog met Star Wars.” Perhaps at least in part for some nostalgia because it’s one of the rare cultural artifacts I distinctly remember seeing and knowing about at the time, but nevertheless, whatever works works.
My favorite of Gillianren’s profiles was Allison Janney, probably because I love Miss Perky as much as she does.
Mostly I’m grateful that we have this community year after year, populated with diverse viewpoints but all welcome and accepted. And that it’s the kind of community where, even if we’ve scaled back on the frequency, the idea of a virtual happy hour was not met with a combination of stone silence and are-you-insane looks. Speaking of, I guess Guillermo Jiménez deserves a shout-out from the last happy hour both for inspiring a new take on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air rap and for telling us we all look like side characters in Coen Brothers movies, the kind of burn none of us will ever get over.
Tell us your favourite Solute entries of 2022 in the comments, and I do apologise to anyone I missed – I’ll happily edit in late posts from anybody!