BuzzFeed announced it was going to introduce Artificial Intelligence to create more content this year. An AI won an art contest last year. It’s just another day in America.

It doesn’t really disturb me that business-types will increasingly turn to technology to replace creatives, because creativity and business has always been a tenuous relationship at best. Of course nobody in America would want to pay artists, because in a consumer society, art is a product and not a language—the way people are commodities and not compatriots.

The difference between art made by a person and by a machine comes down to what any individual believes what art is, and why it exists. If art is just glorified wallpaper or a form of entertainment meant to provide a service for the consumer to pass the time with, sure it doesn’t matter how or why it was created. But if art is believed to be related to the core of what it means to be a human, it matters very much. In capitalist society, humanism is an afterthought to profits and material success, so of course the idea behind a piece of art is disposable.

To me, this isn’t a fight worth getting involved in because the details are representative of a much large issue: our society is built around the foundation that people are more important to consider as statistics rather than human beings. It’s why our healthcare is fucked, it’s why our politics are corrupt, it’s why poverty and homelessness appear on every street. If the very basis of our learning in the United States is that our peers are competition and our nature is consumption, then of course our art will be handed over to a machine programmed to produce thoughtless aesthetics.

An AI can be an interesting tool for a person to use, but given the results of mass acceptance of social media and allowing corporate technology dictate our personal lives and communication, it’s hard to imagine anything positive coming from doing the same with the essence of humanity—our creativity.

First things first: I fuckin’ love movies and know this is all subjective anyway.

But with the Oscar nominations announced, it’s officially Award Season in Hollywood, which seems as good a time as any to do a 2022 year-in-review for film. I’ve long since given up on Official Awards, but still enjoy keeping track of my favorites. (You can too, via Letterboxd.) Anyway. On with the show.

The biggest difficulty in discussing cinema is that there are movies and there are films. The difference really comes down to the ambitions of the filmmakers involved—are they trying to entertain, or are they trying to make something more substantial? I think of the exchange in 2009’s art-house indie, (untitled):

Monroe: What is the difference between art and entertainment?
Madeline: Entertainment never posed a problem it couldn’t solve.

When it comes to movies, I see it as a ‘square and rectangle’ situation: All art films are entertaining, but not all entertaining movies are art. My favorite cinema experience of the year—an opening weekend, imax screening of Top Gun: Maverick is proof of this. The movie is blatant military propaganda, but holy shit was it a fun time. It wasn’t trying to say anything other than, ‘please give the military more money for planes,’ but it said it in the most fun, tense, edge-of-your-seat way possible.

Cate Blanchett in Tár

On the flip-side of that is Tár, which also looks at the idea of American exceptionalism through the backdrop of My How The Times Are Changing, but along cultural lines and without a push to create any narrative of one concept being better or worse than another. While Maverick was the best theater experience I had, this is the best film I saw in 2022 (and Blanchett gives just a mind-boggling performance, holy hell). Though the two aren’t really comparable, both were great. Thus, the movie vs. film dynamic.

Triangle of Sadness

The Banshees of Inisherin

Nope

The Menu

Still then there is the personal favorite. Hackers is one of my favorite movies ever, but I’d never say it was award-worthy. For 2022, the only personal favorites of mine that got much attention for awards were The Banshees of Inisherin and Triangle of Sadness. My favorite overall—Crimes of the Future—is nowhere to be found (which I can understand). Surprisingly, though, Nope, Decision To Leave, and RRR also failed to get much ‘official’ attention. (The fact that the two latter titles were snubbed of foreign film nominations is criminal.)

Crimes Of The Future

To speak of just fun movies though, The Outfit, Jackass Forever, The Menu, Everything Everywhere All At Once, and The Northman all made actually going to the theater a great experience. Hopefully Hollywood continues trying to make movies that have nothing to do with comic books. (That said, The Batman was fun as hell, too.)

The Turin Horse

But much like with my music choices, the year in film also includes the past. In 2022, I saw The Turin Horse (2011), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), and The Card Counter (2021), which each vaulted to my all-time favorites list. Then there other incredible finds—There Is No Evil (2020), Transit (2018), Thoroughbreds (2017), At Eternity’s Gate (2018), Arab Blues (2017), and Possessor (Uncut) (2020)—which I’m bound to watch again at some point.

At Eternity’s Gate

Finally, the failures: again, I see this as a ‘film vs movie’ situation, but in failed attempts. I’ve never walked out of a movie, but Amsterdam and Moonfall were two that tested my resolve on that this year. But they were just trying (and failing) to be a thing to watch. This is why Don’t Worry Darling has to be my vote for absolute worst trash this year, for it was so easy to see how much it was trying to be, while ending up as not much of anything at all. Fortunately, I know I’m not alone in my thinking, as by the credits people around me were laughing, and upon leaving the theater talking about how so very bad it was.

There are already a handful of titles I’m anticipating this year, but I am really looking forward to delving more into foreign films and going through the ourvere of specific directors—like everything Cronenberg did prior to Eastern Promises. And I’ll probably re-watch everything I posted about here. (Except the final three.)

Cut.

First great show seen this year—Henry Taylor: B-Side at MoCA Grand.

For a man who didn’t start seriously painting until his early 40s, Taylor managed to play with quite a range of representative styles. They weren’t by any means inconsistent, but rather a testament to how adept he is with a paintbrush; if, before this exhibit, someone had shown me ten random works from it, I would have thought they were done by at least three different artists.

Suffice to say, a solid way to start off the year in art-viewing.

I recently finished reading Resistance Anew: Artworks, Culture, and Democracy. While I enjoyed the book, it could be summed up as a lot of pontificating about what art is, or can offer, in a time of crisis—especially as the elite, capitalism, and their ‘art markets’ largely control the field. Within the 142 pages of theory, there was a whole lot of this—

Now, it is in this field of disorganization, in this breeding ground of virtualities, in this implosive void, in this deposit of signifiers in search of signifieds, in art, to say the least, that verbal thought revitalizes itself, while at the same time disqualifying itself. How do we otherwise explain that, since the Renaissance, or already since classical antiquity, since the sculptural premises of anthropocentrism, art is prophecy, that it is regularly one step ahead of events and thought? And, in addition, how do we explain the silence of the great thinkers and the great philosophers on this subject? They are not aliens who could have cogitated their discoveries autistically. Would they want to make us believe that they neither saw nor heard anything about the art of their time, even though the relationship to the inspiration is obvious? One could say, paraphrasing Edgar Degas, that some of them, starting with Plato, shot the artists, and that they picked their pockets—at least, for the most part, they were reluctant to reveal their sources.

—Michel Thévoz, “Sensure”

I’m not trying to trash on art theory or what Thévoz is saying, as I rather enjoyed his essay. But as I made my way through the book, time and again I found myself thinking, This is why everyone hates contemporary art.

The language used to describe and debate art now is rooted in academia and philosophy, not the basics of human expression. This foundational issue is easily seen across the ‘culture’ of the ‘art world,’ when one can’t just have a conversation about a work—one must be able to understand what it means through the eyes of one philosophy or another. A person’s opinion about any work of art should be considered, regardless of if they’ve ever read fuckin’ Deleuze.

It’s reflective of how just 8% of working artists come from a working-class background (this is a 2022 study in the uk). Of course so few write in the straight-forward manner of, say, famous working-class texts, when they want to be taken seriously by a group with a barrier of entry provided by post-graduate language.

Shit like this makes me think of an old interview on NPR with country music star Jason Isbell. Host Terry Gross makes a fool of herself talking about a line in his near-perfect tune “Outfit”

GROSS: And don’t ever say your car is broke?
ISBELL: Right. You should know what’s wrong with it.
GROSS: I suppose that’s as opposed to broken? Oh. Oh. Oh.
ISBELL: No. No. No.

Gross couldn’t wrap her liberal mind around the idea that the lyric—“Don’t call what you’re wearing an outfit / and don’t ever say your car is broke”—was earnest sentiment and not grammatical scolding, even though the entire song is a love letter from father to son. (Isbell, college-educated with a degree in fiction, doesn’t speak down to his southern roots the way certain northeastern media types might.)

It’s the exact kind of academic sentiment that distances the ‘educated’ from the idea art can be made by ‘everyday people.’ To my mind, that is the crisis art is facing right now, and exactly why books like this can’t offer any idea on how to solve it.