Holiday Movie Review: The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)

Title: The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Release Date: November 25, 2022
Director: James Gunn
Production Company:  Marvel Studios

In this goofy special, The Guardians learn about the Earth tradition of Christmas and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista) decide that they need to cheer up Peter Quill (Chris Pratt).  Their plan involves going to Earth and abducting Quill’s favorite person, Kevin Bacon (Kevin Bacon). Hijinks ensue.

Centering the special on two of the secondary characters is an interesting opportunity to give them some development (Klementieff succeeds more than Bautista), and Bacon looks like he’s having a blast playing himself.  And less Chris Pratt is an advantage.  While I doubt this will become an annual holiday tradition, it was a fun bit of whimsy to watch this year.

Rating: ***



Movie Review: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022)

Title: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Release Date: November 23, 2022
Director: Rian Johnson
Production Company: T-Street

World-famous private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) returns to solve another mystery.  This time the muted autumnal colors of New England are traded for a sun-soaked Grecian island.  The island is owned by billionaire and self-proclaimed tech genius Miles Bron (Edward Norton).  He invites a group of his friends he calls The Disruptors to his island during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic for a murder mystery party.  These include Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe), the co-founder and real brains behind the company with whom he’s had a falling out; Governor of Connecticut Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn); scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom, Jr.); fashion designer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) and her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick); Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) a “men’s rights activist” video streamer and his model girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline).

Naturally, Blanc mysteriously receives an invitation as well and quickly surmises that everyone has a reason to want to kill Bron.  Soon enough the fake murder mystery turns into a real one.  Johnson does a good job of seeding clues throughout and using flashbacks to fill in the gaps. Craig is excellent at playing Blanc as bumbling when he’s really two steps ahead of everyone else. Monáe also does an excellent job in a role that is more complex than it initially appears.

In fact all the actors do a great job but their characters still come off as caricatures.  This makes sense on one level since there all shallow people we see as influencers while Bron is clearly a stand-in for Elon Musk in how he’s a dumb guy hailed as a genius due to his wealth and power.  But I felt the previous film did a lot better at giving more depth to the characters which is the main reason why the sequel, although enjoyable, is not as good as the original. Still, you’ve got to admire the small level of revenge Rian Johnson gets in Dave Bautista’s performance skewering the types of MRA manbaby internet influencers who started the hate campaign against the brilliant The Last Jedi.

Rating: ***1/2

2022 Year in Review: Memorable Events

I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  I always say that memorable does not mean it is necessarily positive, so don’t be surprised to see negative experiences on this list.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.

Here is my 26th annual list.


Death in the family – The year began with the sad passing of my father-in-law Charles Lacefield after a long illness.  Because of the pandemic, the kids and I hadn’t been able to see him since 2019, but there’s a small blessing in that Susan was able to visit her father a few times in his final days.


Freelance Troupe Performances – This year Kay got involved in a local children’s theater company that produced three excellent shows in February, June, and December.  Kay is proving to be an enthusiastic and talented actor with a devilish maniacal laugh.


Celtics Games – At the end of March, Peter & I saw the Celtics in an exciting game at TD Garden against the Brooklyn Nets where Jayson Tatum scored 54 points!  The whole family got into the Celtics last season following the team all the way to the NBA Finals.  This December, all four of us went to an exciting game together which, alas, the Celtics lost in overtime.

Gardner Museum – I spent a day at this unique Boston museum for the first time since before the pandemic.


Easter in NYC – Kay and I visited my mother in New York City where we celebrated Easter, saw a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House, enjoyed the great Broadway musical Come From Away, and visited the Bronx Zoo.



Making History on Boston Common – As a history nerd Dad, I was excited to chaperone for Kay’s class visit to the annual history day for Boston Public School students on Boston Common.  We petted goats, discovered the harsh penalties of violating the rules in Puritan Massachusetts, trundled hoops, and played baseball with reenactors of the Massachusetts 54th regiment.


Coach’s Award – Another exciting youth baseball season ended with Kay receiving the Coach’s Award for the most spirited, sporting, and baseball-loving player on the team.  Peter received the same award when he was younger and I could not be a prouder dad!



Cape Cod –  The family joined by my mother rented a house in Harwich for a week on the Cape which included Cape Cod League Baseball, beaches, bike rides, go-carts, Pirate’s Cove adventure golf, lots of ice cream, and fun!


Open Streets Jamaica Plain – For one day, the main streets of Jamaica Plain were closed to motor vehicles and filled with people walking, biking, talking, singing, dancing, and more!  I biked along and met several people I know plus Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.



Girls Rock Camp Boston showcase – Kay learned to play bass at a summer camp and then performed an original song along with many other bands at the Brighton Music Hall.

North Carolina – In late August we visited my mother-in-law in North Carolina for a week which included lots of games, delicious meals, and family togetherness as well as a side-trip to Busch Gardens Williamsburg with the kids.

Learned League – The father of Kay’s classmates invited me to join an online trivia competition and I started playing in August.  It is hard but fun, and I even finished first in the most recent contest!


Labor Day in New York – We visited my mother again and this time saw the Mets play very poorly in an otherwise great season, dined on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, and visited the New York Botanical Garden.

Max – Our 17-year-old cat who lived with us for 13 years went out to sit on the porch one evening in September and never came back.  We guess he reached the time where he went off to die in peace but we never found him.  He will be missed.

Japanese Breakfast and Yo La Tengo – Susan and I went to our first concert since pre-pandemic days at the new Roadrunner in Brighton.


Oktoberfest at Bronwyn – We met up with our friends Craig, John, Jess, and Beth for beer and conviviality in Somerville.


Walk with Anthony in Franklin Park – Anthony, Susan and I went in search of the legendary bear dens.

Thanksgiving in NYC – more family time in New York with my mother which included a delicious dinner, a World Cup soccer match, a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, and a stroll through Central Park.


Otter Encounter – Fulfilling a lifelong ambition, I hand-fed otters at the Ecotarium in Worcester.  Best birthday gift ever!

Midwinter Revels – I once performed in the chorus of the Revels performance at Sanders Theater in Cambridge.  This year’s show featured people of Irish, Eastern European Jewish, and Mexican backgrounds coming together at Ellis Island in 1924 to share songs, dances, and stories.

That’s me about to head the ball in a recreation of the soccer game during the Christmas Truce in 1914.


And that was the year that was!


2022 Year in Review: Favorite Books

Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read for the first time in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year for the first time and not necessarily books published in 2021. For previous years see 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018,  2017,   2016,   2015,   2014,   2013,   2012,   2011,   2010,   2009,   2008,  2007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing. Books published in 2021 are in bold.

Okay, I cheated this year, I got the list down to 11 and can’t find one more I can delete, so this year’s list has a bonus!

Complete List of Books Read in 2022

The books are rated on a scale from 1 to 5 stars with links to summary reviews. (A) is for audiobook.

Here’s a thumbnail of what the ratings mean:

  • 5 stars – all-time classic (I’m very stingy with these)
  • 4 stars – a particularly interesting, well-written, or important book
  • 3 stars – a good book from start to finish
  • 2 stars – not a good book on the whole but has some good parts
  • 1 star or less – basically a bad book with no redeeming values













2022 Year in Review: Favorite Albums

Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, and Lizzo all released acclaimed albums in 2022.  But you don’t come to this Very Small Blog to hear about that ! I posted 44 Album of the Week reviews this year (which includes 3 albums from last year and 1 reissue from 1966).  Here are 10 of my favorites I’ve culled from the list.

Check out my lists of favorite albums from 2014201620172018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 as well.

Congotronics International – Where’s the One?

Editrix – Editrix Goes To Hell

Ibibio Sound Machine – Electricity

The Linda Lindas – Growing Up

Medicine Singers – Medicine Singers

Oumou Sangaré – Timbuktu

Petrol Girls – Baby

Soul Glo – Diaspora Problems

Special Interest – Endure

Stromae – Multitude


2022 Year in Review: Favorite Songs

Following up on my Song of the Week posts all year long, below are my 20 favorite songs of 2022! If that’s not enough, check out the Tidal and Spotify playlists with 51 smashing songs of the year.


The songs are arranged alphabetically with only one song per artist!

“Blue is the Eye” by Ye Vagabonds

“Cheetah” by Jay-Jay Johanson

“Compassion to the Nth Degree” by Rainbow Girls

“Congratulation” by Alex Lahey

“Empties” by Pigeon Pit

“Famously Alive” by Guerilla Toss

“Floating Garden” by The Nunnery

“Fruits of Labor” by Party Dozen

“Grapevine” by Weyes Blood

“Hatred Has A Mother” by Jesca Hoop

“Home Maker” by Sudan Archives

“Looking At Your Pager” by KH

“Pomeranian Spinster” by Alvvays

“Right to Riot” by Hagop Tchaparian

“Silence Is Golden” by The Beths

“The Otter” by Caamp

“This Hell” by  Rina Sawayama

“This is a Life” by Son Lux, Mitski, and David Byrne

“Time Machine” by Daisy the Great

“Training Montage” by The Mountain Goats

Favorite Songs by Year, 1973-2021

1973 1974 1975 1976
1977 1978 1979 1980
1981 1982 1983 1984
1985 1986 1987 1988
1989 1990 1991 1992
1993 1994 1995 1996
1997 1998 1999 2000
2001 2002 2003 2004
2005 2006 2007 2008
2009 2010 2011 2012
2013 2014 2015 2016
2017 2018 2019 2020


2022 Year in Review: Favorite Movies

UPDATED on March 13th to include additional movies I’ve watched since I first made this post. And hey, me and the Oscars have the same best movie!

Yesterday, I posted a list of some of the greatest movies I watched in 2022.  Today, I’m posting my favorite movies released in 2022.  Somehow I’ve managed to watch 30 movies from this year so far (note: I include movies that received a general release in 2022 even if they played at festivals in previous years).

10. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
9. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
8.Wendell & Wild
7. Girl Picture
6.Fannie Lou Hamer’s America
5. Nope
4. The Quiet Girl
3. Descendant
2. The Banshees of Inisherin
1. Everything Everywhere All At Once

And here are the rest of the movies I’ve watched this year arranged roughly from best to worst.  Although, I got some joy out of each of these movies with the exception of the last one, which is also my Biggest Disappointment of 2022.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Enola Holmes 2
Mars One
Turning Red
Three Thousand Years of Longing
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
The Wonder
Confess, Fletch
Good Night Oppy
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
The House
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
My Father’s Dragon
Emily the Criminal
Werewolf by Night
Thor: Love & Thunder
After Yang
The Sea Beast
Le Pupille
The Elephant Whisperers
See How They Run
Strange World
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
Catherine Called Birdy
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks
The Martha Mitchell Effect
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Badhaai Do
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood
White Noise
The Northman

What are your favorite movies of 2022 and what movies do I really need to see (or avoid)?

Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Author: Charles Dickens
Title:A Christmas Carol
Publication Info: Chapman & Hall, 1843

Over the course of December, I’ve participated in an online book club called A Dickens December where Charles Dickens’ classic story of Christmas redemption was released in short chunks for each day up until December 26.  I am, like most people in the English-speaking world (and beyond), very familiar with the story of the greedy and self-interested old Ebeneezer Scrooge who is transformed by spirits of the Past, Present, and Yet to Come.  Not only have I seen this story adapted into several films, but also I participated in two different stage productions in my childhood!

And yet this is the first time I’ve actually read the book.  The adaptations tend to get it right, adding embellishments more than leaving anything out.  The big thing about reading the book though is seeing Dickens way with words.  I’ve included several of my favorite passages below that show Dickens’ talent with a turn of the phrase.  As always it’s nice to revisit something familiar and see it in a new light.

Favorite Passages:

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.

Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.

The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards, as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there.

Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.

You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

The sky was gloomy, and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist, half thawed, half frozen, whose heavier particles descended in a shower of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain had, by one consent, caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear hearts’ content. There was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.

They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!”

He broke down all at once. He couldn’t help it. If he could have helped it, he and his child would have been farther apart, perhaps, than they were.

Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs!

Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and, knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

Rating: ****

New Additions to My Favorite Movies of All Time

All through the year I’ve been posting my list of 250 favorite movies of all time.  But, over the course of the year, I’ve also been watching movies – many for the first time – that I would definitely consider worthy of the list.  Now, I’m not going to revise my list of 250 in the foreseeable future, but I have created a list over at Letterboxd called Great Movies.  I will update this dynamic list going forward and if and when it reaches 500 entries I will cap it so that I have to remove a movie in order to add a new one.

Here are some movies I watched for the first time (and a few rewatches) in 2022 that I have added to my favorite movies of all time list.

Holiday Movie Review: It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)

Title: It Happened on 5th Avenue
Release Date: April 19, 1947
Director: Roy Del Ruth
Production Company: Roy Del Ruth Productions

It Happened on Fifth Avenue is a very Capra-esque comedy of class set in New York City just after World War II.  In fact, it was originally optioned for Frank Capra but he chose to direct It’s a Wonderful Life instead.  Each winter, the second-richest man in the world, Michael J. O’Connor (Charles Ruggles), boards up his mansion on the Upper East Side and winters in Virginia.  The homeless Aloysius T. McKeever (Victor Moore) discovers a way into the mansion and squats in the residence while the O’Connors are away.

One day he makes acquaintance of a recently-evicted veteran, Jim Bullock (Don DeFore), and invites him to stay at the mansion since his apartment building had been demolished to make way for a skyscraper that O’Connor is building.  Soon Bullock brings some of his fellow veterans into the mansion with their wives and young children and they begin working on a plan to develop more permanent housing on an abandoned military base.

When O’Connor’s 18-year-old daughter Trudy (Gale Storm) leaves her finishing school and comes to the mansion, she decides to hide her identity and stay in the growing household. Trudy and Jim soon fall in love, and Trudy calls on her divorced parents, Mike and Mary (Ann Harding), to also move into their own mansion disguised as poor people so they can get to know Jim.  Hijinks ensue with a lot of gags involving McKeever ordering Mike around.

But there’s also a lot of sweetness in this movie as the found family really care for one another.  The central problem of the movie is based on the mostly forgotten post-war housing shortage. In real life the solution was to build housing projects in the cities and sprawling developments in the suburbs.  We’re still dealing with the increased inequality and environmental damage of those solutions so the film feels very relatable.  The political undertones as well as some sexual entendres make this movie feel more modern than 1947. I also like that Jim never actually finds out that Trudy is the O’Connor’s daughter onscreen which seems like a funny thing to leave unresolved.

The humor in this movie is hit or miss and the various subplots have a way of knocking into one another, so I can’t recommend it as a holiday classic.  On the other hand it is an enjoyable romp that is worth checking out.

Rating: ***