7 min read


My year in review

Sorry for the slight absence—I was getting married and doing other things along those lines (that’s me in the photo above). It won’t happen again!

In case you’re new here, Decembers over at Mononym Mythology are typically for recapping what I did that year in terms of work. This December is no different, but I’m also going to repeat what I did last year and sprinkle some not-work throughout, since 2022 is a year I’m going to remember mostly for the not-work—air-travelling for the first time in three years, eating a ton of good food (including food I cooked for myself, which is still a new-ish thing for me), seeing Lady Gaga and Mariah Carey live for the first time, shortlisting Elvis songs for my f*rst d*nce, and so on.

Thank you so much as always to everyone who reads this baby, and thanks especially to Samuli for suggesting the Madonna-themed title for this year’s wrap-up!

Stuff I wrote

  • This review of the Charli XCX doc Alone Together, about the making of her quarantine album how i’m feeling now, for Paste
  • One of the more generous reviews, it seems, of the J.Lo/Owen Wilson/Maluma-starrer Marry Me, for Paste
  • My biggest project of the year, and probably my most rewarding even if it helped burn me out by March: this overview of Tony Bennett’s life and career, with an eye towards his unlikely MTV stardom, for the newsletter
  • This odds-and-ends newsletter instalment from March on the top of the year in music films, Scooter Braun’s extensive and sort of strange footprint in the documentary space, the implications of Mathew Knowles selling Music World Entertainment, Megan Thee Stallion’s obvious filmmaking aspirations, and the star-studded 2001 charity cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”
  • This look back at Beyoncé’s debut solo single, 2002’s “Work It Out” from Austin Powers in Goldmember, and how she navigated its underperformance so well and in such a way that people don’t remember it as her debut solo single, for Billboard
  • This review of Olivia Rodrigo’s driving home 2 u (a SOUR film), which I found charming/worthwhile enough to cancel out most of the phonier stuff, for Paste. Also how I learned about the existence of aircraft boneyards, so special thanks to Miss Rodrigo for that
  • This review of Valérie Lemercier’s Céline Dion not-biopic, Aline, a film I’ve thought about on and off all year and will probably come back to in a writing capacity, for Paste
  • This profile of filmmaker Sophy Romvari, among the more meaningful (and emotional, tbh) things I worked on this year, for CBC Arts
  • This interview with Why Solange Matters author Stephanie Phillips, and this one with Sofia Coppola: Forever Young author Hannah Strong, both for the newsletter. I love interviewing authors, and was especially grateful to rely on these two brains during a couple months where I couldn’t get my own to work
  • This breakdown of the MTV VMAs’ silly/confused longform category, for Billboard
  • My third ask-me-anything instalment to celebrate the newsletter’s second birthday (a few months late, I know). I answered questions about writing, stan culture, unauthorized biopics/biographies, Christina Aguilera, and more
  • This Sarah Polley 101 piece, for CBC Arts—also among my more meaningful and emotional projects of the year
  • This newsletter instalment on the user-generated content that’s come out of there being no Renaissance (2022) visuals yet, and how the move is not only unprecedented for Beyoncé but actually at odds with so many of the mission statements she’s made re: visuals
  • This look back at the big ambitions and bigger failures of Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away (2002), starring then-wife Madonna, for Paste
  • This mini-essay on Carly Rae Jepsen, who I argue was among the 22 artists who helped salvage 2022, for CBC Arts
Canmore, Alberta, one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited

Stuff I edited that I can talk about (not including the three-digit number of essays I copy edited, though shout-out to those!)

  • This essay by Catherine Ellsberg on the Merchant Ivory heartbreaker The Remains of the Day (1993)
  • This essay by Jess Moody on Contact (1997), a movie I’m still pretty sure I hallucinated
  • My friend Ethan Warren’s forthcoming book, The Cinema of Paul Thomas Anderson: American Apocrypha, which you should absolutely pre-order and will be hearing about from me either way in the new year. Time to go HAIM!
  • This essay on Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) by the always-great Spencer Williams, who I’m pretty sure is the only person who’s ever had me in physical pain from laughing so hard on Slack
  • This essay by Jason Baxter on KIMI (2022), aka Seattle on Seattle
  • This essay by Nathaniel Kim on Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, which recast a series I thought I knew very well in a whole new light
A spicy read on a rainy day in Grenada on my h*neymoon

Other cool work and work-adjacent stuff

  • I was polled by Little White Lies for their 50 best films of the new millennium not based on existing IP (no adaptations, no remakes, no biopics, etc.), but tragically forgot to include one of my favourite movies, Stoker (2013)
  • The Madonna x Classic Hollywood video essay I co-wrote last year with Be Kind Rewind’s Izzy came up during Izzy’s interview with W
  • I had my first-ever book chapter published, on Nancy Botwin of Weeds and learning to live with “incorrectness” (in my case, chronic illness), in Scarlett Harris’s The Women of Jenji Kohan (you can buy it here!)
  • My 2021 essay on Sofia Coppola and Marie Antoinette (2006) was cited in Hannah Strong’s aforementioned book on Coppola, and the chapter in question was actually excerpted in Lit Hub for your convenience
  • My good and talented friend, Cody Corrall, shouted me out in this Q&A as someone who inspires him, knowing it would make me blush!
  • I was on The Bright Wall/Dark Room Podcast with my colleagues to chat about my favourite movie of all time, Amadeus (1984)
  • I was on the What a Year! podcast to talk Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around… Comes Around” video, a defining pop culture moment of 2007
  • I was on Hollywood Suite’s A Year in Film podcast to chat about Desperately Seeking Susan and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, two pop diva-starrers of 1985
  • My piece from 2020 on the “Blinding Lights” video was cited in Ursula Muñoz-Schaefer’s essay on the Weeknd for the Miami New Times
  • I had the ultimate honour of being on the Sounds jury at this year’s Indie Memphis Film Festival, a whirlwind weekend spent eating and drinking and meeting career heroes/long-time internet friends. You can see the winners here!
  • One of my first newsletter instalments, a general dispatch on the job of pop star brand-control docs, was cited in this piece on the new Selena Gomez movie for Texas Monthly
  • I was invited to participate in Sight and Sound’s once-a-decade “Greatest Films” poll—another huge honour—but I don’t particularly want to talk about my ballot <3 (maybe polls just️ aren’t for me... something to think about)
  • I made my case for a Jonas Åkerlund-directed Elvis biopic/documentary for Ethan Warren’s Between Art and Life
A dive bar in Memphis

Some of the art and other stuff I first encountered in 2022 that I’ll actually think about beyond 2022

  • 📽️ Prince’s Sign o’ the Times (1987) film, which really puts a lot of newer concert films to shame
  • 📚 Sarah Schulman’s The Gentrification of the Mind (2012), on the cultural amnesia and revisionism re: the AIDS crisis
  • 💿 Carly Rae Jepsen and Rufus Wainwright’s “The Loneliest Time”—the song more so than the video, though I do like the video
  • 📚 Sarah Polley’s Run Towards the Danger from earlier this year, whose titular motto has probably changed my life even though I won’t get into that right now
  • 📁 This rare footage of Prince as a child that was discovered virtually by accident (it’s really, really, really worth watching that linked video in full)
  • 📽️ Sophy Romvari’s Still Processing (2020), which you can watch on Criterion Channel and deserves every bit of praise it’s received
  • 📚 Tom Breihan’s The Number Ones, a book where I could actually feel my brain slightly increasing in size with every page, Grinch heart-style
  • 📁 This clip of a pre-fame David Bowie defending his long hair on TV, one of many early attempts at stardom that just didn’t pan out
  • 📚 Furious Love, the book pictured above on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s passionate/tumultuous relationship. Flawed in terms of how it handles certain subject matter (fatness, disability, etc.) but easily the sexiest bit of non-fiction I read this year
  • 📼 Tove Lo’s “No One Dies from Love” video </3
  • 💿 I listened to 807 (!) new-to-me albums/EPs this year, a few hundred more than last year (the number doesn’t actually really matter to me, I just happen to keep a list). I still have quite a bit of re-listening to do to determine my faves among them, so if these bullet points seem light on music it’s because I haven’t totally processed all the music I listened to in 2022!
Still waiting on the bulk of our photos, but here's my veil (photo by Inna Yasinska)

Have a lovely New Year’s! ●

Mononym Mythology is a music video culture newsletter by me, Sydney Urbanek, where I write about mostly pop stars and their visual antics. I do that for free, so if you happened to get something out of this instalment, you’re more than welcome to buy me a coffee. The best way to support my work otherwise is by sharing it. Here’s where you can say hello, here’s where you can subscribe, and you can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.