Posted January 14, 2023
Updated January 21, 2023 / Updated January 31, 2023 / Updated February 9, 2023
be said that 2022 was the first year in many that felt like a normal
return for movies as we know it.
use the term normal with an asterisk beside it.
pandemic wreaked a near irreparable amount of harm on the industry in 2020
and threatened to derail the theatrical experience forever, which was
mostly avoided in 2021 with the advent of vaccines and the pandemic's tide
being turned for the better. Cinemas
began re-opening and people felt more comfortable journeying back to them.
And in 2022 more people went to the movies than they did in the
previous two years before that, seeing the return of popular blockbusters
dominating the box office and proving that the cinematic experience was
far from extinct (there is, however, a larger and more damning argument to
be made that high marquee studio pictures are the only ones monopolizing
cinemas with smaller indie fare being dealt crippling blows, but that's a
topic that requires a whole article in itself). I ventured back to
the cinema more times in 2022 than I had combined in 2021 and 2020, but I
was hardly back to pre-pandemic levels of making 3-4 trips per week.
We seem to be living in a perpetual movie world where theatrical
releases co-exist with those that go straight to streaming or appear on
streaming 45 days after seeing the light of day in theaters.
Either way, I remained productive - if not more - on the screening
front in 2022, a year that I thought produced the finest films in quite
films that made my TOP 10 of 2022 were seen theatrically, whereas the rest
were consumed either via VOD or were produced for and/or premiered on
streaming services. I would
say, though, that many of the films listed below deserved cinematic
viewing on as big of a screen as possible.
As is the case with all of my previous BEST FILMS lists, I always
aim for variety here, and my TEN BEST FILMS OF 2022 is assuredly no
exception. A historical epic
appears here, as does a three hour drama about the early years of
Hollywood (it was a notorious box office bomb, but not a qualitative one).
A murder mystery makes an appearance (also a sequel, no less, quite
rare on these lists) alongside a late 19th Century dramedy about the end
of a friendship. Two animated
efforts get top billing too (one of the stop motion variety and the other
courting some controversy about Oscar eligibility because of its methods
used, but regardless...I thought it rocked), not to mention one of the
best high school/coming of age films in a long time (that nearly everyone
forgot about or didn't see) and a surprisingly frank film about sexuality
from an older adult female prerogative (now that's a rarity these days). And because I just can't bring myself to produce an
obligatory list of ten great films, I've also opted to reveal a greater
TOP 25 compilation to give honorable mentions to other work that
just couldn't make the cut of the TOP 10, but were worthy of acclaim
note: I have yet to see a few
noteworthy 2022 releases as of the posting date of this article (like THE
WHALE, AFTERSUN, and TAR, for instance). Once
I screen them and feel they deserve worthy placement here then I'll amend
my rankings below.
think of another film from 2022 where all of its ingredients clicked
together with such masterful fluency.
Whether it be the richly textured performances, the stunning
recreation of a different time and place from a century-plus ago, or its
story of friendship lost and the dangers of hanging on to what's not there
anymore, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN showed - once again - British-Irish
director Martin McDonagh working on a whole other level apart from his
contemporaries. This marked
his fourth film behind the camera, coming off of critically lauded efforts
like his Oscar winning THREE
BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (and how could I forget what a
splash he made in the industry in the late 2000s with his hitman dramedy IN
BRUGES?), but his latest just might be his most mature and
accomplished work to date.
THE BANSHEES ON INISHERIN showcased some of the same hallmarks of McDonagh's past films in the way that they pack a real psychological gut punch while harnessing bleak gallows humor. I laughed a lot during this film when I first screened it, but when it wasn't making me laugh I was often recoiling in horror. The story here could have not been more economical: Two lifelong friends (played in two of the finest performances of the past year by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson respectively, reuniting with McDonagh after IN BRUGES) living in the fictitious early 20th Century Irish isle of Inisherin have an abrupt break-up caused by one of them...for no real reasons offered initially, which sets the other on a downward spiral of shame. What starts off as a small scale story of bruised male egos evolves into something decidedly more sinister and brutally honest about the nature of toxic male relationships. THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN demanded at lot out of viewers in terms of asking them to fully accept and embrace the macabre absurdities in this tale while also showing how fragile friendships can be pushed to the brink of unspeakable self-harm.
I've seen this film three times since its theatrical premiere and its potency has remained with each viewing. I knew this was 2022's best the first time I experienced it.
have been many in critical circles that have described writer/director
Damien Chazelle's BABYLON - his fourth feature film - as a "feel
bad" portrait about Hollywood. That's
only partially true. The
Oscar winning filmmaker's latest in 2022 was an epically staged and
executed historical drama set between the late 1920s and early 1930s,
during which time seismic change occurred that forever altered the course
of the industry: the shift from silent to sound films.
BABYLON presented this rocky changeover to the "talkies",
but it also served to remind viewers that the pre-Code film industry of
the Roaring Twenties was anything but quaint and innocent.
If anything, this was a time when the studio system systematically
chewed up and spit out stars like commodities, and were often discarded
once they outlived their value.
Chazelle's BABYLON was a "feel-bad" film in this respect, but it
was also steeped in an admiration for Hollywood film history and paid
reverence to the pioneers that paved the way over a hundred years ago.
But, to be sure, Chazelle's drama was also intrinsically critical
of this period (which bares more that a striking similarity to our modern
era). Most crucially, BABYLON
was impeccably well engineered in its deconstruction of Hollywood's past,
its depiction of 1920s Tinseltown and all of the behind-the-scenes lunacy,
decadence, and treachery that befell the movies as a whole.
Hollywood of the silent era was glamorous, but had its nasty
demonstrated - perhaps more than any other filmmaker from the past twelve
months - a go-for-broke and free-free-wheeling bravado with his film and
one that was as technically assured as any I've seen from him.
And BABYLON has one of the most shocking and sensationally rendered
opening sequences of the movies, which also featured a performance of
feral ferocity by the open-to-anything Margot Robbie, who deserves Oscar
consideration for her portrayal of a silent film star that will stop at
nothing to get noticed.
This was by no means an easy watch, but Chazelle made - for my money - a towering and sprawling achievement that reminded me of the ethereal power of the movies as larger than life works, but beneath the movie magic projected on screen lures a heart of darkness. BABYLON also reminded me of why Chazelle is easily the most dynamic new voice in contemporary cinema. With his stunning debut in WHIPLASH, followed by his glorious musical LA LA LAND, his masterful portrait of the Space Race in FIRST MAN and now BABYLON it's evident that there are few other young American directors working on such a consistently high level.
3. THE FALLOUT
Here's a film that was widely released so early in 2022 that I feel that it was completely forgotten about and/or ignored on most critic's TOP TEN lists. To be honest, I almost didn't watch it when it officially premiered in the U.S. on HBO MAX (or Crave TV in Canada), but I was so glad that I did. I often loathe the prospects of sitting through yet another soft pedaled and saccharine drama about high school and youth culture in general, but when I finished my screening of Megan Park's THE FALLOUT I was convinced that this was the best film about teenagers, their frailties, and their fears for the future since Bo Burnham's EIGHTH GRADE.
Making an impressive directorial debut, Park opened her film rather modestly as it showed the daily comings and goings of its Gen-Z characters, but tragedy soon strikes when a mass shooting occurs at their high school, which leads to many of these already lost souls in the story becoming more hopelessly entombed in anxiety and trauma. The best accolade that I could possibly give THE FALLOUT is that Park never once condescended down towards her young characters and instead treated them with respect as we journeyed with them on their obstacle laden paths to recovery. It was also a sensitively and intelligently rendered portrait of how teens struggle to find answers after something so senseless has happened...and often can't find any. We were also given a thoughtfully rendered friendship that developed between two girls in particular that dealt with the aftermath of the shooting in their own unique ways (played stupendously by Maddie Zielger and Jenna Ortega, with the latter being talked about by everyone lately because of her work on Netflix's WEDNESDAY series, but this is her true career breakout performance). THE FALLOUT marked a major achievement as far as first-time directors go, and Park's efforts should have garnered a much wider audience and attention than it received last year.
premise of Richard Linklater's wondrous animated film APOLLO 10 1/2: A
SPACE AGE CHILDHOOD could not have been anymore bonkers, yet enthralling:
Neil Armstrong was not the first human being to step foot on the
Moon? And what if the actual
first person to do so was a Houston, Texas residing fourth grader that was
hand picked by NASA to take part in a top secret mission to do a test run
to the Moon to ensure that - in the future - Armstrong and company won't
have any hiccups?
To say that Linklater's Netflix produced film was, well, out there is a massive understatement. Making a triumphant return to the type of rotoscope animation style that he used to superb effect in films like 2006's A SCANNER DARKLY, Linklater created a time capsule, what-if historical picture wrapped in a sweet coming of age tale that's loosely based on his own family and upbringing in Texas (minus the kid going to the Moon, of course). Despite the fact that APOLLO 10 1/2 was pure make-believe, Linklater nevertheless bathed his animated film in sumptuous nostalgic waters to the point where it became more compelling as an evocation of a tightly knit family and all of the minutia of their everyday lives during an extraordinary period of technological change and human achievement. APOLLO 10 1/2 made for a great companion film to Linklater's own DAZED AND CONFUSED (set in the 70s) and EVERYBODY WANTS SOME (set in the 80s) in the ways that they respectively explored the microcosms of growing up in different eras.
And the ethereally beautiful rotoscope animation (headed by Tommy Pallotta) was crucial in selling this film's marriage of fantasy and reality. The film was embroiled in controversy when the Academy made it ineligible for the Best Animated Film category, a hogwash move that was later rectified (all of the actors here were, yes, shot live action wise on greenscreens, but then the artists rotoscoped over them and completely built their environments and what they interacted with from scratch). Not only is this the best animated film of 2022, but also one of the best films period, and one that served as a riveting portrait of 60's youth culture and family ties.
Let's get one thing out of the way right from the get-go:
offering - Disney's live action remake of their 1940 animated classic,
directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks - was an unnecessary
abomination as far as cynical cash grab pictures go (and was one of 2022's
worst films). It did nothing fresh or revitalizing with the underlining
material that, in turn, was spawned in Carlo Collodi's original 19th
Century literary source material.
Del Toro proved me wrong. Boy, did he ever.
years back I selected George Miller's MAD
MAX: FURY ROAD as the best film of
the last decade, and for very good reason.
Making one of the greatest sequels and pure action films of all
time is certainly a hard act to follow. Instead of journeying back
to the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Australia, the 77-year-old Oscar
winning filmmaker opted to make something more modestly budgeted within
the fantasy genre.
THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING was that film (and his first since 2015's MAD
MAX: FURY ROAD), and it could not have been anymore refreshingly
different. His newest work
was proof positive of his astounding versatility as a director (he has
made everything from MAD MAX to supernatural comedies like THE WITCHES OF
EASTWICK to fact based dramas like LORENZO'S OIL to family entertainment
delights like BABE; PIG IN THE CITY and HAPPY FEET), and perhaps the
finest aspect of THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING was that it was an
adult fantasy told from an adult perspective that was tailored
for adult viewers. Based
on the short story by A.S. Byatt, Miller spun a tale of a world renowned
"narratologist" (played beautifully by the always reliable Tilda
Swinton) that finds herself unleashing a massive genie - or Djinn
(played by the commanding Idris
Elba). Because she's a foremost expert in myths and fables, she
understands the inherent pratfalls of making three wishes to Djinn, which
leads both characters on a journey of discovery ripe with philosophical
questions. And it all
never really traveled down the expected path that I thought it would going
made this film for relative peanuts (around $40-50 million), but it looks
two to three times more expensive. He still was able to let his
unparalleled skills as a visualist take command as he showed Djinn
recounting his past history through the centuries.
All of the flashback vignettes were masterpieces of arresting,
dreamlike imagery, but I think - in the end - that I responded more to how
THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING was not a tailored made and conventional
fantasy for family audiences. It's
so rare to see genre efforts like this that both inspire a sense of awe
and wonder in their sights that also are made directly for my age
demographic. Miller's MAD MAX
follow-up was criminally avoided by most filmgoers in 2022, but far too
many missed one of the year's most wondrously ambitious, stylistically
audacious, and dramatically potent films.
I think that it was safe to say that writer/director Rian Johnson confidently and securely moved on as a filmmaker from his creatively wrongheaded handling of his STAR WARS sequel trilogy entry in THE LAST JEDI to his stupendous ode to Agatha Christie whodunits in 2019's KNIVES OUT (which I placed on my list of best films of that year). Not only did that film pay respectful reverence to the longstanding legacy of the murder mystery genre, but it also infused in it a hip contemporary edge. That, and it introduced one of the movie's most compelling new characters in Daniel Craig's master sleuth Benoit Blanc.
A sequel to KNIVES OUT proved inevitable (it was a massive box office success and critical darling), which led to the Netflix (another appearance here!) producing the Blanc-led follow-up GLASS ONION (the streaming giant acquired the rights to two more KNIVES OUT mysteries for a cool half a billion dollars). I rarely put sequels on my TOP TEN lists, but what Johnson achieved with GLASS ONION was no simple or easy feat. The setup of this murder mystery contained obligatory elements (Blanc finds himself yet again in a secluded setting with several suspicious suspects that all were capable of committing murder...and then a murder occurs), but this is not a direct follow-up to KNIVES OUT, which was a wise move. Instead, the players (outside of Blanc), the locations, and the stakes were all vastly different, not to mention some of Johnson's elitist targets seemed bigger this time. More importantly, Johnson's script was KNIVES OUT's equal in terms of being razor sharp, insidiously funny, and diabolically orchestrated with layers upon layers of subterfuge brilliantly sprinkled in throughout. And at the center of it all was the wily presence of Craig, who has never looked so happy to have put James Bond behind him. GLASS ONION was 2022's most purely and giddily entertaining films, not to mention one of the finest sequels in many a moon.
8. THE NORTHMAN
NORTHMAN was one of 2022's most brutally effective pictures on levels of
pure blunt force trauma and absurdly savage trippiness; it was like CONAN:
THE BARBARIAN on acid.
Leave it up to director Robert Eggers - no stranger to the bizarre and macabre (see THE LIGHTHOUSE and THE WITCH) to take full command of a massive $100 million budget and spearhead a historical Viking epic that has his esoteric brand of strange and hallucinatory energy cursing through its veins. THE NORTHMAN was many things and it did many of those things astoundingly well: It was (a) a simple tale of revenge, (b) an odyssey set, yes, in the age of Vikings and (c) a work of maniacal and lurid fantasy that was cemented in slasher tendencies. It was a strange and beguiling cinematic cocktail, but one that I ravenously drank up. THE NORTHMAN could never be described as a straightforward historical action picture and it rarely felt slavishly reliant on the genre's conventions. It might be Egger's most accessible of films, but that's not to say that it mindfully held viewers' hands either. It was a huge tragedy that THE NORTHMAN was a box office bomb and not seen by enough people. This is one of a small handful of incredible epics that deserved big screen consumption and served as a rallying cry for people to return to the cinemas.
GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE was a movie about sex...I mean...like...completely about sex.
was not a dirty movie in the slightest.
The core premise of this Hulu released (Amazon Prime in Canada)
minimalist dramedy concerned a middle aged and constantly uptight retired
teacher (played in one of the finest performances of her esteemed career
by Emma Thompson, so that's saying a lot) that has had a mostly joyless
sex life, so she decides to rent out a hotel room and hires a vastly
younger male sex worker (played in the film's other superlative
performance by Daryl
to please her in any way during the time allotted and paid for.
10. THE MENU
like GLASS ONION
before it, director Mark Mylod's THE MENU eviscerated a very specific
target in the ultra well-off members of society, but he also expanded his
cross hairs to hone in on fanatical foodies, pompous critics
(wait...what?!), social media celebs, and the obsessive meticulousness of
the gourmet culinary arts and world.
And this film was frothing at the mouth in going right for the
satiric jugular in ways that I couldn't have even envisioned before
screening it completely blind. I
went to this film cold and without knowing much about it at all, and was
far better off because of it.
|...and now to round off my TEN BEST FILMS OF 2021 with my selections from 11-25:|
12. ELVIS: Director Baz Lurhman made his most propulsive and energetically stylish movie since MOULIN ROGUE that also featured one of the finest performances of the year in Austin Butler's deep dive work as The King.
13. PREY: After so many tired and sometimes downright dreadful sequels over the years, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE helmer Dan Trachtenburg brought the PREDATOR franchise back to its roots while injecting some much need innovation into the storytelling.
14. Kimi: Remember when Steven Soderbergh announced his retirement years ago? Good thing he wasn't serious, or we might not have received films like this robustly confident and intense tech thriller that played like an intriguing hybrid of Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW and De Palma's BLOW OUT.
18. the bATMAN: Matt Reeves worked miraculous wonders with his work on the PLANET OF THE APES reboot trilogy and also succeeded in his thankless task to re-tool the Caped Crusader and bring him back to his detective noir roots.
21. My Father's DragoN::Netlfix striked again with their release of this beautifully rendered 2D animated film from the geniuses at Cartoon Saloon.
22. Against the IcE: Yet another Netflix picture making the cut, with this one being a historical survival thriller that focused on the compelling tale of two Danish Arctic explorers that ventured to the absolute tail end of Greenland.
23. the unbearable Weight of Massive Talent: If you're willing to get past the gimmicky nature of this film's premise (Nic Cage plays Nic Cage in an action comedy that celebrates...Nic Cage) then you'll find yourself being rewarded by one 2022's smartest and funniest satires. then
24. Raymond & RaY: A compassionately observed and crazily funny family dramedy that featured a top tier Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor playing estranged brothers having to go to one of the most awkward funerals in movie history.
|Beyond my TOP 25, here's a further selection of films that are definitely worth seeing, but just not quite great enough to make the final cut:|
Everything Everywhere All At OncE: No way I was going to overlook this eccentrically ambitious martial arts comedy fantasy on my list, which contained career high work by the always amazing Michelle Yeoh.
The Edge of WaR:
on the NilE:
Want You BacK:
the Old KniveS:
X: Ti West's horror picture was an effective amalgam of BOOGIE NIGHTS and FRIDAY THE 13TH with a splash of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE thrown in for good measure.
the Hedgehog 2:
Love My DaD:
the Crawdads SinG:
League of Super-PetS:
Beer Run EveR:
Christmas Story ChristmaS:
THE PALE BLUE EYE: This bone chillingly atmospheric gothic horror/murder mystery film represented the third cinematic teaming of director Scott Cooper and star Christian Bale; the story became unglued in its final act, but the build up to it was superb. - Added January 21, 2023
AFTERSUN: Charlotte Well's debut coming of age feature film won over many on their TOP 10 lists. I didn't quite have it in as high of a regard. Despite some of its pacing issues and stylistic choices, though, I still found it to be a profoundly empathetic and sensitive tale of family love, loss, and recollection. - Added January 31, 2023
TAR: Even though I thought that writer/director Todd Field's first film in 16 years stumbled in some of its narrative and thematic handling, his third feature still stood out on a pure filmmaking craft level and largely because of star Cate Blanchett's gripping performance. - Added February 9, 2023