I hate to jinx it, but I’ll be the guy that will call 2022 comparatively “normal” for the film critic side of my life. Last year’s long sign and deep breath must of have went a long way. 2022 was a full calendar year of in-person screenings, film festivals, and more with little to no restrictions or delays. Thank you, vaccines! You did your job.
In 2021, work-life balance shrunk my review output here on Every Movie Has a Lesson to 67 reviews. This year, I bounced back a little bit with 77 written reviews. A few more extra pieces and vintage reviews are over on 25YL (soon to be re-branded as Film Obsessive), but I know that number could have topped 90 (and I have the unfinished drafts in Google Drive to prove it). Alas, responsibilities run high and time runs low sometimes. That challenge will both streamline in a way and continue now that I have been named an Assistant Editor at Film Obsessive. Huzzah!
One lane that didn’t slip was my co-hosting of the Cinephile Hissy Fit podcast on the Ruminations Radio Network with Phoenix film critic Will Johnson. We put out 51 episodes this year, including our first full-length film commentary track, and will reach our 100th episode in the first bit of 2023. I’m always finding new fun on different mediums like that. To dabble in another, I added TikTok to the repertoire in September and crossed 100 followers through 52 videos. I’m looking forward to more of both.
Closing a year, as usual, means getting out the scorecard and making a “10 Best” list. This one didn’t take much agony and neither will my second year of voting for the Critics Choice Awards and Hollywood Film Critic Awards and seventh year with my own Chicago Indie Critics group with many of these movies in mind. I’ve had this list up on Letterboxd and presented them on TikTok, but the homebase deserves its annual post.
(all poster images from IMP Awards, full reviews linked where possible)
MY 10 BEST MOVIES OF 2022
6. The Northman
Yeah, that’s me putting a loud, gaudy three-hour special effects-filled Indian film at #1. I have zero shame in that. RRR is passionate, bold, and downright special. What sealed its place was seeing it on the big screen at the Music Box Theatre this past fall. It was the most rollicking communal theater experience of my life. A movie that can do that to hundreds of people at a time deserves some love, and I’m happy to give it mine.
For much of 2022, Everything Everywhere All at Once was the leader in the clubhouse. There’s nothing wrong with #2 and it too is something wholly unique. I’ve been in the minority on Blonde, and I don’t care. There’s too much off-the-charts artistry going on there and a stunning central Ana de Armas performance to deny what it accomplished to adapt a very difficulty book (and one that goes, if you can believe it, harder than the movie). The same goes for Robert Egger’s sumptuous and savage The Northman. How that movie and its production value is getting skipped during awards seasons is a mystery to me.
That notion of “specialness” keeps on going throughout this Top 10. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On slows things down to go places most amped-up family films don’t go nowadays. Michael Glover Smith’s Chicago-based micro-budget indie Relative had the best family drama dynamics of any movie I saw this year, including the much-heralded Everything Everywhere All at Once up at #2. Relative is followed closely by the parade of mentorship smiles and tears from Marvelous and the Black Hole. Together, Relative, Marvelous and the Black Hole, and the Emma Thompson-led Good Luck to You, Leo Grande will be three “buried treasure” movies I recommend for a long time.
As the school teacher, historical stories will always register with me, and I’m proud to include Devotion and Till in this Top 10. I said it when it came out, and I’ll say it again. I’ll watch Devotion again before I’ll watch Top Gun: Maverick, even if the planes are exponentially slower. The respectful inspiration of that story is excellent. Likewise with Till. That’s important, relevant, and reflective history that needs to be heard. Till is the kind of movie that should be shown to every middle school social studies class in the country.
THE NEXT FIFTEEN
11. The Batman
12. Turning Red
14. Decision to Leave
16. The Man Called Otto
18. The Inspection
22. The Time Capsule
23. The Woman King
You can put me in the camp of calling The Batman potentially equal to the Christopher Nolan trilogy of a decade-and-change ago. Please, Warner Bros., just let Matt Reeves and company be and let him tell great Batman stories. There’s no need to thrust him into some new universe.
Plenty of film in this second list don’t need any help from me in the buzz department. Don’t Worry Darling seized every social media water cooler for a time. Turning Red is some of Pixar’s best storywriting. Avatar: The Way of Water, Top Gun: Maverick, and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish leap off their respective screens with heroics. No one on the Oscar circuit has not heard about The Banshees of Inisherin and found their places rooting for Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. The Woman King, like Till ahead of it with its piece of history, has found a solid audience also deserves a spot in a school teacher’s movie rotation. Those are easy picks.
It’s the little stuff you may not have heard of that need the boost. The twisty mystery of Decision to Leave from South Korea is very impressive and has earned the Hitchcock comparisons it’s been pinging. Lady Chatterley’s Lover on Netflix makes costume dramas sexy again. Fall and Prey had me sweating watching a laptop screen from suspense. Last, but certainly not least, one of the deepest little finds for we was the very thoughtful pseudo time-travel romance The Time Capsule. Those will be films I celebrate to anyone who will listen.
OTHER FOUR-STAR REVIEWS FROM 2022:
In alphabetical order: The Adam Project, Amongst the Ashes, Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood, Black Panther; Wakanda Forever, Breaking, Causeway, Cha Cha Real Smooth, Confess, Fletch, DC League of Super-Pets, Death on the Nile, Emily the Criminal, The Fabelmans, Foxhole, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Good Night Oppy, The Gray Man, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul, Lightyear, Press Play, The Sea Beast, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Women Talking