I will only look back at 2022 with fond memories. Other than the crappy summer, every other week something interesting came out and captivated my attention. For example, here are 10 legitimately GREAT movies you should make a point to see that would compete for top 10s in any other year but couldn’t even make my honorable mentions in 2022:
Why is that the case? I see a few reasons. 1) We had an incredible spring, with 6 of the top 10 movies released from March to June. 2) A24, who has an incredible 5 films in the Top 10, and many of the honorable mentions too, 3) Action films, who are having their best year since Mad Max Fury Road. And 4), the 2020’s might end up becoming the decade abroad, because 1 of the Top 5 movies are set in the United States, and even that movie is about people who felt like outsiders, which continues to prove to me that life is better when I live by Roger Ebert’s great words “the movies are a machine that generates empathy.” So keep those amazing machines running everyone! The world is better for it.
Here are the just missed the cut in a great year but probably would make top 10s in any other year Honorable Mentions:
Having grown up with Irish relatives, there’s a lot of truth to the behavior of the characters in Martin McDonagh’s latest film. Plus, he taps into that question each person has to answer for themselves: do I spend my life with my friends and family, or do I spend it making art or working? Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are excellent in this playing the opposite sides of those two questions, with Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan also excellent stuck in the middle. Plus, McDonagh’s wicked sense of humor is layered in and blended with just the right amount of sadness as we watch the slow dissolution of a friendship.
Kogonada, the director of After Yang, made Indiana seem like the most interesting, ephemeral place in the US after his first feature. For his 2nd, he takes a standard AI tale (AI breaks down, family member tries to fix it) and imprints upon it a waking dream of a movie that is about memory, humanity, family, and love. It’s smallness somehow makes the themes bigger too, an impressive feat. Plus the soundtrack will make you burst into tears of happiness the minute you hear it.
Ti West got his start in horror movies, and with this one he might have crafted the best slasher movie since the OG Halloween. Yes it’s that good. In 1970s Houston, a group of strippers and their handlers go to make some of that sweet porn VHS money by shooting on a rundown old Texas farm run by an elderly couple. West turns the tables by upending the rules of a slasher movie, grounding them more in how people in the real world might act, building the story more around generational misunderstandings, and turning the tale into a chilling allegory about capitalism in the United States. Plus the old Howard and especially Pearl are two of the more fascinating horror characters in recent horror memory.
Domee Shi should get the Best Director award for simply pitching Disney a movie about a girl becoming a woman. Set in 2002 Toronto, 13 year old Mai is faced with temptation everywhere, including boy band 4 Town, Never Not on Mai’s mind. Shi miraculously manifests all the emotional turmoil happening inside Mai’s body into a cute red Panda, which gets the point across without being gross. In addition, the story also envelops the women in Mai’s family, and how their “pandas” changed the relationships with their parents and themselves, sometimes for worse, but also maybe for the better. I never need to see another female puberty movie again, cause this one’s almost perfect.
The Northman was a great lesson for me. A director can cross the line between making movies you just admire to making one you can actually love. I was mostly offput by Robert Eggers and his sinister gothic horror tales, though I could tell they were expertly made. However, with The Northman, Eggers murdered the line with his bare hands, and dragged me over into full blown movie love. The amazing director takes a simple revenge tale and overflows it with his directing juices in the form of mysticism, historical accuracy, and intimidatingly good action. I would go so far as to say this is the best Viking movie to date, and it will a long while before a better one comes along.
Every year, there’s one movie that showcases why a director is one of the greats. Amid all the vanity “back to my childhood/life” directing projects that came out this year, Park Chan Wook’s Decision to Leave is the movie that really is a directing showcase. Taking pieces of Alfred Hitchcock, David Fincher, Jackie Chan, and Wong Kar Wai, Wook’s movie never feels content to tell just one type of story, expertly working in multiple tales at once to achieve it’s full potential. And at the center, Park Hae Il and the incredible Tang Wei make for an irresistible, lurid pair, as they dance very close to violence and danger…and pure, raw, sexual energy.
Close (Review coming when the movie gets its wide release)
When you grow up, most of the time, you don’t keep the friends you make at age 5 right? Lukas Dhont’s brilliant tale is about two 11ish year old friends who have a great summer together. But once the schoolyear starts, peer pressures and new hobbies and friends just inevitably cause the friendship to drift apart. Dhont’s deft eye for naturalistic drama and and incredible performance from young Eden Dambrine showcase the inevitable, ubiquitous consequences of growing up, which can leave wounds that can be pretty tough and brutal to heal.
If there’s any justice in the world, Nan Goldin will become a household name after people see Laura Poitras’s new documentary. Paralleling Goldin’s rise into an artistic force with her crusade against Oxycontin profiteers the Sacker family, this story feels less like a regular doc and more like a bonafide superhero origin story, the logical conclusion to Goldin’s incredible life.
The surprise of my year. I was blown away by the action in the long awaited Top Gun, and 3 days later this gem released on Netflix and became the best action movie of 2022. Incredible! From Telugu Bollywood in India, S. S. Rajamouli’s latest is a historical fantasy, kinda similar to Inglorious Basterds in conception. In this fantasy, real life unfamiliar Indian crusaders Komaram Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.) and Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan) were actually best friends, but were secretly also fighting on opposite sides in the British oppression of India in the 1920s. The story is a fun larger than life hero’s tale, but what kicks it into the stratosphere is Rajamouli’s incredible eye for crafting an amazing set piece. Every 20 minutes, something amazing happens on screen only to be topped 20 minutes later. And for 3 hours? That means at least 9 of the best setpieces of 2022, all in one movie!
A once in a generation film I’m so glad I did not miss. Directing duo Daniels take something as overused and irritating as a concept like the multiverse and they boil it down to its most simple, powerful elements and themes. In the beginning its fun, exciting, and crazy, like when Ke Huy Quan (a lock for Best Supporting Actor for me, welcome back you wonderful man) lays the smack down with a fannie pack or Jamie Lee Curtis Staples herself in the forehead. But as the story expands, it somehow also gets more personal, as the fraught relationship between the breakout Stephanie Hsu and legendary Michelle Yeoh encompasses more and more real/emotional casualties in its wake. I’m tearing up just trying to write this, because this movie so overwhelmed all of my senses in a way no film has done in a very long time.