Ten movies from last year to seek out.
Sorry this is late. But please don’t mistake the tardiness of my list for a lack of enthusiasm about the titles I’ve chosen for my Top Ten Movies of 2022. While I had little use for overinflated major earners like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water, last year nevertheless managed to go down as an astonishingly great movie year. And, in my opinion, the crop was never better than when it was making good with the curveballs. As pitched, said curveballs connected as home runs- as did several other more conventional but no less dynamic films.
10. Hold Me Tight
The latest mature drama to have been directed by French actor Mathieu Amalric is not easy to talk about. This is true for many reasons, not the least of which is the close-to-the-vest truths of what exactly is going on. Vicky Krieps, playing a disengaged woman who one day leaves her family, once again reveals herself to be one of our truly Great emergent actresses. Thanks to Amalric’s daring experimental approach to evoke a potent concoction of memories, daydreams, and a delicate mental state, the film is like a painful open wound- but in a somehow enlightening way.
9. The Banshees of Inisherin
Led by brilliant performances by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, Banshees shows us how confession in the face of the dread disease of our times, despair, is so often not enough. Writer/director Martin McDonagh, in true McDonagh fashion, is wrought with its specific manner of extremes and in-betweens. It also shows us how introspection can be its own burden. We see that there are Big Questions wrapped up in seemingly small matters, and that that the tolls of isolation and mental illness aren’t newly diagnosed phenomenons of our modern age. But The Banshees of Inisherin is no history lesson. What it is is the most feckin’ dramatic dark comedy to be served up in a good bit.
8. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
To the delight and surprise of everyone, particularly “Weird Al” Yankovic himself (Daniel Radcliffe), this reality-warping made-for-Hulu bio-parody just keeps winning year-end film awards. And considering that it’s the eighth best film of last year (according entirely to this list), give me one good reason why it shouldn’t!!
7. Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood
Filmmaker Richard Linklater draws on his own childhood for his latest rotoscoped animated film, the never-not-wonderful Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood. Narrated with the perfect degree of lackadaisical nostalgia by Jack Black, this Netflix original oscillates between our ten-and-a-half-year-old lead’s fanciful detailing of how he was secretly NASA’s first person on the moon, and loose reminiscing about everyday life in humdrum suburban Texas. The latter stuff finds the film at its best, but the lunar fixation of it all lands quite nicely.
6. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
The knives are out again, and this time they’re even sharper! Rian Johnson’s second “whodunnit” brings back Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to sort out an increasingly contrived island-bound, star-studded mystery. Grand hilarity and spot-on, of-the-moment commentary abound (in that order) in this deviously lavish ode to Agatha Christie and The Last of Sheila.
5. Hit the Road
Iranian writer/director Panah Panahi’s never-not-wonderfully-engaging Hit the Road succeeds at being something of a crowd-pleaser without any degree of pandering. Some may feel a bit of frustration with the lack of information given about the why and wheres of the tense yet amusing trip taken by the story’s central family, but in time, enough is made clear. Fully relatable and engaging, Hit the Road serves as a reminder that, despite its many trappings, family can be the most freeing thing in this crazy world.
4. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
Guillermo Del Toro’s long-awaited stop-motion reinterpretation of Carlo Collodi’s dark morality of childhood and parenthood is racking up lots of hugs in various “Best Animated Feature” award races, but no one is complaining about the splinters. Not to be confused with the hollow Tom Hanks-led Disney revision put forth by Robert Zemeckis, this greatly rewatchable musical version is a deeply-felt fable for the ages.
3. Women Talking
While it’s true that this film about members of a secluded religious community (played by Rooney Mara, Jesse Buckley, Claire Foy, and Frances McDormand) lives up to its title for most of its running time, it’s never less than a visual feast. Writer/director Sarah Polley and cinematographer Luc Montpellier bring a seeming effortlessness to their rendering of this group of less than a dozen (give or take at any given time) victims of rape and sexual assault gathered in a barn, simply verbally hashing out what on Earth to do. Told with brazen care and precision, Women Talking is nothing short of a masterpiece for our age, and ages to come.
2. Moonage Daydream
An immaculately assembly of concert footage, behind the scenes moments, and personal asides all writ large, Brett Morgan’s expansively rich musical experimental docu-scape is so much of what I long for in movies. That is, a sensory experience that leans into some sort of pop cultural transcendence. That it’s all in the service of selectively exploring the iconoclastic David Bowie makes the exquisitely bombastic Moonage Daydream all the more personal for so many of us.
1. White Noise
Noah Baumbach’s big-budget family circus/story randomizer, White Noise, is positively, utterly, indubitably, sidewidingly, bonkers. What else is there to say about the world’s biggest tragi-kooky domestic head-scratcher to roll down the pike in 2022? There’s that, and I guess we can also say it’s one of the best films of the year. Sure, why not. In fact, it THE best! Nothing else said so much so amusingly while gleefully burning Netflix’s money. Figure in Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, and Don Cheadle as a drifting bunch of over-educated losers living through author Don DeLillo’s supposedly unfilmable mid-1980s, and you’ve got yourself an unexpected winner.
Very Honorable Mentions:
Bones and All
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Triangle of Sadness
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths.