The pandemic's hard-hitting impact remains relentless on the film industry. With movie theaters still mostly empty, Hollywood finds itself in the deepest of lulls at this moment in time. To make matters worse, the 2022 cinematic year failed to deliver even one single exceptional effort that movie lovers will look back on in true awe. Instead, much like last year, 2022 included a wide range of solid films that are worthy of a watch but by no means instant-classics. Now, before I recount my favorite movies of the last year, it's important to highlight notable films that I haven't seen. Highly regarded works such as James Cameron's mega-blockbuster Avatar: The Way of Water
, India's beloved film RRR
Park Chan Wook's latest effort Decision to Leave
and Ruben Östlund's buzzed release Triangle of Sadness
managed to slip through the cracks of my viewing availability. With that being said, here are my favorite offerings from 2022's slate of films:
Honorable Mention (In Alphabetical Order): Barbarian
, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
, The Outfit
, Top Gun: Maverick
, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
, The Whale, The Woman King
and Women Talking
As someone who admittedly never watched much of the acclaimed television sitcom, The Office, B.J. Novak was simply just a recognizable face to which I couldn't place a name. However, you'll be hard-pressed to find many who enjoyed Novak's debut feature film, Vengeance. The gifted Novak not only directs this oddball genre mash-up, but he writes and stars in it as well. Vengence features Novak as a happily single, accomplished writer living in New York who receives a strange call in the middle of the night. From that phone call, Novak's character is pulled across the country to Texas where he finds himself immersed in a murder-mystery of some girl that he casually hooked-up with in New York. Vengeance does a fantastic job of blending humor, suspense and mystery into its leading character's fish-out-of-water story. It's definitely worth a watch.
The great Steven Spielberg takes his fans on a deeply personal and mostly autobiographical account of his childhood in the awards season contender, The Fabelmans. We follow the young and aspiring artist, Sammy Fabelman (played by Gabriel LaBelle and Mateo Zoryan), whose cinematic dreams are challenged by a divided household where his father (Paul Dano) is a man of science and logic, while his mother (Michelle Williams) is a woman of art. Spielberg's introspective journey boasts some truly magnificent and unforgettable moments, but it also struggles to keep its footing as the minutes mount. Unfortunately, The Fabelmans shoots for cinematic greatness but never quite reaches those desired hieghts. Instead, Spielberg's latest is a good, but not great, effort that will be remembered as a somewhat disappointing example of a film that isn't nearly as good as the sum of its parts.
Rian Johnson's 2019 murder-mystery extravaganza, Knives Out, was such an entertaining and crowd-pleasing "whodunit", it felt like any attempt at following up such a well-regarded film would inevitably fall flat. Yet, Johnson proved us all wrong as his amitious sequel, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, proved to be an equally impressive effort. The return of southern detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is perfectly accentuated by a robust supporting cast that features the immense talents of Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Janelle Monae, Leslie Odom Jr. and many more. With Glass Onion, Rian Johnson goes for bigger and better as Benoit finds himself on a luxurious private island owned by a wealthy billionaire (Norton), who's hosting his 5 best friends for a weekend getaway. Rather than mimic his effective Knives Out formula, Rian Johnson instead crafts a mutli-layered and absolutely hilarious sequel for the ages.
The financial hardships of a generation are perfectly captured in John Patton Ford's directorial debut, Emily the Criminal. Aubrey Plaza gives an Oscar-worthy turn as Emily, a young woman saddled with student load debt and struggling to find a well-paying job due to a past felony conviction. Working as a server for a catering company, Emily is recruited by a colleague to take part in a criminal scheme as a "Dummy Shopper" which pays her $200 for an hour of work. This lucrative opportunity opens the door for Emily to venture deeper and deeper into a world of crime where she discovers her gifts as a law-breaker. Emily the Criminal isn't a splashy cinematic effort, but rather a gritty character examination that delivers the goods on the shoulders of a towering lead performance from Plaza and a taut script from writer-director John Patton Ford.
Director Luca Guadagnino experienced a huge breakout with his adored 2017 drama, Call Me by Your Name. A handful of years later he's returned with Timothée Chalamet to deliver such a bold an unique vision with what can only be descibed as a cannibal love story. Bones and All follows Maren (played by Escape Room's Taylor Russell), a teenage girl whose cannibalistic instinct has kept her and her father living a secluded life together. But when Maren tries her best to assimilate with a normal crowd of girls at her new school, she's unable to resist the hunger. As a result, Maren goes on the run once again and crosses paths with Lee (Chalamet), another lonely cannibal resigned to a life of uncontrollable urges. Yet, together these two lost souls find love and companionship in a world that can never accept them. Guadagnino finds such a brilliant balance of deep romanticism and unadulturated brutality, making Bones and All a truly singular film that will forever divide audiences.
Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight
trilogy remains the greatest collection of superhero films to ever grace the big screen. But despite my unbreakable devotion to Nolan's Batman universe, I was completely impressed by Matt Reeves' ambitious take on Gotham's renowned vigilante. Robert Pattinson continues his streak of solid performances as Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego, Batman, who finds himself in a game of cat-and-mouse with a maniacal madman who goes by "The Riddler" (played by Paul Dano). Reeves does a phenomenal job of returning the Batman character to his "world's greatest detective" roots and creating a Gotham City that's dark and full of corruption. It's a refreshing throwback to the comics and one that hardly wastes a minute of its nearly three-hour running time. The Batman
doesn't quite dethrone Christopher Nolan's trilogy from its safe and comfortable perch atop Gotham's majestic skyscrapers, but Reeves does manage to craft a new saga of the Caped Crusader that's beyond worthy of further exploration.
Carey Williams' Sundance selection, Emergency, was a "Festival Favorites" addition to the 2022 SXSW showcase that I was lucky enough to catch. As an outspoken adorer of the 2015 drama, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which also starred RJ Cyler, Emergency immediately jumped to my "Must Watch" list, and I'm glad I did. The film is a mashup of 2018's Blindspotting and the comedy classic, Superbad. RJ Cyler and Donald Elise Watkins star as Sean and Kunle, best friends and college roommates who are nearing the end of their senior year. While Sean jumps through hoops to secure the proper tickets for a lengendary evening of party-hopping as one last hurrah for the duo, their evening gets sidetracked when they discover a drunk, passed-out white girl on their living room floor. Emergency balances laugh-out loud humor with poignant social commentary. Seeing these events transpire through the lens of two young African Americans sheds an eye-opening light on the choices people make and the reasons that they make them.
Jordan Peele's undeniable talents as both a writer and director were put on display for the world to take in with his phenomenal directorial debut, Get Out. It was a near-flawless film that set the bar too high for his less-than-satisfying follow-up feature, Us. For conflicted people like me, this made Peele's latest effort, Nope, a consequential film for the director. And while this new sci-fi thriller remains miles away from the heights of his first feature, Nope still stands as a well-constructed and detailed work that undoubtedly swings the pendulum back in Jordan Peele's favor. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer star as brother and sister, OJ and Emerald, the new owners Haywood Hollywood Horses, a horse training company for films, following the mysterious death of their father. But as strange things continue to happen in this small, secluded mountain town, OJ and Emerald find themselves at odds with an indescibable, other-worldly nemesis. Nope delivers the rare combination of a blockbuster-level production and a finely calculated screenplay in one of 2022's most memorable viewing experiences.
This past cinematic year proved to be a great one for the horror genre. With well-received, box-office successes such as The Black Phone, Barbarian and Smile, it should speak volumes when I say that Ti West's X outshines them all. Many have fawned out the horror fairytale landscape that's brought to life in West's prequel film, Pearl, which was released this same year, there's just such a better vibe and story baked inside of X. Maxine (played by Mia Goth), her friends and some filmmakers rent a secluded guest house on a Texas farm in 1979 with the hopes of filming a porno movie on VHS. Yet, when the elderly couple who own the farm discover what these renters are up to, it stirs up feelings that lead to a truly bloody mess. As a clear throwback to the whole Texas Chainsaw Massacre and slasher-film genre, X brings together a strong script, genuine characters and top-notch horror violence for anyone who can stomach it.
In a year of unspectacular films, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert's (aka The Daniels) Everything Everywhere All at Once is the closest we get to an all-timer. On the surface, the film sounds silly and uninspiring. Michelle Yeoh stars as Evelyn Wang, a middle-aged woman trapped in the mundanity of her everyday life. Her marriage is crumbling, her relationship with her daughter is fractured and the Laundromat she runs is being audited by the IRS. But, perhaps, the only thing that could change the fortunes of her life and relationships in the shocking revelation that Evelyn is the only person in an expansive multiverse that can save these infinite worlds from complete annihilation. Yet, despite this bonkers premise, The Daniels deliver a hysterical and heartfelt effort that separates itself from the pack. Bold and absurdly beautiful, Everything Everywhere All at Once reminds us of all the reasons we love movies, to be moved and to be entertained.