Your reviewer is one of the laziest writers this program has ever produced.
His exploits.… are legendary. His deadlines…. flown by. His content…. nearly non-existent.
What he has to tell you about 2022 movies may very well mean the difference between finally watching that weird-looking drama you saw the trailer for on YouTube last August or, like, not watching it. Maybe you’ll watch something else. It’s one of life's great mysteries.
I just wanna manage expectations.
Let’s punch it.
Resurrection is a twisty and twisted tale of psychological abuse and the ramifications such acts can have on both the abused and abuser, as well as, the people connected to them. An eternally timely theme, that’s made all the more insane by doling out information in a way that makes the audience question their own beliefs on what is actually happening. The performances of the film’s leads, Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth, are what truly make the film shine. Each has their own reasons for their actions and variations of shared history, but are equally captivating and insane.
21. Great Freedom
It’s as empathy driven as a story can get. Franz Rogowski continues to be one of the most powerful actors of the time, exuding pain and pleasure, and everything in between, with the slightest of looks or body ticks. Great Freedom is a film that encompasses what it means to be loved, hated, broken, despaired, brave, and scared, but ultimately, what it means to be human.
20. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
This film is truly a special experience. Much has been said about the cat cartoon sequel, but I’ve yet to meet someone who has seen it that isn’t as vivaciously interested in talking about it as I am. Once you’ve tasted the sweet fruit that is PIB2, there’s no going back. Fully displaying the true power of making an animated film for the sake of cinema and pure entertainment over the expectations of an audience, it never lets that affect the storytelling or its central theme: that those who you love will help you conquer all, even death.
19. After Yang
Just as exquisite and captivating as Colin Farrell’s ‘stache — this tale of a family grappling with the loss of a servient robot, who is also clearly a member of their family (if not at least, a part of their family unit), starts off with a banger of an opening. The story’s characters dance wildly - but still in choreographed unison - against other families doing the same, immediately bringing to mind the performative nature of how each member of the family is supposed to act in order for the full group to be. And the most beautiful part of this comes not from the expected need to be loved as one within the group, but the revolution of a mind to be unique within instead, be it artificial or just a Daddy.
18. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Marcel the Shell is a glorious display of modern animation utilizing technology that has been around for decades. It continuously tops itself, scene after scene, with cinematography that envelops the viewer into its fabricated world of miniatures and cut-outs, all while planting emotional seeds with character and storytelling that eventually burst - both apart and together in a third act that can only be described as harmonious.
17. Hit the Road
It’s simplistic and exploratory at the same time. A road trip movie that truly dilutes down what makes the sub-genre so engaging, wrapped up in a story that feels alive and unpredictable, even as we slowly learn there can be only one end to this tale of family, trust, rebellion, and imagination.
16. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Wildly creative for the tone the movie wants to set, it’s equal parts pandemic-era Zoom filmmaking and “creepypasta” antirealism. I caught this one a bit later than most but watched it in the best of environments: 3 am in the morning, alone and completely unaware of what it was. I suggest you do the same if you haven’t already.
15. The Batman
Matt Reeves has always been a go-to director for me. From the immensely underappreciated framing of Cloverfield to the undeniable extravagance of his Apes films, Reeves has time and time again proven himself to be a talent of story, character, and tone. These are things that a new iteration of the Batman character truly needed in order to break away from the most recent versions, which at times, (both successfully and unsuccessfully) focused on the internal conflict of the Caped Crusader as a theme, rather than a character trait; attempting to wrap the ideology of the world of Gotham into “why Batman does what he does.” Reeves’s take, and Robert Pattinson’s WILD performance, lead to a different understanding of what would truly make a man like this do the things that we expect him to do, the things a Batman does. And in this new variation, we are given a very simple (and thematically appropriate) question with no answer: Why should the Batman exist?
Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s immaculately executed Murina is a wonder to behold. While the Daddy Issues© present are, of course, right up my alley, what’s more intriguing is the film’s portrayal of a young woman coming to learn the great lesson of teenage life: no matter what you think you want, you’re probably wrong, and the only person that can change that is you. Murina, on a fable level, is at all times dread-filled and hopeless, while also operating on the same wishful abandon of our main character, Julija, continuously diving forward with ever-increasing difficulty. At its end, we are left with only a sliver of a tale of this young woman’s coming-of-age, which allows us to know that she’ll make it through, if only she chooses to swim far enough.
13. The Northman
The Northman is an elevating experience in Robert Eggers’ filmography. It’s a movie that was pitched as a Viking-action-smorgasbord, complete with super cute A-list actors, that actually reveals itself to be more of a Shakespearean-esque Ocean's 11 riff. It’s bookended by some of the best looking, and more importantly, most character-driven, action set pieces to be projected on a screen in years. The Northman is blatantly unashamed of what it is, even as it knows it’s pushing boundaries with its audience, much like Eggers’ The Lighthouse and The VVitch, and it was both pleasing and a relief to see that the writer/director did not lose that fine touch with such an epic scale before him.
RRR is an absolute, balls-to-the-wall instant classic of experiential cinema. Some movies use tropes, and some subvert them, all in an effort to create an experience that differentiates from the rest of the medium. RRR, and what S.S. Rajamouli has executed with it, transcends what the model for the genre-based cinema experience can be, full stop. It is a revelation in sincere, populace artistry, while also acting as a battle cry for the fun that can be, and often is lost, in this same medium. It rocks, it rules, and it revolutionizes.
11. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
2022: The Year of Pinocchio. To most, it is simply the year that an inexplicable amount (3) of Pinocchio adaptations were bombed upon an unexpecting world. To some, it is the year that they were first introduced to this little wooden boy with a hankering for misguided adventure. And for me, it was the year I finally realized that it’s one N and two C’s, not the other way around (similar to what I refer to as the “Great Vacuum Paradox”). While I’d love to compare del Toro and Mark Gustafson’s utterly mesmerizing feature to that of my boy, Bobby Z’s, I haven’t yet brought myself to watch what I can only assume is Tom Hanks’s second most insane performance of the year, and I’m using the word insane in the most disrespectful way text can allow. GDT’s Pinocchio is a marvel, an exquisite display of form, medium, and story that (close to literally) blew my brain out of my skull. The heaviest of contenders for Best Animated Feature this year, it's the special type of movie that you’ll never forget the first time you saw it.
Chloe Okuno has done what so many have tried but very few accomplish: created a fully original horror film using the basic elements of a tirelessly mined genre, and executed it in a way that would make Hitchcock put down his whole roast chicken in attentive tension. Watcher is a wildly entertaining movie with a third act that will rip the face off even the most scholared horror movie lover. Maika Monroe continues to kill it - not only at picking amazing horror projects, but also just absolutely slaying it with her approach to her character - she interacts and services the overall theme and story of the film. And I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out one of my big dogs in the character-actor world, Burn Gorman, who puts in a performance that had me absolutely LOSING IT on functionality acting and character-driven affectation. Baller stuff.
9. The Inspection
There were a lot of movies this year (even more than Pinocchios), made by directors who attempted to tell their personal stories through that great lens of cinema. Elegance Bratton’s entry is one of the perfect balance between nightmare and dream, failure and survival, hate and love. While the depiction of boot camp told through the eyes of an outsider is very specific in this example, and honestly, that aspect is the thing that really gives this movie its teeth, it’s the empathy of the film’s characters that truly gives the movie soul. Jeremy Pope is ridiculously good as our surrogate through the trials of military training and the hardships of attempting to mold yourself into what you need to be to successfully exist in a unit, while never losing who you truly are, bringing a refreshingly hopeful meaning to the second part of the Marine motto: “the few, the proud.”
8. The Banshees of Inisherin
One of the most celebrated films of 2022, Banshees operates on a level so similar to that of a stage play (which makes sense given McDonagh’s past work). McDonagh keeps the tried and true trick of having a small ensemble of absolutely stellar actors in all the roles and swaps out theater sets with a hypnotic and otherworldly Irish isle. The result is a film all about distance and disconnection, pulling you closer and closer as the tale unfolds. It’s easily one of the most quotable films of the year, which came as a shock to me after hearing Barry Keoghan talk for five seconds, but hey, that’s the magic of the movies, baby!
7. Decision to Leave
Crushes everything on every level of what a movie in this genre (and maybe three others) should crush. Tang Wei is L-I-T-E-R-A-L-L-Y unbelievable, and Park Hae-il is the leading man we all deserve; put him in every movie now. But truly (and of course), it is the great Park Chan-wook that gets this bad boy up to such astronomical pleasures. Not only is the staging and lighting in this beast just top-notch in its mood, but the story is simultaneously simple and mindblowing in its construction; it was just such a miracle to behold. It immediately becomes one of the movies you wish you could see for the first time again as soon as the much-deserved credits roll. Chan-wook just knows how to make a movie that simply and purely slaps.
Tár is a maddening, towering, and infuriating journey into the mind of a certain type of artistic talent that has existed for hundreds of years. Its story is told through the lens of observing a human being that believes they have grown beyond such limitations. And that’s just a bit of what’s going on with this thing. Tár hit as an instant classic for me, something I had been truly crossing my fingers for given the early response the film had gained over the long journey of its pre-wide release, and it did not disappoint. It’s cruel and despairing, while also, surprisingly, albeit uncomfortably, funny throughout. The story unravels with these tools just as elegantly as Cate Blanchett handles the inner workings and actions of this utterly unique character.
5. The Fabelmans
Of course, I was going to love The Fabelmans. I’m one of the biggest defenders of Spielberg I know, which just gets crazier and crazier to think about the longer that time marches on, but here we are. The latest film by the aforementioned director, “FINALLY telling THEIR story,” very justly earned its fair share of eye rolls and heavy sighs. Must we? The marketing and release “strategy” of Fabelmans left much to be desired. Not only in communicating what type of film it was, but also, in how audiences should feel about it going into the movie, or at the very least, how to properly gauge expectations. I’ll admit, I too, was nervous as the lights went down on Thanksgiving Eve. But much to my delight, the film was more than: “Behold the power of cinema!!! This is how it saved I, Your God of The Movies, who in turn, has saved thee!” It was much more of a: “Families are pretty messed up, huh? Also, I think I have a massive problem and I refuse to go to therapy, but fuck it, I’m Steven Speilberg!” The line between reality and fiction in The Fabelmans is blurred, for the most part, by the very legend of the man himself (can you imagine if the main character in this movie was named Stevey Spielberg?). This helps the film lift itself up for all to gaze upon as more of the story of an extremely talented and revered man reconciling with his past traumas, than a very wealthy director telling us just how he got that juice. The juice was always there, and that juice messed up a lot of things for the man when he was young, especially when he didn’t know exactly how to control and harness it yet into the acts of magic and goodness that we all know him for today. Steven, you talented, emotional, absolute lovely thing of a man, you did it. Big hug.
Barbarian is one of the funnest experiences a person can have watching a movie - alone at home, in a crowded theater, and everywhere in between. I’m not going to get too specific for the sake of any reader that hasn’t been able to catch this one yet (the less you know the better; go watch it now, please?) but three amazing movies are operating within this film that would each be fantastic full-length horrors in their own subcategories. The film’s merciless tone of anxiety, distrust, and danger is mixed to perfect chemical perfection with moments of laugh-out-loud lunacy, be they comedic, cathartic release or horrific insanity made visible to the eye. I just haven’t been able to get over how tight and entertaining this movie is. I could watch Barbarian every day for the rest of my life.
3. Everything Everywhere All at Once
One of the earliest highly anticipated films of the year, due in large part to an amazing marketing and release strategy (looking at you, Fabelmans), EEAAO quickly shot to the top of everyone’s lists as an early contender for the best movies of the year, and it seems to have stuck there for the majority. And this is all rightly so. The film is as unique as one can get, and it remains unique and surprising, even after multiple views. It’s layered to the bone with metaphor and emotion and action and googly eyes, never missing a bit for something funny or cool or silly or sad or all of that, all at once. Moments of EEAAO feel like jumping into an ice-cold pool on the hottest day of the year in the worst place you can imagine, only to be submerged and consumed by the feeling of truly experiencing a shift in the way your very body is operating. The Daniels have done it yet again, after their ridiculously perfect debut film, Swiss Army Man, which hit my number one spot back in 2016. The praise EEAAO has garnered is beyond earned and one of the best parts about looking back at this film years from now upon rewatch will be remembering the completely miraculous way it was welcomed, with open arms, pretty much across the board by a landscape of film lovers and general audiences alike. Except for assholes. They can’t stand how much we love this thing, making it all the more sweeter to enjoy.
2. Top Gun: Maverick
Top Gun: Maverick is a wonder. It’s easily one of the best sequels ever to be popped onto screens, and arguably, it’s the best legacyquel to come out during the past couple decades of people doing shit like this. Operating on true, earnest love for the original film and the types of movies it spawned, Maverick, reaches the highest of heights time and time again throughout its not-that-slim runtime, but it never drags or feels monotonous in its execution. All of its goofy moments feel like they are filled with so much sincerity and love that it’s hard to not go along for the ride. (Let us remember: simplicity does not equal bad). If the immersive yet straightforward action-rollercoaster of a story designed around set pieces, doesn’t do it for ya, and it should, well you’re in luck. The meta-commentary this film holds on both the state of movie watching in the Summer of 2022 and the career and legacy of Tom Cruise, surely will do just that. It’s equal parts what the movies were made for, what makes them so special, and where they can go. Not only is Maverick a fantastic action movie and a thrillingly executed sequel that blows expectations out of the air, but it should also be noted that this movie pulls off one of the hardest feats Hollywood has been trying to accomplish for over a decade: making you actually root for Miles Teller.
When I first saw Aftersun, I immediately thought to myself, “This is it. It has to be, right?” The movie awed the crap out of me for 100 minutes and then shook me to my core during its final moments. It’s one of the most earned visceral experiences I’ve had watching a film in my entire life. Hey, it’s my number one, we’re gonna get a tad hyperbolic here. After watching all the 2022 films I had the time to consume during my catchup this past month, I always found myself asking “But Aftersun, tho, right?” Even after rewatching the above movies I loved in an effort to see if maybe some fresh watching would shake something loose, Charlotte Wells’ BEAUTIFUL story just remained locked at the top. And once I gave the film a rewatch shortly before finalizing my list, it hit me why.
I’d never seen anything like it.
Sure, there are plenty of movies that deal with the topics of this film, in more ways than I can count. Of course, there are loads of movies that utilize intimate, grainy, and atmospheric framing to grab hold of the mood and time they are exploring. But like many of my favorite pieces of art, it's not just what’s on display for experience and interpretation, it's how the artist makes the impossible look so simple and so damn easy. These are the aspects of telling a story that come from the truly unique place of the artist's view on how it should feel, not just what happens and how it looks. That’s the transcendent trick to how the film plays out, shifts and changes, and lands where it ultimately, and unfortunately, needs to.
It’s a story about growing up, about letting go, about being yourself, about the devastations of the mind and the toll that can take on a person, but also, the toll it takes on those around them, regardless of their best efforts to stop just that. But it’s not just about that at all. It’s about love, the trickiest of things. It’s a movie that has truly changed me in a way that I still might not have had the time, or will, to confront, but I can sense the change is there, and I feel as though, in their own way, everyone I’ve talked to about the film that has seen it feels something similar. And that’s something special.
And I’m just saying: Stanley Kubrick never used “The Macarena,” in any of his movies. So, think about that.
Ambulance, Avatar: The Way of Water, Babylon, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Crimes of the Future, EO, The Eternal Daughter, Glass Onion, Halloween Ends, Jackass Forever, Karaoke, Men, The Outfit, Pearl, Petite Maman, Prey, 5cream, Three Thousand Years of Longing, Turning Red, X.
Founder of and programmer for Story Screen. Lover of stories and pizza in the dark. When he isn't watching movies, you can find him reading and listening to things about people watching movies. He currently resides in Poughkeepsie, NY, and most assuredly is going through a French Connection phase.