The Best of 2022: A Year In Film

It’s Oscar weekend, time for another Year In Film! I love writing this up every year and this one is no different. The best film year of this admittedly weird new decade, there is a chance of more than five of these to become five star movies with a rewatch or two, as this year will surely be hard to beat as the best all around year when my next Decade Best is written up. This list is a mix of maximalist filmmaking and subtle soul crushing work, get yourself a person who enjoys both!

Past Best Of content by me:

A Year In Film: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007

The Decade’s Best: 2010-19 – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

The Decade’s Best 2000-09 – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

On to the list…!

Best Scene of the Year: Just Another Day In Hollywood – Babylon
Babylon has a five act structure, or so, and while I wasn’t quite swept up in the opening sequence of the film the way Damien Chazelle hoped, the second half hour is simply incredible. Cutting back and forth between Margot Robbie’s Nellie and Diego Calva’s Manny’s first day in Hollywood, the sequence leaves you breathless as we spend a day in the life on the variety of film sets operating in the silent era. Robbie takes over a bar room sequence while Calva runs around trying to help and support everyone on the set of super star Brad Pitt’s latest epic. Exhilarating, hilarious and action packed, it’s why we go to the movies (which Chazelle really gets!) and this sequence might be his best work yet; which is saying something. Also, Spike Jonze deserved an Oscar nom for his work as an erratic (to say the least) German director. 

Runner Ups: Saying goodbye to Mateo in BARDO, Maverick runs the gauntlet in Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis Wiggles for the first time, Paykan enters the fight in Avatar: The Way of Water, Kaiju Ming goes to 4*Town in Turning Red, Escaping the Airborne Toxic Event in White Noise, Navalny chats with old friends in Navalny, Measuring square footage in Barbarian, Kimi’s Sabotage, After Yang’s memory hole, The Riddler logs on in The Batman, The Man reveals themselves in Men, Viking Therapy in a volcano in The Northman, The Watcher gets the Watcher in Watcher, Greg gets defensive in Bodies Bodies Bodies, Jean Jacket has a Snack in Nope, Let’s Time Dilate in Lightyear, Butt Plug Fight in Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Ship Starts Rocking in Triangle of Sadness, How you end up in a wall in Three Thousand Years of Longing

Best Shot of the Year: Across the Multiverse – Everything Everywhere All at Once
There is a shot late in the game of EEAO where we watch Michelle Yeoh’s Evelyn shuffle through a seemingly endless number of verses, each flash lasting barely a second, if not less, but full of so many different variations of her flash before your eyes; it’s quite overwhelming. But it’s also an insane array of images that utilize different types of media, while showing different species of Evelyn, showing off just how many possibilities there are in this world. The shot knocks your socks off and is a beautiful montage of what makes this movie so special. 

The Also Rans (All Movies Worth Your Time And Discussion):
Petite Maman, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Downton Abbey: A New Era, Empire of Light, Bodies Bodies Bodies, To Leslie, She Said, Return To Seoul

The Contenders:

Three Thousand Years of Longing
George Miller’s follow up to Mad Max: Fury Road was never going to reach that film’s heights, but this fable about a djinn who tells his life story to an eccentric scholar is a beautiful and bizarre film that feels as unique and original as his incomparable masterpiece Fury Road. Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton are wonderful together, trapped in a hotel room, but Miller gets so much out of his cast of lesser known actors that fill Elba’s past adventures and he pairs it with brilliant imagery and fantastical effects that sell this larger than life story at every turn. Criminally underseen, let’s not let Miller’s vision go so unseen like this again. 

Chloe Okuno’s feature debut is a slow boiling “mystery” movie about believing women and living in fear of the potential menace of men that flows everywhere, but what makes the film such a great watch (no pun) is that while we believe/know Maika Monroe’s Julia perspective is valid, the film itself never 100% shows its hand until the final scene. And what a fucking scene. The movie could have ended in a number of different spots in the final act and it would have been a satisfying final note to end on, but Okuno decides to end it in the most satisfying and punctuating FU looks ever put on film. While deliberate, stick with this one, Burn Gorman and the most perfectly crafted Schrodinger’s plastic bag will not disappoint.

Alex Garland’s work in film and television has always been quite satisfying for me, both his writing and directing credits, and Men worked for me because I have given myself over to basically whatever he wants to throw out at you. Sure, the “yes, all men” message of the film is nothing new nor brave for a male filmmaker to put up on screen, he doesn’t get props for that, but the claustrophobic eeriness of a town of leering male assholes all played by a fantastic Rory Kinnear is certainly something you’ve never seen before. Throw in a defiant and angry Jessie Buckley as the object of all of these loser’s affection and we have a recipe for an amazing pair of performances bouncing off one another every scene out. Garland’s finale adds a WHOLE lot of phantasmagoria that will either turn off (Hi, Ben!) or unsettle viewers with imagery that is hopefully new for everyone watching. But it’s Buckley’s Harper’s reaction to all of this violent imagery that really puts the icing on the cake.

Andrew Dominik is one of the great filmmakers of the moment and it is a crime it took him ten years to make another movie. While the overwhelming general consensus around Dominik after Blonde is that they would like to accuse him of committing a crime against the memory/legacy of Marilyn Monroe, I frankly think you all quite missed the boat. Dominik didn’t run Monroe through the ringer, America did, and what stuck out from this film is how often he searches for and finds the humanity of Norma Jean trying to break through the persona of Monroe. Ana de Armas is exceptional in the film, not because she is giving a perfect impersonation of the iconic star, but because she carries so much of the humanity of the person beneath the icon that we only want to see and immortalize. What could have been a glitzy play the hits tragedy, is instead an unsettling horror story about Hollywood that could happen to even its biggest stars. Sure, it’s not subtle, but showing us one of Hollywood history’s most famous stars getting thrown through the meat grinder of the industry is sadly still far too true to this day. Don’t wait another decade, Dominik.

Bones and All
Luca Guadagnino’s cannibal love story can be as extreme as that premise sounds, but it leaves most of the grotesque to the side and is instead more focused on following these two young lovers on a road trip down their past and present. You could throw plenty of allegory on the picture if you like, but it also just works as an engaging character piece of watching a couple of outsiders try to operate in this world they don’t really have a spot in. We meet some real creeps along the way, but we never doubt the bond and connection of the pair at the core of this film, Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet. Chalamet just continues to show us that he is believable no matter the role you throw him into, with an underlying fire that he knows how to strategically let out. Russell is quickly becoming someone just as worthy of watching as Chalamet too, with her work in this and Waves proving quite quickly that she can carry a picture all by herself. Also, Mark Rylance is a straight up freak in this movie.  

Crimes of the Future
David Cronenberg’s latest was being not so softly sold as a new shocking piece of depravity from the master, a return to his roots, and while there is a level of oddity and body horror imagery in the film that had been missing from more recent efforts, it’s never used in a way that is trying to shock you. The dystopian tale is about how far we push ourselves to feel and how extremes can become banal. The film itself never feels that way, as there is more of a sense of wonder to the world that we dive into here as we watch a pretty soft detective story shamble into fruition across the course of the film. The cast is having a blast, with Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart delivering some real glad to be sicko performances that are just delightful. Viggo back and working with Cronenberg is also a delight, as is watching him try to eat his breakfast in a way that makes him feel delighted again. It’s a real vibe movie, one that I really rolled along with.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Sam Rami’s return to superhero films ends up being a lot of fun, even if the promise of a multiversal Marvel movie didn’t quite explore that genre (I think multiverse is definitely a genre of film now?) in as deep a way as we were hoping for (it’s coming, hopefully!). I was a big fan of the first Strange film and feel about the same as I did about that one as I do this one. They are fun, both in plotting and visuals, allowing for a lot of things we haven’t really seen from the MCU to take place in this series of films. The Rami of it all really pushed that pedal down further, as his horror roots bleed through for a couple of great setpieces (Wanda’s Rampage & the Zombified Finale) as well as a sense of imagination to give us something truly unique to any movie (Music Fighting). Everyone brings their A-game to the table here, even if maybe their characters leave slightly underserved. This is my third favorite film of Phase 4, but I was much higher on this part of the MCU journey than most. Just have some fun at the movies, people. 

Fire of Love
Sara Dosa’s documentary lulls you in with Miranda July’s soft voice, a tragedy in the making from the get go, but then infuses the film with a soundtrack that would make Wes Anderson happy and a pace that lets you globetrot from volcano to volcano with our protagonists Katia and Maurice. Lovers who only love volcanoes as much as each other, Dosa has assembled a film from the two volcanologist’s personal collection of film and pieces of their television appearances from the day to create a work that just yanks you into this world and spits you back out by the end. The images Katia and Maurice captured stand on their own, some of their shots are simply unreal, and Dosa is sure to never let you forget the danger these two embarked upon to achieve these clips. Part crash course in volcanology, part poppy documentary love story, part tragedy of playing in the world they did; Fire of Love just goes down easy, makes you feel like you learned a little something, all while celebrating the life of these two wild scientists. 

Ti West’s surprise prequel to X (a throwback horror/slasher loved by others more than me, Hi Ben!) came out of the pandemic circumstances that left him sort of trapped in New Zealand where Covid wasn’t really happening and a desire to make another film with Mia Goth (who wouldn’t). Goth played the elderly version of Pearl under a pile of prosthetics in X (as well as playing that film’s final girl), so obviously she should come back and play the character in her youth as she goes on a perverted and dark journey to find herself in a world that is not ready for her. The film isn’t really a horror follow up, there is murder, but it’s mostly great getting to watch Goth cook in a dark and sad character study that has just the right notes of dark humor laid throughout. Throw in an incredible bit of monologuing and an insane final shot and you have something pretty unique and special on your hands. Put Goth in everything, and I can’t wait for the next film in this trilogy, MaXXXine.

The Wonder
Sebastián Lelio’s FU to religiosity really hit me good, because, well fuck religion. It also hits because Florence Pugh can do no wrong and is great as she intensely tries to prove how this girl is not being satiated by “manna from heaven”. Pugh’s “I’m not sure about this” face is unbeatable and she’s so fun to watch as she fights back against the religious patriarchy that has a grip on this 19th century Irish village. I like that the film comes in quite skeptical of the mysticism of it all and is instead more focused on the battle of science and humanity vs. being about the mystery surrounding this young girl’s ability to survive without eating. Lelio is someone whose filmography I’ve always wanted to check out, but still haven’t. The Wonder is going to get me to go back.

Decision to Leave
Park Chan-wook’s latest is a delightful detective story that is a lot funnier and romantic than you would anticipate from him. Still subversive and ultimately messed up, Park’s fingerprints are all over this film, and it is a real showcase for his mastery of the craft that can challenge almost any director working together. Having such a dynamic duo at the center of his film really lets him play with the form, as the chemistry between Park Hae-il and Tang Wei is palpable from the moment they meet. Park really lets the two of them get to know each other, all while still giving us some great scenes of crime solving and fun action set pieces to boot. If you aren’t in on Park yet, what are you doing?, but this might be a great little gateway drug for some of the more weird and intense films in his filmography. Not that this pulls any punches, the end of this movie is rough!

Fire Island
Andrew Ahn’s collaboration with Joel Kim Booster to make a modern comedic retelling of Pride & Prejudice on Fire Island is a ripe setting for fleeting attempts at love, but it works because the script is full of realistic characters searching for themselves through this all. The setting of the film allows for some fun over the top shenanigans and joke setpieces, but I was really pulled in by Booster’s script and this cast of characters trying to figure each other out. Booster and Bowen Yang are our leads here and the crossroad their friendship is at is as important to the film’s will they or won’t they romances that are playing out on the island. Conrad Ricamora also deserves some praise as the Mr. Darcy of the film, the hard candy outside melting away at just the right moment, but a performance that always has us intrigued by him and where he is coming from. I feel like a lot of people missed out on this one, change that! 

White Noise
Noah Baumbach made an eccentric, big budget, spectacle comedy, starring Greta Gerwig and Adam Driver, and everyone sort of just shrugged? WTF, people. At worst, the opinion of the film should be pretty great, with a weird third act, which is better than most films released in a year. Baumbach is one of our best and he gets to not only remind us why, but also flex his filmmaking muscles here. Fast talking Altman comedy, check. Spielberg-esque disaster movie, yep! 80’s road comedy, got it. Absurdist reflections on the pointlessness of existence set against the capitalist mindset of the Regan era 80’s, you know it! Lynchian romance that you don’t know what the fuck is going on, oh baby. I guess I can see people being thrown off by the homage and pastiche of it all, but Baumbach stirs it all up into something uniquely his own. I have no baggage from the novel either, so maybe that helps with it playing for me, but, I don’t know, there is so much to grab on to and like here, with fantastic lines sprinkled throughout from nearly start to finish. Plus, that LCD Soundsystem music video to send you out of the theater, can’t be beat!

Damien Chazelle’s latest is certainly his messiest, but (as cited above) when he is on, he’s as good or better than anyone working today. He’s yet to put all of the pieces together for a five star movie for me yet (4 1/2 stars for Whiplash/La La Land/First Man), but all of his films have sequences that shows he’s going to get there. Babylon is no exception, and this film has 3-5 standout sequences that are as good as anything put up on the movie screens this year. It also has a couple that maybe spin a bit out of his control (looking at you Nellie keeping it together at a party). He does get out of the way of Margot Robbie though, which is the right move, as she is a ball of nerves that can’t be contained and that is an energy almost anyone can roll with. Brad Pitt is also quite good as the aging out movie star, with a couple of somber moments in the back half of this thing that really lets him play the other side of cool that he does so damn well. I didn’t watch most of these movies a second time before writing up this year in review, but I wonder where this one goes on a rewatch. It could honestly go up or down, but the energy Chazelle is pumping into this film makes it feel alive, as if almost anything can happen, and we need more of that in the movies.

The Batman
Matt Reeves’ take on the caped crusader picks up in a Year Two world of Batman and is all the better for it. These comic book movie franchises are smartly figuring out that we don’t need to rehash the origins of all of these characters we are on the third reboot of and Reeves uses that to his advantage to tell a slow simmering detective tale that is grounded in a grimey Gotham City recovering from its first taste of a vigilante in a bat suit. Robert Pattinson’s take on the character, obsessive brooding, dispenses with the playboy Bruce Wayne of it all, as that is the disguise of his true self, Batman, when he has to be around other people. An A-List cast fills out the rogues gallery and Reeves has laid the groundwork for Arkham to explode into a disheveled Gotham for the potential sequel. Paul Dano’s Riddler is electric, until he’s pathetic, while Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman could handle a whole franchise of her own. Colin Farrell hamming it up as the Penguin was a real highlight for me, though, and I’m so glad that show is going to make it; it seems. I hope Reeves and his team get to make a couple more of these Batmen, because this one looked phenomenal, sounded fantastic (Giacchino!) and he has Barry Keoghan waiting in the wings to unleash some instability on the proceedings. 

Zach Cregger’s solo feature debut is my highest rated horror film on this list and that’s mostly because of how batshit this movie goes while subverting expectations at every turn. This was the “don’t know anything” film of the year and it absolutely lived up to the hype. A cut to black at the end of the first act had me laughing my ass off when pictures started moving across the screen again. So, it will be hard to write about this without spoiling things for you, but just know the surprises don’t slow up after that first big shock. Cregger’s script could go anywhere, and it does, all while showing off he’s got the chops as a craftsman as well behind the camera. There are some slick shots in this pretty confined movie, that not only ratchet up the tension, but show off his eye for framing at the same time. Apologies to the cast for not elaborating more on how good you all are, but you are great across the board!

The Fabelmans
Steven Spielberg’s latest was not what I thought it was going to be, and probably ranks second on the list of films I got to watch again on this list. What was pitched and sold to the public as his ode to his love and talent for making cinema is certainly present, but it’s treated sort of as a curse that he had to learn how to grapple as he watched his family come apart at the seams across his childhood. He’s showing us how he processed some of the most dramatic moments of his life, and how he saw the world in how he would shoot this instead of fully engaging with the drama unfolding at his feet. The revelation he drops into this movie, about the secret he’s carried his whole life, is also quite the mind fuck, all while opening our eyes to why his films have been the way they are for his entire filmography. There was a lot to unpack in this one and that’s after you realize this isn’t the film they wanted to sell to us in the first place. Spielberg is one of my GOATs, and nothing has changed here, but I look forward to diving back into this work more down the line, as it’s got a lot going on under the surface.

The Top 20:

20. Hit the Road
Panah Panahi’s feature debut is a family road dramedy that really lets you become a part of this crew as they set out to get their eldest son out of a potentially dangerous situation. Full of laughs and one of the best child performances I’ve ever seen, Panahi’s travelog tries to keep things light and unspecific to the nature of why their is this sudden urgency to ship off their eldest, but that doesn’t mean the worry, pain and sadness aren’t building up all around their car as it heads towards its final destination. The finale is also quite remarkable, as effective as anything I’ve seen this year, all while told from a remove that doesn’t have to get you right in the mix of things for you to feel the feelings this family feels as they are broken apart. Hasan Ma’juni, Pantea Panahiha and Amin Simiar are all quite good, but Rayan Sarlak is the aforementioned child performance that steals the show. Let Spielberg do something with this kid! Can’t wait to see what Panahi does next (probably should watch some of his dad’s movies too…).

19. Navalny
Daniel Roher’s documentary is embedded with one of the strongest anti-Putin opposition voices that lives inside Russia and by being so close to Navalny as he plans his return to the country after an unsuccessful assassination attempt, Roher is able to tee up and build towards one of the most incredible moments I’ve ever seen in a documentary; Navalny talking to one of his would be assassins. The film is worth the price of admission alone and is really just an incredible piece of performance by the politician and set-up by Roher and his team. We get every detail we need to know about what has led Navalny to this moment of investigative journalism and it serves as a triumphant climax to the film that came before it. Sadly, the finale of this film is not nearly as victorious, and is in fact a crushing piece of reality at how Putin is nowhere near being stopped. Concise and without a dull moment, this portrait of this moment of Navalny’s journey is one that is well worth your time.

18. Top Gun: Maverick
Joseph Kosinski’s sequel to the 80’s original, Top Gun, knows what you want. We want Tom Cruise doing awesome things, we want awesome jet action, and we want a crop of characters we can root for. This movie has all of these elements in spades, with a script that is sharp and coherent on both a humorous and plot level that never wastes a beat. Throw in a delightful Jennifer Connelly, a game Miles Teller and a cocky as hell Glen Powell and you have a Top Gun sequel that ups its bonafides at almost every position while never really retreading the first film in any way. This is a movie about mastery, the work it takes, and it’s all folded in with some stakes that really do put you on the edge of your seat. That said, the most thrilling scene of the film is a test flight scene, where Maverick proves everyone wrong (again). This thing was sharpened to about as good as it can be over the course of two years it sat on the shelf, you really can’t ask for much more out of a sequel to a film like Top Gun.

17. Dual
Riley Stearns is weird. I like weird. I like Riley Stearns. You might not like what he has been cooking up, but this soft sci-fi tale about a person that has to potentially murder their clone because only one can survive after the OG beat their cancer treatment is a weird logline for a movie, and that is before we through in the element of being trained by a budget combat trainer who accepts the payment of dance lessons. Like I said, weird. But, if you can get on that logline’s wavelength, there is a delightfully bizarre character study here for you to enjoy that teases out this premise in a darkly comedic way. Karen Gillan is great in the dual role of original and clone, playing with a blank affectation that has minor modulations in both sides of the performance. Aaron Paul also shows up and is just delightfully in on the bit, with a performance that makes me feel like we are really not taking advantage of his comedic chops. This will clearly not be for everyone, but I hope that Stearns keeps getting to make movies with a bunch of weirdos running around, he’s great at it.

16. Jackass Forever
Jeff Tremaine is back with the fourth entry in this storied franchise and the laughs are just as great as ever. Having seen this over a year ago now, I can’t really tell you the exact details of the bits that had me laughing, but I was laughing a lot. The community and support on display among this crew is kind of inspiring to be honest, as is this crew’s dedication to roll themselves out in front of the cameras every ten years to get beat to hell. I wish I would have gotten to see this with a crowd, but still, these movies just continue to be a delight and have somehow got sweet and charming along the way. Danger Ehren for MVP. 

15. Broker
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s found family road movie (lots of road movies this year!) works so well because this cast of characters are just so endearing, even as they fuck up along the way. You wouldn’t think you’d be rooting for some abandoned baby black market dealers, but here we are. Song Kang-ho is a big part of why we can root for someone like this, but there also is not really a presence of malice here; just people trying to make their way by taking advantage of a situation that could help them make ends meet. The theme of adoption and family runs deeper than just the premise that brings all these people together though, as everyone is forced to look inside themselves as they figure out what the hell to do with this baby they stole, and whom to sell it to. Bae Doona is great as a police detective that is being driven by the law even when she and her partner might not be sure of the side they are on. Kore-eda’s direction doesn’t pass any judgment on these characters and neither should we.

14. The Banshees of Inisherin
Martin McDonagh’s Irish parabel is a bleak look at friendship and how precarious relationships may actually be, maybe even only on one side. Colin Farrell gives one of/if not his best performance as the blindsided Pádraic, whose pub bud of countless years, Brendan Gleeson’s Colm, stops talking to him and threatens to chop off his fiddling fingers if he ever tries to talk to him again. This darkly humorous tale is a stand in for the pointless harm we (humans) will inflict on each other for no good reason; and that tracks. The collateral damage along the way only hurts more for how stupid this all is, but McDonagh is able to find the humor inside all of this darkness all the same. Kerry Condon is great as the only sensible person caught up in this mess (aka, the woman), while Barry Keoghan’s sad eyed idiot will consistently break your heart along the way. McDonagh’s films are at their best when they are about the feelings, not the plot that gets them there, and this feels like a turn back towards what he works best at after a couple of plottier diversions (that weren’t bad!).

13. You Won’t Be Alone
Goran Stolevski’s film is about witches on the surface, but it’s more about what it means to be a human, with empathy and compassion and how that plays out when you are a part of a community. It’s a low budget affair that takes a series of twists and turns as this young girl learns to live her life for the first time, all while being stalked and tormented by a witch that has been in her life since birth. Nevena is our protagonist, hidden away from the world and set free out of malice, given the witch power to shape shift between different forms and Stolevski’s script uses this premise to explore identity, gender, and the norms that have built up around the perceptions of them. Its 19th century setting allows for the witchcraft of it all to create a sense of danger at every turn around Nevena, all while giving us a sense of empathy even to our antagonist along the way. One of the real surprises of the year, for me.

12. The Eternal Daughter
Joanna Hogg’s latest has cemented her as someone I need to go back and complete their filmography (the Souvenir films are my only other touch points), but this sequel to those two films really shows how creative and crafty can be with the form. Tilda Swinton stars in a duel role, playing the older version of the role her real life daughter, Honor, played in the Souvenir films, Julie, while also reprising her role as Julie’s mother in those films, Rosalind. On top of all of this, Julie is a stand-in for Hogg herself and where the story of the Souvenir films was about Hogg’s youth and becoming a filmmaker, The Eternal Daughter is Hogg exploring how she can honor her mother as a seasoned filmmaker. Did you get all that? You don’t have to be intrigued by this ghost story that only reveals its meta nature in the finale of the picture. Hogg’s film works because of its uneasy setting and the power of watching Tilda face off against herself in a fantastic performance. All the meta stuff above does enhance the picture though, as Hogg is laying her heart bare in how she processes her grief through her filmmaking. Can’t wait to see what she does next.

11. BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Alejandro González Iñárritu is a polarizing filmmaker in the critical community and I’ve never really understood that take on him. He’s a master of the craft and while his films can be big, bold and blunt with their themes and story, I think that’s a feature to his work, not a bug. Sure, subtlety that builds to a crescendo of emotions can be exhilarating, but I don’t know why we are dinging someone for trying to show us something we’ve never seen before. BARDO feels of a piece with his last couple films in form and style, while also looking inward to who and why he is the way he is. They guy knows how many of you feel about him and he has a lot of fun with that early on, before taking us on a journey into his psyche as he processes success, loss, love, Mexican history, classism, generational divide, corporatization and parenting, to name a few. He throws a lot at the wall and most of it sticks for me, with a few truly exhilarating sequences across the film, and it all looks spectacular. The resolution of the protagonist’s son, Mateo, was one of the most beautiful things I saw in film this year.

10. Glass Onion
Rian Johnson knows how to entertain us, he wants to entertain us, and Glass Onion is just a continuation of that trend. His script is another funny and exciting playground for Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc and I honestly don’t think there’s a thing I’d change about this. I recently bumped up Knives Out to five stars and I can see this getting there too on a future rewatch. The ensemble is just so sharp here, with everyone buying in and understanding the assignment. Johnson is also quite biting with his commentary on our current state of society, without feeling like the film’s enjoyment is dependent on watching it in the now. We know we are getting one more Blanc film, but I honestly hope they make one of these every 5 years or so after that if they are going to be as enjoyable as these first two have been.

9. The Northman
Robert Eggers with a budget was a sight to behold. Obsessed with diving into the history and period he sets his film in, this norse tale of vikings in the 9th century is a fantastic blend of the brutal realities of the time and literalizing the myths of those people into a believable reality. The action sequences are beautifully constructed, the tragedy is baked in from the start, and Eggers cast is on board with all the depravity and violence that gets thrown at the screen. Alexander Skarsgård was born for this role and he doesn’t disappoint, and if I had to lodge a complaint against the film it would be that we don’t get to spend more time with most of the supporting cast. That said, Claes Bang steps up to be a great foil to Skarsgård, all while letting you wonder what all this revenge is really going to accomplish for these people. More Eggers, please. 

8. Memoria
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s quiet and contemplative film follows Tilda Swinton’s Jessica who begins to hear a strange thumping sound, at random times, with no discernable source for what it could be. Jessica’s journey starts with bewilderment, evolves into trying to find a way to replicate the sound, before going down a path of discovery she never thought she’d be on. Swinton is able to hold our attention through the silences, Weerasethakul creates tension with our anticipation of the sound, all while letting the camera hold on frames, allowing you to take in the sound and small details swirling around you. The sound design on this movie is next level and when we do discover a possible origin of the sound, well, it was one of the most exhilarating movie moments of the year for me.

7. Turning Red
Domee Shi’s feature debut is Pixar’s best film since at least Inside Out, maybe even Toy Story 3, which is saying a lot from this Pixar super fan, and also feels like a continued trend of the studio bucking their conventions a bit and evolving their formula. The art style is a bit evolved, the sense of humor is a bit more edgy, and while there is a girl who changes into a giant red panda at the heart of this film, it is maybe their most explicit film about being a kid to date. The focus on teen girls and Chinese culture is also a welcome breath of fresh air, and really shows how a director is able to break through and put their personal stamp on a picture at the studio that didn’t seem possible five years ago even. Shi’s film is consistently funny, has that Pixar heart we’ve come to expect, and really lets its freak flag fly a bit. Plus, the Kaiju injected finale is one of the best final setpieces Pixar has put out yet, punctuated by one of the best songs in a movie in some time. 4*Town/4*Ever.

6. Avatar: The Way of Water
James Cameron is back, BABY! I never doubted the guy, but man, did he come through with his follow up to Avatar all these years later. The film looks truly incredible, putting special effects to shame from nearly everything else out there today, as you won’t doubt for a moment that you’ve stepped on to Pandora with Cameron and his film crew. The Sully Crew on the run is a great way to take us to new parts of the moon, the water traversing material is mesmerizing to explore alongside these newcomers, plus, the one part of the film that had my eyebrow raised, the return of Stephen Lang’s Quaritch, works like gangbusters. Cameron is so confident you will go along for the ride with him, and he was right. All the silly sci-fi/fantasy stuff he throws at you, doesn’t over explain it, and just presents it as part of this world is such a breath of fresh air and serves as an example of how world building is done right. Never has this worked better in these two films than the introduction of the Tulkun, a sentient whale like species that are also going to become the focus of our human antagonists going forward in at least one of the forthcoming sequels. Cameron’s Avatar series continues to be awash in the messages of pro-planet, pro-nature, anti-capitalist and anti-military, no other major franchise is so blatantly speaking out on topics like this, all while being brilliantly executed on every technical level. Protect Payakan!

5. After Yang
Koganada’s inspection of loss, grief, and humanity is soft sci-fi at its absolute best. Focusing on a family who loses their companion android, Yang, to an unfortunate malfunction, sends them down a journey of what humanity is and who can hold it. What starts off as a small family drama slowly spins out to reveal elements of this future society and how “others” are treated across the board. A picture, a life, is slowly painted of who Yang was, what Yang was up to, and what Yang cherished, and in an incredible sequence in the finale of this film you will just be absolutely wrecked as his complexity is revealed. Colin Farrell is as good here as he is in Banshees, Haley Lu Richardson absolutely nails a pivotal character of Yang’s past and the opening title sequence of this film is as delightful as anything you’ll see in a movie. More of you need to see this movie!

4. TÁR
Todd Field’s return is a bravado piece of filmmaking at every turn. Cate Blanchett has possibly never better as the titular conductor who begins to have a fall from grace after some possible transgressions in her past come to light, but the film works as well is it does because Field’s script never lets you get solid footing on what we should believe and whose side we should be on. You want to root for Blanchett’s Lydia, even if she can be a bit tough and crass to those underneath her, because Blanchett is just so magnetic in the part, but Field’s filmmaking does a marvelous job of giving you an argument to be on either side of one almost across the whole course of the film. It’s not a rorschach test per say, but the film and the titular character are bathing in a potential gray area of our society, that is viewed more and more with a black and white lens. Field and Blanchett find every angle of nuance and play it, keeping the viewer off kilter and asking themselves why they might feel the way they do at the moment. On top of that, it looks and sounds amazing, all while being darkly hilarious from nearly start to finish. Can’t wait for the rewatch and whatever Field does next.

3. Aftersun
Charlotte Wells’ debut is a father/daughter stunner that has so much brimming just under the surface, as we dive back into a memory of a mostly unseen older Sophie as she becomes a parent herself. Sophie’s younger self is spending a holiday with her young father, an incredible Paul Mescal, who is great at being a dad, but something is tearing him apart. We are privy to Mescal’s Calum’s seams almost bursting outside of Sophie’s view, or maybe she did see, but Calum does still find true joy being a father to Sophie all the same. Frankie Corio is also excellent as Sophie, coming of age and becoming more grown up in front of her father’s eyes, which only makes the turmoil underneath Calum’s exterior grow stronger. Wells’ ability to capture the joy, the pain and the love on display is an impressive piece of screenwriting and direction, with Corio and Mescal never delivering a false beat in the film. A film that is best felt, rather than described to you, just go watch the damn thing. Wells is a talent to watch.

2. Kimi
Steven Soderbergh finds himself near the top of my list again, because of course he does! When Soderbergh makes a movie, he knows what he wants and he doesn’t mess around. Every shot is immaculate, he doesn’t waste a cut, every film feels fresh, his scripts are succinct and to the point; you feel the efficiency coming through the screen. He also just wants to entertain you, which is what we want. Kimi is entertaining. Kimi is thrilling. Kimi has it’s mind on something while also just being a visceral thrill ride with one of the best final scenes in a movie that reveals that it’s not taking itself too seriously and neither should you. Zoë Kravitz is perfect as an agoraphobic tech employee who discovers a potential murder recorded by a Kimi device that may also be tied to her company’s CEO. Her life is at stake and she is forced to go outside and brave not just her fears, but the added threat of covid is very present in this film. Soderbergh and his script by David Koepp is just a perfect little melting plot of inspiration, thrills and ideas, it was one of the first films I saw in ‘22 and remained one of its best.

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once 
Daniels’ second feature blew me away. Walking out of the theater, it was a feeling I hadn’t felt since Mad Max: Fury Road. I’d just seen something that defied belief, but on top of that, I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a movie in ages. I was crying for the last thirty minutes or so of this movie, a wave of catharsis washing over me that I didn’t know I needed after an insane last half decade plus of life we all had been collectively living through. Yes, this is a movie with butt plug fights, hot dog fingers, talking Raccacoonies and multiversal shenanigans, but it’s ultimately about how we need to love and support both ourselves and one another. We have to stop fighting, we have to admit when we are scared, we have to admit when we are sad and lonely. We need to be more empathetic, both with the ones we love and those we don’t. We are nothing without each other. We won’t make it. All of this is buried in this movie from Daniels, while also being the best action comedy of all-time. The multiversal sci-fi angle of it all allows the film to be an absolute unique piece of cinema that both borrows and enhances with what came before it as all great films do. Michelle Yeoh gets to deliver her best performance to date, in a role that she’s never been asked to play, while Ke Huy Quan comes back after nearly thirty years away to deliver the role that makes this film not only work in a way that’s not overwhelming, but is also hilarious and heartbreaking. Stephanie Hsu steals the show though, giving a performance of incredible range as the film’s antagonist Jobu Tobaki and devastating sadness as Yeoh and Quan’s daughter. The icing on top of all of this is my beloved Raccacoonie, which is probably the hardest I’ve laughed ever in a movie? The film is a masterpiece, I could put it in my Top 10 films of all-time and not even flinch, and this is a film that will define a generation of filmmakers and film lovers.

Thanks for reading, and here is some other The Best Of content by me:

A Year In Film: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007

The Decade’s Best: 2010-19 – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

The Decade’s Best 2000-09 – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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