Corrye’s 2022 Movie Year In Review!
Ah the cinema! Teacher, mother, secret lover. (Yes, that is a Simpsons reference.) After the dearth of quality films due to the pandemic in 2020, things slowly began to right themselves the following year, but I don’t think it was until 2022 that the theatrical experience made a comeback. This past year ran the gamut from visual spectacles like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to intimate stories of empathy like The Whale. As a cinephile I endeavor to see as many films as possible in a single year and this is one my favorite articles to write. I will forever believe in the transformative power of film as art. It’s something I feel passionately about. So, without further ado here are the surprises, the disappointments, the underrated, the worst, and the best. I give you…my movie year in review!!!
I want to be perfectly transparent. I’m not a fan of Baz Luhrmann. I know he has his supporters, but I’ve never been able to connect with any of his movies. They always seem way too bombastic, outlandish, and over-the-top. I get that Luhrmann tries to convey a sense of hyper-reality with his films, but it’s never worked for me. That’s why I was shocked at how thoroughly I loved Elvis. There’s a beautiful sense of pageantry that permeates the entire film. Elvis Presley was a larger-than-life force of nature and what better choice than Baz Luhrmann—the king of ostentation—to bring his story to the screen. It’s not your typical straight cradle to grave biopic which I appreciated. Yes, Tom Hanks’ Colonel Tom Parker is borderline cartoonish, and it is slightly too long. However, this gets overshadowed by the music, set design, costumes (my God the costumes!), and the electric, propulsive energy of the film. And then there’s Austin Butler. He quite simply became Elvis, gave him nuance and depth and pathos. This wasn’t an impression; it was a fleshed-out character that he lived and breathed. What a coming out party for this young man. TCB, Jack.
When you become such a ubiquitous name in whatever industry with a proven track record of success, there’s a tendency to get content. There’s a mentality that begins to form that all you need to do is show up and victory is assured. That somehow your mere presence is enough. And that’s simply not true. It wasn’t true for the 1968 Baltimore Colts, it wasn’t true for Prince’s 2007 album Planet Earth, and it wasn’t true for Stephen King’s novel Rose Madder.
I feel like that’s what happened with Pixar’s Lightyear. They coasted on their own name and reputation and just automatically assumed that Lightyear was going to make a billion dollars and be a hit with audiences. If Pixar had taken as much care and effort into crafting an interesting, compelling, and emotional film, they may have gotten what they wanted. Instead, Lightyear comes off conventional, pedestrian, and completely lacking in originality. It’s tepid, the characters are uninteresting, and quite frankly boring. When the highlight of your film is a robotic cat named Sox, you know you have problems. This movie should have been out of this world. Instead, it was out of sight, out of mind.
Steven Spielberg is my favorite director ever and one of the all-time greats. His latest semi-autobiographical film, The Fabelmans, has garnered extensive critical acclaim and seems a shoo-in for Oscar gold in multiple categories. And from an objective, technical standpoint it is damn near flawless, from the pitch perfect direction to Janusz Kaminski’s excellent cinematography, to John Williams understated score, to Michael Kahn and Sarah Broshar’s impeccable editing. It’s the kind of film that feels tailor made for me.
There was something about this film that just did not connect. Maybe it’s because films that celebrate Hollywood have grown stale for me, but I found much of The Fabelmans to be over-indulgent, sentimental navel-gazing. Make no mistake, Gabriel LaBelle makes for a great newcomer as Sammy, Michelle Williams stuns as Sammy’s mother Mitzi, and Judd Hirsch delivers arguably the best supporting performance of the year as Sammy’s great uncle Boris, but I just couldn’t stop looking at my watch. The Fabelmans is clearly a deeply personal film for Spielberg, it just isn’t one that connected to this particular person.
Twenty years ago, a Barry Levinson film about a Jewish boxer who survived Auschwitz by fighting fellow concentration camp members to the death and eventually got to fight Rocky Marciano, would have been an Oscar contender released late in the year to critical acclaim. Instead, it got dumped on HBO Max in April to little fanfare. It’s a shame because the movie is quite stunning. Barry Levinson delivers the melancholy and devastating true story of Harry Haft that’s as accessible as it is bittersweet and haunting. Ben Foster delivers the performance of his career and in a just universe he’d be one of the front runners for a Best Actor Oscar. Catch this one on HBO Max before the jackwagons regulate it to a black hole.
WORST FILM I SAW IN 2022
Yes, I’m well aware that this is a bit of a cheat and Showgirls came out in 1995. Maybe I was just lucky or maybe the content was just that much better in 2022, but I really didn’t see a movie I thought was God awful. As such I had to make do and without a doubt Showgirls is God awful. Piss poor direction, cartoonish performances, a script by Joe Eszterhas that would have been more useful as bathroom tissue, sex scenes that look like they were blocked by a blind dog and possessing the sex appeal of a ruptured pimple—this movie’s legendary awfulness earns its reputation and then some. Until last year, Battlefield Earth was the worst movie I’d ever seen. That was until Showgirls popped in and said, “Hold my G-string.” Good Lord what an abomination.
AND NOW IT’S TIME FOR MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2022…
HONORABLE MENTION #1
Jordan Peele’s one of those directors I thank God is working in the industry. In an era where studios like to play it safe and deliver a product that will appeal to the biggest audience possible (I’m looking at you Disney), Jordan Peele isn’t afraid to take big swings. His movies are nothing if not provocative and Nope is no different. I found it to be his most terrifying film to date that just also happens to be an excellent indictment of online culture and our obsession with fame, disaster, and spectacle. Daniel Kuluuya delivers a stoic, detached performance and Keke Palmer crushes it as the insatiable energy goblin that is Emerald. Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography is spellbinding and compliments Michael Abels’ score perfectly. Nope was a big ‘ol YUP for me.
HONORABLE MENTION #2
Avatar: The Way of Water
I know it’s cliché at this point, but never bet against James Cameron. After thirteen years I think a lot of people believed Avatar’s time had come and gone. Was anyone going to care about James Cameron’s eco-positive blue alien movies anymore? Turns out the answer was a definitive yes. After only three weeks of release Cameron’s sequel has earned more than $1.5 billion at the box office with no end in sight. The money is beside the point though. Avatar: The Way of Water is nothing less than a visual masterpiece. It pushes the boundaries of what films are capable of. Moreover, it is a more engaging, dynamic, and emotionally thematic film than its predecessor. A little long sure but if I may offer another cliché, this is what we go to the movies for.
#10 All Quiet on the Western Front
Full disclosure, I’ve never read the groundbreaking Erich Maria Remarque novel and I’ve never seen the seminal 1930 film either. All I knew about this story was that it centered around WWI and dealt with the German experience. Edward Berger’s film is simply spectacular. All Quiet on the Western Front is one of the most harrowing, devastating, realistic, and heartbreaking films you’ll ever see. It is the definitive anti-war movie just as Remarque’s novel was. I once heard that war is “old man talking and young men dying.” You get a lot of that in All Quiet on the Western Front as you watch the trials and tribulations of Paul Baumer (Felix Kammerer) and his cohorts. You can’t help but be swept up in Paul’s story as he goes from a wide-eyed recruit to a war torn and bitter realist. I thought the war scenes from 1917 and Saving Private Ryan were the best I’d ever seen but this one gives it a run for their money. A difficult watch but a necessary one, All Quiet on the Western Front will have you marvel at the power of cinema and rail against the futility of war.
#9 Everything, Everywhere, All at Once
There was a phenomenal movie released about the multiverse in 2022 and it wasn’t the sequel to Doctor Strange. Quirky, poignant, and impeccably shot, directors/writers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert gave audiences something unexpected and wholly original. I didn’t expect a movie where a universe exists where everyone has hotdog fingers to also be an excellent commentary on marriage, parent/child power dynamics, and the existential crisis brought about middle age and questionable choices but, here we are. Michelle Yeoh has never been better as Evelyn. In a role that would have strained any actor’s abilities she absolutely crushes it. She’s only outdone by the endlessly dynamic, empathetic, and hilarious performance of Ke Huy Quan as her husband Waymond. To think that the man who played Short Round and who has acted in a grand total of three movies (not counting this one) since 1996 is nothing short of astonishing. What a performance. What a film.
If it wasn’t for the fact that I loved this movie so damn much that it deserved to be on my top ten, I probably would have put Prey in my “Most Surprising” category. After the abysmal fare like AVP: Requiem and The Predator, I concluded that the Predator franchise was as dead as Mac, Blaine, and Billy. And along comes director Dan Trachtenberg and actor Amber Midthunder and completely fucks things up in the best way possible. This movie was a blast from start to finish. I loved the setting and time frame, the kills were brutal, the character development exceptional, and the screenplay riveting. Additionally, Jeff Cutter’s cinematography has no business being this good. The star is Amber Midthunder though. Her Naru is no Mary Sue but a true warrior who has to learn, grow, and adapt in order to best the Predator. What a fun and fantastic movie.
#7 The Menu
It happens every damn year. A movie comes along late in the year and completely fucks up my top ten list. This year it was director Mark Mylod’s delightfully twisted The Menu. A vicious, hilarious, and always entertaining dark comedy, I can’t recommend this one enough. Anya Taylor-Joy is sublime and this is Ralph Fiennes like you’ve never seen him. It’s set in an exclusive restaurant on an island—and that’s the only thing I’m going to say. Go into this one colder than Mr. Freeze. Don’t read a review, don’t watch a trailer, don’t look at a fucking poster. Trust me, you’ll thank me.
#6 The Banshees of Inisherin
“How’s the despair?”
Sometimes you just outgrow friendships. Sometimes you just want more. Sometimes you just get sick and tired of entertaining yourself while waiting for the inevitable. And sometimes everyone is just “fecking boring.” Director Martin McDonagh just doesn’t miss. The Banshees of Inisherin is a beautiful fable about friendship, loneliness, what we accept, and what we aspire to. McDonagh inherently grasps the intricacies, foibles, and grievances of small-town existence. The film is beautifully shot, superbly written, and unbelievably well-acted. Colin Farrell gives the performance of a lifetime. Melancholy, elegiac, bittersweet, but somehow hopeful, The Banshees of Inisherin is everything you’ve heard and more.
#5 Glass Onion
In 2019 writer/director Rian Johnson single-handedly rewrote the book on whodunit mysteries with the scintillating Knives Out. When I discovered that we were getting at least two more Benoit Blanc mysteries I couldn’t wait to see what Johnson had in store for audiences. Thankfully he didn’t disappoint. Glass Onion is maybe the most fun movie I watched in 2022. Smart, slick, stylish, brilliant written, and visually much better than I was expecting, I loved every second of it, to the point that depending on the hour, I go back and forth with which film is better. Daniel Craig once again chews the scenery as the titular character and the supporting cast is top-notch with Janelle Monae and Edward Norton being standouts. Give me about a billion of these suckers.
Tar is one of those unexpected delights I didn’t see coming. All I knew going in was that Cate Blanchett played a composer and conductor. I’m so glad I did because this movie is a straight up masterpiece. It’s a fascinating examination of art versus artist and how some artists abuse their power. Lydia Tar is a horrible person but writer/director Todd Field gives her depth and nuance. The questions raised prompt discussion without necessarily landing on one side or the other. Cate Blanchett is absolutely riveting in the performance of her career. It’s worth seeing just to watch her cook. Oscar winner Hildur Guanadottir delivers another stellar score as well and Florian Hoffmeister’s cinematography perfectly complements Field’s direction. I couldn’t stop thinking about this film for days afterwards.
#3 Top Gun: Maverick
So the original Top Gun is a very personal movie to me. When I was nine my Uncle Gil always had the coolest new tech: camcorders, Walkmans, and of course a VCR. The two movies he had that were on permanent rotation whenever I’d visit were Top Gun and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. They both fostered my love of movies. In retrospect I consider Top Gun to be good not great. The direction is flawless and Cruise possesses the star power to carry the film, however it’s…well…very 80s. (This isn’t an indictment by the way but context means everything despite what Twitter thinks.) As such I was interested in Top Gun: Maverick but not obsessed. So when Top Gun: Maverick turned out to be absolutely magnificent and a country mile better than the original, I was absolutely shocked. It’s cliché I know, but this is what we go to the movies for. Director Joseph Kosinski pulled off something I didn’t think was possible—he made me think the late Tony Scott directed this movie. This movie hooks you from the first ten minutes. The aerial combat scenes are stunning, the sound mixing tremendous, and the story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks surprisingly compelling. But it’s the relationships that make this movie great whether it’s Iceman and Maverick, Maverick and Rooster, or Maverick and Penny. Tom Cruise proves once again why he not only is our last great movie star but also an incredible actor. What a freakin’ phenomenal movie.
#2 The Batman
At this point the onscreen character of Batman has become James Bond in the sense that multiple people have worn the cape and cowl before and multiple people will in the future. Audiences have experienced multiple iterations over the years including campy (Adam West), gothic (Michael Keaton), dark/tortured (Christian Bale), and bitter/jaded (Ben Affleck). Ignorant people were weary when Robert Pattinson was cast as the Dark Knight because they couldn’t see beyond “sparkle Twilight vampire.” But anyone who’s ever seen Good Time, The Lost City of Z, The Lighthouse, etc…, know what a good actor he is. And with Matt Reeves at the helm I was confident The Batman would be great. It wasn’t just great, it was magnificent. I mean my God! Award worthy score by Michael Giacchino? Check. Stunning cinematography from Greig Fraser? Check. A detective noir screenplay from Matt Reeves and Peter Craig? BIG EFFING CHECK. Paul Dano made for a twisted, nuanced, and fascinating Riddler and Colin Farrell waddled into greatness as the Penguin. I saw this movie three times in theaters and it got better each time. I cannot wait to see what the next chapter holds.
#1 The Northman
In any other year, The Batman would have been my number one film, if Robert Eggers The Northman hadn’t come along and knocked me completely on my ass. Norse mythology has always been my game and the story of Prince Amleth had me enthralled from the opening minutes. Jarin Blaschkie’s cinematography was a visual feast and Eggers direction (in his most accessible film to date) was like a beautiful, brutal blow to the face from the blade Draugr. Alexander Skarsgard was a force of nature as Prince Amleth and Anya Taylor-Joy proved once again that every movie she stars in turns to gold with her fierce role as Olga. Nicole Kidman delivers arguably the best performance of her career including a scene that left my jaw on the ground. Whenever we walk into a film all audience members have one request on their minds, “Tell me a good story.” The Northman was the best story I saw all year because on the surface it was a simple revenge tale…until it very much wasn’t. It’s a shame Eggers masterpiece isn’t going to get any awards love this year but nevertheless it stands on its own as a phenomenal piece of cinematic magic.
Well that’s a wrap on 2022. Here’s hoping 2023 is just as spectacular!