31 December 2022

2022 Nutshelled: Best Movies

Alright people, here we are! This what we lurch forward and get excited about all year! We'll take all the cultural force and magical experiences we had at the cinema and distill them all into a big dumb Top Ten List. More and more I think this is stupid. That's why I made like five this year. We will likely change this all around when we take another look next year, and I know there was a handful of films that I did not see that could penetrate this list next year. But for now, let's look at the best movies that I personally watched in 2022:

#10: Don't Worry Darling

I've looked at a lot of lists from around the whole Internet and reputable critics and people, and I was most struck by how much my list doesn't match up with them at all. We had such great films in the sweet spot this year of engaging, competent genre action. Or just really weird like Don't Worry Darling. I was so into the trailers, and I like Olivia Wilde as a director. This just got shat on for behind the scenes nonsense. No one really seemed too harassed or anything as far as I can tell (if I suck please let me know, I did not get into the gossip much beyond the headlines), but the amount of cheating, spitting, and chaos was unbelievable.

And it really should further show just how good of a job Olivia did to get ANYTHING out of anyone to make this movie. It's definitely got its source inspiration from a few places, but it still pulls off a satisfying story. At some point you just wait for the other shoe to drop and you know it's going to be either satisfying or a let down. And it's really satisfying! The acting and mind-fuckery is great and motivated here and it's also surprisingly one of the better-looking films of the year. Truly gorgeous, and what looks like mostly natural sets. This movie got a lot of crap, I wonder if we'll forget about all the nonsense in time and re-evaluate how good this is.

#9: Barbarian

There might not be a movie I've thought about more. AirBnB horror! What a concept! Some of the decisions are a little contrived, but man this movie gets so many points for being the most unexpected movie of all time. I love how much it spins from a basic story and then dramatically re-shifts but all in service of the same story. Justin Long steals the show as the worst human being to ever live and when he seems like he's redemptive, he's even worse. It's awesome. There's again some legit fucked up shit here and the delicate house of cards that's assembled never topples.

#8: Prey

I feel personally slighted by how much hype all these movies got when they came out but how little anyone seems to be talking about them at the end of the year. PREY was the perfect Friday night movie, a tight, coherent, legit action movie that advances the themes of an existing (and well-trodden IP), goes the mid-budget competent route but succeeds in its effort to remain interesting, and survives as a deserved work in its own right. There's also a message here but it's very slight and in service to the story. Everything works.

#7: Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

All hail Roku! Of course the Weird Al movie comes out on the most obscure service possible. The funniest movie of the year with absolute zero pretensions, we don't get enough of these kinds of films anymore. It's unreal. What's more unreal is how quickly it descends into having no interest in representing reality at all. It succeeds in being a parody of biopics but staying far away from being a direct parody of the genre like Walk Hard (2007) but is instead interested in exceptional silliness. I'd watch it every day if I could.

#6: Glass Onion

Written, produced, filmed, and released all in November, 2022! Knives Out (2019) was tremendous but this somehow pushes everything further, mostly from being completely disinterested in being a direct sequel. It's an incredible achievement to re-invigorate one of our oldest genres, but find a way to keep things interesting even after Knives Out did the same thing a few years earlier. The characters are vivid and dynamic, the lighting and cinematography is dynamic, bright, and in service of the film, but most importantly the film makes you hang on every word of long dialogue and monologue strings. It's consistently hilarious as well, while also punching for the gut. What's wrong with giving Rian Johnson more Star Wars again?

#5: Banshees of Inisherin

Maybe the saddest movie ever, I didn't really believe the hype until I watched this and was like oh damn! It's also the most Irish movie of all time, with equal parts wryly funny and deeply depressing. Everyone is acting at full speed here, and it finds the perfect line between the trivial and tragic. It's shot simply but lets the setting do the work for them. Martin McDonough has his credentials by now (I forgot he did Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri [2017], which people seem to care about a lot less than In Bruges [2008] in hindsight), but seems to be much more in his element here.

#4: Everything Everywhere All At Once

The Top Four are pretty interchangeable and I foresee these being the immutable candidates for future reconciliations of this year. This got a lot of hype when it came out and has wormed its way into a lot of lists. For some reason this has been the year of the multiverse, and ends up being the best use of the concept. We get to see many fully realized and silly universes (Hot Dogs) but at the core is a relationship between mother and daughter that takes some significant effort to un-fuck. It's funny, original, thrilling, and explores a deep and fulfilling interaction between all the principal characters. Even Jamie Lee Curtis' tax specialist, who would be insufferable in another picture. This is one of the great ones.

#3: Nope

Jordan Peele's best film, I said it, Nope has thematic richness regarding our relationship with nature, animals, spectacle, exploitation, Hollywood, and filmmaking. It's quite a bit, all in a cinematic package that makes it look easy. It's authentic and fantastic all at once. I don't really actually like the SPOILER revelation that the spaceship is an alien or how it transforms at the end, but those are both thematically sound. Like so sound it makes me angry. Add to all this the genuine tension in a handful of scenes (ironically the fake-out scene is the most insane) and absolute horror from chimps and digestion and there is a lot to love here.

#2: RRR

It would seem somewhat improbable that a random Bollywood movie would become one of the biggest global phenomenon of the year. But for one, it's Tollywood, and second, it got some buzz on Netflix, man. Now, I'm aware that there is some problematic cultural stuff here. Oh no! Yeah, read up on what this all means for Indian and Telugu cinema here. It's pretty thorough.

But sticking to the film itself, this is at every moment a revelation. Watching as someone who has gotten very used to and jaded by Western blockbuster filmmaking it feels like an unbridled explosion of creativity, limitless expression, and truly dynamic action. All of that is wrapped up with revolutionary ideals (anti-colonialist, but also very nationalist) and what amounts of historical fiction with the greatest bromance of our era. Every scene seeks to top the one that came before it, all symbolized by the fire and water of our two heroes that echoes into mythology. RRR is insane. Watch Baahubali too.

#1: The Northman

And here we are. My pick for the Top Film of 2022 I saw in theaters and knew it would be tough to beat. I don't know why this hasn't gotten much of any love since its release. I watched it twice this year. I love every part of this. On the surface its a brutal action film. Deeper it's full of authentic filmmaking techniques, majestic vistas, and a classic story. But deeper than that it exposes the bullshit of its own story and undercuts the hypermasculinity that seems to possess its whole deal. It really is an incredible experience. Naked lava fight!

Honorable Mentions: Greenland, Pinocchio, KIMI, The Batman, Ambulance. I was also close to adding Elvis and Blonde. Elvis is so damn maximalist and serves as an incredible companion to Weird. Like literally Walk Hard if it were a straight biopic, to the point where it feels on purpose. I keep thinking about Blonde, too. I wish it were shorter so I could watch it again to unpack. It feels like a dream and is either the most brilliant film of the year or the worse. I disagree with accusations of exploitiveness, it just seems like it couldn't be more obvious that what everyone is doing to Marilyn (including the viewer's eye) is horrendous.

Have not Seen yet but might get on this list next year:

After Yang
No Bears
The Hustle
Triangle of Sadness
Eternal Daughter
White Noise

I probably won't watch all of these. I've had plenty of opportunity. I just missed TAR and White Noise, ran out of time. That's why these are all meaningless, baby! Check in next year when I confess to being really stupid and completely refine this list.

Until then, Happy New Year and here's to 2023!

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