Best & Worst Films of 2022

The Best

10. Mad God – Along with “The Spine of Night,” it felt like we got a glimpse into a possible Heavy Metal movie this year.  In this stop-motion film, Phil Tippett creates a gross, dripping, gory, biomechanical nightmare.

9. Glass Onion – Well, I declare. 

8. Confess, Fletch – I absolutely hated the Chevy Chase films.  HATED them.  This couldn’t be more different.  Jon Hamm is all kinds of goofy and charming.  The script is fun.  It feels like the kind of film they’d have made 30 years ago, funny, low-stakes, slightly odd-ball, and tight.

7. Travelin’ Band – The first chunk is a nice look at the rise of Creedence Clearwater Revival, narrated by Jeff Bridges.  Then it moves into the long-time unseen concert footage, which is just fantastic.  Every danged tune is a classic.  Great stuff.

6. Vesper – Kristina Buozyte finally follows up on her 2012 film “Vanishing Waves” with this apocalyptic adventure film, co-directed with Bruno Samper.  Excellent use of effects to support the story.  If you’re a long term genre fan, you’ll recognize a lot of elements, but it’s well handled and visually striking.

5. Three Thousand Years of Longing – George Miller directing a dreamy Fantasy film starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba?  It’s totally bonkers and I love it.  It reminds me of Terry Gilliam at his height.

4. Crimes of the Future – David Cronenberg returns to Body Horror and Cyberpunk nightmares with this nasty little tale about surgery as the new sex and mutations as performance art.  It feels a bit like an underground movie from the 1980s, and I love it.

3. Something in the Dirt – Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead put this paranoid, funny, Cosmic Horror adjacent little mindbender together while the world shut down.  They both star and direct, and do a typically fine job at both.  Each plays a different type of unsettling, awkward, and slightly sinister lost men who come together over a strange occurrence.

2. The Menu – Beyond the obvious class warfare aspect of things, I love the way this dives into the relationship between the artist, the art, and the audience.  As someone who at one point began to pursue film criticism, but quickly abandoned it because of how I started to look at movies and how much my relationship to them began to change, this element really resonated with me.

1. Everything Everywhere All At Once – What can I say about this movie that hasn’t been said?  I’m hardly the only person who sings its praises.  I love weird movies, genre bending films, high-concept Science Fiction, and Michelle Yeoh as much as the next guy.  But what hit me hardest with this film was how it eloquently expressed my outlook on life in a way I’ve never seen on film.  Nothing matters.  And that’s marvelous.  I’ve seen it described as optimistic nihilism.  I never thought of myself as a nihilist, but who can say?  Anyway, this movie gets it.  And Ke Huy Quan is back.  How awesome is that? 

Best Supporting Actress: Jamie Lee Curtis for Everything Everywhere All At Once

Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan for Everything Everywhere All At Once

Best Actress: Tilda Swinton for Three Thousand Years of Longing

Best Actor: Daniel Radcliffe for Weird

Best Director: Daniels for Everything Everywhere All At Once

Almost There:  I don’t really feel like doing a “worst” of 2022, so I’ll just do a list of the films that were almost good, the films that were within reach of being great, but something was missing.

Death on the Nile: A film plagued with problems, not the least of which turned out to be its cast, as between the time principle photography wrapped and the film was released, several had proved themselves to be various flavors of poison.  Still, there are moments where it really shines.  Moments where you can see how much better it might have been.  I’m glad this didn’t sink the series.  I very much enjoyed Kenneth Branagh’s first outing as Poirot, and I enjoyed…many things in this one.

Thor: Love & Thunder:  I absolutely loved “Thor: Ragnarok,” which sits up there with the first
“Guardians of the Galaxy” as one of my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe films.  Sadly, where Taika Waititi’s particular brand of oddball filmmaking worked for me before, many of the same elements didn’t land this time around.  It was also almost exactly the reverse of many MCU films.  Instead of having a strong start, then becoming something of a boring slog in the final act (see: The Avengers, Shang-Chi, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, etc., etc., etc.), I found the first half of “Love & Thunder” to border on excruciating.  In part because none of the copious humor was landing, but also because it seemed aimless and meandering.  Once things got going (post confrontation with Zeus), the movie picked up and had one of the better last acts from a recent MCU film.  Also, Christian Bale was great, and was one of the few MCU villains not totally wasted.  So, while there were a lot of missteps, this was still almost pretty great.

Prey: Sort of coming out of nowhere, this new entry in the exceptionally uneven Predator franchise was a real surprise.  It’s pretty good, actually.  It now makes three Predator films I like, including the original and “Predators” (2010).  Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as good as I wanted.  I’m not sure if it just doesn’t go quite far enough, or what.  Even though I think there’s some pretty nasty violence, it all came off as feeling very PG-13.  There was an edge that wasn’t quite there.  Can I point to one thing?  No.  I mean, the appalling CGI bear stands out as a filmmaking misstep, coming from the all too popular “we’ll fix it in post” school of film.  But, otherwise, I’m not sure I can pick one problem.  It just didn’t quite make it over the top.

The Northman:  I always want to like Robert Eggers’s movies more than I do, and “The Northman” is no exception.  It is, however, the first film from him that I haven’t actually ended up disliking by the end.  It’s basically the 1982 film version of “Conan The Barbarian” with the serial numbers filed off, a mythical Vikings Age substituted for the fictional Hyborian Age, and given a bit more of an ART! film sheen.  Sort of like “Prey,” it didn’t go far enough for me.  In this case, it didn’t go weird enough.  I wanted Eggers to take it into Nicolas Winding Refn/Panos Cosmatos levels of bugnuts tomfoolery, but he only dances with the weird excess, he never truly embraces it. 

Men:  Alex Garland’s third film is easily my least favorite.  There’s something here.  It was compelling and visually gorgeous and hideous.  Jessie Buckley does a great job carrying the film and Rory Kinnear is marvelous in all his various unsettling roles.  The ingredients were all here for something truly magnificent.  However, Garland never gets the balance right and isn’t able to bring it all together.  But the film is full of moments of genius.  I think he came so very close to adding another star to the pantheon of great Folk Horror films.

Video Discoveries:

Kiss Me Kate: A very fun musical that encapsulates the genre and the era, presented in lavish, bordering on garish color.

The Last of Sheila: The writing duo of Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins?  An all star cast murder mystery from that surreal three or four year period where Hollywood kept pretending Richard Benjamin was a dashing leading man?  Sign.  Me.  Up.

Catch-22:  Funny, sad, grim, weird, and so very, very 70s.  It’s not an easy watch, but it’s a good one.

New York Ninja:  You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced this.  If you’ve ever enjoyed a bad movie, this is one for you.

Battling Butler:  I watched a bunch of Buster Keaton films in 2022.  This was probably my favorite.  It’s Keaton doing stellar work, surrounded by talented folks.  I’m not always that into silent comedies, but when Keaton was on, he was on.  And he’s definitely on in this one.

Matewan: A grim, but beautiful tale of exploited labor reaching a breaking point.  Several really excellent performances help to keep your eyes glued to the screen.  Based on true events, it feels as timely today as when it was made in the 80s, showing that some of the same issues they faced in the 1920s are still with us.

Our Man in Havana:  Alec Guinness is in top form in this tale of espionage and confusion in pre-revolution Cuba.  I enjoy a good espionage film, and this is a good one.

Good Morning:  I watched several Yasujiro Ozu films this year, finally dipping my toes into the director’s body of work.  Though not one of the ones folks tend to talk about the most, this was my favorite.  It’s just slice of life stuff, set in the post-War suburbs of Tokyo, but it’s full of gorgeous shots that capture a sense of youthful nostalgia, even if for a time and place I have no experience with.

The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared:  Just one of those movies that takes you on a wild, whimsical, weird, heartfelt, heartwarming, heartbreaking journey. 

The Thin Man Sequels:  I’d seen “The Thin Man” before, but I’d never actually watched any of the sequels.  Well, this year, that changed, and I watched ‘em all.  And you know what?  I enjoyed them quite a bit.  As with the Gold Diggers movie series (which I also watched this year, though not all for the first time), you can really see the changing cultural situation enforced by the Hays Code as it goes into effect and then settles in to create the weird, artificiality of the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood.  Watch as ribald humor disappears, necklines rise, drinking becomes less of a thing, and if Black actors appear at all…yikes.  Even with the mandated mellowing of the series, you can’t quite hide Myrna Loy and William Powell’s delightfully devilish glee.  It’s no wonder they were one of the most popular pairings of stars from the time. 

Best TV/Streaming:

5. Stranger Things Season 4: This season cranks things up and it’s pretty great.  Eddie, man.

4. What We Do in the Shadows Season 4: I straight-up love this show.  Every season is totally bananas and the core cast brings the goods every time.  Everyone is great, but Matt Berry is king of line deliveries.

3. Ms. Marvel: The best MCU show to come out on Disney+.  I ended up liking the characters so much I almost forgot I was watching a superhero show half the time.  Not everything in the plotting works, especially revolving around the villains.  But darn it, any failings the show has it more than makes up for with charm.

2. Andor: I thought Rogue One was the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back.  Well, this is right up there.  This is what I’ve wanted Star Wars to be since nerding out with the tabletop RPG back in the early 90s.

1. Severance: Mad Men meets 2001 meets The Prisoner.  Oh my, yes.

Top 20:

20. The Fablemans

19. Studio 666

18. Bullet Train

17. See How They Run

16. The Bob’s Burgers Movie

15. Hellraiser

14. Turning Red

13. Nope

12. Is That Black Enough For You?

11. Weird

10. Mad God

9. Glass Onion

8. Confess, Fletch

7. Travelin’ Band

6. Three Thousand Years of Longing

5. Crimes of the Future

4. Vesper

3. Something in the Dirt

2. The Menu

1. Everything Everywhere All At Once

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