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Saturday, December 31, 2022

Films of 2022

This is my annual post about the new films I saw over the prior year. Here's a link to last year's list if you want to work backwards through my choices over time. 

I made the following point last year and it remains true thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:
I saw all of these films at home rather than at my local multiplex. I think the last movie I saw in the cinema was Little Women in December 2019. On Long Island. I vividly recall the experience and miss it dearly. 
This first group of films is excellent. There are Oscar nominations to be found here:

Tier I

The Worst Person in the World
The Banshees of Inisherin
The Outfit
Glass Onion
The Fallout

The Worst Person in the World was nominated for an Oscar (foreign film) last year, but it was not widely released in the US until February 2022, so I'm counting it as a current-year film. It was great. Obviously, it is subtitled, but you get some terrific scenes from Oslo, a lovely city that I have not visited in 25ish years. If the young female star Renate Reinsve can work in English, she'll start appearing in major Hollywood films soon. 

The Banshees of Inisherin is quirky, funny (at times), and ultimately kind of sad. It's a "tragicomedy" and perhaps typically Irish. The setting is beautiful, but the story of the end of a friendship quickly captures the audiences's focus. The film made me want to have a pint of Guinness with some old friends, most of whom are scattered all over the country. I see them too rarely. Top-notch film-making here. 

The Outfit seemed more like a play than a film, but it was a really well-done staged production about crime. Kimi featured a similarly claustrophobic production scale, but that was a key element of the plot. It embraced the isolation of the pandemic and made an entertaining movie from it.

Glass Onion is funny, fairly clever, and thoroughly engaging. As the clues are ticked off in the end, I felt dumb for missing so many of them. It's perhaps better than Knives Out, which I loved. 

Elvis is very flashy and entertaining, but it doesn't reveal quite enough about Col. Tom Parker, a major character in the film. Fortunately, the film devotes much more attention to the vibrant Elvis rather than the last few years of drug-induced decline. I've seen reports on the internet that a MUCH longer version could be forthcoming. It's already long. 

The Fallout is about student reactions to school gun violence. It was powerful, I thought. 

Tier II

Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Emily the Criminal 
What We Leave Behind (doc) 
Athena (French)
Don't Worry Darling

The Nic Cage film (Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent) will leave you thinking about watching Paddington 2. So far my wife and I have resisted the urge.

Emily the Criminal is a very good modern crime story, told from the perspective of the desperate criminal. Aubrey Plaza is good in the role and you worry about her safety at times. You almost always worry about her decisions. 

I wouldn't be surprised if What We Leave Behind is included in the nominations for best documentary. It's a very good film about people who live in both the US and Mexico, though the main character is clearly most rooted in the latter. 

Nope is not quite as good as the two prior Jordan Peele films, but it has its own virtues. We watched it Halloween weekend and the scares are fairly modest. 

The French film Athena is about the relationship between migrants and the police/military. It was very good, though the style is a bit over-the-top at times. It reminded me of Guy Richie's early work. 

Don't Worry Darling has a flawed storyline, but its virtues make up for it. The overall message is worth the effort and the visual style is simply remarkable. 

Tier III

The Batman
The Lost City
Top Gun: Maverick
Everything Everywhere All At Once

This next set includes films that have their virtues, but I found them to be fairly seriously flawed. 

The Batman was not outstanding, but it was fine. My students highly recommended it, so I guess it found its intended audience. 

These comic turns for Sandra Bulloch (The Lost City) and Adam Sander (Hustle), plus Channing Tatum (Lost City and Dog) and Queen Latifah (Hustle), respectively, were fairly predictable entertainment vehicles that relied upon the appeal of the main actors. Lost City seemed like a lesser version of the old Romancing the Stone films and Hustle employs the standard sports film plot about the underdog who achieves some success thanks to grit, determination, and hard work. Dog was a surprisingly good film about PTSD. 

Top Gun had its moments, but it was a popcorn flick with a forgettable plot. 

I'm not a big fan of martial arts and the sci-fi element in Everything Everywhere made for a strange combination. At least to me. 

Tier IV

Thor: Love and Thunder 
Dr. Strange: Multiverse Madness

I watched these in December while my spouse was visiting her father. Neither is particularly good -- I'm not sure why Disney and Marvel keep making these films. Actually, I know why they to it -- to make a lot of money. Why do people keep watching them? I viewed them because I'm teaching the film class in spring 2023 and my students seem to see all of them. 

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