2022 films are hazy memory (The Eternal Daughter, Petite Maman, Memoria), heated romance (The Five Devils, Both Sides Of The Blade, Decision To Leave), singular, unswerving journeys (Godland, EO, Tár, Ahed’s Knee), and dizzying moves through time (Ultrasound, Saturday Fiction, Everything Everywhere All At Once). I had an incredibly fun time in cinemas again in 2022. The highlight films with an audience: RRR, Barbarian, Godland, Memoria, Nope. All of those films – great on their own – were elevated by theatrical projection and sound, and the energy of others in the room, particularly the guy who fist-pumped his way through at least 2/3 of RRR. Thank you, unknown moviegoer!
What trends continued in 2022? Many good ones! Political, female-focused, narratives – Lingui, Babysitter, The Wonder, Hive. It’s funny to put Barbarian in that same breath, but it belongs. Same with Emily The Criminal, which has something in common with Zero Fucks Given in workplace insight, particularly the gig (internship…) economy in the former. I think there’s something to a continued proliferation of very contained films that still feel sprawling – in some cases, through time. The Eternal Daughter, Petite Maman, Ahed’s Knee, The Wonder, Nope, After Yang
There were fresh styles from old masters (Skolimowski and Lou), old styles from old masters (Denis and Field), fresh styles from relative newcomers (Koberidze and Mysius), and something of a return of old, classic styles, but with definite twists (Peele and Hogg).
The individual moments that hit me the hardest: EO at the end of EO, the climactic hand-hold in The Eternal Daughter, all the uses of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in The Five Devils, the first time we see the stairs-within-the-stairs in Barbarian, mother and daughter in the car in Petite Maman
Looking ahead to what is sure to be yet another great year for cinema (because they all are!) – for 2023 I want to watch Hong Sang-soo, Mia Hansen-Løve, Naomi Kawase, and Xavier Dolan films – four huge auteurs I’m pathetically behind on. I’d like to return to Indian cinema, especially Goutam Ghose, Mani Kaul, Shayam Benegal, and Girish Kasaravalli. I have my eye on some early Wojcech Has films, a few by Aleksei German, and more from Tengiz Abuladze and Nouchka van Brakel.
I don’t include films from friends, so you won’t find The Silent Twins or Ramona on this 2022 list. Both are highly recommended!
I missed: The Girl and the Spider, Aftersun, Playground, Triangle of Sadness, and The Fabelmans, among many others.
These films are all 2023 releases for me, and I’m really looking forward to them: Alcarràs, Jethica, Close, Holy Spider, The Beasts, Saint Omer, Beautiful Beings, RMN, Rimini
THE BEST FILMS OF 2022
20 – 16, in no particular order:
Nope (Peele, 2022)
The first half of Jordan Peele’s Nope is maybe my favorite half-of-a-movie of the year. Peele’s film is big and bold, insightful and enigmatic. I love the way he shoots the landscapes in here. It’s something to take inspiration from.
Both Sides of the Blade (Denis, 2022)
This is what you get when you put a bunch of masterful actors together with a masterful director. The script could be bad (it isn’t) and this film would probably still be great. It’s just so well-played throughout and the dialogue unearths truths of aging.
Hive (Basholli, 2021)
I saw this one so early in the year, but it’s not one to forget. Blerta Basholli’s film is angry and sweet and features great performances from kids to go alongside the fantastic lead.
Lingui (Haroun, 2021)
Lingui makes me want to return to, or see for the first time, other Haroun films. It’s basically a two-hander, but with female partnership at every turn. I loved the scene where Amina (Achouackh Abakar Souleymane) dances maniacally, and another where she and her daughter Maria (Rihane Khalil Alio) watch the Imam walk away – they look like two co-conspirators.
The Wonder (Lelio, 2022)
Held up by such strong central performances and a patient, insistent camera, The Wonder didn’t always tread on new thematic territory for me, but it didn’t need to. There’s a rage in it that I really loved.
The Banshees of Inisherin (McDonagh, 2022)** ADDED RETROACTIVELY
I caught this one late, towards the end of January, 2023. Beautiful performances, some really great use of reflections – or just of windows in general, and a theme not often explored. This is a film about loneliness; male friendship(!); fleeting, wanting connections (desire); inevitability; isolation (from the first to the last shot); companionship. It goes in some directions one might expect a McDonagh film to go – quiet to, well, not so quiet – but that’s not a bad thing at all. A poignant film.
15 – 11, in no particular order:
Tár (Field, 2022)
Dense, literary, stylish, sometimes vicious, Tár seems to be, like its eponymous character, always driving forward restlessly.
Superior (Vassilopoulos, 2021)
What a nice surprise this film was. I loved its suburban setting, its antagonist who seemed both mythological and like just a deadbeat. Maybe most of all, I loved the way that the identity swap was played casually and comfortably.
Godland (Pálmason, 2022)
Such a gorgeous, slow-burn of a film. Godland is the kind of movie to be seen large and with others, not for any one set-piece, but just to let the icy journey fill the room. I loved the scene on the boat.
Ahed’s Knee (Lapid, 2021)
Angriest film of the year? I think so. This film snarls and seethes in a way that maybe only No Bears also did for me this year.
Saturday Fiction (Lou, 2019)
I took a page from Richard Brody and included this in the list, even though its release date is ostensibly 2019. Ye Lou’s film is delicate and intricate – something he’s best at. It’s full of moral quandaries and lost loves.
Vortex (Noe, 2021)** ADDED RETROACTIVELY
Maybe January of the following year is the cutoff point for additions. This one hit hard. The moment the split screen occurs is like odd blood. It seeps down uncomfortably. So good. I’d love to hear more about the black flashes on cuts. If/when I blog about this film I’ll write more on it. But such care and controlled chaos. Lives distilled. Fullness and emptiness. Noe’s last two films are his best, alongside his first.
10 – 6, in no particular order:
What Do We See When We Look At The Sky? (Koberidze, 2021)
Well, what exactly is this film? How does one make this film? I’m not sure I have any answers at all, but there is such rhythm and texture in Alexandre Koberidze’s film, such confident ingenuity, such genuine sense of place.
Petite Maman (Sciamma, 2021)
A sly, often deceptive film with great insight into loss and childhood, the technique in Petite Maman isn’t meant to jump off the screen at you, but it’s so controlled and beautifully elusive.
Compartment No. 6 (Kuosmanen, 20221)
Watch it for the two performances, for all of the digressions that Laura (Seidi Haarla) and Ljoha’s (Yuriy Borisov) journey takes, for a surprising cut towards the end, for a script that gently turns and moves and yields a surprising platonic-romantic-comedy (a plat-rom-com)
No Bears (Panahi, 2022)
This would be a good – if exhausting – double feature with Ahed’s Knee. Panahi somehow manages to keep things fresh despite his plight. The film within a film (within a film?) narrative is so thematically precise. There might be no bears, but everyone in here is still under someone else’s thumb.
Memoria (Weerasethakul, 2021)
Quiet (except when it’s really not), elliptical, mysterious. Memoria, like What Do We See When We Look At The Sky?, has a cadence that just slips right over you. The film is disorienting, but also familiar.
5 – 1, in no particular order:
This was a tougher top 5 to pick than usual. Maybe some of those from the previous five should be here. But these film movies drew me in easily and never left my mind.
Barbarian (Cregger, 2022)
One of three (!) films up here that I’m surprised are here. I wonder what kind of staying power Barbarian will have for me. All I know is that I loved watching it, I loved watching it in the cinema, I loved the reveals, and I loved the first time cut. That’s a lot of things to love!
Decision To Leave (Park, 2022)
When I finished Decision To Leave I wasn’t instantly enamored, but this film gets under your skin. It’s slick, but always with meaning. It’s unpredictable, too – it’s not only that I never had a beat on the narrative, but that I wasn’t even in the business of predicting. The way this thing moves and turns – you just go with it.
The Five Devils (Mysius, 2022)
The Five Devils has just the right mix of genre, melodrama, and camp for me. It’s a film that sometimes feels like a mashup (I felt some Twin Peaks in several films this year), but transcends all of that easily – after all, it is about the past, so reference feels baked-in. Those flashbacks of flourishing young romance are so true and charming, and full of a youthful, who-the-hell cares energy.
EO (Skolimowski, 2022)
Heartbreaking, funny, shocking. Comps to Balthasar are unavoidable, but EO stands without it. I love Skolimowski and this feels like another reinvention. The only way you’d guess an 80+ year-old filmmaker made this movie is because of how confident it is in moving from vignette-to-vignette, style-to-style. Otherwise, it’s so new and now. The unexpected character turn at the truck stop, the sound of the animals being taken from their cages against their will, the absolutely huge score, the vertiginous waterfall, that ending shot…
The Eternal Daughter (Hogg, 2022)
Such mood and some of my favorite images of the year. This is a new take on the ghost story. I love how the camera plays into that form – capturing reflections, carved faces on doorknobs, the labyrinthine grounds. It’s all so eerie, even frightening at times…and I suppose that’s what entering into and living within one’s memory might do. There’s so much pain and catharsis in this film.
I Also Quite Liked:
Ultrasound (Schroeder, 2021)
Babysitter (Chokri, 2022)
After Yang (Kogonada, 2021)
Luzzu (Camilleri, 2021)
Everything Everywhere All At Once (Daniels, 2022)
Emily The Criminal (Ford, 2022)
Resurrection (Semans, 2022)
Zero Fucks Given (Lecoustre, Marre, 2021)
The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet (Katz, 2021)
Smoking Causes Coughing (Dupieux, 2022)
RRR (Rajamouli, 2021)
I watched so few series this year, but Irma Vep was the easily, by far and away, the best I saw.
THE BEST FILMS NOT MADE IN 2022 THAT I SAW FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2022:
A shorter list than usual, simply by virtue of having seen fewer films this year than I normally do (2021, notwithstanding). I’ve got 11 films here, because I couldn’t decide at the end. Somehow, Death Laid An Egg, Donbass, Knife + Heart, and Chicks aren’t here – great movies, all.
Jakten just saves this list from not being all 1970s and beyond. This is almost certainly the first time that I’ve made one of these lists where there’s been no film from the 1960s. Otherwise, the count by decade is: 1950s (1), 1970s (4), 1980s (3), 1990s (2), 2010s (1)
The first two on here are just so, so great and I’ll be seeking out more from both directors.
Repentance (Abuladze, 1984)
Center Stage (Kwan, 1991)
The Plumber (Weir, 1979)
Chan is Missing (Wang, 1982) – so good I blogged about it twice by accident!
Chess of the Wind (Aslani, 1976)
The Debut (van Brakel, 1977)
Angst (Kargl, 1983)
Thelma and Louise (Scott, 1991) – checking a blind spot off!
Ticket of No Return (Ottinger, 1979)
Jakten (Løchen, 1959)
Buzzard (Potrykus, 2014)