Happy 2023 and good riddance to 2022. I’m pretty sure I wrote the same thing last year. Little did I know twelve months ago that 2022 would shape up to be a very challenging year for me on a personal level. The fact that I’m still here, though, means that I survived the drama and turmoil. Here’s to new beginnings!
If you’ve been reading my annual recaps for the past few years, you’ll know that I don’t like doing a “Best of the year” list. The word “best” is subjective and what I think is best may not be what you think is best. All too often I read other people’s “best” lists and I scratch my bald head over their choices. I also don’t like doing them because so many awards contenders come out at the end of the year and I often don’t get to see them until well into the new year. THE WHALE, for example, isn’t coming here for a few months yet. If I were to do a thorough assessment of what I think the best films of the year are, I would have to wait until then and who wants to read that? That’s why I prefer to compile a “Favourite films of the year” list. These are the films that I enjoyed or appreciated the most over the year. I’m not saying they’re worthy of awards. I’m saying they entertained me the most. So, without further ado, here is the list of my favourite films of 2022:
10. The Menu
Wonderfully witty with a fabulously snotty performance from Hong Chau (DOWNSIZING), THE MENU is a hoot. Unfortunately, the story gives away its surprise far too early leaving audiences to sit through the inevitable but, when it cooks, it’s deliciously subversive.
9. All Quiet on the Western Front
Germany’s entry for the Best International Feature Film Oscar has already made it onto the category’s shortlist of 15 films. German director Edward Berger, who also shares the writing credit, goes back to Erich Maria Remarque 1929 novel “Im Westen nichts Neues” (In the West Nothing New) for a new take on the 1930 and 1979 films of the same name. While there are obvious comparisons between this film and Sam Mendes’ Oscar winner, 1917, ALL QUIET is a much more interesting and powerful story, and one that is highly relevant too, given the fighting going on in Ukraine right now. Regardless of what happens at the Oscars in March, expect to see the film’s two stars, Felix Kammerer and Albrecht Schuch (THE ROYAL GAME), take home the top male acting awards at this year’s German Film Awards in May.
South Korea continues to put out high quality films that are finding fans all over the world. Seoul’s answer to “Dirty Harry” Callahan, police detective Ma Seok-do (Ma Dong-seok/마동석 aka Don Lee, ETERNALS), is back busting heads and wrists but this time his work takes him overseas where a new South Korean villain is up to no good. THE ROUNDUP offers fans of THE OUTLAWS everything they liked about the 2017 film and a whole lot more.
Taking the super-privileged down a peg or three appears to be a popular theme in movies this year, as we saw with THE MENU and GLASS ONION. Swedish director Ruben Östlund (FORCE MAJEURE), who seems to be making a career out of poking fun at life’s top 1% percenters, is back with TRIANGLE OF SADNESS, which takes a huge swipe at the super-rich and those who wish they were so. As he did with FORCE MAJEURE and THE SQUARE, TRIANGLE OF SADNESS features a riotously funny set piece that will make some people think twice about taking a cruise.
At 76, Steven Spielberg doesn’t seem to be retiring anytime soon yet THE FABELMANS, a somewhat fictionalized version of his own life, would be a fitting end to his illustrious career if it were. The man is currently working on a new film about Frank Bullitt, the character made famous by the late actor Steve McQueen in the 1968 film, BULLITT, and he’s also produced the new INDIANA JONES movie, which is coming in June. Featuring hugely entertaining performances from Paul Dano, Michelle Williams and relative newcomer Gabriel LaBelle, it’s 87-year-old Judd Hirsch who steals the film in his five minutes on screen. Expect to see Hirsch take home the Best Supporting Oscar award in March. You read it here first.
Who better than Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann to make a larger-than-life biopic that is worthy of the King of Rock and Roll? ELVIS is full of colour and razzmatazz, fabulous costumes, split-screens and graphics popping up all over the screen, and a bitching soundtrack. Relative unknown Austin Butler shows audiences what an immense talent Elvis was and what a huge star he’s about to become. The young actor exudes early Brad Pitt-level charisma and it won’t surprise me if he picks up an Oscar nomination for this performance.
No one is more surprised than me that this film would make it onto this list but TOP GUN: MAVERICK is 100% pure entertainment. A far more interesting story than the original TOP GUN was (it’s certainly far less chauvinistic), MAVERICK soars high not just on its jaw-dropping aerial photography but on its reminder to all of us that Hollywood doesn’t make stars like Tom Cruise anymore. This film is so well done that the Chinese pulled their own TOP GUN-ish movie right before it was scheduled to hit the cinemas there and sent it back to post-production for a reworking.
3. The Banshees of Inisherin
I haven’t reviewed this film yet so you’re not going to find it on my website for a few more weeks but I have seen it. Oscar-winning writer-director Martin McDonagh reunites with his IN BRUGES actors Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell for this story ostensibly about the end of a friendship between two best friends who live in a small town on a tiny island off the coast of Ireland in 1923. THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is about much more than Colm simply not liking Pádraic anymore though, as the sound of gunfire coming from the mainland hints. The pair, and especially Colm, give new meaning to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Both Gleeson and Farrell are excellent here and Farrell may even take home the Best Actor Oscar this year. Also fabulous are Kerry Condon, who plays Pádraic’s long-suffering sister, and Barry Keoghan, who plays the village “gom”. If anyone will be able steal the Best Supporting Actor Oscar out of Judd Hirsch’s hands, it’ll be him.
2. Everything Everywhere All At Once
Another film that absolutely surprised me in a good way this year, EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE is a wacky, mind-bending romp that mashes together action, adventure, comedy, science fiction, fantasy, martial arts and more. It’s everything everywhere all at once. Michelle Yeoh leads the wonderfully game cast that includes Ke Huy Quan (“Short Round” from INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM), Stephanie Hsu (TV’s THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL) and Jamie Lee Curtis, and it’s hard to believe that Yeoh wasn’t the directors’ first choice to star. That honour went to Jackie Chan but he turned down the role and, when Yeoh accepted the offer, the Daniels rewrote the script with her in mind. She’s definitely a shoo-in for a Best Actress Oscar nomination and I predict she’ll win it too. If you haven’t seen EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE yet and the multiverse concept isn’t your thing, just let all your preconceptions go and enjoy it for what it is. At the end of the day, this is really just a story about acceptance.
Without a doubt, my favourite film of the year is this Indian epic from filmmaker S. S. Rajamouli, who already had a healthy track record for making hugely successful, big-budget films before this film came along. RRR landed on Netflix in May but it’s only now that many people are hearing about it because it has ended up on so many critics’ 2022 lists, and many of them, like me, have put the film at #1. The film, whose title stands for “Rise, Roar, Revolt” or “Rage, War, Blood” in the film’s original language of Telugu, tells the fictional story of two real-life revolutionaries who each waged armed campaigns against British colonial rule in India in the 1920s and ’30s. Though its doubtful that the two men ever met, in this story they not only meet, they become the best of friends. From the film’s cold open, RRR is a spectacle to behold with one set piece after another more OTT than the last. Arguably the best part of the film is the obligatory song-and-dance number, a frenetic and infectious ditty called “Naatu Naatu”, where the two men engage in a dance-off. The song has already made it onto Oscar’s shortlist and anyone who has already seen the film is hoping beyond hope that it makes it to the finals so that we can see the two actors perform it live on stage in Hollywood.
And now, my Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order):
A surprisingly entertaining horror film by first-time writer-director Zach Cregger. We need to see Justin Long in front of the camera more often.
Another solid performance from Aubrey Plaza, who proves once again that she’s just as good at doing drama as she is at doing comedy.
Guilllermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
The craft employed here is way beyond impressive but making it a musical was a huge fail.
Just as the US Supreme Court was undermining Roe v. Wade, this French film hit our screens and it couldn’t have been timelier. As the French say, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”
I’m Your Man (Ich bin dein Mensch)
Though Dan Stevens is probably best known to audiences as DOWNTON ABBEY’s Matthew Crawley, the actor continues to rack up one impressive comedy performance after another. Here, he plays a German-speaking robot who tries a bit too hard to be his owner’s ideal mate.
As with THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN, I haven’t reviewed TÁR yet so you’re not going to find it on my website but I have seen it. If anyone is going to challenge Michelle Yeoh for the Best Actress Oscar, it’s going to be Cate Blanchett for her performance here. The story, though, which echoes the career arcs of real-life maestros James Levine and Charles Dutoit, didn’t resonate with me.
Daniel Radcliffe as the King of Musical Parodies? It sounds too bizarre to be true but the British actor embraces Weird Al’s kookiness and this parody biopic is a hilarious winner.
The Woman King
This is another film I have seen but not yet reviewed. On the whole, I liked this film a lot (Viola Davis definitely earned her salary!), and the film’s fight choreography and editing are both impressive, but the story left me wanting. A couple of scenes, in particular, disappointed me and if you’ve already seen the film, you probably know which ones they are.
The Worst Person in the World (Verdens verste menneske)
Nominated for two Oscars last year, this film only reached our cinemas last May. It features a flirting scene that is hotter than anything we’ve seen on the big screen in quite some time!
And now the films that I thought were either absolute rubbish or were terribly disappointing. At the top of the list is Morbius, which was so bad that I couldn’t even bring myself to writing a review of it.
Wandering (aka The Wandering Moon)/流浪の月
Do you agree or disagree with my choices? What are some of your favourite films from 2022? Let me know in the Comments section below!
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