First things first: I fuckin’ love movies and know this is all subjective anyway.
But with the Oscar nominations announced, it’s officially Award Season in Hollywood, which seems as good a time as any to do a 2022 year-in-review for film. I’ve long since given up on Official Awards, but still enjoy keeping track of my favorites. (You can too, via Letterboxd.) Anyway. On with the show.
The biggest difficulty in discussing cinema is that there are movies and there are films. The difference really comes down to the ambitions of the filmmakers involved—are they trying to entertain, or are they trying to make something more substantial? I think of the exchange in 2009’s art-house indie, (untitled):
Monroe: What is the difference between art and entertainment?
Madeline: Entertainment never posed a problem it couldn’t solve.
When it comes to movies, I see it as a ‘square and rectangle’ situation: All art films are entertaining, but not all entertaining movies are art. My favorite cinema experience of the year—an opening weekend, imax screening of Top Gun: Maverick is proof of this. The movie is blatant military propaganda, but holy shit was it a fun time. It wasn’t trying to say anything other than, ‘please give the military more money for planes,’ but it said it in the most fun, tense, edge-of-your-seat way possible.
On the flip-side of that is Tár, which also looks at the idea of American exceptionalism through the backdrop of My How The Times Are Changing, but along cultural lines and without a push to create any narrative of one concept being better or worse than another. While Maverick was the best theater experience I had, this is the best film I saw in 2022 (and Blanchett gives just a mind-boggling performance, holy hell). Though the two aren’t really comparable, both were great. Thus, the movie vs. film dynamic.
Still then there is the personal favorite. Hackers is one of my favorite movies ever, but I’d never say it was award-worthy. For 2022, the only personal favorites of mine that got much attention for awards were The Banshees of Inisherin and Triangle of Sadness. My favorite overall—Crimes of the Future—is nowhere to be found (which I can understand). Surprisingly, though, Nope, Decision To Leave, and RRR also failed to get much ‘official’ attention. (The fact that the two latter titles were snubbed of foreign film nominations is criminal.)
To speak of just fun movies though, The Outfit, Jackass Forever, The Menu, Everything Everywhere All At Once, and The Northman all made actually going to the theater a great experience. Hopefully Hollywood continues trying to make movies that have nothing to do with comic books. (That said, The Batman was fun as hell, too.)
But much like with my music choices, the year in film also includes the past. In 2022, I saw The Turin Horse (2011), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), and The Card Counter (2021), which each vaulted to my all-time favorites list. Then there other incredible finds—There Is No Evil (2020), Transit (2018), Thoroughbreds (2017), At Eternity’s Gate (2018), Arab Blues (2017), and Possessor (Uncut) (2020)—which I’m bound to watch again at some point.
Finally, the failures: again, I see this as a ‘film vs movie’ situation, but in failed attempts. I’ve never walked out of a movie, but Amsterdam and Moonfall were two that tested my resolve on that this year. But they were just trying (and failing) to be a thing to watch. This is why Don’t Worry Darling has to be my vote for absolute worst trash this year, for it was so easy to see how much it was trying to be, while ending up as not much of anything at all. Fortunately, I know I’m not alone in my thinking, as by the credits people around me were laughing, and upon leaving the theater talking about how so very bad it was.
There are already a handful of titles I’m anticipating this year, but I am really looking forward to delving more into foreign films and going through the ourvere of specific directors—like everything Cronenberg did prior to Eastern Promises. And I’ll probably re-watch everything I posted about here. (Except the final three.)