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The Top 10 movies of 2022


In 2022, the box-office continued to recover from the pandemic disaster. “Top Gun: Maverick,” the long-belated sequel to the 1986 pop hit “Top Gun,” became a box-office phenomenon, in spite (or because) of the fact that it is a retrograde celebration of frat-boy masculinity, as well as an advertisement for the military. Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” mourned the death of Chadwick Boseman aka T’Challa and has grossed over $787 million thus far worldwide. “Avatar: The Way of Water” made $435 million worldwide on its opening weekend, and was the fastest 2022 film to hit $1 billion.  Still, unless the film “holds” for several weeks, its grosses may not be enough for it to recover its massive production costs.

Dramas and comedies aimed at adults are still experiencing COVID-related shortfalls due to a drop in attendance at movie theaters by older audiences, who are staying home and watching films on their wide-screen digital TVs. Not even the widely-acclaimed, if also flawed critic’s darling “Tar,” featuring a monumental performance by Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett in the title tole has not done the sort of business it should have. From horror film buff and writer-director Jordan Peele, “Nope” unevenly wove African-American film history into a shaky alien invasion story. “Bullet Train” proved that Brad Pitt can still open a movie, even one that gets tedious. Speaking of tedious, “Don’t Worry Darling” was not nearly as delectable as the pre-release gossip concerning director Olivia Wilde and actor/singer Harry Styles.

The Michelle Yeoh-led art house entry “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has made over $100 million worldwide (Don’t ask me why.). “The Banshees of Inisherin” was undermined by writer-director Martin McDonagh’s obsession with mutilation. “Black Adam” tanked. “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” the sequel to the “Clue”-like 2019 hit film “Knives Out,” is another insubstantial Rian Johnson plaything. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “The Woman King” rode high for a while. Robert Pattinson took his turn donning the cape and mask in the soggy and bipolar “The Batman.” Coming off, “Dune,” Timothy Chalamet and “Lost in Space”’s Taylor Russell are cannibals in love in the not very good “Bones and All.” “Smile,” on the other hand, proved that smart, entertaining horror can still outperform. A star was born in “Elvis” with lead actor Austin Butler.

Here are my Top Ten Films of 2022:

 

“Cow”

This remarkable documentary is like a Frederick Wiseman film with a four-legged bovine named Luma at its core. This is a first documentary for British auteur Andrea Arnold (“Fish Tank,” “Red Road,” “American Honey”), and it has no (well, almost no) dialogue and no narration. It is a record of the life of a cow on a British dairy farm, a cow that experiences pain, sorrow and loss, mostly at the hands of her human owners.

“Holy Spider”

Based on a true story, this tale of a serial killer in Iran, driven by religious fanaticism and misogyny, holds you in it dreadful grip as you watch an endangered female journalist (Cannes award winner Zar Amir-Ebrahimi) deal with systemic misogyny as she attempts to stop the killer and succeed where indifferent Iranian police have failed. Iran-born director Ali Abbasi (“Border”), who currently lives safely between Sweden and Denmark, shot the film in Jordan.

“Mad God”

30 years in the making, Phil Tippett’s “Mad God” is an immersive journey to a world of utter madness, making it particularly apt for this moment in history. A faceless assassin wearing a gas mask and a helmet descends into an underworld springing from Tippett’s subconscious, where we encounter wretched monstrosities and listen to nightmarish sounds as we descend deeper and deeper. Is it a metaphor for life? Special effects and stop-motion master Tippett (Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope,” “Dragonslayer,” “Jurassic Park”) has made something unique and extremely frightening.

“Happening”

This powerful film from Audrey Diwan (it’s only her second feature) is based on a memoir by Nobel Prize-winning French author Annie Ernaux. The film tells the story of a young woman in 1960s France who needs an abortion, which is banned, so that she can go to university as planned and not be forced to be a mother. Featuring a riveting performance by Anamaria Vartolomei, “Happening” is a horror film that could not be more relevant in the year of the overthrow of Roe.

“Thirteen Lives” –

Dismissed by some as just another white savior tale in spite of the fact that it is a true story, Ron Howard’s “Thirteen Lives” is his best film since “Apollo 13” (I know; what is it with the number 13 and Howard?). Based on the story of the 2018 rescue of 13 Thai soccer-playing boys who were trapped in the Thang Luan cave system by monsoon rains, the film is a dark, claustrophobic nightmare with large parts of it shot underwater. Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen and Joel Edgerton ably play three of the hobby cave-diving rescuers.

“All Quiet on the Western Front”

A new German-made version of Erich Maria Remarque’s landmark 1928 anti-war novel (the 1930 Universal Pictures version won a Best Picture Academy Award), this new film, directed by Edward Berger, is a retelling of the story with a great cast and more realistic and terrifying battle scenes. In the role of Remarque’s coming-of-age protagonist Paul Baumer, Felix Kammerer delivers an award-worthy performance. This is the “All Quiet” we needed to remind us of what is happening on the ground in Ukraine.

“Decision to Leave”

This darkly bewitching South Korean film noir from auteur Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy,” “The Handmaiden”) is nothing less than a revisionist version of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece “Vertigo” with a strongly seductive turn by Chinese actress Tang Wei (“Lust, Caution,” “Blackhat”) as the film’s femme fatale. As the insomniac homicide detective investigating the murder of the femme fatale’s husband, Park Hae-il is also convincingly delirious and besotted.

“Elvis”

Baz Luhrmann’s biographical film about the King of Rock n’ Roll looks even better at year’s end, and Luhrmann’s decision to go with a virtual unknown now looks like the stroke of genius. Featuring a comically diabolical turn by Tom Hanks as manipulative manager Colonel Tom Parker and an eerily physical and spiritual evocation of Presley by the young Austin Butler, “Elvis” is a celebration of an American artist who serenaded a generation and whose music indisputably opened doors for others. Butler’s performance, like Ana de Armas’ underrated turn as Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde,” is completely mesmerizing and the beating heart of the film.

“Turning Red”

Domee Shi’s feature directorial debut from Pixar is a brilliant coming-of-age comedy about 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl, who turns into a giant red panda when her hormones get the better of her. A comic riff on themes of puberty, womanhood and Chinese cultural distinctions. “Turning Red,” which was co-written by Academy Award-winner Shi (“Bao”), Julia Cho (“Halt and Catch Fire”) and Sarah Streicher (“Daredevil”), is never less than inventive and delightful.

“The Inspection”

Boasting breakout performances by Broadway sensation Jeremy Pope and Gabrielle Union, Elegance Bratton’s debut feature is the gay version of “An Officer and a Gentleman” with Pope’s gay, young, homeless protagonist seeking redemption as a Marine and Union as his homophobic mother. Bokeem Woodbine and Raul Castillo also excel as drill sergeants. Bratton’s next film “Hellfighter” will be about WWI soldier and jazz pioneer James Reese Europe.

(Also noteworthy: “Causeway,” “Eo,” “Corsage,” “Living,” “The Whale,” “Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues,” “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” “Blonde,” “Wendell & Wild,” “My Old School,” “Benediction,” “Triangle of Sadness,” “Confess, Fletch, “Aftersun,” “Argentina, 1985,” “White Noise,” “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”).



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