From an axe-wielding psychopath to a singing crocodile, my 2022 Best Films of the Year List is one of my most eclectic. This is a testament to the power of storytelling this year and all of the extraordinary voices and performances that categorically floored me. Every year, the death of cinema is opined and then fiercely silenced by the avalanche of talent we are gifted in the cinema and at our homes. This year was no exception, and more than ever I am a believer that contemporary filmmaking will continue to thrive.
A technicolor nightmare that left me in complete awe. It’s savage, mesmerizing and unflinching in its portrayal of a young woman named Pearl who has big dreams of becoming a star one day. Nothing and no one is going to stand in the way of her walking down that bloody brick road to fame – not the 1918 influenza pandemic during which this film is set, or her suffocating parents. I got the same sense of glee watching Mia Goth wholly go unhinged as Pearl, that I do when Albert Brooks explodes with frustration in his films. Goth is electrifying down to her Persona-style monologue at the end. This is an exceptional piece of filmmaking.
2. AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER
I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest for the last hour of Avatar: The Way of Water. James Cameron is the director that made me fall in love with movies at 14 with Terminator 2: Judgment Day and this film is another stunning cinematic achievement to add to his filmography. For the third time in his career, Cameron delivers another spectacular sequel that is superior to the original in terms of storytelling, world building, special effects, sheer ambition, and heart.
3. AFTER YANG
An incredibly poignant science fiction story in which parents can adopt sibling robots as companions for their children. Yang is one such robot and one day, he inexplicably shuts down to the devastation of his family. Colin Farrell plays the patriarch who is desperate to find a way to fix him and restore his nuclear family. In this process, he learns Yang was so much more than the sum of his robotic parts and goes on a life-affirming journey exploring the human/not-so-human condition. Not since my viewing of Phantom Carriage back in 2019 have I experienced an ugly cry of this magnitude.
Alex Garland’s Men is breathtaking on so many levels, from its gorgeous cinematography to the staggering performance by Jessie Buckley. It’s also haunting, disturbing and absolutely terrifying. I thought at times that I was going to jump out of my skin from utter terror during this riveting film which tackles trauma and grief. Garland is rapidly becoming one of our greatest living filmmakers with a body of work that would no doubt be admired by another master which he paid tribute to in this movie, Ingmar Bergman.
As we grow older, looking back at memories from our youth reveal insights that may not have been clear to us back then. A little life experience can change our perspectives about those that were closest to us and this achingly beautiful story shows us how they can bear heartbreaking truths. Aftersun follows a young father, Paul and his 11-year-old daughter, Sophie on a vacation to a Turkish resort one summer set in the 1990s. In Charlotte Wells’ directorial debut, she fills the film with unassuming moments of this pair as they swim, dine, and laugh together with subtle hints of melancholy and coming of age encounters for Sophie. It’s not until the third act when Paul starts goading Sophie to dance with him to David Bowie and Queen’s, “Under Pressure” that the full weight of the movie came crashing down upon me. This is a profoundly moving and special movie about the power of memories. It deserves to be celebrated for all that it is and solidifies Wells as a true directing talent.
6. THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN
A lifelong friendship abruptly ends when one friend grapples with his own mortality and decides he wants to spend the rest of his days building his legacy instead of in a banal brotherhood. What ensues is a hilarious and sometimes shocking battle of the wills at reclaiming a sense of companionship and quest for life’s existential questions. Colin Farrell in his fourth brilliant starring role of 2022 is wonderful as the rejected friend trying to make sense of a possible future without his beloved pal. Martin McDonagh reteams Farrell with the great Brendon Gleeson and a charming ensemble cast for this clever Irish tale.
A searing character study of a virtuoso conductor named Lydia Tár who gets so wrapped up in her own power and ego that she doesn’t pick up on the signs that her life and reputation are quickly deteriorating around her. Cate Blanchett magnificently plays Tár as the abrasive, defiant, proud genius in Todd Field’s third remarkable feature length film. It’s an explosive and blistering performance worthy of heaps of awards and makes for a captivating watch.
Jordan Peele packs this sci-fi/horror story of unexplained UFO sightings in a Southern California desert with subtext about the public’s fascination with celebrity, spectacle and the desire for stardom despite the irreparable harm it may do to one’s psyche. Beyond all this subtext, it’s also a wildly thrilling, funny and intelligent film that offers tension fueled visceral scares cementing Peele’s status as one of the preeminent horror voices of today.
9. TOP GUN: MAVERICK
An exhilarating, crowd-pleasing sequel that surpasses the 1986 original while lovingly paying tribute to it at every aerodynamic turn. It’s difficult these days to create a taut, exciting, sharp movie that is a cross demographic megahit, and Joseph Kosinski expertly crafted one for the ages. Top Gun: Maverick will be embraced for years to come as a reminder of why we love movies and the theatrical experience.
10. LYLE. LYLE, CROCODILE
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is unapologetically earnest and I loved every second of it. I let it completely wash over me from the warm hued color palette, the vintage yet modern wardrobe, the delightful score, soaring original songs, to the wonder and magic of a story of a crocodile that transforms a family into their best selves. I truly believe it’s destined to be a classic.
Honorable Mentions: DECISION TO LEAVE, SHE SAID, ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED, THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD, GOOD NIGHT OPPY, TRIANGLE OF SADNESS, THE FABELMANS, THE BLACK PHONE, THIRTEEN LIVES, MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON