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The Films I Loved in 2022
The Motion Pictures That Moved Me
Every year, film critics and moviegoers alike pick out their favorite films that were released in the previous year. Oscar statuettes are given out at the peak of this frenzy.
Unless it is your job, who has the time (and money) to watch every film that is released in a calendar year? I certainly do not.
It has taken me months to watch a couple more here and there, but now in June of 2023, I am ready to finally share my favorite picks.
Before I reveal my personal favorite films of 2022, I have a little explaining to do.
Even though I am a filmmaker by trade (among various pursuits actually) and learned how to make films in college, I do not watch a lot of movies. I prefer to actively make a film as opposed to passively watching hundreds of them while finite hours of my life melt away. (To be fair, I read a lot of books, and that is also passive. But reading is an integral part of the creative work that I do.)
I have not watched all of the movies released in 2022. There may or may not be some amazing films that should be on my list. I might get to them eventually, but seriously, my time is valuable.
I do not believe that the American movie industry, aka Hollywood, makes the best films in the world. Despite its vast resources and clever marketing, other countries are making films that outpace Hollywood’s output in depth and scope. The rest of the world has caught up, and the richness I have been discovering as a result has been awe-inspiring.
I am as much interested in the craft and technical artistry of a film as I am in its story and plot points. I factor many technical elements into picking my favorites. I wish every employed film critic would be required to make a film (or be a crew member in one). They would understand the complexity that comes with fabricating an entire life and building a universe and an ecosystem on screen. I look to see how every element on the visual and sonic planes of the film serve the story—cinematography, lighting, costumes, set design, music, editing, etc. How beautifully and seamlessly did they do it? In my five picks below, they did it all masterfully.
Here in reverse order, are my favorite films of 2022.
Directed by Sarah Polley (USA)
The protagonists in this film are faced with an impossible, life-altering decision. I spent the whole time watching this film knowing in my heart what they needed to do and hoping that they chose that course of action. This is the type of film that everyone, regardless of gender and background, needs to see. At its core, it is a film about sexual assault and how society needs to deal with predatory behavior on all fronts. This is a difficult film to watch for all the right reasons. The plot was compelling. The film was beautifully shot on a farm in the middle of somewhere far away. The acting, from a deeply talented ensemble cast, was first-rate. What it lacks without glitzy car chases and ornate set designs, it more than makes up for in its austere, brazen courage of a voice—many voices actually, that have been silent for far too long.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (USA)
For the record, this film deserves every Oscar it was awarded. Hollywood seems to be intent on either recycling old classics (such as The Little Mermaid or how about the 50th or whatever reincarnation of Spiderman) or creating sequels with the same tired formula (dare I say “Marvel multiverse”).
But we have been blessed to finally see a film that is among the most innovative ever made and does not rehash the past. It is literally everything all at once—an action movie with crazy fight scenes, a romance, a mother-daughter story, an immigrant’s journey, a comedy, a surrealistic dreamscape, and more. This mighty, ambitious film takes every risk and does so with confidence and flair. Every actor gave 110% of themselves to this film. The fight scenes were incredible. I loved this movie because it dared to be all things to all people and did it well. Originality is never overrated, and this film is as original as it gets. (The romantic and tender scenes with floppy-sausage-fingers got me every time.)
Special note: To be a little geeky here, my top three are actually in more of a virtual tie, but my surprising #1 choice wins the prize for very personal reasons.
The Quiet Girl
Directed by Colm Bairéad (Ireland)
Anyone familiar with my artistic sensibilities can guess that I am a total sucker for elegant, understated films. This Irish film (with dialogue spoken in lilting Gaelic tones) hits all the right notes for me. It is drenched in themes of parental neglect, isolation, and the profoundly life-affirming effect of actively loving someone every day. The film’s premise is simple. A young girl from a big family is sent off to live with distant relatives for the summer. It seems innocent enough, but her arrival in the home of an older couple who run a milk farm starts to unravel something deeper and hidden away.
The entire film is carried on the small shoulders of the young actress Catherine Clinch who plays the title role. With all due respect to the Michelle Yeohs and Cate Blanchetts of the world, Clinch would have been my pick for best actress in a leading role if she had been nominated. She says everything without uttering words and imbues the film with a meek and delicate sense of shy loneliness. Her performance is the definition of understatement but is also so completely effective and endearing.
From a technical perspective, this film is stunningly, hauntingly beautiful in every shot. Its use of warm, natural light is poetic and marvelous. The entire cast is excellent. I have nothing but praise for this gentle little film.
This film is about finding solace in the acts of loving and being loved. Grab a warm drink and wrap yourself in your favorite blanket on a cold night if you watch this film. It will give you all the feels.
Directed by Lukas Dhont (Ireland)
This is an exceptional film (with dialogue in French) that explores the complexity of the friendships between boys. It approaches this dynamic with thoughtfulness and sensitivity. The story documents the lives of two best friends at the cusp of adolescence and the push and pull that comes with wanting to fit in and be like everyone else. There are truths that are left unspoken that give this film so much gravity and depth.
Men and boys, heterosexual or otherwise, do not typically openly express physical tenderness with each other and what is so endearing about this film is the sweet, innocent affection between these two close friends. The camaraderie and emotional bond they share run deep.
But this film, as gentle as it is, is also an emotional roller coaster. It is devastating in the most beautiful and heartfelt ways. I wanted to hug all my closest friends after I saw it. I also cried a lot. Sigh.
The cinematography is mesmerizing. I loved the shots of the boys running through fields of flowers and laughing. Its subtle but effective use of shadows, light, and color was not lost on me. Both young lead actors give raw, understated, but powerful performances. (Again, the entire cast is top-notch.) This film won the grand jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and it puzzles me that it did not garner a best-picture nomination at the Oscars. (It lost in the best foreign language film category, unfortunately.)
This is the kind of film I wish I could make some day—one with a tenderness that is palpable and comforting. I loved this film so much, and I will cry all over it again and again.
1. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Directed by Ryan Coogler
When I watched this film in a movie theater, I wanted to jump up in my seat, cheer, and do a happy dance. What lay before me was a big-budget, mainstream film that celebrated indigenous people, and I was supremely elated. Hollywood has long portrayed and vilified native people as primitive, savage, and heartless, such as old Western films that display native people as the inferior enemy of the white man and worthy of disdain. This has been and will always be a demeaning and insulting portrayal. I am personally DONE with all of that.
But in this film, the indigenous people are the main characters, and they are complex, emotional beings. They are powerful and exercise spiritual, medicinal, and protective practices that have existed for thousands of years. They are formidable and are the true stewards of the earth. I was beaming at the sight of such a beautiful notion.
In the real world of course, colonialism and the religion of a white Jesus never gave indigenous people a chance to fully exist and display their own inherent richness. This film imagines a world of strength and independence for native people. I am here for it and for a paradigm shift in how people of color and native cultures are portrayed in cinema.
This film has depth and is thoroughly entertaining. The costumes are gorgeous, and the entire production is of the highest caliber. It also handled the death of actor Chadwick Boseman within the franchise with grace and dignity.
To be fair, as a commercial Hollywood film, it does sensationalize indigenous cultures and does not explore the complex realities of the disastrous effects of colonialism in the world today. However, it is a step in the right direction toward films that have a broader awareness and representation of indigenous narratives and sensibilities. Overall, Hollywood did much better with this one, and it is my favorite film of 2022. I will watch it again, probably many times more, and I will be happy dancing every time.
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