After a weird couple of years, 2022 did feel (mostly) like a normal time at the movies. There were giant blockbusters (I see you, James Cameron) and more intimate tales (I’m listening to your talking women, Sarah Polley), which points to a well-balanced year for the silver screen.
There’s still a rather annoying trend of big movies going directly to streamers although this year offered glimmers of hope. There was definitely some schadenfreude to be had when I saw Netflix’s stock drop precipitously and, clearly desperate, they told shareholders that revenue would be acquired by adding commercials to the service despite Netflix being born as a commercial-free alternative to broadcast television. Conversely, Warner Brothers doubled-down on the theatrical model after a controversial year of day and date releases on HBO lost them their golden goose (Christopher Nolan) to Universal and had them shelving a live-action DC movie featuring Michael Keaton as Batman (for tax purposes?!?!?). And Disney is slowly learning that gambling on a streaming service isn’t the best long-term bet at profitability.
All to say that it’s heartening that the façades of streaming are starting to crumble and the cinematic experience isn’t as doomed as I may have thought in 2020. Movies are inevitably a much richer tapestry to envelop yourself in and provide an immersive environment that can’t be matched on your couch. Far more thought is put into what you see in a multiplex than in the fourth episode of that new HBO Max show you’re half-watching while eating a bag of Bugles and scrolling on your phone.
Which brings me to some really solid movies.
If the written word isn’t your thing, you can find the Video Top 10 list here:
For the rest of you, take a break from binge-watching and maybe go see some of these flicks…on the biggest screen you can.
10. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
Grab a parasol and head to the Seine because it’s time to cherish our time in Paris. Lesley Manville is unbelievably charming as the hard-working, responsible Mrs. Harris, who decides to follow a flight of fancy all the way to the Dior headquarters in the City of Lights. Her journey is filled with delightful characters and beautiful haute couture clothes all wrapped up in the longing to have just one nice thing in an otherwise ordinary life.
9. The Menu
You may want to think twice about forking over a paycheck for fine dining after reading The Menu. The cast is tremendous. Ralph Fiennes is the unsurprisingly perfect as a malevolent chef and Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, and Hong Chau round out a delicious cast.
In a year defined by insanely long runtimes, RRR was the three-plus hour movie with the least amount of fat. It jostles the viewer through a seemingly endless supply of inventive fight choreography, riotously enjoyable digital effects, and rousing musical numbers. It’s totally unlike any American movie made this year and Hollywood should definitely take note. Director S.S. Rajamouli clearly handcrafts every scene (the movie took years to make and features almost no second-unit photography) and watching it was the most exhilarated I felt at the movies all year.
Shot like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant and paced like a slow-burn thriller, Happening is an extremely tense journey through 1960s France. A young girl finds herself choosing between her academic future or becoming a young mother and converges with the social mores of the day. It’s incredibly well-directed by Audrey Diwan and the main character is played by the astounding Annamaria Vartolomei.
6. The Fabelmans
Spielberg’s being vulnerable! The renowned auteur takes a break from spectacle to turn the camera on himself with this autobiographical fable. Michelle Williams and Paul Dano play his parents and both characters are three-dimensional people capable of beauty and ugliness. It may not be the most feel-good Spielberg movie, but it’s a fascinating look at the early life of one of the greatest living directors.
5. Avatar: The Way of Water
You want pure spectacle? Take a deep breath and dive into the water because James Cameron’s got it for you. That’s right, the Na’vi are back and now they swim. By far the best visual treat of 2022. The amount of fish in a single frame of this movie is unbelievable and the last third of the movie is basically all climax. Imperative to see in a movie theater under the best possible conditions.
4. Glass Onion
There’s been a murder! Albeit a bit of a bummer that Netflix acquired one of the most inventive movies of the year (and has Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig contracted for another), that didn’t stop me from cackling at all the blindsides, backstabbings, and board games. While it doesn’t outdo the original film, Johnson smartly sets the story in a new locale with new suspects. I hope he at least gets to make a Benoit Blanc mystery for every season. I’m crossing my fingers for a ski-lodge-set installment where someone shouts “The mulled wine was poisoned!”
Just a good hang-out movie where three friends try to unravel a (real-life) conspiracy. Christian Bale, John David Washington and Margot Robbie are the chill chums who lose touch after a magical time in Amsterdam. David O’Russell manages to bring together a gigantic cast too numerous to name here, but they all serve as suspects, red herrings, and innocent bystanders. Poor Taylor Swift…
2. Women Talking
A movie that includes much more than just women talking. There’s also a man listening! Overall, it feels like a theatrical play in the best way possible with some of the best actresses we have in a barn loft trying to find a way out of an impossible situation. Also, you get two Lisbeth Salanders (Rooney Mara and Claire Foy) for the price of one!
Jordan Peele definitely knows what I like in a movie. Characters who are fun to be around, a mystery that gradually reveals itself, and a murderous chimpanzee. How does he know me so well? It’s a shame Nope didn’t get any (ANY?!?!) Oscar attention but at the end of the day it only matters that it’s a great movie. Peele reteams with Daniel Kaluuya, who plays a laconic horse-wrangler embroiled in an extraterrestrial conflict. Keke Palmer plays his charismatic sister in hopefully the first of many collaborations with Peele. Together, they team up with Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, and Michael Wincott to battle a threat they should not see. It’s a quality flick.
And lastly, here’s the only Oscar ballot that matters. Look on, ye mighty, and despair.
Will Win: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Should Win: Women Talking
Three movies overlap with my Top 10 list so of course I’ll pick the highest-ranking one for Should Win. Nope clearly should’ve been here but I think the Oscar tide is shifting in Everything’s favor.
Will Win: Brendan Fraser, The Whale
Should Win: Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
I’ll be happy if Fraser wins, but it would be great to see Farrell finally get some Oscar love after decades of solid work.
Will Win: Cate Blanchett, Tár
Should Win: Cate Blanchett, Tár
While the movie itself left me a little cold, the performance at its center is undeniable. Get your third Oscar, Cate!
Best Supporting Actor:
Will Win: Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Should Win: Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin
Both Brendan Gleeson and Ke Huy Quan deserve it. Whoever wins, we win!
Best Supporting Actress:
Will Win: Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
Should Win: Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
Although it would be funny to see Jamie Lee Curtis win for a character named Dierdre Beaubeirdra.
Will Win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Should Win: Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans
Maybe I’m old but gimme a shot that lasts longer than 12 frames.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Will Win: Sarah Polley, Women Talking
Should Win: Sarah Polley, Women Talking
Crazy that none of the actresses from Women Talking were nominated, but at the very least Polley will likely win here.
Best Original Screenplay:
Will Win: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Should Win: Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything didn’t really work for me (found it too long and sentimental) but I can’t be mad at it for winning. Although I wouldn’t be mad if McDonagh got another Oscar.
Best Animated Feature:
Will Win: Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
Should Win: Turning Red
Really strong category this year (The Sea Beast is the only read dud). I’d be happy with seeing Pinocchio, Marcel, Puss in Boot, or the kaiju red panda from Turning Red walk away with it.
Best International Feature Film
Will Win: All Quiet on the Western Front
Should Win: The Quiet Girl
I was charmed by the quiet girl! Sue me!
Best Documentary Feature:
Will Win: Navalny
Should Win: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.
I’m going to go ahead and say this is the best year I’ve ever seen this category. Not a turkey in the bunch, just a few kites (an All That Breathes reference for those in the know). I’d be happy with seeing any of these walk away with it.
Will Win: Mandy Walker, Elvis
Should Win: Darius Khondji, Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Really did not enjoy Bardo, but you can’t deny the movie is pure, unbridled cinematography. Elvis looked great, too.
Best Film Editing:
Will Win: Paul Rogers, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Should Win: Monika Willi, Tár
Everything will win because it has the MOST editing, but Tár’s editing finesse shouldn’t be discounted.
Best Costume Design:
Will Win: Catherine Martin, Elvis
Should Win: Jenny Beavan, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
The dresses are interwoven into the plot of Mrs. Harris. And they’re beautiful!
Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
Will Win: Mark Coulier, Jason Baird and Aldo Signoretti, Elvis
Should Win: Naomi Donne, Mike Marino and Mike Fontaine, The Whale
The fat suit (bizarrely) always wins but this year we’re in a battle of three fat suits! I’m going with Elvis because it has Tom Hanks in a fat suit and a sneaky Austin Butler fat suit at the end. Two fat suits! Better luck next time Brendan and Colin…
Best Original Score:
Will Win: Justin Hurwitz, Babylon
Should Win: Justin Hurwitz, Babylon
All Quiet might invade this category and win but I’m going with the ‘stuck-in-your-head-for-a-week’ mastery of Hurwitz. Seriously, listen to “Coke Room” and try to get that out of your skull.
Best Original Song:
Will Win: “Naatu Naatu” from RRR
Should Win: “Naatu Naatu” from RRR
Maybe the most locked category of the bunch? Exuberance personified. Can’t wait to see it performed on the Oscar stage.
Best Production Design:
Will Win: Catherine Martin and Karen Murphy; Bev Dunn, Elvis
Should Win: Florencia Martin, Anthony Carlino, Babylon
I’d love to see a Babylon upset here, but the King is probably going to take it.
Best Animated Short:
Will Win: An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It
Should Win: An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It
The odds are that either My Year of Dicks or The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and the Boring will win, but I get the sense that Pinocchio will trigger a stop-motion appreciation wave. Ostrich was clearly the best out of them all but, if hormonal teens and babies end up voting, I could be wrong.
Best Live Action Short:
Will Win: An Irish Goodbye
Should Win: An Irish Goodbye
Le Pupille had the biggest budget but An Irish Goodbye was the funniest. I gotta believe that counts for something.
Best Documentary Short Subject:
Will Win: Haulout
Should Win: Haulout
A real “you won’t believe it ‘til you see it” short film.
Will Win: Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor, Top Gun: Maverick
Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor, Top Gun: Maverick
Planes going WHOOSH is indeed very cool.
Best Visual Effects:
Will Win: Joe Letteri, Richard Baneham, Eric Saindon and Daniel Barrett, Avatar: The Way of Water
Should Win: Joe Letteri, Richard Baneham, Eric Saindon and Daniel Barrett, Avatar: The Way of Water
Come on, it’s gotta win something. Don’t upset the Na’vi!