Now that the bottom half of my top ten favorite films has been published, the remaining 5 are ready in the chamber to complete the list. 2022 has been a year to remember, a year of shattered box offices and a year that celebrated diversity in storytelling.
With that said, there were plenty of trips made to theaters this year and an abundance of wonderful and not so wonderful experiences to be had. Thankfully the good outweighed the bad, as it should with something so subjective as films. I don’t know what else needs to be said about the year in film of 2022 that I missed in my previous post. But, with all the films seen, I didn’t keep track of the actual number because, who has the time, there were several that I grew attached to that didn’t quite make my top ten list though they came very close.
Each year that I’ve had this blog, I’ve done an honorable mentions section and honestly, why fix what isn’t broken? So before I get into my top 5, here are my honorable mentions from an incredible year at the movies.
Bring on 2023 and another stuffed year of films to feast on.
Dog, Cyrano, The Adam Project, Turning Red, The Lost City, Kimi, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Cha Cha Real Smooth, Hustle, The Black Phone, Top Gun: Maverick, Lightyear, The Bad Guys, Good Luck to you, Leo Grande, Elvis, Nope, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Thor: Love and Thunder, Bullet Train, Prey, Thirteen Lives, Bodies Bodies Bodies, See How They Run, The Woman King, Causeway, Till, Tár, Enola Holmes 2, The Good Nurse, The Menu, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Decision to Leave, The Whale, The Batman, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, and Everything Everywhere all at Once
5) Women Talking
Released in close proximity to another similar subjected film, the Sarah Polley adapted film Women Talking is at its best and most dramatically tense when philosophical differences come to light and are discussed thoroughly. Nominated for best picture and best adapted screenplay at the 2023 Academy Awards, Polley has the strongest ensemble cast of 2022 at her disposal and knows exactly when to use them. Each of the talented actresses and actor is given their moment to showcase their skill through profound and poignant monologues and thought provoking idea sharing. Through its dialogue heavy narrative, Polley, cinematographer Luc Montpellier and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir build a suffocating atmosphere through a frantic fast paced and brutally honest discussion that doesn’t have a wrong path to choose from. In a small hayloft a small group of women that belong to an isolated Mennonite colony discuss what to do about being forcefully used and abused by the men who have all left to bail the accused out of jail. The women, along with the minutes taker played by Ben Whishaw come to three suitable options: Stay and Fight, Leave, or do nothing. The power in this film is brought out through its sense of healing for these women. Coming together is their biggest strength and Polley uses her strong screenplay to get the point across as honest and emotionally driven as possible through a muted color palette that raises the sense of urgency.
4) To Leslie
Every year many films go unnoticed by the general population until it receives award recognition. To Leslie is that film for 2022 and once the acclaim came to light for this remarkable indie film, the world will play catch up to see what was missed. Is the hype real? Absolutely. What was missed can be regarded as the best female performance of 2022 (sorry Tártheuists). Making only $27k in total box office, I can admit, I haven’t heard about the Michael Morris directed film until recently but, i’m glad I did because what Andrea Riseborough accomplishes as the titular Leslie is outstanding. Riseborough will open the floodgates of emotions in every scene and interaction she’s involved in. Leslie is a single mom, who won a modest sum of money in a local lottery vowing to give a better life to her son James, played by Owen Teague. 6 years later and every dime went toward fueling a destructive addiction to alcohol. As the film begins, we’re supposed to hate Leslie and Riseborough makes it easy through her realistic performance of a person consumed from the inside by a controlled substance. By the films end, Leslie becomes redeemable, getting a second chance at life and to prove that she isn’t just a “piece of shit” by those closest to her. But everything in between becomes powerfully driven by the notion of hope. Hope for a better life, hope to become sober and hope to recognize mistakes that were made and to learn from them. To Leslie is a special film about human nature and has its most sincere moments complimented by a music selection that understands the pain to grow and change bad habits.
3) All Quiet on the Western Front
If an anti-war film accomplishes anything during its runtime its this: Reminding us why war just shouldn’t exist and why it’s truly a horrible inhumane experience for those who served and fought in a war. The lasting effects of PTSD are just one sad example with plenty of films tapping into that state of mind to tell a story. All Quiet on the Western Front, a remake of the 1930 film of the same name and adaptation of the 1929 novel, puts the viewer in the point of view of a German soldier. During that time, nationalism was at an all time high during the war to end all wars – teenagers across the country signed up for the effort out of a sense of pride only to realize that war is a death sentence. Immediately, director Edward Berger captures the sensation of propaganda used to get the youth to sign up blindly without considering the heavy burden war will bring. Following Paul Bäumer played by Felix Kammerer as he is pressured to join the army though underage, Paul is looked at and viewed as just a number. Even the uniform he’s given has another name on it. Pride in ones country can only be stretched so far. Once the inevitability of death creeps in, surrounding Paul and his close group of brothers, it’s the moments of losing humanity that make this remake exceptionally profound and memorable among the greats of the genre. War is pointless and Berger along with co-screenwriters Ian Stokell and Lesley Paterson remind us how fragile a life is but how precious is can be as well. Captured poetically by James Friend, the film is at its best when recreating the major moments in WW1 like No Man’s Land and the struggle to survive.
2) The Banshees of Inisherin
Imagine being friends with someone for many years and one day that friend just decides they no longer wish to associate with you? And no matter how many attempts made, that once friend goes to extreme measures to keep the distance. That is the basic premise behind Martin McDonagh’s written and directed The Banshees of Inisherin. Of course we all know that a banshee is a wailing spirit and the films wailing spirits are two men Colm and Pádraic, played brilliantly by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson respectively. Banshees has an acute relatability to an older audience. As we get older, our circles become smaller, cutting ties to toxic people and those with bad intentions becomes necessary to our mental health. This much is true during the period Banshees takes place in. McDonagh crafts his film with sensitivity and a touch of lunacy behind both his main characters motivations. On one hand Colm wants to live out the remainder of his years in peace, no distractions or drama, just writing songs and having a pint or two every day at the local pub. On the other, Pádraic just can’t understand why anyone would hate him – he’s certainly persistent to get an honest answer out of Colm which Pad is too dull for Colm’s taste. Set against the back drop of the Irish Civil War, the film is contained to the small fictional isle of Inisherin. Surprisingly laugh out loud funny, and disastrously dark, McDonagh gets the best out of his two stars that reunite with their director after In Bruges. Balancing out the laughter is a film full of tender moments from the supporting cast that includes Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan. Immediately following the conclusion of this charming and shocking black comedy, trying not to say “are we having a row” will prove extremely difficult.
1) Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
About 13 years ago, a miniseries of shorts on YouTube premiered that featured a talking 1 -inch beach shell voiced by Jenny Slate with one eye and shoes on that would go on and capture the hearts of millions. A decade plus later and the creators behind those short films that were brought to life using a blend of stop-motion animation and live action would make their big screen debut. With the powerhouse studio of A24 behind them, first time director Dean Fleischer Camp would bring the world a bit of uninterrupted pure joy and happiness for 90 minutes. Fleischer Camp also stars in the film as a recently divorced man staying at an Airbnb alongside the most adorable in adamant object as Marcel searches for his long lost family of shells. What made the shorts magical returns here, all the puns, magical moments, ingenuity and most importantly the heart that Marcel wears on his sleeve as he explores a world of possibilities. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On reminds us that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it, to never lose our sense of adventure or our thirst for knowledge. To a small shell, the world is a scary place but seen through the eye of Marcel, nothing is too big – we all play a part in the world. Living with his Nana Connie, voiced by Isabella Rossellini, Jenny Slate returns to her role with a strong performance that reminds us all the power we hold when imagination is nurtured. Capturing the forced perspective of Marcel is cinematographer Bianca Cline, putting us in Marcell’s shoes. Everything Marcel experiences – Love, happiness, loss, heartbreak is felt on a higher level than Marcel could imagine. Despite how overwhelming the world can be at times and how small we truly are, to our loved ones, we are larger than life. Along with Alan (a pet ball of lint), Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is one of the most heartwarming films of the year that also pulls on the emotional heartstrings every now and then.