As Vin Diesel would say, “da moovies.” After an empty 2020, and a rocky 2021, I think we mostly found our cinematic groove again in 2022. Of course, this all comes with the domino delay brought on by the pandemic. Some studios had pushed their slate back further, some resumed production, while others ramped up. It all culminated in a big year for new releases. (Comparatively. 2019 remains a mammoth.) Sure, it took a bit longer to shake off those day-and-date streaming plans and extend the theater exclusivity window. As far as getting back to the church, my soul found renewal last year. Cinemas were back, da moovies were back, and we are SO back, baby.
I did a halfway 2022 list in anticipation of what was already looking like a mega movie year. It’s a good thing I did because it helped me keep track of where I was at as a viewer. Very quickly, movies like Nope, Prey, and RRR easily slotted themselves onto a list that kept on growing. I thought I could maintain some long-standing rules of mine with these year-end top ten lists. But my Favorite Moments list only confirmed that I loved too many movies last year.
I clocked 17 of them that reminded me why I love this stuff. The medium, the immersion, the feeling, the experience. All I sought after a prolonged period of uncertainty was a fun time. That’s been my only barometer since making my way back to the marquee. Some movies gave me that, others and then some.
This list has gone through its own delay (which I’ll get to in an upcoming post, and the current state of this blog) so without further overdue, here are my favorite movies of 2022. BEWARE: spoilers for the movies that follow.
THE LOST CITY – Never underestimate the charm of Sandra Bullock. Her and Channing Tatum are surprisingly well Tinder-matched—Tatum the ultimate himbo to Bullock’s clumsy heroine. The Lost City is a sweet, breezy, guilt-free romance (if you’re not bothered by the age gap), and a genuine laugh-out-loud comedy. In a year where Laura Dern was forced to utter “he slid in my DMs” in Jurassic World: Dominion, The Lost City is the best case scenario for utilizing internet speak and earning good-natured laughs. Doesn’t crack the list, but this is a fun rental I recommend to anybody looking to stay in on a Friday night.
DAY SHIFT – I fuck with Day Shift. Not quite Blade, plays more in the From Dusk ’til Dawn and Fright Night zone. Throw in some acrobatic Scott Adkins action-ry and you’ve got yourself a kick-ass 90-minute romp. Day Shift mines genuine hilarity out of turning something extraordinary like vampire hunting into a mundane 9-5. It falls slightly short of greatness because it’s another one of those movies that’s got Meagan Good and neglects to use her. Still, stuntman-turned-director J.J. Perry knocks out a dope first feature.
SMILE – Smile is a movie that could’ve come out in the early aughts following The Ring, and I mean that as a compliment. Woman investigates an urban legend and finds she’s next in line in the long string of bizarre deaths. Smile is kinda in on the joke of horror movies being “about trauma,” while also being about trauma, and just as well remembers to be creepy, funny, and campy. It stumbles in its ending where it wants to have its cake and eat it too, and this gear shift nearly foils the wicked ride. Nonetheless, Smile is another fun horror movie in a year that kept delivering one after another.
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE – The multiverse saga to end all multiverse sagas. Frankly, this eats Marvel and DC’s lunches then shoves them both into a locker. Doesn’t quite make my list because two things. One, I became inundated with the insane Twitter discourse that soured the movie for me. No fault of the movie, just batshit reactions and readings that elbowed their way onto my timeline. (Not The Last Jedi levels of vitriol, merely a consequence of becoming an Oscar frontrunner.) Second, as far as maximalist action odysseys go, I had already seen Ambulance and RRR. I’m sure I’d be singing the film’s praises otherwise. Of course, this isn’t a consolation since EEAAO swept the Oscars. I guess that just leaves me to deal with my social feed.
BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER
It was lookin like there wouldn’t be an MCU movie on here. I’m not trying to be snarky, I’m just exhausted y’all. I think the amount of content squeezed into Phase Four damaged Marvel’s “event status.” The litmus test for these movies now seems to be “will this remain in the public consciousness until it arrives on Disney+?” (See: Eternals, Doctor Strange 2, Thor 4.) Like many, I was overwhelmed by Black Panther 2 in theaters. It’s impossible not to be. The movie is saddled with the passing of its titan. And it was a shot to the heart seeing it open with T’Challa’s death. Now, we don’t get Chadwick Boseman til the very end; we’re with Shuri trying to delay the inevitable until the thing we know already happened, happens. It brought me back to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and wondering why an actor’s passing had to be constructed as a scene in the movie. These were the humps I needed to get over. Because Ryan Coogler isn’t trying to traumatize fans or make a spectacle out of tragedy, but instead charting a path through the vigil.
When you lose someone, the world doesn’t stop the way life just did for you. It keeps moving, and it feels like salt in the wound that way. Why can’t I just grieve? Why can’t I begin again once I’m healed and ready? The burden falls unfairly on Shuri – once a sister, now an only child. She was T’Challa’s Quartermaster, the gadgets expert, the plucky sidekick, etc. Now the mantle of Wakanda’s leader and hero passes to her and it’s all too big and too soon. Is this honor? Or obligation?
It was hard to see the intentions of the story on a first viewing. Because Shuri lashes out. Because Queen Ramonda dies, which in itself felt like removing the salt cap—a death that does for Shuri what T’Challa’s did to Ramonda. Shuri gets selfish in her pursuit of vengeance, and she has every right to be. She goes down the same path her brother did in the arc of Captain America: Civil War to his debut, charting her own way forward to a destination of her choosing. The ending, when she (and we) are given that space to grieve… boy, it packs a wallop. Wakanda Forever is the rare Phase Four entry that got better on a rewatch, and the best the MCU has had to offer since Avengers: Endgame.
Steven Soderbergh is in his John Carpenter era: low-budget and efficient 80-minute thrillers. Like many Soderbergh films, KIMI is eerily prescient. Angela Childs (Zoe Kravitz) is a work-from-home tech monitoring streams of “KIMI” data – a smart speaker that’s become a fixture in every home. One day, she overhears a possible murder and unduly becomes the smoking gun in a corporate cover-up.
Rear Window for our eavesdropping, Google-searching compulsions. Soderbergh’s handheld aesthetic zeroes in on Angela’s introverted behavior as much as he quietly observes the sinister systems omnipresent in our day-to-day lives. Traffic cameras, phones, overhead drones—all pretty standard stuff since the days of Enemy of the State. Throw in our online behaviors into the mix like an undue rap sheet and we are mega screwed if we’re ever caught in a conspiracy. If there’s one saving grace in our highly digital age, it’s that with so much technology at our disposal, a lone agent like Angela has the tools to disrupt the system. These things are dependent on bandwidth and battery, whereas our fight for survival can activate at the drop of a hat. Or a Beastie Boys track. Pair KIMI with Soderbergh’s Unsane for maximum anxiety.
Also, between KIMI and The Batman, 2022 was weirdly a banner year for Zoe Kravitz overhearing somebody’s murder.
Much has been made about Steven Spielberg’s latest as a cinematic self alleyoop, that he’s celebrating the magic of movies—no, congratulating himself for creating movie magic. And I hate y’all for making me think so because I was not emotionally prepared for this movie. Yes, The Fabelmans is about a boy who goes to the movies with his parents and is inspired to make films of his own. But it’s also about how the 16mm camera enabled a husband and wife to put blinders on their lil wunderkind filmmaker to shield him from their dissolution. Less The Artist, more Marriage Story.
I highly encourage the 2017 documentary, Spielberg, as a double feature. He talks candidly about how his parent’s divorce shaped the thematic thread of broken families in his movies. Family was Spielberg’s—Sammy’s 24/7 cinema that filled life beyond the edges of the frame. His family’s separation then funneled the world into a narrow scope. On the one hand, The Fabelmans is celebratory of the art form and what it can do, but it’s mournful about the lifetime he spent using it. There’s joy in creativity. There’s also a limit to living in make-believe. Movies become an escape for Sammy in the worst ways; they’re distractions. Or they’re the photochemical lens allowing him to process his family’s turmoil, some in real-time, others years down the line. Each 16mm movie he makes becomes painful creative attempts to remake a happy home one frame at a time—and living in the lie that he can.
There are shots in The Fabelmans that gutted me that only Spielberg could capture. An empty father who will become a ghost in his children’s life, a portrait of a mother who’s manic energy is no longer entertainment but desperate, and a boy who realizes too late that he’s not doing this for an audience but for a household to gather in the same room again, but can’t because the house is gone. The Fabelmans is Spielberg at his most sentimental, and him at his most raw.
Kogonada’s Columbus lives like an intermittent daydream in my brain. His second feature, After Yang, brought the emotional overcast. One day a little girl’s android companion, Yang, malfunctions. Her adopted family, played by Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith, seek ways to repair their robotic member of the group and struggle with the unexpected emotional weight of it all. Yang’s prior role in the household – to share the same culture and experience – informs and exposes their daughter Mika’s own existence as an adoptee—part of, but not quite. Yang was as real an android there is, now a broken appliance they consider replacing. This loss probes Mika’s own sense of purpose and identity now that she’s without a common heritage, and ideas of existence (and the existentialism) only spiral from there.
My soul was not ready for such profound questions on our shared human experience. What did Mika’s attachment to Yang do? What do our attachments to each other do? And is that connection so special that it ought to last forever, or because it’s not supposed to? After Yang explores what it means to be and to belong, and finds that yearning to be human just might be life summed up as a whole.
DECISION TO LEAVE
If you’re terminally on film twitter like I am, then you’ve suffered the “sex scene discourse” – the notion that erotics are unnecessary because they don’t advance the plot. (Turns out if you’re online long enough, you CAN get your virginity back.) Leave it to Park Chan-wook to make a helluva compelling case that eroticism can drive the plot like a pair of loins, and can otherwise be the point outside of porn. Gazes, smiles, and close proximity evoke plenty of sensual spectacle. Role playing, of course, goes a long way. Detective Jang Hae-joon lusts for recently widowed Song Seo-rae, who happens to be the prime suspect in a murder case. A classic noir setup – the detective and the femme fatale. The fatal attraction that could see you both in handcuffs—an added danger and potential scandal that makes the seduction all the more potent, and destructive.
Park Chan-wook shoots this affair in immaculate frames. There’s a pleasure in precision, in the tiny details that pull our focus. Like an admirer’s eyes peering through the jagged edges of a park fence. The speck of glimmer in the irises. Or a bit of Chapstick shared while standing in the rain. (When Tang Wei put on lip balm or got her mouth swabbed, I did the steamy handslide from Titanic.) Hae-joon and Seo-rae’s body language was the sultriest sex scene of 2022, and this ain’t even X-rated. Fuck the discourse, who would you derail a murder investigation for?
I’d hate to make a superhero comparison here. Yet, this is ostensibly about Indian folk superheroes. This is what’s possible when the emphasis is on character and spectacle over threading a whole cinematic universe. Yes, superhero movies got spectacle. But these days I’ll take Raju and Bheem’s epic handshake under a fiery bridge over multiple Spider-Men assembling. Every set-piece in RRR left me breathless. Like Raju, initially an undercover agent of the British government, taking on a mob by the fistful of dozens. Or Bheem, the freedom fighter of the people, unleashing a caged animal kingdom on their oppressors.
Director Rajamouli is an action maestro conducting one chaotic symphony after another. And the wildest thing about RRR—it’s literally a movie about two guys becoming best friends. The bridge set-piece flows seamlessly into the most sincere “dudes rock!” montage since Rocky III: Raju and Bheem piggybacking on each other, running alongside trains, and playing tug of war. (As pals do, amiright?) I haven’t even mentioned the thrilling Naatu Naatu dance sequence, or its Kung Fu Hustle-style finale because, well, this whole thing needs to be seen to be believed. Even at a towering 3 hours, RRR left me wanting an encore. I wasn’t one for India’s crazy off-the-walls cinema. Now I’m wondering what the fuck else I’ve been missing.
Any movie that breaks Dry Wife Guy’s brain earns a spot on this list. (Putting this here for context.) Credit where credit is due, Rian Johnson is the premier sleuth writer of the century. There are only so many ways to do a whodunnit. Read Agatha Christie. See Columbo, Murder She Wrote, or any procedural of the 90s-2000s that bludgeoned the concept to death. In the immortal Southern accent of Daniel Craig, bah god Johnson will die trying to keep the format alive. In this bigger and better sequel, renowned detective Benoit Blanc gets invited to a murder mystery party on a billionaire’s private island. The setup is distinctly meta without making too big a deal about the obvious. Like how Knives Out was about solving a mystery writer’s murder.
The first act of Glass Onion establishes a tableau of scene-stealing suspects as neatly as its predecessor. Then Johnson blows up the traditional Christie plot structure. There’s a twin in the story we didn’t know about, where we revisit the same events through a new lens. Then it’s not about an imminent murder, but solving the one that already happened. If Knives Out was his perfect imitation of a Christie novel, then Glass Onion is the perfect disruption. Dry Guy can rant all he wants. Because to be fair, Johnson did not invent this stuff—no more than he did the notion of a secret twin. (Again, see the aforementioned procedurals.) He knows he’s standing on Christie’s desk. But the way in which he breaks apart the murderous Rubik’s cube and molds this duplicitous labyrinth is certainly of his own making. We know where this is headed. In fact, the jig is up by the end of the first act. As always, it’s about the journey, not the destination. Or in this case, it’s about the detecting, not the who that dunnit.
All-timer revenge movies are an exclusive club—and that club’s bouncer is Russell Crowe in Gladiator. On its face, Robert Eggers is a curious choice to do battle with an elite fray. Turns out he’s not just a history buff, but a swords ‘n shields buff as well. His obsessive eye for detail is part of the immersive experience, along with gorgeous long shots that sweep across the bloodshed. Alexander Skarsgard is the Viking badass to end them all; Anya Taylor-Joy is as weird and scary as ever—matched by a game Nicole Kidman in the 3rd act; and Claes Bang is a worthy Uncle Scar to Skarsgard’s roaring lion. (Skarsgard and Bang are roughly the same height, and the equilibrium of their silhouettes in the final fight is so so satisfying to witness.) I said this in my halfway 2022 list but it bears repeating: The Northman is the Elder Scrolls movie I always wanted, full of raids, stealth missions, side quests galore, and spell-binding NPCs guiding the way. There’s a sword to claim that can only be drawn at night, and – I shit you not – an epic boss fight atop an exploding volcano. Good shit.
Sadly, I did not see this in theaters. But I did get to see this with cousins who have had less than stellar stays at an Airbnb, and it was the most riveting horror movie experience of the year. Tess finds herself in prime horror territory: her rental’s been double-booked by Pennywise, and she still chooses to stay. Tess, of course, doesn’t know she’s in a horror movie nor is aware of the rules. But we are and we bring this knowledge with us as she breaks the most sacred rule of all: don’t go into the basement.
Barbarian fiendishly weaponizes its setup and casting. Bill Skarsgard and Justin Long occupy the “nice guy” role with devious layers to unravel, and newcomer Georgina Campbell is the final girl whom we can project all of our irrational fears onto. I dare not spoil this movie even now, months later. I can tell you that my guesses for what was gonna happen next were wrong every step of the way. Based on my cousins’ reactions – who have yet to disclose the harrowing details of their Airbnb experiences – Barbarian played more like a documentary to them than make-believe. When Tess finds out what’s beneath the rental, the room cleared OUT, and I was along for the ride. So I guess I’m double-booking me a stay on my next trip to find out 😃
Prey had no business being this fucking excellent. The magic-hour cinematography alone is breathtaking. This prequel/reboot had a low bar to clear courtesy of diminishing franchise returns. (2018’s The Predator found dead in a ditch.) Dispensing with any sequel-teasing nonsense, director Dan Trachtenberg takes the concept back to the basics of a gnarly creature-feature, and a bare-bones survival story. All deference to that last entry, but why try to evolve the series when the invisible outline of the Predator forces everybody to up their game?
To be clear, any scenario against the Yautja is straight up unfair—in a Colonial America PvE arena especially. He’s got laser-guided everything, meanwhile fur-trader pistols can’t shoot straight for shit. It’s an uphill battle already for Naru, a Comanche woman relegated to her gatherer status in the tribe. Like her male peers, the Predator underestimates Naru’s tomahawk skills on the battlefield, and she discovers her own kind of camouflage in the process. Amber Midthunder gives a throwdown performance as Naru, while Dakota Beavers’ Taabe had some of the dopest moves with a bow and arrow I’ve ever seen. (Hawkeye also found dead in a ditch.) The redesigned Predator didn’t disappoint either. My ugly guy sounded mean as ever; I just wish I could’ve experienced the Yautja’s glorious shriek in theaters. Alas, between Prey and 10 Cloverfield Lane, Trachtenberg has cemented himself as the next great sci-fi horror filmmaker. Give him a shot at Alien when 20th Century reboots it again in 5 years.
In the pompous era of “elevated horror,” Jordan Peele came galloping through with a classic horror feature that’s part Western and part alien movie, one that subverts the coveted Spielberg gaze. If seeing is believing in Close Encounters of the Third Kind or E.T., then in Nope, seeing means certain death. That’s a hell of a story point in a visual medium of all things, and Peele keeps gunning for the jugular. We look too often when we shouldn’t; we love consuming a controversy as much as we crave the spectacle of a real-life tragedy. It’s all part of the fucked up business we call show, a beast that chews people up and spits them out. Jupe’s absent eyes tell all, where no lessons are learned from such harrowing ordeals except how to turn a higher profit.
The Gordy’s Home flashback chilled me to the bone. Flash forward to Jupiter’s Claim when the shoe drops on Jupe and his audience who will be given the show-stopper of their lives. (The woman’s scream when she realizes they’re not being funneled through an alien ship but are actually inside a massive creature and being slowly digested is so so so distressing.) My favorite set-piece of all is the “Raining Blood” sequence, which sustains the minute-by-minute terror of something like the Tyrannosaur paddock scene in Jurassic Park. How Nope got shut out at the Oscars is befuddling, yet also lays the point of unsung artists like the Haywoods who will never get the credit they deserve.
Get Out remains Peele’s best feature. Nope, however, just might be his most rewatchable.
The ‘90s are back and so is Michael Bay. I know that’s not an occasion for some, but in an IP landscape that copies and pastes one another, Bay’s in-your-face maximalism is reassurance that a person was behind all this, not an AI. A bank heist goes terribly wrong – or terribly right for this sicko viewer – and explodes into a hostage situation at 120mph. Bayhem is cranked to 11 (thanks to Bay’s new favorite tool: drones), cars defy the rules of the road, and an onslaught of sirens and bullets go off in the gauntlet of American capitalism. Ambulance is the kind of thrill-seeking action picture he used to make with Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, and of the frenetic-style moviemaking that would make the late Tony Scott proud.
Sure, this is a Michael Bay movie that shouts out his other movies. (There’s an inherent Bad Boys reference, and a character literally quotes The Rock.) Believe it or not, this is Bay being “subtle.” Yet, Ambulance is in line with The Rock and 13 Hours where he’s not hoisting the patriotic flag but lowering it. When a country kicks its veterans to the curb, whom get shipped across oceans in the name of “freedom,” while police get to play army at homefront—on city streets filled with homeless, then it’s not a land of the free, but a free-for-all. Bay’s bluntness tears it all down: the American dream is dead, and the only way out of the system is through.
It’s not enough that Suzu loses a mother, who dies trying to save a drowning boy. In the internet age, she has to endure everybody’s comments on the matter, and this cruel exposure cuts her off from the world. Because the world wide web is a crushing river where empathy goes to die. Belle is one of the few movies that nails how insane being online really is. The things we do or say, and the avatars we create like a yearning for reinvention. Or self-expression. As Belle, Suzu rediscovers her voice and agency in the digital realm. (“Lend Me Your Voice” and “A Million Miles Away” turned me into a human puddle.) And Kei, as the Beast, lashes out in ways he can’t in his real-life. In the void of social media, we’re all just crying out for help. And the bond that forms between this beauty and this beast isn’t one of romance, but understanding. Suzu learns what it means to risk yourself for someone in need, and finds closeness and closure in a mother who had shown her how. (Again, a human puddle.)
Belle was the Digimon movie I didn’t realize I wanted back in my life, and is perhaps the most tender plea for empathy in an increasingly digital world. For all of our likes and shares, compassion can’t be measured in numbers; it has to be shown. It has to be felt. So if we can reach one person in the cacophony of nonsense, then maybe it’s not a complete hellscape. Let’s just, you know, have some decorum in the comments section.
Where some found Mei’s larger-than-life personality “overwhelming,” I found her endearing. And where others found this “unrelatable,” I thought this shit was universal: kid born to overbearing parents is caught in the tug-of-war between being the perfect child or being herself. Is this not the conflict of any ‘80s coming-of-age movie? Or was Mei’s Chinese heritage simply a bridge too far for you? (Moreover, was the period analogy too much adolescence in a movie? Or is teen boys building their ultimate sexual fantasy in a John Hughes flick the more appropriate thing here?) But I digress.
Turning Red is another instant Pixar classic that I wish I had growing up. It gets how fucking weird and embarrassing puberty is, and how the “talk” with our parents hardly clears things up. I know some would rather have a definable villain in their Disney content like the good old fairy tale days, but I am a huge fan of these recent batch of stories that contend with cycles of familial repression. (It’s therapy and a good time! Now that’s a 2-for-1!) Turning Red simultaneously drums up an era we’d like to stay hidden in our closet space – the boy band era. And it finds something sugary sweet in the trenches of nostalgia—that it’s not just about the media we go apeshit over (panda-shit?), it’s the weirdos we form our own boy/girl bands with along the way.
This is flat-out the most replayable comedy I’ve seen since 2018’s Game Night. (Visually, this thing is a riot.) It’s a hoot and a holler, it’s the animated movie last year that my daughter and I couldn’t get enough of, and one that encourages you to be your own weird self in the most ferocious way possible.
Any other year, The Batman would’ve been my favorite movie of 2022. Instead it’s #3, and that’s less to do with quality, more so the mega movie year that 2022 was. Alas, Matt Reeves gave me the Caped Crusader movie I didn’t realize I’d been secretly wanting. Emo, brooding, seething, a down ‘n dirty detective story in the vein of The French Connection… Did I mention emo? (The gothic real estate it took up in my brain. I brought my bangs back!) Frankly, I was all in by that first jaw-shattering teaser. After the first 10 minutes, in which Michael Giacchino’s operatic score reintroduces this dark and stormy Batman, I was fucking game for Reeves’ vision. And this is all before the Nirvana needle drop. (The real risk would’ve been a My Chemical Romance or Linkin Park track. But y’all ain’t ready for that.)
Hot take alert: there’s never been a bad Bruce Wayne. (Solo movies only. No hard feelings, Batfleck.) Yes, I have a childhood affinity for Val Kilmer and George Clooney. Following Michael Keaton and Christian Bale’s footsteps is no tall order. And yet, Robert Pattinson might be my favorite interpretation out of the bat colony. He’s in the Batsuit for ¾ of the runtime, which is to say this is a proper Batman movie. Pattinson treats the cape and cowl less like a therapy session and more like the battle scar that formed over. It’s not part of him; it is him. So any occasion where he has to be Gotham’s favorite son is a drag for him. That’s my guy. This Batman suuuucks at social functions, journals til his black heart’s content, and has eyeliner in his pockets at all times and it RULES.
Six years ago it seemed the well of potential for Batman had dried up. Now it seems endless where they can go. Is The Batman 2 gonna be a movie-monster fight with Farrell’s Penguin? Is he gonna take on Riddler and his new pal at Arkham Asylum? Is Zoe Kravitz’s sultry Selina Kyle gonna go latex vs. latex with the Batman, or will he and Gordon simply enjoy a cold one beneath the Bat signal? I will follow RPatz Batz down the deepest and darkest alleys. Or I’ll happily chill in the Batmobile 🤗
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER
Nobody does a sequel like James Cameron. Avatar: The Way of Water may be the ultimate one at that—set in Cameron’s favorite biome of all: the ocean. And he brings his entire filmography with him. The Space Marines from Aliens are deployed on the Sully family, with a resurrected Colonel Quaritch leading the charge like a Terminator with a singular mission. (Quaritch as a Na’vi is essentially speed-running through the events of the first Avatar.) The deeper dives into the ocean’s depths just screams The Abyss, and the film’s final epic hour – when the uber military ship starts filling up with water – I knew Cameron couldn’t resist a Titanic set-piece.
Cameron knows that there’s no evolving the pen and paper. Everything that can possibly be done on the page has been done to death. (And, perhaps by charting the similarities with his previous films, I suppose there’s a limit to what Cameron’s pen can do too.) The one thing you can innovate: the delivery system in the theater. The Way of Water is a 3D experience unlike any other. Every scene in the water felt emotional to me, which is to say ⅔ of the movie opened up a well of emotion inside—aided by a whale of emotion. The shot above with Payakan made my heart burst.
These are images I’ve never seen before. The Way of Water’s second act is basically a free-floating water montage that keeps one-upping itself. One moment, the kids are taking their first dip; the next, they’re bonding with Ilus and Skimwings, and then they’re interacting with the whole underwater ecosystem. At a certain point, Cameron stops spreading these scenes out in between Quaritch and his squad closing in, and just keeps rolling the spectacle one after another. Lo’ak does freestyle tricks off of Payakan, then we cut to Kiri and Tuk arriving at the Cove of the Ancestors. And before we’ve had our fill with Payakan, Cameron has a pod of Tulkun breaching alongside the other sea life we’ve been introduced to for the past hour. It’s an audiovisual euphoria that just builds and builds and builds.
The Way of Water was the vacation my heart and soul needed. I saw this with my daughter FOUR TIMES in theaters. Big Jim, we are all in on 5 more sequels, baby, let’s GO.
TOP GUN: MAVERICK
Ambulance, Belle, Turning Red, The Batman, or Avatar: The Way of Water all could’ve easily been my top favorite movie of 2022. The Way of Water came the closest, but there’s another movie that worked as a breathless roller coaster without the 3D glasses. There’s only one top…and it’s Top Gun: Maverick.
The retro main titles sequence was a surreal time-traveling vehicle in and of itself. The shots at dusk already took my breath away. Then that damn Kenny Loggins track came blaring, and I was ruined for the rest of the movie year. I was physically and viscerally unprepared for the ride that followed. Most movies would build to an emotional high like the Darkstar sequence. In Maverick, it’s the first 15 minutes and but one peak in its high-flying death valley.
In between opening speeds at Mach 10 and an impossible mission of a finale, we get an old-fashioned sports movie. Or the tried-and-true grooves of a heist movie. The conduit is much the same—a team being whipped into shape, prepped for all possibilities, and in the end having to improvise when the game is on. All of this is a cliche we know by heart, jingoism and all. There’s the stern captain vs. hotshot across varying levels of rank. There’s the team bonding moment, and then the accident that humbles everybody. But the magic of Maverick isn’t that it subverts any of this, it’s that it uses all of these familiar gears to get across the finish line, and breaks a new emotional record for something that was once considered the peak of male excellence and the military industrial complex. The scene at the carrier’s end zone is so simple (It’s what my dad woulda done) yet the happy ending of it all gets me every single time.
I might get lost sometimes intellectualizing the cinema I like. Top Gun: Maverick reminded me that movies can just be a fun Sunday(s) with the family. Analyze its legs at the box office all you like, and whether a thing needs an interconnected universe or an ongoing “cultural impact” to break big. It’s a movie that fucking WORKED, and sure as hell worked for me and mine. Doesn’t get any simpler than that.
2 thoughts on “Favorite Movies of 2022”
The Northman was criminally overlooked for awards. (Not surprised about Nope though horror usually goes I think Get Out just reached such heights they couldn’t ignore it.)
Yes! Northman should’ve gotten a nom for cinematography or production design, at the very least the technical categories. Northman otherwise still rips tho and seems primed for rediscovery when it gets added to Netflix or something 🙏