2022 was a contradiction of sorts when it comes to film. The box office, for the most part, underperformed. While films such as The Batman, Top Gun: Maverick, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water did very well, there was a slew of very good movies which didn’t.
For every Jurassic World (which was unbearably bad) and Top Gun (which was amazing) which each crossed the billion dollar mark, there were beautiful films such as Dreamworks’ Puss in Boots: The Last Wish or Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans which grossed $80 million and $11 million respectively.
So what happened? I can say I didn’t see as many movies in theaters. After getting COVID for the first time and being knocked down for almost the entire month of November, I have become really shy about being in public places. So, I waited. I waited for the films to stream. Or, since I’m in the Writers Guild, I waited for the screeners to arrive. I call that, “Writer’s Christmas.”
I also believe that the ongoing pandemic, even with the feeling of it subsiding, has altered our viewing habits. It’s not necessary to see films such as Bros, The Menu, Barbarian or Pearl in theaters. They are just as effective on TV – especially if you have a large screen and soundbar.
Also, streaming and an array of compelling TV choices such as Severance, The White Lotus, Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon, Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power, We Need to Talk About Cosby are giving theatrical releases a run for their money.
And there’s my segue into money. It’s expensive to go to the movies. Once a somewhat cheap form of escapism, a trip to the theater will cost you somewhere in the $40-$50 range. And that’s if you go alone. I remember complaining a few years ago that I paid $35 for admission and bottled water to watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
With inflation through the roof and people trying just to buy food, it’s hard to spend $100 on a film.
However, don’t take this bleak picture I paint of the theater-going experience as the end all, be all. As with anything, I fully believe movies will make a comeback. We need movies and they need us.
So without further adieu, here are our “Best Films of 2022.” They are all 5 Ball Point Pen worthy.
11. Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu | Written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone
I know. I know. I said 10. Well, I lied. Deal with it.
You’re going to either love Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths or you are going to hate it. Clearly, I loved this gorgeous, complex film that is more akin to going to a museum and studying a painting than going to the movies.
This epic black comedy-drama film was co-written, co-composed, edited, produced, and directed by multihyphenate, Iñárritu. The film stars Daniel Giménez Cacho alongside Griselda Siciliani, and follows a journalist/documentarian who returns to his native country of Mexico and begins having an existential crisis in the form of dreamlike visions. It is Iñárritu’s first film to be fully filmed in Mexico since Amores perros in 2000.
This is probably Iñárritu’s most personal and imaginative film to date. Watch it in spurts if you can’t watch it all at once. It joins The Revenant and Birdman as a third triumph. Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is now streaming on Netflix.
Directed by Chinonye Chukwu | Written by Chinonye Chukwu, Keith Beauchamp, Michael Jp Reilly
I’ll just come out and say it – Till is one of the hardest movies I watched in 2022. But, the tragic story of Chicago teen Emmitt Till is also an uplifting tale of his mother Mamie Till-Bradley as she evolves from a devastated mother to someone trying to seek justice for her son in the racist south and finally, activist.
Actress Danielle Deadwyler gives an outstanding performance as she embodies Mamie and takes us on this ride. She should earn a nomination for this.
9. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Directed by Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson | Written by Guillermo del Toro, Patrick McHale, Gris Grimly, Matthew Robbins
Academy Award-winning director Guillermo del Toro and award-winning, stop-motion legend Mark Gustafson have reimagined the classic Carlo Collodi tale of the fabled wooden boy with a whimsical tour de force that finds Pinocchio on an enchanted adventure that transcends worlds and reveals the life-giving power of love.
The film is everything we have come to expect from del Toro. Pinocchio is filled with darkness, light, heartbreak, and love. If you can watch this gorgeous stop-motion masterpiece and not shed a tear you may be made of wood.
8. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Directed by Rian Johnson| Written by Rian Johnson, Ram Bergman
It has taken five long years for me to forgive pretentious director Rian Johnson for the debacle known as The Last Jedi. I hated so much of what he did to Luke Skywalker, it made me avoid the popular film, Knives Out.
So, I went to watch Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery with trepidation and a sense of duty of seeing as many films as I can. I’m glad I did.
Glass Onion is one helluva ride. Feeling like a close cousin to Mike White’s White Lotus, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is just the kind of exotic-located fun we need to end the year. Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc is a mixture of intelligence and absurdity as he is joined by Kathryn Hahn, stand-out, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson and Dave Bautista.
Whodunit? Rian Johnson did this time. Still not ready to forgive The Last Jedi. But this film goes a long way.
7. Emily the Criminal
Directed by John Patton Ford | Written by John Patton Ford
Aubrey Plaza has been around for some time now, starting with Parks and Rec. But I always felt like she was in the background. But with turns in The White Lotus and now, Emily the Criminal, Plaza is getting her due.
Saddled with student debt and unable to find work, Plaza’s Emily becomes involved in a credit card scam, acting as a dummy shopper for her eventual lover and partner in crime Youcef (Theo Rossi) and buying increasingly risky products with stolen credit cards.
Plaza takes the script and direction from John Patton Ford and creates a complex, multi-layered character. If she doesn’t get nominated (She is by the Spirit Awards) then that’s the real crime.
6. Everything, Everywhere All at Once
Directed by Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert| Written by Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Usually, I can predict what is going to happen in a film. Midway through The Sixth Sense, I told my ex-wife, “Oh Bruce Willis is dead.” Maybe that’s why we’re not married anymore. I’m that guy.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is an absurdist comedy-drama that tells the story of a Chinese-American immigrant, Evelyn, (played by the great Michelle Yeoh) who, while being audited by the IRS, discovers that she must connect with parallel universe versions of herself to prevent a powerful being from destroying the multiverse. You read that right. The film is as if Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry got together and had a baby.
The film is as unpredictable as Yeoh’s journey through multiple universes. It’s a rare piece of entertainment. Everything, Everywhere All at Once is streaming on Prime.
Directed by Ti West | Written by Mia Goth, Ti West
When I watched Ti West’s X earlier this year, I was okay with it. I didn’t hate the homage to the 70s horror icon, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But I didn’t love it. I wasn’t understanding many of the motivations for killing the porno film crew(besides being a porno film crew) Pearl, the old woman homesteader (played by Mia Goth) and her husband, Howard, held.
These confused feelings all evaporated when I watched the follow-up film, which is actually a prequel, Pearl. A slasher film that is an homage to 1950s musicals like Oklahoma, Goth reprises her role as a much younger Pearl. Levels better than X, we finally learn about the title villain’s unflinching aspiration for fame in 1918. The film is darkly funny and violent. Just wait for the scarecrow scene.
Watch Pearl first, then X. Can’t wait for the third film in this trilogy, XXX.
4. The Batman
Directed by Matt Reeves | Written by Matt Reeves, Peter Craig
Matt Reeves’ The Batman opened in March and his team of impeccable designers and actors have created one of the greatest Batman movies of all time. Move over, The Dark Knight.
Reeves created a dark and gothic world of Gotham City with Bruce Wayne living in a shadowy castle, almost dilapidated with a skeleton crew of staff including Alfred (Andy Serkis) and housekeeper Dory (Sandra Dickinson). BWUUUUM. BWUUUUM. BWUUUUM!
The Batman, after so many versions, turned out to be The Batman we needed and deserved. Now streaming on HBO Max.
3. The Banshees of Inisherin
Directed by Martin McDonagh | Written by Martin McDonagh
In the black tragicomedy, The Banshees of Inisherin lifelong friends (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) who find themselves at an impasse when one abruptly ends their relationship. While the film starts out pleasantly enough, it dives deeper and deeper into darkness as Gleason’s Colm tries to distance himself from Farrell’s Pádraic.
Throw in a cute miniature donkey named Jenny, you have an absurd and heartbreaking tale about friendship in an isolated village. The Banshees of Inisherin is now streaming on HBO Max.
2. Top Gun: Maverick
Directed by Joseph Kosinski | Written by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie from a story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks.
I can’t lie, I never saw the original Top Gun. I can’t give you a good reason why. I just avoided it. I had no desire as a teen to go rah, rah during The Regan era. But over the years, I have become a Tom Cruise fan. He is the one star who still continues to deliver a film that will make the audience enjoy their trip to the movies.
Top Gun: Maverick blew me away at how good it is. This is what a summer blockbuster is all about. Where almost every tentpole film was a bit of a letdown (looking at you especially, Jurassic World Dominion and Thor: Love and Thunder), here was a film that delivered characters we cheered for and action that was breathtaking.
Yes, it felt like it had elements of Cruise’s Mission Impossible franchise, but I’m not complaining. The film is also a thoughtful look at aging and where the AARP generation fit in a world devoted to TikTok. Go on with your 60-year-old badass self, Tom Cruise! Top Gun: Maverick is now streaming on Paramount+.
1. The Fabelmans
Directed by Steven Spielberg | Written by Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner
A deeply personal portrait of a 20th-century American childhood, Spielberg’s The Fabelmans is a cinematic memory of the forces, and family, that shaped the filmmaker’s life and career.
It’s truly a universal coming-of-age story about an isolated young man’s pursuit of his dreams, the film is an exploration of love, artistic ambition, sacrifice and the moments of discovery that allow us to see the truth about ourselves, and our parents, with clarity and compassion.
There are scenes in The Fabelmans that feel like they were lifted directly from my own childhood, causing this film to feel like a part of me. I love it. The Fabelmans is available on Prime and next month, Peacock.
Honorable Mention: Tár, White Noise, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Lightyear, Hustle, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Barbarian, Smile, The Woman King, Bones and All, RRR, All Quiet on the Western Front, Don’t Worry Darling, Thirteen Lives, Goodnight Oppy, X, Turning Red.
That does it for another year. There are other films I need to catch up on, and that’s what I’m going to do! Have a safe and happy New Year!
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The Geek is a working screenwriter, director and screenwriting instructor.