2022 probably won’t be remembered fondly by history. War, politics and weather made last year one to forget. But, like sports and holidays, the movie industry never rests, and it had another banner season. From surprisingly nuanced blockbusters to the usual crop of quirky indies, 2022 had a lot to offer a distracted and depressed movie-lover like myself. Here are my personal Top Five films of the year.
First up is “RRR.” I’m not sure where to even begin with this movie. It is one of the most gloriously outrageous pieces of culture I have ever witnessed. Directed by Indian film legend S. S. Rajamouli, “RRR” is three quick hours of singing, dancing, fighting and overacting that made my face ache for all the smiling. The love of film that saturates every scene is infectious, especially when color and movement take center stage like a lead character. Every second of it works, even the most ridiculous ones.
Next is a film that could not be more different. “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” is a very small story, by contrast. It’s about an adorably wise seashell who agrees to sit for interviews about his tiny but emotionally rich life. The mocumentary style suits the voice talents of Jenny Slate perfectly since her innate sense of comedic timing smooths over the plain-sight editing required to fit the genre. And the choice to animate Marcel and his cohort as stop-motion inhabitants of our real world was a stroke of quiet genius. Sweet and moving, without even trying.
Anyone who knows me even a little could have predicted that I would put “After Yang” on my list. But then they would have to know that this movie even exists in the first place. Few do, sadly, but I’m hoping to change that. “After Yang” has so many of my favorite things: A near- future sci-fi setting. Lifelike AIs and some social confusion about how they fit in with the rest of us. And big unanswerable questions about identity, memory and sacrifice. The patience and monochromatic pacing of this story is testament to an antique kind of film-making that values depth over volume. I might watch it 20 more times.
Second-best on my list is a movie almost everyone, everywhere is talking about. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is simply the best representation of the multiverse concept ever captured on a screen. The creativity, the metaphorical richness, the madcap indulgence—it’s all perfect. Michelle Yeoh leads a cast of wily veterans that wring every drop of humor and humanity from the script, and their ensemble chemistry makes the big concepts of this plot feel bite-sized and relatable. It’s a triumph of acting and directing.
Last and most in 2022 was Martin McDonagh’s masterpiece “The Banshees of Inisherin.” This tale of idiosyncratic island culture in 1920s Ireland and the creeping insanity that often attends such remote isolation is a revelation, particularly in its context as a dark comedy. Colin Farrell (who is also in “After Yang”) and Brendan Gleason star as two friends at an impasse. The escalation of their low-boil, incomprehensible feud will be talked about for a decade. It’s somehow mute and epic at the same time. A film for the ages.
It’s the same every year. Movies are asked to fill the space left behind by our disappointments, and 2022 was a cinematic calendar with a lot of heavy lifting to do in that regard. Thankfully, for all of us, Hollywood (and Bollywood) were up to the challenge. Watch all five of my favorites and see if you agree.