I watched fewer movies this year. It wasn’t intentional or a choice, but—with nearly half the entries than 2021—I focused on other things. That said, I still watched 80 movies for the first time in 2022 and found some new favorites amongst them. I re-watched about 50 movies this year too. Thanks to OcTerror and academic research, I found plenty of new horror. With the theaters operating semi-normally again, I was able to see a handful of movies on the big screen. While there is a bit of variety in my films, horror is still the overwhelming majority.
Thankfully, we have a few rules to help narrow down our selections:
- The film must have been watched for the first time in 2022 but didn’t have to be released this year.
- I’ll write an explanation about why this made my favorite list.
- If a film is missing that you think should be on the list, please remember maybe I saw it and chose not to include it or haven’t seen it yet. These are my personal choices. If you’re curious about my viewing habits, follow me on LetterBoxd under ReadingMalone.
Due to the smaller volume, it wasn’t as hard to choose the ten films I believe will stick with me beyond this year, or that helped make it a wonderful one.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Sure, I knew the basic plot of this Christmastime classic, but I’d never seen it or the 90s remake before. Macy’s hires a mysterious and jolly man to play their seasonal Santa Claus at their New York department store. To the amazement and ire of many, the man claims to be the actual Santa, and this leads to various consequences. While not all of the plot elements have aged well, most of the heartwarming aspects are still there. The theme of the power of belief helps carry this, and Susan (Natalie Wood) makes for a perfect counterpart to Edmund Gwenn’s Santa. Definitely a film that will be added to the seasonal re-watch list.
The Bad Seed (1956). This was one of my favorites from OcTerror, and I love how it defines and plays with the ‘creepy kid’ subgenre. Christine Penmark grows suspicious of her daughter Rhoda’s behavior following the tragic death of one of her classmates. As an adaptation of a novel and play, the theatrical elements are really on display here. While the dramatic monologues and mostly static setting won’t work for everyone, I really enjoyed it. Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, and Eileen Heckart deliver stellar performances. The nature vs nurture debate is a classic among horror villains, and little Rhoda is a perfect example. While the ending is pure studio schlock, the idea of the original is enough to truly horrify. A fantastic addition to my knowledge of horror classics.
Raw (2016). The title of Julia Decournau’s film is apt. This film is full of rawness—in its emotions, its cinematography, its subject. Justine, a vegetarian, is put through the rigors and hazing of veterinarian school, and—after eating meat for the first time—discovers a taste for this new life. I thought I knew what I was getting into with this film, but it was full of surprises. The relationship between Justine (Garance Marillier) and her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is full of love and heartbreak as they learn more about each other. The violence is visceral and somehow sensual, and the camera lingers where others would look away. I would’ve preferred a little more obvious backstory that leads to the ending, but the film satisfies a carnal itch no matter what.
Revenge (2017). Of the films I watched for my analysis of rape-revenge narratives, Coralie Fargeat’s action-packed thriller has stayed with me the longest. After Jen is assaulted, she turns to her rich boyfriend for help against his guilty friend. Instead, the men try to kill her; in return, she hunts them across the desert. The main thing I loved about this film was the cinematography. If you’re looking for bright, desolate horror then this works well. The colors are so vivid: the sky, the sand, blood, glass. Matilda Lutz delivers a killer performance as Jen, capturing this character in the highs and lows of transformation. This film is revenge-fantasy in the same vein as 1980s action stars, where the hero/ine can be mortally wounded and still keep fighting. It takes what has been a male-dominated and controversial narrative and gives it a woman-centered spin, and does it well.
A Ghost Story (2017). Did I watch a ten-minute sequence of Rooney Mara eating a pie? Yes, and I loved it. Like its title, this film has haunted me ever since I watched it. It comes into my head at the oddest of times. Our main character is C, a sheet-wearing ghost who haunts the small home he shared with his wife, M. Unfortunately, he’s trapped in the house as time goes on and the meaning of all this is contemplated several times. Casey Affleck, somehow, manages to emote and deliver what is mostly an unseen and unheard performance as the ghost. His quest for his wife’s hidden words is seemingly fruitless but needed. The attachment to the physical world is challenged as that world changes around him. Maybe it’s too cerebral and arthouse at times, but there are worse ways to spend a few hours than contemplating grief, memory, and life.
Candyman (2021). I was so hyped for Nia DaCosta’s take on Candyman, since the original is one of my favorite horror movies. I wasn’t disappointed. Anthony, an artist, becomes obsessed with a local legend, and the disturbing results have far-reaching consequences. If the original Candyman was the white academic’s take on Black history and lore, then this “spiritual sequel” takes back the narrative. The timing of the film is apt in a world that is, perhaps, more versed in systemic and systematic racism. While some of the narrative elements aren’t as clean as they could be, the film is still entertaining, horrifying, and mystifying. The score by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe brings its own power to the movie and is stunning. Overall, I will return to this more than once, but always be wary of the name.
Turning Red (2022). This is a Pixar film unlike many others. Yes, it is animated and fantastical and will make you cry. However, it’s defined setting of 2002 Ontario and depiction of girlhood at that time sets this apart. Mei Lee has her life figured out: good friends, good grades, working with her mother at their family temple, and a secret obsession with a boyband. Everything changes when she transforms into a giant red panda. Can she change back in time for the big concert? Domee Shi’s direction and writing (along with Julia Cho) help take this movie to new heights. Like Luca, the goals are smaller and achievable rather than ‘save the universe’ or ‘defeat the bad guy.’ The voice acting, especially Rosalie Chiang and Sandra Oh, breathes life into the script. The animation reminds me of that time period in its cartoonish quality. The soundtrack, climax, and relationships all bring this together for what might be one of my favorite Pixar films.
Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022). I saw this film in theaters and then again (twice) over people’s shoulders on plane rides. If I’m willing to watch a film without sound just for the experience, then it has to be good. Evelyn Quan (Michelle Yeoh) discovers her destiny while at an appointment with the IRS regarding the family laundromat. Her life is threatened by Jobu Tupaki, a multiverse jumping supervillain who has created a black hole that looks like an everything bagel. Somehow, all of the absurd and wild elements of this film (like a universe with hot dog fingers) works together with parts that will wrench your heartstrings (who knew two rocks could make me cry?). The special effects are amazing, especially when you learn only seven people are credited as FX artists on this film. The whole cast deliver amazing performances, balancing the comedy and the drama in equal turns. The hair and costumes—especially for Jobu Tupaki—are camp. Everything Everywhere All at Once is not only a good film, but one that I’m sure will become a classic.
Bullet Train (2022). Is this movie good? I’m sure there’s some debate. But is this movie fun? Absolutely. I’ve been describing it as Kingsmen meets Agatha Christie. Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is a professional thief who’s hired to steal a briefcase on one of Japan’s bullet trains. The job, however, is anything but simple when several other assassins and trained killers are onboard with their own motives. This film is action-packed and visually stunning in its movement. The plot may be a little convoluted, but it will keep you guessing until the last moment. My favorite characters were brothers Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry). The ongoing motif about Thomas the Tank Engine shouldn’t work but somehow does. The film balances its comedy and unbelievable sequences with a sense of fun and entertainment. Sometimes, films don’t have to do more than that.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022). How do you make a sequel when the lead actor dies? Often, films are stalled, or the part is recast. Ryan Coogler’s follow-up to his 2016 success, however, decided to take another direction. The result is something full of grief, love, and respect while also carrying all the prerequisite Marvel parts. Following T’Challa’s death, Wakanda tries to make its way in a world that thirsts for its resources. The discovery of another hidden nation, ruled by Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejia), complicates matters in how they should proceed. Is it better to be an ally with a nation that hates outsiders, or to be an enemy? The film is largely carried by the women who loved and supported T’Challa, and his absence is felt throughout even if they must carry through their grief. Letitia Wright and Angela Bassett give powerful performances. The action, especially the underwater sequences, are thrilling. The score, costumes, and production give beauty and realness to the fantasy. I haven’t cried this much at a Marvel film in a long while, and I don’t know if I will again.
Last year, I wanted to find more diversity in my 2022 films. If my favorites are any indication, I did. I’m looking forward to a lot of 2023 releases, but—with the old and new—I can never really predict what might end up on one of these lists. Next year, I hope to watch more of those ‘must see’ films I’ve probably been avoiding and discover if they might become classics. Until then, I can keep the favorites on replay.
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