That’s Filmmaking: My Best Movies of 2022

By James Kenney

Squirrels to the Nuts – Director Peter Bogdanovich

Shot in 2014, Premiering at the Museum of Modern Art in March 2022, Pete Bogdanovich’s final theatrical film in its proper original form is a grand fête showcasing Bogdanovich’s untrammeled skill at movie-making; actors acting in extended, graceful takes that allow them to inhabit the characters and carry the drama; proper old-school credit sequences; old-school comedy of slamming doors; fate and destiny reminding all that we reap what we sow, and that God has a sense of humor; glorious New York City locales carried off sans CGI; and as Glenn Kenny presciently noted (I hadn’t thought about it until he pointed out), behind the laughs is a considered exploration of sexual obsession that no doubt was very personal to the director.  A fitting, narrative-altering sendoff to the well-known yet undervalued maestro.

Tar – Director Todd Field

Sorry to those who disagree, but I found this quite riveting, despite loathing Field’s first film (I’m not a fan of all those wallowing in misery films that were in vogue for a wild, Little Children, 21 Grams, all of that). Cate Blanchett, man.

Decision to Leave – Director Park Chan-Wook

Park Chan-wook for his latest film, Decision to Leave

I still haven’t seen Parasite!  But this is chilly, sophisticated, and unreasonably involving.

Boiling Point  — Director Phillip Barantini

Having loved Steven Knight’s  Locke, I’m apparently a sucker for one-take British films involving not wholly sympathetic protagonists. I’m not the only one who finds a fancy restaurant kitchen setting absolutely fascinating, right? Bravo.

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy – Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi

I did see Drive My Car!  This is less self-consciously brilliant than that, but it’ll sneak up on you; I guess this came out in 2021 but I only saw it on its Blu-ray release in 2022, and I didn’t make a 2021 list anyway, but “attention must be paid!”

Parallel Mothers – Director Pedro Almodovar

You know I love the old masters, and Almodovar seldom makes anything less than utterly fabulous in my book. Brilliance at a human scale. I guess this came out in the last couple of days of 2021 as well, but I don’t care. Penelope Cruz, man.

Emily the Criminal – Director John Patton Ford

I’ve never seen a full episode of Parks and Recreation (it always seemed like such an Office rip-off), but I did appreciate Aubrey Plaza showing up in Ned Rifle, Hal Hartley’s final film in his Henry Fool trilogy; I’ve missed an awful lot of her other work, apparently.  This is an exceptional small-scale drama about a real and interesting current American subject, with a brilliant lead turn by Plaza.

Crimes of the Future – David Cronenberg

I’m not a huge fan of Cronenberg – for example, I thought his direction of Eastern Promises was undisputable  as quality while still feeling he wholly missed a key aspect of Steven Knight’s script (one of my favorite screenwriters, who wrote and directed the aforementioned Locke with Tom Hardy that you should see immediately if you haven’t and who wrote the indelible Dirty Pretty Things for Stephen Frears), its heart – heart isn’t Cronenberg’s thing– the nude knife battle in the steam bath is completely realized, but the distressing ending involving a kidnapped baby, with Naomi Watts and Viggo Mortensen pleading with tortued gangster Vincent Cassel for its life, is rote, because I don’t think Cronenberg felt it one bit. 

But I digress. Crimes of the Future is not only first-rate in its somewhat limited but beguiling terms, it’s a decided return to form after the appalling Maps to the Stars, a film I hate in every aspect save poor Julianne Moore’s fearless, and wasted, performance.  But Future? Admirable. Disturbing. Inscrutable. Striking. I didn’t think Cronenberg had it in him at this late date.

Kimi – Director Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh is still knocking them out like he’s Michael Ritchie in the 1970s,  dropping mid-budget pieces in a variety of genres at rapid rate as if there was still an actual market for these things. Some resonate with me more than others.  But Kimi is a shrewd, tough and witty genre excursion with an excellent performance from Zoe Kravitz, who I’ve liked ever since she supported Ethan Hawke in Good Kill, but haven’t seen in much otherwise.  I never said I was hip or current! From what I see here, though, she’s as good as I thought she was!

The Balcony Movie – Director Pawel Lozinski

This Polish documentary features conversations the filmmaker had with people passing by his balcony in Warsaw. This social experiment is hard to sell (not a lot happens other than some people avoid talking to him while others do not) but is a distinctive and compelling film that revealed to me something about both the individual and about society—while I liked the original Avatar well enough for its technical achievement, I do scratch my head at people, including social media friends, who seem to feel you can’t trust anyone who doesn’t like Avatar

I don’t find its archetypal script compelling, just functional, and, yes,  I find Cameron’s technical skill impressive; I saw it once in the theater in 3D and have no interest in returning to it (or seeing its sequel) unless my kids want to check it out. Yes he’s a real filmmaker with a vision, much superior to Marvel and DC nation; but I think I got all I need from him with Terminator and Aliens.  I can respect Cameron without caring what he’s up to, really. Me? I dig Lozinski sitting on a balcony recording people who walk by. That’s filmmaking!

Stuff I haven’t seen: EO, The Woman King, Nope, The Banshees of Insherin, Bones and All, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Avatar 2, Babylon, lots of others

Stuff I saw that was good but not great: The Fablemans, Top Gun: Maverick. RRR, Armageddon Time

Stuff I saw that I didn’t like that others did: Everything Everywhere All at Once, Elvis, The Northman

Stuff I thought wasn’t as bad as others insist: Amsterdam, Blonde.

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