Anthony Pantalone, Editor
I have dragged this list out long enough, so now I am here to end it. The top five films in this list are all perfect 10-out-of-10s to me and were very difficult to comparatively rank. All in all, 2022 was a great year in film, and here is hoping that 2023 is nearly as great.
Jordan Peele’s filmography stands as one of the most exciting bodies of work in Hollywood today, and his movies get more interesting and exciting with each new entry. “Nope” is the Jordan Peele screenplay with the most depth compared to his first two films. This comparison does not mean his other two films are not incredible on their own. It is just obvious that Peele came out with so much to say with” Nope”. Speaking with forethought and diligence on the topics of the “othering” of black professionals in Hollywood, processing collective traumas, spectacle, the pandemic, and animals. Aside from Peele’s career screenplay work in “Nope”, this director shows off his skill as a blockbuster filmmaker. This movie also boasts some of the best cinematography and sound design of the year. And a great score from Michael Abels. Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya also stand out as two highlight performances among the cast. Kaluuya’s understated work in this role fits perfectly to how Peele wrote his character. It’s obvious at this point that Kaluuya is Jordan Peele’s creative muse akin to the De Niro-Scorsese creative relationship. For more, see my September 2022 review of “Nope”
7. All Quiet on the Western Front
I have to preface this with the statement that I am not overly fond of war movies. Most war movies are anti-war movies, but some feel like they glorify all this death and human suffering with tales of heroism and bravery. Like I get the point for some of them. Honestly, I do. Seeing a WWII veteran react to “Saving Private Ryan’s” Normandy scene is powerful. Still, I just never feel comfortable with the idea of accidentally glorifying war by propping up the genre of war movies. A portion of the genre always feels veiled in some layer of propaganda. Watching a movie with so much tragedy and death should make you feel deeply uncomfortable and miserable. And that is what “All Quiet on the Western Front” does. This film—just this past weekend—won the BAFTA for Best Picture. This movie’s score is incredible and strikes an uneasiness inside the viewer that aligns well with the content of the film. This film’s own historical and personal importance played a factor in its placement here among my best movies of the year. The 1929 book “All Quiet On the Western Front” and its 1930 film adaptation were landmark anti-war works internationally renowned and controversial during their release. In my own experience as a child, the scene in the mortar shell crater in which Paul fights and stabs an enemy French soldier to survive had a major effect on me. After this protagonist fatally injures the other soldier during their struggle he finds pictures of the soldier’s family and then breaks down—knowing that he is not up against a faceless enemy and is fighting other living breathing human beings with feelings, thoughts and people who love them. In retrospect, I should not have been watching a movie with such heavy subject matter at such a young age, but it showed me then how wrong the glorification of war was. This new adaptation is so successful for me personally, because it is almost as impactful as that experience with the original film.
6. The Banshees of Inisherin
“The Banshees of Inisherin” is Martin McDonagh at the height of his screenwriting powers—pairing a grand melancholic Irish psychodrama about this nation’s violence in the 20th Century with a story of friendship and despair. The performances are incredible. People continue lauding Colin Farrell’s “You used to be nice” monologue and deservedly so. The four central characters to the story—Padraic, Colm, Siobhan, and Dominic—are all tragically written with precision and care, and Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, and Barry Keoghan all respectively do a great job. For more on “Banshees”, check out my review from November 2022.
5. Bones and All
Luca Guadagnino’s first film in almost four years sees this director team up again with Timothee Chalamet—albeit with a much darker movie this time around. “Bones and All” might be a film about cannibals, but it is also a really effective blend of the romance and horror genres. It is probably one of the darkest films I have seen this year but also tonally one of the best. Set against the backdrop of the Midwest in Reagan-era America, cannibalism is used as a metaphor for “otherness.” The protagonist Maren—played by Taylor Russell—and Chalamet’s Lee have to come of age and traverse a rural America that is hostile to who they are on a fundamental level. They have to do all this while escaping other cannibals who wish harm to them. Among the haziness and horror of their existence, they find each other in what is one of the best films of the year. Guadagnino somehow makes you feel for and care about this romantic relationship while keeping you terrified. This feat luckily is carried out by this filmmaker who has already individually mastered the romance genre with “Call Me By Your Name” and the horror genre with “Suspiria”. In “Bones and All”, he combines the two.
4. Decision to Leave
“Decision to Leave” has more personality than almost any other movie to come out this year. Therefore, it was surprising to learn that Park Chan-wook’s newest film did not earn a Best International Film Academy Award nomination and was snubbed consistently despite widespread critical acclaim. Whether it is a fast paced police chase or a slow conversation, the film’s editing leaves you on the edge of your seat hanging onto every shot or every word. My November 2022 review of the film goes more in depth in what makes this film so great.
3. Petite Maman
I love Céline Sciamma. In a similar way that her last film “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” feels like it consumes you in a slow, controlled burn, “Petite Maman” feels like the cinematic equivalent of a tender cathartic hug after crying really really hard. It is a movie that evokes the experience of getting hit with a cool fall breeze and feeling nostalgia for your entire childhood in a single moment. It tells the story of a young girl, Nelly, who meets a young girl in the woods after the death of her grandmother and the abrupt departure of her grieving mother. She soon comes to learn that the young girl is actually her mother in the past, and the film thus focuses on the friendship between the two girls. Costume design is a particular strong aspect of “Petite Maman” as the warm tones and colors of the outfits all create a warm, loving atmosphere that permeates throughout the movie. This warm, loving feeling thus contrasts with the theme of grief and loneliness that Nelly feels at the loss of her grandmother and feeling abandoned by her mother in the modern day. Essentially, this movie takes the premise of the question “Do you think you would have been friends with your parent at your age?” and then slowly wears down the audience emotionally until they feel raw and vulnerable.
“Aftersun”, director Charlotte Wells’ debut feature, is about the struggle of holding onto one’s memories of their parents. Wells analyzes the difficulty of reconciling one’s idealized view of their parent with the stark reality of who that parent actually is. The film’s story is about Sophie, an adult in the present who is looking back at home videos of a vacation with her father Calum when she was eleven. Her father is kind and loving, but Sophie is forced to grapple with the fact that her father was much a deeper and more complex person than she had ever imagined. He is thoughtful and cares about his daughter, but a deep, deep sadness and depression lies below throughout their trip. Sophie must contend with this fact as a new parent in the present day and think about how her father did as a parent. There is an intensely bittersweet feeling that emotionally wounds the audience when hit with this realization. Also, the depth of Calum is masterfully portrayed by Paul Mescal—who has earned an Oscar nomination for his first-ever leading role in a film. “Aftersun” went under the radar for many people this year and it should not have. It features the best use of a song in a movie all year with the Queen/David Bowie song “Under Pressure” in a scene in the film’s final minutes.
1. Everything Everywhere All at Once
While “Aftersun” may have given it a run for its money in this list, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” easily took my top spot this year. It was always going to be number one. This movie encompasses so many themes and ideas yet somehow never feels too clunky or bloated. You can notice the spark and desire to create something wholly original and from the heart. In terms of acting, I am not over-exaggerating when saying I would put my life on the line for Ke Huy Quan and Michelle Yeoh. They are national treasures. Above everything else, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is the creative tour de force that audiences have needed amidst the bleak, increasingly hopeless reality we live in today. It is a piece of art that leaves you gracious for being where you are with the people you are there with. For more on my number one movie of the past year, read my April 2022 review of “Everything Everywhere All at Once”.
Movies I have not watched yet that could affect this list:
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
The Woman King
BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish