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Counting down top movies of 2022

'Tar' takes honor as best of year

Cate Blanchett gave a stunning performance in Brent Leuthold’s top movie of 2022, Tár.

Brent Leuthold

Whatzup Features Writer

Published January 4, 2023

Audiences slowly, but surely, began venturing back out to theaters worldwide in 2022, giving the movie industry a much needed bounce back after the pandemic shut things down the prior two years. Titles in the fourth quarter like Avatar: The Way of Water and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever continue to score at the box office, but it was Top Gun: Maverick that soared above all others in terms of ticket sales. 

I watched 200 new releases last year, and here are my 10 favorites:

10. Everything Everywhere All At Once (Showtime)

This bizarre and brilliant tale of a mother and daughter struggling to reconnect through parallel universes evokes Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness by way of Kung Fu Hustle. Director duo The Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) expand on the manic style they showcased previously with Swiss Army Man, and deliver something comparatively more ambitious and emotionally rewarding. Michelle Yeoh is outstanding, but it’s Ke Huy Quan, returning to the acting spotlight after an extended absence, who steals the show.

9. Fire of Love (Disney+)

A documentary about two French scientists researching volcanoes may not spark initial interest, but this is much more than just your average NatGeo doc. Volcanologist couple Katia and Maurice Krafft spent their lives getting up close and personal with volcanic activity and acquired awe-inspiring footage in the process. Miranda July’s alluring voiceover narration and Nicolas Godin’s accompanying music score make this a sublime ode to humankind’s ceaseless curiosity.

8. After Yang (Showtime)

Kogonada’s follow-up to his Indiana-set debut Columbus is another meditative and restorative story about how to move on when a family member suffers a life-threatening setback. Colin Farrell stars as a father seeking to repair his daughter’s robotic companion and grappling with existential quandaries along the way. This is small-scale science fiction brewed with notes of pensive understanding; think A.I. Artificial Intelligence by way of Tokyo Story.

7. Turning Red (Disney+)

Pixar concludes their unintentional trilogy of direct-to-Disney+ films with another inspired and charming coming-of-age fable. Rosalie Chiang voices a 13-year-old girl who, one day, begins to suddenly transform into a red panda when she gets overcome with emotion. Inspired by the magical masterworks of Hayao Miyazaki, director Domee Shi explores the pangs of puberty with whip-smart humor and visual verve.

6. Flux Gourmet (Shudder)

Writer/director Peter Strickland continues his streak of singular and strange films that blend absurdist comedy with giallo fascinations. Following an art collective that derives psychedelic soundscapes from food preparation, this is a razor-sharp satire about when keeping it avant garde goes wrong. A running joke from Game of Thrones actress Gwendoline Christie about how to properly use flanger effects pedals made me feel seen more than any other movie moment last year.

5. Glass Onion: A Knives out mystery (Netflix)

It’s no enviable task to follow up a whodunit as cunning and clever as 2019’s Knives Out, but writer/director Rian Johnson not only delivered a sequel at the level of its predecessor, but perhaps even higher. Daniel Craig returns as Cajun-seasoned Det. Benoit Blanc, whose new case involves a murder during a private island party thrown by a tech billionaire (Edward Norton). Trying to stay ahead of the film’s myriad twists and turns turned out to be one of the film year’s biggest delights.

4. Hit The Road (Showtime)

Iranian writer/director Panah Panahi’s first feature has the assuredness and wisdom of a seasoned storyteller. Telling the seemingly simple story of a mother and father transporting their oldest son across country lines with their youngest in tow, this is a road trip movie that beautifully depicts unshakable familial bonds. Impeccable camera work and stunning location work make this a journey well worth taking.

3. Ambulance (Amazon Prime)

Director Michael Bay fires up his fleet of drone cameras and unexpectedly dispatches the year’s most exhilarating action spectacle. Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II star as step brothers-turned-bank robbers who hijack an ambulance and hold two first responders hostage in process. Fifteen movies into his career, Bay channels genre greats like Michael Mann and Tony Sony to rustle up his high-octane masterpiece.

2. The Banshees Of Inisherin (HBO Max)

After Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, writer/director Martin McDonagh delivers another sharply penned tragicomedy about a small community shaken by two people seemingly past the point of reconciliation. In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson reunite as a pair of longtime friends whose relationship is abruptly threatened. McDonagh has written brilliant scripts before, but thanks to lush cinematography off the coast of Ireland, this is also his most visually captivating film so far.

1. Tár

Todd Field’s psychological drama about a revered conductor attempting to overcome a personal scandal was the most complete and engrossing cinematic experience I had last year. Cate Blanchett has given plenty of excellent performances, but her work here is the finest of her career. Like the titular force in Citizen Kane, Lydia Tár is a towering figure whose tale of unraveling is filled with such vivid detail that we can’t help but be drawn in upon first watch and inevitable rewatches.

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