Every year I feel the need to preface my “Top Ten” “Best Of” list with the caveat that these are my favorite films of the year, not necessarily the films I think are the “best” or the “most well made.” These are the movies that moved me, relentlessly entertained me or inspired me in some way. They might not be everyone’s cup of tea – and trust me, I’ve been known to love movies that most of my peers think are stinkers – but I love them just the same.
So without further ado, here are my Top Ten Favorite Films of 2022:
10. TRIANGLE OF SADNESS
This movie got a lot of attention, and to be honest, it took until I got Covid to sit down and watch it. This absurd tale of class politics by writer/director Ruben Ostlund follows a model couple who go on a small cruise with a wide variety of wealthy people, only to have their “status” overturned when they are stranded on an island together. Hilarious and pointed, this was one helluva entertaining film and nailed gender and class politics to a tee. Bonus is Dolly Deleon’s performance as a worker on the boat who ends up running the show.
9. THE FABELMANS
While I’m a huge Spielberg fan, I don’t necessarily feel all his movies are Top Ten caliber. On first viewing, I was uncertain about this semi-fictional portrait of his family as he grew up and developed his love of making movies. Mostly about his parents’ divorce, the filmmaking aspect seemed a bit shoe-horned in, and even with a fun final scene, it seemed to there were two movies battling for attention. On the second viewing, the storytelling seemed to gel better for me, and I understood the interplay between Spielberg, the future filmmaker, and Spielberg, the product of divorce. With a lovely score by John Williams and a terrific turn by relative newcomer Gabriel LaBelle, this is a poignant coming-of-age tale told as only Spielberg can.
8. AFTER YANG
A sweet, gentle tale of how the loss of a future family’s A.I. companion affects each of them offers a compelling look at what makes us human – and who can claim to be human. Directed with warm care by Kogonada and starring Colin Farrell in one of his most empathic roles, this quiet film won’t be for everyone, but it holds up to multiple viewings as it asks its viewers to consider what constitutes a worthy life.
Cheesy and over-the-top, this Indian action film has an immediately compelling set-up and two terrific characters played by two of India’s most popular actors N.T. Rama Rao Jr., and Ram Taran Teja. At three hours long, audiences might feel the movie will be too much of an undertaking, but with it’s wall-to-wall action and special effects, eye-popping fight scenes, and a musical number that has to be seen to be believed, RRR is the most entertaining film of the year. Avatar who?
Who’d have thunk that a Christmas musical movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell would be so damn delicious but… oh, who am I kidding? We all knew it. Add Octavia Spencer into the mix, along with the songwriting team behind The Greatest Showman and Dear Evan Hansen, and you have a winner. While the world really doesn’t need another re-telling of “A Christmas Carol,” apparently we did because this one is not only laugh-out-loud funny, it’s also heartfelt and toe-tapping. If “Good Afternoon” doesn’t win the Oscar this year, there will be a “good afternoon!” from me to the Academy!
5. BONES AND ALL
Probably the oddest plot of the year, Luca Guadagino’s adaptation of the popular YA novel stars Taylor Russell (“Waves”) and boy-wonder Timothee Chalamet as two young people who find each other because of an unusual trait they have in common. They are both “eaters” – people with a disorder that causes them to crave eating human flesh. But within this odd and gory premise is a touching story about outcasts trying to find a “family” while trying to understand their own tendencies and accept each other even when things get horrific.
4. SPOILER ALERT
Michael Ausiello’s autobiographical novel about his relationship with his late boyfriend and that boyfriend’s struggle with cancer is joyfully and heartbreakingly realized by director Michael Showalter and actors Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge. While it could have been overly maudlin or a paint-by-numbers disease movie, this has the charm that Bros (which, to be fair, I enjoyed) lacked. There’s still a good portion of the film about the couple’s relationship that is adorable and honest, and the disease of the week portion never falls into some of the typical trappings. There’s realism and poetry to the film that makes it the best gay film of the year. And one of the best films of the year.
3. YOU WON’T BE ALONE
At once profound, moderately horrific, and heartbreaking, this “folk horror” film is not what you expect it to be. A meditation on what it means to be human, Goran Stolevski’s first full-length feature film is as unusual as it is original. It positions itself to be in the vein of The Witch or Midsommar when, in fact, it is something more intimate and insightful than either of those films could ever be. It’s as if Terrence Malick decided to make a horror film and ended up making a visual poem about the experience of life.
The most divisive movie of the year, Damien Chazelle’s 3-hour epic about the film industry’s move toward the “talkies” is brash, chaotic, and firing on so many cylinders, you are exhausted after the first 90 minutes. But in a good way. Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie (please get nominated), and Diego Calva shine as various players in Hollywood who navigate a changing industry while finding common ground. It’s as if Quentin Tarantino and Baz Luhrmann did drugs and made a movie together, and that just seems like the best thing ever! And it is! (At least for me.)
1. CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH
Writer/director/actor Cooper Raiff has crafted yet another intimately perceptive, empathic, and loving film about real people and the roadblocks they navigate. What Raiff does in his refreshingly simple story is create hundreds of beautiful, human moments between complicated people, all trying their best to find moments of happiness and contentment. Dakota Johnson gives a beautiful performance full of tiny moments that say more than mere words can. Just how she moves her eyes or looks at others reveals so much under the surface that it’s compelling to watch. “Cha Cha Real Smooth” is a crowd-pleaser without being pandering. Its truths are profound, and the film’s cumulative impact is heartbreaking and encouraging.