2022 was truly an exemplary year for cinema. We saw an influx in female-helmed films, lots of success for non-English language films, as well as more unique and original ideas brought from script to screen than seemingly ever before. I feel so grateful to have been able to see so many films that reminded me, in one way or another, of my love for the medium of film, but there’s no absolute way to include them all in a list of ten. My honorable mentions include Aftersun, TÁR, The Wonder, Pearl, The Menu and All Quiet On The Western Front.
10. Bodies Bodies Bodies (Dir. Halina Reijn)
This film snuck onto the tail end of my list as I had such a blast with this one. It’s the right amount of camp, generational criticism, and whodunnit conundrum wrapped into a lovely tight runtime. The performances are what really take the cake though with Rachel Sennott giving an absolutely powerhouse performance and delivering some of the most quotable, hilarious lines of the film. I had a joy being immersed in and playing detective with this chaotic hell-scape of a hurricane party complete with a clever ending.
9. She Said (dir Maria Schrader)
Journalism films have always been a genre I’ve found myself gravitating towards. As a writer myself, I’ve always been intrigued with the true stories and processes that these journalists experience and take to make their piece of writing the most impactful in the real world as it can be. They’ve changed lives and given justice to victims with these stories, and it was especially empowering with this film to see a partnership between these two very real women. Seeing them as an unyielding force coming together with the undeniably brave victims to take down an evil was a powerful thing, with the directing and performances being the cherry on top.
8. Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (Dir. Dean Fleischer Camp)
Who knew that a film about a tiny shell who parachutes with a tootsie-pop wrapper and wears shoes could be so profound? This particular mix of live-action and animation is clever and unique and makes for the most adorable interactions and moments this year. Between the deeply thought-provoking life discussions Marcel touches on, thanks to some nuanced writing, as well as Jenny Slate’s touching voice performance, Marcel is quick to capture hearts. The film is a hopeful reminder to slow down, enjoy the little things, love without bounds and, in Marcel’s words, smile a lot “’cause it’s worth it.”
7. Avatar: The Way of Water (Dir. James Cameron)
This second franchise installment was a treat for the eyes from the moment the first winged mountain banshee tears across the sky onscreen. And the treat didn’t end for another 192 minutes! It’s obvious the amount of love and attention to detail that was put into this film, from the world-building to the creature design, down to the best CGI water I have ever laid eyes on. Cameron lovingly immerses you into his beautifully crafted world, letting you enjoy the stunning critters and otherworldly landscapes before having you feel a multitude of intense emotions. The film highlights familial bonds to environmental issues, with moments of grief, pain, and love scattered throughout. Whether it be witnessing the death of a Na’vi or watching one of them freely soar on the back of a stunning, otherworldly creature, Cameron reminds us of the immense beauty in life.
6. Nope (Dir. Jordan Peele)
I remember getting chills at the moment in this film that Jean Jacket swoops down to earth, in hot pursuit of orange sweatshirt-clad OJ, galloping on horseback at breakneck speed surrounded by a desert filled with inflatable arm men. Not because that visual was necessarily a terrifying one, but because I realized that this imagery could one day be comparable to Elliot and E.T. silhouetted against a full moon or an axe coming through a door in front of a screaming Shelley Duvall. It was something I had never seen before, it was unique, it was memorable and overall breathtaking. There are impeccable performances throughout that do the very most with the stupendous script they are given to work with, conjuring up laughs and concluding with a heart wrenching ending that is hard to forget.
5. Bones and All (Dir. Luca Guadagnino)
I had high hopes for this one given the director and cast and was happy to see I was not disappointed. Chalamet and Russell work magnetically together and Guadagnino once again creates a somehow nostalgic, dreamy world for them to run away together in. The tale is a peculiar combination of a horror flick and a love story, two elements which work together in such a gorgeous way that, although bizarre, shouldn’t even be questioned as Guadagnino is somehow able to master the marriage of the two. It is accompanied by a beautiful score as well as captivating cinematography, and the story is a reminder that both life as well as humans can be simultaneously brutal yet extremely delicate.
4. The Fabelmans (Dir. Steven Spielberg)
Watching the world premiere of this film at TIFF, seated across from Spielberg’s sisters with the infamous director himself in the room, was an experience I will absolutely never forget. The story of young Sammy was crafted and told with such devotion; I found myself deeply relating to this aspiring filmmaker who holds a passion for the arts that is misunderstood by most. The hurt he experiences when his love in life is diminished to being called a hobby, his wild great-uncle who tries to explain that loving both art and family will tear you apart, and his struggles in finding success were undeniable elements that elicited many emotions from me. At the risk of sounding vain, I saw a lot of myself, my struggles, and my passions in the character of Sammy, and I saw this film as a form of encouragement to artists, filmmakers, and people of passion alike. And I was ultimately comforted in knowing that even the infamous Spielberg wasn’t exempt of these experiences.
3. Women Talking (Dir. Sarah Polley)
As my favorite film coming out of TIFF, this true and compelling story moved me in a way a film has not been able to in quite some time. The tale itself combined with the powerful female performances from the likes of Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and Rooney Mara sealed the deal in making this perhaps one the most eloquent films of the year, demanding to be seen, to be heard, and to be reflected upon. The hauntingly gorgeous score from the iconic Icelandic composer, Hildur Guðnadóttir adds another phenomenal layer of emotion on top of an already very heavy film. It carries with it a necessary message though, one that has been told for centuries, for eons, but perhaps it is only as of late that it is beginning to be told with roars and wails, and no longer whispers.
2. Babylon (Dir. Damien Chazelle)
The insanely miraculous and addictive Justin Hurwitz score I can’t seem to stop blaring through my car speakers is just one of the elements that made this certain piece of cinema blast up into my top 5 after a third viewing. This film is an absolute coked up fever dream showcasing a plethora of elements of the film industry and early Hollywood, from the ugliness to the beauty to what makes us undeniably love this art medium. I found Margot Robbie and Diego Calva to be incredibly electric, trying to navigate the brutal, unforgiving hell-scape of the industry that is filmmaking, in order to chase that passion and drive that can only be quenched with the achievement of success. It is a story of passion, finding self-worth in your art and the dangers that come along with submerging yourself completely into it.
It celebrates storytelling and the wonders of film while flipping the coin and not being afraid to present the reality many artists have, are and will continue to face. It tells us that this form of art is an addictive facade, a self-destructive illusion that can and will bulldoze the weak, who are but puppets the size of sand granules in comparison to its grandeur and enormity. Yet, simultaneously, it shows us how grand and magical it can be – how artists, even after death, can live on in their work, inspiring others for years after they are gone. How magnificent it is to play even a tiny part in the arts, how rare and wondrous it is to do what you love, and how film has for decades, and will continue to shape how and who we are.
1. Everything Everywhere All At Once (Dir. The Daniels)
Perhaps not the most original top pick of the year, but I cannot help but celebrate this uniquely beautiful, hilarious and original film for what it is. The Daniels made something so incredibly special with this story, which happens to highlight the likes of Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu, all of whom absolutely shine throughout. From topics such as familial issues, generational differences, despair, uncertainty in life, and love touched upon, this is easily one of the most hard hitting stories to grace our big screens this past year. In mirroring life, it showcases how joy and sadness can only subsist with the existence of the other, and how it often takes feelings of hopelessness or anguish to be experienced in order to appreciate feelings of elation or love. How nothing truly matters, which in a roundabout way means everything we do, share, create or experience should matter even more so. It tells us perhaps there really are other universes out there with different versions of ourselves, but as we cannot confirm this, let’s make sure this version of ourselves in this particular universe loves unconditionally, forgives easily, and takes in the joy of everyday existence.