John wrote about how many great movies there were last year and Colin wrote about getting back into going to the theater and I feel like I’m in the middle of them and need to pick a lane. I wish I took as much advantage of streaming as John does. I wish I went to the movies as often as Colin does. Overall I just wish I could find it within myself to care about media like I did pre-pandemic. This year I did get back into the tradition of seeing movies with my dad on Two-for-one Tuesdays, which enabled me to see the likes of Jurassic World Dominion and Black Adam, but I’ve lost the motivation to go see arthouse movies in theaters. Everything comes to streaming so fast now. And then when they do, I feel no hurry to get up and watch things, even when my friends give them glowing reviews. It’s like life has turned into one long Criterion Month.
I haven’t seen these but they were on John and Colin’s lists
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Bones and All
Fire of Love
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
One thing you’ll just have to accept is that I’m not going to have a lot of insight when it comes to the accuracy of 2022’s many historical epics. I don’t really know anything about the kingdom of Dahomey or the Irish Civil War or the Indian independence movement so I can’t really claim to care about the realism or political messaging that may or may not be in the movies I liked. I can just tell you how they made me feel. And The Woman King? It kicked ass. Watching Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, and Sheila Atim go out their and wreak havoc with machetes was an absolute delight. I am all for more action movies taking this straightforward, John Wick/Top Gun: Maverick approach to storytelling. We don’t need multiverses or complicated MacGuffins, just bad asses going out their to save and/or destroy a thing. Ideally both.
Part of the fun of The Banshees of Inisherin is seeing which side people take on the breakup at the center of this movie. Some people relate more to Colm’s dedication to trying to change his life, others sympathize with Pádraic’s hurt and confusion over being suddenly dumped. I mean, they both suck, but like Uma Thurman said in Pulp Fiction, “nobody likes them both equally, somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice tells you who you are.” So I’ll admit that I’m Team Pádraic, because I’d rather be the happy idiot than the hack artist with delusions of grandeur. Oh man this is like My Dinner with Andre all over again!
Nothing made me feel further from the discourse than reading people complaining about how often they saw The Fablemans trailer… because I’ve still never seen any advertising for this movie ever. I guess they didn’t think the folks at Wakanda Forever would want to see the story about the formative years in a young filmmaker’s life? Given that premise, you might have expected a movie that romanticized making movies, but instead Spielberg presents it as a corrupting influence, a siren song that tempts you with a power you can never fully control or even understand. All the while, the family the movie is about is slowly disintegrating. It’s a great time! I love the subtle and not-so-subtle references to Spielberg’s filmography. That last shot is an all-timer, I made my parents rewind the VOD so we could see it again.
It was a bit a whiplash getting used to Glass Onion‘s tone after Knives Out, but I guess that shows how much things have changed between 2019 and now. Writer and director Rian Johnson, having demolished old money last time around, now takes aim at new money in a way that’s even more eviscerating. Both movies are set at unreachable destinations for common folks like us, but the buffoonery that both allowed something like the titular Glass Onion to exist and for the crimes that are committed to be committed is decidedly more infuriating than elites squabbling over their inheritance. Which is why it’s so satisfying to watch these characters get called out and openly mocked. I wish this sort of thing happened in real life more often. Also, I know a lot of guys wish they could dress like James Bond but golly do I wish I could dress like Benoit Blanc.
Todd Field is a not a filmmaker I’m familiar with — his last movie was 2006’s Little Children, which I don’t remember at all but I bet John has seen because it stars Patrick Wilson — but it was hard not to get swept up in everybody else’s excitement that he was back with a new movie after all this time. And now I’m pretty sure I gotta go see In the Bedroom because TÁR was awesome. What I thought would be a nuanced story about a complicated composer’s cancellation became something even greater when I saw this freaky deaky shot. Not since Hereditary has a film transfixed me so, I spent the rest of the movie glued to the screen, scanning for hidden details and rethinking the meaning of dream sequences. As the surreal life Lydia Tár got more and more spooky, I grew increasingly satisfied with my decision to have bought this on blu ray because I’m sure this will reward repeat viewings. Just, uh, gimme a little while, I’ve still got a lot of other things to watch.
Speaking of memorable shots, I just about lost it when Keke Palmer did the Akira slide near the end of Nope. I love that Jordan Peele went all anime with this one! When you tell people about Nope, what do you tell them it’s about? Hollywood and celebrity culture? The way animals are treated? Capitalism’s refusal to learn from its own history? Each Jordan Peele movie has had a “what’s really going on” reveal moment that has been more divisive than the last but I am once again on his side that what he did here was good and interesting. Plus all the misdirects are really fun! That sequence in the barn is one of the tensest in the whole movie, who cares if it ends with a laugh instead of bloodshed? Give this movie the best sound editing Oscar!
The only multiverse movie worth giving a damn about (apologies to Night of the Coconut), Everything Everywhere All at Once‘s success somehow still seems to be growing as we get closer to the one year anniversary of its release. I feel like I loved this movie and still am not nearly as passionate about it as its biggest fans are. Frankly, it didn’t even have to be that good as long as it helped bring more acclaim to Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, two people who seem like they deserve all the success in the world. The fact that it’s also mind-bending sci premise AND an inventive kung fu movie AND a heartfelt comedy is almost the icing on the cake. Or the seasoning on the bagel? What the hell I’m I talking about?
Even before I saw his screenplay credit, I knew McQ had some say in the writing of Top Gun: Maverick because a) Tom Cruise seems to involve him in all his projects and b) the movie is so laser-focused on making sure the audience understand the stakes. The movie pretty much straight-up says “we’re going to do the Death Star trench run so we’ll practice it for the first two acts and then do it in the third.” And it’s glorious. If I do have any reservations, it’s that the movie seems to be setting up the idea that Maverick needs to let go of his ego and commit to being a teacher, then flips the script on that and has him be the big hero anyway. Kind of like how School of Rock seems to be leading to Jack Black realizing that he shouldn’t be the frontman at the battle of the bands but then of course he is in the end. Gotta let the stars be the stars.
Based on my experience with the original Avatar, I’ll probably never watch The Way of Water at home. To do that with these movies, to treat them like “movies,” is like peaking behind the curtain. Because Avatar: The Way of Water is a magic trick. It takes stupid looking aliens and a simple story and uses technology to turn that into the most engrossing experience I’ve had at a theater, well, since Avatar in 2009. Couple that with the night I saw this being one of my favorite debacles in a long time and I can’t help but hoist this up to a place of honor. Eywa hayalovay!
An absolutely no-doubter for my list, the warm fuzzies I had for RRR when I saw it in early April have heated up into a burning passion as the Tollywood movie that could broke through and became an international phenomenon. I saw RRR with no expectations – I hadn’t seen the trailer, didn’t really know what it was about – just that some people on Twitter and Letterboxd were excited about it. I also had the fairly unique experience of seeing it in an otherwise empty theater, it was just me and my cousin Brian and three hours of bombastic joy. I felt free to cackle and shout with glee as increasingly stupendous things happened like animals leaping out of a burning wagon, one man no scoping fools while riding on the shoulders of another man, or a motorcycle fight where someone swing his motorcycle like it’s a club. “Naatu Naatu” should win best song at the Oscars, and I will glad tune in if it means I get to watch a live performance. As we go into the new year, let’s all remember to Rise, Roar, and Revolt!