A Forgettable Year for Hollywood Still Had Its High Points

26 Dec

A lot of movies were released in 2022. But how many of them do you remember?

It’s a valid question, because few 2022 releases seemed to be all that memorable — not to mention, have true staying power or any lasting pop culture impact. Not the multiple Marvel movies. (Not even the Black Panther sequel.) There was no underdog crowd pleaser like CODA. Sure, there was Top Gun: Maverick. And a case could be made for Everything Everywhere All at Once, too. But good luck finding anything worth getting excited about this awards season.

Heck, it’s hard to believe a new Jurassic World movie came out just six months ago. It feels like much longer than that.

Yes, in 2022, it felt like movies were more disposable than ever. They came and went, disappearing into the ether or into the vast collection of some streaming network, never to be heard from — or spoken of — again.

Many of them were fine. Just fine. Not awful, but not as good as hoped, either. A bunch were disappointing. And so, now, at the end of the year, even those of us who see a lot of new releases are struggling to remember what we’ve seen.

Maybe it’s not the movies themselves. Maybe people just don’t talk about movies the way they used to. Maybe it’s because, more than two years into the pandemic, people are still largely remote, so there are fewer “water cooler” conversations about things like the movies we’ve seen, and thus, movies just don’t drive culture like they used to. Or maybe people would just rather talk about The Bear or some other great TV show they’re watching. Or gossip about movies like Don’t Worry Darling instead of actually seeing them.

Maybe we’ll look back on 2022 as a “bridge year” for the movies. A year in which Hollywood cleared out its closet, releasing movies it had been holding on to or that the pandemic slowed down, and a year in which production started to build back up again so things could get back to “normal” in 2023. Maybe Hollywood will finally realize how much money it’s leaving on the table by not leaving films in theaters longer. (Ahem, Glass Onion.) Maybe not.

Regardless, I saw nearly 60 new movies in 2022. That’s more than I saw last year, but still fewer than in my pre-pandemic days. Of those, there are only eight I’d put on a “top movies” list. Sure, I gave other films this year high grades. (See below for the complete list.) But when thinking about movies I want to remember from the past 12 months, these are the ones that stand out, listed alphabetically.

The Batman

Dark and moody, but not insufferably so, Matt Reeves’ reinvention of the Caped Crusader is an epic and exciting take — and the first great DC Comics movie since Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. I really enjoyed the year two of it all, and watching a less mature, less tech savvy, rougher and rawer version of the character. The Batmobile chase scene was one of the cinematic highlights of the year. And Michael Giacchino’s score was super, as well.

Elvis

Surely, this is not a perfect biopic (ahem, Tom Hanks), but why be cruel? Baz Luhrmann’s film is a crazy entertaining one that got me all shook up. Austin Butler nails it as the King. The spectacle is all there. And the soundtrack, of course, is excellent. But hell, the 1968 Comeback Special sequence alone makes it all worth it. (The Vegas rehearsal/performance scenes, too.)

A Man Called Otto

On the other hand, Tom Hanks gives one of his best performances in years as a heartbroken, and yes, grumpy old man in this touching, surprisingly good adaptation of a Swedish film. Whereas other filmmakers might have made a movie that’s cloying and that panders to a mainstream audience, Marc Forster’s film (written by David Magee) respects the viewer, and in the process, it earns all its emotions. It would be a shame if Hanks is not back in the Oscars conversation this year for his work in this movie.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On 

A wonderful surprise, this film about finding your community is sweet, life-affirming, and special in a way that very few movies are. Marcel is an absolute delight that’s the perfect antidote to all the negativity in the world right now. I liked the other movies on this list, but I loved this one.

The Menu 

A delicious mélange of satire and horror that skewers pompous foodies and serves up multiple tasty surprises along the way, this film is like Ready or Not, but in a restaurant. I’ll never think of s’mores the same way again.

She Said 

I really liked how this movie portrays Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor as great reporters and well-rounded women and mothers. She Said is a fantastic movie that shows how the best journalists research and tell important stories — with respect and passion.

Top Gun: Maverick 

This sequel is everything you hope it will be, and more. Incredible aerial photography, a true movie-star lead performance, a rah-rah storyline, and an emotional payoff for longtime fans. Oh, and Jennifer Connelly looks amazing, too. Holding this film so it could be seen in theaters instead of releasing it via streaming a year or two ago was well worth it.

Women Talking 

The title describes the film perfectly, but this movie is about much more than a conversation: A group of abused Mennonite women are debating whether to leave their community, forgive their abusers, or stay and fight. It’s anything but an easy decision, and writer/director Sarah Polley, working with a top-notch ensemble of actors, dramatizes the debate in compelling ways that make you understand all sides. Bonus points for excellent use of the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer.”

Yes, there were also some movies I really didn’t enjoy. But the less said about AftersunArmageddon Time, Bones and AllThe Day ShiftRaymond and Ray, and The Son the better. (And we won’t even mention Blonde, a movie I watched about 30 minutes of before shutting it off, and have no interest in finishing.)

Here is a list of every new 2022 film I saw this year, in order, including how I saw it and what grade I gave it.

  1. I Want You Back (streaming) C+
  2. The Batman (theater) B+
  3. Scream 5 (streaming) B–
  4. The Adam Project (streaming) B
  5. Turning Red (streaming) B
  6. The Lost City (theater) B
  7. Jackass Forever (streaming) B+
  8. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (theater) B
  9. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (theater) C+
  10. Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers (streaming) B+
  11. Top Gun: Maverick (theater) B+
  12. Jurassic World: Dominion (theater) B–
  13. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (theater) B+
  14. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (streaming) B
  15. Cha Cha Real Smooth (theater) B
  16. Lightyear (theater) B
  17. Elvis (theater) B+
  18. Father of the Bride (streaming) B
  19. Thor Love and Thunder (theater) B
  20. Vengeance (theater) B
  21. NOPE (theater) B–
  22. Bullet Train (theater) B
  23. The Day Shift (streaming) D 
  24. Don’t Worry Darling (theater) C+
  25. Banshees of Inisherin (theater) B
  26. Raymond and Ray (theater) C–
  27. Ticket to Paradise (theater) B
  28. Empire of Light (theater) B–
  29. Aftersun (theater) C–
  30. Causeway (theater) B
  31. The Inspection (theater) B
  32. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (streaming) B
  33. Armageddon Time (theater) C
  34. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (theater) B+
  35. Women Talking (theater) A–
  36. Triangle of Sadness (theater) B
  37. Everything Everywhere All at Once (streaming) B–
  38. Bones and All (theater) C–
  39. She Said (theater) A–
  40. The Menu (theater) B+
  41. Violent Night (theater) B
  42. The Fabelmans (theater) B
  43. Babylon (theater) B
  44. Spirited (streaming) B+
  45. Tar (theater) B
  46. Sr. (streaming) B
  47. White Noise (theater) C
  48. The Son (theater) D
  49. Emily the Criminal (streaming) B
  50. Avatar: The Way of Water (theater) B+
  51. Bros (streaming) B+
  52. Spoiler Alert (theater) B
  53. I Wanna Dance with Somebody (theater) B–
  54. A Christmas Story Christmas (streaming) C+
  55. The Whale (theater) B
  56. Glass Onion (streaming) B+
  57. Strange World (streaming) B
  58. A Man Called Otto (theater) B+

Let’s hope 2023 is a more memorable year at the movies.

What 2022 movies were your favorites?

One Response to “A Forgettable Year for Hollywood Still Had Its High Points”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 2022 Was a Rollercoaster of a Year, But It Was a Better One Overall | Martin's Musings - December 30, 2022

    […] New York multiple times, back to Chicago finally, and to Cleveland. I saw a handful of shows, more movies, a bunch of concerts, and a lot of friends. I celebrated at three bat mitzvahs, one wedding, […]

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