While I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say that 2022 was a normal year for the movies, it certainly seems to have been a bit closer to pre-COVID standards than 2021 was. While I still experienced the lion’s share of my 2022 film-watching sitting in my comfy chair at home, I did manage to see a few big-budget films in traditional theater settings, and even had a few buckets of popcorn that were larger than my head, oozing greasy toppings of iridescent colors not found in nature. (All of those public movie things were still ridiculously priced, too, so Hollywood hasn’t missed a beat on that front through the Anno Virum). But all of that being said, as I’ve mentioned more than once over the past couple of years of home-bound movie geeking, I do still have to say that it’s pretty great to not have had many movies ruined in 2022 by assholes on cellphones or by chatting audience members or by glitchy sound/projection or by annoyingly bright “EXIT” signs above open doors that admit the sounds of a crowded lobby into my viewing space. Little benefits of big changes, I guess.
As I wrote and posted my annual Best Films lists through the two COVID years, I’ve noted that the other weird aspect in defining each years’ most exceptional cinematic achievements is trying to figure out exactly what counts and qualifies for inclusion. Prior to 2020, I just always used the Oscar calendar rubric in judging whether to add or drop something, but that got wonky when the Academy delayed Oscar season in early 2021, and that wonkiness has been further exacerbated as films that saw festival releases in early or pre-COVID days were then delayed for months or years as their wide release calendars were rejiggered for maximum profit, if not pleasure. And then there’s the streaming factor to consider, with some major releases going straight to television screens without passing through the traditional theatrical release cycles.
I covered another thing that’s been making it somewhat difficult to re-embrace the Academy Award calendar in a post last month, called My Art Must Stew. The key point made there was as follows:
In trying to see how and where my own tastes might be aligning with 2022’s cinematic zeitgeist, I recently looked at one of the major trade magazines to see which of my favorite films and performances of the year might be trending highly with the professional cinematic chattering class. And I have to say that I was shocked that not a single one of my 52 favorite films thus far in 2022 appeared on the top contenders’ lists for any of what I count as the major Academy Award categories (Best Film, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay, Original Screenplay, Score). Not one! NOT! ONE!!
Interestingly, though, the reason for that was not because I have bad taste, but rather because none of the critics’ favorite films and performances of 2022 have actually been released where regular folks like you and I can see them. They’ve screened at some select festivals or in very limited runs, for the most part, and are then being hoarded until the very end of the year for wide release, since apparently Oscar voters all have memory issues and have to see things within days or weeks or submitting their ballots. The net effect of this approach is that it makes release date much more important than it should be in critical consideration of the year’s best projects, and it also has a self-fulfilling prophecy aspect, as the critics and trade magazines and online repeaters get told over and over again what the best of the best is going to be, before it’s possible to make any decisions based on, you know, actually seeing the films in question.
I think that trend has gotten worse during COVID times, which I find unfortunate. So this year, I’m just going to just ignore the industry rules on what counts, and what doesn’t, for awards season, and declare for myself that if a new-release film became available for general consumption by regular movie-watchers after January 1, 2022, then it qualifies for inclusion on my Best Films of 2022 List. Of course, because Hollywood is hoarding so many desirable flicks until the waning days of the year, I must note that I have not yet seen several films that I expect to enjoy, but can’t yet. Here’s my running list on that front, which I will update until we get to the actual Oscars awards:
Films I Still Want/Need to See:
- All Quiet on the Western Front
- The Fabelmans
- Fire of Love
- In the Court of the Crimson King
- Incredible But True
- She Will
- The Whale
And with those preambles and qualifiers and explanations sorted, here are the 50 films that I consider to be the best I’ve seen in 2022. I break them down into three presumably self-explanatory groupings, and sort the films in each category in alphabetical order, not in order of how much I liked them.
Best English-Language Feature Films:
- The Banshees of Inisherin
- Brian and Charles
- Dinner in America
- Emily the Criminal
- Everything Everywhere All at Once
- God’s Country
- Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
- Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul
- A Love Song
- Mad God
- Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
- The Menu
- Metal Lords
- Mrs Harris Goes to Paris
- The Northman
- Not Okay
- The Outfit
- Something in the Dirt
- Thirteen Lives
- Triangle of Sadness
- The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
- The Wonder
Best Foreign-Language Feature Films Receiving U.S. Release:
- Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
- Clara Sola
- Compartment No. 6
- Decision to Leave
- The Good Boss
- The Innocents
- Official Competition
- The Pink Cloud
- The Tale of King Crab
- Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy
- You Won’t Be Alone
Best Documentary Feature Films:
- Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel
- Good Night Oppy
- Moonage Daydream
- My Old School
- A Trip to Infinity
As a bonus feature, because I am a bonus feature kind of guy, I list below what I would consider to be my ideal slate of nominees in each of the Academy Awards’ most prominent (to me) categories, recognizing that virtually none of them will actually be making an acceptance speech when the envelopes are actually opened. (I don’t like the fact that Oscar allows up to ten Best Film nominees, but I’ll use that rubric here, just because). I’ll update these lists too as the season goes on, just to satisfy my obsessive desire for completeness.
NOTE: MY OSCAR PICKS MOVED TO THEIR OWN POST, HERE.