Friday, January 6, 2023

My Opinions on 2022 Movies!

This is not an end-of-the-year list.  This is just a thing you are reading.  I watched 190 movies, and scanning the list as I was running numbers for 2022, these are movies I jotted down as remarkable one way or another.  

You are welcome to argue with me in the comments, I guess.  It may lead to me thinking you're a dumb-dumb, so go ahead and roll those dice.  

So, let's talk bad movies first.  

I won't include some movies I ran into face-first knowing they were going to be a disaster the way they were.  Simon and I watched Hired to Kill to have a good laugh, for example.  But even at that, one or two of these were... exceptional.

Fantastic Four 2015 -  I could talk about Elektra.  But it was a sort of dumb, harmless bad where the filmmaker's grasp was less than their reach.  But then there's Fantastic Four (2015).  And it was just... so incredibly misguided from jump.  Supported by executives thinking they'd out-clevered Marvel Studios by taking the grim'n'gritty approach and a writer/ director that would expose the fun-lovin' FF for the tortured monsters they surely would be if you didn't want to sell any toys and hated joy.  Add in that mediocre people need to be very careful when making movies about very smart people - especially movies for a general audience and we basically get what is famously one of the most misguided attempts at a comics-to-film translation, and that is saying something.  I don't know who f'd up the FF, studio, producers, writer/ director - but this movie is just sad and cruel, like a kid who is working out his embarrassment at playing with kiddie things as he gets older by burning those toys and bragging to his friends about it, by spending $150 million.

The Key to Christmas - This movie was never intended to be good, but I honestly don't know what the @#$% this was, who it was for, or why it existed or why anyone put their real name on it.  It's just... baffling.  And head-ache inducing.  Is it anti-art?  Man, that would make me reconsider everything.  But it's also basically a guy and a handicam shooting during a pandemic in the backroom of an Office Depot, so.  It was never supposed to be good - landing squarely in "aggressively incompetent" initially, and then you realize, no... this movie is going to get drunk and do a swan dive into an empty pool in the shape of "fuck you, audience".

Out of Office - A colossal waste of fabulous talents.  A pairing of comedians famous and otherwise, and yet... the movie is never funny, just awkward and brain-dead about a kind of work none of the people in the film do (office drudgery) during the challenging period of COVID and everyone working remotely.  It's... flatly wrong. And then gags that don't work the first time just... keep... happening.  A heroine who should be highly likable written to be a sociopathic drip.  When your best part if Cheri Oteri having a 2 minute walk-on - maybe just keep following Oteri for the next 90 minutes.  It reminds me there are a lot of people working in showbiz who are a reminder that being good at showbiz is hard.

Who's That Girl - Ugh.  On the other hand, I finished this but did not finish Desperately Seeking Susan.  So there you go.

Bolero/ Sheena - lumped together as I watched these on the same night, and because they're both 1980's movies that were supposed to tease the viewer with sexiness.  Both...  basically the equivalent of a 17 year old writing erotic fanfic from a prompt and too embarrassed to just deliver.

Least Favorite of the Year:  How the Grinch Stole Christmas 

This is probably recency bias, but... thanks, I hate it.  This movie that did great box office, people say they like it and/ or watch every Christmas, and it's clear the film had a phenomenal budget.  And yet... it doesn't understand the children's book that it's based on. It makes the Who's into accomplices and villains and maybe making the Grinch right prior to his change of heart?  And endless scenes of Jim Carrey just...  Grinching it up by himself.  In the dark while you can almost hear Ron Howard saying "this is great...! Just great!" to himself.   All the not-Burton film sets look like they exist in a land of permanent twilight, and the Who make-up is raw nightmare fuel.  Oh... and the camera work.  Dear god.

Really, the only redeeming quality of the film is Baranski.  I'll go to my grave needing therapy for Martha May Whovier's mere existence.  So while I'm glad Martha May exists, the confusion all of that is causing me must be taken as a mark against the film.

Some Favorites of the Year

I stopped doing this a while back because... who cares?  Also, I could say plenty of good things about dozens of other films.   I didn't really include anything as a re-watch or anything super obvious like, say, Gilda, which could make the list any time you watch it.  But here we go.

Glass Onion - a clear great, last entry and one of the few movies from 2022 that I think people will still watch in 25 years, especially as Benoit Blanc becomes a familiar character to the mass audience.  Technically phenomenal, written and edited as tightly as a Swiss Watch, and with every actor hitting all the right notes.
Lady Snowblood - Holy smokes.  Not for everyone, but a film that goes for the jugular and never lets go, contrasting beauty with the worst in humanity for revenge fantasy unlike anything I've seen elsewhere.

My Darling Clementine - I'm surprised how much this one stuck with me, but it did.  A noir-western with terrific photography, performances and edginess to spare.

Nobody - I find the John Wick movies boring after the first 30 minutes, but something about this movie - made from the same people but starring Bob Odenkirk as a former assassin who gave it all up for a mundane suburban life that is backfiring on him -spoke to me.  Like Lady Snowblood, it's a bit of the ol' ultraviolence, and maybe treated with as much operatic nutiness with none of the beauty.  Somehow the John Wick fans missed this, but this is the better film.

Prey - Damn, this was so good.  I had zero interest in any more Predator stuff.  But this movie completely turned me around on that idea, and Amber Midthunder is a star.  Put her - and her costars - in everything.  With a period setting, and taking the action away from "big men with big guns" the stakes are totally different, and the concept makes sense for maybe the first time since Predator 2 (which I will defend, mein freund).  

The Rescue - I pretty much cried my way through the last 20-30 minutes of this documentary about the Thai boys' futbol team trapped in a cave.  I know it was made into a movie by (sigh) Ron Howard.  Skip the movie, find this doc.  Sometimes people are amazing.

Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent - whether you're a Cage fan or not is irrelevant.  One of the smartest comedies in years.  Couldn't believe what I was watching.  

Witness for the Prosecution - I'm not a huge legal-thriller kind of guy, but this movie is so well directed (see: Billy Wilder) and has such amazing performances (Dietrich, Laughton, Lanchester, Power) it's absolutely spectacular.  One of those films you finish and are maybe ready to watch it again just to see how they did it.

Blast of Silence - a great noir indie from 1960, it takes risks studios wouldn't have and has as pulpy a lead as you're going to find in a film with no particular actory-schtick.  Maybe not as distant from the action as The Naked City, and with the conceit of using the second-person-perspective, it feels immediate and alienating at the same time.  One I'll be foisting on people in Christmases to come.

Call Northside 777 - If you're going to do a glossy, studio message picture, this is how you do it.  Of course Jimmy Stewart and Conte are dead, but there's likely a modern Conte out there (and I'll take noms for today's Jimmy Stewart).  Based on a true story of the wrongly accused, overcoming cynicism and working against the odds.  Great film.

Lust for a Vampire - the movie I originally dismissed as not very good, I actually watched this time, and it's phenomenal.  This era of Hammer isn't always a homerun, but this movie gets the horror for everyone involved, including the vampire herself, while remaining sexy and a fun watch.

Benedetta and Showgirls - Dammit, Verhoeven.  No, I am not relitigating Showgirls.  It's got issues, but is maybe better than I remembered?  But paired with his period-piece, based-on-real-events of a nunnery during plague-times, and the maybe mystical nun and the novice that loves her...  An underseen and under-discussed picture that takes on maybe the weightiest of human subjects in how faith works, and how that can be exploited and abused.  Watching these two films pretty much back-to-back was... an experience and a reminder maybe Verhoeven is just working on a frequency we have a hard time tapping into with our particular expectations of cinema.

My Favorite of 2022 - Everything Everywhere All At Once

Was never going to be everyone's favorite, but does what you can only do with movies.  Rocks with googly eyes and a terrible raccoon puppet should not have me in tears.  A bagel that makes Thanos' plans look small and impersonal.  An absolutely stunning set of performances from everyone in the cast, from Signal Watch heroes Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis, to super-veteran James Hong, to returning champ Ke Huy Quan playing as smooth as Tony Leung when he's not playing incredibly sweet and goofy (and badass!), and - man - what a star-making performance by Stephanie Hsu.  

But - yeah, a movie that spoke to the work it takes to love, the fallout of what happens when you don't do the work, and some stellar sci-fi and fight scenes.  The worst thing about this movie has really been the folks on twitter, and I'm not on twitter anymore, so fuck the lot of them, supporters and critics.  

This film is an absolute joy as a story, as an oddball bit of cinema, as a set of performances, and we're lucky to have it.

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