Well, we did it! 2022 is over! Now we can move on to whatever the fuck is next. But first, let's take our annual jaunt down memory lane and explore the best and worst in film, TV, music, books, and every category in between!
And here's your annual reminder. While I use emphatic words like "best" and "worst," one's appreciation of art is inherently subjective. These are the movies/etc. that I loved the most. If your taste aligns with mine, check them out! If your tastes don't, give a shot to the stuff I hate. Who cares! Let's have fun here, folks!
#10 Looop Lapeta
#9 Three Months
Three Months feels like a throwback to the old days of MTV moviemaking when they would just throw a pop star onscreen in a coming-of-age story and see how they fare. This film, which follows the life of a disaffected young gay man during the time when he's waiting to hear the results of an HIV test, could have been Troye Sivan's Crossroads. But instead, it's a delightful little confection, simmering its drama and comedy deliciously without sacrificing that loose hangout vibe.
There are several distinct movements to Barbarian that I'm not convinced cohere into a satisfying whole. But taken individually, each of these movements is so intensely pleasurable that I frankly don't give a shit. In addition to providing some of the year's funniest and scariest moments in equal measure, Barbarian boasts masterful control over its shadowy atmosphere with the best lighting for a studio horror film in what feels like a decade.
#7 The Sadness
The Sadness is a brutal film, violently mocking the societal response to the COVID-19 pandemic while also throwing itself full tilt into depravity as it dumps a virus that turns people into creatures of pure id (who seek the most vulgar and grotesque expressions of violence and lust) directly into the center of Taiwan. It's bloody, shocking, and perfectly cruel.
#5 Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is basically the polar opposite of The Sadness. A gentle, sweetly crafted mockumentary exploring the ways that an anthropomorphic shell reshapes the worldview of a documentarian recovering from a divorce, this is a movie that cannot conceive of cruelty in any way, shape, or form, approaching every topic with wide-eyed curiosity even as it recognizes the deep sadness that can come from the world around us.
#4 Orphan: First Kill
C'mon. How could I not have been curious about the prequel to 2009's Orphan where the original star (now in her early 20s) plays an even younger child through a heavy dose of in-camera trickery? Sure, said trickery lends a smudgy aesthetic to the whole affair that isn't exactly dazzling. But the sheer audacity of its lead character is enough to buoy the first half, which is a satisfying but generic retread of the original film. And then when the second half kicks in, the film makes a gonzo move that proves the screenwriters knew exactly how to keep the off-kilter tone of the original without directly repeating it, delivering one of the most outrageous denouements modern horror has ever seen.
#3 Everything Everywhere All At Once
I'm cooler on Everything Everywhere All At Once than I was on the directors' previous effort Swiss Army Man, but there is no denying the demented pleasures of this film, which wring an emotional storyline out of the swirling, frequently goofy, chaos of the multiverse.
Smile suffers a bit from the fact that it's so transparently cribbing from films like The Ring and It Follows, but it's the 2022 film that most got under my skin this year, so that's definitely worth a shoutout!
The Five Worst Films of 2022
#5 Black Adam
Black Adam is like somebody adapted a thinkpiece about "superhero fatigue" into a feature film. It's all a bunch of grey-brown CGI nonsense anchored by The Rock doing his darnedest to scrub out every ounce of his usual charisma with a series of dour glares that do not, in fact, provide a viable substitute for character work. The only even remotely neat thing about the film is the fact that it takes place more or less in real time, but that only ends up accentuating how crushingly long it feels to sit through.
I really tried my best to like this slasher film set at a queer conversion camp, and the best I could muster was not hating it as much as its reputation would suggest I should. I think there are fun characters and a few solid scenes scattered throughout here (especially an exquisitely terrifying therapy scene performed by Carrie Preston), but they drown in a fundamentally broken screenplay that has its edges sanded off so completely that it slides right off your eyeballs and out the window. This is a slasher movie where the kills are all offscreen and the main cast is neither killed off nor has any participation in the discovery and defeat of the killer, which are three things I would certainly consider pretty fucking fundamental to the genre.
#3 Heropanti 2
#2 The Bubble
The bar is really high for comedies about COVID, to begin with. At this point in time, it's just still not very funny to watch people go through the harrowing ordeal of the early pandemic unless they really knock it out of the park. But it's especially not funny when the jokes are allowed to asphyxiate onscreen in a leaden Judd Apatow slog.
#1 The Royal Treatment
Netflix rom-coms are designed to be bland and inoffensive and quickly evaporate from your brain, which - to be fair - The Royal Treatment does. But it does so in such an affectless and unpleasant way, perhaps perfectly embodied by the scene where the prince and his Italian-American lover (you will never for one second forget that she's Italian - if you do, she'll be happy to remind you) make spaghetti for his kingdom's local Sad Orphans, and serve it without meatballs or any sort of flavor whatsoever. No, thank you.
Best Worst Movie: After Ever Happy
Best Dramatic Actor: Timothée Chalamet, Bones and All
Best Comedic Actor: Luke Macfarlane, Bros
OK yes, he's very pretty. But he turns that into an advantage, using his rock-hard abs as the flint against which he can strike his surprisingly sharp comic line readings and create sparks.
Best Dramatic Actress: Zoë Kravitz, Kimi
Kimi is a serviceable thriller that admittedly falls apart late in the second act, but it's the best depiction of pandemic-era living that I've seen onscreen yet, thanks entirely to Kravitz's jagged physicality, expressing the discomfort of an agoraphobic in a time where the world outside can quite literally kill you. She expresses so much about the character's relationship to the city she lives in with her hunched posture and quick steps, also using nothing but her body language to show how routines and patterns are the only thing that gives her comfort in a world gone mad.
Best Comedic Actress: Saoirse Ronan, See How They Run
What a comeback! After nearly two decades away from the screen, Quan has come back as an adult to prove he is able to absolutely commit to the ridiculous premise of EEAAO and ground it in a realistic emotional space without even breaking a sweat.
Lowell bursts onto the scene with a resolutely goofy character that could easily have broken the film if he hadn't calibrated himself perfectly, but instead provides it with a huge burst of energy as it approaches the finish line.
While See for Me doesn't quite deliver on the "girl power Wait Until Dark" premise the log line promises, Davenport (who is both legally blind and agender) is an absolute revelation. This is their first onscreen performance after years of voice acting, and they knock it out of the park, expertly bringing to life the physicality of a character who has more recently become blind than the actor themself but still had some time to get her bearings (for grammatical clarity, the character uses she/her pronouns while the actor does not). Davenport is also delivering excellently subtle work in the dialogue scenes, adjusting the character's prickly personality just enough in each conversation that the audience inherently understands the history of how each person she is talking to has treated her in the past, both in direct reference to her disability and in general.
Best Child Actor: Olivia Fuhrman, Orphan: First Kill
Best Worst Actor: Tom Hanks, Elvis
The fact that he was playing Colonel Tom Parker like the shambling mummy of a Russian oligarch was a choice and it certainly helped keep the film chugging during the lulls in its grotesquely extended runtime.
What a bizarre choice to brag about casting Shawn Mendes for a character who doesn't actually speak and can only express himself through song. That was probably the right move on paper for casting an untested actor in the lead role of a film, but there is no moment that it feels right to actually connect Mendes to the character. It seems more like Lyle is lip syncing to a series of overproduced Shawn Mendes tracks than actually singing.
Prey for the Devil is an outlandishly stupid movie, but the one good choice it makes is the lead character's hair, which actually out-acts Byers (not that she's doing a bad job here). Her hair perfectly delivers the story of the character, connecting her past, present, and future in a series of subtle visual motifs depending on whether its tangled and matted, hidden behind her nun's wimple, or embracing full beach waves.
I didn't know I needed himbo doctor James Scully in my life, but Bowen Yang did and their chemistry rockets off the screen.
Katey Sagal is giving her all as this former country star who is slowly losing her ability to hide the fact that she is cracking up beneath her bedazzled surface. She is incredibly terrifying, able to dominate the room from behind the veneer of a friendly smile, expressing her internal turmoil with the frenzied tapping of a finger that you will come to dread by the end of the film.
Yes, the patriarchy is bad. But what I'm really referring to is this film's specific vision of the patriarchy. Somewhere along the line, Don't Worry Darling confused "women orgasming" with feminism and accidentally created a patriarchal allegory that has no idea what the patriarchy is or how it works, which blends poorly with a stupid twist that already actively fails to gel with the hints laid out in the first half of the movie.
So you know that thing where your brother and some of your friends were killed by a nonverbal chainsaw-wielding hillbilly 50 years ago, and you've been hunting him down since then? Maybe don't demand that he say your name (something he canonically has no reason to know, nor the ability to say) and then get pissy about it, allowing him to summarily murder you? Why were you even here, ma'am?
I'm just happy she got to yell at Billy Eichner and vent some of the presumably semi-real pent up animus about every gay man assuming she's their best friend.
The costume design largely fails Lindsay Lohan in this Netflix Christmas movie (putting a ginger in pink is always a risk, but some of the outfit choices after her all-pink ski outfit prove to be even worse), but this early sleeve-forward look is delightful excess in all the best ways.
Ruth Carter, you are a genius, but being asked to bring this already silly look from the comics to life did you no favors. It looks ridiculous in action, but even worse when the helmet is removed to show the actors' face, and there is this creeping metallic half-turtleneck clinging to the back of their heads that is distractingly off-putting to gaze upon.
Worst CGI Creation: Fire Powers, Brahmāstra: Part One – Shiva
Look, this might be a cultural thing. Maybe in India, fire looks like strawberry-flavored KY jelly. If so, I offer my full apologies.
The single take shot over which they run the closing credits of Pearl is breathtaking, both as an artistic decision and a piece of in-the-moment performance. I wouldn't hesitate to call it a flat-out masterpiece and the best single cinematic moment of the year if and only if they had committed to making it run even longer, until the very end of the credits, instead of fading to black about two-thirds of the way through.
Best Score: Smile
Best Soundtrack: Senior Year
Oops, nostalgia got me. The wall-to-wall 1999 hits aren't even exactly my era of music, but it did work for me. Plus, "Sk8r Boi"s and "She's So High"s aside, closing the film on "C'est La Vie" by B*Witched was going to get me in its corner no matter what.
Most Inexplicable End Credits Song: "Lollipop" The Chordettes, Smile
I just assumed that after Doug Bradley stepped down from the role there wouldn't be room for another person to really make Pinhead their own, but Jamie Clayton knocked it the hell out of the park.
Worst Monster: Corey Cunningham, Halloween Ends
I get it, David Gordon Green. I get what you were trying to say about Trauma and whatever. But positioning the bombastic final slasher film in a long-running franchise around a random white dude we've never met is dangerously chaotic and does not pay dividends.
Biggest Laugh: The Tape Measure, Barbarian
Biggest Cry: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Biggest Scream: The Hallway, Barbarian
Also no spoilers! But boy does this film have the best interplay between different gradations of darkness that I've seen in a good long while.
Biggest Crave: Pizza Balls, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Biggest Scene Stealer: Dr. Julia Bulgaria, Heropanti 2
Apparently Indian action filmmaker Ahmed Khan assumed that this was what sexy British doctors wear, and I hope he never learns the truth.
I couldn't find a photo or clip of the exact moment, but the sequence where Leatherface breaks a man's arm in half and uses the protruding bone as a weapon is a hell of a slasher kill. Good work, my dude.
Best Title: They/Them
Worst Title: After Ever Happy
Best Line: "Don't be silly. You look beautiful. The flowers on your skirt bring out the rest of the flowers on your skirt." Disenchanted
Worst Line: "If you copy it, you encrypt the encryption." The Gray Man
Best Poster: Triangle of Sadness
Worst Poster: Marry Me
Are you a fan of brown? How about grey? How about off-center brown in front of a bunch of grey? You wanna see this movie yet? No, me neither.
Best Poster For a Bad Movie: V/H/S/99
Now, that's just neat. It had no reason to represent anything about the film itself because it's an anthology, which is greatly to the poster's benefit.
Worst Poster For a Good Movie: RRR
RRR is a movie about friendship where said friendship is painted in flame and blood. Literally the meet cute between these two men is when they are swinging from ropes above a flaming river, bearing a flag. Sure, it has its softer moments too, of course, but why on earth is this poster selling me Roman Holiday in India?
#5 Till Death Do Us Part (1982)
This Canadian TV movie contains some of the most bonkers plotting I've ever seen in a 1980s slasher, and might I remind you I have seen over 250 of those.
#4 One Cut of the Dead (2017)
I think this movie was perhaps oversold to me, so don't do the same thing to yourself if you haven't seen it. But this meta zombie comedy is an exuberant celebration of the act of creating a film and it's hard not to be won over by the end.
#3 The Last of Sheila (1973)
Stephen Sondheim co-wrote this cult mystery film with Psycho's Anthony Perkins, so I felt compelled to give it a watch after he died earlier this year. I certainly wasn't aware it would provide so much of the spine of Glass Onion, and I'm glad I didn't. It was such a delightful tale full of twists, turns, and surprises that constantly kept me on my toes and ends on one of the greatest murderer reveal gags I've ever seen.
#2 Teen Beach Movie (2013)
This Disney Channel original musical is a bizarre prospect, featuring two modern teens being sucked into a fictional beach musical from the 1960s. The acting isn't tip top, but the script is surprisingly sharp and the musical numbers are blessed with some athletic, electric choreography the likes of which I haven't seen in a modern movie musical in a good long while.
#1 Pontypool (2008)
Pontypool is a small-scale zombie apocalypse film that uses its limited location (an isolated radio station in Canada) to its advantage, forcing you to contend with characters hearing just the audio of something indescribably horrible and struggling to figure out what the hell is actually happening. It's not for everyone, certainly, but it chilled the fuck out of me.