Thursday, December 29, 2022

To: 2022 - That's a Wrap!

With another year coming to an end, critics everywhere are aiming for clicks with their Best Of lists. I used to love reading through them when I was younger, but through the years, they’ve just started to feel pretentious. Yes, we did hold our
annual Utah Film Critics Association vote declaring the amazing Everything Everywhere All at Once Best Picture, so what I’d like to do is a list of my favorite films instead.

Sometimes the “best” movies of the year overlap with one’s “favorite” movies of the year. But generally you don’t get the wide-release, popcorn-pleasing fare with “best” lists. It’s more of the obscure, yet-to-be-released films that make someone’s top 10. These are just my favorites of 2022.

I’ve included mini reviews of films that made the list and haven’t been reviewed yet, along with two that should never make any list — all followed by a very special announcement.

Links to full reviews included to keep the list short and quick:

  1. Tie: NOPE and Scream — directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet team up with writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick to deliver a stellar requel. The new cast meshes spectacularly alongside the legacy characters showing how to properly reboot a franchise with a killer motive that only gets better with each viewing. Word from the creative team is that Scream VI continues to fall down the Scream rabbit hole and with that kind of description I cannot wait for March!
  2. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story — Absolutely no one else could have brought “Weird Al” Yankovic’s life story to the screen the way he could. There’s also no other way to have done it than via spoof as the two are synonymous. While it may seem awkward to figure out a way to watch at first — the easiest way is to sign up for a Roku Channel trial and then cancel it — the comedy master makes it worth the effort and then some.
  3. Wildcat — Being completely blindsided by a film can be the best way to experience one. At first glance, I assumed this would be a cute documentary about a young ocelot teaching a vet dealing with his PTSD to live again. But directors Trevor Frost and Melissa Leah make brilliant story decisions providing a true emotional experience you won’t soon forget. Playing in select theaters, and arriving on Prime Video December 30, make sure you keep some tissues handy for the year’s best documentary.
  4. RRR — Imagine if you will, a director throws every action cliche into a barrel of kerosene, tosses a match, and walks away in slo-mo as it explodes behind him. That’s exactly what writer/director S.S. Rajamouli deliriously serves up in a Tollywood extravaganza, the likes you’ve never seen. Words cannot describe the mind-blowing carnage on display, all lovingly wrapped in a genre-bending bow. It’s the best three hours you can spend streaming Netflix — or catch in a random theater — and there’s no second wasted. Thankfully, a sequel is in the works, but in the meantime, at least we have this, along with plenty more where it came from.
  5. Violent Night
  6. X and Pearl
  7. Everything Everywhere All at Once
  8. Top Gun: Maverick
  9. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish — Eleven years past due, our favorite swashbuckling feline finally gets a sequel, and it was completely worth the wait. Director Joel Crawford and co-director Januel Mercado give vibrant paint-splashed life to a clever screenplay from writer Paul Fisher. Focusing on Puss (voiced by Antonio Banderas) realizing that his nine lives are almost up, it’s literally a fight to the death with Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) returning, and some new help from the grotesquely adorable Perro (voiced by Harvey Guillen). Hilarious, thoughtful, and surprisingly dark, this may be The Last Wish, but hopefully it never winds up being Puss’s last film.
  10. White Noise — If there’s anyone known for deadpan quirk as Wes Anderson, it’s Noah Baumbach. With films full of oddball characters, usually down on their luck, relying on each other to find a way through the madness of life, White Noise is no exception. Adapting Don DeLillo’s said unfilmable ’80s novel couldn’t have been an easy task, but Baumbach infuses the anarchic script with a madball zest, leaving us with a film that’s every bit as much about the journey as it is the destination. After having already had its limited theatrical release, make sure to tune in on Netflix when it hits the platform on December 30.

It wouldn’t be the end of the year without Oscar bait films flailing for attention and two of the biggest failures are Sam Mendes’s Empire of Light and Damien Chazelle’s Babylon. Empire tries to lull you away from its meandering story about a white woman learning that racism exists for the first time — in 1980 no less — with Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward’s fantastic performances, but that won’t keep you from seeing through the Hollywood navel gazing. The best thing about Empire of Light is Roger Deakins’s cinematography — no surprise here — and the soundtrack selections. You’re better off just downloading the soundtrack, or watching Cinema Paradiso.

Babylon, on the other hand, is described by writer/director Chazelle as “a love letter to films and a hate letter to Hollywood.” Yet it feels as though he may be attempting to bite the hand that feeds him. Self indulgent and chock full of debauchery for no other reason than sheer shock value, Chazelle doesn’t just try to make a film about a white man trying to save jazz (see La La Land), but goes one step further by trying to wrap up this disgusting film as the inspiration to one of the most wholesome — let alone one of the best — films ever made.

Granted, Chazzelle can edit the hell out of a sequence — the Toby Maguire accent to the “asshole of L.A.” scene at least provides a shorter/better version of Barbarian — the film as a whole just makes for an infuriating ride. Let alone that it’s over three hours long. Not only will your bladder not thank you, your brain will abhor you for making it suffer through a film that starts with explosive elephant diarrhea and never once thinks to pump the brakes. Jean Smart has been quoted as saying she was worried that it would get rated X and no-one would see it. I can’t see it appealing to the masses, so it’s doubtful anyone will see it anyway, and shouldn’t.

2022 was a damn good year for movies, even if a little lackluster for film, but there’s plenty of exciting things on the horizon for 2023. As our beloved Jimmy Martin would say, c’mon Hollywood, “show me what you got!”

And speaking of, be sure to check out the relaunch of Big Movie Mouth Off on Spotify, Google, Amazon, and Podbean, we can’t wait to see you there!

Happy holidays and happy New Year from The Reel Place!

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