Jeff Mitchell’s Top 20 Films of 2022

2022 felt like the world was beginning to get back to normalcy.  Hence, many of us found ourselves back in movie theatres, including yours truly. 

I hope that you discovered some favorite new movies this year!  Via theatrical releases, film festivals, and streaming services, this critic caught over 200 new flicks, and after lots of internal debate – although not for the top spot (my #1 spot was always crystal clear) – here are my Top 20 Films of 2022! – Jeff Mitchell, ArtHouseFilmWire

20.  “Resurrection” – Rebecca Hall gives the performance of her life as Margaret, a neurotic mother who attempts and repeatedly fails to cope with her PTSD after spotting David (Tim Roth), an abusive partner from her past.  Director/writer Andrew Semans and Hall keep us guessing if Margaret’s fears are real or imagined…that is, until the third act in this memorable and equally warped psychological thriller.  

19.  “Sisu” – The year is 1944.  WWII is nearly over.  A gray-bearded Finnish gold prospector (Jorma Tommila) simply wants to seek gilded treasure, but he randomly encounters a squadron of about 30 Nazi soldiers looking for trouble.  However, misfortune has found these German combatants because this particular – otherwise ordinary-looking – Finn is a one-man killing machine!  Director/writer Jalmari Helander’s wild, bloody flick delivers cartoonish gore and theatrical insanity that will delight Midnight Madness audiences.

18.  “Hawa” – Sania Halifa makes an impressive acting debut and leaves a lasting mark as Hawa, a Parisian teen who suddenly decides that former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama should adopt her.  With Ms. Obama visiting Paris for four days, Hawa races all over The City of Light to secure her future-parent dream.  Director/co-writer Maimouna Doucoure and Halifa convincingly capture Hawa’s desperation and elevate the drama around the possibilities, and Grammy-winning singer Oumou Sangare plays the girl’s grandmother in a critical supporting role.

17.  “Bones and All” – Maren (Taylor Russell) isn’t like other teenagers.  She’s different.  Maren is a monster.  Due to a public outing, she finds herself on the run but meets Lee (Timothee Chalamet), a monstrosity in kind.  Together, this pair of fiends embark on a road trip through small town USA and attempt to survive under the radar in director Luca Guadagnino’s sicko horror film.  Russell and Chalamet are terrific, but Mark Rylance is a spellbinding scene-stealer and deserves a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.  

16.  “EO” – A circus donkey finds freedom through happenstance, wanders through Poland and elsewhere, and meets a wide assortment of people and other animals along the way.  Director/co-writer Jerzy Skolimowski’s arthouse presentation of animal-advocate messaging presents both human kindness and depravity, and the filmmaker doesn’t pull his punches.  Isabelle Huppert makes a small supporting appearance in this grand ensemble, and six donkeys play the lead, EO, who tries to make sense of his ever-growing worldview. 

15.  “Jackass Forever” – “Hi!  I’m Johnny Knoxville, and this is…”  Fill in the blank with your favorite Jackass stunt.  With a television series and three feature films under their collective utility belts, Knoxville and his band of merry goofballs – who have astounded, mystified, and disgusted audiences since 2000 – are back!  “Jackass Forever” is a gut-busting laugh riot, and even though our heroes sport more wrinkles and gray follicles, their act isn’t old yet.  The movie is as fresh, funny, and flabbergasting as their first mainstream appearances…during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

14.  “Holy Spider” – A serial killer is murdering prostitutes in Mashhad, Iran, and a committed journalist (Zar Amir-Ebrahimi) travels to this anxious city to investigate the hideous crimes in a gripping, grimy thriller from director/co-writer Ali Abbasi (“Border” (2018)).  Amir-Ebrahimi – who won Cannes’ 2022 Best Actress Award – delivers a harrowing turn as Rahimi, a woman fighting for the truth while battling sexism along the way.  Abbasi’s film – based on a true story – reveals the perpetrator during the first act, leading to surprising turns in the second and third.

13.  “Tar” – Lydia Tar’s (Cate Blanchett) astounding resume is too grand to be believed, as host/critic Adam Gopnik lists her accomplishments for three-plus minutes to open director/writer Todd Field’s film, his first in 16 years.  Tar is “one of the most important musical figures of our time,” and the leader of the Berlin Philharmonic plans to orchestrate a live performance of Mahler’s 5th Symphony.  Her career overflows with success, but Field has other plans for this EGOT winner over his hypnotizing 158-minute runtime.  Blanchett delivers the lead actress performance of the year in a haunting, modern-day street fight that lingers in posh apartments, theatres, exclusive restaurants, and ivory towers. 

12.  “Viking” – A space agency interviews and hires five ordinary citizens to live together in a Biosphere situation on Earth, so scientists can recreate, study, and hopefully resolve five astronauts’ behavioral issues on the first human mission to Mars.  Director/co-writer Stephane Lafleur’s movie sounds heavy, but it’s quite the opposite.  His eccentric and hilarious picture soars and spins on its axis with oodles of subtle and blatant sociological humor, as the players, led by a mild-mannered gym teacher (Steve Laplante), have varied responses to their cooped-up circumstances.

11.  “Top Gun: Maverick” – “Top Gun” flew Tom Cruise into the Southern California skies and exploded his stardom into the stratosphere.  Thirty-six years later, he returns as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in a sequel that zooms higher than the original, and during the biggest, boldest moments, Maverick “takes it right into the Danger Zone.”  With real F-18 fighter jets in action, the first-person footage is spectacular, and the pilots’ training exercises and mission feel as dangerous as a heart attack during an alligator assault.  More importantly, director Joseph Kosinski defines the pilots’ goal early in the film, allowing the tension to ascend straight away from the 20th minute to the conclusion.

10.  “The Quiet Girl” – Shy, 9-year-old Cait (Catherine Clinch) lives in a small Irish town with her large family.  Her father and pregnant mother generally don’t have time for her these days – or ever – and they send Cait to live with other relatives, an older couple – Eibhlin (Carrie Crowley) and Sean (Andrew Bennett) during the summertime in 1981.  Director/writer Colm Bairead’s lovely and affecting picture – adapted from Claire Keegan’s novella – beautifully demonstrates the power of love and care, and “The Quiet Girl” speaks volumes through rich, tender performances set against picturesque Ireland scenery.  Bring tissues.

9.  “You Won’t Be Alone” – Director/writer Goran Stolevski’s unorthodox horror film – set in 19th-century Macedonia – is the creepiest production of the year.  The prime antagonist is a merciless witch (Anamaria Marinca) – also known as a Wolf-Eateress – who turns a 16-year-old girl (Sara Klimoska) into a similar creature, and now, Nevena (Klimoska) begins her twisted trek through the rural countryside.  Although Noomi Rapace stars in the picture, she doesn’t stay on-screen for very long due to the nature of Stolevski’s story, and the wide-open, frequent daylight settings carry a false sense of security because sinister magic always lurks in plain sight.

8.  “Everything Everywhere All at Once” – “You may be in grave danger.  There’s no time to explain.” – Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan)   Waymond says these words to his wife, Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh).  Well, she’s sort of his wife, because Waymond is from a different universe called the Alphaverse.  He attempts to recruit “this Evelyn” from our universe to fight a great evil.  It sounds crazy, and it is.  Directors/writers Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert invent and explain a bonkers premise, and they throw everything – including a dastardly bagel and a reckless fanny pack – but the kitchen sink at the big screen.  “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a sensory-overload experience that shouldn’t be missed, and the Academy shouldn’t miss Quan’s performance because he deserves the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

7.  “Happening” –  “Accept it.  You have no choice.” – Dr. Ravinsky (Fabrizio Rongione).  Dr. Ravinsky voices this message to Anne Duchesne (Anamaria Vartolomei), a 23-year-old literature student.  Even though the doctor delivers these words with regret and empathy, his tone doesn’t soften the blow.  Anne does not consent.  She cannot concede.  Anne is pregnant and wishes to terminate her pregnancy.  However, it’s 1963 in Angoulême, France, and abortion won’t become legal until 1975.  Director/co-writer Audrey Diwan delivers a powerful, suffocating picture adapted from Annie Ernaux’s autobiographical novel, which details her abortion story.  “Happening” is the most timely film of the year, as we helplessly witness Anne’s harrowing journey.   

6.  “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” – Director/co-writer Dean Fleischer-Camp and co-writer Jenny Slate also star in this endearing live-action feature with stop-motion characters, including Slate’s Marcel, a one-inch talking mollusk with a kids-say-the-darndest-things persona.  This PG-rated story might best be described as a “Garfield” comic strip and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009) combination that gently rolls around and splashes in pools of honey, marmalade, and frank, observational discourse.  Oh, and “Marcel” also has the most unlikely cameo of the year! 

5.  “Close” – First-time actors Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele play 13-year-old best friends, but the on-screen pair’s sweet, innocent rapport turns sour, as director/co-writer Lukas Dhont moves this contemporary suburban drama into troubling spaces.  Dhont handles the delicate material with extraordinary grace, honor, and restraint, and the Academy should pay attention to Emilie Dequenne.  She deserves a Best Supporting Actress nomination. 

4.  “The Banshees of Inisherin” – Martin McDonagh’s fourth film is his most picturesque, as he shot in gorgeous Counties Mayo and Galway, but “Banshees” is also his most straightforward project. The story marches on ryegrass and clover around a simple one-sided quarrel between two men (Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell). However, the grim conflict feels like a spaghetti western/fable concoction, and these ingredients churn in a cauldron forged by Irish history.  Gleeson and Farrell are at the peak of their powers.  Kerry Condon is delightful and grounded, and Barry Keoghan is a riot.

3.  “Fire of Love” – Katia and Maurice Krafft.  This wife and husband also doubled as a dynamic duo, superheroes of the scientific world.  The Kraffts were world-renowned volcanologists who traveled the globe and bravely stood tall against these geologic marvels to study and film the treacherous spectacles.  Katia and Maurice are no longer with us, but director Sara Dosa and narrator Miranda July offer a front-row seat to Kraffts’ flabbergasting and up-close explorations with lava rushing – seemingly – inches away from the scientists’ feet.  This documentary offers astonishing visuals but also carves out precious minutes to explore this couple’s relationship that ties their emotional bonds to their extraordinary work.

2.  “All Quiet on the Western Front” – Director/co-writer Edward Berger delivers his nightmarish and haunting vision of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel about the horrors of WWI.  This epic carries jaw-dropping and sweeping technical achievements but also effectively follows a young German soldier’s (Felix Kammerer) specific journey, one that lands him in trench-warfare hell.  Berger doesn’t always hold us in the trenches, as he thankfully offers some reprieves to catch our collective breath, including several moments with the ever-reliable Daniel Bruhl, who plays Matthias Erzberger, a politician attempting to negotiate a ceasefire.  

1.“Godland” – Director/writer Hlynur Palmason (“A White, White Day” (2019)) effectively presents a decisive clash between naivete and nature in a scenic drama about a Danish priest’s attempt to establish a church in 19th-century Iceland.  Indeed, Palmason fashions the Icelandic topography as a mystical and intimating character for the audience and the aforementioned clergyman (Elliott Crosset Hove), but Lucas’ (Hove) lofty emotional make-up also collides with the locals’ earthy pragmatism.  Palmason channels his inner Werner Herzog and Terrence Malick in this instant classic.

Related posts

Leave a Comment