“Sophisticated” or not, our critic chooses the movies that brought her joy this year
In my career as a film critic, there’s always been an implied litmus test for Top Ten candidates that the majority of them be a) serious, b) long and c) underwatched by non-professional moviegoers. (The Times recently made a step toward exploring this phenomenon, but ended up concluding there just aren’t enough “sophisticated” moviegoers). I reject that premise, and offer you a list of some of the (mostly) lighter and weirder cinematic fare that brought me joy this year.
Rory Kinnear playing a whole village full of toxic men is one of my most haunting memories of this year in film, especially the gory, male-childbirth closing scenes of Alex Garland’s folk-horror flick. Jessie Buckley continues to be one of the most interesting actors onscreen as a woman fleeing dark memories in this creepy spin on the Green Man legend.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
This two-person dramedy manages the tricky feat of being both gentle and spiky, with newcomer Daryl McCormack holding his own opposite Emma Thompson, whose widowed teacher character hires a sex worker in the hopes of experiencing pleasure for a change. It’s the kind of movie that only improves upon rewatching, as there’s just so much subtle detail in these performances of two people struggling with their respective pasts.
Writer/director/star Joel Kim Booster makes a fabulous auteur debut adapting “Pride and Prejudice” into the gay, mostly-male demo of this NYC summer getaway, with the “Las Culturistas” podcast co-hosts Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers playing two of the central group and Margaret Cho as their den mother/Mrs. Bennet figure.
Jordan Peele’s alien-invasion western is a slow, complex burn, with Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya as horse-trainer siblings in the film industry and Steven Yeun as a former child star of a sitcom that ended in wild, bloody tragedy. Hat tips to a range of film classics, uniformly great performances, thrilling music cues, and a unique spin on the UFO make this a must see.
The Lost City
It may not reach the absurd heights of modern classic Barb and Star, but this riff on the Romancing the Stone genre was my favorite comedy of 2022. I’d probably include it solely for the sequence featuring Brad Pitt as a self-actualized action hero. But Channing Tatum, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Radcliffe and Da’Vine Joy Randolph all delightfully ham it up in a movie year that didn’t serve nearly enough ham. My only criticism (and Tatum’s, apparently): Superior original title The Lost City of D didn’t survive.
It’s a two-Radcliffe year. He fully goes for it as the title character in this heavily fictionalized biopic of “Weird Al” Yankovic, which also features Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna and endless comedian cameos, including Rainn Wilson as the top hat-wearing Dr. Demento. It’s a stupidly satisfying love letter to all of us comedy nerds.
This underrated Netflix movie plays Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train as a teen comedy, with co-stars Maya Hawke and Camila Mendes as unlikely allies in a breezy, twisty plot to destroy their tormentors. Director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson nails the black comedy tone, with a casting coup of ’90s queen Sarah Michelle Gellar as the school’s cynical headmistress.
Maria Schrader’s dramatization of the New York Times’ expose of Harvey Weinstein deserved so much better than the reception it got at the box office. Samantha Morton, Jennifer Ehle, and Ashley Judd as herself bring survivors’ stories alive, and Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan as the Times reporters manage to keep the story humming without leaning into the melodrama that can infect investigative narratives like this one.
Triangle of Sadness
This eat-the-rich satire is the most uneven entry here, but it’s worth it for the middle section in which our erstwhile model protagonists board a luxury cruise that goes very wrong. I agree with Neal Pollack that it’s full of ridiculous caricatures –the Russian manure billionaire, the sweet and elderly British couple who made their fortune in artillery–but when the storm-induced seasickness kicked in, I laughed until I cried. Woody Harrelson as the ship’s drunk, self-loathing communist captain is the icing on this poison cake.
Bones and All
Director Luca Guadanigno has taken quite a turn since Call Me By Your Name, first with his over-the-top Suspiria remake and now this tale of lovers with unusual appetites. But he’s always got an eye for the beauty amidst the gore, and you can’t get much more beautiful than CMBYN’s Timothee Chalamet, or Taylor Russell, who drive around wrestling with their angst about lusting for human flesh, and for each other. Mark Rylance brings the menace as a fellow “eater,” but the Oscar clip here is another CMBYN alum, Michael Stuhlbarg, as a drifter so off-putting he creeps out the fine young cannibals.