Premiering and promoting a new feature film in 2022 meant that I spent less time and energy on this website than ever before. I even abandoned the “Last Ten Movies I Saw” feature, which I had been posting here regularly for well over a decade. Yet I can’t bring myself to abandon the blog completely. For one thing, it’s still a good way to promote my work as a filmmaker and keep anyone in the loop who may be curious about upcoming screenings and personal appearances (there will be many RELATIVE screenings coming up around the U.S. in January and February). I also think it’s a good place to post my miscellaneous writing, most of which consists of capsule reviews that I write for Cinefile Chicago. I wrote 9 reviews for Cinefile this year and a book review for Newcity Chicago (about Bob Dylan’s The Philosophy of Modern Song), and it’s nice to be able to collect all of this writing in one place.
One thing that hasn’t changed is ending the calendar year with a post dedicated to the best new movies I saw during the previous 12 months. Below is a countdown of my top 10, followed by a list of my 10 runners-up, plus even briefer lists of the worst and most overrated films I saw. I’m linking to my Cinefile reviews where applicable (or, in some cases, my more informal Letterboxd reviews). Enjoy.
My Top 10:
10. BENEDICTION (Davies, UK)
I didn’t write about this one but it is, along with A QUIET PASSION (to which it serves as a kind of companion piece), my favorite Terence Davies film since THE LONG DAY CLOSES in 1992.
9. APOLLO 10 1/2: A SPACE AGE CHILDHOOD (Linklater, USA)
This beautiful animated film about family dynamics, centered on the childhood alter-ego of the director, rose greatly in my estimation after watching THE FABELMANS and ARMAGEDDON TIME later in the year and realizing that neither of those movies had either the authenticity or emotional depth of Linklater’s memory piece. Some more thoughts at Letterboxd.
8. THE GIRL AND THE SPIDER (Zurcher/Zurcher, Switzerland)
Capsule review at Letterboxd.
7. SAINT OMER (Diop, France)
6. CRIMES OF THE FUTURE (Cronenberg, Canada)
Some thoughts on my favorite scene in the film (and Kristen Stewart’s comedic chops) at Letterboxd.
5. (tie) BOTH SIDES OF THE BLADE / STARS AT NOON (Denis, France)
I wrote a capsule review of BOTH SIDES OF THE BLADE at Cinefile Chicago (perhaps the review I worked the hardest on all year). I didn’t write about STARS AT NOON, which I liked equally as much, except to note at Letterboxd that most of the unfair negative reviews judged it not for what it was but for what it wasn’t.
4. DECISION TO LEAVE (Park, S. Korea)
I wrote some thoughts about this one on Letterboxd then saw it a second time and my appreciation increased even more.
3. A COUPLE (Wiseman, USA/France)
My capsule review at Letterboxd.
2. EO (Skolimowski, Poland)
Some thoughts at Letterboxd.
1. IRMA VEP (Assayas, France)
I found it quite disappointing that the critic and cinephile communities didn’t do more to rally behind this one. I saw a lot of complaints on Twitter (many by people who hadn’t yet seen it) that there was “no need” for Olivier Assayas to remake his beloved 1996 film because “the original was perfect” and that “Alicia Vikander is no Maggie Cheung.” These shallow non-criticisms completely miss the point of what makes IRMA VEP, the limited series, so vital and new. Some thoughts on why I consider it Assayas’ masterpiece at Letterboxd.
11. RELATIVE (Smith, USA) At the risk of seeming self-centered, I’m including RELATIVE on the basis that no other film-watching experiences this year were as powerful or important to me as seeing my own movie on the big screen — at our World Premiere at the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa in March and at great movie theaters in Chicago (the Music Box and Gene Siskel Film Center), Los Angeles (American Cinematheque/Los Feliz 3), New York City (Regal UA Midway Queens), and many points beyond. That RELATIVE has had 62 public screenings in 10 states so far is a testament to (and a validation of) all the hard work of our amazing cast and crew. For anyone wanting to read a critical appreciation of the film, my favorite pieces were those written by Matt Fagerholm and Ben Sachs.
12. (tie) THE NOVELIST’S FILM (reviewed at Cinefile here) / INTRODUCTION (Reviewed at Cinefile here) (Hong, S. Korea)
13. THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER (Hogg, UK)
14. PEARL (West, UK)
15. THE CATHEDRAL (D’Ambrose, USA)
16. RRR (Rajamouli, India)
17. KIMI (Soderbergh, USA)
18. ARMAGEDDON TIME (Gray, USA)
19. HOLD ME TIGHT (Amalric, France)
20. NEPTUNE FROST (Williams/Uzeyman, Rwanda/USA)
The Overrated: THE FABELMANS (Spielberg), NOPE (Peele),TAR (Field)
The Worst: BARDO (Inarritu), BLONDE (Dominik), ELVIS (Luhrmann)
Last Thoughts on the Year in Film:
– JEANNE DIELMAN topping the Sight & Sound poll was both valid and exciting.
– Rest in power, Jean-Luc Godard. Your work will live forever.