For me personally it was a slow year of catching new film releases. Being from San Antonio, a lot of the movies I’ve heard endless praise for were showing in the neighboring, larger metroplex – Austin, TX (which is a solid hour-twenty drive without traffic – I don’t have that kind of time). I was able to catch some new independent or artistically forward movies. The remainder either got lost in the pantheon of $19.99 VOD releases (I got bills to pay) or just never came out in a way I could watch it. There were a few notable exclusions that I could’ve made time for but didn’t (pouring one out for The Fabelmans and Bones and All). But all that aside, there were a handful of new releases that really blew me away. Here is the list of 10 of those films.
I’m one of those people that thinks anything Jordan Peele does is a slam dunk. NOPE was no exception to that. What separates Peele from his contemporaries is that you never know what you’ll get with him. Almost structured as a labyrinth, NOPE shows you events in a way that doesn’t tell you its true intention. Then when the event at Jupiter Claim happens, the entire movie drop kicks you in the face.
NOPE’s structure may be unappealing to some, but its boldness and bombastic end was a winner for me. As far as Peele’s movies go, letting go and letting him take you for the ride is the ideal way to enjoy his movies.
- Top Gun: Maverick
If you had told me in 2021 that the legacy sequel to the 1986 box office smash Top Gun would be in my top 10 of the year, I would’ve called you crazy. It is now 2023, and I am and have been a believer since I watched it on June 17th. The current Hollywood landscape has been riddled with legacy sequels, remakes, and reimaginings to the point that it makes you think that MAYBE Hollywood has run out of ideas (could’ve fooled me!). And most of these movies have been pretty (French incoming) ~god damn awful~ to put it plainly.
However, there must have been some magic on set because this movie is everything that a legacy sequel/remake/whatever should be. Tom Cruise’s Maverick is still an actual character (see Sally in the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie). The new characters don’t override the original characters and I actually care what happens to them! While I know I may make it sound like the bar is in hell (it is), Top Gun: Maverick makes something that is already beloved and makes it even better.
- Everything Everywhere All at Once
You probably think I’m a sicko for placing this movie so low.
To be completely honest, I don’t really know what to say about Everything Everywhere All at Once. It’s a lot of movie for your buck, and is far and away the most inventive movie of the year. You know a movie from Daniels is going to be weird, but this is just cranked to an 11. Swiss Army Man and Daniel Scheinert’s last solo endeavor The Death of Dick Long were weird in equal measure. I never thought they could’ve topped those, but they did.
My appreciation for this movie has slowly diminished as the year progressed (it was at my #1 spot for most of 2022!), but it is, by all facets, a brilliant movie. Every acting award it has been getting has been rightfully earned. Plus who doesn’t want to see Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan succeed?
- Triangle of Sadness
Prior to this I hadn’t seen a Ruben Östlund movie. But Triangle of Sadness blew me away. I had read multiple reviews (specifically ones from Cannes) that essentially listed this as “the takedown of the rich and beautiful.” Where I interpreted it to trivialize the current system in which we’re forced to participate. Where at the end of the day we’re all animals and things such as disparity, money, and status don’t really matter. I know that’s just my outlook, but viewing the movie at that angle made me enjoy the experience more.
Triangle of Sadness was hilarious and had some stellar performances from Woody Harrelson, Dolly de Leon, and Charlbi Dean (RIP). The hard tonal split between the first and second halves may not be for everyone, but I appreciated how unique of a shift it was. Plus that ending! *chefs kiss*
- The Northman
New projects from Robert Eggers, like Jordan Peele, will always be greeted with immense excitement from me. I had just replayed God of War (2018) in anticipation of God of War: Ragnarok – so my knowledge of Norse mythology was firing on all cylinders. I watched The Northman in a packed and lively theater so I had all of the hallmarks of a great viewing experience.
There’s a great amount of respect that Eggers has for mythology and it shows in both The Witch and The Lighthouse. The Northman is riddled with little nods to Odin and the ending with the Valkyrie so it furthers Eggers’ visual love of myth and history. I’m not one to criticize something due to a lack of mythological awareness, but a movie that does show great mythological awareness is an added bonus for me.
- The Banshees of Inisherin
Like Triangle of Sadness, The Banshees of Inisherin was my first film from the film’s director. Martin McDonagh crafted the funniest movie of the year. The Banshees of Inisherin has some of the best character work in a 2022 movie as well. A particular moment with the donkey character made me choke up – a donkey. How come you didn’t make me cry when Tracy Letts’s character died Adrian Lyne’s Deep Water?
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are stellar actors, and Farrell specifically had a fantastic year in 2022. But The Banshees of Inisherin delivered otherworldly performances from both Farrell and Gleeson. I am fully expecting Farrell to win the Best Actor Oscar and McDonagh to win the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.
TÁR had me at Mahler 5. It also helps that TÁR is a magnificent movie. What really sets TÁR apart from the other movies on this list is its way of storytelling. You aren’t given anything to go off of, you as the viewer have to earn the story. Which makes the experience that much sweeter.
Cate Blanchett gives a career-best performance with Lydia Tár. It feels as if we’re only getting a slice of her life – but there’s an entire living person underneath Cate Blanchett’s performance. Plus, the gradual dissolve of prestige for Lydia Tár eases the viewer into the same hole that Tár is making for herself. Just a really brilliant, anxiety-inducing great time.
I will not be writing about how vulnerable this movie made me, because that is for me and not for the internet (sorry internet). When I saw multiple critics rave about this movie I thought it was a bunch of nonsense. Then I actually watched the movie. And oh man, was I wrong!
Charlotte Wells takes full advantage of the medium to tell a story about memories and diminishing familial relationships. At first I was enjoying what I was seeing but it wasn’t until the birthday song scene that it all came together. Then “Under Pressure” started playing and the waterworks shortly followed. I can’t recommend this to everyone, but the experience is a poignant, emotionally dense one.
Most people I know had to watch this through Netflix. Which is fine, given its relatively limited availability. But I was lucky enough to see this in a theater. Not a packed one, but you could’ve told me it was and I would have believed you. RRR is one of the zaniest experiences I’ve had watching a movie. Just a big loud party that a) you want to go to and b) everyone is invited to.
There was a kid a couple rows in front of me that had very obviously seen the movie before. Before Naatu Naatu started he yelled “YES” in this theater. Now if I ever watch this again in a theater, I too will yell “YES.” I don’t really want to go into the details of the movie itself, because RRR has to be seen to be believed. But TRUST ME, it’s the real deal.
Imperfections and all, I absolutely loved Babylon. To be completely honest, I don’t love Damien Chazelle like most people do. Whiplash is ok, La La Land is just a weaker version of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and I haven’t seen First Man (but haven’t had the interest to seek it out). But the multisensorial journey that Babylon takes you on resonated with me.
Babylon is a lot of movie, and definitely isn’t for everyone. RRR has a guy using a motorcycle as a weapon, and Babylon has an elephant crapping on the camera. It feels like a movie you’d watch as a kid but would tell your parents you were watching something they would like to hear. What made me fall in love with this movie was its ability to transport me back to when I fell in love with movies – Ratatouille-style and all. Those kinds of experiences differ from everyone, so it’s possible that Elvis – a movie I didn’t care for – gave viewers that same experience. In the end, I’m just glad I get to see wild things in the theaters.