BONUS: My 2022 in Film (a video countdown)
Showing love for the movies I enjoyed seeing most last year, from EEAAO to the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre
This weekend, I posted a video running through the ten movies I enjoyed watching most in the past year. This countdown’s inclusions are from as early as 1974, with only three movies releasing in 2022. If you haven’t seen the countdown yet, here it is:
(Here is an alternate link to the video on YouTube, if you prefer!)
Notes on this year’s list
In the middle of last year, I put out my first countdown (and my first long video project in ages!) Looking back at it now, I’m really proud of how it came out, and because of the success of that project, I set myself to considering what I would put in a second countdown at the end of 2022/start of 2023. Now that that countdown’s finished, I’ve decided that this is just going to be a yearly thing.
Let me run first through some notes on this year’s inclusions:
10. Barbarian (2022), dir. Zach Cregger
One of the movies I was most excited about last year. I based a lot of the editing here around the film’s fantastic trailer, which tries as hard as it can to get you hooked without really telling you anything about the film. This film really succeeds in making everything below its surface (pun intended) worth the effort of discovering it—and because this is a horror film, a lot of the effort involves having to sit through some pretty unsettling stuff.
9. The Last Waltz (1978), dir. Martin Scorsese
It was a huge surprise how much I enjoyed this film. I didn’t really know much about The Band before seeing this film, but once it was over, I was an instant fan. While The Band’s final concert is front and center here (not to mention cameos galore from Joni Mitchell to Muddy Waters to Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti!), a lot of it is also devoted to hinting at all the things that have led this group to the end of the road. I think the question this film ultimately asks is: if you quit while you’re ahead, what kind of game are you leaving behind?
8. Scream 3 (2000), dir. Wes Craven
For a horror fan, it took me surprisingly long to come around to the Scream franchise. But I finally did it after my partner saw the first film, and we decided to watch the remainder of the series together. It’s a great franchise—no surprise there—and it’s only made me feel more affection for Wes Craven with every new film. Although it gets a bad rap for threequel fatigue, I think Scream 3 is pretty underrated. It’s the one entry in the series that goes deepest into the meta element that Scream is built on. Other Screams typically deconstruct horror as a genre through its ebbs and flows, but it’s only Scream 3 gives space for Craven to deconstruct himself and the implications of his own work.
7. Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), dir. Daniels
I think one aspect of this film that hasn’t been talked about so much in The Various Discourses is the film’s own love for its cinematic ancestors! Every genre shift in this movie was so fun to catch—from Wong Kar Wai to a Ratatouille knockoff voiced by Pixar musical regular Randy Newman. It’s almost like the film is saying that every time we watch a movie, we… live another life… woah…
6. Daibyonin (The Last Dance, 1993), dir. Juzo Itami
Juzo Itami is best known for his seminal food flick Tampopo. However, this was my first time to try out his other work, which I found overwhelming in a good way. The lead character of this is an absolutely despicable, lecherous old man at the end of his life. I caught myself thinking more than once that I’d never feel sympathy for him. Yet the end of this movie feels so big and definite and final. It makes me feel like I’m in a different world for crossing that threshold with it.
5. Drive My Car (2021), dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi
I’m not a big Murakami fan, and it’s only recently that I’ve begun to explore his stories with interest. Much of that interest was stirred up by this film, which I found really engrossing and mesmerizing. It’s a movie about language and what we can never understand from one another. I’m not sure yet how I can convince anyone who is completely opposed to Murakami to give this a try, and the three-hour runtime might not win me any arguments on this end. But I will say that for writers, this film poses an interesting thought experiment about how “complete” a story has to be for it to be finished.
4. An Angel at My Table (1990), dir. Jane Campion
In last year’s countdown, I picked The Souvenir Part II as my number one film of the year because I felt it was one of the most profound and rewarding movies about enduring the creative process. An Angel at My Table is a film that runs on similar vibes. Jane Campion’s biography of New Zealand author Janet Frame is harrowing in its depiction of Frame’s time at Seacliff Lunatic Asylum. But by God, aren’t we all just cheering her on when she gets herself out, all the way to the film’s glorious end.
3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), dir. Tobe Hooper
This is a film that I technically only half watched—and by half, I mean that I only managed to see half of the frame most of the time because of how much it terrified the hell out of me. Even as a horror fan, I try to stay away from gore. But there’s something about the way this movie wears its lurid heart on its sleeve that reminds me so much of The Exorcist, another horror classic that I similarly avoided for many years until I didn’t—and now I can’t look away.
2. Nope (2022), dir. Jordan Peele
For my money, this is undisputedly one of the best films of 2022. Secretly a Western, secretly a movie about siblings, and secretly a remake of Jaws! I also want to say affectionately that I saw this movie for the first time at the Alamo Drafthouse in San Francisco, and maybe that experience gave this movie an unfair boost, but hey, at least the movie was Jaws from Space.
1. History of the Occult (2020), dir. Cristian Ponce
A movie about a government so corrupt, its means and ways can only be described as witchcraft. It’s easy for movies with a political focus to feel didactic, like they’re beating you on the head for not already realizing the lesson you’re about to learn. In this way, these movies can feel like guilt machines first, movies second. But History of the Occult is a movie first and foremost, and it manages to tell its story primarily by playing around with film form in interesting ways. It’s not a perfect film, and I don’t think the Number One pick should always necessarily strive to be a perfect film. But it must be a film that I’ll remember for a long time because of the way it tried to do something that I think succeeded.
What were some of your favorite movies of 2022? Were there any movies you discovered for the first time and really enjoyed? Let me know about them in the comments!
Both this year and last year’s countdowns are a creative exercise following in the footsteps of David Ehrlich’s annual 25 Best Films videos. Interestingly, I’ve discovered that by trying to make my countdown more similar to Ehrlich’s (this latest edition comes with an introduction featuring a sample of the movies I’ve seen throughout the year), I’m also finding the ways I can distance myself from them (for instance, branding the countdown as a list of movies I saw for the first time, rather than movies I saw in the past year that I considered The Best). I have a sense of how I might try to change things up next year, but as was the case with the 2022 edition, it all depends on what makes the cut.
This year, one of the biggest changes I made to the countdown was to theme it based on the contents of the list. This year’s theme is: “This is a Life… of Blood.” Blood is, I feel, inevitable because I’m a big on horror, and exactly half of the movies in this countdown are horror films, if not horror-adjacent. But the other half of the list includes movies that are mostly about contemplating the bigness of life, especially at the end of it. Are these just the two big themes/obsessions I’m drawn to the most in film? Compared to last year’s countdown, which included The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, I’m not sure that’s all there is. I’m looking forward to seeing what will make it into next year’s list.
My 2023 in film
All that said, what will this year bring? I’m even more excited to find out, now that Sundance has just wrapped up at the time of this writing. I’m excited to see Nida Manzoor’s Polite Society, which many on Letterboxd have compared to Scott Pilgrim, Shaolin Soccer, and Booksmart. I also really want to check out Past Lives by Celine Song, about two Korean childhood friends who cross paths again after 20 years—a pitch that’s giving huge Before Sunset energy. I’m also really looking forward to all the blockbusters and tentpoles to come—give me Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, give me the new Ari Aster and Wes Anderson, give me Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning, and give me Scream VI! It’s always an exciting time to be a film lover, and I can’t wait to see how any (hopefully all) of these movies affect the way I write and approach my fiction.
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