You’d be hard-pressed to find two movies more different than James Cameron’s ultra-expensive, special effects-laden epic “Avatar: The Way of Water” and Charlotte Wells’ intimate and home movie-like father/daughter drama “Aftersun,” save this:
Both movies immersed us in a world and took us to a specific time and place in that magical way that only movies can. Whether we were soaring and swimming with the Na’vi on the extrasolar moon of Pandora in the 22nd century or losing ourselves in the deceptively simple story of a man on vacation with his 11-year-old daughter at a downscale Turkish resort in the late 1990s, we were transported to a very specific world.
This is the magic of movies, and Cameron and Wells are just two of the filmmakers who created beautiful cinematic memories for us in 2022. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights, lowlights, dim lights and bright lights of the Year in Movies, 2022 edition.
The Slap Heard ‘Round the World
If we’re talking about the year in movies, we can’t ignore the shocking moment when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock onstage at the Academy Awards.
There. We’ve mentioned it. I think we can all agree it’s time to move on, yes?
What Next, Pinocchio Goes Rogue?
The occasionally clever but mostly stupid Grinch horror parody “The Mean One” is just the first of a number of splatter films inspired, so to speak, by children’s fare. Coming soon: “Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey,” “Peter Pan: Neverland Nightmare” and “Bambi: The Reckoning.” For real.
The Lesbian ‘Lightyear’ Moment
It’s difficult to believe that in the year 2022, some people were legitimately outraged by the kiss included in a brief but quite lovely and touching lesbian romance in the animated Pixar film “Lightyear,” but there were indeed a number of stories about a supposed backlash to that subplot. Oddly enough, when the Disney animated film “Strange World” was released later in the year and it featured a prominent gay protagonist, there was virtually no outcry. I guess being a bigot can be exhausting and one has to choose their trolling battles.
It Might Be Time to Worry, Darling
After months of disastrous publicity involving casting controversies, disagreements over marketing, leaked videos, etc., etc., Olivia Wilde’s psychological thriller “Don’t Worry Darling” turned out to be a stylish but half-baked con job that wasn’t nearly as compelling as all the behind-the-scenes drama. Writer-comedian Zach Heltzel authored one of the best tweets of the year when he suggested: “ ‘The White Lotus,’ Season 3: it’s just the ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ press tour but Jennifer Coolidge is also there.”
Movies Within the Movies
Hollywood has always loved movies about movies and the people who make movies, and this year was no exception. Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” was the semi-autobiographical tale of a boy who dreams of becoming a filmmaker, while Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light” was set in and around a cinema in an English coastal town in the 1980s, and Damian Chazelle’s “Babylon” was a heavy slog through the wretched excess of the Hollywood of the 1920s. We also had moviemaking subplots in “Downton Abbey: A New Era,” Kevin Smith’s “Clerks III” and let’s not forget how Ti West put the X in “X”!
This year saw the release of biopics about three of the most beloved American entertainers of the 20th century, all of whom died far too young. Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” was a dazzling and show-stopping spectacle with a star-power performance by Austin Butler, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” was a solid albeit by-the-numbers treatment of the Whitney Houston story — and Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde” was a self-indulgent, exploitative mess with a miscast Ana de Armas doing her best but eventually drowning in a grotesque disaster.
No Go For Margot
Over the course of the last decade, in films ranging from “I, Tonya” to “Mary Queen of Scots,” from “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” to “Birds of Prey,” Margot Robbie has consistently demonstrated she’s one of the most charismatic and versatile actors of her generation. Robbie had starring roles in two of the most anticipated movies of 2022, both set in the early 20th century: David O. Russell’s “Amsterdam” and Damian Chazelle’s “Babylon.” Alas, the former was a disjointed and convoluted mess, while the latter was … well, a disjointed and convoluted mess. (Robbie did fine work in an underwritten role in “Amsterdam,” but was over-the-top to the point of irritation in “Babylon.”) Here’s hoping the talented Robbie bounces back with a bang in two summer 2023 releases: Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” and Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” which may already have set the modern-day record for most leaks of set photos.
The End of the Road? One Can Only Hope…
More than 40 years after Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode did battle with Michael Myers in the original “Halloween,” Laurie was STILL fending off the tireless (and increasingly tiresome) masked killer in “Halloween Ends,” a relentlessly stupid, cheap-looking, derivative sequel that offered nothing new in the way of psychological insights, dark humor or legit scares.
“Halloween Ends.” Promise?
An Oscar for Maverick?
It’s looking increasingly likely Tom Cruise will earn a best actor nod for reprising the role of Pete Mitchell in the hugely successful “Top Gun: Maverick,” which would mark Cruise’s fourth nomination, following “Born on the Fourth of July” (best actor), “Jerry Maguire” (best actor) and “Magnolia” (best supporting actor). Action movies and performances in such films rarely get trophy love, as evidenced by the total lack of Oscar love for Robert Downey Jr.’s award-worthy work in “Iron Man” and various Avengers movies, so it would be a nice change of pace to Cruise and perhaps the movie itself to receive nominations — but it would be a real stretch for Cruise to actually take home the Oscar. He delivers a megawatt, star-power performance, but it’s not on a par with Brendan Fraser in “The Whale,” Colin Farrell in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Austin Butler in “Elvis,” Bill Nighy in “Living,” Paul Mescal in “Aftersun,” Daniel Kaluuya in “Nope,” Christian Bale in “The Pale Blue Eye” and I’d even include Robert Pattinson in “The Batman” as a more complex, layered and nomination-level performance.
Out of Nowhere
Seemingly out of nowhere, the magnificently creative, weirdly wonderful and fantastically absurdist comedy-drama “Everything Everywhere All at Once” became a critical and commercial smash, earning more than $100 million on a budget of approximately $20 million and generating Oscar buzz for the writing-directing tandem of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert and stars Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis, among others. Anyone up for a bagel topped with literally everything?
From new offerings from iconic veterans such as Spielberg, Cameron and Aronofsky, to works by the likes of Kwan & Scheinert, Wells, “X” and “Pearl” director Ti West, “To Leslie” director Michael Morris and let’s not forget Jordan Peele and “Nope,” 2022 was rich with memorable work.
THAT should be the most enduring legacy of the year in movies.