Monday, January 30

Emery's 2022 Favorite Films

 Emery’s List – The Best of 2022

By Emery Snyder @leeroy711

As I am writing this, the Oscar nominees have just been announced. And as it stands, I still have a lot to catch up with. I’ve actually only seen two of the ten Best Picture nominees. That being said, I’ve never found the Academy at being all that relevant when it comes to what cinema turns out to be the most important of its time. So I don’t worry too much about it. I’ve seen the films that I felt had the best chances to impact me. Years from now, I’ll look back at 2022 as the year of fill in the blank_______. (We don’t get to write history in the present.) I think it takes some separation to know for sure what media really stands out and what exemplifies the time. Undoubtedly, some of the films you read about below will be mostly forgotten. While others that have been so far overlooked, will withstand the test of time. I’ll be most interested to see what we say about 2022 in five or ten years. But for now, here’s my entry into the time capsule. It's just a snapshot. I’ll deny everything.

Honorable Mentions

HYPOCHONDRIAC – Directed by Addison Heimann

This was such an unsettling depiction of mental health issues. This film wears it heart on its sleeve so blatantly that it’s painfully obvious how deeply personal this story is to the storyteller. And this, is one of the most special and refreshing things that I can find in this medium that I love. With tonal shifts that range from searing intensity to snickering goofiness, this film is a personal and human expression of its storyteller.

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN – Directed by Martin McDonagh

As a technical director, McDonagh is incredibly skilled. He has frequently collaborated with cinematographer Ben Davis as well as composer Carter Burwell that always elevate his screenplays. The performances, especially by Gleeson and Farrell work together beautifully as well. This screenplay exists somewhere in between the masterpiece that is IN BRUGES (’08) and the disappointing THREE BILLBOARDS (’17). It’s a unique, entertaining and heartfelt film.

DOWN WITH THE KING – Directed by Diego Ongaro

Freddie Gibbs gives a great performance in this meditative slow burn about a rapper who’s holed up on a rural farm trying to record his new album. All the while, he’s contemplating whether he even wants to continue in the industry. It’s a film that shows how the creative process is often harmful to those who work in it.

DINNER IN AMERICA – Directed by Adam Rehmeier

This is listed as a 2020 movie but I really don’t think anybody was aware of it until this year. I’ve been more mesmerized the recent surge in what I call “dirtbag cinema”. Movies like Friedkin’s KILLER JOE or the films of Harmony Korine or Joel Potrykus (BUZZARD, RELAXER, APE). This film exists somewhere in between these films and the awkward romances of Anderson’s MOONRISE KINGDOM or Zwigoff’s GHOST WORLD. It’s a lot of high-energy fun in front of a Midwest punk rock backdrop. As a bonus, this film features one of the coolest original songs of the past decade.

AFTER YANGDirected by Kogonada

This has been a pretty good year for fans of sad Colin Farrell. This is Kogonada’s second film about dealing with grief. I loved COLUMBUS as well but somehow connected more with this one. It also features one of the coolest opening credit sequences in film history.

WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIRDirected by Jane Schoenbrun

I think this film did a fantastic job at encapsulating what it means to grow up in the digital age. Similar to things like race & gender norms, urban legends are social constructs that have become real through repetition and community. And although, the digital world has had a flattening effect on the validity and qualification of information, even made-up social constructs often come with IRL consequences. This is the message I gleamed from this film, only in its last ten minutes or so. Before that, I didn’t even like it. But then I really did.

TOP 10

10 – FIRE OF LOVE – Directed by Sara Dosa

This is a documentary, narrated by Miranda July, about married French volcanologists, Katia and Maurice Krafft. There are a lot of things a human can do to make their lives legendary. Not the least of which among those things would be to leave this world with hundreds of hours of absolutely amazing footage of your day-to-day work for the rest of us to sift through. One of the running themes of this film is mankind’s powerlessness and insignificance in the presence of nature. The Kraffts remind us of this in interviews and in deed. Their love for each other as well as their love for volcanoes is greatly expressed by them but I also found their sense of service to all of humanity to be the film’s most touching part.

9 – PREY – Directed by Dan Trachtenberg

I could be the thirty-thousandth person to express how much of a shame it was that this thrill-fest never got a theatrical release, but I barely made it out to the cineplex this year so I probably would have watched it on Hulu anyway. This film turned into one perfectly crafted set-piece after another. Anchored by the physicality and charisma of Amber Midthunder’s performance, the fight choreography and pace will keep you fully engulfed. Watch it with the Comanche dialogue. It’s a different experience.

8 – RRR – Directed by S. S. Rajamouli

I don’t even know what to say about this one. It’s just pure unbridled ridiculous fun. I haven’t seen a whole lot of Bollywood films. But I’ve seen enough to know that this type of bombast is not uncommon. It’s not unusual to find a three hour epic that incorporates romance, action and dance numbers in a tall tale of adventure. RRR just does everything a little bigger, better and with far less regard for realism or believability. As it turns out, realism and believability are completely unnecessary for cinema.

7 – BARBARIAN – Directed by Zach Cregger

Were we all supposed to be surprised that sketch comedy veteran, Zach Cregger could write and direct one of the year’s most accomplished and effective horror films?... No, this phenomenon is definitely not supposed to surprise us in the same year that Jordan Peele releases his third film. Comedy is hard y’all… If you’re good at it, you’re probably capable of mastering other themes and genres also. BARBARIAN’s tonal shifts are as unsettling as its visuals. This is a big part of what I’m looking for in films. Misdirection isn’t only about plot twists. I heard Cregger on a podcast earlier say that his instruction to his cinematographer (Zach Kuperstein) was that he wanted “Fincher upstairs and Raimi downstairs”. Watch this with that quote in mind. The dichotomy colors the film perfectly.

6 – THE NORTHMAN – Directed by Robert Eggers

This film does medieval violence and brutality with skill that few filmmakers have shown. This feels like a great combination of the mood of Eggers’ THE WITCH and the frantic energy of his THE LIGHTHOUSE. Although I didn’t love this one on quite the same plane as those two, I was fully engrossed in it visually for its entirety. Eggers is likely to be a unique and trustworthy craftsman in cinema for years to come. And I’m fully hear for it.

5 – GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY – Directed by Rian Johnson

I was very happy this year to see some films that were just fun to watch. If you listen really closely, deep, deep down in the very back of your mind, you will hear a little voice telling you that this is empty and vapid fun. I just tell that voice to shut up. This film harkens back to a style of ‘whodunnit’ that was more comfortable 70 or 80 years ago. Johnson seems committed to it though. And why not? He gets great performances from an ensemble cast, reciting witty dialogue, piecing together a cleverly designed puzzle. I hope he keeps it up for years to come. I’ll always look forward to new installments.

4 – NOPE – Directed by Jordan Peele

“Do you see the slightest evidence anywhere in the universe that creation came to an end with the birth of man? Do you see the slightest evidence anywhere out there that man was the climax toward which creation had been straining from the beginning? ...Very far from it. The universe went on as before, the planet went on as before. Man's appearance caused no more stir than the appearance of jellyfish.” – Daniel Quinn, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

Jordan Peele’s latest film stayed with me long after I originally saw it. Upon first viewing, I was struck by its technical mastery. I wasn’t sure about it as a whole film, however. But it wouldn’t stop bouncing around my brain until I gave it a rewatch. Unlike his sophomore effort, US, I found a lot more to cling to with a second viewing of NOPE. I think this film very well illustrates the hubris of mankind in a very specific way. We have completely stopped questioning our position as the rulers of this world. And in a lot of ways, we’ve just assumed the same position extends throughout the universe. This level of unearned self-confidence may someday be our undoing, in terrifying ways.


I can’t say that I’m surprised that this didn’t make more ‘year-end lists’ from my peers. I had to watch it again just to make sure that I actually did adore it as much as I remembered. I ended up watching it one more time after that even. It’s just full of joy, meta-performative joy. I’ve heard the term “Bromance” used a lot this year while championing films like TOP GUN: MAVERICK and RRR. But watching Cage and Pascal’s budding friendship in this film was about as much fun as I’ve had all year.

2 – THE MENU – Directed by Mark Mylod

I love this screenplay, written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy. But had this material been handled by its performers even slightly differently, this film could have been either snobbish and elitest or completely misanthropic. Instead, it delicately dances on that thin line of genius that straddles between the two. It’s got daggers pointed at artists, critics and toxic sycophantic fandom alike. Fortunately, it’s smart enough to to take itself right to the edge of seriously, without falling over. Ralph Fiennes and his work here is next level.

1 – EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE – Directed by Daniel Scheinert & Daniel Kwan

Earlier I wrote about a couple of movies that illustrate and even revel in the insignificance of our species. And while I appreciate that sentiment, I was absolutely ecstatic to see this film that reminds us just how special we really are. It’s in our relationships and connections with each other that we find meaning and EEAAO has such a beautiful and unique way of showing us this truth. It engages us with its multiverse complexities and disarms us with is goofiness. All of this is in service of a melodramatic core that Ozu would have been proud of. And still, emotionally extrapolating the high stakes weight of the fate of the entire universe. I’m really not sure how the ”Daniels” managed to simultaneously tell a story so universal and so very specific but I thank them for it.

Honestly, I can’t say that 2022 was a great year or not. I’ve still not seen a handful of films that I have the potential to love. But EEAAO was head-and-shoulders above anything else I saw. It’s the type of film that actually ends up meaning something to me for years to come.

Friday, January 6

M3GAN Review


Dir: Gerard Johnstone

Starring: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng, Brian Jordan Alvarez, and Jen Van Epps

1h 42m

History has demonstrated that the first week of the new year doesn’t typically offer the finest selection of scary movies.  But director Gerard Johnstone, whose last foray into genre territory was 2014’s wickedly humorous and horrific “Housebound,” challenges with “M3GAN” an absolute surprise of sinister fun and killer-robot-doll mayhem.

Written by Akela Cooper, who stunned in 2021 with the script for “Malignant,” the story begins by introducing a family driving during a snowstorm.  The daughter, Cady (Violet McGraw), sits in the back seat playing with an annoying furry toy while the parents bicker in the front seat about driving conditions.  Unexpectedly, a snow plow hits them head-on, leaving Cady orphaned and sent to live with her Aunt Gemma (Allison Williams). 

While the film may begin with a familiar horror movie troupe, things get much creepier and weirder once Cady meets a new toy built by her robotics expert Aunt.  The toy is called M3GAN, which stands for Model 3 Generative Android, and it’s a life-sized doll that looks like an adolescent young girl with blonde hair, a rubber face, and creepy eyes.  M3GAN sings, dances, and offers emotional support while continuously adapting and learning from the child that pairs with it.  Cady and M3GAN become fast friends, helping Gemma save her job at a corporate toy company that hopes to launch the advanced technology before competition can duplicate it. 

“M3GAN” lives and breaths on its understanding of the tone it’s implementing, which consistently aims for campiness and humorous qualities with a mix of horror scare tactics.  The inclusion of a hilarious toy commercial to start the film, M3GAN singing a laugh-out-loud lullaby, and a wild dance number that transitions to a chase scene make it clear that the film is having loads of fun.  The horror elements are minor setups for unfrightening jump scares, and much of the gore and death happens off-screen.  However, Johnstone understands how to build tension and compose a scene for the thrill of seeing M3GAN inflict retribution on some awful people. 

The film sneaks some commentary concerning the overuse of technology for children and how more significant technological advancements have created a rift in the family structure.  Still, it never delves much deeper below the surface.  There are a few moments when the narrative momentum stalls, but once the film moves into “Terminator” territory with its killer robot vibes, “M3GAN” operates for pure entertainment value.  Writer Akela Cooper is an exciting voice in genre storytelling, and director Gerard Johnstone understands what to do with the script here.  “M3GAN” is an unexpectedly good time at the movies. 

Monte’s Rating

3.25 out of 5.00

Tuesday, January 3

Favorite Films 2022 (Monte’s Take)

Monte’s Favorite Films of 2022

2022 was another fantastic year for the cinema. A year that, in the still lingering cloud of a pandemic, saw a return to the theater-going experience. It was a year that continued the surge of streaming platforms and so many media options to watch. The diversity of films released, from the big to the small and at-home streaming screens, displayed a wealth of brilliant performances, inventive stories, and exciting new artistic voices. Every month a new film competed for my favorite movie of the year. For a cinephile, that's a beautiful feeling to experience while going to the movies. Here are my favorite films of 2022.  

10. Top Gun: Maverick

"Top Gun: Maverick" is a sequel, but it feels more like a reboot. From a story perspective, the framework is similar, in some ways identical, to the original film. Scenes feel pulled from the 1986 movie, updated with new faces, and reintroduced for modern times. The action is exceptional throughout the film, with most scenes featuring the actual actors twisting, turning, and being placed in situations with the immense forces exerted on their bodies. It's exciting filmmaking, adding another element to blur the lines between the special visual effects and reality. "Top Gun: Maverick," with its purposeful nostalgic callbacks and familiar storytelling design, is a delightful movie. 


9. RRR

The staggering three-hour and seven-minute runtime of director S.S. Rajamouli's "RRR" is nothing short of epic. A feast of intoxicating imagery, a spectacle of over-the-top action, and, at its core, a celebration of cinema in all its many forms. "RRR" implements a story about two freedom fighters, Bheem and Raju, who join forces in an epic adventure featuring a rapid-fire narrative, a spectacular musical number, and a bromance between two charismatic leads that evokes both comedic and sweet sentiments. S.S. Rajamouli proudly displays a deep admiration for popular cinema and an intriguing artistic fingerprint that showcases his cultural influences. 

8. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio 

The story of "Pinocchio" was adapted three different times in 2022. Each version handled the one-hundred-year-old story through various artistic mediums and implemented new narrative features and tones with each film. "Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio" was the best of the bunch. Del Toro builds a darker, more tragic version of the fairytale within a stunning stop-motion animation style while focusing its emotional emphasis on elements surrounding family and the unconditional love found within that structure. The familiar story of the wooden puppet who dreams of being a real boy is superbly re-envisioned by one of the finest storytellers working in cinema today. 

7. Bones and All

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, "Bones and All" is a road trip coming-of-age love story about two cannibals searching for meaning across Midwest America. But underneath the sheen of young love in peril and surrounded by horrors at every pit stop is a story using genre characteristics to delve into concerns surrounding seclusion, abandonment, and inherited trauma. At times it feels like a commentary on the opioid epidemic in America, the socio-economic imbalance felt during a crisis, and the changing, ravaged, yet still mystical and majestic landscape found on quiet roads across small-town America. The performances are deeply layered. Mark Rylance is unnervingly odd, while Taylor Russell is formidable with her conflicted emotions for her newfound urges. "Bones and All" can be brutal and beautiful in equal parts.

6. Decision to Leave 

A mountain climber falls to his death mysteriously. A detective investigates the accident but considers it a possible crime. At the center of the investigation is a woman operating with curious, suspicious motives. Sound familiar? Director Park Chan-wook's "Decision to Leave" is an elegant, confounding mix of neo-noir sophistication in the shadow of Alfred Hitchcock. Throughout his career, the director has masterfully curated genre stylings, utilizing varying degrees of meticulously strategized elements of sex and violence within each tale. "Decision to Leave" weaves a familiar mystery, one that harkens back to noir stylings of the 50s and 60s, but in the steady hands of Park Chan-wook, the result feels different. It's unexpectedly complicated, sensuous, and intriguing with every twist.  

5. The Banshees of Inisherin

Friendship is central to Martin McDonagh's humorous and heartfelt drama "The Banshees of Inisherin." Situated on the fictional island of Inisherin in 1923, the film falls directly into the dissolution of a longstanding friendship between two friends. Featuring career standout performances from Brendan Gleeson, playing the stubborn Colm, and Colin Farrell, portraying the oblivious Pádraic, the film composes a tale of morality and the fragility of relationships, both new and old. Beyond its initial humor and oddball partnership, "The Banshees of Inisherin" delves deeper into human complications that grow gravely personal and startlingly brutal for two friends. It works because of McDonagh's clever script, direction, and astounding performances from Gleeson and Farrell. 

4. The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg's fictionalized, semi-autobiographical story of adolescence and falling in love with the movies is spellbinding. The fragments of life, the moments that profoundly change and influence humans, can be equally magical and tragic. Spielberg curates the details of Sammy Fabelman's life, from the spectacle of cinema that stole his heart to the slow collapse of his parent's marriage and the progress of chasing a dream of making art. The influence of Spielberg's love for cinema finds incorporation in subtle and obvious places. The coming-of-age story indulges in everything the director has perfected narratively throughout his career. "The Fabelmans" is Spielberg's most personal work and also his best film of the past decade. 

3. Vortex

Gaspar Noé, the controversial and uncompromising auteur, composed the only film that haunted my thoughts for days after its viewing. "Vortex" is an unflinchingly honest look at growing old, dying, and the inevitable encounter with death. The film is viewed through split frames, detailing through different perspectives the ailing health of a husband and wife, an astounding portrayal from legendary genre filmmaker Dario Argento and a heartbreaking performance from Francoise Lebrun. "Vortex" is unlike any of Gaspar Noé's previous work. The sensationalization of themes and the gratuity of violence are replaced with a subdued, although still affecting and tragic, portrayal of end-of-life emotions. "Vortex" is a film I will always admire but probably never watch again. That's the power of the emotions conjured by this film. 

2. Aftersun

The debut feature for writer/director Charlotte Wells is a poignant filmmaking exercise. The film begins with 11-year-old Sophie vacationing with her father, Calum, at a resort. It's a memory she recounts lovingly and longingly 20 years later as an adult as she tries to piece together a portrait of her father, both the man she remembers and the one outside her view. "Aftersun" is a character study of a father and daughter, of a family doing its best to hold the pieces of their bond together. The style imposed in the framing devices and photography choices portrays memories between the two family members with delicate empathy, beautiful creativity, and heart-aching feeling. The performances from all involved, especially Paul Mescal, who plays Calum, are pitch-perfect. "Aftersun" is a fascinating journey into how we compose memories of the ones we love. 

1. Everything Everywhere All At Once

Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as the creative directing combo, Daniels, composed a fantastical, genre-bending spectacle of pure cinema with the appropriately titled "Everything Everywhere All At Once." The film centers around everything between the Wangs, a Chinese-American married couple who own a laundromat, and the tenuous relationships experienced in their multigenerational family. While they finish their taxes, Evelyn, a stunning Michelle Yeoh, is brought to the realization of the many versions of herself from everywhere in the multiverse. The directing duo expertly executes the extreme shifts, from dazzling to bonkers. However, the story's brilliance is that underneath all the dazzling designs is a delicate and emotional family drama. It's a film about how life can force people to try to be everything for everyone. About how experience can influence from everywhere around us. And how we can find our purpose all at once at any moment on our journey through life. 

Honorable Mentions: 

11. Tár 

12. Nope

13. Fire of Love

14. Barbarian 

15. Is That Black Enough For You 

16. Holy Spider

17. Resurrection

18. The Northman

19. Jackass Forever 

20. Crimes of the Future

21. You Won't Be Alone

22. Babylon 

23. The Menu

24. Causeway

25. The Batman