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.

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