Well…we’ve done another lap around the sun and once more a myriad of cinema has crossed our paths here at In The Seats. As always, we take pride in watching it all (or at least as much as we possibly can) it’s just what we do.
For yet another year, yours truly as editor in chief takes a gander at what the best 30 pieces of cinema for the year were…according to him anyway as myriad of common themes and undeniable talent hit our screens in 2022 showing us the depths of depravity, human selfishness and the eternal remind that nothing lasts forever.
The rules are simple…if the film became available for the mass consumer audience for the first time in the calendar year of 2022, it qualifies. But word to the wise, we occasionally break our own rules.
That being said….in no specific order….here’s the best that WAS in 2022….
Empire of Light
A story about human connection and the magic of cinema set in an English seaside town in the early 1980s.
After blowing our minds with the chaos and violence that was the First World War in 1917; writer/director Sam Mendes got a bit of a bum rap from our ilk with this incredibly personal story about the importance of community that cinema can bring in a time when we all feel very disconnected.
With its lyrical flourishes and nods to celluloid and the grandness of the movie house that has been lost in the multiplex age, Empire of Light reminds us of not only the power of community and story, but also in the sheer will of the likes of Olivia Colman who shines as Hillary, particularly with relative newcomer Michael Ward as they shine on screen in ways that will draw you into the humanity of these people’s lives.
Emily The Criminal
Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is saddled with student debt and locked out of the job market due to a minor criminal record. Desperate for income, she takes a shady gig as a “dummy shopper,” buying goods with stolen credit cards supplied by a handsome and charismatic middleman named Youcef (Theo Rossi). Faced with a series of dead-end job interviews, Emily soon finds herself seduced by the quick cash and illicit thrills of black-market capitalism, and increasingly interested in her mentor Youcef. Together, they hatch a plan to bring their business to the next level in Los Angeles.
From first time writer/director John Patton Ford, Emily The Criminal shows us the genuine desperation of people who are living far closer to the poverty line then any of us would care to admit and the limits people will go to when their backs are against the wall. It’s all anchored by a fearless performance by Aubrey Plaza who continues to show audiences what a multifaceted acting talent she truly is.
My Old School
This is one of those unique examples where the gimmick used in the story actually elevates it somewhere fascinating.
Back in 1993, 16-year-old Brandon Lee enrolled at Bearsden Academy, a secondary school in a well-to-do suburb of Glasgow, Scotland. What followed over the next two years became the stuff of legend.
Told via animation and with narration from the charismatic Alan Cumming; My Old School manages to straddle the delightful yet simultaneously creepy nature of the story with such ease and aplomb that it’s hard to look away from. Writer/Director Jono McLeod brings vibrancy to a remarkable story that few others would have been able to.
This film tells the story of Frederic (Henry Czerny) a grieving man struggling with his faith, who helps an injured young man, Aaron Smith (Mark O’Brien) who stumbles onto his property one night, claiming to be lost in the woods. Frederic and his wife (Mimi Kuzyk) invite the man to stay for the night, but Frederic soon begins to have doubts about this enigmatic stranger’s story – and his motives for being there. When Aaron asks Frederic to commit an unspeakable deed, it becomes clear that the man is not who he seems, and has been sent to test the very limits of Frederic’s existence.
A creepy chamber piece (and our only Can-Con on the list), long time actor (now writer/director and co-star) Mark O’Brien gives us a piece of truly subtle and emotionally disturbing horror that feels pulled from the playbook of a master filmmaker like Ingmar Bergman. Using stark monochrome photography and not being afraid to let his camera linger we get roped into a remote landscape that while actually Newfoundland feels like it is plucked from the things that nightmares are made of. We can’t wait to see what O’Brien has up his sleeve in the years ahead.
Cinema is supposed to be big, especially when telling the story of someone who was larger than life…
The film explores the life and music of Elvis Presley (Austin Butler), seen through the prism of his complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). The story delves into the complex dynamic between Presley and Parker spanning over 20 years, from Presley’s rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America. Central to that journey is one of the most significant and influential people in Elvis’s life, Priscilla Presley (Olivia DeJonge).
Director Baz Luhrmann brings his significant visual flare to bear in this movie which is 160 min fever dream of music and entertainment that is hard to look away from.
Austin Butler shines as Elvis as he masterfully captures both his sense of personal uncertainty alongside that unmistakable hip shaking swagger. Tom Hanks has never been sleazier as the always complex Colonel Tom Parker.
The Eternal Daughter
Can Joanna Hogg and Tilda Swinton actually do anything wrong?
An artist and her elderly mother confront long-buried secrets when they return to a former family home, now a hotel haunted by its mysterious past.
A simply sumptuous piece of gothic storytelling married with family drama from the one and only Joanna Hogg makes for an experience that you’ll want to get lost in while Tilda Swinton is so damn good in a dual role as mother AND daughter it actually took this critic 30 minutes to realize that she was playing both parts.
It’s importance for films to push the boundaries of the art form…
Presented in split screen, Vortex tells the story of an aging couple in a Paris apartment. As the mother (Françoise Lebrun) faces advancing dementia, the father (Dario Argento) tries to care for her while dealing with his own declining health, and their son (Alex Lutz) does his best in spite of his own significant personal problems.
As many of writer/director Gaspar Noe’s previous films have been an assault on the senses, this is an assault on the emotions as it’s hard to look away from this decline of a couple who can relate to far more easily then we want to admit to ourselves. Iconic filmmaker Dario Argento delivers a rare once in a lifetime performance in front of the camera in this incredibly engrossing tale of decline and death.
The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent
You can’t ignore it when an iconic actor finally gets to play the role he was born to play.
Creatively unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, the fictionalized version of Nicolas Cage must accept a $1 million offer to attend the birthday of a dangerous super fan (Pedro Pascal). Things take a wildly unexpected turn when Cage is recruited by a CIA operative (Tiffany Haddish) and forced to live up to his own legend, channeling his most iconic and beloved on-screen characters in order to save himself and his loved ones. With a career built for this very moment, the seminal award-winning actor must take on the role of a lifetime: Nick Cage.
Just unabashedly dumb fun at its core, co-writer/director Tom Gormican allows all of us to get in on the joke as this action/comedy/satire are also a love letter to the films of Cage himself. Cage makes it all work as he takes it all completely earnestly and never gives any kind of unnecessary wink to the camera. Cage and Pedro Pascal are the buddy cop action movie we all deserve….plus let’s face it, any movie that praises the genius of Paddington 2 is going to make our year end list ten times out of ten.
Likely not the feel good movie of the year…
A reclusive English teacher (Brendan Fraser) living with severe obesity attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter for one last chance at redemption.
Only a filmmaker working at the level of a Darren Aronofsky could turn a story that for one reason or another is filled with horrible, irredeemable characters and make it into something that could shake audiences down to the core of their very humanity which all may end with Canada’s own Brendan Fraser hosting up a little gold statue at the end of this awards season.
Even quiet icons deserve a spotlight…
From producer Oprah Winfrey and directed by Reginald Hudlin, this revealing documentary honors the legendary Sidney Poitier and his legacy as an iconic actor, filmmaker and activist at the center of Hollywood and the Civil Rights Movement. Featuring candid interviews with Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Robert Redford, Lenny Kravitz, Barbra Streisand, Spike Lee and many more, the film is also produced by Derik Murray, in close collaboration with the Poitier family.
While you’d be right to expect the standard Hollywood puff piece on a film like this, Sidney manages to be so much more than that. It’s a love letter to the life of a man who was a TRUE trailblazer for African-American’s on the big screen as we get to understand the life of Sidney Poitier with the detail, poise and grace that he brought to everything that he ever did.
There’s nothing in this world that exceeds quite like excess….
From Damien Chazelle, Babylon is an original epic set in 1920s Los Angeles led by Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Diego Calva, with an ensemble cast including Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li and Jean Smart. A tale of outsized ambition and outrageous excess, it traces the rise and fall of multiple characters during an era of unbridled decadence and depravity in early Hollywood.
This is one of those cinematic experiences that you can either love or loathe….and be 100% right about it but no one will ever be able to say that they’ve seen anything like it. This is a heady cinematic etch-as-sketch of ego and excess that plays out at a break neck speed, with some epic performances from the likes of Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt that keep us engaged with it all, every step of the way…even with the defecating elephant that will be hard to ever forget.
A fresh chapter from the twisted and demented world of ‘X’ where things get even more unsettling….
Trapped on her family’s isolated farm, Pearl (Mia Goth) must tend to her ailing father under the bitter and overbearing watch of her devout mother. Lusting for a glamorous life like she’s seen in the movies, Pearl’s ambitions, temptations, and repressions all collide.
This fresh installment in Ti West’s saga truly embraces the unhealthy and destructive nature of fame along with all the horrible things we’re willing to do in order to achieve it.
Star Mia Goth (who also co-wrote the screenplay) gives a chilling performance that manages to dial back on the actual violence but truly dial up the psychological terror in one of the best horror films of the entire year. If it can give Martin Scorsese the willies….it’s fine by us.
Capturing the essence of pure genius is never as easy as it looks.
This film is a cinematic odyssey exploring David Bowie’s creative and musical journey.
Presented in IMAX on the big screen, ‘Moonage Daydream’ is the journey into the essence of the creative genius that was (and still is David Bowie).
Director Brett Morgen crafts a master class of sound and vision that demands to be seen as loudly and as largely as possible in celebration of one of the pre-eminent creative forces of the modern age.
Seeing is believing…or is it?
Residents in a lonely gulch of inland California bear witness to an uncanny and chilling discovery.
Visionary writer/director Jordan Peele reinvents the summer movie giving his own macabre spin on some of the big Amblin Entertainment style adventures of the 1980’s that he grew up with. With Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun leading the way in a social thriller that unpacks so many layers for audiences to take in again and again.
Quite possibly the best movie you haven’t seen this year….
Margaret’s (Rebecca Hall) life is in order. She is capable, disciplined, and successful. Soon, her teenage daughter, who Margaret raised by herself, will be going off to a fine university, just as Margaret had hoped. Everything is under control. That is, until David (Tim Roth) returns, carrying with him the horrors of Margaret’s past.
Featuring career best performances from the likes of Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth (which is saying something) this film from writer/director Andrew Semans will get under your skin and stay there no matter how many ‘Silkwood’ showers you need to take after seeing. Don’t let the ‘Shudder’ label fool you; this is officially the hidden gem of 2022.
Marcel The Shell With Shoes On
Easily 2022 biggest on screen hero…
Marcel is an adorable one-inch-tall shell who ekes out a colorful existence with his grandmother Connie and their pet lint, Alan. Once part of a sprawling community of shells, they now live alone as the sole survivors of a mysterious tragedy. But when a documentary filmmaker discovers them amongst the clutter of his Airbnb, the short film he posts online brings Marcel millions of passionate fans, as well as unprecedented dangers and a new hope at finding his long-lost family.
Brought to us in a faux documentary style from writer/director Dean Fleischer Camp, this tale of this one inch tall shell and his chance encounter with a documentary filmmaker to help him find his long lost family is one that you’ll fall in love with over and over again.
Fire of Love
It’s always nice to see a love story that has a little bit of heat to it….
Katia and Maurice Krafft loved two things — each other and volcanoes. For two decades, the daring French volcanologist couple roamed the planet, chasing eruptions and documenting their discoveries. Ultimately, they lost their lives in a 1991 volcanic explosion, leaving a legacy that forever enriched our knowledge of the natural world.
Director Sara Dosa crafts the archival footage in such a way that the romance pops off the screen just as much as lava and it all makes for the what was easily one of the best and most engaging documentaries of the year.
When you go out for dinner, you’ve got to have faith in the people in the kitchen.
A couple (Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult) travels to a coastal island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef (Ralph Fiennes) has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.
Fine dining and even the art of criticism itself gets skewered here in director Mark Mylod’s delicious horror/satire that will have you busting a guy while you squirm in your seat. Ralph Fiennes is a delight as the chef who has been pushed just too far by a culture and a community that has taken the joy out of the artistry of what he does. Anya Taylor Joy matches him step for step as the unexpected guest on this very unique evening of fine dining.
2022 has unquestionably been the year of the ‘Farrell-esance’.
When his young daughter’s beloved companion — an android named Yang — malfunctions, Jake (Colin Farrell) searches for a way to repair him. In the process, Jake discovers the life that has been passing in front of him, reconnecting with his wife (Jodie Turner-Smith) and daughter across a distance he didn’t know was there.
A thoughtful and philosophical piece of storytelling from writer/director Kogonada, this is a piece that is truly about the need for connection and how we can lose it even while we are sleeping right next to someone. With a well-rounded and incredibly thoughtful performance Colin Farrell that finds some real humanity in a cold world that surrounds him.
It’s all about family….
The Fabelmans are 16-year-old aspiring filmmaker Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), his artistic mother Mitzi (Michelle Williams), and his successful, scientific father Burt (Paul Dano), and his younger sisters.
While it’s got it’s obviously self-serving moments, The Fabelmans is a truly beautiful and perfect ode to the art of storytelling and why it’s just so easy to get obsessed by it. Gabriel LaBelle delivers a star-making performance as Spielberg….ur the young Fabelman while Michelle Williams will undoubtedly up for some awards gold once again as a master filmmaker like Spielberg tells his own and very personal story while managing to stay out of the way of the overall narrative, giving us a complicated look at family life….warts and all.
The Banshees of Inisherin
The ‘Farrell-esance’ rolls on….
On a remote island off the west coast of Ireland, lifelong friends Padraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) find themselves at an impasse when Colm unexpectedly puts an end to their friendship. A stunned Padraic, aided by his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon) and troubled young islander Dominic (Barry Keoghan), endeavours to repair the relationship, refusing to take no for an answer. But Padraic’s repeated efforts only strengthen his former friend’s resolve and when Colm delivers a desperate ultimatum, events swiftly escalate, with shocking consequences.
From the mind of writer/director Martin McDonaugh we get one of the more uniquely relatable character pieces of modern times that are a salient reminder of the kindness we need to show one another in day to day life.
Farrell brings real pathos and humanity to Padraic as he struggles to deal with the only world he’s ever known being pulled out from underneath him. The brilliant Brendan Gleeson and the criminally underrated Kerry Condon take this to being one of the best acted films of the entire year.
Spectacle cinema knows no geographic boundary….
RRR is a fictional story about India’s legendary freedom fighters, Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem who fought against the British Raj and the Nizam of Hyderabad respectively.
If (in some fictional universe) Michael Bay and William Shakespeare had a love child, it would be in the form of writer/director S.S. Rajamouli who is truly bringing big and bold BACK to the big screen. To see this kind of scale of filmmaking away from the Hollywood system in incredibly encouraging and allows for audiences to go on a ride that they’d never forgot. Regardless of the language you speak the core values of adventure and pure entertainment translate in any language.
Everything Everywhere Always At Once
Imagination has no boundaries….
Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a flustered immigrant mother, is contacted from a parallel universe and told that only she can save the world. The unlikely hero must learn to channel her newfound powers and fight through the splintering timelines of the multiverse to save her home, her family, and herself.
The directing team of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert let their freak flag fly and they aren’t afraid who know it.
This is such a reminder that cinema and storytelling can truly go anywhere it damn well pleases as they bring Michelle Yeoh to the revered status that she deserves and brings Jonathan Ke Quan back to acting after a long overdue absence.
It’s rare to see something tackle the metaphysical, the philosophical and the fun all at the same time.
A truly fantastic debut feature should be understated and sneak up on you….
Sophie reflects on the shared joy and private melancholy of a holiday she took with her father twenty years earlier. Memories real and imagined fill the gaps between MiniDV footage as she tries to reconcile the father she knew with the man she didn’t.
Arguably the most heartbreaking and beautiful film of the year as this story about the perspective of memory will overwhelm you with the feels. It will not only make you appreciate the time you’ve spent with loved ones, but wish you had more of it when you truly understand how it has shaped you as a human being. Stars Frankie Corio and Paul Mescal carry with this drama with ease thanks to the kind of self-assured direction that we see maybe once in a decade. Aftersun is pure artistry in cinema.
Living (In Theatres January 13th)
Sure we’re all alive, but it takes something pretty serious to make many people understand what it means to be living.
An ordinary man (Bill Nighy), reduced by years of oppressive office routine to a shadow existence, makes a supreme effort to turn his dull life into something wonderful.
Adapted from Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru; this film which could have easily been a rote exercise in cinematic adaptation truly shines thanks to what can only be described as the best performance of the year by the one and only Bill Nighy. He lets the struggle of this man get expressed in a whisper that speaks louder than any over the top theatrics that we see in movies like this ever could. This film is an exemplary study in subtlety.
Top Gun: Maverick
There’s a reason you can’t “Go Big” when you stay home….
After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of Top Gun graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose.” Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.
One could argue that in the wake of the recent global pandemic that this movie just might be the one that saved the big screen cinematic experience….and to tell you the truth….they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong.
The duo of Joseph Kosinski and Tom Cruise crafted a wild ride (that happened most ‘in-camera’ for that added effect) which reminded audiences across the globe for that ever eternal “Need For Speed” while still giving us an emotionally satisfying character arc that we all fell in love with more than thirty years ago.
We have to stand up for the women in our lives….not to mention the Canadian ones.
In 2010, the women of an isolated religious community grapple with reconciling their reality with their faith. Based on the novel by Miriam Toews.
Rooted from real events, Canada’s own Sarah Polley makes a stunning cinematic statement here with her first feature in a decade that reminds us of the salient fact that is too easily forgotten in this day and age. The truth ALWAYS has to come first.
As we see this ensemble of women grapple with the issues in front of them, we are reminded that discussions of a similar nature are happening far too often between other women all across the globe.
Polley allows the actors to exist in the moment and let the emotion of it all carry us through in a journey that will keep you on the edge of your seat as we truly understand how the fight against the archaic patriarchal systems that we are so used and engrained with can never truly stop as long as we never lose sight of the truth behind it all and never lose perspective on the simple compass of what’s ‘right’ and what’s ‘wrong’.
Triangle of Sadness
It’s rare to see social commentary and unabashed entertainment value truly mix….
Celebrity model couple, Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), are invited on a luxury cruise for the uber-rich, helmed by an unhinged boat captain (Woody Harrelson). What first appeared instagrammable ends catastrophically, leaving the survivors stranded on a desert island and fighting for survival.
Writer/Director Ruben Ostlund turns the camera back on us once again in a savage dissection of fame, power and social importance. Think Zoolander meets Lord of the Flies because this film is filled with terrible terrible people….that we just can’t look away from.
You can’t be terrible forever….
Set in the international world of classical music, TÁR examines the changing nature of power and its impact and durability in our modern world through the life of iconic musician Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett), the first-ever female chief conductor of a major German orchestra.
Cate Blanchett and Todd Field hit our screens with this glorious tale of power and how it ultimately corrupts all those who come in contact with it.
Having not given us a feature in 16 years, writer/director Todd Field at least proved he was worth the wait and in teaming with the forceful Cate Blanchett we get a front row view at how the weight of power will cause even the most celebrated genius to crumble under its weight.
As always Blanchett could read the phone book and she’d have our ticket money, but here she proves yet again why she can simply do anything as we track this character who is blind with ego and genius clutch at everything around her to stay on top. Plus seeing Nina Hoss opposite her serves as yet another reminder that we just need to see her in more movies….period.
Genius comes in small packages….
Nelly has just lost her grandmother and is helping her parents clean out her mother’s childhood home. She explores the house and the surrounding woods. One day she meets a girl her same age building a treehouse.
As a follow up to Portrait of a Lady On Fire, it’s hard to imagine anything that could be more exquisite then that, but Petite Maman is exactly that.
Director Céline Sciamma has crafted something small yet brimming with humanity and wonder from the opening frame that isn’t afraid to get real or emotionally devastate you at the same time.
Anchored by twin sisters Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz in their first film we get a real sense of the gap that can exist between children and parents when they all get older and how important it is to truly hold on to it all.
OK…we’re finished….see everyone at the movies.