This is a concept invented, and used since the mid-2000s, by one Armond White. It’s a good concept, overlooked because of the critic’s famously ungraspable proclivities— claiming Pain & Gain is better than The Wolf of Wall Street, stuff like that.
What follows is pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll keep the preamble to a minimum. But a word of what constitutes a 2022 movie: When I started making end-of-year movie lists as a young man, I, for the most part, picked flicks that were released in Irish cinemas that calendar year. This meant a few selections produced in North America, for example, were essentially holdovers from the previous 12 months due to a delay in them getting a release date here. But these days nailing down an official release date is increasingly complex. Movies are dropped across different platforms at different times; titles that aren’t officially released in Europe are much easier to attain than they used to be thanks to certain corners of the internet. I’m somewhat going on vibes when it comes to defining a “2022 movie” here, but who cares, eh? Let’s all try to have fun.
Finally, if you’ve enjoyed these newsletters in 2022, please consider taking out a paid subscription. For your generosity you will receive at least twice the number of posts to read. You can pay monthly, of course, but if you take out a yearly sub today, that means you’re sure to receive everything in your inbox in 2023—imagine that! Not to mention full access to the DEAN MAGAZINE archives.
Now, on to the critical hagiographying (new word, only to be used to describe Rhian Johnson murder mysteries) and skewering.
The Banshees of Inisherin > Thirteen Lives > After Yang
This has clearly been the finest year of Colin Farrell’s career since his mid-2000s run at being the biggest movie star in the world, when a lack of quality control derailed him. Farreller’s best performance of 2022 (maybe ever) was also the best film of the year: the dark, twisted Irish fantasy The Banshees of Inisherin. Elsewhere, Ron Howard was sharp enough to deduce that story of the Tham Luang cave rescue was remarkable enough to require minimum frills. The director presents the saga clearly and efficiently, giving Farrell and Viggo Mortensen plenty of physical work in the role of British rescuers. Also starring Castelknock’s finest, cyber lullaby After Yang fails to ignite a sense of wonder as it grapples with themes of how A.I. and humanity overlap.
The Batman > Everything Everywhere All at Once
Buried under make-up and a fat suit to resemble… a different looking normal guy, it was silly casting Farreller as Penguin in The Batman. Still, its grungy yet soulful take on 20th century American pop myth was superior to Everything Everywhere All at Once’s fumbling of Hong Kong action cinema history, with the great Michelle Yeow underserved by dizzy editing and nonsensical, new-age multiverse-splicing storytelling.
Glass Onion > See How They Run > Death on the Nile
In the world of cozy crime, it barely needs to be said that Benoit Blanc is an instant icon, while Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan’s odd couple cops were a lot more fun than Kenneth Branagh’s insistence on loading purpose onto Poirot. Fucking hell, did we really need an origin story for the detective’s moustache?
Red Rocket > X
Director Sean Baker’s remit is to make movies about sex workers with depth and humanity, and his story of a male porn star ostracized from the industry (played with a sense of legitimacy but former MTV VJ Simon Rex) was more compelling than the 1970s golden age of porn imagery of the slasher horror. Note: I’ve not yet seen X’s quickly released sequel, Pearl.
Funny Pages > Armageddon Time
Owen Kline’s story of a 17-year-old cartoonist invokes the best of 1990s and 2000s twee American indie flicks, and is a far more charming coming-of-age tale than James Gray’s deeply personal and star-filled (Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Anthony Hopkins) telling of his own childhood. Armageddon Time is solidly entertaining, but no more than that.
Barbarian > Nope
Zach Cregger’s solo directorial debut was terrifying, yet slapped so hard, establishing him as a bold new voice in the horror genre. Jordan Peale’s third movie, meanwhile, was his weakest so far, making some arguments that he may already be the finest filmmaker to work in horror extremely strange to me. I still love Peele, though. The last third of Nope was gloriously Spielbergian, showing some previously unseen strengths.
Elvis > The Eyes of Tammy Faye
How Austin Butler so fully convinces as probably the most imitated man in pop culture history is an absolute miracle. Jessica Chastain, meanwhile, leans on physical transformation effects to star as a famous evangelist. It’s one of those impressions of a real person that yells, “Where’s my Oscar?” and, of course, the Academy obliged.
Causeway > Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Two movies about our occasional need for fresh friendship. Emma Thompson’s awkward attempts to hire a sex worker half her age (played by rising Irishman Daryl McCormack) is predictably delightful, but Jennifer Lawrence, in her best performance since American Hustle, teams up with Brian Tyree Henry to depict a burgeoning rapport between two fractured people, outside and in, that’s sweet and moving. Causeway was a real pleasant surprise.
God’s Creatures > The Wonder
Two strong Ireland-set dramas, but I found co-directors Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer’s modern day tale of a mother caught up in a terrible lie more gripping than Florence Pugh trying to get to the bottom of a seemingly impossible truth in 1862.
I Want You Back > The Estate
This wasn’t a great year for comedies, but I Want You Back brought back the humor and sentiment of classic rom-coms, while The Estate took the familiar outline of a family lining up for an inheritance payoff and, despite the cast’s big ages (Toni Collette, Anna Farris, David Duchovny, Kathleen Turner), added in 1990s teen gross-out comedy humor.
Watcher > Significant Other
As part of #Shocktober, I watched this Maika Monroe horror double bill. Monroe found herself on the edge of fame in 2014 after the incredible left-right combo of The Guest and It Follows, but chose her star vehicle poorly when she signed up to do Independence Day: Resurgence and has been taking the long road back ever since. She’s excellent in Watcher (not to be confused with The Watcher, the apparently flawed new Netflix series), an unsettling depiction of female discomfort, but missteps in Significant Other, a trite and feeble if-you-come-down-to-the-woods-today escapade.
Carter > Bullet Train
Jung Byung-gil’s follow up to stone-cold classic The Villainess uses the one-shot cinematography gimmick not superficially, but to facilitate the kinetic brilliance of his action direction. In contrast, Bullet Train is a self-satisfied Hollywood mess set in Japan that uses the dangerous Japanese schoolgirl archetype as seen in Battle Royale and a million Anime pieces, but casts Joey King. A particularly egregious bit of whitewashing in 2022.
Dead For a Dollar > Hostile Territory
Walter Hill swaddles Dead For a Dollar in original western myth, a clear late-career return to form for the 82-year-old director. Unlikely to be considered as important a filmmaker is Brian Presley, who directs and stars in Hostile Territory, a movie that early on abandons its potentially interesting backdrop of a train shuttling American Civil War orphans around to country in search of new parents for action set pieces and offensive Native American stereotypes.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris > Downton Abbey: A New Era
Two projects that transplant British characters to a retro French setting. The Downton Abbey movies continue to be fan-servicing Christmas TV specials masquerading as cinema—though I can’t deny that A New Era is a very good episode of Downton. But as a film, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, the tale of a middle-aged cleaner who navigates the House of Dior in the 1950s, is true old-fashioned big screen escapism.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent > Ambulance
Nic Cage playing a fictionalized version of himself to embrace the internet’s deepest notions of Nic Cage could easily have been too smug to function, but actually gets close in greatness to the self-referential movie industry satire that is Adaptation, one of Cage’s best films. Michael Bay’s attempts to find the deepest notions of himself can’t replicate the joy of his best pre-Transformers work.
In the same vein, check out my piece that unites Bodies Bodies Bodies and Sissy. And below is movies of the year list, updated from a previous iteration I put out on social media to include films I’ve seen since, plus Bodies Bodies Bodies, which I had omitted erroneously.
The Top 25 Movies of 2022
01. The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh)
02. All Quiet on the Western Front (Edward Berger)
03. Prey (Dan Trachtenberg)
04. Speak No Evil (Christian Tafdrup)
05. Elvis (Baz Luhrmann)
06. Red Rocket (Sean Baker)
07. Funny Pages (Owen Kline)
08. Onodo: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle (Arthur Harari)
09. The Northman (Robert Eggers)
10. Glass Onion (Rhian Johnson)
11. The Tragedy of Macbeth (Joel Coen)
12. I Want You Back (Jason Orley)
13. Bodies Bodies Bodies (Halina Reijn)
14. Barbarian (Zach Cregger)
15. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Tom Gormican)
16. The Batman (Matt Reeves)
17. Watcher (Chloe Okuno)
18. Vengeance (B.J. Novak)
19. Crimes of the Future (David Kronenberg)
20. Gods Creatures (Saela Davis & Anna Rose Holmer)
21. Dead For a Dollar (Walter Hill)
22. Carter (Jung Byung-gil)
23. Thirteen Lives (Ron Howard)
24. Emergency (Carey Williams)
25. Violent Night (Tommy Wirkola)