NBP Film Community Award Nomination voting is currently underway, and as we reflect on the end of 2022 it is never an easy process to come to the end of any given year and decide what films are worthy of an arbitrary list of favorites. Even when the process is difficult, there’s an elation that comes with it, particularly for wanting to discuss which films have made the most impact. There are many reasons to enjoy such movies, but there is a profound effect that’s worthy of noting. Here are the films that touched me the most throughout the past year and were, in my mind, some of the best achievements in the art form. Before doing so, I briefly acknowledge a few honorable mentions that I immensely enjoyed but just missed this cutoff: “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “Decision to Leave,” “The Fabelmans,” “Sr.” and “The Territory.” Now, here are my top ten favorite films of 2022…
A quiet character study can hold so much power in its depiction of regular people struggling with authentic conflicts in their lives and the daily traumas that haunt them. Few films were able to realize this as much as “Causeway,” a rich and endearing portrait of lost souls trying desperately to find meaningful connections in the wake of tragedy. At the center is a magnificent turn from Jennifer Lawrence, delivering her best work since “Winter’s Bone.” She showcases an interiority that is so expressive and entirely captivating, knowing how to possess a weight that can speak volumes in the silences. She is matched equally by Brian Tyree Henry and his own somber intensity and devastating portrayal. Lila Neugebauer’s direction is reserved but detailed in exploring the realms of these characters, delivering one of the year’s most endearing achievements.
9. Turning Red
Much has been made recently about a supposed slump in quality from Pixar as of late. While their current output has had many strong defenders, there has been a feeling in the air that the behemoth studio may not have lived up to the consistent heights of its past. Admittedly, I often found myself at a bit of a distance from many films from this group, which is why “Turning Red” felt like such a refreshing venture. One is immediately endeared to this delightful tone, beaming with humorous energy that compliments its resonant story about the evolving relationship between mothers and daughters. The film also features a terrific voice cast, with Rosalie Chiang and Sandra Oh, in particular, delivering compelling work and a catchy soundtrack to strike right in the heart of every millennial with a nostalgic familiarity of the era’s boy band craze. This effort serves as a reminder that Pixar can still provide an entertaining venture with some soulful experiences along the way.
8. The Eternal Daughter
On the subject of the relationship between mothers and daughters, few films shook me so deeply to my core in such a subtle manner as that of “The Eternal Daughter.” It’s a deceptively simple premise at first, almost in danger of tedium as one watches Tilda Swinton in a dual role weave in and out of what appears to be a haunted hotel in the English countryside. However, Joanna Hogg crafts a more personal haunting, one that looks inwardly at the complex attitudes toward one’s lineage and the reconciliation that is forced to show itself. The somber atmosphere is unsettling in a manner that draws one further in, only to reveal a strong catharsis that subtly breaks through. It becomes powerful without needing to indulge in histrionics, and the foggy setting and ominous sound design set the mood perfectly. Swinton is free from her usual eccentric tricks and showcases a grounded portrait of bewildered loss in one of the most subversively emotional films of the year.
7. Everything Everywhere All At Once
It’s honestly difficult to know quite where to start with this one. That’s mainly because “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has become quite the sensation, and the impression it makes upon an audience is incredibly memorable. It’s one of the most unique films ever conceived, bursting with a chaotic vibrancy that is fascinating to watch unfold. Still, there’s a core here that is effective in building out the exploration of how missed opportunities give way to a much greater potential. That potential to learn from our mistakes towards a road of self-empowerment is ultimately in service of accepting the love that binds us all. It’s a captivating theme the Daniels forge, with a dynamic and monumental performance from Michelle Yeoh to exhume every inch of this analysis. She is matched exceptionally by the supporting cast, particularly the tender portrayals of Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu. At times the journey may seem overwhelming, but so is the nature of life, and there is an insightful commentary embedded within the chaos that’s hard to ignore.
6. Marcel The Shell With Shoes On
It’s difficult to imagine a film that radiated more infectious charm than “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” Being completely unfamiliar with the original short videos the film was based on, stepping into this world was one of complete discovery and total enchantment. One is immediately enthralled by the antics of the title character, brought brilliantly to life by Jenny Slate’s amazing vocal performance. Seeing things through this small creature’s eyes is exhilarating as we endure the towering figures that bring daily terror and the peaceful moments of mundane serenity. Yet, the lesson Marcel imposes upon his audience is one of acceptance of all the aspects of life that bring us joy and sadness in equal measure. This practice is valuable at any age but seems particularly vital to the young audience that would be exposed to this film. They would be all the better for it, and with a grandmotherly Isabella Rossellini in the background to ease you through it all. If any film could be described as a warm hug, it’s this creative and charismatic gem.
Witnessing the life of Siegfried Sassoon in “Benediction” is a trek through a landscape of deep introspection. A sober reflection on the convictions to fight against political injustice, the relationships that delight and break the soul, and the faith that complicates the endeavor toward an elusive inner reconciliation. It’s a significant feat for Terence Davies to mine such rich thematic depths so beautifully, which are expertly woven into the tapestry of his lively screenplay. The spirited dialogue evokes the melancholic dissection of a complicated artist while also providing a barrage of clever one-liners and snappy comebacks. The timbre is equal parts tragic and euphoric, masterfully anchored by Jack Lowden’s stoic portrayal and a supporting ensemble that also showcases engaging performances. Every moment hangs with a feverish earnestness that only a poet could conceive of, a clash of exuberance and mournfulness that casts the portrait of a life. The facets that derive the most fascinating discussions are what the film exceeds at revealing with an artful beauty.
The first time I saw “RRR” was under some unusual circumstances. It had come at a time when interest in the film was still early, though whispers of enthusiasm were penetrating my sphere. There was no crowd on that weekday afternoon, but the energy bursting from the screen was still electrifying. The journey this film has taken with ecstatic audiences worldwide has been amazing to witness and is wholeheartedly deserved. S.S. Rajamouli assembles an action spectacle that puts most of its American counterparts to shame, erupting with an infectious vitality in every frame. However, it’s not just impeccable crafts that support this entertaining venture. The pair of performances from N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan are delightful in their deeply felt comradery. The latter, in particular, excels at delivering a layered and complicated role that still retains a movie star’s appealing magnetism. There are few experiences quite like this one, and the world is blessed to have a stimulating exhibition.
Nearly every frame of “TÁR” feels as if you are in the hands of masterful storytellers. The guidance of Todd Field’s hand is meticulous but not overbearing, precise but not cold. Despite what may be seen as prickly subject matter, the film actually finds so much intrigue in what it uncovers. A complicated display of a revered artist who houses their own dark secrets. However, Field is smart enough not to give the audience all of the desired answers. It’s an indictment of cancel culture, but perhaps not the expected one found in the current climate. It’s a more thorough analysis of hedonism and pride, seen through the lens of a society that equally reveres and resents such qualities. The ominous ambiance is punctuated by a nuanced set of crafts, most effective through the unnerving soundtrack. Of course, it’s impossible not to remark on the magnificent performance of Cate Blanchett, completely engrossing in her ferocious and commanding screen presence. The film may ask for your patience, but one waits with bated breath as the conversations reveal a dark truth about the obsession with twisted artistry, and it’s a fascinating expedition.
2. Top Gun: Maverick
The year had several extravagant displays at the theater, but “Top Gun: Maverick” still feels like a truly special case. It’s strange because there wasn’t much sense of great anticipation for its release during the entire time it was shelved due to the pandemic. Yet, finally seeing it was a great acknowledgment of what cinema can bestow. It may sound flippant, but the experience of flying high on the backs of fighter jets is an immersive setting that can only feel accomplished when viewing that giant screen in the dimly lit room. The sense of excitement is palpable, and the thrilling ordeal is a wonder to behold. It’s appropriate that a sequel to a film nearing forty years old would have a throwback sensibility to its filmmaking and storytelling. Even still, the emotion at the heart of this narrative is not forsaken. A genuine bond is forged with these characters, a crucial element missing from its predecessor, which makes the investment in such harrowing moments even more intense. Tom Cruise is a complicated figure, but there’s no denying his passion for the craft. His dedication reminds us, despite the artifice of film, reality can be the most alluring aspect. In a sea of glossy CGI monotony in current blockbusters, physicality provides an adrenaline rush like no other. Few films can send you out on such a euphoric high as this one, and it deserves kudos if for no other reason than defying the odds and proving what the power of film can hold.
1. Women Talking
There is an undeniable strength that can be present in the simple act of conversation. It may seem reductive, but so much of life is spent dealing with its absence, and to finally hear the expression of such complicated mindsets is a sharply detailed catharsis. That is the entire thesis behind “Women Talking.” The title bears its own synopsis, but embedded within is a more vital examination. To observe these women speak about their experiences of the harshness of a brutal environment that mistreats them and the love for life that is embraced is a riveting analysis. It is not merely the words that Sarah Polley has adapted from Miriam Towes’s novel, though they are indeed lyrical and absorbing in illustrating this insightful critique. Polley’s direction is crucial in this successful undertaking, as she deftly moves through this intimate space with a liveness that is never constrained by the surroundings. She allows this arena to embody a defiant freedom and crafts a potent display of female empowerment raging against oppression. It feels even more profound with an absolutely incredible ensemble inhabiting these roles, every one of them astoundingly captivating and well-supported as a whole. The simple act of speaking one’s truth is an impactful statement. Silence is death, and that’s what compels these women to never submit to that suffocation. This is such a moving portrait of the desire for self-fulfillment, and it is the best film of the year.
The close of one year is a notable occasion to look back on. However, as one chapter closes, that means another one is about to start. It will be interesting to see what another annual passage will bring to the cinematic landscape, and there’s little doubt many more discoveries will be found and treasured.
What do you think of my list? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account. You can see our Editor In Chief Matt Neglia’s top 10 list here. Be on the lookout for more of our Top 10’s for 2022 as we say goodbye to the 2022 film year. Voting for the NBP Film Community Award Nominations is currently underway and can be voted on here until February 11th.