Sunday, June 23, 2024

NBP Top 10’s Of 2022 – Ryan C. Showers

NBP Film Community Award Nomination voting is currently underway, and it is an honor to write this editorial crowing my top ten films of 2022. Since I left my regular contributor role at Next Best Picture a year and a half ago, my taste and understanding of cinema have shifted. Hosting my own podcast, “SCREAM with Ryan C. Showers,” has made me fall in love with movies and understand my cinematic sensibilities in new and deeper ways. Though some selections below may raise eyebrows, I ask for the chance to be understood: This is who I am. This is what I feel. I am not trying to impress anyone. I am simply conveying what is in my heart. This “Top Ten” is my cinematic signature of 2022.

Honorable Mention: AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER
There is also no other way to say it: I believe “Avatar: The Way of Water” is an inferior film to its predecessor, specifically in the way it sidelines its previous leading characters Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). However, there is no other way to say it: “Avatar: The Way of Water” is one of the most immersive experiences in the history of cinema. The technology and vision James Cameron invested in to make his second trip to Pandora possible delivered despite the snide jokes over the past decade. “Avatar: The Way of Water” is undeniable. For a movie that is met with resistance by critics and people on the Internet who accuse it of reductive and repetitive storytelling, Cameron makes his first sequel in the franchise deeply emotional, rich in texture, and bursting with captivating action sequences, unlike any comparable Marvel or DC superhero film. The director-screenwriter does backflips to build the world of “Avatar” thematically and visually.

10. Marry Me

Marry MeThis will be the moment I lose people. And I do not care. “Marry Me” is the best romantic comedy in Jennifer Lopez’s long line of entries into this typically looked down upon genre, and yet, I see it as something more significant than just an enjoyable romantic comedy. Lopez remains one of the most relevant people in the entertainment industry today and one of the most famous people in the world. She yields a great deal of cultural power, even if some would prefer it if she went away. J-Lo not only acted and sang in “Marry Me” but acted as a producer. I see “Marry Me” as a special moment of authorship by Lopez. In the film, she addresses her snub at the Oscars for “Hustlers,” expresses catharsis about her very public divorce and remarriage, and provides a personal statement about feminism and social media in 2022. Aside from what Lopez wants to say, “Marry Me” is an easily watchable movie with an incredible contemporary costume design and a myriad of original songs, most of which are 10/10 bangers. “On My Way” would be my preference over “Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick” for the Best Original Song of the year.

9. Pearl

PearlPearl” should go down in history not only as the prequel to release less than six months after the original film but as the prequel that matches the quality of the lauded original. In a wildly different time and style than “X,” Ti West digs into the mysterious and frightening elderly antagonist Pearl. Considering how little time we spent with her in “X,” taking this occasion to expose her origin story, quirky personality, and odd mentality in fascinating and entertaining ways makes “Pearl” a prequel worthy of existing. “Pearl” is a technicolor masterpiece, a throwback to its time period, drawing most specifically and perversely on “The Wizard of Oz” in both its form and themes. My biggest fear with “Pearl” was that it would struggle to adapt the horror elements in its prequel form. But West took my anxiety and laughed at it, delivering jarring and eerily appropriate violence and death sequences. I take my time to explain the accomplishments of “Pearl” as a movie, not just a performance piece because it becomes easy to associate this film as simply a vehicle for Mia Goth’s tour-de-force portrayal as the titular character. Goth’s performance is the type of acting that will go down in horror cinematic history, specifically for her emotionally triumphant 9- minute monologue in the arc of the film.

8. X

XIf you ask the average artsy, non-franchise horror critic or content creator what the best horror film of the year was, most will pick “X.” While there is some level of pretentiousness in that response, “X” earns its merits. The first half of Ti West’s filmmaking venture in 2022 is conducted with post-modern brutality and beauty. West borrows explicit influences from classic horror films like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday the 13th,” all the while carving out his own specific niche in the horror genre. He produces “X” with a grunge of visual expertise, a plump ensemble cast, each of whom is memorable, and a thriving narrative that looks ahead as much as it throws back. “X” is horrifying and creative and has a shocking ability to cross the line. “X” also features the best makeup work of the cinematic year. Shame on you, Academy Shortlists, for ignoring this film and Mia Goth’s transformation flip-flop between the hero and villain for Best Makeup/Hairstyling.

​7. Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything Everywhere All At OnceI had a bumpy road with “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” My first viewing left me turned off from this film’s more unbecoming modern sensibilities, despite my acknowledging and lauding the film’s technical skills and profound themes. After some time, I embraced “Everything Everywhere All At Once” as a groundbreaking fantasy film equipped with an all-encompassing world with its own rules. In addition, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” will be the crowning achievement in the careers of Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan. Their work is dynamic as the central characters. And to reiterate, the emotional and creative strengths of the screenplay and the breathtaking technical construction make this film a cinematic event. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is as fascinating as it is spiritual. Once the effect of this movie enters your system, it’s infectious.

6. Babylon

BabylonWhile I have recognized the obvious talents of Damien Chazelle and Margot Robbie, I have never been infatuated in the same way as online pundits have been for the past ten years. Yet, “Babylon” conquered me. I see so many takes about the lavish exuberance of this picture. Yes, but I would argue its undeniably over-the-top nature is a benefit to the storytelling and craft. However, that surface-level characteristic is not how I define this movie. Because I was expecting Baz Lurhman-level of distracting luxury, “Babylon” felt sober to me. I came away feeling the crystal-clear ideas Chazelle wanted to express. I am of the mindset: a movie that makes a bit of a mess yet reaches new heights with its messages and intimacy with its characters is more interesting than a by-the-numbers perfectly coifed (dull) bow of a movie. That applies here with “Babylon.” As a self-aware working professional, Chazelle’s commentary in “Babylon” stretches from turnover in industries (not just Hollywood, but any professional industry), technology and cultural norms shifting industries, and the ballsy and blatant corruption of working professionals. All of this is commentary made for the moment. I found the way Chazelle presents his themes early on, nurtures them, and explains them from the get-go made my time with “Babylon” hypnotic and even comforting. Chazelle’s skills as a director are ambitious, energetic, and personal. Margot Robbie delivers my favorite performance of her career. And Brad Pitt puts forth an even more interesting character arc than his Oscar-winning role in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” What can I say? The magic of “Babylon” worked for me, touched me, and made me think. “Babylon” may lose its otherwise perfect track record in the third act, which prevents a higher position on this list. Still, any film that astonished me with joy and literal laughter out loud, such as “Babylon,” deserves to have its flaws looked at in relation to its successes.

5. The Batman

The BatmanMatt Reeves accomplished something I thought was impossible: Triumphantly creating a dark vision of Batman that is distinct from and rivals the quality of “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” When the 2022 movie was released to rave reviews in March, I was kind of stunned until I saw it for myself. Reeves leans into his own ideas and vision of Gotham City and Bruce Wayne, which are inherently different from yet just as gritty as the one Christopher Nolan established in his groundbreaking trilogy. “The Batman” is mind-blowing, scary, and epic. It is not just arresting spectacle; the film noir composition of the screenplay is something that most superhero films will never touch. “The Batman” is easily the most visually remarkable films of the year. The cinematography, score, production design, costume design, sound design, and makeup are thoroughly creative and establish a singular cinematic identity. The technical and design elements of “The Batman” actually exceed those of the Nolan films. “The Batman” is the biggest surprise of the year.

4. Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: MaverickTop Gun: Maverick” is the movie that saved movies that brought the larger adult public back to the theaters after the COVID-19 pandemic. Tom Cruise’s return to the role of Captain Pete Mitchell took nearly 35 years to come to fruition. And thank God they took their time because they got it right. “Top Gun: Maverick” will be remembered for thrilling action sequences brought to life by practical effects and straightforward narrative setups combined with likable characters who unbeholden to sanitized woke personalities of most productions today. “Top Gun: Maverick” resurrects the magic of the original “Top Gun” and takes it to the next level. My favorite thing about the film – aside from the phenomenal editing, breathtaking cinematography, and technical aspects – is the reliance on the events from the first film to conjure a story, following through on the emotional stakes of the previous plot developments. That approach creates an equally, if not more, important story in the sequel as in the original film. And every time Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” has echoed through the world for the past six months, we have been reminded of the accomplishments of “Top Gun: Maverick.” It is a sequel for the ages.

​3. TÁR

TARTÁR” is the most thought-provoking movie of the year. While its glacial pace tried my patience during the first viewing, “TÁR” monopolized my mind and intrigued my sensibilities in the days that followed. As a formal film, “TÁR” is Todd Field showing the world what perfected filmmaking looks like. He leverages an uncanny sense of control over the mise-en-scene and balances an impressive screenplay that sometimes overwhelms with how overwritten it feels, yet it also unsettles the viewer with its subtlety. Field’s approach to the topic of cancel culture is ingenious: he depicts the less memorable moments of the subject at the center of the controversy rather than showcasing the sensationalized and scandalous headlines that tend to drive the conversation about cancel culture in real life. We are left to fill in the blanks of the big moments and draw our own conclusions. Doing this exposes greater truths about cancel culture and perhaps can reshape one’s own view of power and how to balance talent and merit with personal behaviors that happen to be professionally flavored. Cate Blanchett stuns in her most confident performance to date. It is the type of acting that contradicts what we have come to expect from the usually theatrical Blanchett. Her work here as Lydia Tar is the most internalized of her career.

2. Halloween Ends

Halloween Ends“Evil doesn’t die; it changes shape.” This is the hypothesis of the final act of David Gordon Green’s partnership with Jamie Lee Curtis and Jason Blum in the new “Halloween” trilogy. The reboot sequel “Halloween” (2018) was the traditional slasher fare captured with technically advanced directing by Green. “Halloween Kills” was messier and operated at a higher octave of melodrama and themes; it divided the hell out of horror fans. “Halloween Ends” rounds out an unconventional story of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode with the most thematic cohesion ever executed in this trilogy. In fact, “Halloween Ends” is the most focused of Gordon Green’s films in its narrative and technical form, with exquisitely framed direction, thought-provoking, bold plot choices, and character evolutions. I cannot blame anyone who was disconcerted by the unique path of “Halloween Ends,” but for my money, I understood and was connected to every beat. Choosing to observe the characters when they are not under the usual threats of a horror film in the first 45 minutes and following through with an epilogue continuing their lives after the boogeyman’s funeral are some of the best sequences in the 13-film franchise. Jamie Lee Curtis should be proud of her moving performance and this movie as the place where she lays to rest the original final girl.

1. Scream

We waited eleven years for the fifth “Scream” film. After “Scream 4” came and went with a financial whimper, most fans never thought we would see our beloved trio – Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette – ever again. The build-up to this movie inspired me to create my own podcast show, “SCREAM with Ryan C. Showers.” And I can say: the new filmmaking team – directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet, producer Chad Villella, and writers Guy Busick and Jamie Vanderbilt – allowed “Scream” (2022) to live up to the hype. They made a movie that honored the legacy of Wes Craven’s masterwork in the first four films while updating the brand to match the modern day. The most significant accomplishment of “Scream” (2022) is the mastering of the legacy stars – in particular, the stellar turns by Cox and Arquette, who are granted some of the best material of their careers here – and setting forth a new character-centric story for this era of the franchise. The original trilogy, and by extension the fourth film, lived and died by the strength of Sidney Prescott as a final girl and her backstory. The brilliant move by the new filmmakers in “Scream” (2022) was creating an urgent new story with a plethora of backstories to explore in future films about the daughter of the original Ghostface killer, Billy Loomis. “Scream” (2022) maintains the themes of family and trauma, grasps the importance of character development, and executes top-notch violent kills with meta-commentary. “Scream” (2022) takes enough risks to move the story of our characters and the mythology forward while upholding the franchise’s bona fide spirit and tone. It’s a film Wes Craven would be proud of.

What do you think of my list? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account. You can see Next Best Picture Editor In Chief Matt Neglia’s top 10 list here, along with Josh Parham’s 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.

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