Hi, my name is Travis Bean and I have…well. I have what some people say is “unique” taste in movies. Other people would use other adjectives: terrible, questionable, contrarian, etc. And hey, everybody is entitled to their opinions—including me. I like the movies I like and hate the movies I hate for a reason. You may not like it, but that’s the beauty of movie-loving: there’s always a new conversation to have. And I want to drive that discussion.
So Chris (co-founder of Film Colossus) and I decided to start these lists. Yes, I will be ranking every new movie release I watch this year. But I will also be recording my thoughts about each and every movie along the way. And whatever your reaction—whether it’s anger or combativeness or delight—I want to hear about it. If you disagree with me, leave and comment and I’ll respond. If you think there’s more to love in a film, leave a comment and I’ll respond. If you want to join in and trash a movie I hated, leave a comment and I’ll respond. But don’t just write me off—I won’t have time for that. I don’t want to shy away from how I feel about movies, but embrace it. And I hope it inspire you to do the same.
Table of Contents
Last 3 Movies I’ve Watched
I have every instinct to hate on Nope. After all, much like the misfire Us, it’s high-concept stuff—which annoys me to God’s end about modern movies. At times it feels entirely concerned with social commentary—meaning the characters are likely to suffer. And it’s an unabashed nod to the Twilight Zone and ‘70s sci-fi—a recipe for the kind of venerative material that makes me wanna hurl.
But…Nope works. Every time I went down a path of “this movie is bad for this reason,” I found myself defending it. It is high-concept…but it’s so high-concept that it becomes part of the fun. The movie’s impudent aesthetic becomes informed by it. There is lots of social commentary…but it’s honest, insightful commentary. The characters don’t suffer, but work within the message. And yeah, it’s an overbearing nod to sci-fi pioneers…but also has its own style and approach that feels refreshing and exciting.
Is Nope perfect? Well, uh…nope. Ultimately, it does suffer from the high-concept approach. The message is unique and timely, but it’s also so detailed that it becomes a bit boring. I hate plot-heavy movies, and Nope performs quite a few cartwheels to string its wild narrative together. Again: it’s all part of the fun. The plot is crazy and interesting. But sometimes it feels like we’re spending a bit too much understanding the aliens’ backstory and not enough time understanding the family affected by the aliens. There’s such a great foundation for OJ and Emerald and Angel and Ricky that…it doesn’t feel like the movie quite does their story justice.
Beyond the thematic meat, however, I found this movie to be an entertaining watch. Nope doesn’t sanitize its horrific moments, which drives me nuts about modern movies. Every single actor is doing awesome work. The alien spaceship looked cool as hell and I was always excited to see what they would do next. Plus, this movie brought back the western! In a new and exciting way!! Jordan Peele wins points for that one.
On my list right now, Nope comes in at 14th place. That is much higher than I expected. I assumed I would experience more of the same half-hearted and dull social commentary that plagued movies like Fresh and Don’t Worry Darling. But Nope’s concept is way more interesting than either of those movies and has some truly winning moments.Watch Nope on:
Barbarian made me realize something I really, really hate about modern movies: world building. Not that I hate the idea of world building—heck, some of my favorite movies have built worlds full of nuance and wonder. Think the Harry Potter movies. Or something simpler like Eyes Wide Shut. I love those worlds.
So…why do I hate the world of Barbarian so much? To be honest, it has nothing to do with the “world” itself. I think a movie about a crazy dude who kidnaps women and keeps them in his basement is classic horror material that’s ripe for insightful social commentary. My problem is with how that world is built, how that world is stretched by its narrative threads into oblivion, how that world ends up with nothing interesting to say because it’s so concerned with being provocative and shocking that it completely forgot about its central character that we’re supposed to care about.
There’s nothing interesting to me about a world that uses the “yes and” improv approach, that just keeps building for the sake of building. That’s never the case with Harry Potter or Eyes Wide Shut. Every new discovery in Harry Potter contributes to Harry’s understanding of this new world, of his philosophical journey with Voldemort and his “dark side.” And Bill’s night out in New York City in Eyes Wide Shut forces him to continually confront his role in his marriage, his relationship with sex, his understanding of a dehumanized world.
But in Barbarian, what journey is Tess even on??? Every element of Barbarian represents a truth about the world: there are good guys like Keith that are hard to trust because of bad guys like AJ and evil men like Fran—and there are women caught in the middle of it all. And just about every creative decision in Barbarian builds on that concept, creating an exaggerated version of the world that Tess must conquer.
But my question is…when do we see that journey? On paper, the journey exists. But in visual form, it’s a complete mess that ends up feeling barren in its delivery. We have to cut away from Tess’s struggle to move on from a relationship and find her place in the world…to find out how terrible AJ is, to find out that Frank has this weird operation in his basement, that a local homeless man knows all about The Mother, than Detroit is a terrible run-down city, that Tess is in a bad neighborhood—I’m sorry, but it’s all just so boring and stupid to me. All of that narrative material is built around Tess, but none of it is in service to her character. It’s all part of the film’s very blunt social commentary, and it’s never done with any flair or style. It’s all nothing but information, and information is the most uninteresting part of any movie ever. Give me more time with the characters instead. And let the world build alongside them.
For my 2022 rankings, Barbarian comes in at 37th place—two spots away from last place. I think Texas Chainsaw Massacre was pretty terrible, but at least that movie had a stylistic presence. I wasn’t sure if I’d rank this movie lower than Bodies Bodies Bodies. Honestly, you could swip-swap them on this list (I still might). But for now, I’ll say that Bodies Bodies Bodies had a more interesting concept and drew me in a bit more. Barbarian just pisses me off the more I think and read about it. It represents a lot of what I hate about modern movies.Watch Barbarian on:
Jurassic World: Dominion
It is absolutely beyond me how the world decided that this was the worst movie of the Jurassic World trilogy. The first one is practically unwatchable as it spits in the face of everything that made Jurassic Park so great. But Dominion completely reinvents the franchise formula while also adhering to the wonder and adventure of Spielberg’s original.
Director Colin Trevorrow really came into his own with this one, cleverly playing with the meta formula that so many other Hollywood series clumsily fumble. The movie is constantly a commentary on itself as a ridiculous addition to a prestigious blockbuster franchise—an unnecessary cash-grab that’s pulling that age-old trick of bringing back stars from the original film. The difference with Dominion is that it finds a perfect blend of self-deprecating humor and legitimately interesting ideas—with a fast-paced ever-changing narrative to boot. As my friend Tony Walter pointed out, Dominion’s breakneck approach pays homage to the fantastic Fast and Furious films that give you every single freakin’ cent you pay for the price of admission—and then some.
If people are disappointed with this version of Jurassic World, then it’s no wonder why blockbusters have become so boring, formulaic, and unwatchable. Dominion is everything I wish summer movies could be again. Sadly, given the less-than-stellar box office returns (A MERE $1 BILLION), this may be the last exciting Jurassic movie we ever get. Shame.
For now, Dominion comes in at #5 for me. I love it, but it’s not quite as gripping as Dog, and doesn’t have that horror arthouse formula that Ti West perfected with X. Now that I think about it, several of the movies I’ve loved this year (X, Ambulance, Orphan: First Kill) were simply because great filmmakers were improving upon genre formulas that really started to irk me and feel stale. Dominion is the return of great blockbusters in a field of absolutely lifeless competition (*cough* Marvel *cough* Star Wars *cough* anything Disney touches *cough*).Watch Jurassic World: Dominion on:
2022 Movie Rankings
- Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy
- Jurassic World: Dominion
- Mad God
- Orphan: First Kill
- Not Okay
- Deep Water
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
- Jackass Forever
- Spin Me Round
- The Bob’s Burgers Movie
- This Much I Know to Be True
- I Love My Dad
- Me Time
- Friends and Strangers
- The Batman
- Everything Everywhere All at Once
- The Northman
- Death on the Nile
- Don’t Worry Darling
- Senior Year
- The Lost City
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- Bodies Bodies Bodies
- The Gray Man
Yet another moment I feel completely detached from the film-loving community. Maybe it’s a matter of expectations, because when I sit down to watch yet another addition to the V/H/S series, I’m not expecting classic horror—I’m expecting something fun, something ridiculous, something completely…well, unexpected. And that’s exactly what I got with V/H/S/99.
My problem with so many horror movies is that they feel barren and impossibly grim. Who wants to watch people swashed in a gray color palette look miserable for 120 minutes? I’ll take chaotic experiences like V/H/S/99 any day of the week. Yes, some of the segments’ formulas (Suicide Bid for example) are overused—but the trajectory of each segment is stunningly unforeseeable. Ozzy’s Dungeon went through so many twists and turns that I gleefully couldn’t keep up. The Gawkers felt disorganized until everything came together in the end. And To Hell and Back felt like a low-budget version of Norse Mythology set in Hell—there’s nothing I can think of to compare it with.
Maybe the problem is that people are watching these movies by themselves, hoping they’ll experience the next Suspira or something. I watched this with my friend and we had a heck of a time. Part of the V/H/S franchise’s beauty is that each individual segment doesn’t have to be perfect—heck, it doesn’t even have to be good. Because before you know it, it’s over and you’re onto the next one. And you can laugh about how dumb the last one was as you watch the new one. Call me crazy, but that sounds like an awesome time at the movies—and way more fun than half of the self-serious crap I watch half of the time.
Today, V/H/S/99 notches the #11 position. I feel good about this ranking because, while I really enjoyed it, I wouldn’t classify the film as “top 10 material.” None of the V/H/S movies have ever felt that way to me. I enjoy them, but they don’t transcend like a single artist’s vision transcends.
This Much I Know to Be True
This film had moments where it really hit…and moments where it sorta dragged. The moments that hit are when Nick Cave is simply talking to the camera about his life, his philosophy, his artistic process. And the moments where it drags aren’t so bad because Nick Cave is usually being awesome and singing an unbelievably beautiful song, while Warren Ellis is being weird as hell.
The big problem here is director Andrew Dominik, who somehow made the haunting journey of Nick Cave feel kinda boring. Dominik’s lazy eye feels as dull as ever here, never moving the story in any coherent way and always choosing the exact same camera movements to capture Cave’s music. I honestly started to feel dizzy spinning around Cave and Ellis that much.
With all that said, I enjoyed sitting down with this film. Again: Cave is saving the day here. He is so inherently interesting and fascinating to watch that you’re pulled in. The experience feels intimate not because of Dominik, but because Cave feels like he’s sitting down on your living sofa to discuss life. Just like his music, there are self-confessional moments that are truly gripping and will move you to tears.
Because I wanted more from this movie (or perhaps I wanted less (in that I wanted less Andrew Dominik (in that I wanted no Andrew Dominik))), I’ve placed This Much I Know to Be True at #20 of 38 movies. It’s in the lower half because it’s not adventurous enough for me, but it’s also not too formulaic or unforgivably boring like many of the films below it.
Don’t Worry Darling
There’s a recurring trend in modern cinema that for a while irked me—but is now starting to depress me. The message and social commentary of woke films is starting to take importance over character and theme and style…when really the message and social commentary pave the way for those crucial artistic elements.
And Don’t Worry Darling is an unfortunate example of what can happen when the foundation of your film crumbles. The movie’s ideological thrust—a criticism of toxic masculinity and undying patriarchy, an examination of society displacement, a call to rise against an unjust system—has no bite because there are too many outstanding questions (for which we are only provided vague, unsatisfactory answers) about the characters and the world they inhabit. I never thought I’d be calling for more character exposition or more information about the Victory Project—and, in fact, maybe I’m not. Instead, perhaps I’m just looking for something simpler, something more efficient and cohesive, something that allows a pretty important message to take shape and become a disturbing reflection of society.
But without a strong foundation…we’re left with nothing but a message. And that doesn’t even come close to utilizing the full potential of film. Art has the power to shift society, to challenge the overwhelming groupthink, to motivate this generation and the next one. But Don’t Worry Darling just sorta…preaches to the choir. The characters and the setting aren’t ambitious enough or clear enough to reveal something new—which means it has a null impact. Which, ultimately, means nothing is accomplished with its social commentary. Let’s stop this trend, please.
Bodies Bodies Bodies
The filmmaking team behind Bodies Bodies Bodies tells you everything you need to know about this movie: a bunch of older Millennials and Gen X’ers who have something to say about Generation Z. What exactly do they have to say, though? Beats me. Much like two of the other worst films I’ve seen this year, Scream and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the commentary feels pointed and directionless at the same time. Clearly there’s plenty to navigate regarding Gen Z’s disconnectedness as a result of its undeniable attachment to technology and social media. That thematic material is inherently tied to a project of this nature—just like it was for Scream and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
But just like both of those turds, the insight is missing from Bodies Bodies Bodies. Instead, the film feels more like a bunch of oldheads sitting around complaining about the youths of today than legitimate, intelligent commentary. Woke terms like “ableist” and “gaslighting” are invariably thrown around willy-nilly, with the apparent message being that the characters don’t really know what the words mean—but all I can hear is the writing team (which, by the way, consisted of five people significantly older than any of the characters in this movie) that A24 hired when its market research showed that Gen Z commentaries were hot this year.
That lackluster energy constantly plagues the film, as pretty much every intriguing facet of Bodies Bodies Bodies quickly fizzles out with a whimper. The movie’s promising foundation quickly devolves into a boring mess of vapid kids bickering about silly, meaningless things (because apparently Gen Z’ers have nothing interesting to say); it’s supposedly a “slasher,” but there’s nothing gripping or scary about any of the kills (most of which you don’t even see); and there’s no real mystery, as it’s immediately clear that everything’s a giant misunderstanding (just go watch Spin Me Round if you want a good farce). A film with no insight is a film without implications. So what’s the point? If us old people are going to keep making movies about Generation Z, we could at least challenge them to self-evaluate. Instead, we’re just showing them what we think we see—which apparently isn’t much of anything at all.
I Love My Dad
Cringe-worthy cinema doesn’t bother me—if anything, there’s a perverse joy in watching something that makes you feel profoundly uncomfortable. I’m able to watch The Office through the slits of my fingers while wincing and cackling at the same time. So the concept of I Love My Dad never bothered me.
Instead—and this might sound insane to anyone who’s watched this movie—perhaps I was disappointed in how safe this movie played its hand. A story where a dad pretends to be a girl that his son is dating online? And…it actually happened?! That’s insane. That’s the kind of story that can make me squirm in my seat until I’ve buried my face in the cushion. It’s also the kind of story that—like any good genre film—can elevate above the ordinary. The commentary to be had about our fragile youth in a technological age, about the anxiety-ridden notion of online dating, about the increasingly blurred lines between parents and their children…I mean. Man. This movie inherently offers a great framework for a palette of uncomfy topics that should be explored in cinema.
So…why does the movie feel so safe? Reading interviews with director James Morosini—who based the film, once again, ON SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO HIM—reveals the answer. He clearly changed a lot of details for the sake of his father and their relationship; dramatized things in the ways movies dramatize things; made it more digestible for a South by Southwest audience (that in return granted the film the Narrative Feature Competition audience award); and, ultimately, disinfected the film of any hard-hitting insight. The performances are great, the dialogue is funny, the story is entertaining. But that’s about it. As somebody who can barely handle Michael Scott, I didn’t find this movie very difficult to watch—and that was my biggest problem. I Love My Dad reminded me that being uncomfortable is often part of any eye-opening experience. Art confronts us with challenging ideas we choose to ignore as we blissfully live our happy simple lives. And I find it invigorating.
Maybe Michael Scott is my hero after all?
How could a wordless stop-motion film be so…moving? Mad God is cryptic in its presentation—but overwhelmingly clear in its form; in its grim reflection of humanity. Phil Tippett opts for style over content, for shape over matter, for the disposition of parts over subject. Tippett doesn’t ever tell you what’s happening, and instead focuses on the contemptible components of a lost world that must be vanquished. The references to Leviticus and the Tower of Babel at the very beginning are really all we need to understand the crushing tone of this film. The colors and contours of this infernal realm paint a world in desperate need of vanquish, and its monstrous inhabitants reek of impudent insolence—it’s not hard to see how Tippett views this twisted world we actually live in. The struggle between everyone—from the disgusting behemoths that seek nothing but power and the mindless drones they punish, to the rebels who fight back to feel something, feel anything, to the Last Man who feels it’s his God-given mission to end it all—is startlingly reflective of our reality. Sure it’s a mythological version of hell, but look out: things could get this bad. Perhaps they are this bad.
Me Time is both a movie I admire and a movie that misses the mark. These sorts of buddy slapstick comedies live and breathe on their gags and physical humor—of which the movie handles very well. But the chemistry between the leads and bit characters isn’t always there, leading to several awkward moments. Still, the movie is commendable for its utter insanity, its commitment to a non-traditional plot structure that forces its main character (Sonny, played by Kevin Hart) to address his personal struggles in real time.
Not Okay feels like a movie made for Generation Z’ers…but it stars a Millennial as its lead. And its director is a Millennial. So according to my calculations, this movie is actually about a Millennial trying to find her identity in a changing digital world ruled by the Z’ers…whoa. This movie caused me to have an existential crisis. And I kinda enjoyed it?
There’s part of me that wants to love Vengeance. As a satiric critique of liberalism, of the sometimes hollow disparities between various parts of America, of white dudes who’d like to become podcast famous, I’m into it. B. J. Novak is clearly a talented writer with lots to say, and he does a great job of inhabiting someone who’s forced to self-evaluate and grow up. And nothing will make you grow up faster than being forced to confront the sorry split-roads of America. His character Ben is chasing what’s been sold to him as the liberal American dream—but it must come at the expense of a rural conservative community. No matter how heartless you are—and trust me, Ben is a real dingleberry—that is not an easy task. At some point, you’ll have to reckon with yourself, with your choices, with the changing American landscape you thought you understood so well.
So yeah, the film’s intent is great. But…it’s never realized. Every time Novak harps on a cultural difference between conservative and liberal settings, it doesn’t carry any heft. Maybe sometimes it’s funny? But before long the comedy wears off, and all we’re left with is a handful of lame observations that really aren’t critiquing anything at all. Lame plot devices and villainous switch-ups remove any and all nuance from what could have been an acerbic-yet-honest portrait of our country’s divided times. Amidst the needless infighting that exists on a daily (hell, try hourly) basis, people are hurt, people are lost, and people are forgotten. Our ability to recognize that story and tell that story is an important part of massive, nationwide change. That’s a gargantuan topic for any filmmaker to take on—and for that, I applaud Novak. But personally, I could never become part of these characters’ lives and recognize my country reflected in them.
Orphan: First Kill
An amazing thing has happened—potentially a miracle? And I’m overjoyed. This is a long, rocky road, but please come with me. I’ll hold your hand the entire time.
I talked about this already in my Automata piece, but I’ll go ahead and say it again: when I watch a movie, I want to see something different. Something new. Something indulgent. Something unhinged. “Unhinged” doesn’t have to mean out-of-this-world-nutter-butter-crazy. I’m asking for art that doesn’t feel beholden to rules or structure; art that envelops itself in unmitigated style and flair; art that knows exactly what it wants and doesn’t care who or what stands in its way. I want a movie, a book, an album, a painting to take me on a journey and not care about how uncomfortable or bizarre it’ll be. Normalcy is for the weak, brazenness is for the eternal.
So how exactly am I going to transition from that bold statement to…Orphan: First Kill? It might seem crazy, but I can think of no easier changeover. Year in and year out, I watch horror movie after horror movie—wait, let me rephrase, because while the horror genre is in a sad state, this issue really goes beyond genre. Year in and year out, I watch weak movie after weak movie that doesn’t own the audacity or fearlessness of this film that is seemingly nothing more than a studio cashing in on a moderately successful 13-year-old horror flick. Hollywood constantly tiptoes around what is comfortable, what is safe, always careful not to offend anyone, hiring the same tired actors, praying that the critics aren’t turned off by anything too adventurous or too out-of-touch with pop culture sensibilities. When you watch as many movies as I do, it starts to feel like a game Hollywood is playing with me—except this game isn’t fun at all. And I need an aspirin afterwards.
God forbid that Orphan: First Kill is the movie I want. Not Everything Everywhere All At Once, which philosophically bloviates and dangles its settings and costumes in my face, hoping I’ll clap and cheer the entire time. Not The Lost City, which pairs two A-list stars together despite them having zero chemistry and begs me to care about whatever superficial struggle the studio has deemed safe enough for a feature-length treatment. Not Scream, which only bears resemblance to its predecessor in name alone and never once takes an adventurous step to differentiate itself, to find its own personality. I want a movie that doesn’t care what other movies do or what other people will think.
This 31-year-old woman named ESTHER with a thick Estonian accent is pretending to be a young American girl? Sure. She has to sleep in a pink room and pretend to be a child for the next seven years? OK. She has superhuman strength and recklessly kills adults without much trouble whatsoever? Who am I to judge. Her “mom” is actually a psycho cuckoo lady who goes from a nice middle-aged housewife to an unnecessarily vulgar sailor with an impulse to kill? Look, I’m just here to have a good time—I don’t want to get mixed up in any of this. Carry on!
This is why the game is no fun. Because people don’t believe any of this should happen. It’s crude, it’s wrong, it’s flat-out obscene. Or worst of all: it’s artless. Art isn’t allowed to do any of this, so this isn’t art. This should be ridiculed. This doesn’t belong here. So let’s scoff our noses and move on—what a pretentious attitude.
But…wait a minute. People don’t really seem to hate Orphan: First Kill all that much…do they? It’s got a 73% score on Rotten Tomatoes. A slightly middling score on IMDB, but that’s OK. And the reviews on Letterboxd seem to get it (*gasp*). The overwhelming attitude seems to be, “This is awesome because it’s so crazy,” or “Wow I’ve never seen anything like this before.” People are genuinely impressed by a piece of art that’s so unabashedly flipping off the idea of playing it safe.
So what else is there to say? Maybe we’re in a transition. Maybe people are starting to get sick of these movies that I’ve been sick of for years—or maybe these people have always existed, and in fact exist in droves, and I just couldn’t hear them over the vocal minority. Maybe…I’m not alone? And if that’s the case, then maybe money-hungry Hollywood will notice. And things will start to change.
OK, I’m not that hopeful. But…maybe?
So here’s to Orphan: First Kill—the bravest movie of 2022, the movie we didn’t know we needed.
Spin Me Round
There’s a real beauty to farce. In fact, I really romanticize the plight of farce in today’s meaning-obsessed movie culture, which places way too much importance on significance and explanation. This plot thread must lead to this plot device; this exposition must explain this character’s actions; this moment must have profound implications for the story at hand…ugh. Yuck. Look, I’m okay with this style of storytelling—it’s a very traditional and digestible way to explore the truths of life (plus it’s sort of our job to explain movies on Film Colossus). But to believe that movies must follow a set of rules in order to be philosophically interesting and dramatically weighty? That’s limiting.
Farce is a natural antidote to such reductiveness. While you’re searching for meaning and social relevance and spiritual transcendence…the artist is laughing at you. Laughing at their characters. And laughing at themself. It’s all a joke anyway, right? This character is confused about something they don’t understand, and then ropes all these other characters into their tiny misunderstanding to create a bigger misunderstanding, and then becomes convinced of this bigger misunderstanding so deeply that any and all meaning or comprehension that had ever been assigned to life goes flying out the window and all that matters is this sh*tstorm happening right here and now. Chaos is the reality—and you’re not prepared to handle it.
Right then and there as I was writing about farce, it really made me realize how vital a movie like Spin Me Round is in the current zeitgeist. Movie lovers are sickening in their gluttonous desire for profundity and meaning. Not because those things aren’t important—they are, in fact, the most important part of the moviegoing experience. But the discussion we’re having here is about how we find such profundity and meaning. Any dork with a Twitter profile can get online and scream and whine and complain about how Spin Me Round doesn’t “go anywhere” or “do anything” or “say anything” about this or that or whatever personal problem they’re dealing with or social issue they can’t wrap their minds around. “Movies, stories must make us reflect on the state of the world, the state of ourselves, and there’s no time for fun and games.”
Oh, the irony. What’s more reflective of the thoughtless chasm currently inflicting society, the inescapable sense of meaninglessness that pervades our individual spiritual journeys, the absolute lunacy that has become our everyday political climate than a silly movie where silly things happen to silly people for no reason whatsoever? The only reason Amber (played by Alison Brie) gets roped into Nick Martucci’s weird coital romp is because she was too busy imagining a fairy tale life with some rich loner who sells mass hoards of bland tomato sauce for a living. Her entire situation is stupid…and that’s the point. She needs to wake up. She needs to stop waiting for catharsis and enlightenment to fall into her lap, and instead manufacture it herself. In fact…every single character in this movie needs to wake the heck up.
And when it comes to movies, you should too. Stop searching for the why and just appreciate what is. The beauty of Spin Me Round exists in the moment with these characters. It’s a truly post-cinematic movie in that way (which really makes you realize how ahead of the curve Shakespeare was), in that the story has no time for explanation and positioning. Sure, everything makes sense at the end—but that’s not really the point, is it? If that was the point, then Spin Me Round would truly be (again, the irony) a pointless movie. We are lost in the chaos with all these engaging characters (played hilariously by every all-star in this movie), and that chaos is truly reflective of the confusing human experience that, gosh darn it, just flat out doesn’t make sense half the time. Isn’t that where the profundity lies?
I’ve been on a bit of a journey ever since I watched Fresh. The movie simply wasn’t for me. Fresh felt like it was constantly skirting around the uncomfortable realities for a woman in today’s society, unwilling to embrace the most gruesome and distressing aspects of the horror genre. Because of it, the aesthetic felt a little off—constantly jostling between playful and frightful in a way that felt a little too flippant.
After watching Fresh and having the negative reaction I did, I then read B. Ruby Rich’s essay “In the Name of Feminist Film Criticism.” It was a tad earth-shattering for my worldview of film and film criticism to be challenged in the way she challenged. In particular, one passage stuck out:
“For a woman’s experiencing of culture under patriarchy is dialectical in a way that a man’s can never be: our experience is like that of the exile…the ultimate dialectician for that daily working out of cultural oppositions within a single body. It is crucial to emphasize here the possibility of texts to be transformed at the level of reception and not fall into a trap of condescension toward our own developed powers as active producers of meaning.”
Essentially, the central message of the essay suggests that feminist film criticism must define the ways in which women express themselves on the screen. The set of vocabulary that has existed for thousands of years in regards to narrative structure and storytelling technique was born from a patriarchal system. As artists, women never had the same opportunities (which continued for the first few decades of film’s growth). So when they finally came upon the scene, critics were using a male-defined set of vocabulary to describe films made by women—when, in fact, movies made by women are threaded in a different language. Thus, an adjustment to the way we view and write about these films is necessary.
Anyway, long story short: I didn’t exactly have an open mind when watching Fresh. Do I need to love the movie? No. I can criticize aspects of it. But it seems reckless to do so without recognizing that certain sensibilities and insights might be lost on somebody who has mostly seen movies made by men.
That incredibly long intro brings me to Babysitter, which I was really excited to watch. The irony here? I was excited because the director, Monia Chokri, had been a star of several movies made by a male director I love: Xavier Dolan. Before even starting the film, I had a male presence in mind. Upon realizing that, I tried to reset my brain and adjust how I was viewing the movie—and I have to say, it helped tremendously.
Will I inherently be able to connect with Babysitter like my wife could? Probably not. Like the characters in this movie, she’s probably observed quietly misogynist behavior from me over the years. But I can certainly glean quite a bit of insight from Chokri, who with Babysitter details the perverse predicament a woman experiences in a progressive society: it can feel both lonely and overwhelming for all the men in your life to learn a new language. Inherently, a societal adjustment places all the attention and focus on the men making the adjustment—and they’re all trying to one-up each other with their woke-ism. In the end, the attention drifts away from the real problem and the people actually affected by the real problem.
The final shot of the film is the most telling (this is a slight spoiler, by the way). Several younger women go skating by Nadine, who is now on the other side of her and her husband Cédric’s philosophical awakenings. Nadine and Cédric have experienced the stress of a quickly changing society, trying to both keep up with the modifications and reckon with many lost years of passivity. And then a younger generation skates by, happy to just be alive and blissfully ignorant of what Nadie and Cédric have gone through. It’s a strangely optimistic note about how such a tough fight is necessary to make way for the next wave of society. It really brings the entire movie together and makes you realize how necessary the anxiety that’s part of Chokri’s aesthetic is to the film’s central point.
Needless to say, Babysitter was an eye-opening experience. I might not completely understand this new language—but at least it’s starting to make more sense to my ears (and eyes).
It was interesting to watch both Prey and Alien vs. Predator this week. As two out-of-left-field additions to the Predator franchise, I was really intrigued by the inherent modern themes each addition would bring to such a rich, deep commentary. The first Predator movie was a masterful critique of toxic masculinity, with each character dying at the hands of an alien creature that constantly emasculates them in ironic fashion. As the men fight back, they flounder and squirm and agonize—an about-face from their earlier ruthless energy when they desecrated their opponents with superior weaponry.
Alien vs. Predator brought an interesting twist to that equation, pitting the Predator against the Alien, a symbol of demonized femininity that has been projected by society. Two opposing forces that come together to represent a giant social flaw? That’s what I pay good money for. And Paul W.S. Anderson delivered.
Seemingly, Prey also had a great concept to serve as its foundation. It’s no secret that women haven’t been afforded the same opportunities and rights as men in this world. It’s also no secret that the unconquerable male ego would be damaged if the playing field was leveled even a little bit. And you see both of those energies playing out as Naru tries to find her place in the Comanche tribe by pursuing a traditionally male path all while the Comanche men snarkily snort at her attempts to become anything but a housewife who cooks and cleans. What better way to overcome such an ostensibly insurmountable social barrier than to have Naru battle a Predator—perhaps cinema’s most striking representation of toxic masculinity? Yeah, it was written in the stars for Prey (which, by the way, is a perfect title for this feminine take on the franchise).
Yet…sigh. Doesn’t it feel like the movie fumbled this premise a bit? All of the pieces are in place for the aesthetic: the thematic meat is there; the characters all hit their marks; Naru is a great hero we can all root for; and the Predator character is as dominant as ever. But the movie also feels like it never goes far enough to truly become an arresting piece of social commentary. The violence feels spurious and sanitized when it should feel dangerous and undeniable. The dudes are all half-jerks who make nothing more than snide comments that feel rather weightless compared to the heinous acts committed by Dutch and Blain and Mac and Poncho in Predator. The Predator itself isn’t awarded the same level of characterization and empathy it innately inherited from the opposing forces of other franchise films. And worst of all, the technical aspects—the fighting and choreography and editing—just all feels a bit disorderly and lame.
Prey needs to fully embrace its premise to become a crucial element of this franchise’s societal examination. But the stylistic elements are so sterile that the movie almost starts to feel incapable at points. You can see what they’re trying to say (hell, they’re practically winking at the audience about the social commentary). But it just never comes to fruition. It doesn’t have the bite a modern update of Predator deserves.
Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy
The great critic Pauline Kael had one simple request for filmmakers: “Astonish us!” Make us feel something we’ve never felt before. Let the art become transformative and eye-opening and reflective. Take us to an entirely different realm that’s both completely foreign and achingly familiar. Art has the capacity to alter our DNA, to force us to take stock of the world around us and how we fit into it. The most exciting part of movies? There are endless ways to provoke such profundity.
All too often, movies resort to the spectacle. Making a spectacle out of life is a great idea—if the movie has enough pop and flair. To explore universal truths of life with expert rhythm, with interesting characters, with a realized aesthetic that combines imagery with evolution and philosophy—that’s not easy. And thus, movies often get lost in the high-powered spectacle on display. Movies become so engrossed with the plot and the appearance that they forget what truly makes movies profound and entertaining: that unshakable connection we form with a story.
All this build-up is to highlight just how effortlessly Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy navigates these waters. It’s a quiet independent film, yet it has the tenacity of a big-budget affair; people talk slowly and deliberately, yet it’s an extravaganza of human conflict; we never leave the city, yet it feels like we’ve navigated every throbbing emotion and burning struggle that can possibly infect someone on this planet earth. Regret, sorrow, joy, self-doubt, cognitive dissonance, sexual desire, hopefulness, optimism, pessimism, narcissism—and, ultimately, life-altering catharsis. It’s almost too much to handle in just one film.
Wheel of Fortune is most definitely a “spectacle” in every sense of the word. A spectacle that’s disguised by the quietness of life that slowly consumes us. We aren’t asked to accept a dystopian future where robots have taken over, or laugh at an absurd romantic comedy premise, or yearn for a superhero to save the day—all of that (and much more) exists in everyday life. And the fact that director Ryusuke Hamaguchi can place those same elements normally defamiliarized by movies into a contemplative drama? His ability to make elevated situations feel so intimate and recognizable? That’s astonishing. That’s why I go to the movies.
When I walked in (really I just sat down on my couch) to watch RRR, I was 90% convinced it would turn out to be the year’s most overrated film this side of Everything Everywhere All at Once (which truly is overrated) and leave me saddened about the state of cinema culture—nothing but a feeble-minded political statement, an overblown melodrama with cringe-worthy acting, a big expensive spectacle inspired by the Marvel (Un)Cinematic Universe.
But…holy heck was I impressed. As someone who has seen several classic Indian films from the likes of Satyajit Ray, Guru Dutt, and Bimal Roy and has never digested the modern films from Bollywood and its competitors, I felt unequipped to handle the cavalcade of stunts and colors that immediately came flying at me. While I admittedly needed a few minutes to find my footing, I quickly embraced the energy of RRR. Something strange has happened in pop culture where every other movie has a dour, dismal, debilitating tone—perhaps it’s the horrific state of the world? But RRR feels like the antidote. The movie replaces defeatism with impenetrable victory; its heroes smile instead of frown, strut instead of sulk, cooperate instead of sabotage; the message is one of hope and trust and humility. Its entire aesthetic is realized because it is true and honest and entirely committed. The movie doesn’t worry about cartoonizing its villains or embracing humanity because those very elements are stylistically woven into its form.
The earnestness of RRR reminded me of Old Hollywood films from the minds of masters like Ernst Lubitsch or Frank Capra or George Cukor. People these days complain when a movie’s intentions are obvious or when their characters speak candidly or when optimism is embraced…but what’s wrong with that? Movies were like that for a long time (before haughtiness and self-absorption became cool) and people loved it. We enjoyed going to the theater and rooting for somebody fighting for a better life. We smiled when Maurice Chevalier sang a song directly into the camera. We were mesmerized when color and intensity and dynamism were embraced. I’m not annoyed that so many people love RRR—I’m thrilled that we’ve chosen to champion a movie that values the lost art of earnestness. Let’s get Hollywood to make more movies like this.
There are movies I find offensively awful. Perhaps it’s a big-budget sci-fi flick like Dune that’s absolutely devoid of life or spectacle; maybe somebody has brutalized a franchise I love like Scream or Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Spider-Man; there’s even a chance an arthouse movie like Hereditary or Vivarium or The Invitation horrifies my very being with its sickening ideology.
Then there are movies like Senior Year…which can’t really stir up any of those emotions in me. It’s a movie that’s neither here nor there (nor anywhere else) as it meanders between cringe-worthy bits and pussyfoots around an onslaught of themes and ideas, never really making a point or saying anything of significance. It’s a completely directionless movie that feels like its script was compiled by robots targeting Netflix’s Millennial audience. “The ‘90s were awesome and Gen Z’ers are weird, amirite?” Netflix must think all of us thirty-somethings said in unison, laughing contemptuously as Rebel Wilson, donned in heavily layered, brightly colored clothing, danced around her childhood bedroom adorned with NSYNC posters and Josh Hartnett photos and other memorabilia that fail to give her an ounce of unparalleled personality.
The entire aesthetic is so mind-numbingly obvious that, once again, it’s hard to get too mad because of how tedious and inoffensive it truly is. It’s a purely bland experience that never addresses generational differences with the weight or profundity of something like 21 Jump Street (a film that doesn’t even take itself too seriously in the first place) did an entire decade earlier. You’ve got great actors—like Wilson, Sam Richardson, Mary Holland (and let us not forget all the younger actors)—doing their best with humdrum schlock. It’s so strange to never once be challenged intellectually or emotionally during a film. It’s pretty sad when the only positive takeaway is that I wasn’t completely offended by the experience.
People often make fun of my love for Magic Mike XXL. Which, honestly, I understand. After all, it’s a movie about dudes who take their clothes off. Could it possibly be deeper than that? What people don’t realize, though, is that Magic Mike XXL is also a loving tale about a bunch of people helping each other find the change they need in life. The narrative is less reliant on drama and plot, and more focused on characters and atmosphere. It’s an insanely optimistic film about the power of human nature that’s emboldened by an incredibly drawn design, mood, and feel from director Gregory Jacobs. The movie has no time for traditional storytelling methods and instead unfolds alongside its characters’ growth—which is reflective of the way life moves. Visually speaking, it’s beautiful to watch because it feels so relatable, so profound.
Channing Tatum must have taken a note from Jacobs’s playbook when he co-directed what is undoubtedly the most underrated movie of the year. Dog never stood a chance, mostly because of its bizarre marketing campaign targeted at moms around Valentine’s Day. But Dog is anything but a romance. It’s a full-on drama about somebody who is completely lost in life and needs to be pointed in the right direction. Jackson is a deeply flawed character who isn’t disguised by movie theatrics. He’s blockheaded, he’s dispassionate, he’s confused—a desolate human being in limbo psychologically. And he’s presented as such. As he moves through various settings and meets various people with his dog companion, his general apprehensiveness toward becoming a full-fledged person with his own unique path in life slowly whittles away.
The movie’s simple title becomes reflective of Noah’s sentiment that God can be found in anything or anyone—a plant, a parrot, your barber—that allows you to speak and examine yourself. Conveniently for this film, “dog” is “God” spelled backwards. And it’s beautiful to watch this intensely damaged character find the solace he needs in something that can’t even speak back. Their connection simply is. This is the pivot he needs to make the most of himself. It’s such a raw and visceral portrayal of the slow, gradual inner-workings of life that words can’t possibly justify.
The Gray Man
Over the years, movies have offended me for a variety of reasons: Argo with its faux-political, holier-than-thou pomp; Scream with its complete and utter bastardization of a franchise I adore; Hereditary with its cold and callous treatment of human life. But perhaps never before have I hated a movie so much for being so…lame? Pointless? Barren? The Gray Man has nothing interesting to say and nothing interesting to show me for two-plus hours. It is the most by-the-numbers action movie I’ve ever seen—and not just with its wannabe Jason Bourne storyline. Visually, the Russo brothers have crafted an aesthetic that is so free from flair and style that “The Gray Man” becomes a perfect title for their first of what I’m sure will be many boring Netflix-funded projects.
In 6 Underground, the characters choose to become ghosts to protect the living people they care about. But in The Gray Man, Sierra Six chooses to become a ghost…because? Because he was wrongfully convicted and now has a chance to go outside and do the CIA’s dirty work? Really, I think it’s because Netflix had $200 million lying around and wanted to hire the dudes who couldn’t even make Avengers: Endgame—perhaps the most intensely hyped movie of the 21st century—feel exciting. The movie has no thrust, no foundation, and only finds its heart when a terminally sick child comes along, or when it needs to quickly recall a past when Sierra Six was abused by his father, or when this sad thing happens or that sad thing is convenient to the plot. The Gray Man putters along and only asks us to care when it’s time to care. Otherwise, it’s a colorless fart of a movie that has no life and—much like a person with no personality—nothing much to say.
The Bob’s Burgers Movie
I agree with the general opinion that Bob’s Burgers works better as a show than a movie. Simply put, there isn’t enough story here to sustain 90 minutes. But there is enough humor and heart to make up for it. The Bob’s Burgers Movie certainly isn’t the most challenging film in the world, but its light and breezy approach to character and drama makes it feel welcoming and soothing. The nadir of the movie (Bob’s restaurant might not be able to pay this month’s business loan payment) is so simple and familiar that it almost becomes background noise, making way instead for a bevy of everyday human struggles that are fixed by the simple power of family. The narrative unfolds in a rather lackadaisical manner, twisting and warping based on whatever Bob or Linda or Tina or Louise or Gene is dealing with in that moment. The movie’s warm and loving sentiments about family are only enriched by the eccentric characters that dart and dash around a family trying to save its restaurant. The stakes are small compared to most movies, but so high for the Belcher family. And I had fun rooting for them.
I’m already on the defense. Because people will wonder, “How could you possibly hate Everything Everywhere All at Once…but like Morbius?” Which saddens me. Because it makes me realize Morbius was never suited for this world. In this timeline, quality has been associated with high-octane movies with “depth” like Everything Everywhere All at Once that beat you over the head with an aesthetic so heavily that its rather humdrum musing about life becomes “philosophical poetry” that’s been deemed “important” by the increasingly unreliable critical landscape. And this timeline doesn’t have time for Morbius, which doesn’t follow the rules we’ve set up for narrative, for editing, for acting, for all-the-things-a-movie-must-do-to-be-taken-seriously. The world has self-serioused itself into a corner, to the point where a wacky conundrum of a superhero story that stylistically doesn’t feel anything like the barrage of Marvel and DC movies we’ve been forced to consume for over a decade is met with haughty snort. “This isn’t how we do movies, Morbius. So please, kindly see yourself out.”
I’ll choose to exist in a different timeline. I believe Morbius’s commentary about the power and ethics of science is interesting. I believe Jared Leto is giving a great, over-the-top, campy-as-hell performance. I don’t believe the narrative “rules” established by traditional methods of storytelling necessarily apply to movies (or any piece of art looking to rewrite the rules of narrative). I believe Morbius is elliptical with its narrative logic because the narrative logic isn’t nearly as important as the themes and characters at hand (and isn’t that important when it comes to movies in general). I believe the movie has a sense of humor about itself (a big no-no in the current movie zeitgeist) that allows it to feel light and playful without sacrificing thoughtfulness. I believe the editing is sound, the colors are vibrant, the direction communicates a mood and feel I find effortlessly enjoyable.
And most of all, I believe Morbius would have a chance in a different timeline where the rules for cinema weren’t so rigidly (and stodgily, I’d argue) defined. I’m more than happy to champion a movie like this.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
I’ve got a very, very controversial thing to say: I really didn’t care for Everything Everywhere All at Once. And while I was shy about my apathy for what seems to be everybody’s favorite movie of 2022, I’ve discovered more and more that many people share my opinion. The movie isn’t horrible, but it surely isn’t the height of absurdism in cinema. Because of its approach, I believe the movie actually falls short on many of its ideological goals.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Of the many blockbusters to hit theaters this year, David Yates represents a beacon of hope. The vision this guy has is astounding—the fluidity of his scenes, the emotion he gives to important moments, the power he gives to characters. The first two scenes of this movie had me in absolute awe. Yates is showing all these wannabe genre directors how to construct an aesthetic and stay true to it throughout a picture. His biggest hurdle, unfortunately, is the money-hungry film studio looking to build yet another cinematic universe. Only the executives at Warner Bros. have the power to disrupt such impeccable flow and pacing—and trust me, they constantly do with throwbacks and foreshadows and wink-winks. It turns an otherwise breathtaking experience into a somewhat stilted story that, in the end, is just another piece in the Harry Potter Cinematic Universe (something I’m profoundly uninterested in). In the end, The Secrets of Dumbledore wins because of the artists involved. But it sure had to put up one hell of a fight.
In a world where independent horror felt like a lost art, Ti West was there with House of the Devil. Fast forward 13 years later, and West is back—this time to revive the slick flasher flick bankrolled by A24. While most of the horror movies that come from everyone’s new favorite film studio are cringe-worthy and pretentious and afraid to show us anything truly gnarly, X has the confidence and poise that only a master like West could devise. Maxine’s struggle to live her life to the fullest plays out so well in the horror arena. West is very adept at using the genre’s bloody offerings to give these internal battles color and texture. The story itself is so entertaining and the characters themselves are so interesting that you almost forget that we’re following one woman’s journey to achieve mental stability from the very beginning. But by the end, the film sure makes its mark. And in its wake, I’m amazed more movies can’t pull it off.
The nicest thing I’ll say about Fresh is that it was a decidedly different take on the horror genre. I appreciated the movie for going after toxic masculinity, for creating a world where women are literally butchered up and eaten alive by their male counterparts on the dating scene. That’s the sort of commentary that can thrive and come alive in the horror genre. But…that’s also the problem with this movie. It never fully commits to inspecting this deeply depraved portion of society, to exploring how terrifying it must be to be a woman surrounded by such chaos. The aesthetic is all off—sometimes it’s horrifying, but sometimes it’s flippant (and often it’s flat-out uninspired). The movie often has a smirk on its face as it winks to the viewer and says, “See what we’re doing here?” Which brings the social commentary to a standstill as the characters become nothing more than an extension of gender politics. I never felt attached to anyone because the movie never fully committed to their story or the genre’s offerings.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
If you’d like me to rant on and on about how terrible this movie is, then just hop over to my all-time movie rankings to hear me complain. But for my 2022 entries, I’d like to keep these entries short. So I’ll just make this one request to Hollywood: don’t bastardize franchises I love. Please? I’m asking nicely. The original two Texas Chainsaw movies (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a masterpiece, by the way) did an incredible job of surveying the political turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s when disgusting politicians were running amok, ruining this country and leaving people behind in their wake. The Sawyer family became the embodiment of the horror so many people in our country faced—and thus Leatherface symbolized our frustration, how we resorted to ripping each other out from the inside.
But this new Leatherface…ugh. It’s embarrassing. I appreciate Fede Álvarez trying to bring this cultural cinematic icon into the Trump era, and maybe if he had directed the film it would have gone well. But he didn’t, and what we got instead was a very half-hearted evaluation of what currently divides this country: Gen Z social influencers who will cancel you with their phones vs. inbred Texans who believe in the second amendment above all else. The movie’s entire social commentary is just so boring, thus rendering the slasher portions of the film weightless. Plus the movie has been weirdly sanitized for the Netflix audience, which makes no sense for this franchise. Texas Chainsaw Massacre was flat out painful to watch. The end.
Friends and Strangers
Even though arthouse indies tend to frustrate me, I had a nice time with Friends and Strangers. One thing this movie does that I love is its lack of narrative structure. It’s the kind of movie that just unfolds as its main character, Ray, moves through life. He’s trying to get past a terrible break-up and having a tough time. And every interaction he has is part of his development and growth as he deals with that pain. The movie feels meandering and random because…well, life is meandering and random. You can look backwards and make sense of things later. But in the moment, life is always taking you exactly where you need to go. I also really love the movie’s ambiance. The score is diegetic, and we are often surrounded by the sounds of nature and traffic as Ray moves from the countryside to the city. It’s an incredibly relaxing experience that often reminded me of Australian filmmaker Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock—and wouldn’t you know it, Friends and Strangers is directed by an up-and-coming Australian filmmaker, James Vaughan.
The only disconnect for me was that I don’t know much about Australian life, and this movie was very much infused with social commentary. It was interesting to read about afterwards, but I definitely didn’t feel the power of the film’s commentary in the moment. Maybe upon rewatch it would click more. But for now, my reaction is that the film didn’t quite grab me enough and make its point clear. I wanted a bit more there. Still, I would recommend this movie for anyone who can stand arthouse ventures.
Every movie I’ve watched up to July 7
Alright, so this is the first time I’ve actually sat down to rank the movies I’ve seen in 2022. As somebody who watches quite a bit of movies (I think I’ve seen about 150 movies this year?), I was surprised to see that I’ve only seen ten from 2022. I used to watch new movies CONSTANTLY, so I think this will inspire me to watch more!
Then again, as I look through this list…I can also see why I don’t watch too many new movies. I am admittedly a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to newer movies, as they usually disappoint me when pit against the classics. I love watching old movies because the rate of return is usually much higher for me. I’m getting more and more from old movies as I dig deeper into the classics…and less and less from modern movies as I struggle to find great new filmmakers. Sorry if you find that annoying about me 🙂
So far, this list only has five movies that I definitively like, with a few of them being on the edge. I enjoyed Deep Water, Jackass Forever, Kimi, and Ambulance, while I didn’t care for The Northman, Death on the Nile, and The Lost City—and absolutely HATED Scream. But there was one movie I found absolutely transcendent, which was…
Maybe this isn’t very surprising, as I host a Kanye West podcast. But remember: jeen-yuhs wasn’t made by Kanye. It was made by two guys who grew up alongside Kanye: Coodie and Chike Ozah. And that is what makes this film so profound. Kanye’s story alone makes for a great film. But the insight we gain from the people intimately involved in Kanye’s journey, the people who witnessed him persevere, the people who saw him go through the best and worst of it all—that all elevates this movie to another level. In the end, the movie almost isn’t even about Kanye, but about the world as Kanye tried to figure the world out. Kanye is the sun in his solar system, and we’re all revolving around it. And we’re all adapting to it. And we’re all learning from it. It becomes motivation for how to think about how you live your own life—and how to avoid the pitfalls that could suck you under and ruin everything. Kanye West is a rarity in this world that we should cherish. Nobody lives on the edge like this guy.
It’s no surprise that my other two favorite movies were made by filmmakers I grew up with—Michael Bay and Steven Soderbergh—while the bottom-tier movies were helmed by fresh new faces. Say what you want about Bay, but at least he’s trying new and exciting things this late into his career. He employs every camera angle imaginable in Ambulance. It’s a wild artistic undertaking: you watch a gripping car chase from the perspective of a city, but you’re also intimately involved with the players. So you get this detached perspective from a media standpoint, but then you’re forced to take a humanistic perspective we don’t usually get. It forces us to consider why people sometimes do the terrible things they do. The world is more complicated than we think, less black and white than its often presented. And Bay explores this societal tension with stylistic mayhem. The landscape (along with the characters) constantly evolves and takes new shape. It’s truly breathtaking at times.
And Kimi feels like a master came into the classroom to show all the students how it’s done. It’s not a BIG movie—and that’s what I like about it. The point is simple, and the runtime is short. Which might make film seem like it’s covering less ground than, say, The Northman or The Batman. But I’d argue that a film like Kimi is much more impactful in its approach, and as a result says more than either of those movies. It makes efficient use of the story and only shows us what we need to know. And as a result, none of the meaning is clouded and none of the commentary is overbearing. We are simply part of this woman’s journey as she tries to make a pivotal pivot in her life. It’s an overwhelmingly human story that’s more relatable than anything else I’ve seen from 2022.
Meanwhile, a movie like Scream…oof. While Soderbergh and Bay are challenging themselves and stretching their styles in exciting new directions, up-and-coming directors like Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett just bore me to death. No, I didn’t care for their 2019 movie Ready or Not—but at least that film felt of its own. Scream is an utter bastardization of a franchise that I’ve grown up loving. It also completely undermines the power and poetry of Wes Craven’s beautifully campy approach. Even a lesser project like Red Eye has more life and charisma than anything we see in Scream. Craven was the master of making you care about his goofy characters. But everybody in the Scream remake is wooden and unlikeable—including the characters Craven created. What a travesty. Plus the concept was stale compared to Craven’s approach, and it didn’t leave room for anything exciting moving forward. Sorry, but I’m not interested in any future Scream movies involving these two.
Now for the other movies I actually liked. Deep Water wasn’t incredible, but I really enjoyed the murky Fincher-esque tone. It’s basically a Lifetime movie with a budget and two powerhouse actors. Ben Affleck is frightening as the silent, cuckolded husband, and Ana De Armas mesmerizes as the cartoonishly coquettish wife. They have awesome chemistry that made the movie enjoyable. But the bare-bones script kept it from reaching the heights of great erotic thrillers from the 90s.
I also enjoyed Jackass Forever—but not as much as I was hoping. I have a soft spot for that entire gang of weirdos I grew up watching. I’m not too far behind them in age, so I feel some sort of kinship with them. But at the end of the day, the stunts and gags simply weren’t as good as the other movies. The highlights were the bees on Steve-O’s balls and Ehren being trapped in that room with a bear. That last one…my god. Made me cringe so hard. I loved it.
You can read my full explanation of the movie Bubble here.
Bubble is a movie I’m on the fence about. While some of my favorite movies of all time are anime—Spirited Away, Paprika, Your Name—I feel like the genre has never captivated me like it has for others. And Bubble encapsulates that feeling (). The movie could have explored its deeply personal subject with more weight and emotion, but instead opted for world-building sci-fi tropes. Sometimes the best movies are the ones that don’t feel the need to answer every single question…but a movie like Bubble appears obligated to explain everything. To the point where I’m not left to wonder, and instead told what to think and where to look and how much to care. It’s a cool and interesting story presented in a very uninteresting way.
The rest of the movies on this list bore me too much to discuss in detail. The Batman is the only one that escaped complete mediocrity. I appreciate the movie for its scope and scale, but even the most skilled filmmakers would have a tough time keeping my attention for three hours. The movie simply isn’t gripping enough to warrant that much time—it ends up ruining the intent. Still, there was some interesting stuff here.
Meanwhile, The Northman was a weird mix. I liked how gnarly it was. But…beyond that. There wasn’t much. I wasn’t very into the characters. The way the story unfolded didn’t allow me to become too invested in them. Thus, the message didn’t hit me very hard.
Death on the Nile was a sad sequel to the fantastic Murder on the Orient Express—a movie that did just about everything better.
And The Lost City reminded me of those terrible 2000s romantic comedies that were farted out by studios looking to capitalize on the latest Hollywood hunk. Yawn.