Nathan Weinbenders' Best Films of 2022
Not all critics relish making best-of lists at the end of the year, but it’s an exercise I always look forward to. Yes, picking 10 movies is sort of arbitrary; ranking them even more so. But narrowing everything down to a handful of titles helps me take stock of the year as a whole, and to remind myself that there are, indeed, still good times to be had at the movies. So I wanted to go through some of my favorite films from the last 12 months, all of which are now available to stream.
One of the most common subgenres of the year was the semi-autobiographical rumination, with several filmmakers dramatizing their childhoods in challenging, unexpected ways. Charlotte Wells made a stunning debut with Aftersun, an impressionistic retelling of her final vacation with her troubled father. It’s remarkable how much this film communicates without ever saying it aloud. Richard Linklater returned to rotoscope animation with his underappreciated Apollo 10 ½, combining history and make-believe in an evocation of the weeks leading up to the moon landing. James Gray flashed back to New York of the early ’80s in Armageddon Time, a thorny drama about racism, class disparity and regret. It would make a fascinating double feature with Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, which is hardly the rose-colored snapshot you might expect from our greatest populist director. In interrogating his own work through the details of his parents’ disintegrating marriage, Spielberg has made a fascinating film about the very nature of film.
2022 offered quite a bumper crop of nontraditional genre films, including such word-of-mouth hits as the multiverse-hopping sci-fi epic Everything Everywhere All at Once and the twisty monster-in-the-house thriller Barbarian. Within this category, my favorites were cracked reflections on the film industry: Ti West’s interlocking pair of horror pastiches X and Pearl, both featuring a revelatory Mia Goth as women who are transported, for better or for worse, by the movies. I also loved Jordan Peele’s Nope, an ambitious, inventive sci-fi adventure that managed to comment on the inherent exploitation of entertainment while being a terrific entertainment itself.
But you need to look beyond American movies if you want to see truly challenging and unpredictable work. Some of my favorite international films of the year include Hit the Road from Iran, Happening and Petite Maman from France, and The Good Boss from Spain. I also had a blast with the Indian historical epic RRR, was hypnotized by the South Korean mystery Decision to Leave, and swooned to The Worst Person in the World, a provocative, painfully relatable comedy about love, sex, disappointment and death.
And now my pick for the best film of 2022, also an international title. It’s The Banshees of Inisherin from Ireland, which is, depending on how you look at it, a biting black comedy or a crushing tragedy. Maybe it’s a little of both. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, it’s about two men whose friendship crumbles overnight, and about how the reverberations rock their small 1920s village. It’s full of warmth and full of rage, and somehow manages to be funny in the midst of existential despair. It has knocked me out both times I’ve seen it, and it reminds me why I love going to the movies in the first place.
Nathan Weinbender is a co-host of Spokane Public Radio’s “Movies 101” heard Friday evenings at 6:30 here on KPBX.