Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in 2022 I made 18 trips to the theater to see films made that same year. In Part 1 we ranked the Bottom 8 backwards from “Blockbuster Video clearance bin” to “groundbreaking yet ordinary”, which I realize makes little sense to anyone who lives outside my own head, but is the sort of convoluted flaw you need to expect from a hobbyist who super-likes movies, occasionally enjoys writing about them, but refuses to rate them on an ordinate scale comprising numbers, letters, stars, adjectives, or cutesy emoji.
And now, the countdown concludes with the ten most relatively awesome films I saw at a theater in 2022 that were released for general audiences in same. Onward!
10. The Batman. A hero who’s earned two years’ XP and leveled up some, but is still grappling with his family legacy. An incel edgelord vigilante serial-killer who thinks they’re two of a kind. The pet lover who vows revenge, the waddling goombah who steals every scene that isn’t nailed down, and the policeman who hefts the banner of conscience aloft in a dangerous, intimidating, but not totally forsaken city where, just around a few corners, citizens still believe its systemic corruption can be rooted out. Matt Reeves, who brought the Planet of the Apes series to thrilling heights, refreshes Gotham’s grungy sheen, invigorates its familiar faces, and somehow, with echoes of Adam West’s moral compass, makes a convincing case how the fabled bat chest symbol could stand for “hope”. A three-hour run time allows for a few draggy spots and relies on some of the most contrived Bat-villain puzzles ever, but even so: the Caped Crusader’s eleventh feature-length live-action full-color star-vehicle is the longest, the darkest, the bloodiest, the loudest, and a heavyweight contender for The Best. My Top Ten had brutal competition for its higher ranks, but so far this is the only 2022 film I’ve bought for keeps on physical disc.
9. The Banshees of Inisherin. Speaking of Colin Farrell: his affable bloke Pádraic Súilleabháin (yes, I copied-‘n’-pasted for max accuracy) shares nothing in common with his fat-suited Penguin except viewers from 2004 couldn’t have imagined him playing either one. As the narrator of XTC’s “The Mayor of Simpleton” made flesh, Farrell is at his sweetest and humblest living in pastoral bliss with “the Troubles” in the distant background, up till his pub-chattin’ BFF Brendan Gleeson ends their friendship with no two-week notice and no explanation. Their reunion with In Bruges director Martin McDonagh likewise lets its characters stumble into blunt confrontations while lining all the easy exits with jagged spikes, which keep tearing at poor Pádraic as he tries single-handedly to salvage their severed friendship. But even a stupid man can only slam his face into a brick wall so many times before he’s driven to fetch a sledgehammer. Then he’ll be rowin’.
8. Decision to Leave. Park Chan-wook sheathes the blood-soaked blades of his PTSD-inducing catalog in favor of a quieter noir drama that grasps at the heart from within. Memories of Murder‘s Seung-mok Yoo is a police detective required by law to investigate the death of a mountain climber even though it might not be foul play…until he interviews the widow, who loves mountains but is afraid of heights, who has a tattoo of her husband’s name yet grieves silently, if at all. Our Hero tests his mettle and his relationships as he collects the evidence strewn along the thin line between master planning and synchronized coincidences. An inferior attempt at an art-house Forensic Files would settle for obvious answers and a happy ending because it’d loves its stars too much to let any harm befall them, but Chan-wook isn’t here to save them or hold their hands. Even in a modern setting this carefully cultivated and richly textured, the consequences of choices should be suffered.
7. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. This one coasted on a lot — like, a LOT — of goodwill for its primary purpose as Chadwick Boseman’s public wake, which really was one of the all-time greatest wakes. His unthinkable and unfair loss meant Ryan Coogler and every actor involved had to step up their game as hard as possible so fandom would want to move on and accept a new Panther behind the mask, and yet they dare ask us to cope with yet another major loss here. The comics’ Panther/Sub-Mariner rivalry is necessarily rewritten from the ground up, but the ensemble that had T’Challa’s back in the first one come out swinging and don’t let up…except Everett Ross and his ex-wife, who are utterly superfluous, manage barely a chuckle with their repartee, and got their feet in the door only as foreshadowing for future MCU products. It’s in their dishonor that I docked this a spot.
6. The Northman. In Robert Eggers’ latest artisanally-exacting period-piece obsession, Alexander Skarsgård’s sinewy, ghastly take on The Real Hamlet channels centuries of inhumanity into a merciless revenge epic that thundered through our souls as we faced it head-on in a volume-16 Dolby Cinema screening. Withstanding its unflinching gaze into the abyss and reveling in the stentorian drums that surrounded us on all sides was arguably the manliest thing I’ve done this century. Bonus points for letting Nicole Kidman stride in, take no prisoners, and bury that expired AMC commercial once and for all.
5. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Marvel welcomed back Sam Raimi with a different Lee/Ditko hero and a blank check, and maybe gave him 20% less studio interference than the last time he tinkered with their toys. And what a frabjous playtime it is — Benedict Cumberbatch’s sixth Sorcerer Supreme outing (seven if you count voicing What If…?) has him playing multiple versions of himself, builds on the Marvel Multiverse established in Loki, borrows a MacGuffin from two other Marvel shows we don’t talk about, introduces new characters to an unsuspecting mainstream (America Chavez! Rintrah!), packs in more jaw-dropping special guests than you can shake an Endgame at, moonlights as the triple-length WandaVision series finale (kinda like how the Marvel Annuals used to wrap up canceled heroes’ dangling stories), and entrenches it all in Raimi’s predilections for spookity horror and psycho-dynamic camera acrobatics. It’s nearly unintelligible for Marvel neophytes, but an exciting extravaganza for us addicts.
4. The Menu. If Succession were a comic, a 15-second rewrite could basically turn Mark Mylod’s bloody, extreme-fine-dining satire into a Succession Annual. Anya Taylor-Joy was a bit outnumbered in The Northman but takes the throne here as the lone uninvited guest at a five-star restaurant’s $2,500-a-plate dinner and going-out-of-business slaughter. Through her shrewd eyes we can tell she knows a thing or two about customer service and might just be the only diner without her head trapped without oxygen in upper-class clouds. Ralph Fiennes’ master chef wields more nuances than knives in what could’ve been a pointless slasher role but is deep down just a guy whose lifelong passion has been perverted beyond salvaging, and Nicholas Hoult is perfectly, hilariously cringe-inflicting as an über-wealthy, fawning foodie fanboy who’s like every obnoxious know-it-all you’ve ever wanted to watch get destroyed by their own idols.
3. Tár. Conversely, here’s Todd Field’s symphony of one obnoxious know-it-all idol’s self-destruction. In the bespoke wild world of classical music, Cate Blanchett’s malevolent maestra is the best there she is at what she does, but her celebrated career belies a vast gulf between virtuoso and virtue. In our world the gender-demo breakdown of #MeToo offenders is by no means equal, but hubris and sin know no tribalist limits. Anyone can be a screw-up and/or destroy the lives of others with just a carefully honed touch of unchecked power. But above a certain pedestal height, the powerful people who look down upon us are prone to overlooking the “little people” chiseling away at the base and clamoring to watch them topple.
2. Nope. Speaking of “How to Succeed in Entertainment Without Regard for Safety”: Jordan Peele’s SF riff on Hollywood’s long history of minority-sidelining revealed new levels within its sinister clouds every time my thoughts drifted back to it. Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya seize the chance to become world-famous UFO filmers, Steven Yeun brings one of the year’s best supporting performances as a former child actor and monkey rampage survivor, allegories keep happening all around them, and no one can turn their eyes away from the spectacle of fame despite the horrors along that dirt road because…well, hey, that’s showbiz!
1. Everything Everywhere All at Once. If you’ve seen it, you’ll never shut up about it. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. It’s a moving family drama, it’s a weepy romance, it’s a martial-arts action flick, it’s a South Park sketch, it’s a reassertion of Michelle Yeoh’s authority, it’s a comeback for Ke Huy Quan, it’s the Daniels’ defining triumph, it’s a feel-good David-vs.-Goliath mom-and-pop laundromat taxpaying drama, and it’s The Year’s Best Film About the Multiverse. Well, it is here in our universe. This is untrue in the universes where they handed this project to Roland Emmerich or the Morbius guy, but our universe and our lives are not defined by their universes’ mistakes.
…and that was my 2022 at the movies. Check back with us in the months ahead and see how many times I can be cajoled out of our comfy living room for 2-3 hours of big-screen splendor instead of gambling on them to show up in our streaming queues at no additional cost!