Believe it or not, we’re already a quarter of the way through 2022. Wild, right? I truly hope it has been a great year so far for you all. For me, it started out really well, especially on a personal level, but recently that completely crumbled. Some of you are aware of what’s going on, but for those who aren’t, don’t worry too much, but just know that I’m doing my best not to let it affect my work. Anyway, on to the point of today’s article. Now that we’ve reached April, it’s time (at least for nuts like me), to begin sizing up the year. As such, this morning you’ll be able to take a look at what the cinematic highlights for the year have been for me.
Below, you can see what I feel are the best films and performances of the first quarter of 2022. My one rule here is that it must have been released in January, February, or March. So, that excludes this past weekend’s April 1st releases, as well as any movies from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival that have not come out yet. I’ve actually got a special citation section at the bottom of the piece to briefly highlight those. Other than that, all of the flicks are on the table. Now, read on to see who and what made the cut for me…
These are the ten best performances of the year so far:
10. Ana de Armas in Deep Water
9. Zac Efron in Gold
8. Ryan Reynolds in The Adam Project
7. Colin Farrell in After Yang
6. Channing Tatum in Dog
5. Mark Rylance in The Outfit
3. Daisy Edgar-Jones in Fresh
2. Mia Goth in X
Here now are the top ten films of the first quarter of 2022, with a quote from my reviews for each:
10. After Yang
After Yang is subtle almost to the point of going over some heads, but if you’re paying attention, it’s all there. The science fiction genre can be at its best when engaging in this way, and while this doesn’t quite reach those heights, it adds a lot of flavor to a story that’s keen to mix emotion and intellectualism. It’s not always perfect, but it definitely works.
9. The Outfit
The Outfit is a slow burn that builds into something fairly hypnotic. Watching a supposedly simple tailor attempt to outwit dangerous men in order to survive a fateful night is inherently compelling. Watching this cast do it? Well, that’s even more so the case. The more the plot progresses, the more compelled you are to see what these men and women are driven to do next.
8. The Automat
The Automat is the sort of doc that can easily slip between the cracks, but it would be a shame if that happens. It’s a warm movie, one with a subtle yet impactful point to make. Doing it all with a fondness for the time, the establishment, and the people involved only increases its effectiveness. Luckily, there’s an ace up its sleeve, in an Original Song from an Oscar winner. When you hear it, I dare you not to grin from ear to ear.
7. Turning Red
Turning Red is less ambitious than something like Inside Out or Soul, while still attempting to get at the core of human experience. In some ways, it’s a great companion piece to last year’s Luca. While that was about friendship and a bit of a love-letter to being a pre-teen boy in the summer, this flick looks at family and especially a girl becoming a woman. Without ever becoming deeper than expected, it’s still thoroughly well done and well realized.
Dog is emotional at times, but almost always a lot of fun. There’s just a pleasurable aspect to Channing Tatum (starring as well as co-directing) being driven up the wall by a pooch. A road trip tale with only one character talking can be boring or dry, but thanks to his charisma, the uniqueness of this canine character, and the story itself, it never comes close to being that way.
X is a great example of how you can honor the genre classics while still very much doing your own thing. Plus, in mixing horror with pornography, it’s a surprisingly deft showcase for how both types of filmmaking has an entrepreneurial and independent spirit. Writer/director Ti West knows his scary movies, but he also knows how to pay tribute while not just being a copycat. His affection meets with his strong storytelling to delivery arguably his most complete flick to date. West has made throwbacks before, but this is his best one yet.
4. The Batman
The Batman presents us truly for the first time with a cinematic interpretation of The World’s Greatest Detective. This version of the character is as much a sleuth as a superhero. It’s a new feel for this type of film, giving it a weight that never feels overly grim, even if it’s probably the most serious of the lot. By feeling like a cross between SAW, Se7en, Zodiac, and the darker comic book takes on the character, we’re given a full meal. The movie looks at Batman as though he’s closer to a literary figure, given respect and a reality. There’s some of whatNolan did so well here, but it’s also very much blazing its own trail.
Fresh is a demented delight, through and through. Skewering the modern dating scene while also telling a thriller tale we’ve never seen before, it weaves an enthralling web. Deeply rooted in genre but also feeling somehow above it, all the while never seemingly “above” it, it’s an accomplishment I’ve been just giddy thinking about for the last day. This deserves to be the big crossover hit of the festival this year, without question.
Scream is, perhaps surprisingly, the most meta of the series to date. Not content to just be a goof slasher flick (which it is), the film takes aim at sequels of its own ilk. Also on the chopping block is the fictional Stab franchise, as well as elevated horror in general. What could have been scattershot and an attempt to be relevant instead feels like genuine freshness and the natural next step for this series. The movie bites off a lot, but its intelligence and sense of fun means that it never comes off as more than it can chew.
The Adam Project is the kind of film that would make Steven Spielberg proud, so deep in its veins is the essence of vintage Amblin Entertainment. The Spielberg element looms large, but this is also very much its own thing. Utilizing family dynamics, time travel, and movie star charisma, this is exactly what audiences go to a multiplex for. The fact that most folks will be seeing it on Netflix is a conversation for another time, but if you can see it on the big screen, that’s the best way. This is, quite simply, supremely entertaining cinema.
What are your favorite films and performances so far in 2022? Let us know!