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The Best Films and Performances of the First Third of 2022

Lionsgate
“The Batman” (2022) Cinematography by Greig Fraser

Time flies, doesn’t it? Last month, I remarked that we were already a quarter of the way through 2022. Now, we’re a full third of the year through the year. It has been a hell of a year for me, and time is both flying and incredibly slow, as you might imagine. Anyway, now that we’ve reached May, it’s time (at least for a nut like me), to continue 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, building on the previous article. I’m at 75 films seen so far, though I freely admit that there are a few things I need to catch up on. One movie in particular looms large, as you’ll likely notice below.

Below, you can see what I feel are the best films and performances of the first third of 2022. My one rule here is still that it must have been released in January, February, March, or April. So, while that includes this past weekend’s releases, since they hit before May 1st, but any movies from the 2022 Sundance Film Festival that have not come out yet remain ineligible. I still have 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 this time…

These are the ten best performances of the year so far:

Lionsgate

10. Ryan Reynolds in The Adam Project

9. Colin Farrell in After Yang

8. Channing Tatum in Dog

7. Mark Rylance in The Outfit

6. Tim Roth in Sundown

5. Pedro Pascal in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

4. Daisy Edgar-Jones in Fresh

3. Mia Goth in X

2. Sebastian Stan in Fresh

1. Nicolas Cage in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

(Honorable Mentions: Paul Dano in The Batman, Ana de Armas in Deep WaterZoey Deutch in The Outfit, Zac Efron in Gold, and Ben Foster in The Survivor)

Here now are the top ten films of the first quarter of 2022, with a quote from my reviews for each:

(Special Citations: 892Cha Cha Real Smooth, and Pleasure)

10. Turning Red

Disney+

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.

9. Dog

MGM

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.

8. X

A24

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.

7. The Northman

Focus Features

The Northman is Eggers doing a Viking version of Hamlet, which is an interesting pairing. On the one hand, it all plays out in a very clear cut manner. Explaining the story here won’t require too much effort and no one will ever scratch their head. Seeing how it’s depicted though, that’s another story. While this isn’t as obtuse as some of his prior flicks, The Northman still sees Eggers doing it his way. That’s a good thing, too. Especially on an epic scale like this, you just never see this sort of a vision allowed to exist.

6. Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood

Netflix

Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood is clearly one of Linklater’s most personal films. Little moments, like mentioning the construction and opening of the AstroDome, are evidence of this, while giving the movie a distinctive flavor. The quicker you give yourself over to the story of Apollo 10½, the more you end up falling for it. This is lovable work that should appeal to everyone, though Linklater lovers will obviously be even more delighted.

5. The Batman

Warner Bros Pictures

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 SAWSe7enZodiac, 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.

4. Fresh

Searchlight

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.

3. Scream

Ghostface in Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s “Scream.” Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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.

2. The Adam Project

Netflix

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.

1. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Lionsgate

Nicolas Cage is about as unique an actor as there is. No matter what he’s in, and he’s in kind of everything, Cage gives it his all, turning in work you wouldn’t get from anyone else. That kind of commitment, combined with his singular persona, has made him a figure that almost everyone has an opinion on. Whether it’s derision or worship, no one is indifferent to him. So, in crafting a film about him, for him, and in direct conversation with his fans, it’s presenting something rather bold. Luckily, not is Cage in on the joke here, he’s game to up the ante. The result is The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, a movie that goes gonzo and meta in equal measure. It may sound like something that shouldn’t work, but it really does, to the point that nothing else in 2022 to date is nearly as good.

(Honorable Mentions: After Yang, The Automat, and The Outfit)

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What are your favorite films and performances so far in 2022? Let us know!

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Cristian Barros
Cristian Barros
19 days ago

What about Michelle Yeoh’s dynamic and fierce performance in Everything, Everywhere All at Once? I also loved Jenny Ortega’s work in The Fallout. A touching and honest performance.

Last edited 19 days ago by Cristian Barros

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Written by Joey Magidson

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