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The Third Annual Awards Radar Awards (Part Two): The Ten Best Films of 2022

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time again! There are few things a writer in this industry looks forward to more than doing their year end Top Ten list. Even with the sort of unusual years that were the last few, I still saw well over 300 films each year, and that includes here in 2022. As such, it makes for a list that culls from nearly every corner of the cinematic world. So, I’m, as always, incredibly fond of the movies that make up my Top Ten list. I’m actually very excited to share it with you all today, continuing the Third Annual Awards Radar Awards! In prior years, my favorite film of a given cycle ranged from Blinded by the Light to Hell or High WaterThe Disaster Artist to A Star is BornBlue Valentine to her. Two years ago, we added Promising Young Woman to the mix, with Red Rocket joining last year. What will join them this time around? Time to find out!

For part two of this awards series (part one is right here), we’re going to run down my ten favorite films of 2022. Basically, anything I saw this year, or that has an eligible release date, was in the running, aside from what I considered for my prior 2021 list. That created quite the list to pull from, though it pretty quickly narrowed down to 25 or 30 movies that were a cut above.

The moment is now at hand. Out of 308 eligible titles seen for me (which, insanely, is one of my lower totals, since I’ve been under the weather and not pressuring myself to gin up the list), here are the ten best films of 2022:

10. Babylon

Paramount Pictures

Damien Chazelle‘s period Hollywood remix of The Wolf of Wall Street style bad behavior has been met with just about every reaction out there. For yours truly, it wasn’t a perfect experience, but it was a wild ride absolutely dripping with ambition and spectacle. The hutzpah on display managed to have this one crack my top ten. My Babylon review wrapped up here like so: “Babylon is a wild ride. The very first scene sets the tone and lets you know what you’re in for. It’s a bold gambit by Chazelle, since he runs the risk of turning audience members off early, but it’s a gamble that I felt pays off. If this is his version of something like The Wolf of Wall Street, I’m quite compelled to see what else he’s got up his sleeve. Ambition is certainly something that the writer/director does not lack for. Babylon isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, since it’s more like a shot of bourbon or a line of cocaine, but it achieves the goals it places before itself. As an example of how wide-ranging Chazelle’s talents are, as well as the sort of film we rarely see anymore, it’s impossible to ignore. Does it have flaws? Sure. Is it too long? Very much so. Did I still largely have a blast with it? You better believe I did, and you may very well, too.”

9. Hustle

Netflix

This crowd pleasing sports dramedy is a perfect vehicle for Adam Sandler, but Hustle is also just an expertly made picture. What easily could have been disposable instead has lingered, not just as a potential awards vehicle, but as part of the cream of the 2022 crop. My rave here has this section: “Say what you will about Adam Sandler, but the actor almost exclusively strives to entertain his rather loyal audience. By and large, he makes broad comedies meant to elicit chuckles and smiles. From time to time, he obviously takes a turn towards drama or dramedy, where things get heavier. Whether it’s Punch Drunk Love and Uncut Gems, both of which got him awards buzz and heavy acclaim, or more under-seen work like in Reign Over Me, those are opportunities for Sandler to stretch himself as an artist. Often, they come at the cost of a broader audience. Now, along comes Hustle, his latest Netflix film, but something is very different here. Instead of a silly comedy, this is a sports movie (albeit one that’s a drama with a ton of laughs), one that gives him a perfect role for his dramatic talents. Not only that, it’s arguably one of his best crowdpleasers, as well. If Hustle were a basketball prospect, it, along with Sandler, would be a first round draft pick. It’s a real winner, through and through.”

8. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Lionsgate

I got so much joy out of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. A tribute to Nicolas Cage as well as Cage fans/fandom, it was an absolute riot, making for a real early year highlight in 2022. Here is a bit from my review: “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. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is going to utterly delight Cage fans. The amount of his work referenced here, either covertly or overtly, is wonderful. It’s not just Face/Off, either. There’s a Captain Corelli’s Mandolin pull as well. When there’s that much to go nuts over here, the perfect usage of Paddington 2 is just a beautiful bonus. For what this flick is trying to achieve, it succeeds in a massive manner. I was blown away.”

7. Vengeance

Focus Features

B.J. Novak‘s directorial debut Vengeance was one of my biggest surprises this year. Mixing genres with deft skill, this is an entertaining story that ultimately packs a wallop. My review right here had me initially pulling my jaw up off the floor: “Wow. Nothing beats the feeling of being unexpectedly blown away by a film. Whenever I sit down to watch a movie in a screening room, movie theater, or on my laptop, I know the potential is there for something special, even if it’s rarely achieved. Then, something like Vengeance comes along and just wallops me. Especially considering how I’d heard almost exclusively good things about this flick, which I tragically missed at the Tribeca Film Festival, but nothing prepared me for how great it truly is. Not only is it a surprise delight, it’s one of the ten best movies of the year so far, without question. Actor turned filmmaker B.J. Novak announces himself as an exciting new voice behind the camera with this absolute gem. Vengeance is a mix of comedy, mystery, and thriller, lending equal weight to all three elements. Moreover, the gradual emotionality and tragic element to the story is so naturally woven in, it truly sneaks up on you. As funny and satirical as the first act, and even first half is, it seamlessly gives way to a compelling detective tale of sorts, with genuine tension and emotions. Whether you see where it’s going or are stunned by the outcome, there are treasures buried here, just below the surface, but there for the finding.”

6. Everything Everywhere All At Once

A24

Throughout the year, Everything Everywhere All At Once has grown on me. Initially, I loved it but wasn’t quite as on board with it as most. However, subsequent revisits have really hammered home just what an accomplishment it actually is. From when I wrote here about the flick: “The picture really is brilliant. An intimate tale of a mother and daughter couched in an epic, sprawling multiverse action-adventure? Yes please. Concerned with no less than the meaning of existence, the film still finds time for juvenile humor, sight gags, and references galore. Whether you like Pixar or Wong Kar-wai, there’s an homage for you. All this in a movie that asks you to seriously consider if existence is meaningless? Maybe it is, but maybe, it has more meaning than you ever could imagine? Truly terrific stuff.”

5. The Whale

A24

I absolutely broke while watching Brendan Fraser in Darren Aronofsky‘s The Whale. A demand for empathy that pulls no punches, the movie asks a lot, but the ultimate rewards are great. You’ll be devastated, but it’s worth the effort, as my Toronto International Film Festival review said here: “Well, damn. Watching The Whale is about as tough an experience as it gets, even for a veteran and fan of Darren Aronofsky. There’s no way around the ringer that this film puts you through, which has been a hallmark of Aronofsky’s career time and time again. The Whale pairs well with Black SwanRequiem for a Dream, and The Wrestler, even if it looks very different. Once again, he also has an Oscar worthy performance under his belt, with this as much of an acting showcase as ever before. Playing at the Toronto International Film Festival, it’s a memorable experience, but just know going in, the movie is going to challenge and test you. The Whale shattered me, of course led by the work of Brendan Fraser. It truly is the performance of a career, which Aronofsky accentuates at every turn. It’s impossible not to be blown away by the work. Now, for a film so full of empathy, it also can come off as mean to some as well. I didn’t have that issue, but it’s a movie that will generate a range of reactions. The only emotion that everyone will share? Fraser’s pitch perfect work.”

4. Top Gun: Maverick

Paramount Pictures

A soaring achievement of mainstream entertainment, Top Gun: Maverick shocked everyone not named Tom Cruise with its high quality and success. In terms of pure movie fun, this is impossible to beat. My rave here poured over just how that came to be, including this bit: “Top Gun is an 80’s classic, without question, even if few would argue that the film is a crowning achievement of cinema. So, while it’s an incredibly fun watch and a strong star vehicle, was anyone truly clamoring for a sequel? All of that suggests that a second installment, especially decades later, would not be an incredibly good idea. Factor in delays, both to fine tune the film, as well as COVID related, and it’s almost as if the universe just didn’t want it to happen. Well, happen it did, and I’m actually thrilled to report that Top Gun: Maverick is fantastic. You likely won’t find a more exciting and satisfying big budget piece of entertainment than this. It’s an unqualified success that stands tall with any 2022 release so far. Top Gun: Maverick could easily have just been a vanity project for Tom Cruise. Instead, it’s a moving and thrilling continuation of the character/story, going in directions you would not expect. Especially considering how ageless Cruise can often be, making this a tale of temporarily staving off the scrap heap is wildly compelling. Not only are the aerial scenes amazing, there’s an emotional core here that will wallop you at times.”

3. She Said

Universal Pictures

I was riveted and deeply upset by She Said, as intended. Watching dogged journalism take down a predator could have been self-congratulatory, but instead it was just a tribute to hard work and pursuing justice. Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan enthralled me, as did the entire supporting cast. From my review here: “Abuse impacts a victim in many ways. There’s the clear external harm, as well as the psychological damage. Those aspects are clear. That doesn’t take into account what they’ll carry with them for years, nor does it include how a lack of accountability for the abuser may embolden them. It’s corrosive, from top to bottom. In 2016 we saw an accused abuser deny his way into The White House. For years, Miramax executive Harvey Weinstein engaged in a pattern of sexual assault that showed no signs of slowing down, until a pair of journalists, as well as the very women he harassed, put a stop to it. She Said depicts that effort, focusing on the journalistic process that fueled it all. Playing at the 60th New York Film Festival, it’s a brilliant movie that makes it all absolutely captivating. I loved this film, upsetting as it may be. She Said is a tribute not just to doing the hard work of journalism, but a testament to what can happen when survivors are given a voice. The former aspect brings to mind Spotlight and All the President’s Men, with a similar quality level. The latter is a lens on our current times, never really overtly referencing the #METOO movement but understanding that it sprouted from the work done by these women, as well as the pain caused by these men. It’s powerful stuff, distilled down into a flick that’s engrossing and impossible to turn away from.”

2. Clerks III

Lionsgate

While this film was 100% made for me, it still was wonderfully made and hit me in all of the right places. Kevin Smith had a lot to say in Clerks III and he managed to say it in a way that made me laugh and cry in equal measure. The power of this comedy sequel is only fully understood by those who have seen it, but I hinted at a lot of it here in my rave review: “Kevin Smith always goes back to the Quick-Stop. However, just because he’s now returned for a third Clerks outing, that doesn’t mean he’s doing the same thing again. Much like how Clerks II was about growing older and friendship, Clerks III builds upon that, while also reflecting on the career that Smith managed to build. In doing so, Clerks III has a weight that many of his comedies don’t. In fact, it wouldn’t be beyond the pale to call this one a dramedy. In going meta here, Smith is looking inward, but he’s also using every tool in his toolbox not just to make you laugh, but also to make you cry. Admittedly, this is a film that’s more or less made specifically for me, but I found it to be incredibly effective. Clerks III is, in some ways, the movie Smith was born to make. It overtly references his real life heart attack, while also continuing the story of the characters that first got his career started. The choice pays off in spades, as he’s able to reach emotional highs and lows unlike anything else prior in the Clerks franchise. There’s even a boldness to this storytelling, as he leaves his heroes in places you’d never expect.”

1. The Fabelmans

Universal Pictures

Steven Spielberg reigns supreme for me. The Fabelmans was one of my most anticipated works of 2022 and it not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded it in hugely emotional fashion. Spielberg’s riff on his origin story has literally everything that makes cinema worthwhile, just done with the gentle precision of a master at work. Back at the Toronto International Film Festival, I raved here about the year’s best movie: “Wow. When you see a master filmmaker reach into themselves and raise their game, it’s truly something to behold. The Fabelmans is Steven Spielberg showing a whole new bag of tricks, all in service of telling a story not just his own, but for the world over to bear witness to. What could have been seen as, or even dismissed as, navel gazing in lesser hands is instead riveting. The self reflection, baked into a story about the love of filmmaking, as well as the pain of parental strife, fully informs Spielberg as an artist and a man. Make no mistake, though, this is also just an enrapturing movie on its own accords. Playing as arguably the biggest and most high profile World Premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, it has somehow lived up to the massive hype. The Fabelmans has almost everything you want in a movie. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s hopeful. You run the gamut of emotions, led by strong performances and a master filmmaker operating in peak form. So much of the flick’s early buzz is dominated by the Oscar conversation, and make no mistake, this will be nominated in several categories by the Academy, but it shortchanges just how good a picture this is.”

Honorable Mentions

Warner Bros Pictures

Apollo 10 1⁄2: A Space Age Childhood

Avatar: The Way of Water

Barbarian

The Batman

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Breaking

Cha Cha Real Smooth

Dog

Fresh

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Pleasure

RRR

Scream

Sr.

Women Talking

NEON

Stay tuned for Part Three tomorrow, where you’ll see my full awards for 2022!

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Anonymous
1 month ago

Seriously.. !

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[…] Magidson January 9, 2023, 6:00 am Regardless of what you think of Babylon (and it was one of my ten favorite films of 2022), everyone has agreed that the original score from Justin Hurwitz is something special. […]

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Written by Joey Magidson

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