No one could be blamed for thinking that the Movies — the capital-M medium — was in a midst of an existential crisis in 2022. The theatrical experience constantly seemed to be hanging on by a thread, threatening to become a thing of the past. (Though a hearty thank you to you, Mr. Tom Cruise, for saving it for at least one more year.) Streaming services kept underwriting canon-worthy directors’ new projects, then undermining those same films by throwing them to the algorithm wolves and turning them into just another bit of “content.” Superhero movies continued to dominate multiplex screens, and I.P. franchises continued to multiply and/or go multiversal at the expense of a variety of other options. (If we have to suffer through one more “Marty or Marvel?” argument on Film Twitter…just kidding. R.I.P. Twitter.) If a film fell in the forest, and a pop star wasn’t accused of spitting on a costar while promoting it, did it even make a sound? The phrase “casual moviegoer” remained on the verge of becoming an oxy-moron. The sky is falling!, cried the chorus of chicken-little cinephiles, before turning back to the Criterion Channel to binge yesterday’s arthouse heroes.
Yes, the big-picture view of big pictures did sometimes seem dire. But once again, the movies delivered. Sometimes, it was a matter of knowing where to look for them, and to keep the faith that something lifechanging, if not gamechanging was right around the corner. Other times, there seemed to be a bounty of incredible cinema, running the gamut from lyrical documentaries to genre exercises to left-field blockbusters, coming in waves. Films like Tár could still inspire arguments and discussions; Nope could still inspire deep-dive explainers that went way beyond “Killer Spaceship 1, People 0.” It was a good 12 months to be an cine-omnivore. We expanded the roster to 22 films this year — because 2022! Yes, we are indeed shameless! — but even then, there were a number of extraordinary films that kept crowding their way into the idea of a “best of” lineup. The movies aren’t dead. They’re not even the past.
(A quick shout out to some honorable mentions: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, Armageddon Time, Barbarian, Bones and All, Catherine Called Birdy, Corsage, Donbass, The Eternal Daughter, God’s Country, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Men, Montana Story, Moonage Daydream, The Northman, Peter von Kant, Playground, Return to Seoul, The Silent Twins, Top Gun: Maverick, and The Wonder. Also, there was some debate over including Petite Maman and The Worst Person in the World in this year’s best-of, since their qualifying runs in 2021 meant they showed up on a number of lists last year. We’ll save those two for our best-of-the-decade list.)