Hello, all; it’s that time of year again! As always, I must begin with my apologia and my explanations. First, as I’ve said before, I personally feel like any movie released during the last two weeks of December should technically be counted for the year following. I’m not a person who can be counted on to go and see something with a December 29th release date in time to compose my end of the year list (which I’m doing right now on only the second day of 2023); it’s an arbitrary rule, but it is mine. Some of you out there might think that I’m already laying the groundwork to include Hot Twink Spider-Man: Too Many Spider-Twinks on this list because of its December 27th, 2021 release date, but that leads me to my second introductory note for the year. Although this may surprise many long-term readers, there are no comic book movies on this list. To tell you the truth, the MCU ended for me a couple of years ago with Endgame. That movie served to conclude all of the things that I had come to care about within that franchise and put a nice little cap on it. I’ll still stick around for Spider-Men and occasionally check out one of the shows if it piques my interest (in this house we watch anything with Tatiana Maslany in it), but I can hardly work myself up to care about the big flicks anymore. I didn’t even see the new Thor, and the only MCU movie I did see was Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which was 95% because of Sam Raimi directing and 5% Patrick Stewart cameo, which leaves 0% in the tank for the ongoing Marvel long term plan. I did also see The Batman, which would have been a great crime thriller were it not for the fact that it’s a Batman movie, and also Morbius because I hate myself. Finally, although a year is a long time, it’s still not enough to see everything. Brandon’s list just went up and there were nearly a dozen movies on it that I had never even heard of, but the assignment is due and it’s time to turn in what I’ve got even if I didn’t finish all of the homework. For what it’s worth, based on synopsis and marketing material alone, I think the films most likely to appear on this list if only there were world enough and time were After Yang and Triangle of Sadness.
The House – The first two of the three segments that comprise this anthology are phenomenal, and either one of them could have ended up in the top three of this list if they were features. The third short, however, simply disrupted my viewing experience in a way that I’ve still not managed to get over. You see, the third short is too happy, or at the very least, too optimistic. The most important thing that a film can do is create an emotional rapport with you, and The House does this with the opening segment about a man whose obsession with a fine house draws him into a Faustian bargain that becomes a nightmare for his child, and that spirit of dread and discomfort plays out through the second segment, which is about a contractor who is unable to flip the house into which he has invested everything, and his inability to drive out parasites and pests. The third segment simply changes the feel of the movie in a way that moves it out of the top tier of consideration for me, as much as I like two initial vignettes.
Licorice Pizza – I loved this one, and it’s funny to me that I can’t technically put it on this list, since I saw it in theaters as late as March (a full two months after seeing 5cream at the drive-in). But it technically had its wide release in November of 2021, so I can’t even grandfather it in with my arbitrary two-week rule noted above. Everything about this movie felt like magic to me, like a story of a 1970s Pippi Longstocking who seems to be able to do just about anything he wants through the power of sheer gumption and never questioning himself, and the way that maturity looks differently on different people.
Hatching – Leaving this one here because although I really did love it, I fought with myself about whether number 12 below should count as a movie or only be considered for Honorable Mention status, and the truth is that the experience that made it onto the list below just deserves it more. But if it weren’t for that, Hatching would have made it to the number 15 spot.
Without further ado:
15. Bros – I can’t say much more about it than I already did; read my review here.
14. Do Revenge – Hitchcock by way of Heathers, a twisty bubblegum potboiler that’s more fun than it has any right to be. Read my review here.
13. Don’t Worry Darling – I’ve already done my apologia for why this one was better than anyone gave it credit for and was more than the sum of its inspirations, and I stand by them. Check it out here.
12. Everything is Terrible: Kidz Klub – Everything is Terrible is one of the few social media outlets that is run by people you can truly respect. They create new films out of hundreds of old VHS tapes, and you can hear more about one of their earlier ventures on the Lagniappe episode found here, in which we discussed their film The Great Satan. Kidz Klub likewise cribs largely from propaganda distributed in churches as well as secular material, with this film being about a child asking “Goddad” about life, the universe, and everything. I know EIT content is normally more digestible for the public in web-hosted chunks, but this one is well worth tracking down if you don’t get headaches from their material.
11. Neptune Frost – An Afrofuturist fable about colonialism, strip-mining, and the concept of a unified people in the form of a musical, this movie is gorgeous, even if it will probably take more than one viewing to begin parsing together a thorough understanding of what its plot is. The message is clearer than the narrative, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Listen to us discuss it on the Lagniappe episode here.
10. 5cream aka Scream aka Scream 5 – The latest feature in my personal favorite horror series, this one suffers from too little Sidney Prescott, but it’s still worth watching. Read my review here.
9. Barbarian – Identified by Alli as the Castle Freak of AirBnBs, Barbarian is about men and their barbarity, and all of the ways both subtle and obvious they walk through the world. A harrowing movie about the anxieties of existing as a person who is historically disenfranchised within a world controlled by others which also contains a scene in which Justin Long struggles hilariously with a tape measure. Read my review here.
8. Prey – The colonial era Predator prequel that everyone’s dad probably thought was really cool until they went to their favorite YouTube channel that’s focused around The Discourse and learned that they were supposed to hate it because the main character is a Mary Sue and this new film is woke SJW bullshit. You know, unlike the first film in this series, which they somehow believe was an apolitical move about Vietnam. Listen to us discuss this one on the Lagniappe episode here.
7. Glass Onion – A worthy sequel to Knives Out. It’s absurd to call a film so tightly constructed “sloppy,” but there is something that’s a little less sharp and fine-tuned about this one than its predecessor, but some of the new zaniness therein helps balance this one out. Read my review here.
6. Fire Island – It is a truth universally acknowledged that most romcoms derive the core basics of their plots from Jane Austen novels, even though they rarely wear their inspiration on their sleeve so openly and honestly as Fire Island does. Joel Kim Booster is our Elizabeth Bennett, who initially has friction with the seemingly humorous but ultimately passionate Will, who stands in for Mr. Darcy. It could just be recency bias that’s making me rank this one so high, but I watched the whole thing with rapt attention and a big smile on my face, and sometimes, that’s really all you need. Read my review here.
5. Men – Possibly a spicy take here, but I loved Men when I saw it and even though I know that there was discourse, it passed me by completely and I still love this as much as I did when I first saw it. You can read Brandon’s review here.
4. Three Thousand Years of Longing – An absolute delight of a movie. A stodgy academic meets a handsome djinn and, determined to use her wish wisely, listens to the stories of the djinn’s life and the loves he has has lost along the way. A love story that crosses time and distance in a truly magnificent and magical way. You can read Brandon’s review here.
3. Nope – Another absolute home run for modern horror maestro Jordan Peele. After examining the horror of suburbia and neoliberalism in Get Out and the horror of the self and manifest destiny in Us, Nope is about a brother and sister whose experiences with extra terrestrial life require them to stop trying to outsmart the entity which has taken up residence near their ranch, but to realize that it’s impossible to reason with an intelligence so alien. Read my review here.
2. Everything Everywhere All At Once – This has easily been the most talked-about movie of the year, so what more do you need to hear from me about it? I love Michelle Yeoh, and although she’s no stranger to the complex role, it was nice to get to see her play a character who considered themselves to be a good person but whose actions are often selfish at best. So often, a film that is about intergenerational trauma and poor parental relationships comes across as schmaltzy and reductive, but this one is complex in ways that you can’t predict or imagine. You’ll find yourself empathizing with a rock more than you ever have before. You can read Brandon’s review here.
1. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On – I fell in love with Marcel the moment I saw a trailer for this movie. I love anything that gets down to the eye level of a little being and sees the world from their perspective. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, the Borrowers books, the half-remembered TV show The Littles, and even Ant-Man: it’s an immediate win for me. Marcel has more than that alone going for it, though, with an earnest depiction of a relationship between a child and his grandmother that found me where I live and pressed on my emotion button. I laughed and then I cried and then I laughed some more. Long live Marcel the Shell with Shoes on.
You can read Brandon’s review here.
-Mark “Boomer” Redmond