As I alluded to yesterday, 2022 struck me a topsy-turvy year in film. In certain respects, that’s understandable. Collectively, we are easing into a new understanding of how to operate in public spaces now that loads of people have decided that COVID-19 is in the rearview, though it’s certainly not. As more and more titles are ushered to home screens at a breakneck pace, choosing when to actually sit in a large, mediocrely ventilated room with strangers for two to three hours becomes a strangely tricky equation. Our household has certainly been guilty of buying tickets for the empty spectacles that will take linger as theater-only offerings for months and bypassing the more modest fare of greater interest to us and more in need of our support, confident that they’ll be available to watch from our couch with a couple clicks and a price tag commensurate with a night out at the theater. When think pieces fretfully weigh the meager box office take of the likes of She Said and The Fabelmans, I am left to concede that I contribute to the problem more than the solution. Much as I want to snarl about studios abandoning storytelling that’s not hampered by the mission to create endlessly duplicable product, I haven’t exactly voted against that approach with my credit card.
Sometimes, though, I feel okay about that. I’m not sure it entirely matters that Disney and Warner Bros. don’t want to spend their copious funds on artistically satisfying fare. Realistically, they never really did. The best, boldest cinematic fare has long emerged primarily from outside the studio lots tied to famous names. I don’t really care which logos are on the front of movies. I care about the content that comes after, and there’s every sign that filmmakers are still getting opportunities to innovate and dazzle. Although I haven’t counted, I feel like I saw fewer new films in 2022 than in several other recent years, and yet I have no misgivings about the ten I celebrate as the best of the year. Presented somewhat sporadically in the few weeks between now and the annual staging of the Academy Awards, all of these films challenged and thrilled me, reminding me why I devote so many of my waking hours to watching, watching, watching. When a film works, when it really, really works, there’s nothing quite like it.
The trek through the ten begins tomorrow. It’s a film I didn’t see in the theater, but by taking advantage of the pandemic-boosted opportunity to bring previously elusive fare straight to me. The method of viewing was immaterial. I’m plainly glad the viewing was possible.