First, a few films that just missed my top ten favorites. These were all worth you effort to see.
As always on this site, the Top Ten list is a combination of the best made films with the ones that I most enjoyed. This list will certainly not guide you in your Academy Award Pool, but it will take you to some terrific entertainment. Every one of the following was worth a trip to the theater. So remember:
Streaming is nice but it’s also a vice.
If you want the best try the auditorium Test.
10. Violent Night
Gratuitous violence at Christmas time is not for everyone, but it was for me. David Harbour is a slightly disaffected Santa, who becomes John McClane in this cross between “Home Alone” and “Die Hard”. It may not make a lot of sense, but in the end, there is also a somewhat heartwarming story. First you have to get past the frequent dismemberment of various bad guys.
9. The Batman
Bruce Wayne gets more depressed, the criminals get more vicious and Gotham gets darker, every time there is a new Batman movie. Robert Pattinson does a credible job in the lead role, Paul Dano makes the most of his limited screen time, and you will have to squint to see anything if you are watching this at home.
I’m a sucker for military based stories, as you will probably figure out by the time you finish looking at this list. I am an even bigger sucker for a movie with a prominent role for a dog. This delivers on both fronts. It is not the saccharine animal story you might be expecting, but it does have a satisfying payoff. Star Channing Tatum co-directs the movie and he also brings some great star wattage to the endeavor.
7. Everything Everywhere All At Once
For a lot of my fellow bloggers, this was the best film of the year. I won’t debate that, it is in fact pretty great. Michelle Yeoh gets a part in an English language film that will surely get awards consideration, finally. Also Jamie Lee Curtis is terrific in the movie as well. Ke Huy Quan, the kid from “Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies” is all grown up and he practically steals the movie. I’m going to steal a line from my review to close this: “when Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Leigh Curtis get hot dog fingers, try not to lose your mustard.”
The Greatest Entertainer to Ever Touch the Stage gets a biopic, worthy of his excellence. My kid was disappointed in the movie, but I found it exactly what I was looking for. Director Baz Luhrman has a visually operatic style and he uses it, a lot. Austin Butler gives a star making performance. I’m not sure about Tom Hanks, but the Col. Parker spine of the film feels exactly right to me.
Here is a film that almost everybody missed. Two real life Korean War Heroes get the respect they deserve in this well paced, heartfelt action film. It also has a social conscience but it does not lay on the moral message too thickly. There are some spectacular aerial sequences, but unlike another film we will be talking about, most of the stuff in this is special effects, but very well done. Oh and Elizabeth Taylor makes a guest appearance.
4. The Fabelmans
I know that Martin Scorsese is revered as the greatest living director by many film buffs. I would not ever say anything to dimmish my respect for him. I just don’t always like his movies, regardless of how well they are made. Steven Spielberg on the other hand is equally skilled and has the benefit of making films that are almost always pleasing. Here we get an autobiographical, fictional work, that moves us and reveals some of the secret drives that made Spielberg the most influential film maker of our time.
3. Top Gun: Maverick
In a year full of uncertainty, political upheaval, economic fear and a threat to the cinema from streaming, Hollywood’s hero shows up with a movie that made everybody happy. Even people who thought the original was trite, seemed to embrace this entertaining adventure film where Tom Cruse turns on the full wattage of his star power and makes us believe in movies again. The aerial combat was great, the drama story was effective and Cruise and Jennifer Connelly have real chemistry. If Val Kilmer’s section of the film doesn’t move you, there is something wrong with you.
This is an independent film, made by actor B.J. Novak (one of those guys from “The Office”) and it is a fantastic directorial debut. Novak also wrote the story and he knows how he wants it to look and feel. Social Media and our current culture are subjects for examination in this fish out of water mystery. The East Coast elite come in for some ribbing, and so do the folks down here in Texas. Neither is treated unfairly and instead of a parody, we are given an insight. We are also given a great supporting performance by Aston Kutcher. That’s right, that 70s Show guy kills it in this film.
1. “X” and “Pearl”
Writer/Director Ti West has fashioned his own universe to play in. 50’s melodramas of the Douglas Sirk variety are crossed with early 30s musicals in the prequel film that came out in September. He hits those marks with a solid touch and the movie “Pearl” is all the better for it. “X” is even more amazing because he gets the 70s grindhouse feel of films, especially horror films, and mixes that with the sleazy porn industry of the era and the result entertained me to now end. There are big laughs, big scares and big gagging sequences, and all of them say something about the culture.
Special praise goes to star Mia Goth, who plays two parts in “X’ but delivers a performance that is bravura . There is a ten minute monologue near the end of “Pearl” that proves she deserves an Academy Award Nomination, but it will never happen because of the genre. Screw the Academy, you should see these two films.