Thursday, January 5, 2023

Rosalie's Favorite Movies and Discoveries of 2022

 by Rosalie Lewis

A character from my favorite movie of 2022 says at one point, “You all are gonna have the greatest story to tell at dinner tonight!” That quip does a good job of tying together the kinds of films that attracted my attention this year. I wasn’t necessarily looking for profundity or deep introspection—although maybe those are a nice bonus at times. In 2022, I wanted to be entertained, dammit! The movies on my list all would’ve received a resounding yes in answer to the Gladiator query, “Are you not entertained?”

Like last year, my viewing skewed heavily in a non-current direction so I’m also going to share my discoveries list. Like every year, there are still blind spots (I didn’t get to RRR, Babylon, Tar, The Menu, Women Talking, Aftersun, or The Woman King yet but they are all on my list to see.) Let’s get into it!

Honorable Mentions
Let’s call this a five-way tie for 11th place in honor of Erika. I loved all of these movies and think all are worth seeing but they didn’t quite fit into my top ten:

Girl Picture directed by Alli Haapsalo (online rental)

This Finnish coming of age movie brings us into the lives of three vibrant young women who want what anyone wants in life: good sex, the kind of love that makes you want to devour each other, and the perfect balance of parental attention and acknowledgement of their independence. Funny and big hearted with a KILLER soundtrack.

Turning Red directed by Domee Shi (Disney+)

A winning fable about puberty and femme adolescence that made me cry and laugh and rewind to hear the songs from fictitious turn of the millennium boy band 4*Town again and again. So much fun.

The Fabelmans directed by Steven Spielberg (online purchase)

A Rosetta Stone for understanding Spielberg’s entire filmography, this movie lightly fictionalizes his childhood obsession with movies and idolization of his parents. The Judd Hirsch monologue about the conflict between art and family makes this worth the price of admission, and everything else makes it a movie I know I’ll return to again and again. I never thought a Seth Rogen behind the scenes featurette would make me cry but here we are.

Bones and All directed by Luca Guadagnino (online purchase)

Cannibal love story might be the elevator pitch, but the truth is this feels like an emancipation and affirmation for anyone who didn’t turn out the way their parents hoped they would. The blood and guts is just window dressing. For anyone who ever broke the rules and felt exhilaration instead of guilt, and then felt guilty for not feeling guilty. It’s about learning to survive and navigate the world on your own terms, and the absolute gift of finding someone else who accepts you, bones and all.

Avatar: The Way of Water directed by James Cameron (theaters)

This is basically in my top ten, but I know that other people on the site are going to give it lots of love so I’m making room for some other choices that may be undersung. I don’t love the original Avatar the way that Patrick does, but I admire the creativity of James Cameron and his absolute audacious commitment to his vision. Way of Water immerses (pun kind of intended) us in that vision in a super compelling way, with gorgeous visuals and emotional stakes and memorable action scenes and characters/creatures I want to spend more time with. I would happily spend three hours watching a documentary style story about the undersea creatures and organisms, no need for any more story than that.

Top 10

10. Do Revenge directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (Netflix)

I was grinning the whole time this teen movie version Strangers on a Train played out in front of me. Is it a pastiche of '90s teen films like Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You, Cruel Intentions and Jawbreaker? Yes. Does it borrow from Mean Girls and Heathers? I mean, a little bit. Is Maya Hawke a nepo baby? She for sure is. But you know what? Who cares! Every movie is influenced by the films that came before it, and this one happens to use the grammar of some movies I count as my absolute favorites. I had a blast and I bet you will too. By the way, Maya Hawke also happens to be a really great actress and I can’t wait to see what she does next. By the way part two, Sarah Michelle Gellar is in this movie and that in itself is a reason you should watch it.

9. Barbarian directed by Zach Cregger (HBO Max)
I’m less of a horror aficionado than some of my FTM colleagues, but this is the exact kind of movie I dip my toes into the horror waters to experience. Unhinged, unexpected, hilarious at times and horrifying other times. I loved it and I’m adding it to my annual Scary Movie Month viewing. Super original and fun.

8. Fire Island directed by Andrew Ahn (Hulu)
Jane Austen adaptations are plentiful, from the faithful period pieces to the modern incarnations like my all time fave Clueless. Not all of them successful, but I root for them all because she’s one of my favorite authors. Happily, this modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice brings a unique voice to the din and manages to be super charming and hilarious. If you were going by publicity and promotion, the gay rom com that got the most attention in 2022 was Bros. Well, I watched Bros and I’m here to tell you it’s got a long way to go to meet the high standards for gay rom com set by Fire Island. Joel Kim Booster, who wrote the screenplay, stars alongside Bowen Yang, Conrad Ricamora, James Scully, and Margaret Cho. The movie doesn’t shy away from issues of race, class, unrealistic beauty standards, and consent. I will watch this millions of more times, and I hope you will watch it at least once because it’s a delight.

7. Moonage Daydream directed by Brett Morgen (online rental)
David Bowie is far and away my favorite musical artist. It feels reductive to even call him a “musical artist” because he gave us so much more art and influenced culture in a way that goes far beyond the music. The task of putting all of that into a documentary about his life seems impossible. How can you depict his legacy in a way that even begins to approach his larger than life persona? Brett Morgen rose to the challenge, assembling concert footage and interviews and molding them into a cosmic experience more than a narrative biopic. I felt transported outside the mortal plane while watching, and it made me wish for the millionth time I could have seen Bowie live in concert. This is a must watch for any Bowie fan; if you aren’t all that acquainted with Bowie, this might help you understand why people like me are forever obsessed with him.

6. The Wonder directed by Sebastian Lelio (Netflix)
Florence Pugh’s best performance of the year is not in the buzzy gossip machine Don’t Worry Darling (which is ok but not list-worthy, IMO); it’s in this quietly powerful period drama set in 1860s Ireland. She plays a nurse who has seen the horrors of the battlefield but has now been hired to observe a young girl whose parents claim she has not eaten for months and yet she’s alive and healthy. A nun has also been hired for this observation. The two women are meant to document what they see and help determine if this 11-year-old is a miracle or a fraud. What could be a fairly straightforward science versus religion story ends up being much more nuanced and interesting, with layers I did not expect going in. Kila Lord Cassidy made a big impression as the Wonder in question, and the story felt worthy of Bronte sisters.

5. Emily the Criminal directed by John Patton Ford (Netflix)
Aubrey Plaza finally gets to star in a movie that deserves her. This thriller works as both a character study and a critique of late stage capitalism, and it trusts the audience to identify with Emily the same way we identified with Henry Hill in Goodfellas. Ford holds nothing back in his debut as both director and screenwriter; I can’t wait to see what his second project will be but this is a hell of a start.

4. Decision to Leave directed by Park Chan-Wook (Mubi)
A neo noir with a romance built in? Yeah, this kinda had me from the jump. Throw in the dazzling camera work and framing (an intense collaboration between the director and cinematographer Kim Ji-yong) plus an ending I’ll be thinking about years from now? I’m a goner for this movie. Park mentioned in an interview that the idea for this story began with a line from a song: “Open your eyes within the mist.” The protagonist is a detective whose challenge is discerning the truth in murky circumstances, reconstructing what happened by interpreting the evidence but also relying on intuition. When a woman he’s questioning says and does things that don’t fit the narrative of a grieving widow, he finds himself drawn to her in a way that he can’t quite explain. I’m swooning just thinking about certain shots from this film, and I can’t wait to return to it.

3. Badhaai Do directed by Harshavardhan Kulkarni (Netflix)
The English translation of this Hindi film title is “give the good news,” and I’m here to give you the good news that you have probably not discovered one of the best movies of 2022 yet but here it is, waiting for you to enjoy. The story follows Shardul (Rajkummar Rao), a closeted gay police officer, and Sumi (Bhumi Pednekar), a closeted lesbian teacher. Both of them are facing pressure from their families to get married and have kids. When an online hookup goes disastrously and threatens to expose Sumi’s same sex attraction, she encounters Shardul and he proposes a solution that could help both of them: Get married, live together as roommates, and pursue their actual romantic interests once the parental scrutiny has subsided. Of course, this plan is far from fool proof. Once they get married, their parents start pushing the “give us grandkids” agenda; and the married couple finds that being roommates still requires compromise and navigating gender roles the same way a traditional marriage would. There are plenty of screwball comedy moments, some fantastic song and dance segments, a tense and suspenseful train ride, and an emotional payoff that had me sobbing and cheering and wanting to hug everyone involved. It’s a romantic comedy and a family drama and a triumph for queer representation in mainstream Indian cinema. It’s also one of the very best movies I saw this year.

2. The Lost City directed by Aaron and Adam Nee (Paramount+/online rental)
Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum have awesome comedic and romantic chemistry in this action filled adventure, with supporting turns from Patti Harrison, Daniel Radcliffe, Brad Pitt, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. Does it owe a lot to Romancing the Stone? Sure. Do I care? No. Give me two A-listers running around the jungle dealing with leeches and psychotic billionaires and ridiculously impractical shiny pink dresses. Give me a dopey hunky dude who has a crush on the smart stubborn older woman. Give me dances and glances and exasperated sighs. Give me Brad Pitt making the bad guys go to sleep. I am here for this movie, and I’ve watched it at least four times this year and it does not lose any of its luster with repeat viewing.

1. Ambulance directed by Michael Bay (Amazon Prime)
Easily my favorite theatrical experience of the year, this adrenaline shot of action cinema got my heart pumping and took me on the ride of my life. When Michael Bay has the right material, few can match his panache for car chases and explosions. Ambulance is definitely the right material and he’s got the right amount of braggadocio to make you think your heart’s going to explode while you’re watching it. The cast is perfection: Jake Gyllenhaal going BIG and Eiza Gonzalez not shrinking in his presence but rising to the occasion instead as the EMT who has to keep her wits about her to survive. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is great as the guy who made a bad decision for a good reason and now he’s in WAY over his head. This movie has everything: Flamingos, a Christopher Cross singalong, the reason it’s good to always have a surgeon on speed dial, and a cameo from Michael Bay’s dog Nitro. I watched it again yesterday to confirm it was still my number one and it absolutely is. I could see this becoming an annual watch the way Die Hard is for me already—high praise, but Ambulance 100% earns it.

Top 10 Discoveries:

10. Bingo (1991, directed by Matthew Robbins, Tubi)
The dog, spoilers, does not die. This movie is rigoddamndiculous and so much fun. I am not being ironic by putting it on my list, it fully deserves it. Watch this with the whole family and you’ll get it, I promise.

9. Liquid Sky (1982, directed by Slava Tsukerman, YouTube)
Weird, punk sci fi low budget experiment with killer style and music and odd visual effects and a unique take on sexual empowerment. I saw this during Junesploitation and my life may never be the same.

8. The Impostors (1998, directed by Stanley Tucci, online rental)
Totally underrated screwball comedy that takes place on a cruise ship and features director Stanley Tucci co-starring alongside Oliver Platt. It’s set during the 1930s and the two play out of work actors, so there are plenty of homages to '30s films and I think Preston Sturges would have happily signed off on this script. It’s a fun romp.

7. Thirst (2009, directed by Park Chan-Wook, online rental)
Finally caught up with this soulful vampire film during Scary Movie Month, and found it so moving. This would make for an interesting double feature with Bones and All, although the two movies diverge in their mythology around humans with this irrepressible need for blood and flesh. If your only exposure to Park is Oldboy, give this one a shot. It shows a different, more humanistic side of the director that I found surprising.

6. Lone Star (1996, directed by John Sayles, online rental)
This neo noir knocked me out and left me for dead in the best possible way. By the way, I realize with the name and even by reputation it’s a Western; but to me, it has a lot of noir elements so that’s where I’m putting it. You know when you have a cast that includes the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Elizabeth Pena, Matthew McConaughey, and Chris Cooper, you’re in for some great performances. The characters are all part of this incredible story about community, family, race, and the way nothing ever stays buried forever.

5. Crimson Tide (1995, directed by Tony Scott, online rental)
I can’t believe I had not seen this one before, but somehow I missed it and that meant I had the joy of watching it for the first time in 2022. Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington are legends always, and seeing them play rivals in this movie directed by the late great Tony Scott just made me so happy. It’s a special thing when everyone involved in a movie is at the top of their game. The philosophy minor in me also cheers anytime a movie engages with some big ethical dilemma, and this movie gives us a great one.

4. Appropriate Behavior (2014, directed by Desiree Akhavan, Amazon Prime & Tubi)
Desiree Akhavan is a triple threat in her debut feature, starring in a script she wrote and directed. She plays a twenty-something bisexual Persian-American Brooklynite who just parted ways with her girlfriend and is trying to figure out what comes next. If you’re a fan of movies like Frances Ha or even shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, you need to see this movie. It’s a rom com for the awkward people who don’t always say or do the right thing; and it’s told from a perspective we don’t see a lot onscreen. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and it deserves a wider audience for sure.

3. Clearcut (1991, directed by Ryszard Bugajski, Kanopy)
I’d never even heard of this movie until it popped up on Kanopy when I was browsing for off the beaten path horror movies in October. The intriguing premise (white attorney represents a First Peoples tribe whose land is being logged by a private company against their will) grabbed my attention and I hit play. Wow, was I in for a ride. First of all, you have never seen Graham Greene be the complete firecracker that he gets to be in this movie—at first an enigmatic stranger who has a confrontation with the lawyer, and then a terrifying force to be reckoned with when he kidnaps the CEO of the logging company and brings the attorney along for the ride. I cannot stop thinking about this movie. It’s so fucking good.

2. Nine Queens (2000, directed by Fabian Bielinsky, Amazon Prime)
Do not read a plot description of this thrill ride; just go watch it. All you need to know is there’s a heist, Argentine superstar Ricardo Darin is one of the leads, and I was rubbing my hands together in glee at various points throughout this film as it took me for a real ride. It’s terrific fun.

1. Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979, directed by Joan Micklin Silver, coming to Criterion Blu-ray in March 2023)
Anthony King has written about this movie for the site before, and I’m going to join in the chorus singing its praises. If you thought (500) Days of Summer was the definitive movie about the Rashomon nature of romantic relationships, you need to see this movie. If your main experiences with John Heard are C.H.U.D. and the Home Alone franchise, you need to see this movie. If you’ve ever had a relationship end before you were ready to let it go, you need to see this movie. If you’ve ever watched a rom com and thought, “That behavior seems more creepy than endearing,” you need to see this movie. If Death Cab For Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” were a movie, it would be this movie. Basically: Watch this movie.


  1. I love the idea of a top ten discoveries list; I think I'm going to start doing that also. Because my life definitely needs more lists.

    Also, Naz totally is on board with your "Lost City" love!

    1. Mark, I'd love to read your discoveries list! :) And tell Naz she has good taste--Lost City rules!

  2. I like reading through everyone's 2022 best lists, but I love the discoveries lists even more! Added several of those to my watchlist.

    And nice to see a Finnish movie get mentioned! I haven't seen it yet because I felt too self-conscious about looking like a weirdo, as a 40-year-old dude going to a theater to see a movie about teenage girls. But now it's on rental, I should really check it out.

    1. Mikko, I can't wait to hear what you think of Girl Picture! I understand your hesitance to see it in the theater, haha. I have to admit I don't have a ton of exposure to Finnish movies--any others from recent memory I should check out?

    2. Hi Rosalie! I have no idea how easily these are available across the pond, but the horror movie Hatching (Pahanhautoja) is on my best of 2022 list, The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic (Sokea mies, joka ei halunnut nähdä Titanicia) made me bawl my eyes out (which I rarely do), Heavy Trip (Hevi reissu) is a fun heavy metal road trip comedy, and Euthanizer (Armomurhaaja) is part deep drama, part black comedy, and part revenge thriller. It's also my favorite Finnish film of this century. Those are the ones from the last few years that immediately come to mind.

    3. Euthanizer (2017) is available on Tubi in Canada and the US. Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. My top 10 discoveries list is much more important to me than the top 10 of this year (I haven't seen most movie from this year). Crimson Tide is amazing, and probably in my top 5 movies ever, and I'm glad you liked it. It's freaking rules. I get the main theme from the score in my head all the time. Bom bom bom bom, bom bom, bom bom bom...

    Thanks for the recommendation of Clearcut. Graham Greene is somewhat of a legend for us here in Canada. I'll be definitely watching that soon. It's on Tubi in the US and Canada.

    I watched Fire Island, and it was just ok. It seemed to be playing up a lot of the stereotypes of gay men, especially asian ones. But as a straight dude, I'm obviously in no position to criticize, but that seemed to be a prominent criticism (as far as I could tell after browsing reviews, etc.). But I'm glad you liked it, and wish I had gotten more from it.