Karenna Umscheid is a staff writer for Boston Hassle and a journalism major at Emerson College. She’s the Editor-in-Chief of Milk Crate, an on-campus publication connected with the college radio station WECB, an Assistant Living Arts Editor for The Berkeley Beacon, and a Editor and Writer for Latent Images Magazine. Some of her favorite filmmakers include David Lynch, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Martin Scorsese, and Hirokazu Kore-eda.
I’ve always dreamed about writing a year ender! In high school I made checklists every week of new, buzzed-about releases and watched every one I could. That pretentious sort of binge-watching has since become habitual, and with my AMC A-list subscription I carve out two-hour long breaks during busy weeks to keep up with new releases. 2022 has been more fun than ever. I’ve seen eyes poked out with pitchforks, an audience of middle-aged men laugh with joy at plane flying sequences, shuddered in fear at grainy images of toys, and smiled in relief at Anya Taylor-Joy eating a cheeseburger. Every year is a good year of film if you know what to look for.
Apart from new releases, the special screenings at the Coolidge and the Brattle have been transforming, to say the least. The “Damn Fine Cinema” series at the Brattle filled my David Lynch-loving heart to the brim, as I went to a double feature of Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway, and a fully packed screening of Wild at Heart. Collective cinematic experiences are unparalleled, no film is as funny or scary as it is when you watch it in a dark room with a crowd of strangers.
Cha Cha Real Smooth, for the first WAP needle drop (I’m hoping for many more!)
X and Pearl, for absolutely iconic Halloween costumes (and really nasty kills!)
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, for an incredible word-of-mouth campaign and a hilarious theater experience (almost all of my friends cried at some point)
Bodies Bodies Bodies, for one of the most accurate on screen depictions of Gen Z (speaking as a part of the demographic)
10. Skinamarink (2022) dir. Kyle Edward Ball
Shot independently for only $15K, Ball’s first feature is a pure visual nightmare, as quiet and dark as it is intensely terrifying. I strongly believe that how effective this film will be to each person is entirely dependent on how afraid of the dark they were as a child. I was terrified completely, a fear that comes running back every time I need to get water from the kitchen in the middle of the night. Some may see this as a boring couple hours of staring at a grainy ceiling, but I saw it as a hypnotic and nightmarish horror film of utmost originality and terror.
9. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022) dir. Rian Johnson
The sequel to Rian Johnson’s hit whodunit Knives Out draws on the same formula as the first, but is transplanted to a pandemic-set Grecian vacation. The ensemble, featuring Janelle Monae, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom, Jr., Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, and Edward Norton, led of course by the charming Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, was as crowd-pleasing as ever, with incredibly funny interactions and superb comedic chemistry. The various cameos and pop culture references are immense, which make this feel like a future classic period piece of the 2020s in the near future, wrapped in a marvelous murder mystery critique of an Elon Musk-style billionaire.
8. The Northman (2022) dir. Robert Eggers
Robert Eggers’ third feature, the medieval epic The Northman, is a brilliant and entrancing revenge tale, with stellar performances from Alexander Skarsgård, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Nicole Kidman. I’m an absolute sucker for a revenge tale; anything with a desperate and often broken protagonist who begins to abandon morals and lose themselves in their quest for revenge fascinates me endlessly. And I think about the quote “I will save you mother, I will avenge you father, I will kill you Fjolnir,” at least twenty times per day.
7. Broker (2022) dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda
Kore-eda’s follow-up to the Palme D’Or winning Shoplifters (2018) is every bit as heart-wrenching and bittersweet. Similarly matching a found family with crime and lawlessness, Broker watches a family put together through baby boxes and orphanages on the run in search of a family to sell a newborn to. Despite how that summary sounds, the bonds that form during the journey are so powerful, making the consequences of the crimes even more gutting.
6. The Fabelmans (2022) dir. Steven Spielberg
Spielberg’s largely autobiographical picture is a darker depiction of an artistic childhood, one that, instead of leaning on nostalgia, reveals the tragedy and loss that accompanies choosing art, and therefore the self, over family. I was extremely pleasantly surprised by The Fabelmans, as I expected a cheesier depiction of the upbringing of such a celebrated filmmaker. Michelle Williams was effortlessly moving, but every performance in the film is truly award-worthy, from Paul Dano to Seth Rogen.
5. Decision to Leave (2022) Dir. Park Chan-Wook
Dangerously romantic, Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave is nihilistic as ever, a dark love story disguised as a crime thriller. Chan-wook has always been able to depict fascinating characters on every bend of the moral quandary, but the devotional romance in the center of Decision to Leave is especially fascinating. I adored the rock climbing sequences, but what really made the film so phenomenal to me was the ending. It’s tragic, heartstopping, and absolutely perfect.
4. Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) dir. Daniels
Directing duo (and Emerson College alums!) the Daniels strike pure gold with this multiversal masterpiece. Nearly every aspect of the film has been met with praise, with performances, directing, writing, and editing. The costumes were so brilliant and inventive, my favorite being the Elvis-inspired one (perhaps foreshadowing another Oscar nominee!) The cinematic inspirations and allusions throughout the film also work to the star power of the film and ensemble, with strong influences coming from Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love.
3. The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) dir. Martin McDonagh
McDonagh’s depressing and charmingly Irish film is equal parts hilarious and tragic, a balance struck between sharp, witty dialogue and heartbreaking performances. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Colin Farrell performance I didn’t like (and I’m not sure I ever will), but Padriac is played so exceptionally that what I expected to be a funny black comedy ended up being such a beautiful, depressing Irish fable. The Banshees of Inisherin made me laugh so hard, but also ended up shredding my heart. That’s the power of Colin Farrell.
2. Tár (2022) dir. Todd Field
Tár transcends genre and reality to create a film so fascinating, so open-to-interpretation that it feels difficult to coherently describe to those that haven’t seen it. It’s otherworldly, a horror story in multiple senses of the word and a dark and mesmersing drama. It’s best to go in cold. Cate Blanchett gives another phenomenal performance, this one so transformative I googled Lydia Tár afterwards, expecting her to be a real person, relieved to discover that she is not.
1. Nope (2022) dir. Jordan Peele
From the opening quote “I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle,” Peele prepares audiences for a film frighteningly biblical, yet I was still unprepared for the otherworldly thrilling spectacle. Nope had me fearfully gaping at the screen and freezing in fear. The sound design is on par with Eraserhead and other sonically immersive classics, and the special effects are as gorgeous as they are terrifying. Nope is an instant classic, both a product and a criticism of the spectacle of filmmaking and Hollywood, an essential commentary on the industry and of our society as a whole.