Kyle Amato is a film critic for Boston Hassle. He has been working with Hassle since 2016, writing reviews for new movies and interviewing up-and-coming filmmakers. He is a member of GALECA and co-hosts Hawke Cast, a podcast about Ethan Hawke. You can follow him on Letterboxd.
- Catherine Called Birdy dir. Lena Dunham
A clear labor of love, Catherine Called Birdy is the platonic ideal of a YA novel put to film. I stand by my original review, calling it a film for brats in the best way possible. Bella Ramsey, Billie Piper, Andrew Scott, Joe Alwyn, and Sophie Okenedo are all giving god-tier performances, alternating between silliness and heartbreak with such deftness that you’re as stunned as Birdy as she learns that she is not the center of the universe. Brilliant!
- Armageddon Time dir. James Gray
Gray’s autobiographical story has sat with me longer than most films I watched this year. When I first saw the tender original trailer, focusing on the friendship between a young Jewish boy (Banks Repeta) and an African-American classmate (Jaylin Webb), I thought “Oh, is this about James Gray being kind of gay?” and then when I saw the actual film I realized “oh god oh no it is not about being gay at all.” Armageddon Time is a brutally honest film about Jewish identity during a time of political upheaval and greed, seen through the eyes of a boy old enough to understand what is unfair but too young to do anything about it. Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong give harsh performances as middle-class parents who are terrified of losing the minor status they’ve achieved, while Anthony Hopkins proves again why he is a two-time Academy Award winner with his role as the gentle but firm grandfather Aaron. Gray shows us how easily progressives can sell others out under any pressure, but he does not condemn his parents. What could anyone do? Bonus points for doing a Trump thing that isn’t annoying or stupid.
- The Eternal Daughter dir. Joanna Hogg
Not the third Souvenir film, but not quite not that, Hogg’s gothic bedtime story of mother and daughter is even stronger on a repeat viewing when you fully lock into the tone. Tilda as both Julie and Rosalind might be the performance of the year, or at least the most inventive while remaining down to earth and extremely English. The film is also uncomfortably hilarious as Julie’s plans keep going awry and she can’t deal with her own guilt. I’ll keep saying it: there is a crash zoom on a dog!
- Crimes of the Future dir. David Cronenberg
After a long hiatus from filmmaking, Cronenberg gives into his deepest, lustiest desires and makes a movie about railing Viggo Mortensen while he squirms and moans in front of an audience. Crimes of the Future is, frankly, a beautiful story about an artist worried about losing his touch, dealing with cheap imitators with worrisome politics, and trying to keep himself alive and well in an increasingly hostile landscape. It’s also a film where Lea Seydoux unzips Viggo’s tummy so she can lick his organs while he whispers “Don’t spill.” Are we Saul Tenser, making bold artistic statements, or are we Timlin, gatekeeping, worshiping, and angrily muttering that people don’t GET IT? It seems like Cronenberg is already at work on his next film, and I couldn’t be happier to have him back.
- We’re All Going to the World’s Fair dir. Jane Schoenbrun
Schoenbrun’s debut is Eighth Grade by way of r/nosleep, a story of isolation and fear with one of the best performances from a young actress I’ve ever seen. Technology moves so fast that it will always seem outdated when put to film, but Schoenbrun knows teenage misanthropy and loneliness are eternal. Alex G’s moody and creepy score haunts Casey’s journey deeper into an online conspiracy that threatens to swallow her whole. Can we save ourselves from the Internet? Is there life outside our screens? Despite the claustrophobia of their film, Schoenbrun does have something of a hopeful outlook… or perhaps they’re just excited about finding more ways to freak us out in the future.
- Inu-oh dir. Masaaki Yuasa
Yuasa is celebrated for his frenetic animation style, but I’ve often struggled to connect with his films emotionally. No longer! Inu-Oh, based on Heike-era myths of the 14th century, is an incredible film about storytelling itself, with rebellious anachronistic hair metal and a non-patronizing trans allegory thrown in for good measure. Inu-Oh and Tomona, both outcasts, dare to defy the emperor’s version of the Heike story, entrancing the public with stunning performances that turn these friends into gigantic celebrities. The authorities tear them apart, but they can come together even after death. While it may demand a lot of historical knowledge to understand the full context (I was happy that I watched the anime miniseries The Heike Story last year), Inu-Oh stands on its own as a celebration of identity and rock and roll.
- All the Beauty and the Bloodshed dir. Laura Poitras
The portrait of Nan Goldin’s life, addiction struggles, and activism is a stunning and overwhelming documentary that spans decades but never loses focus. We’re almost halfway into the film before we even discuss David Wojnarowicz, but we get there at the perfect time. It was thrilling to watch a documentary about activists where there are actual results – The Sackler name has been removed from many museums (but not all… yet…) and they should be forced to be in those hearings with the families they destroyed for the rest of their miserable lives. There’s so much to say about this, but what’s most important is to watch and bear witness.
- Strawberry Mansion dir. Albert Birney & Kentucker Audley
It’s been a long journey since I saw Strawberry Mansion as my first-ever Sundance film in 2021, but I haven’t stopped thinking about its creativity and charm. This is the ideal movie: handmade, weird, funny, just bursting at the seams with ideas. I love learning all the behind the scenes work Birney and Audley did to bring their vision to life, only making it a more impressive feat. The Strawberry Mansion itself (seen above) is just a miniature!!! You can learn more in my interview with the directors a couple days after its premiere. If the film screens near you, you must drop everything and check out this dreamy adventure.
- The Fabelmans dir. Steven Spielberg
Somewhat embarrassing to admit, but I feel honored that Steven Spielberg shared this story of his family with me. This man made Jurassic Park. What would we do without him? The least we can do is indulge in his 2.5 hour origin story about his darkest secret and his fears of living a life behind a camera, dissociating from any actual emotional engagement. The Fabelmans is a beautifully made movie where Spielberg films a closet door slowly opening with the same intensity of War of the Worlds. He’s never been this direct about his own brain, and I just greedily lapped it up. Add a sparkling, basically over-the-top, performance from Michelle Williams and a David Lynch cameo, you’ve got yourself quite the picture!
- TÁR dir. Todd Field
Writing about my favorite film of the year is nearly an impossible task – my favorite movie will be something that just feels undeniable, something that immediately enters my canon without a shred of doubt. It happened with The Souvenir, First Reformed— the list goes on. The thing about TÁR is it is TÁR. Nothing this year made me laugh as hard. Nothing was as compelling or ridiculous or featured Wikipedia vandalism. It’s Cate, it’s Todd Field, it’s TÁR. Just watch TÁR. You’ll have a blast. “Apartment for Sale” should win Best Original Song.
My 7-20 were fairly loose – despite my overall pessimistic view of the film industry, there are always good movies if you know where to look!
20. Bones and All
19. The Banshees of Inisherin
18. Beavis and Butt-head Do the Universe
16. Saint Omer
15. Il Buco
14. Wendell & Wild
13. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio
11. Turning Red
Avatar: The Way of Water
Bottom Ten of 2022
I won’t waste my time writing about these. Let’s just look at these names and scoff in disdain.
Raymond & Ray
Thor: Love and Thunder
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
That’s it from me! See you next year!