My 134 Best First Watches of 2022

My 134 Best First Watches of 2022

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According to Letterboxd, I watched 366 movies in 2022. That number is inaccurate for a few reasons: Firstly, I forgot to log a half-rewatch of the first Austin Powers that happened late last week. Also, since I log half-or-quarter watches mainly to keep track of what I’m putting eyes on, that means that I probably watched, let’s say somewhere around 325 movies when it comes to a beginning-to-end situation.

I thought it would be fun to run down all the good stuff I watched for the first time this year, which means no mention of the fourteenth time I watched Step Brothers or how I watched Climax twice. Largely, this is a trial run for putting together the 100 Best Songs of 2020 later this year, so consider me warmed up. This isn’t a list that comes from any real place of authority, so please do not yell at me about it—it’s just more like, “Hey here’s some movies I watched this year that I liked, maybe you want to watch a few of them too.” OK. Got it? Good.

Red Rocket [Sean Baker; 2021]

The best movie of 2021 that was made by someone whose friends were at the Capitol on January 6th? Almost none of my friends have seen this one still, some citing the full-on anxiety attack this movie could possibly trigger—which, if you've seen it, very understandable. Maybe my favorite of Sean Baker's movies that I've seen so far; I wasn't too hot on Tangerine, thought The Florida Project was outstanding, but the pacing and over-the-top "I'm laughing right now, but this is so wrong, man"-ness of this one puts it in top position for me thus far. Incredible performance from Simon Rex, playing one of the most (literally) nakedly despicable characters in recent memory. I see some of the criticisms about whatever this movie is trying to say about the Trump era and get them, although I didn't find any of it too distracting from the end product when all's said and done.

Mass [Fran Kranz; 2021]

Everyone brings the heat here (Jason Isaacs?!?), with Martha Plimpton easily taking home the MVP. 15 minutes too long, to the point where the drawn-out ending deflates the overall power of the film a bit—and, also, we're doing an "it's a movie, but it's a play, so is it really a movie?" thing, but still very effectively devastating stuff.‎

The Card Counter [Paul Schrader; 2021]

Didn't think much of it on first watch (Tiffany Haddish is very miscast in this, imho), but it stuck with me more and more as the year went on. The torture scenes are literally sickening, I can't imagine what it would've been like to see them in the theater. Nice to have a little reminder of how mad we should still all be about the Iraq war, too.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw [Darren Lynn Bousman; 2021]

(Extreme Catholic priest voice) A reading, from the book of Saw. I liked the part where the guy's fingers got ripped off, and also the part where the other guy took all the broken glass straight to the back. I've seen the first Saw (terrible) and Saw 2 (worse) and avoided the other ones in the "original series" because their reputations were low—so, by that ill-informed metric, I'm willing to declare that Spiral: From the Book of Saw is...the best Saw movie to date? Chris Rock remains a terrible dramatic actor, but his opening stand-up bit about Forrest Gump was a very funny way to kick off a movie like this. It was all so simple before The Slap, wasn't it.

Memories of Murder [Bong Joon-ho; 2003]

A reading, from the book of Bong. Astounding movie, maybe perfect, funny, sad, it has it all. I'm the millionth person to observe this, but no way Fincher didn't nick this heavily for Zodiac.

Rosetta [Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne; 1999]‎

I've never seen a Dardennes movie that I haven't absolutely loved, no exception here. (A 2023 resolution is to finally watch Young Ahmed, which will likely change the previous sentiment.) That ending, oof. WHAT! IS! THE! WAFFLE! SCAM! I've literally read explanations online and I still do not get it.

Tenebre [Dario Argento; 1982]

Least surprising thing ever that one of my favorite Argento movies is when he gets all self-referential-slash-self-critical. ‎

The Last Duel [Ridley Scott; 2021]

Wild how the Ridley Scott movie from 2021 we were all looking forward to (House of Gucci) was god-awful while the one we were all dreading (this one) turned out to be surprisingly excellent? Comer, Affleck(!), and Driver (not Damon, who's been unwatchably bad for most of the last decade) nail it, but of course all respect is due to Nicole Holofcener, who (thank God) took an Affleck/Damon screenplay (can you imagine what shape that was in before it came across her figurative desk?) and did the damn thing. How this wasn't nominated for, like, six Oscars still baffles me; like Ridley, I blame millennials and their phones.

Scream 4 [Wes Craven; 2011]

An all-timer in the cold open department, for starters. Emma Roberts is forever goated for this. Came just short of totally hating the fifth Scream, btw,‎ and I don't have high hopes for the new one.

Depraved [Larry Fessenden; 2019]

Still have a few more Fessenden features to see, my favorite as of late is The Last Winter but this one is very, very solid too—a real malevolence that runs through it. They should let him revive the Dark Universe (kidding, kind of).‎

We Are Still Here [Ted Geoghegan; 2015]

Fessenden pops up here in acting form too (unlike his own Habit, he does not get naked in this). Good spooky fun, with a slow build towards a very and hilariously gory climax.

Prince of Darkness [John Carpenter; 1987]

This movie feels like ooze. For the first hour you're like, "Something's coming, I can kind of see it, but it's not moving very fast," and then it's suddenly everywhere. The creeping dread is indelible.‎

A Hero [Asghar Farhadi; 2021]

Read this if you haven't already, even if you have no plans to see A Hero (although, really, you shoul, it's Farhadi, it's great). The piece is an essential read on multiple levels, especially if you're interested in art and ethics as a whole.‎

Raw [Julia Ducournau; 2016]

Titane is the one that gets all the attention (and, to be clear, I love Titane), but this one really blew my mind. Ducournau (who, as Nightheads and/or Apple TV+ subscribers might know, also did some directing work on Servant) is obviously a genius. I read an interview recently that she's been doing research in hospitals for her next one—can't wait to see how she disgusts us yet again.

Beau Travail [Claire Denis; 1999]

Still can't get over this film inspiring the Wednesday dance, what a twist. This really is the rhythm of the night.

Nightmare Alley [Guillermo del Toro; 2021]‎

Still need to watch the original, I know, I know. Everyone I knew felt differently about this one, I think most of my enjoyment came from seeing something with a lot of money put into it that wasn't explicitly made for children and/or people locked into some sort of state of perpetual adolescence. Great ending, too.

Jackass Forever [Jeff Tremaine; 2022]‎

My last movie in theaters before Omicron scared the living shit out of me for two and a half months was House of Gucci, and my first one "back again" was Jackass Forever. This meant that my wife and I didn't get to go see Memoria on New Year's Eve despite having tickets, which was very frustrating but hopefully I will see Memoria someday. In the meantime, there was Jackass Forever, the second-best Jackass film to date (Jackass 2 remains the high water mark) but definitely the sweetest at heart. After the bull scene, I seriously worry for Johnny Knoxville's health and hope he stops doing crazy shit soon.

Rabbit Hole [John Cameron Mitchell; 2010]

Such a tender and empathetic movie about something so devastating that, as someone who's not a parent, I will never understand the pain of. Extremely good debut from Miles Teller, who has since become the walking embodiment of the word "shithead."

The Death of Dick Long [Daniel Scheinert; 2019]‎‎‎

Of the two DANIELS-involved features I saw this year (yes, we'll get to Everything Everywhere All At Once later), this one stuck with me a little more...for very obvious reasons, if you know what it's about. Real tightrope-walk of a movie, somehow pulls it off. Would love to see more filmmaking "like this" from DANIELS (or, at least, one Daniel) in the future, but I think we all know where their train is heading at this point.

Alone With You [Emily Bennett and Justin Brooks; 2021]

Legit scary movie imo, lots of familiarity if you've ever dealt with bad cell service and/or codependence and/or living in a New York City apartment. Not recommended for those who get claustrophobia easily — and a good reminder that it's always worth getting out of the house when you can!

The Green Inferno [Eli Roth; 2013]‎‎

One of the biggest revelations I had in 2022 is how much I love Eli Roth's films as a whole...The Green Inferno is far from his best (and is insanely offensive at points) but is a pretty capable send-up of well-meaning eco-tourist liberalism, and of course he brings the eww, gross ‎quotient for real. Shout out to Sky Ferreira, the sequel teased at the end of this movie is basically my Masochism.

Kimi [Steven Soderbergh; 2022]

Two people in my life have watched this more than once this year, seems like it resonated with people in general. Love a COVID-era Home Alone deal from a guy who's best at this stage in his career when he's going full-on paranoia (Unsane underrated, peace to the god Claire Foy).

Lifechanger [Justin McConnell; 2018]

Here's a nasty and smart little piece of malevolence that goes wild with a fascinating premise. Definitely something I'm looking forward to rewatching at some point.

West Side Story [Steven Spielberg; 2021]‎‎

Mike Faist comes through here with a "if he never does anything worthwhile again, he'll still be dripping for this" performance. Spielberg goes hard with the staging here, similar to The Fabelmans I was very skeptical for the first 30 minutes and was totally won over for the remainder.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer [John McNaughton; 1986]‎

One of those movies where its reputation precedes it. Not an easy watch, obviously, but it does what it says on the tin.

Little Joe [Jessica Hausner; 2019]‎

Spent the first bit of this not into it, but it crept into my brain and won me over—just like Little Joe itself.

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster [‎Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky; 2004]

Took me way too long to see this of the greatest documentaries of all time? The therapist is the real enemy here, but we don't talk enough about that (apologies to the therapists out there, you in general are not the enemy). The art auction scene is, obviously, one of the most hilariously pathetic things ever captured on camera.

Everything Everywhere All At Once [DANIELS; 2022]‎

When I saw this in theaters, a couple sitting next to us laughed—like braying donkeys—at LITERALLY. EVERY. LINE. IN. THE. FILM. There was no way they had seen it already, it was in the first week of release and they had strong "third or fourth date" energy. Being in proximity to this situation kind of says it all about how this movie's been received and consumed since release; it's basically become tendercore Rick and Morty at this point, right down to the fanbase's sheer "What is with them?" vibes. This is all a shame, because I do think it's quite good in the end (even as the last 25 minutes kind of lost me), and it represents one of many examples of something that I wish I could consume in a vacuum, away from the cultural conversation and ripple effects it has. Anyway, I'm starting to get the feeling that this might actually win Best Picture (too many Hollywood types assumedly sympathize with Lydia Tár), but I could and probably will be very wrong.‎

AmbuLAnce [Michael Bay; 2022]

The last 30 minutes of this are miserable, but overall it was an absolute blast to watch in the theater...the movie's core message is "Some people never change," and even this gentler, wiser version of a Michael Bay movie reflects that truism in regards to its creator. Eiza Soares doing spon for a credit-check app AND zero-ABV Heineken in a 30-second timeframe, even heartbreak feels good in a place like this. Also, anyone who uses drone shots for anything looks like an absolute chump after this one.

Parallel Mothers [Pedro Almodovar; 2021]

Another banger from one of my all-time filmmakers. Some blanched at the over-the-top-ness of this one, but it's Almodovar, what do you expect?

SLC Punk! [James Merendino; 1998]‎

There's really not much to this one, it screams "Sundance" in such a way that reminds you that "Sundance" has been a subgenre of film we've been forced to bear witness to for so long—but incredible performance from Matthew Lillard, who really just does not get the credit he deserves for always bringing depth to whatever he shows up for. He gives this one a real emotional core, and it's devastating at times because of him too.

Resolution [Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead; 2012]‎

Benson and Moorhead are kind of masters of the "pretty good, almost great" high-concept genre film, and this might be their best one to date (I haven't seen Something in the Dirt yet). Having watched most of their stuff in the past year, ‎they are definitely interested in exploring masculinity in some way, I just can't tell whether their focus is ultimately on taking it apart or presenting a view from within its confines. (I increasingly think it's solely in the latter camp, though.)

The Northman [Robert Eggers; 2022]

Works best if you don't think of it as "smart guy does a big movie" and instead approach it as "big movie is a little smarter than usual." Wasn't grisly enough for me though, which means I've definitely reached the peak of desensitization, so it's a "me" problem. Nicole Kidman steals the show, as usual.

Vortex [Gaspar Nøe; 2021]‎

Climax is the most entertaining film that my problematic fave Gaspar has done to date, but Vortex is his flat-out best as well as his sole work of True Maturity, which isn't as insufferable as it sounds. This is still a trip to the well for sure, heavily devastating throughout and also he just can't help but do something off-putting involving a child because he is Gaspar Nøe, but otherwise probably the most immersive theater experience I had in 2022 that wasn't Avatar: the Way of Water (we'll get there).

France [Bruno Dumont; 2021]‎

Highly entertaining even as the tone shifts from "You're laughing at them" to "You're feeling bad for them, maybe?" with little discernment for how the shift is being made. Apparently Bruno Dumont's looking to send up cancel culture with his next one, unfortunately I am dreading that.

Drag Me to Hell [Sam Raimi; 2009]‎

A morality tale that I can get with, and it's a shitload of fun too. An unintentionally timely watch regarding The Year of Justin Long.

Strawberry Mansion [Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney; 2021]‎

The visual style and sense of danger in the latter half saves this from entering noxious Gondry territory. Very (literally) dreamy and inventive, curious to see what they do next.

Smiley Face [Gregg Araki; 2007]‎

Maybe the funniest stoner comedy ever made? It took me way too long to see this. As with all Araki movies, impeccable soundtrack as well.

Badder Ben: The Final Chapter [Nigel Bach; 2017]‎

Became obsessed with the Bad Ben franchise over the last year or so, how could I not be. The whole thing (nine films so far I think?) is a super-super-low-budget effort from Nigel Bach (pen name), an ex-National Guard pilot from southern New Jersey who used his home security system to make a Paranormal Activity ripoff and has since made a lot more in that vein. Most of the films are, admittedly, terrible; but they are extremely endearing and inspiring too, and once you get in the rhythm of the Bad Ben thing, it's generally a good time. Bad Ben: the Final Chapter is the third installment and sequel to the original Bad Ben, and it's kind of like the Aliens to Bad Ben's Alien—bigger, funnier, more complex, and ambitious in a way that you simply have to respect. As long as he keeps making these, I'll watch them, even if I'm not always enjoying it.

Bad Education [Pedro Almodovar; 2004]

I need to watch this again already but, again, Almodovar—simply one of the greats.

In the Mouth of Madness [John Carpenter; 1994]

Very pandemic-y, but also very end of the world-y, which is very right-about-now-y. Sam Neill cackling at the movies is me, forever.

La Cérémonie [Claude Chabrol; 1995]‎

Vibes, obviously.

Tape [Richard Linklater; 2001]‎

Shout out to Ridgewood High School graduate Robert Sean Leonard. Whether this has aged well is personal opinion, but I think Linklater pulls it off here.

The Parallax View [Alan J. Pakula; 1974]‎

They really, truly do not make them like this anymore. (At least, not since Michael Clayton.)

Ms. 45 [Abel Ferrara; 1981]‎

Rough stuff, naturally, but also you gotta give it up for a Mr. Met cameo. One of my goals for this year is to watch more Abel Ferrara in general.

Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds [Werner Herzog; 2020]‎

Latter-day Herzog docs are basically ASMR for me, a gently random but also gently interconnected series of ‎scenes where you either get mesmerizing beauty or quotidian absurdism—and the latter is present here, when Werner absolutely roasts a scientist having an emotional moment over a recent discovery. Fuckin' guy!

Dashcam [Rob Savage; 2021]

Rob Savage is a very, very talented horror director who had a pandemic hit with the brilliant Host (which did the unthinkable and out-creeped Unfriended in the found-staring-at-screen-footage department), and he went back to the found-footage livestream well again with Dashcam and came up with what I think is one of the most exhilarating horror movies I saw in 2022. There are some ethical qualms I have with Annie Hardy's presence in this—beyond her whole deal being a massive stress test for the audience's patience, she is clearly unwell and featuring her in such a prominent role here is pure exploitation plain and simple—but when the craft is this strong (and at times reminiscent of Chris Cunningham's most frenetic work), I can stomach some unproblematic-ness just fine. Apparently Savage is working with Raimi on a future project, that is exciting.

Crimes of the Future [David Cronenberg; 2022]‎

Big curveball from Cronenberg here, I think a lot of people were expecting a "return to form" (whatever that means from someone whose work is as subtly varied as Cronenberg's) but what we actually got was this beautiful and sad work about relationships and impermanence. Crimes of the Future is definitely Cronenberg-on-Cronenberg to an extent, there's echoes of his past work throughout and it also comes across as very much a spiritual companion to Crash, which is possibly my favorite of his. It's only slightly less obtuse than Crash, too, which means we get years to come of puzzling over the ins and outs of this decaying view of our near future.‎

Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers [Akiva Schaffer; 2022]

Anything Akiva Schaffer does, I'm going to show up for. I can't wait for his Naked Gun reboot, maybe the only person I'd trust to be in charge of any reboot at large now.

Mad God [Phil Tippett; 2022]‎

Awe-inspiring stuff, not an easy watch but essential if only to take in what an achievement putting something like this together is.

Watcher [Chloe Okuno; 2022]‎

My wife told me that this movie really captures how women feel in the world in general, and I believe her.

I Blame Society [Gillian Wallace Horvat; 2020]‎

Fun and funny and thought-provoking, I've seen some suggestion out there that it might be too on-the-nose which is fair, but it all came together for me in the end regardless.

Cabin Fever [Eli Roth; 2002]‎

One of the worst endings of any movie ever, obviously...that said, lot of stuff here about the "nice guy" complex that makes it kin with Hostel 2 (we'll get there). Ti West's DTV sequel is recommended for the gore and little else.

The Black Phone [Scott Derrickson; 2021]‎

Unfortunately Derrickson is not in Sinister mode here, but this Stephen King-meets-Stranger Things-meets-The Silence of the Lambs hybrid worked for me nonetheless, even as I had multiple colleagues who thought it was terrible. I ended up seeing it twice actually, and thought the emotional beats hit very hard the second time around. The depiction of child abuse in this one is absolutely terrible though, a truly baffling decision.

Bliss [Joe Begos; 2019]‎

Very solid bad-attitude-gets-worse movie here, goes hard on the psychedelic stuff and is kind of like the mind-poisoned version of Fessenden's Habit (that might be a huge reach, though).

Chameleon Street [Wendell B. Harris, Jr.; 1989]‎

‎The kind of thing where you see this guy (so effortlessly charismatic!) and the movie he made and you ask yourself, "How did he not have a massively successful career after this?" (I think we all know why.)

Incantation [Kevin Ko; 2022]

Kind of a mash-up of seven or eight other movies/types of movie, but still a good time.

Three Colours: Blue [‎Krzysztof Kieslowski; 1993]

Heavy shit, blew my mind, felt like witnessing a revelation when it ‎comes to the intricacies of life in general, one of the best films ever made.

Elvis [Baz Luhrmann; 2022]

Austin Butler puts in an all-time legendary performance here, the Vegas performance stuff is mesmerizing. If it were a different year, perhaps he'd get Best Actor; unfortunately, we're stuck celebrating Brendan Fraser instead (side note: Why are people in disbelief that he's going to win for The Whale? It's been practically written in stone since Venice!). The first 45 minutes of this movie is as electrifying as it gets, no one does it like Baz. just total batshit nuts stuff that breaches the boundaries of taste and could only come from someone with a specific vision. Yes it's way too long, yes it's rife with inaccuracy, yes Tom Hanks is so bad that I never want to see his dumb, mawkish face again for the rest of my life now—but, like, ‎who cares, this is a fucking movie right here. Elvis is my Babylon, with the note that Baz Luhrmann could easily make Babylon but Damien Chazelle simply could never make Elvis.

Mikey and Nicky [Elaine May; 1976]

Toxic male friendships, I know them quite well. Repeating myself from Letterboxd here, but I've never been quite a Mikey even as I've known my fair share of Nickys.

Nope [Jordan Peele; 2022]‎

Maybe his best movie so far, with one scene (not the Gordy's Home sequence, if you were wondering) counting as one of the most terrifying things I've seen in a movie this year. Have hesitated on rewatching this just because I thought it was so powerful on the big screen...that being said, I was at a restaurant recently and saw the dish washer watching it on her phone while working. Respect.

Hatching [Hanna Bergholm; 2022]‎

Struggled a little (not too much though) with the overall tone of this, but the effects and body-horror stuff was like candy to me.

Ripley's Game [Liliana Cavani; 2002]‎

Crazy that the director of The Night Porter did this...all-time Malkovich performance. Tom Ripley, would like to see more adaptations in that department moving forward.

Brainstorm [Douglas Trumbull; 1983]‎

Saw this at Museum of the Moving Image, wild stuff...some of the romantic content is preposterously "'80s man" but the visual effects are frequently stunning, along with one sequence where you're like, "Is that what a heart attack feels like? Fuck, man."

Prey [Dan Trachtenberg; 2022]‎

10 Cloverfield Lane vibes from that movie's director, naturally: This doesn't really need to be a Predator movie, but watching the Predator do his thing is, in general, a delight. So, no complaints all around, great lead performance, of course it's a little too heavy on digitized effects but you can say that about a lot of stuff these days.

Bodies Bodies Bodies [Halina Reijn; 2022]

The "Is that gonna be any good?" ‎‎movie of the summer turned out to be quite good...a classic don't-think-too-much-and-enjoy-it movie because, well, it's not asking a ton from you to begin with. All hail Lee Pace obviously, Rachel Sennott is extremely hilarious in this and proves that her turn in Shiva Baby wasn't a fluke. Amazing ending, too.

Barking Dogs Never Bite [Bong Joon-ho; 2000]

Very sweet and funny movie about the age in which you think you're supposed to have everything figured out and suddenly have a crisis of confidence about your own direction in life. Bong has disavowed this one in the past, but it's really lovely and you can see the seeds for a lot of his other work in it, too.

The Host [Bong Joon-ho; 2006]‎

Another "How did it take me this long to see this?" movie. What is there to say that hasn't been said already, in general Bong is obviously a master at filmmaking.

Emily the Criminal [John Patton Ford; 2022]‎

Seeing this in an empty theater on a Friday afternoon with my wife was one of my favorite experiences this year. Aubrey Plaza has been doing interesting work for a minute now so it's no surprise that she delivers here. One thing I really appreciate about this movie is that for a while it has you thinking "OK, we're doing a gig economy thing," and then it's, nah, this is just someone whose instinct is to, let's say, zag when others zig. Compelling and complicated!

Resurrection [Andrew Semans; 2022]‎

Speaking of complicated, Jesus fucking Christ. Rebecca Hall, best actor alive, right? We're all on the same page there? Tim Roth also kills it here, in general just such a weird and wild fucking movie, man. I loved it.

Orphan [Jaume Collet-Serra; 2009]‎

‎Esther, eternally goated. Can't believe Orphan: First Kill was even better. (We'll get there.)

Evil Dead [Fede Alvarez; 2013]

Never had an interest in this because remake city, but hey, this works very well—and, its climax is absolutely beautiful in its unrelenting gore, the kind of thing I've pulled up on my phone to watch on YouTube while, like, going to the dentist. Way prefer this to Alvarez's Don't Breathe (haven't seen the sequel). Looking forward to the new Evil Dead this year!

You're Next [Adam Wingard; 2011]‎

Mumblecore horror (peep the Fessenden cameo!) at its finest and grisliest‎. The blender kill is righteous.

On the Count of Three [Jerrod Carmichael; 2021]

Went in expecting the annual "Sundance movie that's about suicide, but funny" bit, got something sadder and more tragic than expecting. Two great performances here, especially from Christopher Abbott, who is someone I will generally watch anything in at this point. Movie so sad that I have a hard time thinking about it too much, tbh.

Predators [Nimrod Antal; 2010]

‎‎Maybe the best Topher Grace has ever been, purely by design of casting.

The Task [Leigh Ledare; 2017]

Saw filmmaker Sophy Romvari recommend this on Twitter as a "RIYL: The Rehearsal" suggestion and I took the plunge. Difficult to watch in a literal sense and it is not a movie in the traditional sense, but still really riveting and fascinating throughout, the ultimate "tag yourself" experience perhaps. It's streaming for free on Ledare's website.

Orphan: First Kill [William Brent Bell; 2022]

Maybe the best plot twist of the year ‎right here. If Paramount put this in theaters I bet it would've made a pile of money, I know I would've gone and seen it. Oh well.

Funny Pages [Owen Kline; 2022]

Extremely funny, from front to back. Nepotism works!

King of New York [Abel Ferrara; 1990]‎

Laurence Fishburne in the cut, one of the best to ever do it. The portrayal of "compassionate crime" (my term) is fascinating to behold, all the cops are 100% bumbling enemies that you are not only rooting against by nature, but because they come across here as legitimate enemies of the people and little else. And that's what they are, of course. The honesty is refreshing!

Blue Collar [Paul Schrader; 1978]‎

Crazy to think about Richard Pryor beating the shit out of Harvey Keitel on set, but it did indeed happen. A profound bummer of a movie, when he's at his best Schrader knows how to make you angry about the powers that be and how constantly they win no matter how hard you try.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn [Radu Jude; 2021]‎‎

Had to ask my friend who's good at torrenting to get the uncensored version of this one, since streaming services apparently censor the EXTREMELY graphic sex scene that opens it...I wish I could go back in time and watch this earlier than I did, because Criterion also had a Radu Jude collection that's since been removed. Great stuff!

Hostel [Eli Roth; 2005]

Both Hostel films (I didn't watch the third one, why would I?) are very obviously explorations on what masculinity hath wrought when it comes to society at large. Why did critics so deeply misread these upon release? "Torture porn" feels so reductive to describe this one. I liked Hostel 2 even more, but as I keep saying, we'll get there.

Perfect Blue [Satoshi Kon; 1997]

One of the best films ever made I reckon, predicted literally everything that we're living in and bearing witness to. I already can't wait to see it again. Aronofsky is such a hack for ripping this off (twice!).

Barbarian [Zach Cregger; 2022]‎‎

Seems like the backlash for this one hit the second it was available to watch at home...I have a friend who complained that the protagonist made too many stupid decisions, which, fair. But it's a horror movie! What do you expect? Anyway, I thought this was a blast, especially to see in a packed theater opening night. Would hope that Justin Long has a nice career resurgence off of this, he's genuinely excellent in it. Along with Tár, a rare example of a post-#MeToo movie not totally embarrassing itself. I do agree, ultimately, that the "Old people are gross" horror conceit has to be put out to pasture.

The Crying Game [Neil Jordan; 1992]‎

I am weirdly relieved that I saw this as an adult and not when I was younger and the discourse around this movie was way more fraught and problematic...Neil Jordan, interesting guy, I watched In Dreams last year and that has just enough in common with The Crying Game to ask yourself, "What's he up to in that brain of his?"

Piranha 3D [Alexandre Aja; 2010]‎

I'd seen the penis-eating gag online years ago, but finally got around to seeing the whole thing this year. What a rush, very funny and over the top, when the gore kicks into high gear it feels like someone threw a lit match into a warehouse full of fireworks. A+ ending as well.

Hostel: Part II [Eli Roth; 2007]‎

In which Heather Matarazzo becomes the scream queen she's always been destined to be. There is an unbelievably grisly scene in this that is also possibly the funniest thing Eli Roth has ever involves a table saw, if you've seen it already and are itching to know what I'm talking about. This one goes even deeper into the "masculinity is a poisoned well" vein that Cabin Fever gently tapped, with a healthy and whiplash-inducing dose of class commentary as well. I need to see Roth's Death Wish remake, but I long for him to get back to the disgusting stuff and stop making children's movies for a spell.

Schizopolis [Steven Soderbergh; 1998]‎

Not even going to halfway pretend to know what Soderbergh is banging on about here, but he clearly had fun making something so insanely inscrutable, and I have deep respect for that.

Goat [Andrew Neel; 2016]‎

In general, I find the energy that groups of men give off to be legitimately terrifying, and when I say "groups" I mean "more than one." So this was a really visceral and upsetting watch, unbelievably tense, and really a true visualization of some of my greatest fears regarding interacting with other men in general. One of a few movies I saw this year where I can't really recommend it, but it is undeniably well done and compelling so if you can stomach it, it's worth checking out.

Speak No Evil [Christian Tafdrup; 2022]

I thought this was a bit of fun, which is perhaps funny to say given I saw so many online reactions along the lines of "Wow, I'm scarred from this" and "If you're a parent, know what you're getting into here." And, I mean, sure, but also, if you've watched literally any Michael Haneke movie ever, you should be pretty well-equipped to take this on, no? Really, what Tafdrup is doing here is kind of diet Haneke, down to the Euro-centric cultural commentary that I don't quite have the knowledge to fully understand, but I certainly do (nods head like I understand) appreciate. The ending is almost hilariously bleak, I do think this plays out more like a comedy in the end but maybe I'm just a sicko.

The Woman King [Gina Prince-Bythewood; 2022]‎‎

A real "they don't make 'em like this anymore" entry, if this was about white people I suspect it would be nominated for at least five Oscars. I cried twice in the theater while watching it, the power is undeniable, and it's also extremely entertaining. There's some factual-accuracy stuff going on here that's worth educating yourself on, but ultimately it doesn't take away from the quality of the film itself. ‎

Pearl [Ti West; 2022]

Ti West's first good film, I suspect this streak won't last long but maybe his final film in this trilogy (X was horrible) will keep it up. Most of this really relies on Mia Goth's incredible performance, what an absolute weirdo she is. Can't wait to see her do her thing in Infinity Pool too.

Cria Cuervos [Carlos Saura; 1976]

Shout out to Movie Club, aka The Peen Ray. Really beautiful and melancholic movie about childhood and loss, made a huge impression on me and will stay with me for a while.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning [John Hyams; 2012]‎

Astoundingly high-concept and atmospheric for what should've been a DTV-level effort for a DTV-level franchise. So unsettling and malevolent throughout, quite possibly one of the only existent things that actually earns the "Lynchian" tag. No other way to describe this one than "extremely fucked up." I loved it.

To Die For [Gus Van Sant; 1995]‎

The movie that I, Tonya wanted to be. Very prescient even as it comes across as a tad dated at the same time.

Star 80 [Bob Fosse; 1983]‎

All That Jazz is one of my all-time favorites, so of course I loved this, even though it's a bit, uh, hard to love. Eric Roberts' performance is up there with Dylan Baker in Happiness where it's full commitment to the point of potential career suicide—like, I can't look at either of them now without thinking of their respective roles, which is a testament to the material and the performances and the awful things represented within.

Eyes Without a Face [Georges Franju; 1960]‎

My wife had talked up this movie to me for years and I finally got around to seeing it...awesome and supremely eerie.

Misery [Rob Reiner; 1990]

I believe I exclaimed two-thirds through this, "Rob Reiner made this?!?" Shocked someone hasn't tried to remake this today, you could apply its concept to modern-day standom so easily.

Avengement [Jesse V. Johnson; 2019]‎

A friend recommended this to me after I recommended Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning to him, with Scott Adkins connecting the two obviously. Whereas he's steely and silent in US:DOR, here he's chatty and no-nonsense and straight out of a Guy Ritchie film, only not as annoying as that sounds. Easy fun, a perfect snack of a film.

Basket Case [Frank Henenlotter; 1982]‎

Belyle's human-like scream is a huge mood. I assume this movie is secretly about what it's like to have a cat.

Tár [Todd Field; 2022]‎

Easily my favorite movie of 2022 period, not going to pontificate on this one because plenty have, what I will say is that following In the Bedroom and Little Children (two modern classics, the former being one of my favorite '90s American films in general), Todd Field is obviously one of the best living American filmmakers going.

Triangle of Sadness [Ruben Östlund; 2022]‎

I admire-to-love everything Ruben Östlund has done (haven't seen his Trash Humpers-esque first feature, no interest at this moment) ‎but this is probably his slightest film to me. (If you cut the third act entirely, it'd be a lot better.) That said, the first twenty minutes—specifically, the who-pays-for-the-check scene—is Ruben at his most excellently Östlund-iness, digging under the skin of what makes basic human interaction so painfully intolerable at times. The vomiting is fun, too.

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror [Kier-La Janisse; 2021]

Reader, you better believe I hooted and hollered when they finally mentioned hauntology. This is an amazing time to spend three hours-and-change at home if you've got it on hand—everyone has a cold right now, right? No time like the present.

The Lair of the White Worm [Ken Russell; 1988]‎

Ken Russell, another guy whose films I really need to watch more of...this is so silly and over-the-top, impossible not to love it (my wife thought it was a little too ridiculous, which is fair).

Brain Damage [Frank Henenlotter; 1988]

Henenlotter also did Basket Case, and just as how I suspect that movie is about the hilarious terror that is cat ownership, I feel like Brain Damage might actually be about the dangers of ecstasy? Who's to say.

Society [Brian Yuzna; 1989]‎

I feel like this movie is actually quite boring until it really just goes ALL FUCKING OUT in the last twenty minutes, just profoundly disgusting stuff. A horror-loving friend was telling me earlier this year that she has trended away from gross-out and gore as she's gotten older, and I told her that I went in the opposite direction during the first year of the pandemic‎, most likely because seeing horrible and terrifying things feels really comforting compared to looking around at the world and seeing what we've all become. So I guess that's a thing now.

Smile [Parker Finn; 2022]

An awesome and awesomely irresponsible film about mental illness and depression, kind of like a dumbed-down take on The Night House but still very well-made (The Night House, featuring of course the incredible Rebecca Hall, is better). I look forward to the sequel, realistically it's very suited to a franchise that I would watch at least two or three more of.

The Keep [Michael Mann; 1983]‎

Barely a movie and more like a crawl through someone's discarded garbage, but it looks and feels so cool...I can't begin to imagine what the original three-hour-plus cut looked like, a damn shame we'll probably never find out.

The Headless Woman [Lucrecia Martel; 2008]

Made me feel insane in a good way. No surprise Ari Aster loves this one.

Terrifier 2 [Damien Leone; 2022]‎

The first Terrifier is barely a movie—Damien Leone has said so himself—but Terrifier 2 is a lot of movie, some have argued too much. I actually appreciate how long it is, though? It's rare that someone gives you such massive ambitious scale on a limited budget, especially in the splatter region of horror. Of course, this movie more than earns its reputation in every single way, the big showcase kill feels genuinely new, like something you've probably never seen before, and in general all the stuff you're here for is extremely nasty and effective. Art the Clown is like an instant horror icon at this point, Pennywise found dead in a ditch. A very good time, wish I could've seen it in theaters but it takes a lot to get me to go to the Regal Union Square at 11 pm, and Terrifier 2 doesn't quite make the grade in that regard. (Terrifier 3, though...we'll see.)

The Good Nurse [Tobias Lindholm; 2022]

Eddie Redmayne is an absolute blight on the profession of acting in general, but this was surprisingly enjoyable nonetheless...the kind of rock-solid procedural that hits the spot when there's nothing else to watch or maybe it's raining. Jessica Chastain is fine in this, and of course we have to celebrate Kroll Show alum Nnamdi Asomugha for turning in a solid performance as well.

Deadstream [Joseph Winter and Vanessa Winter; 2022]‎

The first half of this one I found highly irritating, a hybrid of seven other movies that just wasn't landing—but it eventually clicks into place and gets very Evil Dead-y in how gross the climax is. I think it's extremely hard to satirize influencer/YouTuber culture without coming across as excessively cringe or cheugy, I'd give this a B in that department which isn't the worst mark to receive.

Pulse [Kiyoshi Kurosama; 2001]‎

Amazing example of the "You think the movie's about this, but it's actually about this" sensation. I already can't wait to watch this one again.

The Banshees of Inisherin [Martin McDonagh; 2022]‎

Three incredible performances (Oscar for Barry Keoghan!!!), I get the nagging sense that it's not as "deep" as it's being made out to be, but a minor quibble. Poor donkey.

Sissy [Kane Senes and Hannah Barlow; 2022]

Best not to pretend this one is too deep, even as it seems to want to say something about's essentially Euphoria-core visuals gone splatter—which is to say, a very unpredictable and excellent time.

Holy Spider [Ali Abbasi; 2022]

Had a real surreal moment here where people in the theater were giggling throughout‎...this movie? I guess now I understand how Roger Ebert felt about The Exorcist re-release.

The Wonder [Sebastián Lelio; 2022]

Another one where I had some suspicion early on but it won me over in the end. I liked this more than Lelio's Disobedience, and still need to see his other films. Great score from Matthew Herbert.

Auto Focus [Paul Schrader; 2002]

Greg Kinnear really freaks it to a very upsetting degree in this. Has that vaguely cheap-looking mid-2000s prestige-indie ‎‎sheen, but not a huge issue. Peace to the god Angelo Badalamenti, one of many examples of his genius.

Distant Voices, Still Lives [Terence Davies; 1988]

What a remarkable movie, makes you feel like you're rifling through a photo album (a very painfully tragic and fraught photo album, in which half of the photos burst into song sporadically).

Involuntary [Ruben Östlund; 2008]‎

As esteemed culture writer Fran Hoepfner pointed out on Letterboxd, Östlund loves a good charter-bus conflict. Another example of his ability to find a mildly bad situation—in this case, several situations—and push it to the absolute ‎limit. I fear the reaction to Triangle of Sadness might lead him to go further down a path of capital-O obviousness when it comes to what he explores thematically, I much rather prefer him in death-by-a-thousand-painfully-awkward-cuts mode.

Dressed to Kill [Brian de Palma; 1980]

Jesus Christ, this movie—just one big long "You can't do any of this anymore." And with very good reason! Any de Palma movie seen for the first time feels like a revelation though, even though this is far from my favorite of his.

Affliction [‎Paul Schrader; 1997]

Maybe one of my favorite Schraders I've seen thus far? Pitch-black throughout, unravels in such a devastating way, unbelievable performances from Nick Nolte and James Coburn, stunning final act. Brutal and brilliant.

Opera [Dario Argento; 1987]

OK, maybe this is my favorite Argento movie. It's so patently ridiculous throughout, the needles-near-the-eyes thing is instantly iconic though, ‎and a great climax. Argento simply loves it when animals attack people, and I do too.

Skinamarink [Kyle Edward Ball; 2022]

Yes, I saw this via second-hand torrenting, I'm sorry. ‎I will absolutely see it in theaters when it gets a release, though, just to see what the experience is like in a dark room. I never get scared by almost anything anymore, and I found this to be extremely terrifying. I've seen some complain about the glacial pace and overstylized digital degrading, which is all fair but honestly didn't bother me. (Yoda voice) The hauntology is strong with this one.

The Fabelmans [Steven Spielberg; 2022]

This year's Nightmare Alley in that everyone I know has different opinions on it. I don't really care about Spielberg in general, much less late-period Spielberg, but after the punishingly rote first 30 minutes I actually thought this was quite sweet and also featured Spielberg telling on himself in ways that he probably isn't aware of. The magic of the movies, amirite?

The African Desperate [Martine Syms; 2022]‎

Thought this was a very enjoyable watch from front to back, zero complaints. Loved the visual style, loved the music, thought it was very funny at points, accurately captured that being-on-drugs feeling...again, zero notes.

Ravenous [Antonia Bird; 1999]‎

Hell yeah. Is this what people mean when they tweet "Dudes rock"?

The Wolf of Snow Hollow ‎[Jim Cummings; 2020]

I loved Thunder Road and was frustrated in a good way by The Beta Test, but I avoided this one for a while because it got bad reviews...big mistake, huge. Maybe my favorite of his thus far? Jim Cummings' funniest, certainly—and his most touching, too, ‎no one is looking at the prison that is masculinity with the eye that he has.

The Apology [Alison Star Locke; 2022]

Anna Gunn, so underrated. This is perfectly paced for something so claustrophobic and dialogue-heavy in structure, and you also get to see Janeane Garofalo holding a gun. What else could you want?‎

Avatar: the Way of Water [James Cameron; 2022]

Less a "movie" and more "the first-ever video game to be shipped without glitches." Luckily, I love video games. Obviously, my friend and I both laughed every time Spider's name was mentioned. There's plenty here that is awe-inspiringly ridiculous, but also utterly singular in terms of who it's coming from (not to mention the Cameron-remixes-himself aspect of it all—there's shades of Aliens, True Lies, Titanic, The Abyss, and even a little of Terminator 2 if you squint hard enough). I think this one is in danger of being too overpraised at this point, but I also feel bad for people who won't experience seeing this in theaters (I saw it in high frame rate and found it disorienting in a good way), it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.‎

Glass Onion: a Knives Out Mystery [Rian Johnson; 2022]

Despite an enduring skepticism of Janelle Monaé's acting abilities, I thought this was a thousand times better than the first one, which I ultimately soured on due to the utterly wack NPR-ness of the "there's good immigrants, too" messaging. ‎‎This one is obviously ultra-topical too, and I thought the dialogue exchange about "speaking the truth" was extremely cringe-y in a way that only a Netflix original can manage to be, but ultimately it still feels like a Real Movie that is Actually Entertaining, to an almost absurd degree. I'm very on board for at least two more of these.

Sense and Sensibility [Ang Lee; 1995]

I'm sure Jane Austen would understand what I mean when I say that the beat goes absolutely crazy on this one. I blame a culture of toxic masculinity for influencing my overall resistance to watching Austen adaptations when recommended, because every time I give in the experience is always rewarding.

The Trial [Orson Welles; 1962]‎

One of those things where you're like, wait, why isn't everyone talking about this all the time? It has what White Noise wants, and I liked White Noise. Every movie should end with the director reading the credits, too. Close to perfect, to me.

Women Talking [Sarah Polley; 2022]‎

Extremely powerful, I "get" the cinematography complaints but honestly don't think it detracts one bit from what's on display. Claire Foy yet again putting up numbers, and actually pretty much everyone is (I saw someone suggest that Ben Whishaw is doing "too much" in this, which is interesting to consider, but not really an issue for me). Hope it doesn't take Sarah Polley so long to make another movie!‎

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Jamie Larson