There may be a lot of great movies out there, I just haven’t seen them. For new movies seen in the last year, I have two recommendations – neither particularly surprising. I thought I might as well include a bunch that I hope will be good when I eventually watch them because this is year when I talked about movies more than I saw them. Finally, as a little something-something extra, a lagniappe, I’ve thrown in a couple of documentaries that I enjoyed or thought important. Or both.
RRR was the most insane high production value action Not Bollywood but Bollywood-like Telugu-language musical epic drama, funniest, most epic film with a Tiger scene since The Hangover or Tiger King for that matter. Directed by S.S. Rajamouli who co-wrote the script with V. Vijayendra Prasad and wrote some of the soundtrack. The film tells the story of two real-life Indian Revolutionaries and imagines them as adversaries and friends. Filled with special effects, this $72 Million film puts it all on the screen. Clocking in at over three hours, it can be watched at home in several sittings.
Top Gun: Maverick. If you saw it, you thought: This is what an American Studio film is supposed to be. It was not only very entertaining but very smart. Every beat, every note of nostalgia for the earlier film was touched upon or addressed. You may not want to see Tom Cruise do much else besides Mission Impossible (and he’s starting to look a little old to be doing those stunts) but, man, can he smile!
Everything Everywhere all at Once. Speaking of insane, I heard Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert who refer to themselves collectively as Daniels and who wrote and directed Everything, explain that their original inspiration for the film was to do a parody of “The Matrix” where the multiverse existed as a kung fu martial arts movie with each character having another kung fu identity. Daniels are the Quentin Tarantinos of the 21st Century with their own specific pulp sensibilities. Daniel Kwan comes from a VFX background, Daniel Scheinert from Improv comedy – marry those two and you get a sense of their aesthetic. If you want a taste to how crazy their world is, watch their music video for Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What.” Beyond that, Michelle Yeoh has never had a role that calls on her to play so great a range and be in almost every shot, and there are incredible supporting performances by Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong and….Jamie Lee Curtis!
And really that’s it for films I’ve actually seen. There are many that I think I’ll like such as Tar, the Banshees or Inisherin (I know), The Fabelmans (I know, I know) and Babylon. And some I may watch: Avatar, Triangle of Sadness, A Man Called Otto (I loved A Man Called Ove), The Whale, The Menu, Silent Night, Wakanda Forever (I know), The Warrior Queen… So now you know my resolution for 2023: More movies.
As for documentaries, there are three I highly recommend:
The US and the Holocaust six hours over three two-hour parts, this unfortunately relevant documentary from Ken Burns and Sarah Botstein and has all the signature Ken Burns trademarks: The Peter Coyote voice-over narration, the elegant Geoffrey C. Ward script, the still images that Burns animates and pushes in on, the interviews with prominent historians and authors including Daniel Mendelsohn, it all makes for compelling viewing of difficult truths: The extent to which Hitler’s Nazi enterprise found inspiration in the American genocide of Native Americans, and in our own Eugenics proponents and racial racist segregation and Jim Crow laws, as well as such institutional antisemites as led the State Department, an individual Jew-Haters such as Father Coughlin, and America First Fly Boy Charles Lindbergh. Burns goes a little easy on FDR and on Rabbi Stephen Wise and fails to mention American support of Jewish resistance activities in Poland and Hungary, but this a must-see viewing.
Navalny – this is a documentary about Alexei Navalny, the Russian Opposition leader and Founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, who has been poisoned and jailed repeatedly by Putin and his agents. Directed by Daniel Rohrer, there is remarkable footage that you can’t believe they got in which we see Navalny reacting to being poisoned and see him in the hospital, and where we hear over the phone, a Russian agent admit to the poisoning – it’s incredible material and really worth seeing.
Hallelujah Leonard Cohen: A Journey, A Song is a beautifully made, edited, and assembled film that honors the memory of Leonard Cohen through the prism of one of his most famous songs, for which he wrote hundreds of versions, and that was performed by artists as disparate as John Cale and Jeff Buckley, each singing their own idiosyncratic versions which all increased the popularity of a song that was initially dismissed on an album Various Positions that was itself not released in the U.S.
Not a long list, but one that will take you into 2023, and the hope to again see friends when going to the movies.
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Best Films Of 2022
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