Photograph: via elespanol.com (Alcarràs, Carla Simón)
There’s a lot worth celebrating about cinema in the year of 2022. Hollywood blockbusters Top Gun and Avatar returned to the silver screen. Indie films gained more recognition, with Palme d’Or winner Triangle of Sadness landing three Oscar nominations and Michelle Yeoh’s Golden Globes victory empowering the marginalized. Online streaming services redefined the moviegoing experience in the post-pandemic era. 2022 was filled with a multitude of spectacles to sift through. To help you diversify your movie taste and perhaps catch you up on a few things you might have overlooked, we’ve selected 6 great films from 2022 that probably deserve more credit than they’ve been given. Take a look!
A heartfelt, bittersweet semi-autobiographical drama film drawing from Steven Spielberg’s own upbringing, The Fabelmans is by far the most personal film Spielberg's ever made. Photograph: Universal Pictures and Amblin
In this story, we follow an American Jewish family’s vulnerable memories from the 1950s and 1960s as they move across the country from New Jersey to Arizona, and then to California. The young protagonist, Sammy Fabelman, discovers his love for the movies and the camera and finds escapism and a sense of control in his movie fantasies. Yet, this utopia would later on shatter and expose him to some of the most brutal truths of growing up, as he comes across unspeakable family secrets and learns about loss and sacrifice.
Photograph: Universal Pictures and Amblin
Michelle Williams delivers an outstanding performance as always, playing the ardent, sentimental, goofy artist mother, a tribute to Spielberg’s late mother in real life, who in the film introduces her six-year-old son to the magic of motion pictures, and who becomes an inspiration and supporter of his pursuit for the cinematic art. You’ve also got the Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and 12 Years a Slave (2013) actor Paul Dano wonderfully portraying the father figure, a loving, good-tempered, forgiving family guy who, at the end of the day, is the one bearing the heavy weight.
Photograph: Universal Pictures and Amblin
Even for someone who doesn’t know much about cinema or the history of movie-making, Spielberg's got that gift for storytelling that makes the complicated so easily accessible and the personal, universal. The Fabelmans is an extraordinarily beautiful piece of work that allows you to experience cinematography in its truest form, as well as the wonders it entails.
The 31-year-old Belgian director Lukas Dhont’s second feature about a devastating boyhood friendship made a house of journalists and critics weep for 50 minutes straight during its press screening at the Cannes.
The film opens with a subtle portrayal of the inseparable bond between 13-year-olds Léo and Rémi, a connection so overwhelmingly beautiful and profound that one scarcely experiences anything quite like it in a lifetime. There is something extraordinary about their friendship, an ambivalent feeling that they have yet to be able to articulate, a kind of innocent intimacy on which adults put labels just so they can make sense of it.
As many other middle-schoolers, Léo and Rémi have just hit that phase in juvenescence where socially constructed prejudice begins to interfere in those young minds. When the other students make fun of the two friends’ closeness, Léo feels threatened. He begins to alienate Rémi while starting new friendships and trying out sports that would make him look perceivably more masculine, causing Rémi great anguish. From there, the story takes a dramatic turn with a catastrophic event that would leave the friendship in ruins.
Photograph: via rogerebert.com
The cinematography amazingly performed by Frank van den Eeden who also worked on Dhont’s Cannes debut, Girl (2018), gorgeously captures the idyllic northwestern Belgian countryside where the boys race in the gentle, late afternoon sunlight with summer breeze whispering through the blooming flower fields. Closeis a rare piece of coming-of-age artwork that presents the subject of adolescence queerness as at once innocent and cruel.
Combining Wall-E (2008) and The Martian (2015), you would get Amazon Studios’ new feel-good documentary about twin rover robots, Spirit and Opportunity’s mission to Mars which lasted a total of 14 years, achieving the seemingly impossible. Photograph: Amazon Studios
In 2003, NASA sent two probes to study the surface of Mars. The scientists and engineers had spent years designing and testing these robots, and affectionately named them Spirit and Opportunity. They had a metal head equipped with lenses that looked just like human eyes, mechanical arms that could pick up rocks, and a body made with solar panels to collect heat.
The mission was supposed to last 90 days, but the sister robots didn’t give up until many years later and kept sending back valuable data which significantly contributed to the study of the Red Planet on Earth. These robots became the symbolic creatures who had personalities of their own, and whose human-like intrepidity inspired a new generation of engineers and scientists.
The Mars footage was obviously not shot in real life. The state-of-the-art visual effects provided a better, cinematic-quality presentation of the rovers’ adventure on Mars which is very convincing and had many viewers fooled. While it won’t be denied that Good Night Oppy does allude to certain political ideals in terms of its story-telling format, it is surely a kid-friendly, entertaining and inspirational documentary that delivers great messages.
This is Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo’s 28th feature, another one of his playful, conversation-driven arthouse films, this time presenting a self-reflective examination of the role as an artist.
Perhaps rarely heard of among mainstream cinephiles, Hong Sang-soo is one of the most prolific and controversial Korean arthouse filmmakers whose minimalist films are basically a series of spontaneous conversations captured in static shots. His latest work, The Novelist’s Film, revolves around the middle-aged renowned female novelist, Junhee, who reveals her intention, as she converses with old and new acquaintances, to shake things up in her career by making a film.
In the story, we encounter different versions of failed artists. Some give up artistry by choice to pursue a happier life where they no longer need to care about others’ opinions. Some think that giving up is a waste of talent and in turn indicates failure. Should an artist feel obligated to make art when they no longer feel the compulsion to? Who gets to decide if an artist is still an artist when they don’t produce art anymore? The film constantly presents these questions to spectators as we follow Junhee throughout her interesting encounters.
Golden Bear winner, Spanish drama film Alcarràs is a poignant depiction of the struggles of an agrarian culture as it faces modernization, a beautifully observed narrative of complex family relationships, and a testament to director Carla Simón’s skill as a storyteller.
Having farmed and harvested peaches on the same land for generations, the Solé clan is now facing the threat of eviction and watching their land soon turn into a solar farm. The tight-knit agrarian family, led by the ill-tempered man of the house, Quimet, soon realizes that it’s going to be more than just the land that is being taken away.
As the movie progresses, we witness how ordinary lives get caught in an economic shift, and how each family member protests in their own way trying to preserve the one thing that they all call home. Central to Simón’s unique touch on rural neorealism is her use of nonprofessional actors who grew up and lived in the area of Alcarràs, and are deeply attached to the land. The performance is astonishingly subtle, raw, honest and naturally beautiful. Alcarràs is a rare gem that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
A loving portrait of a divorced woman re-discovering independence and learning to truly live her life the way she desires, starring the wonderful Charlotte Gainsbourg (Lars von Trier's "Depression" trilogy) and eight-time César Award nominee Emmanuelle Béart.Photograph: Nord-Ouest Films and Arte France Cinema
Meet Élisabeth, the middle-aged, recently divorced and unemployed woman who is raising two teens by herself, and is now at her lowest, struggling to make ends meet. She finds work at a late-night radio program where listeners call and tell their life stories. There she meets her younger counterpart, the young, unemployed Talulah, whom Élisabeth invites to stay at her home. The lost souls find comfort and warmth in this new family of theirs, and discover a renewed sense of purpose and hope. The story is set against the backdrop of Paris in the 80s, with occasional stock footage and movie clips as a reminder. It is a beautifully orchestrated, charming piece of work that doesn't dwell on narrative cadence but still has that feel-good vibe.
Photograph: Nord-Ouest Films and Arte France Cinema