(1/13-2/2) (Some of) The Best of 2022

It’s inevitable: that feeling, as the calendar year draws to a close and awards season heads into full swing, that I need to catch up. Fortunately, this time of year also brings the Brattle Theatre’s “(Some of) The Best Of” series, a painstakingly curated program of more than two dozen of the previous year’s finest cinematic offerings, all presented where they belong– on the big screen. This year’s program presents an added twist: to accommodate for the fact that the Brattle will be closed for a few days in mid-January to renovate their sound system, a handful of 2022’s most dizzying widescreen spectacles will be screened in the sprawling main house of the Somerville Theatre.

Of course, even this selection may seem daunting to the casual moviegoer. Fortunately, the devoted critics and writers for the Boston Hassle are far from casual. To this end, we’ve compiled this handy directory of the Hassle’s reviews of this year’s selections, complete with juicy pull quotes to whet your appetite. 2022 was a damn good year at the movies– go out and find your new favorite.

(Still not sure where to start? Take a deep dive into the top ten lists of Hassle writers Kyle Amato, Jack Draper, Oscar Goff, Anna Hoang, and Joshua Polanski!)


“The best movie I’ve seen so far this year with a budget north of 100 million… The efforts of cinematographer Claudio Miranda stand out all the more with 13 million of that $150,000,000 going to Cruise. It’s the little things that add up.” (Joshua Polanski)

1/14 – RRR
RRR rises and revolts against both Western colonialism and filmic grammar. But Indian filmmakers have been muddling with the latter for a while. Anyone with a semblance of familiarity with contemporary Bollywood or Tollywood knows this. Another Telugu film, Saaho (2019), directed by Sujeeth, cares even less about realism than Rajamouli; the latter just happens to be one of the best, and RRR is a manifestation of his skill.” (JP)

1/15 – UTAMA


1/15-1/16 – NOPE
Nope is that rarest of Hollywood beasts: a layered, piercingly smart original film which also functions perfectly well as a beat-the-heat summer thrill ride. Jordan Peele is not the next Steven Spielberg; he’s the first Jordan Peele, and that’s far more exciting.” (Oscar Goff)
Presented in 4K!

“Bowie was, of course, a cultural magpie, weaving his various sounds and personae from bits and pieces drawn from b-movies, obscure records, occult texts, and whatever else caught his fancy. In compiling materials for his film, Morgen seems to have gone back to the source, compiling these disparate influences and repeating the alchemy to conjure a sort of Franken-Bowie. Fans of Bowie’s work will delight in spotting the myriad Easter eggs, and the unfamiliar might finally see what all the fuss is about.” (OG)

“Even as a follow-up to the already iconic Mad Max: Fury Road, it’s felt as though a Miller/Elba/Swinton collaboration has been developing for much longer than a few years ago. In 2018, Miller was set to direct an adaptation of A. S. Byatt‘s short story ‘The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye,’ though it has the feeling of a personal passion project years in the making. For Miller and Three Thousand Years, this is all the ambition without the disaster. This could so easily be one of the instances of Miller being in over his head, making his grand statement on love and free will. Yet like all his films, there is a purposeful persuasion that makes you feel like everything ends up in its right place, even on the massive canvas.” (Jack Draper)

“Eggers’ first two films, The Witch and The Lighthouse, were both small productions, intimate to the point of being handmade (literally in the case of The Witch, whose colonial-era farmhouse was built by Eggers and his crew using period-appropriate tools and antique nails). The Northman, meanwhile, is an honest-to-god widescreen epic, with gorgeous vistas, hundreds of extras, and some truly jaw-dropping battle scenes. Make no mistake, though: this is recognizably the vision of the man behind those beloved cinematic Weird Tales. Though he has left the spooky New England settings of his first two efforts for the even older world of medieval Scandinavia, The Northman retains Eggers’ flair for forgotten folklore and antique patterns of speech; one can imagine his screenplays printed on brittle, yellowed paper and instantly covered in dust. Few filmmakers, past or present, are as devoted to authentically capturing the distant past as Robert Eggers, and fewer still pursue that devotion while creating endlessly watchable genre entertainment.” (OG)

Fire of Love’s allure is in the mutual reliance between the Kraffts and the volcanoes (who cheekily have their own mentions in the opening credits). The dynamic between the Kraffts fits as cinematically perfect as a Mike Mills character retrospective. Though there is little information about their romance, their lives seem to brighten in color when they begin shooting hours of footage of erupting volcanoes. Maurice, the geologist, is the charismatic voice of the two, finding delight in his cowboy carelessness (one of the most striking scenes sees Maurice rafting on top of a lake of sulfuric acid, only to be stuck for three hours, while Katia disapprovingly watches from the edge). Katia, the geochemist, has a more gentle, reserved presence but shares the same intensity that brings both lovers to the forefront of actual, live eruptions.” (Anna Hoang)
Read Anna’s interview with director Sara Dosa here!

1/19 – MAD GOD
Mad God feels like a film out of time… a fascinatingly weird work which is by turns breathtaking, disturbing, confusing, and hilarious. Whether you’re enthralled or repulsed by it, it’s a safe bet that it is unlike anything you’ve seen before.” (OG)
Read Oscar’s interview with director Phil Tippett here!


“Admittedly, one might not find the tongue-cutting charm of Park’s other works in Decision to Leave, but the film presents a different emotion for us to taste-test: the sort of romantic sweetness that makes us want to rip the skin off our face in devastation. The dizzying views of nature — the aerial shots of the mountain to the stillness of the sun — in conjunction to this love story persuades us to believe that this emotion is natural, even if it feels wrong. It’s a love story in the same way that Hideko and Tae-ju fall in love despite their circumstances, but Park gives the opportunity to immortalize the actions and motives of femmes fatales in cinema to be as damning and mystifying as scorn goddesses who walk among monsters. Tang Wei’s performance as Seo-rae is a kaleidoscope of romance, menace, and vulnerability that deduces a sad conclusion: love is not a pure procedure. We will still follow them into the dark, hoping that the light at the end of the tunnel is salvation. Instead, it feels intoxicating.” (AH)

“In a way, Dirt is a finished product in the way that The Blair Witch Project is. But instead of leaving the narrative in the hands of the mystery, the development of the documentary becomes increasingly as pertinent as the answer to these occurrences. To call it a parody of documentary filmmaking would be an oversimplification. The two act more erratically, which could be attributed to the exposure — either to the phenomenon or to each other.  Levi and John bring in experts of certain fields to contribute legitimate substance in between their shaky footage, but the shadow of doubt is cast larger, causing rifts between the team (by the time the documentary is “finished,” they are onto their sixth film editor). Where sightings of the Blair Witch largely propel forward, Dirt digs further down on the manipulation and coercion of filmmaking.” (AH)

1/22 – MEMORIA
“If you’re unfamiliar with Apichatpong and his brand of “slow cinema,” there’s a good chance you might read the above synopsis and come away with the impression that Memoria is a thriller of sorts, a chronicle of one woman’s obsession with unraveling an unknowable mystery. In broad strokes, this isn’t necessarily inaccurate, but belies the film’s meditative and elliptical nature. Like the central photograph in Blow Up, the sound in Memoria is the easiest hook on which to pin a synopsis, but it is only the most easily defined element in its dreamy haze. The point isn’t the sound, or even Swinton’s quest for the sound’s origins; it’s the sensation of trying to place a sound you’re not entirely sure you didn’t dream in the first place.” (OG)
1/22 – TÁR
“It barely feels like hyperbole to say that Lydia Tár is the character towards whom Cate Blanchett’s career has been building. Not since Howie Ratner has a role felt more perfectly suited to an actor’s gifts; Lydia allows Blanchett to be commanding and ethereal, funny and terrifying, brilliant and deeply broken. The actress appears to relish the character’s every move, and to understand how to deploy each line for maximum effect (to say nothing of the fact that she actually conducts the film’s orchestra). Watching Tár, you can easily understand how this woman could bend the world to her whim and take control of any room into which she walks; you like her, for her wit, for her talent, even as you can see that she would be a nightmare to know personally. When her world starts crumbling, part of you still wants to see her come out on top; like so many real-life figures before and since, you know she’s probably a monster, but she’s just so entertaining.” (OG)
Double feature!

“The world of Neptune Frost is built out of music. Its script is poetry, in essence, told in stanzas and rhymes that reveal character and story to the audience. The filmmaking itself is likewise categorically musical, written by poet and musician Saul Williams and co-directed by Williams and Anisia Uzeyman (the pair is also married). It is an Afrofuturist tale set in Burundi, in which the romance between a coltan miner, Matalusa, and an intersex runaway, the titular Neptune, leads to revolution against the oppressive authority designed to crush them. Throughout, the movie is actively anti-colonialist and anti-capitalist, an excoriation of the exploitative labor conditions that the intersection of these two forces creates.” (Nick Perry)

“So where in Aftersun does the magic happen? Part of it is Paul Mescal’s undying efforts to bring forth the best iteration of his characters. God’s Creatures was his convincing act as the beloved son capable of doing bad things; Mescal in Aftersun is asking for sorrow for a young, divorced father who shies away from exposure. The other part of the magic is something I can try to explain in a feeling. Think of someone who has done something kind for you in the past. It might be someone you know or a stranger. People do nice things all the time, but there must be an instance where you might have thought, “Why would they do this?” But as you grow older and wiser from different situations and that person stays the same in your memory, the question changes: “Despite it all, how did they do this?” If it is not clear yet, Calum faces his own unspecified demons that dance in Sophie’s blind spots. For the most part, he tries to keep it together, but as Sophie sees the mirage of a calm man shake, the docility of the vacation feels troubled. It is until the end when we see the crest of this emotional tide look more like a tidal wave: the collision of Sophie and Calum on the dance floor, in both memory and in imagination, that brings together the remaining shattered pieces.” (AH)

“For all the film’s horror trappings, what Schoenbrun has created is one of the most grounded and realistic portrayals of online life– which is to say, modern life– I’ve seen on screen. The World’s Fair videos Casey watches are just as variable in quality as an actual Youtube playlist, ranging from the artfully aesthetic (a young woman who claims to be turning into a life-size Barbie doll) to the uninspired (a dude sitting on his bathroom floor describing an incoherent nightmare about Tetris blocks) to the cheesy (what appears to be a clip from a fictional movie about the challenge). These clips shade in our understanding of the world of the film, but they’re presented with as little context as an algorithm (separated only by a deadpan loading wheel); like Casey, we are left to connect the dots ourselves.” (OG)
Read Kyle Amato’s interview with director Jane Schoenbrun here!

1/25 – A COUPLE
A Couple is a curiosity, to be sure, and will inevitably be of most interest to Tolstoy scholars and Wiseman completists. But, taken on its own terms, it is far from inessential. Its sumptuous photography and well-mapped sense of place make it a mesmerizing, entirely captivating way to spend an hour (its lush, verdant setting particularly welcome as this Massachusetts winter seems to be beginning in earnest). And Boutefeu’s performance is a work in its own right, urgent, masterful, and heartbreaking from beginning to end. Wiseman’s work has always been interested in human nature, and the framework of A Couple simply provides him with an alternate means through which to view it. Taken as part of the Wiseman oeuvre, it is a quietly revolutionary work, one which secures his status as one of film’s most vital voices. Would that we all took this cultural moment as an opportunity for such betterment.” (OG)

“The Border director does continue to be a well measured actors’ director. Ebrahimi breathes so much life into Rahimi, you feel her pain and empathy as she learns about the victims, feeling more and more helpless as the film goes on. She holds basically in every scene of the movie with such grace and agency, realizing that religion is used toward ends which may not look inexcusable in the eyes of the law.” (JD)

1/26 – X
1/26 – PEARL
“Taken separately, X and Pearl, the back-to-back comeback of “mumblegore” horror maestro Ti West, are perfectly delightful genre exercises: the former an ode to the raunchy grindhouse epics of Tobe Hooper and Wes Craven, the latter a southern gothic pastiche of MGM musicals and Douglas Sirk melodrama. But taken together (as they were almost certainly intended to be), they paint a surprisingly poignant picture of empowerment, repression, and the oft-unfulfilled promise of stardom. The films’ secret weapon lies in leading lady Mia Goth, who plays aspiring porn star Maxine in X and the title role, a homicidal farmer’s-daughter in Pearl (she also co-wrote the latter). Goth suffuses both performances with equal parts dark humor and an aching humanity unusual for the slasher genre. “I will not accept a life I do not deserve,” Maxine repeats as her mantra; we maybe don’t deserve Goth’s performances, but I’m glad we have them.” (OG)
Double feature!

“Before seeing the film, I was worried this would be a “dark” adaptation akin to those PC games about Alice in Wonderland where she’s actually in an asylum, or whatever. Fortunately, this is not the case. Del Toro clearly loves his interpretation of this character, placing Pinocchio in the same league as the young protagonists of The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. These films each feature a child, overwhelmed by cruel adults and crueler governments, struggling to find the light, save who they love, and live peaceful lives. This child just happens to be made of wood and can survive being shot in the head.” (Kyle Amato)

“Though no one could accuse Cronenberg’s recent films of being impersonal, one gets the sense that Crimes of the Future represents all the ideas the director has been bottling up for the past twenty years. Nearly every prop or piece of furniture is a triumph of Gigeresque production design. Saul’s bed is a sort of enormous, fleshy jolly-jumper, complete with tendrils which connect to his hands and feet (“I think this bed needs new software,” Saul complains in a bit of gloriously Cronenbergian dialog, “It’s not anticipating my pain.”).  He eats breakfast in a contraption which looks like a dentist’s chair made of bones, which spasmodically rocks back and forth while spoonfeeding its occupant. Caprice conducts her remote surgery with a waist-mounted device resembling a cross between a scarab beetle, a Simon game, and a certain bit of private anatomy. Every object in this movie is made of flesh, covered in dirt, or both, and nearly every character either experiences or inflicts some sort of mutilation previously undreamed of by human brains. I really shouldn’t have to say this about a film by David Cronenberg, but those with weak stomachs may want to sit this one out.” (OG)

“Have you ever wanted to have a beer with Richard Linklater and listen to him wax nostalgic for his Texan childhood? Well, in another example of an auteur filmmakers putting Netflix cash to good use, Apollo 10 ½ is essentially just a chill BBQ in 1969 Houston, a tale of one kid’s summer rendered in eye-catching rotoscope animation. Technically the film is about a young boy being recruited for a secret mission to the Moon because the lunar module only fits a kid, but that hardly matters. Mostly we’ve got Jack Black’s easygoing narration of how cool it was to be a kid during the age of astronauts and airborne chemicals.” (KA)
“The combination of Lepore’s subtle stop-motion animation and Slate’s quiet, timorous voice make the tiny one-eyed shell an incredibly expressive character. The same can be said for Nanna Connie, brought to life by a surprisingly-but-not-really-surprisingly great performance from Rossellini. We all know Isabella Rossellini can do anything, but to voice an aging, tired, kind grandmother trying to do right by her anxious grandson before she passes on? She brings this whole thing together in a way I didn’t think possible. At the Independent Film Festival Boston screening back in early May, Jenny Slate said the film was an enormous labor of love, and it shows. You couldn’t make this film if you didn’t care deeply about Marcel’s journey.” (KA)
Double feature!

1/29 – TILL
“With an incredible performance by Danielle Deadwyler at its center, Till manages to balance the horror of this murder with Mamie’s rage and fight for justice without coming off as maudlin or completely unbearable. Unfortunately, we know how this story goes: the murderers get away with it, and the woman who got Emmett killed is still alive (though hopefully not for much longer). Chukwu makes the first twenty minutes into something of a horror movie, amping up Mamie’s dread before the inevitable happens, though the violence is mercifully offscreen.” (KA)

“Describing All the Beauty and the Bloodshed succinctly presents a challenge, because it is “about” so much: Goldin, her late sister (who gave Nan her first glimpse of rebellion before her suicide at age 18), the Sacklers, opioids, AIDS, the lost, queer New York of the 1980s, and art– both the drive behind its creation and the culture surrounding its exhibition. Yet Poitras does a remarkable job presenting this sprawling story in a way that never feels muddled or unfocused; the various threads and personalities remain clear throughout, and all clearly belong to a cohesive whole. The key, of course, is Goldin herself, a flinty, fiercely articulate tour guide through her own history (she also played no small role in the film’s construction, assembling the slideshows which serve to illustrate her story, as well as supervising the immaculately tasteful soundtrack). Like her artwork, Goldin commands your attention, and it’s as difficult to stop listening to her as it is to look away from her pictures.” (OG)

1/31 – WATCHER
“While the plot does not give into adventurous tides or original spook factors, Okuno bequeaths the film’s strength to Monroe’s performance. It Follows is a great movie, especially as there is a gamble that the audience will stick through its slightly inane premise for the last wild fifteen minutes. Watcher has a conclusion that might feel in pace with the Monroe-vs-stalker trend, but it has a different looming atmosphere. Many of Julia’s actions and word choices are restrained, even though we can tell that she’s freaking the fuck out. Not showing a character into spiraling hysteria might make it stand out from other films with similar stories, but I also feel there is the director’s deliberation in making Julia more anchored to normalcy.” (AH)

2/2 – SIRENS

(Some of) The Best of 2022 runs from 1/13-1/19 at Somerville Theatre, and from 1/20-2/2 at Brattle Theatre.

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