It’s the time of year when people tend to look back and choose their favorites in media in the past 12 months. I haven’t seen that many movies this year; my husband and son don’t like to go to movies, and it gets hard to make arrangements with friends, and I’m usually not motivated to go on my own because I like sharing the experience. So I can’t do a Top 10 list of movies of 2022 (books, however, are a different matter…stay tuned for that).
However, I can pick out my three greatest POSITIVE surprises about the 2022 movie crop.
Choice #3 is recent; I just saw it Sunday night. Sunday, I was watching some of the videos from the final Saturday Night Live show of 2022. It was hosted by Austin Butler, star of the 2022 movie Elvis. I hadn’t seen the movie. I was a little young for the great Elvis love at the time, and the reviews by people I follow weren’t that favorable, so I never went to see it. However, on SNL, I was really impressed by Austin Butler. He was both charming and humble and seemed to be quite talented both in his singing and his acting. He really hooked me in his opening monologue, where I learned he was homeschooled (HOMESCHOOLERS FOREVER!), and he dedicated his performance to his late mother, whom he credited with helping him overcoming extreme shyness in order for him to get into acting (major tears for mom acknowledgements). I was so intrigued by him, I watched the movie Sunday night, albeit on my computer instead of in the theatre, since the latter wasn’t an option at this late date.
And WOW, was that a fantastic performance! People said that he doesn’t look that much like Elvis, but I think he definitely captures Elvis’s energy and passion and movements and musical phrasing. It didn’t feel like a charicature of or an Elvis impersonator; it felt like Elvis’s story unfolding. A lot of critics didn’t like the story being told from the perspective of Colonel Parker, but honestly, it didn’t bother me. I can’t imagine any of us trying to get into Elvis’s head, so Colonel Parker’s view seemed to be a good choice to me.
Bottom line is that the movie was so much better than I had expected, and my opinion is that Austin Butler really did a great job. I regret that I didn’t see it in the theater, where that performance would have been even more powerful. So if you were also turned off by the reviews, I encourage you to give Austin Butler a second chance.
My #2 surprise came in May of 2022. My second admission: Top Gun: Maverick was actually a really good movie, FAR exceeding my expectations.
I remember seeing the original Top Gun movie in the ’80’s, I presume with whichever boyfriend I had at the time. And my reaction was just, “Meh.” There is a somewhat derisive term for books/media oriented towards women called “chick lit.” I’ve not run into it, but if there was a rhyming term for male-oriented media…well, it would involve a slang term I don’t use. However, if there was an acceptable term for such media besides MACHO, that is how I would describe the original Top Gun. I re-watched it this year to see if my younger self had missed its genius, but NOPE…. The plot is simplistic, the characters are one-dimensional, the relationships make no sense (in what world would the Kelly McGillis character get involved with flyboy Tom Cruise?), the menance or enemy is so nebulous that it doesn’t evoke much emotion, and other than, POSSIBLY, what happens to the Goose character, everything is totally predictable. So I NEVER understood the long-standing drive to make a sequel to a movie that I object to what marketing says is “A movie that defines a generation.”
Therefore, I was inclined to give the new movie a hard pass. However, the Tuesday after Memorial Day, I had no obligations and I though I would go see it in honor of those we celebrate on Memorial Day. And I was….blown away may be too high praise, but given my low-to-negative expectations, perhaps it applies. I truly enjoyed it and appreciated its value as a movie.
This time, there was an actual plot that made sense and had some surprises. This time, characters had some depth and made choices based on their past as well as their present or even future. And this time, due to Tom Cruise’s insistence and greater power in the film industry, the cinematography was incredible. Story has it that in the original, only Tom Cruise was willing to try to actually film in a flying aircraft. This time around, Tom Cruise insisted that anyone signing up as a pilot in the film went through an intensive 3 month training so that scenes could be shot with the cast in actual fighter planes flying at incredible speeds with actors managing their own filming. But boy, did that pay off. It was a movie that really made you feel like you were in the midst of an air battle that really made sense (again, due to actul PLOT), which is just an amazing cinematic experience. I appreciated the film so much more than I expected.
The sequel also showcased the growth of the actors involved. Tom Cruise is simply a much better actor than he was 30+ years ago, which is to be expected. Val Kilmer brings a real-life pathos to his character, based in part on his real-life struggles. Miles Teller has matured since his early Divergent days. I don’t really get the public antagonism towards Tom Cruise. I guess it’s based in part of his involvement with Scientology, but I don’t know that is any of our business, just as other actor’s faith traditions are any of our business. I think he is a perfectionist, which can be difficult to work with, and is a passionate actor. I think those things played out for the good in this movie.
I believe Top Gun: Maverick is playing in theaters again for the Christmas family-moving-going season. So if you missed it the first time, I recommend you check it ou.
My #1 movie surprise of the year is the move Everything Everywhere All at Once, starring the incomparable Michelle Yeoh. While I’m not really qualified to speak since I haven’t seen that many new movies, it is also my favorite movie of the year. I went on a whim early in the year when my husband, who hadn’t been to a movie theater since before the pandemic, came home and said he had heard a great review for the movie on NPR and wanted to go see it. I knew nothing about it, but it was a Saturday when we had no other plans, so I said, let’s go see it this afternoon…there’s a show at 3 or whenever. I walked into the movie totally blind, having no idea what it was about.
Now, this is one bizarre movie. For the first third at least, I felt like I had no idea about what what going on. Once I kind of caught up, I wasn’t in love with it. At least half way, or maybe even two-thirds of the way through, I was thinking “This really isn’t a very good movie. It’s probably one of those movies that the critics applaud but regular people don’t like or even understand.”
But that last third-to-a-quarter of that movie…
Boy, was it beautiful.
Things came together in a totally unexpected and unpredicatable way. And it involved some great lessons about themes that matter a lot to me….things like love and family and forgiveness and destiny and community and kindness. It blew me away. It made me start thinking a lot deeper about concepts like the multiverse, which I’ve incorporated into my personal philosophy. It was simply an incredible movie experience.
Which was not something that I expected going into the movie. But something I am so grateful for, today and every day since I’ve seen that movie.
So those are my surprise insights about the 2022 movies. Please share any insights you’ve had about movies this year in the comments below.