10. “Avatar: The Way Of Water”
James Cameron delivers yet again another action-packed, spectacle-fueled adventure, surpassing the already staggering technical prowess of the first installment. Our focus is placed on the mesmerizing visuals, and while the storytelling is still more than adequate, the engaging world-building heavily propels the film to excellence. The attention to detail and amount of time placed into each frame is evident, from the environmentalist themes to the intricate blend of innovative CGI and already existing practical techniques. Easily among the most immersive theater experiences of all time, it cannot be missed on the big screen.
Argentinian auteur Gaspar Noé’s inspiration for “Vortex” stemmed from coping with his mother’s dementia, as well as his near-death experience from a brain hemorrhage in 2020. Resoundingly personal to the core, fellow successful Dario Argento shines in his first lead acting role at the age of 82, bringing a sense of unparalleled, harrowing realism to his character. Aided by the talented Françoise Lebrun, the duo clearly execute the vision precisely. Noé’s signature use of the split screen and the medium format also make their returns. The director overall portrays death, aging and the passage of time in a format unlike anything else.
8. “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Established actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson reunite with Martin McDonagh in his strongest film to date. Diving into the absurdities of friendship, its bleakness set against the fictional island countryside on the decaying end of the Irish Civil War, complements the clashing ideals present within the main characters. The powerful script is elevated by the wondrous performances, which heavily benefited from the supporting efforts of Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan. The brutality of life is often overlooked, and sometimes we can’t attain all the answers. This film tells us that these questions may never disappear.
7. “Triangle of Sadness”
The winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival comes from someone quite familiar with the award, Ruben Östlund. His amalgamation of black comedy, social class satire and vulgarity culminate in a determined effort that rewards your attention with quality. Uniquely structured into various chapters, each one capitalizing on its ambition, increasingly becoming more engaging in the process. The film’s messaging rings true, especially in today’s society, where empathy seems to be cast aside for the sake of materialism.
6. “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”
Originally conceived by director Dean Fleischer-Camp back in 2010, Marcel’s frenetic and joyous being first took root after a YouTube video was uploaded, eventually evolving into a feature-length mockumentary. The appreciation of life’s simplicity is highlighted by the peaceful, easy feeling one gets by spending time with Marcel. There’s an unquantifiable type of love put into the project. Fleischer-Camp makes it seen clearly in the animation and quirky script. Jenny Slate and Isabella Rossellini fill their voice acting roles wonderfully, contributing to a journey anyone can enjoy.
5. “The Whale”
Adapted from the play of the same name by Samuel D. Hunter, Darren Aronofsky returns to paint a complex portrait of an individual seeking redemption for the first time since “The Wrestler” in 2008. The character of Charlie is played by Brendan Fraser, in his long-awaited comeback performance. Exploring the difficulties of physical health and the dynamics of family, it’s evident that the film’s impact lies within its character development. This story is told with unbridled compassion, with an emphasis on the universal human experience’s desire for love.
Longtime fans of Indian cinema will no doubt have heard S.S. Rajamouli’s name before, but for many in the West, “RRR” became the breakout film of the year. Those who are familiar with his work will see him capitalize on his typical insane action set pieces – incomplete of course without the best musical number of the year, “Naatu Naatu.” Mega Tollywood stars Ram Charan and Jr. N.T.R. bring their usual flare, and the straightforward but charming line between good and evil makes it impossible to not have a smile on our faces by the end of its runtime.
“Tár” may very well feature Cate Blanchett’s greatest on-screen performance of her career so far, which is an occurrence that cannot be understated. Streamlined and precise in every way possible, director Todd Field creates an uneasy and claustrophobic atmosphere that unsettles the audience to the core. The shot composition is impeccable, coinciding directly with the use of diegetic music. Scenes often feature minutes of uninterrupted dialogue, further building the inevitable trance that succumbs all those who cross Lydia Tár’s path — taking viewers on a more than welcome cinematic odyssey.
2. “After Yang”
South Korean-born American director, Kogonada, is no stranger to creating gentle, methodical, and ethereal cinema. Despite having only made two feature-length films, his past as a video essayist granted him the rare ability to learn from the cinematic masters — most notably modernizing aspects of the Japanese great, Yasujirō Ozu. Featuring an ensemble cast led by Colin Farrell, this exploration of Asian identity through the lens of science fiction is masterfully crafted. Hauntingly beautiful cinematography and enchanting glimpses of memory offer a world of comfort where only peace resides.
A spot among the best directorial debuts in history now belongs to Scottish filmmaker Charlotte Wells, with the exponentially rising Paul Mescal and magnificent first performance from Frankie Corio also breaking new ground. Heart-wrenching to the core, the ambient soundtrack combined with the harnessing of video footage results in a slow, ascending wave of emotion, taking its time to wash over all those invited. The connection between a parent and child can be rather difficult to decipher, but Wells depicts this perfectly. Ending evocatively, there’s no doubt that “Aftersun’s” impact extends far beyond one’s first viewing experience.
Honorable Mentions: “The Fablemans,” “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” “Nope,” “Broker,” “Pearl.”