Films Seen in 2022 Part 2

I’m still keeping track of movies I’ve seen. This year I’ve gotten involved into some annual film challenges. One is to watch 52 particular Criterion movies, and the other is to watch four movies each from multiple movements. For this entry, I went with New Hollywood, the French New Wave and the Czech New Wave. There were also quite a few films that were nominated for the recent Academy Awards.

Movie #21/ New Movie #13: Parallel Mothers (Movie Theater)
It’s a drama about two women who meet in a maternity ward and form a bond in the ensuing years, and it does take some really interesting turns. Penelope Cruz is excellent, selling some decisions that might seem a little weird in lesser hands. Milena Smit works in a different register, that makes for a worthy contrast. Aitana Sánchez-Gijón has some unexpected depth as her mother, a middle-aged actress with a very non-cliched arc of finding success late in life. There are some great themes in the film in the exploration of atrocities in living memory in Spain, and what that means going forward, which causes some conflicts for the two mothers, who have different feelings on the matter. There’s a relationship that develops that seems a bit out of place, and that seems to touch on some cultural landmines. I’m curious that no one appears to have called it out.
9/10

Movie #22: Spider-Man No Way Home (Movie Theater)
Still loved it.
10/10

Movie #23/ New Movie #14: Take the Money and Run (DVD)
This is an excellent comedy about an inept criminal. It is a big odd to see Woody Allen when he’s this young, even if at this point, he’s in his mid 30s. He has some fun with the mockumentary style, and there are some great gags. It shows that he could’ve gone in a different comedic direction quite successfully.
8/10

Movie #24/ New Movie #15: Belfast (Movie Theater)
It’s very obviously an Oscarbait film, as a director recalls his upbringing during a tumultuous time, where he found comfort in the movies. But is is very well told, getting across a child’s view of the world while still keeping everything interesting. I also really like that the film is under a hundred minutes, even if it has four supporting performances good enough to potentially get Oscar nominations (two did.)
10/10

Movie #25/ New Movie #16: Westworld (Blu-Ray)
The sci-fi western does a great job of worldbuilding, so I can understand how it’s the basis of a hit show. But it’s also able to tell a satisfying story of people trying to survive robots gone amuck.
7/10

Movie #26/ New Movie #17: Death Race 2000 (Blu-Ray)
The dystopian road movie about a race where the goal is to kill innocent bystanders is ridiculous but fun. It kinda sells the world where this is entertainment. I’d like to see a remake poking fun at the modern media environment with Stallone as President.
7/10

Movie #27/ New Movie #18: Belladonna of Sadness (Blu-Ray)
This is a very strange medieval fantasy anime. It’s often lovely if barely animated. It’s quite psychedelic and definitely not for everyone as the plot synopsis makes clear. It sells the harshness of the world and why someone would make the decision to become a witch.
9/10

Movie #28/ New Movie #19: La Liste- Everything or Nothing (Movie Theater)
It’s a beautifully shot documentary, which might be expected given the subject matter (skiers trying to find increasingly inaccessible heights.) It’s notable for how seriously the people take their pursuit and the acknowledgement of the risks, as well as the messy question of whether it is worthwhile. A rescue sequence is a highlight of the film, and we see the lengthy recovery afterwards.
8/10

Movie #29: Don’t Look Back (Criterion Blu-Ray)
It may be a bit odd to go into this cold, as the initial audience would understand in the context of the time in a way that’s easy for us to forget. This is Bob Dylan at his creative peak, pushing against expectations, a little bit prickly due to the pressure he’s under, fan backlash and that he’s surrounded by people who don’t care about the consequences of their actions as he does. But it’s a great example of what documentaries can do very well, showcasing an iconic figure (one of the most fascinating people on the planet) at an interesting time.
10/10

Movie #30: Enter the Dragon (Criterion Blu-Ray)
It’s fun. It’s probably the best fighting tournament film, as well as the best display of Bruce Lee’s talents. Much of what the film does had been surpassed, but there is no other Bruce Lee, and his partners in crime are pretty decent here.
10/10

Movie #31/ New Movie #20: The Batman (Movie Theater)
It’s a well done film, although it kinda feels like a comic book; the first arc of a new creative team shaking up a series that already has some history. It was probably a smart idea not to show the things we’ve seen before in every Batman adaptation, but there is a sense that some developments are unearned. We care about the legacy of Bruce’s parents because we’ve liked their depiction in other stories. It’s also a bit derivative, feeling like a superhero version of R-rated thrillers like Zodiac and Seven. There’s a decent conspiracy at the heart of it, and I like Pattinson and Kravitz’s chemistry, along with the arc for the Batman. The film just doesn’t wow me, but it’s perfectly okay.
7/10

Movie #32/ New Movie #21: Pierrou le Fou (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This is an excellent vehicle for Godard, his best male lead and his best female lead. It is the stereotypically avant-garde director at the height of his powers: weird, experimental and fun. Obviously the politics are radically left-wing, although he gets across the ridiculousness of some of the people on this earnest adventure. It could easily be in Godard’s top five, along with Breathless, Vivre Sa Vie, Band of Outsiders and Contempt, even if it is only my third favorite Godard/ Marina collaboration. It might still be the best example of 60s pop art in film.
9/10

Movie #33/ New Movie #22: The Haunted Strangler/ In the Grip of the Strangler (Criterion DVD)
It’s a clever concept dealing with the aftermath of the serial killer’s arrest, with Boris Karloff playing a novelist who thinks there’s something more to the story. It takes some turns, with a major twist when the film has half an hour to go, and it has some fun with that twist. It may be better to see it knowing as little as possible. It’s nice that Karloff had this showcase. It’s curious that there haven’t been recent horror movies about stranglers. I guess it’s all slashers now.
8/10.

Movie #34: Persona (Criterion Blu-Ray)
It’s the master of psychological drama at his most ambitious and complex. It’s a showcase for what film is capable of, as well as the talents of Bibi Andersson (who has to do much of the heavy lifting) and Liv Ullman. It might just be the best two-hander in film.
10/10

Movie #35: American Hustle (DVD)
It feels like imitation Scorsese, but the cast is excellent. I’m not sure Jennifer Lawrence or Amy Adams have ever been better, and it’s a solid con artist film elevated by an understanding of the consequences of an effort to destroy seemingly corrupt politicians, as well as the interpersonal dynamics. It’s a fun film that manages to be meaningful.
9/10

Movie #36/ New Movie #23: The 49th Parallel (Criterion DVD)
It’s interesting how British propaganda efforts seem so much better than those of the Soviets. There’s something worth exploring in that. The story of Nazis stranded in Canada taking hostages takes some unusual but satisfying turns, and works as a showcase for Canada and the different ways people find meaning. The focus on the invaders is timely given the horrors going on right now in Ukraine.
9/10

Movie #37/ New Movie #24: Elevator to the Gallows (Criterion DVD)
This is an excellent unconventionally paced noir. The murder happens in the first 15 minutes. The antihero then makes a serious mistake, which accidentally leads to another crime spree. Jeanne Moreau is exceptional, compelling as the lovestruck mistress, but gaining more agency towards the end as she makes one last effort to save the day (a messy effort as the situation begins with her boyfriend murdering her wealthy husband.) The only better artist in the film (not a knock on the director or the male lead) is Miles Davis, who provides the incredible soundtrack.
9/10

Movie #38: Band of Outsiders (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This may remain my favorite Godard film. Watching it this time, I had a real appreciation for its influence on Quentin Tarantino. It is a fun hang-out movie, with a complex take on the dynamics of the two guys and a girl who get involved in a major crime, but who are so much fun to spend time with before that happens, even as we recognize they’re willingness to betray one another.
10/10

Movie #39/ New Movie #25: Active Measures (Youtube)
It does sometimes feel like a really long, although well-done campaign ad. It’s an overview of Putin’s involvement in politics in multiple countries, as well as potential connections to Trump. Some parts of it have not aged well (theories about Jeff Sessions) and some parts of it are more relevant than ever, especially the sections on Ukraine. They are generally careful to make the distinction between smoke and fire, and there is a lot of smoke. It’s also notable how quickly some stuff is glossed over that could easily be its own film (IE- Brexit) because it’s a look at a grand conspiracy. It’s not quite accurate to say it’s a conspiracy theory, because while there are some unresolved questions, it covers a lot of sketchy stuff that is confirmed.
8/10

Movie #40/ New Movie #26: The Young Girls of Rochefort (Criterion DVD)
This musical is just so much fun. It plays around with expectations in interesting ways, sometimes seeming like things are going one way time while instead going in an unexpected (in a pleasant way) direction. An hour into it, there are three couples deeply in love but unaware of just how close they are to their soulmates. It’s a great companion to Umbrellas from Chersbourg, not quite on that level but simply joyous.
9/10

Movie #41/ New Movie #27: Touki Bouki (Criterion DVD)
This takes the formula from films like Breathless or Mean Streets (Scorsese has played a big role in the restoration efforts for Touki Bouki) of applying post-French New Wave energy to a story about young protagonists, but setting it all in Senegal makes something new.
9/10

Movie #42/ New Movie #28: The Phantom of Morrisville (DVD)
This is just fun, a parody of chamber mysteries which plays around with set design and has some great sequences (the early hints of the titular phantom, a gag involving a baron’s dog.)
7/10

Movie #43/ New Movie #29: Drive My Car (Movie Theater)
This is a strange but satisfying very arthouse take on communication and the making of art. The avant-garde approach to performances (an Asian adaptation of a Russian play in which each actor uses their natural language) is a dynamic that is used well.
9/10

Movie #44/ New Movie #30: Power of the Dog (Movie Theater)
This one is dark but I loved it. The score and cinematography are beautiful, but it’s otherwise a clash within a family where everyone is more complex than is apparent. The performances deserved the Oscar nominations, and it’s certainly worth discussing. There is a criticism than Benedict Cumberbatch is basically playing at being a great cowboy, rather than the real thing, but that approach works quite well here.
10/10

Movie #45: The Loves of a Blonde (Criterion DVD)
This Forman piece shows what the Czech New Wave does best, capturing the awkwardness of young people in romantic entanglements, parents dealing with the fallout and administrators trying to make the best of a bad situation.
8/10

Movie #46: Dune: Part One (Movie Theater)
It definitely deserved the craft awards at the Oscars. I’ve been seeing it in theaters a lot. The worldbuilding is astonishing. The effects and soundtrack are amazing. The cast is quite decent. It’s the most exciting Triple-A Sci-Fi/ fantasy adaptation in film since Lord of the Rings.
9/10

Movie #47/ New Movie #31: Coda (Movie Theater)
Sometimes this feels like a two part special episode of Glee. It would be a decent special episode, but there are some false notes here which make me suspect it’s the weakest Best Picture winner in about a decade. There’s still some good stuff. The family dynamics are excellent, and Troy Kotsur gave one of the most valuable supporting performances ever.
8/10

Movie #48/ New Movie #32: Black Peter (DVD)
Milos Forman’s directorial debut feels raw and unpolished, which is a decent fit for the topic; a somewhat aimless teenager starts a job and tries to figure out what he’s supposed to do in work and love.
8/10

Movie #49/ New Movie #33: Encanto (Disney Plus)
It has some similar themes to recent Disney work, so it might seem a bit derivative. But it may also be the best realization of those themes, with some great songs, and a decent conflict with a gifted family potentially losing everything.
10/10

Movie #50/ New Movie #34: The Cremator (Criterion DVD)
Mr. Kopfrking may just be the nastiest villain in the films of the Czech new wave. Early on, there’s a good sense of unease with the family man cremator hinting at flaws that go beyond his enthusiasm for his job. There is a decent sense of unreality to all of it. Worthwhile for fans of black humor and horror.
9/10

With the Oscars coming out, it was an opportunity to catch up on major contenders. I did prefer Power of the Dog to CODA, and still think Spider-Man: No Way Home got robbed.

Morbius was the 51st film I saw this year, and weaker than anything I’ve seen in this batch of movies

About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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