Year in ReView – Vanyaland

The year 2022 was, to say the very least, a bizarre one at the movies. If 2021 was the “pictures are back, bay-bee” celebration, an explosion of pure and unadulterated joy much like an abstinent Redditor when December 1 rolls around, 2022 was the clarity that follows such a release: Things are still pretty mid, even if that did feel really good. One’ll chase the highs of 2021 for a bit and find them otherwise absent at their local multiplex (or, if they’re older than 40, they won’t find them at all at the arthouse, given that specialty audiences are still struggling to return to theaters in the same numbers that they did in 2019), but the cinema in 2022 is still a fundamentally different place than it was a few years ago, and it’s fair to worry if this is, in fact, that “new normal” everybody was fond of talking about back in April 2020.
If nothing else, this year marked the end of the COVID-19 pandemic for cinema, at least as far as release dates are concerned. Morbius and Top Gun: Maverick – the final two holdouts after a full two calendar years of release date shuffles and delays – finally hit theaters, where the former flopped as expected (but lead to perhaps the greatest meme-centric conning of a major studio since Snakes on a Plane — and the latter soared to new heights unseen since before folks started hearing word of a new virus present in Wuhan. Festivals returned to true in-person events this year, as well, albeit with certain limitations. Streaming services, which saw their valuations increase over the last few years and, as a result, believed that the good times would not and could not ever end, began to collapse under the weight of their bad decisions (Netflix adding an ad-supported tier and attempting to get password-sharing under control, for one, but I primarily mean the garbage fire that is still consuming Warner Bros. Discovery at the moment).
But let’s not pretend that there weren’t fantastic films released this year, plenty of which came from unexpected and bizarre places. These 22 films, listed with superlatives, are representative of the fact that film is not a dying artform, even if the studios are floundering around and superhero movies still solely dominate the landscape at your average AMC (and before I get an accusation of snobbery, there is, in fact, a superhero movie represented on this list! Take that, nerds!). These are some genuinely lovely films, each of which would have made this list in a more-stacked year of releases. And here’s a helpful reminder: If you disagree with this list, awesome! That’s just a part of life’s rich pageant, and I’d love to read yours if you’d be so inclined to make one.
But before we get to the 22, here is the Honor Roll – the movies that just didn’t make the full list, but I still enjoyed enough to warrant a shoutout.
Beast, The Black Phone, Both Sides of the Blade, Broker, Cha Cha Real Smooth, Devotion, Dual, Emancipation, Emily the Criminal, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Fresh, Good Night Oppy, The Inspection, The Lost City, Moonfall, Nitram, The Outfit, Smile, Studio 666, This Much I Know to Be True, Tony Hawk: Until The Wheels Come Off, Violent Night, X
Anyhow, here’s the list, presented in alphabetical order by title.
From my review: “So what does one make of the fact that Ambulance is, at its core, a… kind and reasonably empathetic Michael Bay film? Perhaps after gazing into the abyss that was 6 Underground, Bay needed to come up for air, to do something a little smaller and more reasonable compared to the eternal awesome evil that was that film. Or, maybe, our world has caught up to him — there’s an inherent nihilism to our world and politics nowadays that feels Bay-esque, unencumbered by Bush-era patriotism and the niceties of our values, where the lunatic fringe feels overrepresented among the rank-and-file and even the most average and outgoing people have been forced by circumstance into becoming antisocial. If Ambulance is actually about anything, it’s about cool competence under pressure — represented by Gonzales, who is put through the wringer over the course of this film and who never loses sight of her purpose and goal — and the consequences of underestimating those around you and your own capabilities, even if you think you’re well-aware and cognizant of yourself and the world at large. Both of those themes feel equally applicable to Bay’s filmography: It takes a master tactician able to lead an army of second-units and stunt drivers and camera ops, which by any measure he is, even to his detractors, but he’s also someone who has been perpetually pigeonholed by a dismissive cinephile intelligentsia that is only starting to come around to the fact that his work is of immense value, even on solely aesthetic grounds.”
From my review: “Now, Way of Water is a formally silly movie in a multiplex stacked to the gills with them. Yet, it is unwaveringly serious, like Dune or Top Gun: Maverick, rather than defaulting to the kind of flippancy used by shitty filmmakers to try and assure the crowd that things are ‘fun’ and ‘not nerdy’ or whatever. After all, the assumption of seriousness can open one up to mockery, whereas your average Marvel film can’t be parodied because it knows it’s not serious and will go out of its way to try and tell you so (which is a good lane for that studio to be in but that pervasive tone inherently kneecaps their potential to turn into something more meaningful). But James Cameron doesn’t have a single funny bone in his body, which might fuck with his reflexes in the doctor’s office, but allows Way of Water to find a kind of earnest authenticity in the midst of all of its artifice. And, as such, I was astonished to find myself genuinely moved by this film’s ending, where the blue cat-people ceased to be digital inventions and became something closer to people, characters through and through that I could relate to on a deeper level, directly empathizing with their emotions in the moment without being out-and-out prompted to and without it feeling like it was something that happened to slip through a producer’s grasp.”
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From my review: “It’s kind of a bummer to think of this as a ‘return to form’ for McDonagh, who has spent the better part of a decade trying to push his cinematic style further away from what he’s known for in his stage work, but I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t happy that he decided to do another project like Banshees, especially with the actors he’s chosen for the project. Farrell’s ‘second act’, whatever that entails, remains incredibly strong, with McDonagh’s influence on this period of his career only slowly starting to be eclipsed by, perhaps, Yorgos Lanthimos. He’s fantastic here, finding a similar core to the character he had In Bruges, but with the sarcasm and bitterness and world-weariness removed: all that remains is sort of a lacking depression, which he attempts to fill with some manner of pleasantness and friendship. The world-weary bitterness is, instead, shunted on to Gleeson, whose character isn’t so much defined by his happier days in his (relative) youth like in his character in Bruges, as much as it is the fact that he never really had any, to begin with, his life wasted in drunken conversations about what’s in Padaric’s donkey’s shit. What’s amusing is that both characters’ viewpoints are, in fact, easy to understand. However, the casual cruelty with which Colm regards his former friend is initially a little off-putting to see, but it’s mitigated by a scene in which, after being assaulted by Dominic’s father in the town square, Colm picks up Padraic and takes him home in his cart, not saying a word, only placing his arm around the stunned man. There’s a complex tenderness to both characters – yet not enough to keep it from still being amusing with body parts start getting cut off – one that I’m sure will continue to unfurl in subsequent viewings because, for the first time since 2008, McDonagh has made a film worth re-watching again and again.”
It felt like Zack Cregger’s Barbarian just appeared in multiplexes one day, given that it didn’t have too much fanfare beyond whispers and rumors within the horror community and was doomed to a Labor Day release thanks to the efforts of Zombie Fox, but I’m certainly glad it did. In case you haven’t seen it yet, I’m not going to spoil things for you – normally I don’t care too much about spoilers in my own little life, but seeing this without any advance warning about what was going to happen was a genuinely thrilling experience. All I’ll say is that Cregger – one-time member and co-ringleader of The Whitest Kids U Know –has made a face-melter of a horror-comedy, one that’s genuinely pretty scary as well as gut-bustingly funny. You’ll never hear ‘Riki-Tiki-Tavi’ in the same way again, either.
From my review: “Perhaps what’s more important is that Reeves made little attempt to fully future-proof his work here, and there’s sort of a knowing acknowledgment that one day, like it or not, aspects of The Batman will drift into camp, no matter what. This is out-of-touch with the methods that both Marvel and other DC properties take in order to forestall the inevitable, as Marvel rolls over and shows you its belly through quips and other forms of forced geniality so that the members of the audience who played football or hockey in high school won’t give it a wedgie for introducing Pim the Troll as a pivotal new character to their cinematic universe, and other DC films do their damndest to hit you with shock-and-awe seriousness so that they can stress the gravitas of watching dudes in plastic suits, complete with ab padding, beat the shit out of one another. It also invites comparison to Todd Phillips’ Joker, which demanded that you evaluate it in light of its influences, to say that its self-serious nature wanted the moralist circus that followed its release as a piece of so-called ‘dangerous’ art, which is something that Reeves also avoids. Sure, it has something to say about institutional rot and vigilantism, but it’s more clear-eyed about the necessity of such things in the midst of an inherently unserious work, and it’s there for one to pour over after the film without ransoming its entertainment for Good Boy Points from critics and audiences thirsting for recognition that they are, in fact, literate in media theory. For one, it’s much, much funnier than you might expect from the glum-and-badass nature of the advertising (there’s an awesome scene between Gordon and Batman in an interrogation room that feels like it would have been plucked from a Beverly Hills Cop movie), and its serious goth bona fides are much as they were in Alex Proyas’ The Crow: Cool as fuck, but with a genuine sense of inherent, intended ridiculousness keeping the milk from curdling into maudlin cheese. I pity the folks who won’t be able to see The Batman for what it is — an honest-to-God blockbuster, as we used to know them — thanks to descriptors like ‘brooding’ or whatever, but, at least in my eyes, it’s the kind of superhero movie that, along with something like Spider-Verse, should be the standard-bearer for the genre going forward.”
I also wrote a bit explaining the presence of a certain someone at the end of the film, and how that plays into the characters’ arcs. Check it out!
From my review: “But, to Dominik, lies are an inescapable aspect of storytelling – it’s how and why we lie that gets us closer to some version of the truth. There may be empirical and observable facts at its genesis: The James gang robbed stages, organized crime’s structures resemble that of a company and/or government (by design), and Marilyn Monroe was once a girl named Norma Jean. What matters is how one interprets those facts and gives them meaning. Jesse James was a paranoid and vain cowboy who engineered his martyrdom by grooming a starry-eyed dullard and his brother to be his executioners. Fucking with mob money has consequences, but when you’re high up enough in any number of legalized rackets, you can commit the same acts at a national scale, get away with it, and have both political parties take credit for saving pension funds and savings accounts from you, all while accepting your cash. Norma Jean was ultimately not Marilyn Monroe – she only played her in the pictures – and while her image topped billboards, thrilled crowds, and helped to ignite, along with the pill, the sexual revolution, Norma suffered miserably. When narrative meets history, the problem is rarely with factual inaccuracy: It’s about whether or not one can craft moving or compelling art with their interpretation of the facts (see something like The Woman King). And on that metric, Dominik’s created something that reduces the leafy laurels gifted by critics to craftsmen of ‘true fairy tales’ like Pablo Larrain into ash-coated twigs, and it is genuinely understandable why so many people have recoiled in horror at this film’s existence.”
From my review: “In an ironic spin on Call Me By Your Name‘s most moving scene, the film’s title is explained by none other than Michael Stuhlbarg, who makes a cameo as a swamp cannibal that fell in love with a policeman (played by David Gordon Green, who is here as much for his creepy grin as he is for being an acknowledgment of the journey that the Suspiria remake took to the screen) mid-meal. It refers to the final stage one of these cannibals reaches: When they’re so consumed by hunger that they make their way through the whole carcass without stopping to, you know, remember how hard it is to eat ossified, spongey bone. This rampant, uncontrollable consumption is the crux of their journey, and it’s a distinctly American spin on it, contrasted with something like Julia Ducournau’s Raw, which saw it, in her characters, as a stage of self-realization grounded in hereditary means. The latter plays a role in what little world-building there is here (and thank god they resisted the urge to go full-on Vampire: The Masquerade or whatever), but Guadagnino is interested in exploring his characters’ reactions to their urges more so than defaulting to a pale imitation of the icky and visceral experience Raw provided for its viewers. This adds to the binding nature of the core romance, increases the dread through the conflict, and ultimately leads to the sad conclusion — an act of grieving consumption not unlike the apple in Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey into Night or Rooney Mara’s pie-eating marathon in David Lowery’s A Ghost Story. But for whatever reason, I thought of a slightly altered version of a line from Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are as Trent Reznor started to sing over the credits roll: ‘I’ll eat you up, I loved you so’.”
From my review: “But it’s the work done by Lawrence and Henry that makes Causeway something more special than just your average indie drama with a literary pedigree. The friendship that forms between Lynsey and James is natural and funny, occasionally marred by some stupid comment or disagreement, but the two keep on going back to each other because they’re in similar circumstances. James is visibly marked by his disability, no matter how well the prosthesis might hide it, and while Lynsey can pass, she’s still limited in some ways by the brain injury: She drops things and blurts out dumb shit without even realizing it. They understand each other, and that understanding allows them to find some manner of healing, even though they couldn’t be further apart in the circumstances of their lives. The kindnesses shared between them are often so subtle that they take a minute or two to reflect upon what exactly they mean, which is almost endlessly refreshing in an era of outright obviousness like ours.”
From my review: “As the axiom goes, familiarity often breeds contempt, which is why I think that a number of folks will be turned off by how reflexively self-referential this is, though I think they’re missing the point. In a way, the world of Crimes of the Future is a funhouse mirror image of the one presented to us by Cronenberg in something like Videodrome, where overarching forces — be it through government means or corporate ones — attempt to modify humans (and mollify it as well) in order to ensure that they have a modicum of control over the inherent chaos of the world and can ensure the continuity of society. The Spectacular Optical Corporation wants to ensure that our base impulses to look at violent things can be eliminated so that ‘cultural rot’ can be eliminated and the U.S. saved from its darker impulses, whereas the New Vice and its associated government entities wish to preserve humanity itself from the strangeness of evolution, perhaps as a form of mitigation for the damage that they’ve caused over the decades. Cronenberg’s ultimately aware of the futility of such exercises, which is the point of body horror as a whole: Like it or not, the soul, or whatever spectral metaphor that one wants to use to describe the thing that animates the assemblage of sinew and marrow and skin it’s trapped in, is ultimately at the mercy of that same system, and the parallelism between those governing bodies and the protagonists in each of these films is striking when put into some relief. One could argue that Cronenberg never really left body horror after eXistenZ, but merely took it to a macro level, trying to find the rot within the body politic in films like Cosmopolis and Eastern Promises instead of Seth Brundle’s changing microbiome.”
From my review: “It seems like every single time that Park Chan-wook releases a new film, he’s got a genuine surprise in store for us. Park’s last release, the Amazon-produced The Handmaiden was one of those indescribable projects that almost every single person tried and failed to summarize in the months leading up to its release (and how exactly are you supposed to, given all the wild shit in that movie) was a departure from Stoker, his American Gothic drama, and that in turn was a departure from the film’s he’s best known for: The Vengeance Trilogy, of which Oldboy is the most visible and memorable. And his latest, Decision to Leave, is no exception, given that it’s a full tonal departure from a lot of his work. Sure, it’s a crime-centric “thriller” about a detective attempting to find out if a suspect really murdered her husband, but it’s also… an out-and-out comedy? Whatever you’re thinking Decision to Leave is, it’s not, but its plentiful narrative surprises, joyous and wry humor, and delightful performances make it for sure one of the best films of 2022 so far. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it should have, perhaps, won the Palme at Cannes instead of Ruben Ostlund’s Triangle of Sadness: It’s certainly one of the best releases to emerge from that festival line-up.”
From my review: “In this, Luhrmann and his subject find common ground: Stripped of their appropriate frames of reference, you’re left with cultural detritus, the pieces shaped and cobbled together into solutions that might not altogether be ‘correct’, even if they’re interesting, as if a paleontologist tried to assemble a newly-discovered dinosaur’s skeleton without realizing that he’s missing a quarter of the bones and has placed the creature’s skull on what might actually have been its tail bone. Hence, the uncharitable characterizations: Presley being a thief, pillorying the work of the poor and discriminated so that he himself could become rich and never have to want for another peanut butter and banana sandwich, and Luhrmann as a floppy craftsman without a bone of meaning-making to be found beneath the skin and muscle, who strains for some measure of operatic emotion and provocation without it ever really gelling together into a workable text. Elvis, however, offers a strong rebuttal to both of those ideas and posits that both of them are creative talents — auteurs, to toss out the Film 101 graduate’s favorite word — who have had to fight uphill against the forces of perception and capital in order to assert their personhood, though, of course, Presley’s tale concluded long ago, with his death in a Graceland bathroom at the age of 42 capping off what would ultimately be a tragedy of exploitation.”
From my review: “In a way, Steven Spielberg has always made semi-autobiographical films, even if they were about alien abductions or Nazi-fighting archaeologists. The man has lived a life immersed in cinema ever since he saw his first film as a child. As such, his expressions of selfhood, like many filmmakers before him, have always taken a particularly specific cinematic form no matter the genre, using the language of film and its conventions and history to discuss his life in the way that Marco Polo uses fictional cities to describe Venice to Kublai Khan and his court in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. So it’s with both excitement and trepidation that I regarded the prospect of The Fabelmans, a genuinely semi-autobiographical film about his childhood without any of the genre insulation, replaced by some specific detail. One can imagine the lengthy complaints about watching Spielberg become Spielberg, about the lack of drama inherent in movies about fulfilled dreams, where one already knows the ending. But The Fabelmans is about as lovely a picture as one can hope for in 2022 or any other year, a sweet yet sad and self-effacing yet clear-eyed tale of coming of age, in which one discovers that the figures known to a child as Mom and Dad were people before their offspring was made flesh from hopes and dreams and that they remain so even throughout their lives.”
Peter Strickland’s latest – which I saw back at this year’s IFFBoston but didn’t get a chance to review, thanks to an odd embargo – is perhaps the best introduction to his filmography, provided you’ve been steeped in Adult Swim-style surrealist humor for much of your life. It’s about a collective of performance artists who make music from food and the body’s processing of it and the struggles between the members and the leader of a foundation sponsoring a residency that they’re decided to take. It is bizarre but very clearly funny in a way that his other aesthetic experiments with comedy (like, say, In Fabric) have often concealed behind a kind of horrific abstraction. I’d make a pun about having to “digest” this one, but Flux Gourmet’s pleasures are actually pretty immediate in their effectiveness.
From my review: “It’s one of the few times in recent memory, even with a slate of decent comedies having hit in the past year, that I can remember an assembled crowd roaring in laughter or gasping with discomfort, regardless of whether or not they’ve got a mask on. If Jackass is a celebration of the community that these folks have made for one another, the experience of watching Jackass in the dark at 10 p.m. on a Thursday night with a bunch of drunk college students from BU is a celebration of the communal aspects of the theatrical experience, one that we’ve been deprived of for far too long, even if movie theaters have been open and showing new releases for nearly a calendar year now. If there’s anything that made me trust that things might once again reach acceptable equilibrium, it’s the shouts, giggles, and groans that came from that auditorium. That’s a great feeling to have, once again.”
From my review: “But when you’re confronted with a documentary like the one Morgen’s made here, one is overwhelmed by sound and vision, but through the noise, an abstract yet profound clarity kind of emerges: This man transcended himself, and I can as well. Bowie admonishes us to never ‘waste a day’, which feels like a platitude until you realize that this was a man who wasted enough of them to gain awareness of that loss as the sands of time began to accumulate on the wrong side of the hourglass. Moonage Daydream, ultimately, is an exultation for one to live and to do the best they can to live as well as possible, and though one’s life might not be as flashy and odd as Bowie’s, it can very well be as profound. This was, after all, the pleading truth embedded in one of his most important recordings: we can be heroes, and he and Morgen want you to know that it doesn’t have to be just for a single day.”
From my review: “The answer to the question posed in the previous paragraph can be found in that second aspect of The Northmans operation: It’s just so fucking metal, dude. ‘Badass’ doesn’t even quite cut it here, because it’s much more intense than that. There are names and sayings in this movie that will be lifted by a thousand bands in need of something badass to go by when they play their first shows, and you can practically hear the Sludge to Come leaking out of the pipes of time itself as the film unreels. One typically has to rotoscope images that rips this hard — be it in Heavy Metal, Fire and Ice or The Spine of Night — or try their hardest to resist studio temptation to make things more palatable. But Eggers has retained almost all of the key aspects of his style here, with his warm fire-lit interiors and bleak panoramas adding to the fury of the bloodshed. It’s another notch in the belt of my theory that the best fantasy directors, be it Boorman or Scott or Jackson, were at one point successful horror filmmakers, with their cinematic understanding of the uncanny easing the transition between varying forms of the sublime and terrible. His action is vicious and bloody, with practical effects used where possible (I will not hold it against any filmmaker for using the occasional bit of CGI blood splatter when they’re doing a fucking 10-minute tracking shot featuring two hundred extras engaged in hand-to-hand combat), and you will notice when exactly his horror expertise comes into play — mangled corpses, et cetera. It’s just so overwhelmingly cool, hitting at the perfect intersection of cinephile, history nerd, Tomb Mold listener and fantasy fan quadrants on a hypothetical interests chart.”
From my review: “Jordan Peele’s Nope is a great movie, but it’s also a quietly significant one: It’s the first Hollywood (or, honestly, any) film about the UFO phenomenon released after ‘disclosure’ to actually deal with the thematic substance of those videos that were dropped into the hands of New York Times journalists and offered some manner of confirmation to legions of wannabe-Mulders that, yes, in fact, they weren’t actually crazy and that the truth, whatever it may be, is in fact out there. It also represents a kind of return to mysticism – perhaps only equaled by Apitchong Weerethal’s Memoria – that is normally absent from depictions of UFO weirdness on screen, where the sheer unknowable nature of whatever is haunting the skies has more in common with how we typically talk about poltergeists and other forms of paranormal experiences than it does the nuts-and-bolts of, say, Eisenhower signing a treaty with a bunch of aliens that just so happen to look like a group of extras from Robert Eggers’ The Northman. See, unlike the more astral paranormal activities, which are almost genuinely impossible to prove (though that hasn’t kept Zak Baggins and friends from scaring the hell out of themselves with cameras in basements and crawlspaces across the country), UFO culture is significantly more plausible.”
There’s also a spoiler-heavy piece I wrote after the movie came out. Check it out!
From my review: “That, perhaps, is the great tragedy of Prey, being shunted off to Hulu by a company that isn’t particularly interested in theatrically releasing films that aren’t guaranteed to reap immediate box office rewards or some manner of awards success later on (and, of course, it’s the film with a genuinely under-represented cast and a woman in the lead role that gets discarded). On the other hand, it is nice to have a Comanche-language dub on hand for one’s viewing pleasure instead of having to wait for a Blu-Ray release, but I can’t help but think of how this would have absolutely killed at a packed screening. Prey is big (at least in scope and would have looked lovely on a larger screen), brutal and badass, full of fun gory kills and ample amounts of suspense, but it’s also incredibly clever, and I would love to feel that ‘Oh, shit’ recognition that emanates from a crowd when it realizes what exactly a film is doing. It’s the kind of franchise-furthering sequel that actively plays on your memories of the prior films without just defaulting to the hit parade, opting for more complex pleasures than a ‘Long Tall Sally’ needle drop. This is a much more rewarding and deeper form of tribute, and when it’s paired with a world-expanding perspective and compelling setting, you get something foreign in our IP wasteland: Novelty. That’s something that the Predator series hasn’t seen since the ’90s, and Trachtenberg’s stellar work here has made it, once again, interesting and relevant.”
I could have also titled this section “Best Return by a Filmmaker Pretty Much Everybody Under the Age of 35 Forgot About,” but Todd Field deserves better than that. Somehow Field hadn’t directed a film since 2006’s Little Children, which makes this an even longer wait than the one between Avatar films. The first two-thirds of Tar is, of course, genius and dryly written, expertly skewering a kind of high-art mindset and the prestige that comes along with it in the form of Cate Blanchett’s Lydia Tar, a conductor with an absurd list of credits who is seeking to complete Mahler’s symphony cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic. She’s a hideous narcissist (with the wit and charisma that comes along with it), but also a gifted talent and, importantly, insanely human. This is what makes the final third, in which Tar’s just comeuppance is delivered to by an equally ugly form of groupthink, so incredible. Field’s indictment of “cancel culture” doesn’t spare the accused or her persecutors, and it’s an immensely complex film kept above water by Field’s expert direction and a genuinely brilliant performance by Blanchett. But those last five minutes are transcendent, a farcical statement for the ages that is essentially a Rorschach test for one’s opinions of modern culture but, importantly, is still capable of making anyone, no matter their opinion, double over with laughter.
From my review: “But that’s where Miller’s other talents come in. Elba and Swinton are a perfect pairing, and their energies are delightfully complementary in a way that elevates Miller’s already hyper-competent screenplay, which he co-wrote with Augusta Gore (it’s also lovely to see Swinton in a straight-man role, confronted by the oddities of the universe, much like she was in Memoria). There’s such a deep wellspring of emotion that the pairs – the cast and the writers – are able to tap into, and we’re all lucky enough to be able to drink from it, being the kind of rich refreshment that seems to elude so many similar works. Why they fail and why Miller succeeds seems to boil down to a single reason: They don’t mean what they say, and he always does. His tempered earnestness – be it focused on love, the power of storytelling, or in the propulsive and pounding nature of cinema itself, wielded as a blunt instrument to remind viewers that they have working and functional hearts that can still set off Apple Watch heart-rate alerts in the middle of movies – is in desperately short supply, and even if it were abundant, you’d find few other filmmakers able to execute it with the same level of joyous precision and wonder present in a film like Three Thousand Years of Longing. If Miller should choose (and if it’s not a sacrifice on his part or a concession) to make a dozen more Mad Max movies in his short time left on this planet so that he may find funding for ecstatically dreamy projects like this – and it’s an underrated power move to go ahead and sign on to a film like Furiosa knowing that you’ve got this chambered, waiting to splatter audiences’ expectations all across the walls – and then all moviegoers should thank their lucky fucking stars. We genuinely do not deserve his talents, and it’s amazing that we ever got the chance to witness them. After all, he could have just remained in medicine.”
From my review: “But, appropriately, Top Gun: Maverick is a romantic film. I don’t mean in the sense that you’ll hear Berlin once again belting out ‘Take My Breath Away’, but it is a fundamentally vibrant and exciting film in the way that Scott intended the original to be. Scott was underrated as a poet of cool in his time: he was an emotional filmmaker, though he spoke his feelings in a less-than-obvious way but was the only way he knew how, through the glimmer of light reflecting off of water, through the haze of smoke emerging from a firing jet engine, from the motion of flight deck crews guiding their pilots off of an aircraft carrier. He was in love with the beauty found in mundane images and excelled at pulling it out so that we all could see what he did. Kosinski shares a similar ethos, and he tries to remind us, in an era where we’re all convinced how much we fucking suck and how failed we are, to recognize the beauty in achievement, in motion, in applied skill, and in the things that we generally just take for granted in the background as we watch the talented express themselves. There is a joy that brings Maverick back to his cockpit, and likewise, there is a joy that brings us all back to the theater each week so that we can potentially see craft at its finest, to live for just a second on the cutting edge in the danger zone. Flight, art, life itself: These are the treasures we take for granted, and what men like Scott and Kosinski and even Cruise do is present them to us in the clearest and most beautiful way possible. ‘A lonely impulse of delight’ is how Yeats put the yearning of his Irish Airman for the skies, even as he is doomed to his fate, and if that isn’t an amazing descriptor for all three of those things, I don’t know what is.”

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