Movies I Loved in 2022

It is the month of Top 10 Lists. I’ve submitted a few to different sites. And … each list is slightly different. Because I’m not a list person and I don’t rank things and I really don’t like to argue about lists. I look at lists this way: they are a road-map, and a detailed one. The map doesn’t just show the freeways, but every lane and path and small county road. I use other people’s lists as a way to go, “Oh wow, I guess I should check that out.” When I saw that so many critics put Paddington 2 on their Best of 2018 lists, I was like, “Jesus, I haven’t even seen it.” (Many people stop there. “Why do so many critics have movies I HAVEN’T EVEN HEARD OF LET ALONE SEEN on their lists?? Fuck them! What about MY PERSONAL FAVORITE?” But that’s no fun! They’re providing their own personal road map, showing you the little country lanes THEY have discovered when wandering around. So why not check it out?) I hadn’t seen Paddington 2, never gave it a single thought, but then there it was, showing up on so many people’s lists, so I went and saw it immediately. And I fell so in love with it I had to re-arrange my own Top 10 to include it. I love it when that happens! And so, when I submit a Top 10 for one site, I’ll toss together a list. If I’m asked to put together a list for another site, I’ll subtract a couple titles to include some titles I couldn’t include on the OTHER list. Like I said, I’m not big on LISTS, at least not in terms of considering them etched in stone like the 10 Commandments. I like to think of it more like … Here are the movies I loved this year, and there are definitely some movies that made it to the Top of my list and never left, that’s for sure – not EVERYthing is in flux – but the rest is up for grabs. How can I choose between, say, Holy Spider and All the Beauty and the Bloodshed? How can I say one is BETTER than the other? I refuse! Also, I am still catching up. There are a couple of titles I still need to see because I missed the press screenings for this that and the other thing.

So. Here are some of the movies I loved this year. This is un-ranked although the first five haven’t really changed since I first put them on there.

List after the jump.

 
 

2022 Movies, starting with a Loose Top 10

Elvis

dir. Baz Luhrmann

Summer of 2022 was the summer of the Elvis movie. It was playing in two theatres right near my place (one theatre in walking distance) so I saw it again and again. I haven’t done that in years, and certainly never to this degree. It fed something in me, and also it was wild how long it was in the theatres. From June until September. It beat Top Gun: Maverick at the box office. (I don’t think in total, but for one week it did. Extraordinary.) I also felt like it needed to be seen on a large screen, and … once it left the big screen, when would it ever show up there again, except for special events? I wasn’t asked to review it. And I sent out pitches and no one responded. I have been writing about Elvis non-stop for over 10 years. I have written about him here, there, and everywhere. Wouldn’t it make sense to have “the Elvis girl” – as one critic called me, to my face, when he met me for the first time – lol – to weigh in? Wouldn’t that add some value to the perspective on this film? What the fuck am I even doing here? This brought on a (very small) existential crisis and made me question my participation in this racket and also to double-down on my own goals in re: Elvis. The only way to do what I want to do is to … do what I want to do. I know. Rocket science. The movie is divisive, blah blah blah, most great movies are. Baz Luhrmann poured everything he had into this one, and … he drives people crazy, yes, but … it’s like Jackson Pollock or Mondrian or pick your poison … artists with a strong personal style, a style many find alienating. That personal style comes from their own personal taste and their inclinations – mysterious, alchemical – as an artist. They try to put down what they see and how they see. They make things the way they make them because they like to do it that way. That way makes sense to them. And, in a lot of ways, what they are criticized for is that which makes them unique, and themselves. To require them to do something else in order to “fit in” with what you think is “appropriate” storytelling is … an opinion coming from dummy-dumb land. From the land of bossy mediocrity. You may not LIKE their style and expression but that doesn’t mean it’s BAD. This attitude – common in critical circles – is a trap, one I have fallen into myself. Try to see what a movie is doing, how it’s doing it, and then weigh in on how successfully it does what IT wants to do, not how it fails to do what YOU think it should do. Because who the hell are YOU. Clearly I feel strongly about this. I think my feelings might come from my years at the Actors Studio where, at acting sessions, after an actor works in class – the first question asked by the moderator is: “What were you working on?” The actor answers. It could be something small like “I was working on being in a heat wave.” Or something big like “I was working on the moment before.” Actor talk. If you know, you know. Ideally, the comments and critiques should all be focused on what the actor was working on and whether or not they achieved it. Not: “It would have been better if you had played it like THIS” or “WHY were you working on THAT? Wouldn’t it be more interesting if you worked on THIS TOTALLY OTHER THING?” Comments like that are shut down at the Actors Studio and it’s just been drilled into me, through repetition, that it’s best to figure out what someone is working on, focus on that, and then say whether or not they achieved it. I’ve carried this habit into my writing work. It helps me to be open to films not made “for” me. I get that not everyone feels like I do on this score – and that’s FINE – but it’s equally FINE that I approach things this way. The Elvis movie succeeded in doing what Baz Luhrmann set out to do, in every single important way. I guess it’s valid to mention that despite my appreciation of Baz – and my “defense” of him – I went into Elvis with my arms crossed, annoyed and resistant. I don’t like biopics, and I am very suspicious of Elvis biopics. I was annoyed from the moment I heard who he cast as Elvis. THAT guy? That scrawny guy from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood? Yes, he was very good (how on earth did he make Tex freakin’ Watson funny, ridiculous, pathetic?), but I thought: Oh HELL no. I was being close-minded, judging before the fact, something I dislike in others. lol. But Baz wove a spell. And Austin Butler blew me away, even though he doesn’t look anything like Elvis. But he grokked the lonely inchoate SOMETHING inside of Elvis that drove him. And that’s the most important thing to “get” about Elvis. The rest is just prosthetics. It’s a profound performance. So I give credit where credit is due. People might think the Elvis movie would be a “soft sell” for someone like me. Or that I am inherently biased in its direction. Wrong. It’s the opposite. I like ELVIS, I don’t like interpretations OF Elvis, and watching actors play the role who don’t come close to the magic of the Real Thing is legitimately painful for me. It’s unpleasant. Frankly, I’d rather just NOT. Baz’s movie, of course, is only an approximation of the Real Thing – but it’s infused with passion and it’s focused on what I consider to be the right things. It is an act of redress, and a serious work of contextualization – placing him in a larger context, where he needs to be – you don’t GET Elvis if you don’t get the context. Context is missing from the majority of biopics. Most focus on personal foibles, flaws, addictions, etc. Those things are deemed more “dramatic” but they aren’t. They’re banal. Everyone has personal foibles, flaws, addictions, but why we are WATCHING the movie is because of what this person did with their ART. And what is THAT about? This is very very hard to do, particularly with someone like Elvis, whose posthumous fame is not really about his art. I watch the kids on YouTube discover Elvis after seeing Baz’s movie, and many of them are shocked at how well Elvis sings. They can’t believe it. They never knew. This is a disgrace (not the kids’ fault! It’s the culture’s fault for not passing down information about its treasures). So that’s an exciting development. Critics might not care but I care deeply about the kids, and their teary-eyed awe at watching the Real Thing in action. They suddenly understand that Austin Butler – as good as he was – was just a shadow, an echo, of the Real Thing. And their minds are forever blown. That’s what matters and that’s what Elvis has done. It’s huge. And it’s about fucking time. Why do you think I’ve been writing about him for a decade-plus?

Now that we’ve gotten THAT out of the way:

No Bears

dir. Jafar Panahi

What is happening to Jafar Panahi (and the other filmmakers, artists, rappers, actors) is the most important thing going on in the film world right now. Artists everywhere should be rising up in support. Panahi is one of my favorite living directors, and my heart is broken. I don’t even want to say this out loud but we are in very perilous times: No Bears may very well be his last film. It ends with Panahi, rolled to a stop in his car. He pulls up on the emergency brake. The screen cuts to black. The movie is over. As much as I wish Panahi had been allowed to make the art he wanted to make in the way he wanted to make it, as opposed to being hounded and imprisoned and oppressed for two decades now … the films he has made post-ban (he was banned from making films in 2010. He has made five since that ban) are a priceless body of work, a clarion call for artistic freedom and self-expression. Every time he works he faces danger, life-and-death danger. No Bears is a film rich in symbolism and metaphor: every single moment (pulling up on the emergency brake) contains wider implications. It’s one of his best. It is a devastating piece of work. He is now in prison. He manages to smuggle out messages. We at the NYFCC have given him a special award, to be presented at our upcoming awards show dinner in January. I will be writing the essay included in the booklet/program. It’s shattering what has happened. I am glad we are paying tribute but at the same time I hate that we have to. I hate that we can’t just give No Bears an award, and Panahi could attend our ceremony, like every other artist.

Dinner in America

dir. Adam Rehmeier

I reviewed this one, and then kept re-visiting it and writing about it again. This doesn’t happen a lot, to put it mildly. I see lots of movies, and many are great, and many are on this list. Many I probably won’t watch again though. Too much else to see. But sometimes you see a movie and you know it’s going in your Lexicon of what I call Beloved Movies, not just Good Movies. Movies to re-visit again and again. Forever movies. Here are some of mine. Blue Crush. What’s Up, Doc? Manhattan Murder Mystery. The More the Merrier. Zodiac. Spotlight. Something New. Offside. Pierrot le Fou. Klute. Used Cars. Eclectic doesn’t even cover it. But watching these movies, 20, 30 times, becomes a kind of comfort. You never know what’s going to “hit”. And Dinner in America hit.

Aftersun

dir. Charlotte Wells

I reviewed for Ebert. This one had been on my radar for almost a year before I actually saw it, due to the awards it was receiving at festivals. Sometimes those festival faves show up and I think, “I guess the raves were due to the Festival Glow because … I don’t see what’s going on with this at ALL.” But this one deserves the accolades. It’s uniquely itself. I can’t ask for more from a work of art than that. The expectations you might have are … incorrect. Let go. This is a beautiful movie and made me think so much of my father my heart exploded. I wrote about it in the review. I also mention a photo of me and my father. Here it is:

EO

dir. Jerzy Skolimowski

An un-categorizable movie, almost unbearably moving, terrifying, tender, about a donkey named (?) EO, who drifts through the human world, being placed in situation after situation, some kind, some cruel. Told as closely as possible from EO’s often-uncomprehending POV, or as close as we can get to getting into the mind of an animal. One “reads things” into his soft furry gentle face, his dark eyes. How does he make sense of things? What is he thinking? What fools these mortals be. What monsters, too. So pleased we awarded this Best International Feature. I am looking forward to meeting Skolimowski, one of the “perks” of NYFCC membership.

Corsage

dir. Marie Kreutzer

A “biopic” (with quirks) of Empress Elisabeth of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, a controversial figure, as most empresses are, trapped in a situation beyond her control, in an empire quickly fracturing, even back in the 1880s: all the signs were on the wall. With Vicki Krieps as Elisabeth, an accomplished equestrienne, maybe anorexic? at least obsessed with her weight and with staying young, trapped in a stifling world of empty ritual, surrounded by large forces she could have no impact on, she could only be a victim OF. The ending is fascinating. The real Elisabeth was assassinated on a boardwalk, stabbed to death. !! Here, it plays out a little differently, and I am still thinking about it. Playing hard and fast with the facts? I don’t think so. I think it’s a meditation on her state of mind. Besides, the contemporary music – like the Rolling Stones – except tricked out into what sound like folk songs and/or court music – should give you a clue that Kreutzer is after something other than strict adherence to reality. Gorgeously shot, all those creaking heavy doors, and chilly dawns. It’s riveting. Not stately or solemn. It jangles around, all nerves, all action and impulse. This one opens in the US on December 23, so don’t feel bad that you haven’t seen it yet. Just keep it on your radar. I’m in love with it.

Jackass Forever

dir. Jeff Tremaine

I’ve said it before, and I’ve said it again, the Jackass trilogy (although now quartet) helped me get through the wretched year of 2020. I watched and roared with laughter, alone in my apartment, laughing so hard tears streamed down my face, and I legit almost pissed my pants once. Not exaggerating. Johnny Knoxville trying out his “rocket skates”. I lost it and my GOD I needed to lose it. Catharsis doesn’t come along every day. There are deep things to say about Jackass, and many have said it better than I ever could. Deep things about mortality, physicality, ritual, but most of all, friendship. It’s the friendship that elevates this thing, the SUPPORT they all give each other as they do these ridiculously dangerous and gross things. These movies provide something nothing else does, and honestly to get into it requires an essay of no less than 3,000 words. Consent is a big one. A hot topic of the day, yes? Well, watch Jackass, because consent is BAKED INTO this thing. There’s even an explicit moment about consent in Jackass Forever, between Chris Pontius and newbie Rachel Woflson – the first woman Jackass – and … despite the hilarity, or maybe beCAUSE of the hilarity, I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s what consent looks like. And it comes so naturally to Pontius. There’s no resentment. It’s authentic. Jackass to me is a Utopia. But it’s real.

Benediction

dir. Terrence Davies

A devastating fascinating film about poet Siegfried Sassoon, and his experiences through World War I, and on into the 20s, when he circulated in the Bright Young Thing milieu of post-war London, where he intersected with everyone, Robbie Ross (of Oscar Wilde fame), and Stephen Tennant, and Edith Sitwell, not to mention his brief friendship with Wilfred Owen, when they were both sent to a “sanitarium” in the middle of WWI, Wilfred Owen because of shell-shock, and Sassoon because of the pacifist manifesto he had written and circulated, protesting the conduct of the war. Sassoon was the older man but he encouraged Wilfred Owen in his own literary pursuits, and of course Owen had a brief spurt of creativity before he was killed in battle a week before the war ended. Anyway, I already love all these people, and have read all their work, so to watch the story unfold – directed by a master like Terrence Davies – the master of quiet repression – all that passion and sexuality underneath a cultural glacier – was a deep pleasure. It’s devastating, and the devastation sneaks up on you. That generation – the generation of men who fought in WWI – the horrors they carried around, the horrors of what they had seen … the breaking apart of certainties of stability … and if they were lucky enough to make it to old age, like Sassoon was, to find themselves wanderers in a world that almost forgot them. Not to mention the whole sexuality aspect: to have lived in a time of such repression, but also such self-expression – the London world of gay boys and gay men – frankly acknowledged, and yet still haunted by the specter of Oscar Wilde’s fate … it’s fucking tragic. Jack Lowden is amazing as Sassoon, but everyone’s great.

RRR

dir. S. S. Rajamouli

I can’t tell you how exciting it is that we (NYFCC) gave Rajamouli Best Director. There were other contenders, and strong ones – just look at the films this year – but … honestly, once you’ve seen RRR there’s no way you could be unhappy with the choice. The film is bonkers, a 3-hour-long epic adventure extravaganza, complete with dance numbers, all powered by real emotion. It doesn’t feel three hours long. Not for one second are you allowed to wander off. Nothing drags. There are so many action sequences and chase sequences, incredible feats of physical courage – being chased by tigers, by the entire British army, whatever – exploding trains, exploding fortresses and armories, wailing children, brave starry-eyed women – a bromance to end all bromances – this may be the Platonic Ideal of a “bromance” – not to mention blazing patriotism (which Rajamouli has gotten some shit for, understandable) – it has a lot in common with Top Gun in that respect. Jingoistic doesn’t even cover it. Saving a child in peril while waving a gigantic flag. I mean, this literally happens. HOWEVER, it is difficult to complain when an entire menagerie of roaring Big Cats are loosed upon a fancy-schmancy British barracks party – Exhibit A:

… and/or a man armed only with a bow and arrow takes down British soldier after British soldier or or or … there are so many incredible sequences. Plus that DANCE NUMBER. All brought about because a snooty English man says “What do you savages know about DANCE? Can you dance the FLAMENCO?” Well, let the BROMANCE-BROS show you why you’re wrong, and watch all the WHITE WOMEN swoon in lust for their virility, and who’s got the last laugh now?

One of the things I kept thinking as I reveled in RRR was its 100% total lack of irony. It’s wild to watch something totally without irony. It requires an attitude adjustment.

Moonage Daydream

dir. Brett Morgen

A film I was anticipating for months. Similar to Todd Haynes’ wonderful Vevet Underground, a documentary that “mimicked” the style of the time, the music, the feel, the atmosphere (now out on Criterion, by the way) … Moonage Daydream is a COLLAGE, phantasmagorical, weaving together live footage of Bowie onstage through the years, or in interviews, through every stage of his career, with other images, cartoons, graphics, solar systems moving, dots on the screen, newsreel footage … all accompanied by Bowie’s songs, his voice, spoken or singing, his fascinating slippery answers to questions about his sexuality (at the beginning) and his artistry, the DANGER of him, the “What on earth is he DOING and is it HARMFUL??” response he got, as he slowly sashayed his way into the mainstream, an undeniable force of art and thought and creativity. Boundless creativity. Born on January 8. Like someone else we know. In one of the clips, he says something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about: “I’ve had an incredible life. It’s been amazing. I’d love to do it again.”

Saint Omer

dir. Alice Diop

A riveting film, and the first narrative feature from Alice Diop. Diop comes from documentary and she uses her rigorous documentary background to craft this based-on-a-true-story tale, about a Senegalese immigrant woman (played by Kayije Kagame) who killed her child, for reasons the woman doesn’t really understand. Her reasoning has to do with curses, and shame, and isolation. There was a trial, and in real life Alice Diop attended the trial, which – clearly – brought up all kinds of personal things for her. The experience of being an immigrant, the language barrier, the feeling of exile and separation … The woman on trial lived a life of lies. In the film, she says she’s a student, even though she wasn’t enrolled, didn’t get a degree. Did she actually go to school? Did she actually focus on the work of Heidegger (an interesting choice, if true, considering Heidegger’s focus on language and silence, something that seems to have relevance in this story of failed communication, of cultural barriers and incomprehension). I do not know if Saint Omer used the actual trial transcripts. It wouldn’t surprise me if Diop crafted her script from extant documents. The majority of the film, 95% of it, takes place in the courtroom, as the defendant is questioned by the judge, the defense team, the prosecutor. The acting is stunning: almost bare bones, nothing “added”, nothing “performance”-y. Again, the commitment to documentary realism. There is an expansion at the end (although the seeds of it are present from the start). The Diop-stand-in (played by Guslagie Malanga) is unsettled by the trial. She’s married, pregnant, and an academic, with a successful lecturing career. She has “integrated” into French society. She is The Goal. Her life is what – seemingly – the woman in the dock wants, and yet can’t have. Maybe. There’s a dissolution of boundaries that occurs, and the ending packs an enormous punch. I was shaken by Saint Omer, and it really should be a Top 10-er. This is why I don’t like lists. One of the films of the year. Unlike anything else. Personal. An experimental intuitive style, and yet cold and clear as ice. This is actually opening in the US in January 2023, so I don’t know if it counts.

Both Sides of the Blade

dir. Claire Denis

The pleasures of watching great actors – Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon – work together, creating first a sense of contentment and love, before deteriorating into conflict, chaos, and loss. It’s intense. You watch these two people fall apart, after the inciting event of Binoche having a chance encounter with an old love. This encounter undoes her, and destroys her happy relationship. Lindon is phenomenal. (See Titane for more evidence). I reviewed this one for Ebert.

Funny Pages

dir. Owen Kline

This one stayed with me, more than I expected. Directed by Owen Kline – a cinephile, which shows – and the son of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates – Funny Pages doggedly resists the easy coming-of-age tropes and instead crafts an unforgettable story with grim tones, and even grimmer settings. Including one of my favorite final shots of the year. The film goes the distance. It sticks to its guns. It doesn’t cop out. And God, I appreciate that. I reviewed for Ebert.

Kimi

dir. Steven Soderbergh

On HBO Max. I complain a lot about movies that try to comment on How We Live Now, and do so in a ponderous obvious way. Movies like that will date by next week. Witness history. So many “relevant” movies win Oscars and then future generations look back and think, “That? THAT won?” (Not that Oscars matter. They don’t.) But sometimes movies about How We Live Now actually CAPTURE How We Live Now, in a way that transcends the present moment, but will also act as a time capsule for future generations. Oh. Okay. That’s what it was like THEN. Filmmaking that has some energy, some creativity, some propulsion and OOMPH. Often genre films carry “messages” better than straight message films. Horror films really travel. Horror films have anxieties baked into them. So do erotic thrillers. Melodramas, too! The “women’s pictures” of the 30s/40s are way more important cultural “documents” than films that strained to “comment on” the situations facing the world at that moment. You get my drift. So Kimi is a thriller, about an agoraphobic woman (Zoe Kravitz, in a great performance) – alREADY struggling with psychological issues when the pandemic hit. The pandemic made her double down into her neuroses (the same thing happened to me, to a lot of people I know). In the world of Kimi, there’s an Alexa-like device called “Kimi”, and Zoe Kravitz works as a coder for the company, correcting mistakes in Kimi’s responses, adding to the algorithim in the hopes to improve user experience. The agoraphobic woman overhears a horrifying crime being committed on one of the streams. She realizes she must do something. But what? Especially when she can no longer go outside. Kimi is a nervewracking thriller, catapulting along at a breakneck pace, and … Manohla Dargis wrote in her review that she felt so “seen” by Kimi and I totally co-sign. It’s fantastic.

All The Beauty And The Bloodshed

dir. Laura Poitras

There were some amazing documentaries this year, many of which are listed here, but this one … this one … First of all, it feels so CURRENT but it also feels long overdue. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras, it is both a portrait of photographer Nan Goldin, her life, her times, her work … and also a detailed look at her current quest, i.e. mission, to reveal the Sackler family’s responsibility for the opioid crisis. If you’ve heard about it, which I am sure you have, much of that has to do with Nan Goldin’s activism, the shape of which was inspired by her involvement in the Act Up protests in the 1980s. Very very effective non-violent protests, burning with symbolism and maximum societal impact. Real impact. Museums around the world – the huge ones – have not only (finally) refused donations from the Sackler family, AND buckled under the massive pressure and removed the Sackler name from galleries, specific wings, etc. It would be great to see this or that Sackler led off in handcuffs, but in lieu of that … Goldin’s activism (created with her group P.A.I.N.) has had world-changing impact, and makes it impossible for the Sackler family to hide behind philanthrophy, to hide, in general. Some of the Sacklers has found the high-society-world they circulate in suddenly totally un-welcoming to them. They have been shunned. Good. Goldin’s work is important and also has had such an impact because of her celebrated position in the art world. She and her group at first targeted museums that have permanent Nan Goldin collections. And so Nan Goldin was taking a huge personal risk. This had symbolic importance. Anyway, there’s so much information here: the entire documentary could have focused just on the mission to take down the Sacklers. Instead, it’s an amazing three-dimensional portrait of a major American artist. Very exciting that we (NYFCC) awarded it Best Non-Fiction film.

Emily the Criminal

dir. John Patton Ford

Again: one of those rare successful How We Live Now films, without the self-conscious “message”-y aspect so common in How We Live Now films (like, say, She Said). I reviewed for Ebert. For me, Aubrey Plaza’s is the best performance of the year by a woman. This movie never stops for a moment and is both a character study and a break-down of how credit card fraud works, not to mention an indictment of the current economic situation of so many: saddled with debt they can never pay back, trying to “make it” in a rigged system. Great film.

Holy Spider

dir. Ali Abbasi

This should be in the Top 10, but whatevs, had to make tough choices. Based on a true story of a serial killer who killed prostitutes in the holy city Mashad in Iran in the early 2000s, Holy Spider is a disturbing film, often gripping, with chilling scenes of the underworld of prostitutes and drug use and criminality, hovering on the outskirts of that so-called “holy city” full of pilgrims. Rahimi (Zar Amir Ebrahimi), a journalist, travels from Tehran to report on the crimes, and ends up starting her own investigation, since she gets nowhere interviewing the police and the smug mullash, fingering their beads, smiling benignly. It is clear these men have no interest in really going after this killer, because they approve of what he’s doing. He’s cleaning up the streets. The women killed – in horrific ways – are seem as less than human. Rahimi finds herself under threat and suspicion, with men who encroach her boundaries, don’t take her seriously. Holy Spider doesn’t just stick with Rahimi’s investigation. It also follows the killer, a family man named Saeed (Mehdi Bajestani), convinced he is cleansing the holy city: he feels totally justified in what he is doing. His pious wife and devoted son have no idea of his monstrous double life. The acting is superb. This is a very frightening film.

The Fabelmans

dir. Steven Spielberg

I’ve seen The Fabelmans twice now: once by myself on a small screen, and once with Allison on the big screen, and I found it overwhelming both times. This is one of his best. It is his attempt to imagine himself back into his childhood (a potent landscape for him, obvi), not just his own experience, but what his parents were going through. The film is not called Sam Fabelman, it’s called The Fabelmans for a reason. Paul Dano, Michelle Williams, and Seth Rogen, as the primary trio of adults, are all excellent, and heartbreaking – each of them for different ways. The children are amazing: Spielberg has a gift working with children. The film is not a straight narrative, it goes this way, and then that way: high school romance, mother’s prolonged grief at the death of her own mother, the films Sam loves, the birth of himself as a film-maker – all of which are based on Spielberg’s own experiences. David Lynch’s cameo – if you haven’t heard about it, try to avoid spoilers – is unforgettable.

What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?

dir. Alexandre Koberidze

This one had a permanent spot on my Top 10 for months – and will be included on some of my various top 10s on different sites – because it must be celebrated. One of my favorites of the year. An innovative and emotional film from Georgia (the country, not the state) director Alexandre Koberidze tells a magical-realism-style story of two people who meet by chance on the streets of Tbilisi, and feel an instant connection. They arrange to meet for coffee the next day. Both of them wake up the following morning and discover something unexplainable and horrible in its implications for the potential of romance: they have woken up not themselves. They no longer look like themselves. They are different people on the outside, although inside they remain the same. Neither knows that the same thing has happened to someone else. And so … they can’t find each other, since they are looking for someone who no longer looks the way they looked. Fascinating. It’s a film about loneliness, of missing someone you’ve barely met, of lost potential, of the yearning for connection: Can they find each other? Even against these weird magical odds? God, I loved this film. Gorgeously shot, too.

Strawberry Mansion

dir. Albert Birney, Kentucker Audley

Kentucker Audley is such an interesting artist: a filmmaker, writer, actor: He is always on my radar. (I wrote about him here.) He comes out of the thriving micro-budget filmmaking world of Memphis, Tennessee. He starred in one of my favorite movies of the last ten years, Christmas Again (I now watch it every holiday season). I reviewed for Ebert. It’s magical and melancholy and tender. His latest, co-directed with regular collaborator Albert Binney, Strawberry Mansion could be called “whimsical” and it is, but it isn’t “twee” or “cute” or any other diminutive adjective. It’s really about something, but it’s also innovative visually, off-the-rails sometimes in beautiful ways, following flights of fancy in an Alice in Wonderland sort of way, and is a story of two people connecting across the space-time continuum, in a strange dystopia where dreams – literal dreams – are monetized. There’s some Eternal Sunshine in the mix: how to maintain your mind, your subconscious, as your own. For me, this was one of the best of the year. I reviewed for Ebert.

Nanny

dir. Nikyatu Jusu

What a great film. Steeped in folklore and mystery, suffused with a feeling of un-nameable dread, fear, terror, with frightening forces massed up against our lead character, Nanny is the story of a Senegalese immigrant to the United States, who has nabbed a plum job as a nanny for a rich couple. Immersed in the chilly world of the rich (although they are not so rich as their apartment suggests: there’s lots of money worries), Aisha (Anna Diop: great) misses her 5-year-old son, still in Senegal although slated to arrive in time for his birthday. Every penny she saves is for plane tickets. The money worries of the couple she works for impacts her life, her future, the life of her son. They won’t pay her on time. They take advantage. They are kindly (the husband, in particular, who considers himself “educated” on the troubles in African countries through his work as a photojournalist), but there’s a power imbalance. The real triumph of Nanny is its style: watery images dominate, and figures from African folklore – Anansi and others – start to rise up into Aisha’s life, creating a phantasmagorical emotional landscape where she sometimes doesn’t know what is real and what isn’t. Jusu has made explicit the roilings of the unconscious, of the deeply buried myths and stories that make up Aisha’s emotional world, a world she barely has time to acknowledge because of her worries and the time constraints of her new job. This is a powerful film, and redemptive, even with all the pain. A new romance with the security guard in her employer’s apartment (Sinqua Walls), is sensitively drawn and portrayed. These are people with miles on them. Romance is different under those circumstances. They walk around with pain, although they are both survivors. This is a great film.

The Cathedral

dir. Ricky D’Ambrose

What a fascinating movie, fascinating in D’Ambrose’s almost rigid and highly controlled style: one of the most distinctive things about it. This is a personal autobiographical film about the break-up of his parents’ marriage, and the relationship with his volatile father (a superb Brian D’Arcy James). It’s painful but in a sneaky way, particularly because the style of the film is so cold and distant: no close-ups (at least not of faces), no thrusting you into the middle of the conflict. The film is told from the POV of the child, who absorbs his parents’ stress, who feels the conflict, who makes himself small to stay safe, who withdraws into a world of art as a way to cope. I found the film so frustrating and upsetting because the focus is so much on the parents, I wanted at least ONE adult to pay attention to the child, to see how the child was bearing up under his parents’ situation. These are narcissistic grudge-holding adults. They want to be right, each one feels they are always right. They are willing to sacrifice a child’s innocence, a child they supposedly love. Keeping the style going had to be very difficult. Similar to Joanna Hogg’s films, D’Ambrose resists highlighting big catharsis stylistically – and so when explosions come, and of course they do, they are even more frightening because they really do seem to erupt from out of nowhere (this is especially true since the POV is a child’s). The Cathedral has gotten a lot of attention and rightly so. It’s exciting to see a film so confident in its uningratiating style, its commitment to a certain amount of distance. I reviewed for Ebert.

Resurrection

dir. Andrew Semans

God, Rebecca Hall is good. She is giving phenomenal performance after phenomenal performance, and she is willing to go where other actresses fear to tread. She’s really in touch with the dark motivations, the ugliness that can drive us, the pettiness. Being liked is just not a factor for her. I’m so impressed. This performance deserves to be at the top of any list, and, in my opinion, she blows the favorite – Cate Blanchett in Tar – away. Rebecca Hall can make you deeply uncomfortable. Resurrection is, at times, almost unwatchable, and the details are twisted in the extreme. The ending was “divisive” (in a mild way), with some critics suggesting the movie went off the rails when … no. Where the film ended up going was where it needed to go: Semans went into that madness, and his actors followed. Resurrection holds the truth of its convictions. None of this would be possible without Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth, who embody this toxic emotionally volatile and deeply deeply SICK relationship as though they were born inside of it. This movie made me shiver. Still does.

Tar

dir. Todd Field

Strange, the movies that become flashpoints in some tired old culture wars. Tar, a long movie about a famous conductor, has somehow gotten the attention of … everyone with an axe to grind: those on the right, those on the left. (I always say: any time the far right and the far left – if you want to call them that – somehow meet up in agreement, albeit for different reasons – look out. Something stinks. You can see this in the book-censorship wars. The groups may want to censor things for different reasons, but they agree that some books are too dangerous or “problematic” for general readers. Run far away. Resist.) So first we have the wingnuts who see in this a confirmation of their belief that “cancel culture” is bad. And then we have the other side, who – well, one critic complained about “making her a lesbian”: couldn’t she just be a successful conductor triumphing in a male world? (Sure, if you want to make a boring bad movie.) There are those who agree she should be “canceled”, who then circulate the spliced-together clip used in the movie showing her offensive comments in lectures – and the people circulating it like “Look how bad this woman is, she deserves to be canceled” don’t seem to realize they are basically making the movie’s point. They’re not getting the irony. I don’t know, I don’t think Lydia is supposed to be “likable”. (Any time this criticism comes up I think of Tommy Lee Jones’ visit to my grad school and he was asked about playing Gary Gilmore, and how did he play an “unlikable” (understatement) character. He said, “You don’t need to like the character. You need to want to WATCH the character.” I feel that way about Lydia Tar. Or, Linda Tar.) I’m not sure the film can really TAKE all this commentary, it’s rather top-heavy. To me, it’s an interesting story about a woman falling apart, and reacting in a panicked way to a perceived threat. The psychological reality of facing what you have done, but also struggling with the feeling that losing EVERYTHING is … a tad unfair. I think it’s all quite real. Not quite as blown away by this as some others, but I think it’s a very good portrayal of the FEELING of being persecuted. That metronome in the cupboard!!

Three Minutes – A Lengthening

dir. Bianca Stigter

What a riveting film. Many of the films on my list approach “form” in innovative ways, ways that make you sit still, take notice. It forces you to see differently. You can’t be passive. The style forces involvement. The Cathedral is like that. The Nanny is like that. Many are like that. And this is just fascinating: three minutes of footage of a visit to a small Polish town in 1938 (the mere date should make you shiver), and a grandson’s attempt to put together the town, the people, what happened. There’s a lot of talk in the film, but it’s all in voiceover. The footage is made up only of those three minutes. But zooming in on different details, details that repeat, a style that forces you to focus on the trees, or the cobblestones, or the faces. Along with All the Beauty and the Bloodshed – oh and Moonage Daydream – (see? I don’t choose one) – this is one of THE documentaries of the year. Haunting. Everyone onscreen is dead. Many would be dead by the following year. But in those three minutes, all is peaceful. A lost world.

Decision to Leave

dir. Park Chan-wook

Park Chan-wook is a twisty-turny story-teller, utilizing a whole new level of “Gotcha” in his plot-twists and late-in-the-game reveals. You can never rest. Nothing is what it seems. Every situation is in flux, depending on your point of view. Nobody has the whole story. I have a soft spot for stories involving detectives going mad in their pursuit of a killer, obsessed, and perhaps vulnerable to the temptation of a femme fatale. Decision to Leave has all that.

Donbass

dir. Sergei Loznitsa

Donbass was filmed in 2018, I believe, but is just being released now. Filmed on the ground in Ukraine, as the Russian invasion progresses, Donbass is made up of a series of vignettes, showing different aspects of the “conflict” – the checkpoints, the corruption, the Russian separatists, the Ukrainian nationalists, the regular people huddling in shelters, the grotesque marriage scene, the horror, the cold, the danger. It’s often quite funny, in a grim kind of way, and it’s not absurd so much as a reflection of reality which can be totally absurd. You can tell it was filmed under great duress. The situation is now much more dire. The world is paying attention. The faces are what I really remember: those rough faces, hardened, with pain and history in every line. The wild look of despair in the face of the man giving the “tour” of the shelter. It tore at my heart.

Others, I’m tired of writing right now, but all these are worth seeing: Is That Black Enough for You?!?, dir. Elvis Mitchell; Triangle of Sadness, dir. Ruben Östlund; All That Breathes, dir. Shaunak Sen; Descendant, dir. Geoffrey Richman; After Yang, dir. Kogonada; Lady Chatterley’s Lover, dir. Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre; The Inspection, dir. Elegance Bratton; Deep Water, dir. Adrian Lyne; Argentina 1985, dir. Santiago Mitre

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30 Responses to Movies I Loved in 2022

  1. A mild dissent: the Academy Awards matter because they are a sometimes useful snapshot of what the culture thought at that moment. And sometimes the TV show is amusing. Are the Oscars important? They can be economically important, but as an aesthetic metric not so much.

    • sheila says:

      I agree! Another super important thing in re: the Oscars: it has historically determined what film is “deemed” important enough to preserve. But this is a double-edged sword because that means that non-Oscar-winners – often far superior to the Oscar winners – have fallen off the radar, and sometimes are just not available to be seen at all.

      and I love the broadcast! I grew up as an actor and still love the things about it that critics hate – I love the long emotional speeches, I love the fashion, I love the sense of community. I can’t stand recent developments like leaving the technical awards out of the broadcast (a practice they reversed after the outcry) – like, are we here to celebrate film or are we not??

      But in terms of Oscars determining actual WORTH – they clearly don’t. I sometimes hear critics say that the Oscars are “their” Super Bowl. It’s not mine. To me, the actual Super Bowl is the Super Bowl. I dislike the fights over the lists – which I talk about here – I mean, the Oscars get things wrong constantly – Cary Grant never won one – Judy Garland didn’t win for Star is Born – I mean … So, if you know that going in, it seems silly to assign so much importance to what’s nominated and what’s not. I get it, people want to see their faves on the list. I am so used to not seeing anything I truly love acknowledged – and seeing films I frankly think are pretty bad – win all the awards – that I do admit to being jaded.

      But I agree that there is importance – just not what they say in terms of worth, and it really bugs me when critics get sucked into that, considering the history of the Oscars. It’s not a sporting event where there’s a clear winner – even though a winner is announced blah blah.

  2. Scott Abraham says:

    There was a female Jackass member way in the beginning. But she broke her spine and pelvis doing a stunt and the show became a sausage fest after that.

    • sheila says:

      Oh yeah, that’s right!

      Sausage fest indeed. I could pick their penises out of a lineup I’ve seen them so often. And I’m not complaining.

  3. mutecypher says:

    I loved Moonage Daydream. I had not seen any of his early interviews, with the British press. What a challenge to both him and the interviewer that he came on dressed as he did and then gave thoughtful answers to every reasonable question. I imagine Brett Morgan chose mostly from the “good” ones, people who were genuinely curious rather than ugly and mocking.

    Part way through I flashed back to the Stewart Brand documentary. This was when David was talking about rockstars (who don’t really exist) as gods (who don’t really exist) feeling the same emptiness as regular people. David’s willingness to explore new things and stretch himself, leavened with metaphor and humility, really contrasted with Brand.

    After reading the Dan Kois piece you recommended to Shawn, I need to watch Tàr for a third time. That interpretation is so wild. I thought of Phantom Thread with the “tangible” vision of Reynold’s mother. But that didn’t somehow make it a ghost movie. But here, with Kois… will that make Tàr a ghost movie? I’ll watch again in a few days.

    This seemed like a very good year for movies, to me. Looking forward to Corsage when it comes out.

    • sheila says:

      Mutecypher – yes, I loved all the archival footage in Moonage Daydream – and you’re right, those early talk show interviews where nobody knows what to make of this man in a glittery jumpsuit wearing makeup. “Are you bisexual?” like: what is going on and WHAT ARE YOU UP TO? He’s so … slippery in his answers – slippery and yet totally clear too. Later in life, it was fascinating to hear him talk about the “characters” he created – maybe because he was shy, or he needed that barrier in order to express what he wanted to express.

      I imagine that at some level it’s all still a mystery. He did what he did because he wanted to do it and it made sense to him. He really was otherworldly – not quite “one of us”.

    • sheila says:

      // David’s willingness to explore new things and stretch himself, leavened with metaphor and humility, really contrasted with Brand. //

      that’s really interesting! Yes – humility. and … the bravery to walk away when whatever it is wasn’t serving him anymore. He needed to replenish, to re-think what he was doing.

      And the doc made me fully realize just how WILD it was that David Bowie would come back in the 80s and take over the world – filling stadiums – and … nobody could have predicted that from the 70s. Not that he wasn’t a star – he was – but going mainstream – going THAT mainstream – is quite an unexpected development. I totally took him for granted during that period – I was in high school – I wasn’t ignorant of the Stardust days – I knew his early stuff – I just completely accepted that he had been around forever, and now he was on par with Tina Turner and Prince, in terms of radio hits and visibility – I didn’t even question it!

    • sheila says:

      I think Tar is definitely a ghost movie. The more I think about it. and maybe the ghost is Linda. Her true origins and background which she has suppressed for whatever reason. We were talking on FB about how the internet/social media has made it nigh on possible for people to hide their origins. You can’t really “get away” with it now. Because SOMEone from your past will reveal you. But then again … Rachel Dolezal got away with it for quite a long time. I know in my heart that if I became famous – and basically made up a past – many many people would call me out on my lies or fabulism. also my friends would all text me saying “WTF”. So maybe the key is that someone like Lydia was so totally isolated and focused – she didn’t HAVE friends who would call her out – and obviously her family wasn’t all that concerned either. The scene with the brother! I loved the casual-ness of the reveal of that. The brother so did not care that Linda was out there pretending to be Lydia. He truly didn’t give a damn. It was wild.

      But the past is a ghost. You can’t escape it. again the metronome in the cupboard!!

  4. Russel Prout says:

    It’s somehow relieving to read how you felt about not reviewing Elvis. The very same moment I became aware of the film’s existence, I needed to read your review of it. Yours was in fact the only review of it that I wanted to read. When I saw it being reviewed by other people, I was totally confused. In an increasingly crazy world, this was yet another nonsense to contend with. We were robbed. I’m glad at least to know what you think of it. I’m not even into Elvis! But you got me interested.

    • sheila says:

      Russel – I am really touched by your comment. Thank you so much. I heard from so many people at the time of its release – who said similar things – and it was all very meaningful for me to hear, especially since I have spent so much time (willingly! happily!) “making a case” for the re-assessment of Elvis – critically – particularly in regard to his movie career (which Baz L pretty much skips – so he’s “guilty” of ignoring that whole decade too) – but anyway, I don’t own Elvis as a subject, obviously, but in the small world of critics … I am known for focusing on this subject. So. It was weird to not even be asked to write about it – but ultimately I concluded: Fuck THEM. Not even worth my time being upset about. My Elvis writing is my OWN and if this racket somehow doesn’t value what I am doing – when so many others do – then … they can go fuck themselves, lol.

      Anyway, I do appreciate you sharing your thoughts about this! Especially since you’re not really into Elvis!! I have written a ton about the movie – but it’s become rather unmanageably long and so I’m going to turn it into something else and that’s what I’ve been working on. and so now I’m glad I didn’t “give it away” to some site that doesn’t even value what I do.

      Thanks again!

      • Russel Prout says:

        Thanks so much for your reply. I was interested in a disheartened way to read your reply to the poster below too, and I share his anger. I completely agree that it’s not for you to get upset about and that they absolutely should go fuck themsleves. But I read a quote somewhere along the lines of how the intelligent will be silenced so as to not offend the ignorant and it seems in that ball park to me. Mediocrity shunning excellence. I abhor it. Culturally and geographically, the Elvis phenomenon was something that happened to other people for me, so someone who can enlighten me on a familiar but not-understood topic (as you do for me on so many topics, as well as opening up whole new worlds) is of rare and enormous value. Thanks so much for all your work. I can’t wait to read your Elvis piece!

        • sheila says:

          // But I read a quote somewhere along the lines of how the intelligent will be silenced so as to not offend the ignorant //

          Gosh. That’s so true. I don’t want to say I’ve been silenced – since here I still am, blabbing about my feelings about all this … but there is something institutionally biased here – which I’ve noticed with other critics. Those who are “specialists” really do have to make their own way. The generalists are everywhere – and even more omnipresent are those who write about film through a sociological lens. That’s the main trend right now. and that’s fine. It’s just not what I do. so … I’m okay with that. If you are a “specialist” it really helps if you “specialize” in something that is au courant with the Trends of the Day. Like specializing in female filmmakers in early Hollywood, or something like that. Correcting the record. If you specialize in that You will be called in to weigh in on everything. And I do not begrudge those people – I read many of them – and they do important work. I also have written about those women – and wrote about Dorothy Arzner for Criterion! But Im not KNOWN for that subject the way I am known for my Elvis stuff. But I have always seen my Elvis stuff in that same light: I am trying to correct the record – not about his personal flaws or scandalous behavior – that stuff doesn’t interest me.I want to correct the record in terms of his TALENT. But specializing in this – something nobody else really cares about – except for Elvis fans – means you’re in this weird no-man’s land. I will always be grateful to Film Comment – and Nic Rapold, editor-in-chief more specifically – for accepting my pitch about Elvis’ movie career – something nobody wants to stand up for. They let me highlight his good performances! It’s all well and good to write about that here on my own domain – but I recognized the importance of having it in Film Comment – which is why I pitched it to them. (Speaking of Elvis’ movie career, I was so pleased and gratified when reading Quentin Tarantino’s book to hear HIS thoughts on Elvis as an actor. He’s in line with my way of thinking! Maybe about 8 or 9 years ago, I was actually asked to write a chapter in a book called What If? – put together by an Irish cartoonist/illustrator – the book was a series of speculations on alternate history. I pitched “what if Elvis lived?” In my speculation, Elvis lived long enough to have Quentin write him a plum part in one of QT’s movies – bringing EP an Oscar nom. Totally plausible, imo. Especially after reading Quentin’s thoughts on Elvis as an actor!) To say that this is off the beaten track – AND that nobody – NOBODY – at least in film critic land – wants to spend time re-evaluating Elvis’ movies – is an understatement. Literally nobody cares. I was out there all alone with it. And honestly I really like that! I don’t need a group around me saying “HELL YEAH.” although the Elvis fans have definitely been that for me – a different audience than writing FOR other film critics, which is what a lot of critics do.

          So … it’s complicated, but … carving out my own lane is what I did from the jump – I really do prefer it that way.

          It was a little shocking that nobody wanted me to talk about this gigantic blockbuster hit – in a summer with only one other blockbuster. I was very glad to see, though, that it made many other people’s top 10 lists. Stephanie Zacharek’s review in Time was beautiful and actually brought me to tears!

          // so someone who can enlighten me on a familiar but not-understood topic (as you do for me on so many topics, as well as opening up whole new worlds) is of rare and enormous value. //

          so so kind of you to say and I truly appreciate it!!

  5. I’m so incredibly pleased to see ELVIS on this list! It’s absolutely INSANE you weren’t asked to review it. That makes me angry. Your post above on it choked me up.

    Also, so happy that BLONDE isn’t listed here.

    • sheila says:

      Jeremy – hello!! I think you and I both know – and have experienced – how … strangely reluctant the mainstream critical world is to embrace people who focus on one subject. We are called fanboys/fangirls, we are assumed to not be objective (meanwhile: this is so dumb, because … WHO is objective in criticism? We aren’t generating Wikipedia articles). It’s also disheartening to see the reluctance to seriously engage with enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is dismissed, condescended to. This attitude is so out of touch.

      You and I have discussed this before – in regards to Elvis, and in regards to other topics in general.

      Your work on Sylvia Kristel has inspired me – to disengage (emotionally) from caring about what that other world thinks of me, or whether or not they accept me, embrace me, or let me join their reindeer games. It truly doesn’t matter. what matters is to continue to write about what you want to write about.

      I did start to write about the Elvis movie and when I reached 10,000 words I thought – Okay. this is clearly something else, so let’s just organize what we’re doing here. I’m glad I didn’t give that away to a site that would pay me 250 bucks for it, know what I mean?

      Love to you. Happy, as always, to know you’re out there – and so happy for all your success. Your Sylvia Kristel book is in a stack of coffee table books, you’ll be happy to know: There’s the Supernatural coffee table book, the Irishman coffee table book (with beautiful text by Tom Shone), and the new Elvis 68 comeback special book by Steve Binder. Sylvia is in good company!

  6. Madeleine says:

    Sheila, thank you for giving me back a part of my life history I didn’t realize I missed. Growing up with a parent in “the industry” meant dinner conversation was almost always about the year’s movies, whether that was what he was working on, or just comment when the Academy screeners started coming in. It sometimes felt as though that was ALL we ever talked about it, and we all might have teased my dad mercilessly, but since his death in 2019 I realize that I actually miss it (and have also missed LOADS of movies, because that was always how I heard about things first!). In any case, thank you!

    • sheila says:

      Madeleine – movies at the dinner table! Academy screeners! lol In my house it was books books books. What did your dad do in the industry? I have learned to really appreciate and be grateful that I grew up with a dad who was passionate about something – who had this whole interest he passed on to us. Books and baseball.

      and you are so welcome! If you see any of these movies and want to discuss feel free to come back. I love talking about this stuff!

  7. Madeleine says:

    He was a well regarded Hollywood publicist (a 3rd act career he fell into almost by accident), but more important than that, he was a lifelong movie FAN. He loved it.

    There are several on your list I’m going to track down; I’ll let you know :) Thanks again – your blog has become my newest favorite read!

    • sheila says:

      Madeleine – I love the careers you fall into by accident. My career as a writer was sort of like that. I didn’t PLAN it but it suits me and I love it.

      Thanks so much for the kind words!

  8. Sheila

    I’m coming in late here but I too upon hearing about this movie I thought, “Oh I can’t wait to hear what Sheila thinks of this!” I didn’t read any other reviews. Still haven’t. In protest! ha! Kept looking for your review, forgot about it, saw I could rent it and thought again, hey where’s the God-damn review? She has to review this one! What?! What a bunch of morons! I’m outraged!
    Anyway, we rented and at first I was a little put off. Oh no it’s not narrated by The Colonel played by Tom Hanks?! (It did crack me up at one point when Austin Butler introduces The Colonel as “Colonel Sanders” when some of the crazy humor of Elvis came through) I thought that humor wasn’t quite captured but
    I do think Austin Butler is a good actor but doing a very difficult thing. To have the charisma of Elvis?!
    I think in the beginning of the movie they show quickly this black and white photo of Elvis on the phone in a very early interview. Charlie and I had just watched it again and were laughing hysterically. Elvis is so cool without trying to be cool. At all. He is sullen but polite. His laughing at the question did he shoot his mother is hilarious. And of course he is impossibly good-looking, I mean, it’s like he is from another planet where everyone must be otherworldly beautiful. I thought, oh no! bad idea to show that picture, Austin, you ain’t got a shot in hell! But I didn’t think that. Austin Butler did very well in scenes with Priscilla, also very good, especially in the break up scene. The love they had for Lisa Marie also shone through in the movie and was deeply expressed. (No wonder Lisa Marie said she needed 5 days to recover after seeing the movie)
    RIP Lisa Marie
    The photos and clips at the end of the movie made me cry. The director expressed his love and respect for Elvis and I liked how you said something like maybe Austin Butler was half of what Elvis was but it will make kids check out the real one!
    Also I agree with this kind of filming needs to be seen on the big screen.
    Anyway, it was actually Charlie who introduced me to Elvis when we were barely starting to go out. He asked me, “Do you like Elvis?” The big goof I am said, “Oh sure! Who doesn’t?! You ain’t nothing but a hound dog! And my dad played his gospel music all the time! Of course he’s nothing like the Rolling Stones or Punk! (Like that was the holy grail)
    Charlie just stared at me and said, “oh no.” quietly. haha! I think we almost broke up before we started! I got a crash course. I wasn’t aware of him in the comeback in Vegas singing Polk Salad Annie. That knocked me complexity out. I don’t even think I knew well, Marie’s The Name. My favorite Elvis tune!
    Long Live Elvis!

    • sheila says:

      // What a bunch of morons! I’m outraged! //

      Regina I am laughing out loud. lol

      I know. I’m over it now – I’ll be writing about it for my Substack – I’m kind of amazed at how many people have signed up – it’s a positive sign that creating a substack newsletter is the right direction for me to take right now.

      The movie has been so on my mind because of Lisa Marie – ugh, it all seems like such a nightmare, especially since I was just there at Graceland, standing by her son’s grave. Two weeks later, and Lisa is buried – right where I was standing. It’s like a bad dream.

      // I think in the beginning of the movie they show quickly this black and white photo of Elvis on the phone in a very early interview. //

      Yes! There are a couple of times Baz L slips in the real thing – that one for sure – and I think I clocked it a couple more times. It was, as you say, a risky thing to do – because it did immediately point out Elvis’ singularity – that he can’t be imitated or even embodied.

      // And of course he is impossibly good-looking, I mean, it’s like he is from another planet where everyone must be otherworldly beautiful. I thought, oh no! bad idea to show that picture, Austin, you ain’t got a shot in hell! But I didn’t think that. //

      Yes, it’s wild how much it stopped mattering. Baz L said in an interview something along the lines of – how he was not at all interested in an “accurate” imitation of Elvis – he was more interested in the emotions, a kind of emotional psycholoical biopic – and for THAT I was all in. I complain so much about biopics ignoring the most important stuff – and so I got to give it to Baz: he cared about the right stuff here. Not just the stuff I value in Elvis – but the stuff I always WISH I aaw in most biopics: context given, providing a background for the complexity of a human being – his tastes and motivations – all of which elude language – but … work in him to make him who he is. Comic books, revival tents, shacks, lightning bolts, bright colors … Elvis’ childhood just absorbing these things, which then somehow – magically – pour into the music he made – and here we are today. Baz – with the collage-style of filmmaking – really GOT that – and I think it translated for people who AREN’T aware of Elvis’ little symbolic store of memories – and it worked for Elvis fans too – because it showed Baz knew the landscape.

      // The photos and clips at the end of the movie made me cry. The director expressed his love and respect for Elvis and I liked how you said something like maybe Austin Butler was half of what Elvis was but it will make kids check out the real one! //

      That ending sequence was overwhelming. It overwhelmed me every single time I saw it. I felt like a lunatic sometimes! Like oh my God I am weeping at a matinee and the theatre is half empty and I am a total crazy person. But it feels so GOOD. I don’t do drugs. that movie was like a euphoric DRUG.

      // Charlie just stared at me and said, “oh no.” quietly. haha! I think we almost broke up before we started! //

      hahahaha I love you two.

      Marie’s the Name! So good.

    • sheila says:

      also, I was like you at first – oh God, here we have the framing device of the Colonel narrating – and Baz L always uses framing devices and sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t – but I was like REALLY?? Come on now.

      But I think it ended up working like gangbusters – because it removed us from Elvis one step – we were still outside looking in -we were looking at Elvis through the most unreliable narrator ever – I think it worked, and I think in this particular instance Baz’s love of the g-d framing device was a smart choice!

  9. Sheila
    “Yes, it’s wild how much it stopped mattering.”
    Yeah! In the beginning I was a little unsure, “Hmm, the Colonel/Tom Hanks thing, the kid is ok, hmm, I’ll stick with it..but…”
    I think a half-hour in Charlie said, “You know, it’s getting better.” Yeah!
    I think we accepted it and was going with it like you said,
    It’s funny you too were a little unsure about the Colonel thing. but
    “But I think it ended up working like gangbusters, because it removed us from Elvis one step. Yes!
    And Tom Hanks did a lot of nice things! He’s a good actor, come on! I was a little judgmental! haha! I actually loved his reaction to when Elvis introduces him as Colonel Sanders. So hilarious too.
    The Ending.
    Oh God. I just started sobbing! I couldn’t help it! I looked over and so was Charlie!
    And you just being at Graceland. Yes, that is a little overwhelming to say the least!

    • sheila says:

      Elvis really did used to call him Colonel Sanders from the stage in Las Vegas. lol

      The man was not a Colonel.

      and yes, I was very impressed with what Hanks did – and am a little shocked he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. The main thing is … if he’s the villain of the story, and if he’s the boogey man to Elvis fans – then how perfect to cast a man for the role who is widely known for being one of the nicest guys who ever lived. I just think it’s a perfect choice. Beau Bridges played the Colonel in an old TV movie – and it was perfect casting in another way – Bridges was pure cigar-chomping steely-eyed cunning. But playing him that way makes Elvis seem a little stupid. Like, why would Elvis not SEE the villainy? Or … was Elvis just as villainous and materialistic? Was Elvis an asshole?? I think the reality was much more complicated – and casting Tom Hanks helped keep it complex. How much more sinister it is that the Colonel positioned himself as a family friend, an adviser, someone who cared. AND … the Colonel DID care. that makes it even more complex. Tom Hanks played ALL of that. and in a fat suit, no less. I thought he did a great job!

  10. Sheila

    Yeah! It was such a complex relationship! A father figure to Elvis. A relationship loaded with deep stuff.
    And really agree with you about Tom Hanks. And I came to that with great reservations!
    “The man was not a Colonel.”
    hahaha!
    Yeah, when I heard that part I asked Charlie if Elvis actually said that. “Yes!”
    So damn funny!

    • sheila says:

      I came to the whole thing with reservations too. I remember thinking – that scrawny guy playing Tex Watson in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is playing Elvis ? WHAT THE HELL. I just was like NO. STOP IT.

      I can admit when I am wrong. (and he was so good as Tex Watson!!)

      and I felt the same way about the Hanks casting – it just made no sense to me. But there really was a method to the madness. The Colonel wasn’t just a villain. He really did help Elvis get where he wanted to go – he thought bigger than anyone else approaching Elvis at the time. He saw possiblities in merch and touring and TV appearances that were all still in the burgeoning stages – he jumpstarted all of that. I think he was very good for 50s Elvis and obviously very bad for 70s Elvis – and their contract was appalling. 50%. FIFTY PERCENT. I think it was Natalie Wood who said to Elvis something like “nobody’s manager takes 50% – are you sure that’s right??” Alarm bells went off. and the percentage never changed over the whole 20 years. and Elvis just … didn’t care, as long as he was paid.

      And so I think having Tom Hanks – with this inherent likability factor – made this relationship make sense. Because Elvis WASN’T dumb. There clearly was a strong bond and Elvis was loyal towards the people who were really there for him when it counted. So I think you really need to GET that – if the Colonel was just a mustache-twirling villain then … much of this doesn’t make sense. I mean, it barely makes sense ANYway.

      of all the managers in all the world – it’s perfect and yet awful that Elvis – ELVIS – would be attached to a man not in the mainstream of the music industry – but emerging from the side-show world, the Nightmare Alley world. You just can’t make this shit up.

  11. Regina says:

    Sheila
    “I can admit when I’m wrong.”
    Yeah! I had too (I think you wrote this somewhere) my hands folded across my chest and thinking on no way to the Tom Hanks casting. And you are really clear about why and how it worked.
    Elvis was certainly not dumb. Charlie was telling me Elvis had this ability to hear a song once and know it. Dylan said he had that. It’s an incredible, rare, innate built in knowledge to have!
    Yes! You can’t make this shit up!
    I mean Elvis himself! You can’t make up how a person like that lived coming from dirt poor to the phenomenon he became and changing everything about music in his short life. Everything seemed to come out of left field!
    No wonder you have been writing about him for over 10 years!

    • sheila says:

      I still love Lester Bangs desperate comment in one of the things he wrote about EP: “The only credible explanation is that Elvis is from another planet.”

      lol

  12. Sheila!

    Oh my God! I didn’t know that and I thought that too! There is no other explanation! hahaha! (but not kidding!)

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