Top Tom: The star power of Tom Cruise proved unstoppable in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’.
As audiences flocked back to cinemas in the scientifically unsupported belief that the ravages of Covid-19 were over, 2022 shaped up as a near-normal year in film, delivering the usual rollercoaster of hits, surprises, misfires and endurance tests.
Here, in no particular order, are 30 titles (more or less) that tell the story of film in 2022.
West Side Story – Released Boxing Day 2021, Steven Spielberg’s sterling remake of the musical classic was greeted with poor box office, making it the last big film to suffer from Covid-affected cinema attendances. Still, Spielberg is a consummate showman, and it showed;
House of Gucci – In a real-life role that seemed designed for her, Lady Gaga hit it out of the park in a delicious fashion melodrama. And squished her haters;
Black Adam – AKA Bland Adam, DC proved how the $200 million “meh” movie wasn’t the preserve of Marvel;
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – A surprisingly strong, emotion-driven Marvel sequel and a fitting, tasteful tribute to Chadwick Boseman;
Ghostbusters: Afterlife – Ditto for Harold Ramis;
Bros – A noble attempt at a studio-backed gay rom com was scuttled by snark over studio-backed rom coms. Also, the teaching of sexual politics to pre-teen kids in school didn’t track well. They should have studied 1997’s In & Out and watched Uncoupled on Netflix;
Lightyear – It was a rough year for Disney, with this Toy Story spin-off missing the mark as widely as Strange World and Pinocchio did. Mickey, what’s going on?;
King Richard – Will Smith’s slapping of Chris Rock at the Oscars made history for all the wrong reasons and rendered his subsequent Best Actor win worthless. He might as well use the statuette as a garlic crusher for all the good it’ll do him now that his cool is gone;
The Eyes of Tammy Faye – How could you take televangelists Tammy Faye and Jim Baker seriously? Jessica Chastain (whose performance earned an Oscar) and Andrew Garfield did in an exceptional biopic;
Blacklight – Oh, Liam. Stop. Please.
Quo Vadis, Aida? – A searing, tough-minded, fact-based Bosnian drama about the utter impotence of UN peacekeepers in the lead up to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. One of the year’s best films;
The Bad Guys – A new animated franchise was born with this winning, cheeky gang comedy based on the best-selling graphic novels for kids by Australian actor Aaron Blabey;
Studio 666 – Cheap, awful slasher movie, a vanity project from The Foo Fighters, who clearly have too much money and too few people brave enough to tell them when they have a really bad idea;
Friends and Strangers – Amidst the wreckage of Australian film came this tiny arthouse gem about a rudderless Gen-Z dude lost in suburbia. No audience;
Ambulance – Bored during Covid lockdown Michael Bay told his agent to get him a film, any film. The result was a terrific chase film. Face it, the man cannot be stopped;
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent – What was supposed to be a wily, self-referential Hollywood satire with Nicholas Cage playing a fictionalized version of himself turned out to be the year’s biggest comedy misfire. All promise, no pay-off;
The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson – The directorial feature debut from Leah Purcell about an indigenous pioneer woman had big ambitions but stumbled with muddled storytelling. Still, it took $1.3m so, you know, respect;
The Innocents – Kids are creepy. Super creepy. No argument;
Everything Went Fine – Excellent film about ending it all on your own terms, even if it means crossing borders to do it. A tough subject well-handled;
How to Please a Woman – Somehow this dreadful Australian comedy about a woman who starts servicing horny housewives with male prostitutes posing as domestic cleaners took $1.7m. It’s such a terrible film but…go figure;
Top Gun: Maverick – OK, so this is how you make a sequel. Some 35 years after Top Gun The First, the film pushed an array of emotional buttons by cleverly blending nostalgia with a story that had something the first one didn’t – a plot. All credit to Tom Cruise’s undiminished star power for the film’s huge success – $1.5b worldwide, and counting – but let’s face the fact that, having been on ice for two years because of Covid, Top Gun: Maverick is technically a Trump-era movie with big Red State appeal as it aggressively pushed back against all the left-wing America bashing and champion the US as the good guy;
Jurassic World: Dominion – A similarly skillful blending of New and Old Testament franchise film references into a satisfying story. And that chase through the back streets of Malta is an absolute knockout;
Elvis – Baz Luhrmann and his crew made the best Elvis movie ever – but do we need to redefine what constitutes an “Australian” film? As with The Great Gatsby, top Australian talent toiled in the service of an American story. Should we get uptight about this? Is it cultural cringe kicking in? Is it a non-issue? Here’s 30 seconds of think music;
X; Sissy; Surrogate; Wyrmwood: Apocalypse; The Black Phone; Orphan: First Kill; Bodies Bodies Bodies; Smile; Bones and All; Barbarian; Project Wolf Hunting; Fresh – Man, what a great year it was for horror; plenty of old-school throwbacks and Australian filmmakers showing their deep love for the genre. More power and head-crushing practical effects to them all;
Blaze – Astonishing, visually mesmerizing Australian film about a girl who witnesses an act of sexual violence. Nobody knew about it. Nobody saw it. Proof again that without decent marketing you might as well not release your film;
Three Thousand Years of Longing – Much as we love to herald George Miller as a storytelling genius, his modern-day fantasy about a woman and a genie broke the promises it made in its opening reels and bored us all to tears;
Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time – An exhaustive, inventive profile, made over several decades with the author’s full co-operation. An outstanding bio-doc;
Thor: Love and Thunder – An example of franchise exhaustion, Thor 4 failed to recapture the magic of Thor: Ragnarok but still raised a few laughs, best of which was Russell Crowe’s outrageous Con the Fruiterer accent;
The Phantom of the Open – How good an actor is Mark Rylance? This true-life tale with him as a working-class Brit who crashed the golf world in the 1970s said it all;
Nope: How overrated a director is Jordan Peele? This weak-kneed, threadbare alien visitation dirge confirmed what we already knew from Get Out and Us;
And in the stream…
Adam Sandler’s string of streaming successes continued with Hustle, making him the most prominent example of a major star who has adopted the stream as their primary release platform. Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds appear to be doing the same.
After the kerfuffle over Dave Chappelle’s comedy special The Closer and the idiotic accusations that he is transphobic came the Ricky Gervais stand-up special SuperNature. The attacks on it were similarly baseless and generated far less heat, indicating that the wave of impotent rage had run out of steam. And, boy, it was funny.
Chris Pratt upped his stakes as an action man with the 10-part series The Terminal List; millions wasted their time sitting through The Watcher; we got a prime example of how to make a great single-take movie with Boiling Point; Sylvester Stallone delivered one of the more interesting superhero films with Samaritan; director Andrew Dominik upset a lot of Marilyn Monroe fans with his misery-focused biopic Blonde; Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story delivered a gripping, soup-to-nuts opus on the life of the serial killer that caused no end of controversy; the largely unfunny Man vs Bee suggested Rowan Atkinson might be losing his comedy mojo; and The Tinder Swindler was the latest cautionary tale about the perils of life online, its chief message being that if somebody starts asking for huge sums of money either terminate the relationship or secure some collateral first before you hit that transfer tab.