The 12 Best Films of 2022, so far …

Th Tale of King Crab

Bodies, Bodies, Bodies | Emily the Criminal | Everything Everywhere All at Once | Great Freedom | Happening | Hit the Road | Hive | Official Competition | The Outfit | Petite Maman | Playground | The Tale of King Crab.

Bodies, Bodies, Bodies
  • Bodies, Bodies, Bodies (Halina Reijn)

What a pedigree! With an original script by “Cat Person” phenomenon Kristin Roupenian, given a rewrite by none other than Sarah DeLappe (“The Wolves”) and marking the English-language debut of noted Dutch actress/director Halina Reijn (“Boy 7”), “Bodies, Bodies, Bodies” reeks of talent both in front and behind the camera. and it shows in every scene. What’s more, it’s beautifully Queer friendly, the relationship between the two leads Bee (played by Oscar nominee Maria Bakalova from “Borat 2”) and Sophie (played by Amanda Stenberg so good in “Dear Evan Hanson” and equally superb here) always being the emotional center of the movie, no matter how outrageous the plot or hilarious the dialogue.

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Emily the Criminal
  • Emily the Criminal (John Patton Ford)

Plaza’s performance is something to behold. All the nervous energy that she has shown in her quirky and comedic roles is now bursting out in a performance that is always true, always believable, and always sympathetic, no matter what the deed. And Ford’s masterful direction never falters. There are two sequences in particular – one where Emily is making a fraudulent car purchase as the clock ticks, the other, where she is robbed in her apartment – that are suspense cinema at its finest.

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Everything Everywhere All at Once
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert aka “Daniels”)

Remember how good Yeoh was in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”? This is a similar tongue-in-cheek, highly physical yet surprisingly touching performance. Directed by the film-making duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as “Daniels”), whose only previous offering was 2016s notorious “farting corpse” movie “Swiss Army Man” with Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, they have weaved into their hyperactive plot such influences as authors Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams in addition to the work of directors Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou. That you can see and appreciate their dense forest of a movie in addition to each individual tree, is a testament to both their talent and imagination. The fact that they can direct and choreograph a mean fight sequence doesn’t hurt either. Cheers

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Great Freedom
  • Great Freedom (Sebastian Meise)

On the other hand, Meise directs what must be some of the most beautiful and heartfelt scenes ever captured on film between two men in love or in lust. That includes Hans and his doomed partner Oskar (Thomas Prenn) in 1957 and between Hans and a sensitive young teacher Leo (Anton von Lucke) who was also a victim of the cottage sting in 1968. In the latter case, Hans even incriminates himself further so that Leo will get out early. These scenes are also notable for the ingenious ways in which Hans and his fellow prisoners find the space and the time to be alone together.

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Happening
  • Happening (Audrey Diwan)

As the weeks pass and Anne begins to “show’” we know that her time is running out and any attempt at a back street abortion is now becoming increasingly dangerous. And she has no one to talk to. Not her parents and not her friends who each turn their back on her. At least the protagonists in those other two superb abortion dramas – Christian Mungiu’s “4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days” from 2007 and Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” from 2020- had some form of friendly support.

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Hit the Road
  • Hit The Road (Panah Panahi)

We have no idea at first what is going on but, as the family drive up into the mountains, we realize that they are heading towards a border crossing and the older son will be leaving the country. There is an air of melancholy as we settle into what then becomes an Iranian road movie. With wide – angle longshots Panahi (who is the son of Jafar Panahi who made the stunning “The White Balloon” before he was put under house arrest) lovingly captures every precious moment of what the family’s last trip may be together

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Hive
  • Hive (Blerta Basholli)

Following in the footsteps Bosnia’s Oscar nominee Quo Vadis, Aida? is “Hive”, Kosovo’s 2022 Best International Film short lister. While “Aida” occurs in almost real time, the pace of “Hive” is more relaxed. Writer/director Blerta Basholli’s focuses on a group of Kosovar women whose husbands disappeared during the war. When we first see Fahrije (Yllka Gashi), she is getting on the back of a truck. There, she unzips one body bag after another.

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Official Competition
  • Official Competition (Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn)

Cruz is fantastic and is obviously having the time of her life milking her experiences with all those difficult-to-work-with auteurs that she has crossed paths with over the years. But she is more than that. Despite the grand gestures and a hairdo that would make Louis XIV blush, she manages to create a real character with surprising depth. The same goes for Banderas and Martinez who are playing versions of themselves. Or at least themselves as the world sees them. That is why Banderas’ Felix, a prima donna whose international career and lifestyle are familiar, as a variation on his own, comes off best. Martinez, who is unknown to North American audiences has a harder time. It seems fitting that one of his best scenes is a rehearsal, in front of a mirror, of his rejection speech, a la Sacheen Littlefeather and Marlon Brando, of a certain major award

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The Outfit
  • The Outfit (Graham Moore)

“The Outfit” marks the directorial debut of Graham Moore who won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Imitation Game” in 2015. This time he’s working on an original screenplay that he cowrote with Jonathan McClain, and it is smart and scintillating. He also does a respectable job of directing, at least in the first half of the movie. The action is confined entirely to Leonard’s shop and, as the movie proceeds, you get to know the place intimately. You feel Moore has done his homework and studied the mise-en-scene of Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon” and Elia Kazan’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” the two greatest movies in which the story unfolds in an exceedingly small space.

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Petite Maman
  • Petite Maman (Céline Sciamma)

In what must be the sweetest time-travel movie ever made, the remarkable twin actresses Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz play best friends (and in the context of the film, mother, and daughter) in Céline Sciamma’s “Petite Maman”the follow-up to her landmark Queer Film “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”. Clocking in at a svelte 72 minutes, the movie focuses on eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine) who has just lost her maternal grandmother. When her parents retreat to her mother’s childhood home to empty it out, Nelly is left very much to her own devices. Playing in the woods one day, she meets a young girl named Marion (Gabrielle) who is her spitting image! Marion is also Nelly’s mother’s name and young Marion is scheduled to go into hospital for treatment of the same bone ailment which afflicts Nelly’s mother

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Playground
  • Playground (Laura Wendel)

Vanderbeque plays seven-year-old Nora, and we are introduced to her on her first day in school (kids start school proper a little later in Belgium). She is terrified, clinging to her father (mother is not in the picture, literally). Nora is lucky in that she has a slightly older brother Abel (Günter Duret) to show her the ropes. She is a resilient and sensible soul who, having gotten to know the school routine, makes friends easily and is initially quite comfortable. Nora’s problem and her great sorrow comes from her discovery that Abel is mercilessly bullied from the moment he arrives at the playground in the morning until he goes home in the evening. Worse, he does not want her help and he does not want her to tell their father. The teachers, with one exception, are no help (more the opposite) and, as this short and ruthlessly efficient movie progresses, we are as saddened – but not as surprised – as Nora when Abel, in survival mode, makes the transition from bullied to tormenter. Essential viewing

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The Tale of King Crab
  • The Tale of King Crab (Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis)

We are now in Herzog country. The country of that crazy conquistador Aguirre and his search for El Dorado, admixed with John Huston’s “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948) and Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966). Luciano, now speaking mostly Spanish, takes the identity of a dying priest after stealing his treasure map – the seashore is dotted with the wrecks of old Spanish galleons who ran ashore transporting gold and other valuables back to the mother country. The father’s method for finding such treasure, which is in a fresh mountain lake with pure water, is to follow the peregrinations of the red king crab of the title, which he keeps in a bucket. Pure water adds another layer to this tale since most of the rivers of this harsh land are contaminated by poisonous algal blooms and woah to anyone who drinks from them! Thus, Luciano becomes part of the great 19th century Tierra del Fuego gold rush which was dangerous – he is in competition with a bunch of ruthless and desperate men who are armed with rifles – and most of the treasure hunters were Italian émigrés beginning that long tradition of emigration from Italy to Argentina.

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