Sunday, June 25, 2023

My top 10 non-2022 movies of 2022

So, uh, this one kind of got away from me. I usually do these lists around the end of the year, and it's one of my favorite traditions, rounding up the best movies I saw for the first time in a particular year that were initially released in previous years. This has become a popular online activity in the years since I started doing it in 2008, and I've also started appearing on the Piecing It Together podcast to talk about my picks, as I did for 2022. I got so behind on writing them up that I considered skipping it entirely, but instead I put together some shorter remarks so I could finish up the list and present my picks. I'll try to do better in 2023.

1. Moonstruck (Norman Jewison, 1987) This absurd romance probably shouldn't work, but Nicolas Cage and Cher make for an unlikely perfect couple, and John Patrick Shanley's screenplay captures the warmth and passion of the Brooklyn Italian-American community. It's a funny, feel-good love story about how falling in love can be an exasperating, traumatic experience.

2. The Color of Money (Martin Scorsese, 1986) This still has a reputation as a lesser Scorsese movie, since it's a work-for-hire sequel to The Hustler, but Scorsese brings all his filmmaking skill to an underdog sports drama that subverts the genre's cliches, with great performances from Tom Cruise as the arrogant young billiards hotshot and Paul Newman as the bitter veteran.

3. Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch, 1933) Anyone who isn't aware of how daring pre-Code movies could be should watch this sparkling Lubitsch comedy that is essentially about a threeway relationship, which is equal parts witty and horny. Miriam Hopkins, Fredric March and Gary Cooper are perfect as the three gorgeous, glamorous artistic types flouting societal convention in favor of personal happiness.

4. Between the Lines (Joan Micklin Silver, 1977) Although it was more than two decades later when I started my stint working at an alt-weekly, there was a lot about my experience reflected in this appealingly ragged, episodic dramedy about the quirky employees of a Boston alternative paper adjusting to changing times and new corporate ownership.

5. Lenny (Bob Fosse, 1974) My Awesome Movie Year co-host Jason Harris insisted I watch this after hearing my lukewarm reaction to Fosse's All That Jazz, and I think it's definitely a stronger movie, benefiting from Fosse's distance from the material. Fosse and star Dustin Hoffman convey Lenny Bruce's genius and self-destructiveness, with faux-interview segments that emphasize the collateral damage to the people in his life.

6. Niagara (Henry Hathaway, 1953) Marilyn Monroe gives one of her best performances in this vibrantly colorful noir, playing an unstable woman who attempts to kill her husband while on a trip to Niagara Falls. The lush Technicolor gives the movie the feel of a lurid nightmare, as an upstanding honeymooning couple are drawn in to the deceit and betrayal going on in the hotel room next door.

7. Burden of Dreams (Les Blank, 1982) Much of the myth of Werner Herzog can be traced back to this documentary about the seemingly cursed production of his film Fitzcarraldo. Blank captures Herzog's unique philosophical perspective as well as the inherent chaos of his artistic vision.

8. Killer's Kiss (Stanley Kubrick, 1955) This early Kubrick movie doesn't get much attention, but it's an impressive, efficient thriller about a boxer who has an existential crisis (and puts himself in physical danger) when he falls for the alluring, troubled girlfriend of a volatile gangster.

9. Feast of the Seven Fishes (Robert Tinnell, 2019) This sweet 1980s-set family dramedy is like a Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel song come to life, with a working-class Italian-American townie (Skyler Gisondo) romancing an upper-middle-class college student (Madison Iseman) over Christmas in a Pennsylvania rust belt town.

10. A Kiss Before Dying (Gerd Oswald, 1956) Robert Wagner makes for a perfect smarmy sociopath in this noirish melodrama about a social climber who romances and then murders (or attempts to murder) two daughters of a wealthy industrialist.

Honorable mentions: Cruising (William Friedkin, 1980); A Few Good Men (Rob Reiner, 1992); The Outlaw Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood, 1976); Sorcerer (William Friedkin, 1977); The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953)

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