Tag Archives: Films

My 50 Favorite Films, 2022 Edition

It’s that time of [even] year where I reflect on the many films I’ve seen and perform that most Internet of activities: ranking them. I mean, I’ve done an offline sort of my favorite films for about 30 years, but the past 10 year online have been right at home here on the Intertubes. You can see my previous entries here (including how I do the sort by pairwise comparison).

There were many new movies in the sort this year. Some were better than others.

This year, the total of films sorted was probably close to 600. This is, in part, due to all the films I watched in the past two years where I added new cards for the films. Many of these did not even make the first cut, but it was only fair that they go into the sort, even if they were doomed.

Just as with two years ago, there are many changes to the previous list, while many of the longstanding films remain… and there is a new #1.

Subject to the requirements of the service, of course!

Hush! What part of “Surprise is on our side” do you not get?

Anyway, here are the ground rules:

  1. These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
  2. Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
  3. TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
  4. TV mini-series are not included.
  5. Regular TV series are right out.
  6. These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an alternate version of me, possibly allied with Jobu Tupaki.
  7. There is no rule # 7.

So, without further ado, counting down from 50:

50) Arrival
49) Guardians of the Galaxy
48) The Godfather, Part II
47) A Few Good Men
46) The Court Jester
45) Casino Royale
44) Pan’s Labyrinth
43) The Princess Bride
42) Galaxy Quest
41) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
40) The Grand Budapest Hotel
39) The Milagro Beanfield War
38) Field of Dreams
37) Midnight Run
36) A Quiet Place
35) North by Northwest
34) Gattaca
33) The Truman Show
32) Everything Everywhere All at Once
31) Ran 
30) The Hunt for Red October
29) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
28) Big Fish
27) Aliens
26) Once Upon a Time in the West
25) Children of Men
24) The Count of Monte Cristo
23) The Namesake
22) Rob Roy
21) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
20) Citizen Kane
19) Singin’ in the Rain
18) The Little Prince
17) Groundhog Day
16) Casablanca
15) The Lives of Others
14) Minority Report
13) The Empire Strikes Back
12) Amélie
11) Star Wars
10) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
9) Spotlight
8) Black Hawk Down
7) 2010
6) Dune
5) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
4) Schindler’s List 
3) Raiders of the Lost Ark 
2) The Shawshank Redemption
1) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World

And, as always, here are some…

Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)

  • Total Comedies: 12
  • Total Dramas: 28
  • Total Action-Adventure Films: 27
  • Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 24
  • Total Westerns: 1
  • Total War Movies: 10
  • Total Musicals: 2
  • Total Animated Films: 1
  • Total films with Mister Liam Neeson: 2
  • Number of films dropped/Number of new films added to the Favorite 50 (compared to 2020): 12
  • Number of films new to the sort and added to the Favorite 50(!): 2
  • Mean average year of the 50 films (rounded up): 1992
  • Decade with the most favorites: 2000s (13 films), followed closely by the 1980s (11 films)
  • The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

All right, here’s some other thoughts…

Feeling a Bit Lighter… Kinda

There are ever-so-slightly less dramas and more comedies, though some of those are arguably action-comedies or comedy-dramas, which usually don’t have the same jokes-per-minute as, say, Airplane! (#69, naturally). Still, the list doesn’t feel as grim as two years ago… though perhaps I should do a list of top 10 outright comedies sometime.

There’s Something About the New

I love older films, our dad showing us “the classics” before the existence of Turner Classic Movies. However, looking over my Favorite 50 over the past 10 years, both with the average year of the 50 films and the decades with the most selections, I like a lot of films that came out in my lifetime… and new films may resonate with me stronger.

18 of the films I watched for the first time got into the top 200, including entries from this year like Prey and the newest version of All Quiet on the Western Front along with recent films I’ve finally had a chance to watch, like Crazy Rich Asians.

Oh, and speaking of the extended sort, Die Hard (#81) has retaken its place as top Christmas movie from Klaus (#89)… for now.

But back to “the new,” I think of the two films new to the sort which made it into the 50. Everything Everywhere All at Once is right up my quirky, genre-bending alley and I’ve loved the story of Dune for decades. I’ve watched it seven times since it came out, for crying out loud!

So it easily gets a good “watchability” score, but clearly there’s “resonance,” too. Resonance and watchability also explain A Quiet Place. Some readers may have noticed a number of scary, scary-adjacent, and creature features in my list of films included in this sort, thanks to one of my kids interest in the macabre. A Quiet Place stands out as a wonderfully scary film that doesn’t rely on being a splatterfest.

We’ll see how all of these rank in two years. The impetuous Hamilton, for instance, pushed its way into the Favorite 50 in its first sort two years ago and has since fallen off (though at #62, not too far). This leads me to…

Rethinking the Ranking

My brother mentioned he prefers to rank films in more fluid levels versus a strict ordinal ranking and this year’s sort made me think about that. In fact, we sort of ranked films that way growing up, something I’ll write more about next week. I mean, I can honestly say I love many of the films that, in the sort, would be ranked 100-200. Ask me next month and will they still be there? How much of an ephemeral snapshot is this? How much can I quantify the criteria of Quality + Watchability + Resonance (clearly, it’s kind of like PERT where “Resonance” gets more weight in the average. Something to think about.


So there you have it. Another biennial sort completed. Who knows what 2024 will bring? In any case, if you’re tempted to check out or revisit some films on this list, my job here is done.

Video

TCM Remembers, 2022

TCM does a great montage every year of the film folks we’ve lost. It never fails to make me want to rewatch a film or three. This year, we lost a couple actors particularly dear to my cinemania, David Warner and Angela Lansbury.

They’ve gotten better about making sure their videos are on YouTube, so you can check out past editions, including the recent 2021, 2020, and 2019 — the last of which I find particularly artful.

Video

A Day that will Live in Honest Trailers

There are many ways to remember the “Day that Will Live in Infamy.

Watching the 2001 film, Pearl Harbor, is arguably not one of them. Honest Trailers has my back on this.

I mean, it does inexplicably find a way to cram Spitfires in there, but come on!

GIFs Out of Balance

Earlier this week, I mentioned doing the sort of my biennial favorite films list. My favorite film for a few years back in the pre-Internet era (well, pre-Netscape Navigator for sticklers) was the experimental, non-narrative film Koyaanisqatsi.

Technically a documentary, I suppose, but really more of a visual essay. It uses a variety of slow-motion, time-lapse, and regular speed, but breathtaking, cinematography resulting in a film unlike anything I had seen before. It may also have been my first exposure to the music of Philip Glass, which is integral to the piece — and Philip Glass music alone is quite the discovery. I also benefited from seeing it on the big screen with an audience, where the collective experience also proved integral, especially at those few points where Glass’ mesmerizing score stops and you could hear a pin drop in the theater.

Its impact has been diminished with the omnipresence of visual media, including the ubiquity of slow-motion and time-lapse video. In fact, I recall a designer friend not being impressed by the film, possibly because of their ready access to stock footage libraries which included countless slo-mo and time-lapse video clips. In short, they felt they could create their own “Qatsi construction” with ease.

Well, thanks to the Internet, we have reached peak “Qatsi.” No, I’m not talking about Alvin and the Chipmunks singing the whole Koyannisqatsi soundtrack, though that’s awesome. I’m talking about the existence, alerted to me by friends and Boing Boing, of Gifaanisqatsi: an algorithmically generated set of GIFs set to Philip Glass’ iconic score. The version I saw included someone in an inflatable T-Rex costume pole dancing. And, of course, cats.

It is truly beautiful and terrible to behold.

I will leave it to you to decide how out of balance we all are.

Patton Oswalt: Galactic Cinema Scoundrel

I’m going to save some of my posts for Banned Books Week for, well, the week itself, but I mention it here in order to spur you on to make a reading selection, possibly from the website, possibly from visiting your friendly local library.

Instead, we have Patton Oswalt rating his top 5 and bottom 5 films with the zeal and wit you have likely come to expect.

Now, knowing that Oswalt is a total cinemaniac, I kinda wanted a longer list with more deep cuts, but it makes sense to me that he’s not going to do that for the bottom five. I mean, the odds of someone deciding to watch Independence Day are far greater than someone clamoring to watch Defcon 4… so he’s doing everyone a favor by getting some people to pause on the former.

I especially like him raising the concept of films getting audiences to buy into too much — which really is a sin when it comes to sci-fi films: they’re already getting you to buy into any of a number of not-strictly realistic worldbuilding anyway. Besides which, my experiences have been that audiences of fantasy and sci-fi fare want to know how this particular world works, so they are both up for the unusual, but impatient with the patently illogical.

For my own top 5 science fiction films, we’ll see if they’re the same as my 2020 sort. I suspect they will be different.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, of course the headline was clickbait. But tell me you wouldn’t want to see Patton Oswalt as, say, a smuggler in a Star Wars film. “Even I get boarded sometime and I wasn’t about to let those illegal lanyards hang about my neck!”

Film Genre Popularity Over the Decades

Bo McCready has done every cinephile a solid by taking film genre data (as tagged on IMDb) and creating this visualization via Tableau.

Now, considering that this is over 100 years’ worth of films… and thousands and thousands of films, this is quite interesting. However, if you look at the visualization above, you’ll see a given genre waxing and waning in relation to its maximum percentage of the overall number of films released that year — and for several genres, that percentage never cracks 10%. So to get an idea of how genres rise and fall in comparison to their fellow genres, take a look at this chart:

If you’re like me, you’re kinda bummed sci-fi and fantasy remain so low for the duration. However, it does go to show how the growth of documentaries is quite impressive.

Additionally, I kind of knew about the cycles of musicals and westerns, but it was interesting to see that both crime and romance have been pretty steady for a pretty long time. And, of course, comedy is gold that stays.

It also struck me that “Popularity” in this context is something of a lagging indicator, because the film studios are going to chase trends and push some of the movement in genres going up and down. It usually takes a couple years for a feature film to go from idea to script to production to finished product, though studios do their best to react as quickly as possible and indie filmmakers –the start-up entrepreneurs in this model– are ever ready to try and risk something faster, cheaper, and –quite often– out of control.

Alas, a good way to get some of that “chasing trends” energy would be to track subgenres and certain elements in movies. So, for instance, examples of “Found Footage” horror films can be cited back over 50 years, but one could venture that that subgenre took off more so after The Blair Witch Project in 1999. Similarly, there have presumably been female cellist characters in films throughout cinema history, but there was a preponderance of female cellists in films across genres in the 1980s. Since such information is coded in the IMDb records, we’re not able to visualize the data.

In any case, enjoy, and perhaps check out a few films this weekend.

Da Vinci: Code for “Meh”

I had another post slated for today, but, I figured I’d be a bit more timely, considering the video above came out this past Sunday.

John Oliver can lambaste and rant with the best of them, and his snark regarding the pop culture phenomenon of The Da Vinci Code speaks to me. Why? Because I was convinced by a number of very energetic people to go forth and read now –right now– The Da Vinci Code and in the history of things people have urged me to watch or read or listen to “right now,” this is possibly the most mismatched. Tain’t my thing. Watch and perhaps you can guess why…

Video

TCM Remembers, 2021

Once again, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) does an artful job of honoring the film artists lost in the past year. When you’re ready to be wistful, or perhaps outright verklempt, give it a watch.

For those interested, here are the editions for 2020, 2019, and 2018.

The Little Prince: Worth a Watch (or Rewatch)

This is one of my rare time-sensitive posts, so bottom-line up front: if you want to watch The Little Prince on Netflix — and my premise is you should — it’s leaving on May 4th, so do it now!

Those of you who have read last year’s installment of my Favorite Films list already know I hold this film in high esteem, but I believe the 2015 film version of The Little Prince is one of the best animated films released in the past 10 years. And there have been some good animated films in the past decade.

And here’s the thing, due to a distribution kerfuffle, people here in the United States almost missed an opportunity to see it until Netflix stepped up — and we’re all better for it.

Many people may not realized just how many different adaptations of The Little Prince that have been made. It’s a story that touches all of us (assuming we’re not too much of the wrong kind of grown-up). And while some people of my generation may remember Stanley Donen’s musical version from the 70s (aka the one with Bob Fosse as the funkiest yet disturbing snake you ever saw), the story of The Little Prince is not, to my mind, a feature film length tale. Much like Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, it’s better as a compact and moving half-hour special — though look how thoroughly Hollywood has ignored that assessment.

So what I love is that the 2015 film version tells the original story, but wraps it in another story of The Aviator passing the story along to a little girl. The girl herself is being raised by a single mother who, while loving, has clearly been buffeted by events offscreen in ways far too many of us can imagine. And so she wants her daughter to be serious and “essential” to better survive this crazy thing called life.

What I love, and why I would urge all of you to give it a rewatch on Netflix, is how many lovely little notes are adding into this as the story unfolds. There’s great truth and depth beyond the dialogue that hearkens to Terry Gilliam’s ‘Trilogy of Imagination’ (Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of the Baron Munchhausen). In this way, I find the film to be great family viewing, because adults can get references and moments understandable only by experience, but it doesn’t make the tale too scary or dull for kids.

And for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, you will be treated to great voice work by Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Paul Giamatti, and more (the French version is similarly impressive from what I’m told for you French speakers). The score from Hans Zimmer and Richard Harvey is exhilarating, and the mixture of computer animation and stop-motion animation just feels right.

At the end, you’ll find you’ve seen a film that clearly tackles themes of imagination and the human spirit, but softly meditates on how we face life and face death. And that’s no small feat to introduce to a child, or remember as a grown-up.

So I hope some of you make the time to watch it before it leaves Netflix and, yes, I am aware of DVD/Blu-Ray technology and already have my copy in preparation for its departure. But for those of you on the fence, you’re more likely to click over to Netflix than order a disc. So go ahead. Treat yourself to a little movie magic.

Wait! That Wasn’t the Last Starfighter After All

I’m pretty sure every film-loving kid grows up watches a series of thoroughly-enjoyable-yet-not-mind-blowing movies from their era that may not make all the “classics” lists, but age okay and hold onto that “that was solidly entertaining” air.

Some of this premise comes from watching many a film that my dad enjoyed growing up. And of course he treated us to the unequivocal classics of cinema both foreign and domestic, but he also made time to expose us to some other lesser known ones that, when he was our age, thought was a darn fine film.

Last month, I got to rewatch one of those films of my generation. I’m sure I’m not the only one who enjoyed The Last Starfighter when we first saw it in theaters, even if it wasn’t going to edge out the Star Wars trilogy or Star Trek II in our sci-fi ardor (note to younger folks: yes, there was only one Star Wars trilogy at the time).

Rewatching it reminded me both of the fun performances by veteran actors Robert Preston and Dan O’Herlihy, Lance Guest diving into two roles as our hero and Beta, and –waitaminute, blink and you’ll miss Gul Dukat! Plus, there’s an overall fun sense of adventure with the film… and they clearly wanted a sequel.

Do we get to see multiple Gunstars in action this time?

So imagine my surprise that, not a few days after I watched it, there’s word that they’re working on doing a sequel. Not a reboot, but a follow-up.

While I’m sad we won’t have Centauri (at least his original human face), I’m up for it So go ahead Hollywood Recyclotron: give us some video game infused nostalgia.