Yesterday, I posted my list of the ten Best Movies Of 2022. Here are some more I really enjoyed, even though they didn’t make my top ten. Consider this my nearly-best-of-the-year list of titles you may want to add to your streaming queues.
#11) “The Phantom Of The Open” In 1975, Maurice Flitcroft was a crane operator in a working-class English town. Watching TV one day, he saw Tom Watson win The British Open, taking home a prize of $10,000. Maurice could have used that kind of money to make life better for his family. So, he set his eyes on entering and winning the 1976 Open. He had never played a single round of golf until his unlikely entry into the Open was accepted by officials who couldn’t believe someone would claim to be a professional golfer who wasn’t. You don’t have to know anything about golf to enjoy the movie, just as you don’t have be a soccer fan to get a kick out of “Ted Lasso.” In fact, the film and the TV series share the same upbeat optimism. Plus, you get Mark Rylance, who never plays Maurice for laughs, although the movie is quite funny. “The Phantom Of The Open” also makes a statement about class, with the upper crust snobs looking down their noses at Maurice for even daring to invade their turf. (Video on demand)
#12) “The Fabelmans” This is nostalgia, Spielberg-style. It’s essentially his origin story in the person of young Sammy Fabelman discovering his filmmaking talents as he grows up. It’s also about his parents growing apart. While his father (Paul Dano) is a genius electrical engineer working on the earliest computer designs, his mother (Michelle Williams) is a classically trained pianist who put a potential career aside to be a stay-at-home mom with an internal anguish she can’t quite express. While she and her husband are loving parents, there’s an emotional chasm between them. Some of that heartache comes from the constant presence of Uncle Benny (Seth Rogen), who’s not actually related to anyone in the Fabelman family. On top of that, Judd Hirsch shows up as Sammy’s uncle and steals the movie in a single scene. “The Fabelmans” is not the best thing Spielberg has ever done, but it’s pretty good. (Still in theaters + video on demand)
#13) “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” Daniel Craig reprises his detective character, Benoit Blanc (complete with the accent you can’t place), from the mega-hit “Knives Out.” This time, Craig is surrounded by a different all-star cast, including Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, and Leslie Odom Jr. They’ve been invited to the exclusive Greek island home of tech billionaire Edward Norton, an old friend who’s planned a murder mystery dinner. There’s little reason for me to explain the plot, with all its twists and turns. Suffice to say that in the end — in the drawing room whodunit tradition — Blanc gathers everyone together to explain the minutia of the crime, and we get flashbacks revealing things we didn’t see (or notice) when they happened in real time. Writer/director Rian Johnson certainly knows all the rules of this genre and doesn’t mind bending them in service of his story. Both he and his leading man are committed to one more movie in the series, but I’d be surprised if Netflix doesn’t try to convince them to continue beyond that. (Netflix)
#14) “Windfall” Jason Segel plays a thief who breaks into a house owned by an arrogant tech billionaire (Jesse Plemons) and his wife/business partner (Lily Collins). As they enter, Segel tries to slip out, but Collins spots him and the confrontation is on. It seems that Segel knew whose house he was robbing and has some sort of beef with Plemons, but never divulges any information about himself. Segel holds back any comedic tendencies he has as an actor to play his character as a man with a chip on his shoulder and a desire to take the couple down a notch. Meanwhile, Plemons stretches his character’s ego and hubris as far as he can, pushing back at Segel’s threats with a contained conceit we haven’t seen him play since “Breaking Bad.” Collins matches them step for step. “Windfall” kept me guessing right up to the end. (Netflix)
#15) “The Lost City” I had low expectations as I walked into a screening of this one. It looked like to be a cheap ripoff of “Romancing The Stone,” the classic 1984 adventure-romance-comedy with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas. But as I walked out, I had a smile on my face. One reason was the star-powered chemistry of Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. Although I haven’t always enjoyed her movies, I’ve long respected Bullock for her comedy chops and physical comedy dexterity. She shows those talents off repeatedly in “The Lost City,” along with an attitude that’s almost saying to the audience, “Yeah, I know this sequined magenta onesie is a ridiculous outfit that I have to keep pulling on to keep my breasts from popping out, but watch me make this work.” Spoiler: she does. Tatum stays right with her, both on the dance floor and in the jungle chase scenes. “The Lost City” is for when you’re in the mood for a good, dumb, popcorn movie. (Prime Video)
#16) “Operation Mincemeat” This is the story of a giant deception dreamed up in 1943 by British spies to fool Hitler into believing the Allies would mount an assault on the shores of Greece, although the actual plan was to land on the beaches of Sicily. To fool the Nazis, English intelligence officers — including Ian Fleming, who later wrote the James Bond novels — devised a scheme using a briefcase full of phony official documents attached to a soldier’s corpse that the Royal Navy dropped in the water off Spain. Every choice along the way was scrutinized to the smallest details, including a photo of the dead man’s girlfriend and a love letter she had written him. Behind-the-scenes war stories can seem bland compared to the action-filled adventures that have filled our screens for so long. But like “The Imitation Game,” the intrigue and trickery of this movie kept me on the edge of my seat — even though I was pretty sure I knew how it would end. (Netflix)
#17) “Causeway” After a string of so-so projects and outright mistakes, it’s good to see Jennifer Lawrence back on screen in a movie worthy of her talents. In “Causeway,” she plays Lynsey, a soldier returning home after a traumatic brain injury suffered in an IED attack in Afghanistan. It is Lawrence’s most low-key performance, as she holds back the manic energy of her earlier successes to play a woman who feels lost and painfully sad. While running some errands, Lynsey’s pickup truck starts sputtering and blowing steam. She manages to get it to a small repair shop run by James (Brian Tyree Henry), a mechanic who has suffered some physical trauma of his own. The two bond, and that’s the first time we sense any warmth in the story. From there, nothing much happens except the two damaged people develop a friendship, empathize and sympathize with each other, and reveal the traumas they must recover from. As she did in “Winter’s Bone” (the movie that put her on the map), Lawrence perfectly reflects Lynsey’s internal pain, and Henry is really good, too. “Causeway” contains no car chases, no comedic interludes, no moment where everything suddenly turns better. But it works as the story of two wounded people who find a way to fight through the gloom. (Apple TV+)
#18) “The Outfit” I could have sworn I wrote a full review of this when it came out, but I searched my site and couldn’t find it, so this synopsis will have to do. “The Outfit” is the second Mark Rylance movie to make this list. He stars as Leonard, a former Savile Row tailor who now (1956) makes beautiful new suits in a small Chicago shop which also serves as a place where gangsters do business. He is a man of precision and restraint, seemingly ignoring the thugs who walk in to place envelopes in a locked box. But things in the store don’t stay quiet as the plot heats up, and before long blood is drawn, bullets whiz by, and secrets are revealed. Through it all, Rylance gives a performance that’s as meticulous as the man he’s playing, aided by Zoey Deutch and a bunch of men who can really wear fedoras. Writer/director Graham Moore uses every angle of the small world Leonard inhabits to tell a story that pulled me all the way in. (Prime Video)
#19) “Raymond and Ray” The title characters are half-brothers played by Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor, two actors so natural it never looks like they’re acting. You can sense their crackling chemistry from the start, as they embark on a road trip together to go to their father’s funeral. Along the way, we learn more about how sour their relationship was, because their father wasn’t good to them at all. Still, they both feel compelled to attend, if only to see him buried and out of their lives forever. When they get to his town, they begin to encounter people who knew him, including the funeral home director and the father’s attorney, who informs Raymond and Ray the dead man’s last wish was that they dig his grave. They grudgingly agree, and the scene soon shifts to the cemetery. It’s there that more layers of everyone’s stories are peeled as new characters arrive and we learn how they’re all connected to the man in the pine box. There are no action sequences, but a lot of conversation and character development, yet the movie never seems slow. In fact, its run time of about 100 minutes is just right. (Apple TV+)
#20) “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” This is a self-aware satire in the vein of “Being John Malkovich” and the underrated “Last Action Hero.” It stars Nicolas Cage as himself, a movie star whose best projects are far behind him, so he can’t get cast in big titles by big directors anymore. When his agent (Neil Patrick Harris) tells him about an offer to fly to Europe to spend a weekend in Majorca with Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal), a super-rich super-fan, Cage is at first insulted. But when something else he’d hoped to star in falls through — and his business manager explains his accounts are almost drained — he accepts. Then he’s contacted by two CIA agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz), who tell him Javi is an arms dealer who has kidnapped the daughter of a politician who, well, nothing about this twisted plot matters. The result is a clever mix of buddy movies, car-chase-and-gunplay action movies, and drunk-divorced-dad movies. It’s all stirred together nicely by writer/director Tom Gormican without Cage giving away that he’s completely in on the joke (no one winks at the camera). (Starz)
Coming tomorrow: my Worst Movies Of 2022 list.