Results from a few major best-of-2022 polls have rolled in over the past few days, and we’ll get to those in a moment. First, though, this year’s round of twenty-five new additions to the National Film Registry was announced on Wednesday morning by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. Chronologically, the selection of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant works range from Mardi Gras Carnival (1898), the earliest known motion-picture document of the New Orleans parade, to Dee Rees’s Pariah (2011), which Cassie da Costa calls “an ambitious and lyrical debut that added nuance and specificity to lesbian and Black narratives while establishing Rees as an important new voice in independent film.”
Both films have been recently restored, but if a film is selected that hasn’t yet been preserved, the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center will work to ensure that it will be. This year’s twenty-five make for an eclectic and diverse bunch. Take the two from 1963, for example. Stanley Donen’s Charade is a slick comedic thriller starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, while Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising is a “masterpiece of blasphemy and ecstasy,” in the words of Fernando F. Croce.
Among the many notable documentaries are Frederick Wiseman’s first feature, Titicut Follies (1967), and Tongues Untied, which Marlon Riggs said he made to “shatter the nation’s brutalizing silence on matters of sexual and racial difference.” Other eye-catching titles include Gordon Parks Jr.’s blaxploitation classic Super Fly (1972); Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976), featuring a star-making turn from Sissy Spacek; Haile Gerima’s Bush Mama (1979), one of the major films to come from the LA Rebellion; Robert M. Young’s The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982), which Edward James Olmos says is the best film he’s been involved with in any capacity; John Waters’s hit musical Hairspray (1988); and Jon Favreau’s Iron Man (2008), the first film independently produced by Marvel Studios.
Monday saw the release of this year’s Black List, the annual survey of unproduced screenplays that industry insiders have liked the most. More than three hundred film executives made up to ten suggestions each. Topping the 2022 list with twenty-three mentions is Pure, the story of a woman who “descends into madness when she contracts a mysterious foodborne illness that threatens to destroy her from within.”
The screenplay for Pure comes from Catherine Schetina, one of the writers on The Bear, the FX series that has landed on more than a few lists of the best television shows of 2022. A sampling of some of those lists would have to include those from Inkoo Kang (New Yorker), James Poniewozik (New York Times), Alan Sepinwall (Rolling Stone), the Los Angeles Times’s Lorraine Ali and Robert Lloyd, and contributors to Slant,Variety, and Vulture.
Best of 2022
Over these past few weeks of list-making and awards-giving, there hasn’t been much mention of Crimes of the Future—until now. David Cronenberg’s vision of a world in which the harvesting of human organs has become a form of performance art tops the polls of friends and contributors at both Film Comment and Screen Slate. “Cronenberg delivers a combination of visceral fascination and philosophical intrigue found in few other films this year,” writes Erika Balsom for Film Comment, adding that Crimes reminds us that “popular cinema—entertainment, even—can be weird, base, and wickedly smart.”
Coming in second and third in both polls are Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO, which Nathan Lee calls an “unpredictable, perceptually ingenious, deeply felt picaresque of a donkey making his way through our ruined world,” and Charlotte Wells’s Aftersun, in which a father and daughter take a holiday at a Turkish resort. Aftersun is a “chimeric film of tender gestures and glances,” writes Devika Girish.
Film Comment has also put together a list of the best unreleased films of the year topped by the first feature from Australian director David Easteal. Shot almost entirely inside a moving car, The Plains chronicles the daily commute of a Melbourne businessman to and from work. It’s “a casually engrossing work free of slow cinema’s more trying aspects” and “an acute portrait of modern life,” wrote Jordan Cronk in a dispatch to Film Comment from Rotterdam back in February. Inney Prakash, the founder and director of Prismatic Ground, lists ten of his favorite short films, and Gina Telaroli writes about nine of the year’s outstanding restorations.
Screen Slate’s supplement is a mile-long scroll through lists of “first viewings and discoveries” sent in from contributors, critics, programmers, artists, and filmmakers, including Elegance Bratton, Davy Chou, Ricky D’Ambrose, Daniel Goldhaber, Owen Kline, Guy Maddin, Alex Ross Perry, Sierra Pettengill, Matías Piñeiro, João Pedro Rodrigues, Isabel Sandoval, Cyril Schäublin, Paul Schrader, Dash Shaw, Sandi Tan, and Béla Tarr.
IndieWire has polled 165 critics and journalists, and coming in at #1 is Todd Field’s Tár. Noting that the film—in which Cate Blanchett plays an accomplished conductor who also happens to be a serial abuser—carries on dividing critics and audiences, Slate’s Dan Kois argues that “reading the ‘plot’ of Tár literally is a mistake. For long stretches of the film, we have exited the realm of realism and are firmly in the world of the supernatural. Tár is not truly a cancel culture movie. Tár is a kind of ghost story.” For Phoebe Chen,Tár presents a different set of problems. “In a film shaped by its sense of claustrophobic whiteness and the prejudices of its antagonist,” she writes in the Nation, “it becomes hard to tell who is in on the joke, or if one is even being made at all.”
For the editors and contributors at RogerEbert.com, Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin is the best film of 2022, and the Chicago Film Critics Association agrees. “It may be set a century ago, but the theme of a divided country and broken friendships feels very current,” writes Brian Tallerico.
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