Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is nothing short of a moviemaking miracle, a genuinely unique, refreshing, and original experience that reminds us all of the power of movies and what they can accomplish. When the Guardians of the Galaxy made their big-screen debut in 2014, many fans were understandably side-eyeing the whole project. How can a movie about a space scavenger, a couple of bounty hunters, and a talking tree and raccoon win over our hearts? Nearly 10 years later, they’ve done just that, and the best part is they didn’t need to be high-flying superheroes or super soldiers to do so. All they had to do was be themselves.
By the time they suit up together for Vol. 3, the Guardians of the Galaxy have already been through a lot. Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) true love Gamora (Zoe Saldana) was killed, Nebula (Karen Gillan) saw her whole family disintegrate and brought back to life in the span of five years, and Kraglin (Sean Gunn) is still trying to master the arrow after his mentor and father figure Yondu (Michael Rooker) died. Groot (Vin Diesel) is now fully regrown and still saying “I am Groot” over and over again. Oh, and there’s a telepathic space dog named Cosmo (Maria Bakalova) somehow in the mix too, and she is a VERY good dog.
As the Guardians still try to figure out what their place is in the galaxy after saving it from the likes of Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, a figure from the Guardians’ past emerges: the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a cruel and psychotic scientist who engineered Rocket (Bradley Cooper) from when he was a baby raccoon. With the High Evolutionary desperate to reclaim his former experiment, the Guardians must team up for one last ride across the galaxy to defend one of their own.
Written and directed by James Gunn, who directed the previous Guardians of the Galaxy movies as well as The Suicide Squad, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the living embodiment of the Guardians — a wholly unique, wacky, oddball, and heartfelt movie that perfectly captures who they are and why they matter so much to each other. This is a movie that works on every level, from the action to the drama to the comedy all the way down to the soundtrack. So much happens all at once so perfectly that I barely even know where to start.
I’ll start with the heart of this movie: Rocket. Like all of the Guardians movies, Rocket is the emotional center of this movie, a quippy, snarky, and prickly little cretin who portrays a rough and tough exterior on the outside, but on the inside is quite vulnerable, sensitive, traumatized, and broken. This is the first of the Guardians movies to delve into Rocket’s origins, and they are… horrifying.
I saw this movie with my mom and my wife, and all three of us were crying consistently at every one of Rocket’s flashback sequences. That’s because they deal with a real-world issue, which is animal cruelty. In the first scene where Rocket is dropped into the pen with the rest of the High Evolutionary’s experiments, they quietly comfort him, reassure him, and ask him to say something. “It hurts” are the first words he speaks, quivering and shaking in his corner of the cage. And for most of the movie, that’s the Rocket we see: not the confident, cocky, trigger-happy, gun-loving lunatic, but the lost, scared, and afraid little animal who doesn’t know where he is and wants to be free from the cruel world he’s living in.
Many families will understandably be put off by this film’s darker tone and subject matter, especially in a Guardians Of The Galaxy movie. I for one love it because it shows how it’s relevant to all of us. We all feel like experiments in a broken world, desperately clinging to the small things we can control and finding happiness in the little moments that bring us joy. That’s exactly the spot where Rocket finds himself in this movie, and it humanizes him so, so effectively. The previous two Guardians movies told us what happened to Rocket, but we never really understood what that felt like. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 puts everything into perspective, and its impact is more powerful than an Infinity Stone.
But just because this is a darker, more serious Guardians movie doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the traditional blockbuster fun that the franchise is known for. When we’re not following Rocket’s journey through trauma and recovery, we’re following the Guardians on their quest to protect him, and they’re as infectious and lovable as they’ve always been. Their banter and dialogue with each other is hilarious, the one-liners are clever and quick-witted, and their performances are the most passionate and emotional as they’ve ever been. I love how my favorite moments in this movie aren’t fast-paced CGI action scenes, but rather smaller character-building moments where the Guardians share their emotions, experiences, and fears and help each other work through them together. In one scene in particular, a furious Gamora yells at Nebula during an argument, telling her that they’re family. “So are they,” Nebula responds definitively.
Speaking of performances, I need to give special praise to Chukwudi Iwuji, who portrays the High Evolutionary with Shakespearean-level commitment. Generally speaking, Marvel villains can be a mixed bag. When done right, they can be as compelling and intimidating as Thanos or Killmonger. When done poorly, they’re run-of-the-mill bad guys whose only purpose is to fight our heroes like Ant-Man’s Yellowjacket or The Eternals’ Deviants. The High Evolutionary is neither of those. He is a downright despicable character, a twisted and sadistic madman who takes great pleasure in inflicting pain and torture upon his poor creations. The fact that he feels justified in his actions makes him a bigger monster than anyone else in the movie, and Chukwudi plays him with such conviction that it makes it hard to see him as anything but a vile, sinister, wicked, wretched, unhinged megalomaniac. I’m not quite sure if Marvel has put out a better villain than Chukwudi. The closest I can think of is Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, and even then, I’m not quite sure that counts.
There are several other fantastic elements in this movie that are not to be ignored. Kraglin has an excellent arc that brings honor to his relationship with Yondu. Cosmo the space dog is one of the most lovable support characters out of the whole MCU and brings an adorable quality we haven’t seen since Dug in Pixar’s Up. And Will Poulter gives an excellent performance as a new character named Adam Warlock, who is the closest thing to a traditional superhero we get in this movie. His part is small, but he too has a wonderful arc and serves a vital purpose in the story, just like all of the characters do.
When it comes to great superhero movies, the biggest challenge many filmmakers face is making sure their film does justice to the characters’ legacies, whether you’re talking about Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Black Panther, or Spider-Man. But James Gunn’s accomplishment with The Guardians Of The Galaxy stands apart. Many years ago, he introduced a whole crew of galactic misfits that nobody expected anything from. Yet, his biggest accomplishment isn’t bringing a talking raccoon and his ragtag group of friends to the big screen — it’s how much we end up caring about all of them.
Everyone has heard the old adage “Life gives, and life takes away.” The same could be said for the Academy Awards. For every heartfelt emotion and every well-deserved win it gives us, it’s usually followed up with an incredibly awkward moment or a deeply disrespectful snub. Perhaps no ceremony embodies that more than the 95th Academy Awards, which embodies the best and worst of both worlds.
On one hand, the ceremony itself was… pretty lackluster, to be quite honest. The pre-show on the Red Carpet was the same disaster as it’s always been (Hugh Grant was a BIG mood), the playing-off was especially obnoxious this time around, and Jimmy Kimmel was… fine. Just fine. He had a couple of good jabs about the infamous slap at last year’s Oscars (and one especially scathing one-liner about the now-deceased Robert Blake), but the rest of his time as host ranged from passable to downright cringeworthy. I never want to hear him ask Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai if she thought Harry Styles spat on Chris Pine, and I never, ever, EVER want to hear her be called “Malalaland” ever again.
On the other hand, outside of a handful of giant, gaping “WTF?” moments, the winners by and large this year were well-deserved. I mean sure, there were some glaring errors (*cough, cough* SUPPORTING ACTRESS *cough, cough). But by and large, this was one of the better years for the Academy Awards. I don’t get to say that often, so I’m very happy I get to say that this time around.
Best Picture:Of course Everything Everywhere All At Once won Best Picture, and it more than deserved it. Not only is it A24’s highest-grossing movie of all time, but it is simultaneously one of the most beloved pictures of the whole year, sweeping awards season like it’s the greediest kid on a Monopoly board.
But more than the awards hype, Everything Everywhere All At Once truly is just one of the most unique, creative, captivating, and mesmerizing cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. It’s simultaneously a layered yet simple story about a family of broken souls trying to find their place in a vast multiverse and learning that their happiness doesn’t lie in status, success, or money, but in each other. It shows that love is the greatest superpower you can have in any multiverse, and that’s one of the most beautiful things about this unusual, strange, wacky little film.
It’s so wonderful to see something like Everything Everywhere All At Once win Best Picture not only because it’s outside of the Academy’s usual wheelhouse, but because it’s outside everybody’s usual wheelhouse. It genuinely is one of the most abstract and outrageous films ever made, but simultaneously, it hit the mark on every single emotional note that it needed to. It is a truly special, one-of-a-kind cinematic experience you owe to yourself to experience at least once, and the fact that it won Best Picture makes me happy beyond words. What else can I say? The Academy got it right this year, folks. The Academy got it right.
Best Director:In the same vein as Best Picture, directing duo Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan also won Best Director for Everything Everywhere All At Once. How could they not? With as bold, batty, and breathtaking as Everything Everywhere All At Once is, one would have to be insane to even think of such an outlandish premise in the first place. But the Daniels prove that they are of sound mind because they somehow made all of the insanity work. I still don’t know why Ruben Ostlund is nominated here for Triangle Of Sadness, but it’s all history now. Daniels won Best Director this year, and boy did they deserve it.
Best Actor:Brendan Fraser won it big for The Whale, and man did he deserve it. His performance as the 600-pound Charlie is strong enough to bring any man to tears, and he displayed a depth, complexion, and vulnerability that I didn’t even know he had. This was a well-earned comeback year for Brendan Fraser, and I hope his career only continues to climb from here.
A side-note to Warner Bros.: Release Batgirl, you cowards. This win only further proves that Brendan Fraser was ready for his villainous turn as the Firefly, and I still haven’t forgiven you for robbing me of that.
Best Actress:Michelle Yeoh was the heart and soul of Everything Everywhere All At Once, so it doesn’t surprise me that she also won the Oscar for Best Actress. But man, am I so, so happy for her. The fact that she is only the second woman of color to win this award and that Halle Berry was the one to present it to her just speaks to how far we’ve come and how much further we need to go from here. A well-deserved congratulations to Michelle on her win. At 60 years old, she proves that no woman is beyond her prime.
Best Supporting Actor:Ke Huy Quan won Best Supporting Actor for playing multiple versions of Waymond Wang in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Was there any doubt? Whether he was a feeble or meek husband or a larger-than-life action hero, Waymond’s many roles demanded range from Ke Huy Quan, and he played all of them beautifully. I especially love that when he went up to the stage, Harrison Ford was there to embrace him as Indy. You did it, Short Round. Congratulations.
Best Supporting Actress: This is the part of the ballot where I begin to have a meltdown, because what the actual HELL was the Academy thinking? Here is a category where there are several worthy nominees, and nearly all of them are deserving of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Hong Chau for portraying a grieving nurse in The Whale. Kerry Condon playing a sister torn between two sides of a feud in The Banshees Of Inisherin. Angela Basset playing a grieving mother to a fallen king in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. And Stephanie Hsu for playing the conflicted and torn daughter split between all of her alternate selves in Everything Everywhere All At Once. All of these actresses were more than deserving of the Supporting Actress Oscar. Instead, the Academy decided to give it to… Jamie Lee Curtis for playing a lesbian with hot dog fingers.
Are. You. Kidding. Me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Jamie Lee Curtis is a fine actress, and she’s played several remarkable characters over the years, from Laurie Strode in Halloween to Linda Dryadale in Knives Out. But with all due respect to Jamie Lee Curtis, she isn’t the Best Supporting Actress of the year. She isn’t even the Best Supporting Actress in her own movie. Stephanie Hsu’s character demanded way, way, WAY more from her as an actress and as a performer. One could fairly say she’s just as essential to the film as Michele Yeoh and Key Huy Quan were. Instead, the Academy just skipped over her entirely and gave her Oscar to someone who did just a fifth of the work. That isn’t just disrespectful to Hsu as an actress: that’s disrespectful to all of the nominees in the category. What possible justification could there be for such snobbery?
Well that’s just it: snobbery. With her career spanning 45 years, it’s safe to assume that the Academy views this more as a legacy award rather than a legitimate acting Oscar. So what? That still doesn’t make it any better. You meant to tell me that this nepo baby deserved it more than Angela Basset, Kerry Condon, Hong Chau, and newcomer Stephanie Hsu, who gives a better performance than her anyway? Really? REALLY???
In terms of snubs, this is probably worse than Chadwick Boseman’s Best Actor snub in 2020, and I’m being dead serious when I say that. Because at least in that situation, Boseman lost to a worthy actor in Anthony Hopkins for The Father. Not only is Jamie Lee Curtis not comparable to her fellow nominees: she’s not comparable to them in any of the other multiverses. That’s how stupid this win is. It defies reality as we know it.
This may go down as one of the worst Oscar snubs in history, but there will be time to reflect on that later. Right now, I’m going to eat a hot dog and pretend it’s one of Jamie Lee Curtis’ fingers. Maybe that’ll make me feel better.
Update: It did not make me feel better.
Best Animated Feature:Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio deservedly won Best Animated Feature, which helps make up for all of the other categories it was wrongfully overlooked in. Guillermo Del Toro’s speech saying animation was a medium and not a genre was long overdue and well-earned, and his tribute to his late mother was simply beautiful. We could all learn a thing or two about life and love from that wonderful little film. But whatever you do, don’t watch the live-action remake on Disney+. We have enough of those to worry about already.
Best Documentary Feature: As close as this category was, Navalny took home the Oscar for Best Documentary, and rightfully so given the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The words of Alexei Navalny’s wife Yulia sticks out to me the most: “My husband is in prison for telling the truth. My husband is in prison for defending democracy.” Those are two things that are very much under attack in America right now as well. Hopefully Alexei’s fight against tyranny will stir some hearts to do the same over here as well.
Best International Feature:All Quiet On The Western Front, of course. Can you imagine the outrage if anything else won? But as predictable as the International Feature category was, there was a lot more relating to All Quiet On The Western Front that was much more surprising. But we’ll circle back to that later.
Best Original Screenplay:If Everything Everywhere All At Once is anything, it’s wholly original, which made it a shoo-in for the Original Screenplay category. God dang, did the Daniels have a good night at the Oscars.
Best Adapted Screenplay:With only two nominations, Women Talking winning Best Adapted Screenplay was a big win for the small but mighty feature on Oscar night, especially since half of the Best Picture nominees went home with zero Oscars (including even The Banshees Of Inisherin despite garnering nine nominations). Though I will say my favorite part of this win was when my mother-in-law asked why they weren’t playing Sarah Polley off of the stage. “Ma!” my brother-in-law says. “It’s because women talking!” You couldn’t write better comedy than that.
Best Cinematography:We already knew James Friend was going to win Best Cinematography for All Quiet On The Western Front, but his win is more of an indictment on the category itself and how awful this year’s nominees were. Roger Deakins even publicly chided the Oscars for intentionally snubbing Greig Fraser for his incredible work on The Batman. Granted, he already won last year for his amazing work on Dune, but that doesn’t make his snub feel any better. In fact, it makes it worse, because you can clearly tell the craftsmanship behind it and yet still see it get skipped over because “it’s a superhero movie.” Pfft. Please.
Many more well-deserved cinematographers were snubbed here, including Larkin Seiple with Everything Everywhere All At Once, Ben Davis for The Banshees Of Inisherin, Jarin Blaschke for The Northman, Claudio Miranda for Top Gun: Maverick, and the truly idiotic one, Hoyte Van Hoytema for Nope. But whatever, it’s old news now. At least the Academy picked the best one out of a bad bunch.
Best Film Editing:It was down to Top Gun: Maverick and Everything Everywhere All At Once in the editing race, and Everything clinched it, if ever so barely. With Top Gun: Maverick being such a popular hit, I thought the Academy would take any chance it could get to recognize the acclaimed action sequel. The Academy ended up going with the jump cuts and genre-mashing that came with Everything Everywhere All At Once. An easy mistake to make, but it could have gone to either of those films on Oscar night. And in another multiverse, it did.
Best Makeup And Hairstyling:The Whale won for convincingly adding 600 pounds to Brendan Fraser’s battered body, and deservingly so. Was there ever any doubt? Of course, there are naysayers out there who say The Batman or Elvis should have won instead. To that I say, nothing is worst than when Norbit was nominated for Best Makeup in 2007. Absolute nothing. The Whale deserved to win, and Charlie deserves a hug.
Best Production Design: This is where the Oscars go in a sharply different direction than I was expecting. In a surprise upset, All Quiet On The Western Front bested Elvis, Babylon, The Fabelmans, and even Avatar for Best Production Design. This is deeply unusual because historically, war pictures never perform well in the production design category. The closest I’ve seen is when Lincoln won in 2013, and even then, I think you could argue that’s more of a historical film than a war film. It just doesn’t happen, so the fact that Christian Goldbeck and Ernestine Hipper beat all the odds makes their win even more impressive.
Now, do I think it deserved to win? Not really, no, especially when you compare it to the grandiose sets of Elvis and Babylon. But I can at least see the craftsmanship behind All Quiet On The Western Front. At the very least, it’s less embarrassing than when Mank won Best Production Design in 2021, so I’m going to take this as a win either way.
Best Costume Design:In another stunning upset, one king bested another when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever won Best Costume Design over Elvis. Which isn’t really that surprising. After all, Ruth Carter previously won the Oscar for the first Black Panther movie in 2019. My reasoning for not picking her was more historical than anything else, because not only has a black woman never won two Oscars in the costume category: a black woman has never won two Oscars in any category. With this win, Ruth Carter has made history, and I couldn’t be happier for her blazing a trail for others to follow.
Best Musical Score: Of all of the musical scores that could have been awarded the Oscar, the Academy had several great options to choose from, from Justin Hurwitz’s snazzy and stylish score for Babylon to John Williams’ wonderful melodies in The Fabelmans to Son Lux’s ambitious and transcendental compositions in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Instead, the Academy chose All Quiet On The Western Front, a score so bloated and poorly mixed that it made me think my stereo speaker was broken.
The funny thing is when you look at the larger composition overall, Volker Bertelmann crafts a wonderfully tragic and heart-wrenching score that fits perfectly with the film’s anti-war themes and the loss of innocence. The problem is its main musical theme, the one it played during its presentation snippet no less, is just three blaring dubstep synths that make you want to gouge your eardrums out. It is the worst part of the score by far, and yet somehow, it beat out all of the other nominees.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy for Volker and I’m glad All Quiet On The Western Front has yet another win under its name. But in terms of this year’s nominees, this score was easily among my least favorites. I’ll be revisiting the tracks that filled me with an emotion other than mild annoyance and confusion.
Best Original Song:RRR’s “Naatu Naatu” won Best Original Song, and rightfully so. As much as I loved Lady Gaga’s stripped-down version of “Hold My Hand” and Rihanna’s powerful performance of “Lift Me Up,” there’s no question which song was the most fun, the most high-energy, and just the most memorable of the year, and it’s one where you don’t even understand the lyrics. I love the fact that “Naatu Naatu” won when RRR was effectively shut out from the rest of the ceremony, and I especially love that Telugu cinema finally got its moment at the Oscars. Congratulations to M. M. Keeravani and Chandrabose for their much-deserved win, and I look forward to seeing what they produce next.
Best Sound:Unsurprisingly, Top Gun: Maverick won in the Best Sound category. And it’s deservedly so, with the sound design blasting you in the face like the engine of a Super Hornet. That said, what is a surprise is how much Top Gun: Maverick was overlooked in the rest of the ceremony. It didn’t win Best Film Editing. It didn’t win Best Original Song. And on a much larger scale, it was not nominated for a lot more, with its biggest snub being in the cinematography category.
It goes to show that just because you’re the most popular film of the year doesn’t mean you’ll be revered by the Academy as much. Oh well. At least it didn’t go home empty-handed, plus it has over $1 billion waiting at home to make it go down better.
Best Visual Effects:Avatar: The Way Of Water won, duh. If All Quiet On The Western Front won in this category too, I swear I would have lost my mind. Thank God that didn’t happen.
And finally, the short categories. It’s funny. Normally, I expect to do pretty poorly in the shorts since I never get to see them, but against all odds, I’ve done pretty decently at predicting them in recent years. The only one I got wrong this year was Best Animated Short, where The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse won. But considering the fact I predicted live-action and documentary shorts correctly, that’s a win in my book. Regardless, no title was better from any of the categories than An Ostrich Told Me The World Is Fake And I Think I Believe It. My Year Of Dicks is a close second.
Speaking of which, my favorite moment from the Oscars this year actually comes from the live-action short category, where An Irish Goodbye won. During their acceptance speech, director Tom Berkeley asked to use his time to wish his co-star James Martin, who has down syndrome, a happy birthday. Seeing the entire audience sing happy birthday to this wonderful young man as his face lights up with happiness is easily one of the greatest moments I’ve ever witnessed at the Academy Awards. It’ll be hard for anything to top that sweet and sincere moment in future Oscar ceremonies.
So yeah, the Oscars gives and takes. With my guessing 17 out of the 23 winners correctly, this was a pretty great year for the Academy Awards all around. Just don’t ask my opinion about Jamie Lee Curtis’ supporting actress win. The Academy will never live that one down.
It’s funny how long controversial Oscar moments live in our memory. The infamous mix-up between Best Picture winner Moonlight and La La Land, for instance, happened six years ago, yet it feels like it could have happened yesterday. The same could be said for when Crashwon Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain in 2005, where many people wished that there actually was a Best Picture mixup. Then there’s 2022, when Best Actor winner Will Smith infamously walked up and slapped Chris Rock in front of 15 million viewers for an off-color joke he made about his wife. That happened a year ago, and it’s still being talked about to this day, including in Chris Rock’s recent comedy special “Selective Outrage,” where he slapped back at both Will and Jada (“I didn’t have any entanglements!” he clapped over the weekend).
With all of these flubs, flashbacks, and eff-ups still living in our memories years later, this makes me even more excited for this year’s Oscar ceremony than usual. What surprises await this year? Will Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announce the wrong winner yet again? Will Mark Wahlberg pronounce the name of Women Talking correctly? Will Will Smith and Chris Rock box it out on stage like Apollo Creed? Who knows! Your guess is as good as mine, folks.
Speaking of guesses, with the 95th Academy Awards taking place next weekend, it’s now or never when it comes to making my predictions. After all, we can’t predict everything that’ll happen on Oscar night, so let’s have fun with the things we can predict, starting with…
Best Picture: Ah, Best Picture. We meet again. This category has become noticeably dicey to predict in recent years. Out of the past 10 ceremonies, I’ve predicted the Best Picture winner correctly four times: Argo in 2012, 12 Years A Slave in 2013, Birdman in 2014, and Nomadland in 2020. Every other year has been a complete and utter crapshoot. The Shape Of Water won in 2018 despite no other science-fiction film winning out of the Academy’s 90-year history. Same goes for Parasite in 2019 in regard to International films. The Power Of The Dog seemed primed to win Best Picture last year, but CODA snuck up right behind it and snatched it from its grimy hands. Which is all fine and dandy because, as you might remember, The Power Of The Dog was vastly, vastly overrated.
Since the Producers Guild of America award seems to carry more weight than it has in previous years, it seems that Everything Everywhere All At Once is the clear frontrunner for Best Picture this year. If it is, then it is more than deserving, because film duo Daniels created one of the most immersive cinematic experiences of all time with that picture. I’ve never seen a film that has been simultaneously exciting, gripping, absorbing, emotional, weird, funny, unusual, horrifying, and heartfelt all at once. It truly is one of the most unique moviegoing experiences I’ve ever had in the theater, and it stands out amongst its fellow nominees.
Sure, there are other great movies that are in contention, from Martin McDonagh’s Banshees Of Inisherin to James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way Of Water to Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, but none of them have the momentum or the energy behind them the way Everything Everywhere All At Once has all season long. If Best Picture wasn’t going to go to Everything Everywhere All At Once, my next best guess would be All Quiet On The Western Front since it’s the next most-nominated film at nine nominations total. But since its predecessor already won Best Picture (albeit in 1930), it doesn’t seem likely that its remake would reach the same heights. Everything Everywhere All At Once is the most likely Best Picture winner. If it does end up winning, then the Academy got it right this year big time.
Best Director:Daniel Kwan and Scheinert defeated Steven Spielberg to secure the DGA, which means they’re all but assured to win Best Director for Everything Everywhere All At Once. It’s just as well, because they easily delivered one of the most creative, unique, original, mesmerizing, and breathtaking films I’ve seen in the past several years. I will be overjoyed if the Daniels end up taking home one of the night’s biggest prizes. Now if only someone would explain to me why Ruben Ostlund is nominated here for Triangle of Sadness.
Best Actor: I actually agonize quite a bit over this category and how badly two different nominees deserve to win here. On one hand, Austin Butler gave a mesmerizing and incredibly gifted performance as the King of Rock N’ Roll in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, brilliantly resurrecting the rock icon and giving him humanity, heart, and soul. On the other hand, Brendan Fraser is at the best he’s ever been in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, and he gives a deeply intimate and tragic performance as a morbidly obese father who is slowly dying from heart failure.
It’s a close call, and I honestly wish I didn’t have to pick between these two amazing performances. But if we’re going solely off of impact, it’s no question that the Best Actor Oscar belongs to Brendan Fraser. Sure, he hasn’t done anything as significant up until now, and he was downright awful in those Godforsaken Mummy movies. Despite all of this, he gives a real tearjerker of a performance as Charlie and he makes you reflect on life, love, joy, happiness, grief, trauma, sadness, and all of the emotions in between. Austin Butler solidified himself as Elvis in our hearts forever, but Brendan Fraser shattered our hearts as Charlie.
Best Actress: As great as Michelle Williams and Ana de Armas were in The Fablemans and Blonde respectively, this year’s Best Actress race boils down to two phenomenal performances: Cate Blanchett in Tar and Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once.
I’m going with Michelle for three reasons. One: Cate Blanchett already has two Oscars, one for The Aviator and one for Blue Jasmine. The only other actresses to secure three Oscars are Meryl Streep and Frances McDormand, and I’m sorry, but I just don’t see Cate Blanchett being on Meryl Streep’s level, no matter how great her performance was. Two: Michelle Yeoh won the SAG Award for Best Actress, and seven times out of 10, that’s been most accurate in predicting the Oscar winner too. And three: She just plain deserves it. Between portraying a strict and overbearing mother, a dissatisfied wife, and a neglected daughter, Michelle wore many faces in Everything Everywhere All At Once, and she portrayed all of them beautifully.
She perfectly encapsulated womanhood while simultaneously demonstrating how generational trauma affects more people than just yourself. Dare I say, her performance was perfect in Everything Everywhere All At Once, and her fellow nominees will be hard-pressed to unseat her.
Best Supporting Actor:Ke Huy Quan, without question. I know that Everything Everywhere All At Once demanded more dramatically from both Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu, but it could be argued that Waymond was just as central to the film as much as his on-screen wife and daughter were. Not only that, but Ke Huy Quan did a brilliant job portraying multiple versions of Waymond, not just as his shy and squeamish self from the main universe, but also as the superheroic action-hero version of himself from the Alphaverse. His monologue on doing laundry and taxes was the most powerful, pure thing out of the whole movie, and Ke Huy Quan proved he’s more than just Short Round from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom.
Best Supporting Actress: First of all, what on Earth is going on with Hollywood’s sudden aversion to Stephanie Hsu? She was every bit as essential to the film as her on-screen parents were, arguably more so since the main conflict dealt directly with her character and her search for meaning and purpose in all of her different lives. Yet, since the Golden Globes took place back in January, she’s been relentlessly snubbed in place of her co-stars, and I don’t know why. She wasn’t nominated for the Golden Globe. She wasn’t nominated for the BAFTA. She was nominated at the SAG Awards, but she lost to… Jamie Lee Curtis. For what? All her role entailed was stapling a circle to her head, griping about taxes, and licking Michelle Yeoh’s hot dog fingers. She had nowhere near the depth, complexion, and variety that Stephanie Hsu brought to her performance, yet she’s consistently been recognized more on the awards circuit than Stephanie Hsu was, and I don’t know why. She should be at the top of consideration for supporting actress this year, but because of how relentlessly she’s been snubbed all season, she’s at the bottom of the pack, which is easily the most disrespectful thing to come out of awards season this year by far.
That being said, I think Best Supporting Actress this year will go to Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. She brilliantly and powerfully portrayed everyone’s collective grief over Chadwick Boseman, and there were moments in the film where it didn’t feel so much like she was acting as much as she was just expressing her genuine emotions. I can’t explain why Michael B. Jordan was stupidly snubbed years ago in the first Black Panther, but that’s neither here nor there. Angela Bassett deserves this year’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar. If Jamie Lee Curtis somehow nabs it away from not one, but two deserving nominees, I’m going to drown her Oscar in dirty hot dog water.
Best Animated Feature: First of all, what an amazing year in animated film. Yes, the animated feature category is usually one of the strongest every year, but this year that’s especially the case. With this year’s five nominees including Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, The Sea Beast, Turning Red, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, any one of these nominees is more than deserving of the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Not for nothing, three of these movies made it onto my best films of the year list. It might have been four if Puss In Boots: The Last Wish wasn’t released so damn late into the year.
That being said, I think this year’s animated feature Oscar should go to Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio. Not only is it beautifully animated with expert craftsmanship and detail with its stop-motion animation, but it also carries a maturity to it that makes it feel as relevant for adults as it does to children. It is easily one of the most beautiful, thoughtful, and poignant remakes of 2022, and it deserves nothing less than the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
On another note, I am absolutely baffled that Pinocchio only secured one nomination in the animated film category. I understand it not getting a Best Picture nomination, but seriously: nothing for music? Cinematography? Production design? Good gravy, if Avatar can get nominated for production design for its animated work, surely Pinocchio deserves nothing less.
Best Documentary Feature: In most other years at the Oscars, there’s usually a clear frontrunner when it comes to Best Documentary, whether you’re talking about My Octopus Teacher in 2021 or Summer of Soul in 2022. We don’t have that privilege this year with all of the nominees being on mostly equal footing. The closest one to a frontrunner I can think of is Fire of Love, which was recently announced to being adapted into a feature-length film. But just because it’s more popular doesn’t automatically make it the winner. After all, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? was simultaneously one of the highest-grossing and most well-made documentaries of all time. It wasn’t even nominated in 2019.
No, for Best Documentary, I think the Academy is going to go more topical than anything else, and there’s probably no other film more timely than Navalny, which focuses on the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020. With the ongoing Ukrainian War costing hundreds of lives daily, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Academy highlighted a film that brought attention to this issue, especially since previous Oscar winners CitizenFour and Icarus had similar subjects.
Of course, this could just be me trying to justify my prediction for an otherwise unpredictable category. Take your pick. Mine is Navalny. Screw Putin.
Best International Feature: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — if a Foreign-language film is nominated for Best Picture, it’s a lock in the International Film category. With All Quiet On The Western Front being nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, it’s safe to say that Edward Berger’s gripping war epic will win the International Feature Oscar as well. It’s more than deserving, with Berger creating a harrowing yet tragic portrait of war and how it does nothing but take lives and leave families devastated. While there’s much well-deserved confusion as to how on Earth Decision To Leave was snubbed in this category, there’s no questioning the emotional impact behind All Quiet On The Western Front and how much it deserves to win. I can’t wait to see Edward Berger win his first Academy Award. That’ll be a big moment to pay attention to on Oscar night.
Best Original Screenplay:Everything Everywhere All At Once, no contest. Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees Of Inisherin was equally as emotional and heartbreaking, but it lacks the complexity, the innovation, and the creativity that Everything Everywhere All At Once has. I make no exaggeration when I say it is the most original screenplay I’ve ever read. I don’t know how the Daniels’ came up with the wacky, crazy, bat-insane ideas they come up with in that film, but they did it and they turned it into something meaningful, sincere, and deeply profound. If that doesn’t deserve to win Best Original Screenplay, then none of the nominees do.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Let’s start with the obvious question here: what the heck even counts as an “adapted” work nowadays? Out of the five nominees, only three of them are based on preexisting works. The other two are sequels to original films (Top Gun: Maverick and Glass Onion). What’s worse is that one of those movies, Knives Out, was first nominated for original screenplay before its sequel flipped over to the adapted side. What gives? How can something be considered original in one second and adapted in the next? Why weren’t these movies nominated for original screenplay? What confused, outdated system is the Academy using to make these confounding nominations?
As far as the remaining nominees go, it’s pretty clear who the winner will be: Women Talking. Living hasn’t generated anywhere near enough conversation to even be considered in the running, and as great as All Quiet On The Western Front is, its greatest strengths lie elsewhere beyond the writing (such as Edward Berger’s phenomenal direction, James Friend’s breathtaking cinematography, the disquieting and eerie visual effects). That leaves Women Talking as the most likely winner for this category. If, for any reason, either Top Gun or Glass Onion wins, I will pull my hair out and question reality as I know it.
Best Cinematography: Out of all of the categories from this year’s Oscar ceremony, the worst one by far is Best Cinematography. Not only are there two nominees nobody’s even heard of before (Bardo and Empire Of Light), but Elvis is nominated under this category. ELVIS. Over Everything Everywhere All At Once? Over The Banshees of Inisherin? Over Top Gun: Maverick? The Fabelmans? The Northman? The Batman? Nope? I could pick like 10 movies that deserve to be here more than these nominees, so the fact that these were the ones we ended up with is utterly infuriating.
That being said, it does make my job of predicting the winner easier, so the Oscar for Best Cinematography this year will go to All Quiet On The Western Front. It may not be as spectacular as the other movies I mentioned, but the scope of its battles is phenomenal and it does a brilliant job showcasing how war tears apart the body and the soul. It’s not my favorite cinematography of the year, but then again, none of these nominees are. If, for some bizarre reason, All Quiet On The Western Front doesn’t win, it will be a snub on monumental levels.
Best Film Editing: Yes yes yes, I know Best Film Editing is the biggest joke of a category since that stupid “Oscars Cheer Moment” award was introduced last year. Not because film editing isn’t important, mind you, but because the Academy consistently names some of the stupidest winners more than any other category. Dunkirk won in 2018 despite being more incomprehensible and disjointed than a Michael Bay picture. Bohemian Rhapsody’s win in 2019 was straight-up laughable. And can anyone tell me with a straight face why The Power Of The Dog was even nominated last year? If Peter Sciberras’ editing was that outstanding, he would have edited The Power Of The Dog down from two hours to one hour. Or even better, barely a minute.
That being said, the category has been making something of a comeback in recent years, with The Sound of Metal and Dune being the most recent winners. The fact that Academy voters are beginning to take film editing more seriously gives me hope for the category this year, although it wouldn’t surprise me if they still gave it to Elvis or something.
Anyhow, predictions. I love Paul Rogers’ work on Everything Everywhere All At Once and thought he did a brilliant job diving into all of these different multiverses and editing them into one cohesive story. But by that same token, Eddie Hamilton also had to take over 800 hours of flight footage and edit all of that down into the lightning-quick action sequences you see in Top Gun: Maverick. For context, that’s more footage than all three films in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy — combined.
Film editing this year is really something of a coin toss, especially since there are two outstanding nominees that are more than deserving. But as far as my coin toss went, I’m going with Top Gun: Maverick. Whatever wins, it can’t be worse than Bohemian Rhapsody’s Best Film Editing win… probably.
Best Makeup And Hairstyling: First of all, why on God’s green Earth is Everything Everywhere All At Once not nominated for Best Makeup? The many different forms, shapes, and appearances of the Jobu Topaki prove that it should have at least been a contender. Or at least, more of one than Elvis, whose greatest makeup work was making Tom Hanks look fatter than he normally is. But I digress. This is one of many snubs from the night, and unfortunately, it isn’t the last one.
Despite that, there actually is a clear winner in this category, and that is Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. People who were shocked to find Brendan Fraser’s sudden weight gain for that film might be surprised to find out that he was wearing a fat suit the entire time. That’s especially stunning since there are extended sequences in that film where Charlie can be seen naked, and there is zero indication that body isn’t his own. It’s that convincing.
Of course, there’s other incredible makeup work that deserves to be praised, such as transforming Colin Ferrell into the Penguin for The Batman or covering soldiers in mud and gore in All Quiet On The Western Front. But there really is no defeating The Whale. At least, as long as Austin Butler’s bloated fat suit in Elvis doesn’t take it first.
Best Production Design: If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Oscar for Best Production Design, it’s to never bet against Baz Luhrmann. The past two times his films have been nominated for Best Production Design, they’ve won it for both Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby.I expect this year to be a three-peat as Elvis wins for production design yet again. Frankly, I’ll be shocked if any other nominee wins. If there is a technical category that Elvis excels in, it’s definitely production design.
Best Costume Design:Elvis. See production design above.
Best Musical Score: As controversial as Babylon is, the one thing I think everyone can agree on is that the score is mesmerizing. That’s thanks to composer Justin Hurwitz, who has been Damien Chazelle’s primary collaborator since his 2009 debut Guy And Madeline On A Park Bench. He even won two Oscars in 2017 for La La Land. With Babylon being nominated in three categories, it isn’t expected to win much on Oscar night, but its best chances do lie in Best Musical Score.
Compare that alongside the likes of its fellow nominees. Hauschka’s score for All Quiet On The Western Front is so bloated and droning that it’s offensive that it’s even nominated. Carter Burwell’s score for The Banshees Of Inisherin is so mopey it’s pathetic. Son Lux’s composition for Everything Everywhere All At Once is the most beautiful and transcendent score of the year, but this is their first nomination, so their chances are pretty much zilch. And John Williams for The Fabelmans? How many Oscars does that guy have again?
Nah, Babylon has the best chances here. I’m still personally rooting for Everything Everywhere All At Once to win, but I’m not betting on it. Meanwhile, let’s all share our collective frustration that The Batman wasn’t even nominated. That snub alone makes this category that much less legitimate.
Best Original Song: Yet another great category for the Oscars this year. This year has five outstanding nominees from five outstanding artists: “Applause” from Diane Warren, “Hold My Hand” from Lady Gaga, “Lift Me Up” from Rihanna, “Naatu Naatu” by M.M. Keeravani and Chandrabose, and “This Is A Life” by Son Lux. In any other year, any one of these nominees could have been the clear-cut winner, but 2022 just happened to be the year they all collided. They’re all simply outstanding nominees, and any one of them deserves to take home the Academy Award on Oscar night.
As great of a problem as it is to have such a competitive category, it unfortunately makes predicting this year’s winner an absolute nightmare. “Hold My Hand” is an absolute banger from Lady Gaga, while “This Is A Life” is an intimate and personal little lullaby-like tune that’s a personal favorite of mine. But if we’re going with the populist’s vote, there’s no denying that RRR’s “Naatu Naatu” has a real shot at winning this year. Not only was RRR ridiculously skipped over in the International Film category, but “Naatu Naatu” is just EPIC in all caps. The most impressive part? You don’t even need to understand the lyrics. The song is just that infectious to listen to on its own.
I honestly don’t know who the Best Original Song Oscar is going to on Oscar night, but my bet is on “Naatu Naatu.” Either way, I can’t wait for the live performance.
Note: Yet another snub among many is the Weeknd’s “Nothing Is Lost” from Avatar: The Way Of Water. Abel’s vocals and the heart-wrenching lyrics hit harder and harder after you’ve seen the movie.
Best Sound:As competitive as this year’s sound category is, I don’t think anyone seriously expects any of the nominees to unseat Top Gun: Maverick, do they? I mean sure, The Batman’s sound work stands up just as much as its Oscar-winning predecessor The Dark Knight,All Quiet On The Western Front uses the presence and absence of sound to brilliant yet horrifying effect, and Avatar: The Way Of Water got incredibly creative with the sounds of the Na’Vi, the human invaders, and the Tulkun alike.
That being said, nothing beats Tom Cruise breaking the sound barrier in the first 10 minutes of the film, and the rest of the movie doesn’t let up. The entire film feels like you’re in the cockpit while 1,000 feet in the air, with the G-forces constantly pushing against your body. The out-of-this-world sound design is to thank for that. Another film could steal this Oscar in an upset win, but it isn’t likely.
Best Visual Effects:If any other film wins Best Visual Effects over Avatar: The Way Of Water, I’m going to burn the Dolby Theatre to the ground. As amazing as Top Gun: Maverick, All Quiet On The Western Front, and The Batman are, the visual effects are just one part of those films’ brilliance — especially when so much of it is practical effects. Avatar: The Way Of Water, on the other hand, utilizes both practical and computer-generated effects to brilliant effect, beautifully blending both styles into a mesmerizing display of Pandora. Avatar: The Way Of Water is the clear-cut winner. If anything else wins, it will be straight-up thievery.
And now, those pesky short categories that I never see every year but still have to predict nonetheless. How about we go with An Irish Goodbye for live-action short, The Elephant Whisperers for documentary short, and My Year Of Dicks for animated short since the title is funny. That’s about as good a metric as any when predicting the short categories.
Well, that’s all until next weekend, folks. Good luck with your Oscar ballots, and whatever you do, stay away from Chris Rock, or he’ll make his next comedy special about you.
I think the Oscars have conditioned me for disappointment. Every year, I tune in eagerly to the nominations announcement waiting to see who is in the running, only to face one baffling snub after another. Knives Out missing out on a Best Picture nomination in 2020. Da 5 Bloods getting skipped over in nearly every category in 2021. Denis Villeneuve being snubbed a very much-earned Best Director nomination for Dune just last year. Every year, I wait and wait and wait for the Oscars to get it right, only to be met with confusion, frustration, and mind-boggling disappointment every single time.
For the first time in five years, that disappointment never came. In fact, this was probably one of the best Oscar nominations I’ve seen in quite some time.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of snubs from this year’s nominees. Robert Eggers’ The Northman was overlooked in all of the categories, as well as Adam Sandler’s heart-pounding basketball drama Hustle. Perhaps most bafflingly, Jordan Peele’s eerie sci-fi horror film Nope got a resounding zero nominations. Seriously? Not even one for cinematography? Film editing? Production design? Visual effects? Even sound?
So yeah, snubs are still aplenty, but for the most part, the Academy got it right this year. Now there’s a sentence I’d never thought I’d type.
At 11 nominations total, Daniels’ genre-bending masterpiece Everything Everywhere All At Once is this year’s biggest contender with four acting nominations, a Best Director nomination, and a Best Picture nomination. The film deserves every single nomination it has received and then some, with the only categories it was notably absent in including makeup and visual effects. Still, even with those snubs, it practically swept all of the major categories and has solidified itself as a for-sure contender on Oscar night.
At nine nominations apiece, the next biggest Best Picture contenders include the German anti-war film All Quiet On The Western Front and the Irish tragicomedy The Banshees Of Inisherin. The surprising thing here isn’t the fact that both are so closely tied to Everything Everywhere All At Once. The surprising thing here is that All Quiet On The Western Front is nominated as many times as it is. Originally thought to be a front-runner in the International Film category, it’s now considered a leading contender in the Best Picture category as well, especially with additional cinematography, visual effects, and adapted screenplay nominations.
Following closely behind those two films, however, is Baz Luhrmann’s bedazzling musical biopic Elvis. Austin Butler was obviously a shoo-in in the acting category, and it’s probably the film’s best chance to win an Oscar as well. But I wouldn’t call it a done deal. After all, Austin still has to contend with Brendan Fraser in The Whale, and I question if there’s any performance that could potentially overtake his. Although bafflingly, The Whale did not receive a Best Picture nomination despite also securing makeup and Best Supporting Actress noms for Hong Chau.
From there, the Steven Spielberg biopic The Fabelmans secured seven nominations, including Best Picture. Spielberg obviously got nominated multiple times up and down the ballot, from director all the way to original screenplay. Yet, the biggest surprise to me was Judd Hirsch’s inclusion under the supporting actor category for Sammy’s excitable circus Uncle Boris. His scene was one of my favorites from the whole film, and he did a really brilliant job showing how art can make us feel whole while simultaneously ripping us in two. He was easily one of the film’s most standout actors and created a big impact despite his small screen time. I’m really glad he was nominated, even though his chances to win are extremely slim.
Following The Fabelmans with six nominations apiece are the tragic psychological drama Tar and the heart-racing action sequel Top Gun: Maverick. These are two very different films finding success on two very different sides of the ballot, with Top Gun: Maverick sweeping in most of the technical categories while Tar secured screenplay, actress, and directing noms. The interesting thing is seeing what they aren’t nominated for. Tar was noticeably overlooked in the music and production design categories, while Top Gun: Maverick was wrongfully snubbed under cinematography (actually, the entire cinematography category has gone down the crapper. But there will be time to talk more about that later).
After that, Avatar: The Way Of Water fits in comfortably as the eighth Best Picture nominee, securing additional nominations under the sound, production design, and visual effects categories. While it is a technical and emotional powerhouse of a film, I don’t really expect it to be a major contender in most categories with the notable exception of visual effects, which is fine. After all, the first movie won three Academy Awards and even earned James Cameron another Best Director nomination. If The Way Of Water even comes close to the first film, it will have been a success. Besides, at over $2 billion, it’s the highest-grossing movie of 2022. It’s not like it needs the extra hardware.
Behind Avatar: The Way Of Water is the Swedish satire Triangle Of Sadness, which has secured screenplay and direction nominations aside from Best Picture. Besides that, I gotta be honest: I’ve never heard of the movie. The only thing I know about this film is that its poster features an older woman throwing up gold. Aside from that, I’ve got nothing. Needless to say that there will be few people rooting for it on Oscar night.
And finally, the last Best Picture nominee is Women Talking, a monumental little film about a group of women who band together to defend themselves from vicious attacks in their colony. What’s perplexing about this film isn’t the fact that it’s nominated for Best Picture: that much is to be expected for a film of this subject matter. What’s perplexing is that it only secured one other nomination in the adapted screenplay category. How many times do we have to go over this, Academy? A film cannot be considered Best Picture-worthy for one element alone. Selma wasn’t Best Picture-worthy just because of the song “Glory,” and The Post wasn’t Best Picture-worthy just because of Meryl Streep. Neither can Woman Talking stand on its own just for its screenplay. Seriously, would have killed you to give the movie a supporting actress nomination? Production design? Costumes?
I could pick apart other grievances I have with the nominees this year, like how The Batman astoundingly missed a Best Original Score nomination, while The Woman King was overlooked in every category Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was nominated in despite being superior in nearly every way. But for the most part, I’m surprisingly pleased with the nominees we have this year. For once, Academy Award voters prioritized the films that deserved the most recognition and lifted up the artists that we might have missed last year. Let’s hope they keep that momentum going into the Oscars ceremony on March 12.
Man, what a year 2022 has been. So much happened in my life in such a short timeframe that it doesn’t feel like it’s been just one year, but several. This year, I not only got engaged and married within the span of just seven months — I also put many miles on my soul from Colorado all the way to Cancun, got to party with my best friends during my Bachelor party in Oklahoma City, started my own Twitch channel, and moved into a new apartment with my wife — twice. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again —2022 was probably the busiest year of my life, but it was simultaneously also the most joyous. My wife and I will no doubt look back on this year fondly as we reflect on the precious memories we made together, all while taking a much-deserved break.
But incredibly, my major life milestones weren’t the only positive things to come out of 2022. To my surprise, the movie theaters also yielded the best lineup of films we’ve seen in quite some time. Normally when we have a really great year in movies, it’s pretty common for the next year or two to be slightly subpar or underwhelming by comparison. After all, when 2019 graced us with the likes of 1917, Parasite, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, and Avengers: Endgame all in the same year, are we really surprised that 2020 bombed out as royally as it did? Granted, the pandemic didn’t make things any better, but when Nomadland and Mank are considered your best films of the year, you have a serious problem.
With 2021 being such a great comeback for the movies, I mistakenly thought that 2022 would drop the ball a little bit and yield a weaker slate of cinematic releases. Not so. If anything, it upped the ante as it released several great movies that we can return to admire time and time again. Last year was famously the first time I released my Top 21 Movies of 2021, and this year, I could have easily done a Top 22 list if I so chose. I didn’t because, frankly, that Top 21 list wiped me out more than the Snyder Cut did, and I don’t think readers would be interested enough to stick around for an exasperating Top 22 list anyway.
In either case, these are my 10 favorite films of 2022, and there are a few things to go over before we hop into everything. As per usual, I have not seen every film made this year despite my best efforts to do so. You will not find Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees Of Inisherinon this list because it received such a limited release that I completely missed its run in theaters, and you will also not find Damien Chazelle’s Babylon on this list either since it was released so late into the year. Most upsetting is the fact that The Whale will not be considered for this list because for some reason, Darren Aronofsky decided that a tragedy about an obese gay man trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter was the perfect movie for the family to watch this holiday season. How many times do I need to reiterate this to filmmakers out there — STOP. RELEASING. MOVIES. IN DECEMBER. Unless it’s another Star Wars, Marvel, or Avatar movie, we aren’t watching it. Most of us are too busy Christmas shopping, or in my case, getting married.
Speaking of my favorites, let’s start this list off with this year’s special prize. Back in pre-COVID times, I recognized one limited-release film that did not get as much attention as many wide releases did, yet achieved more emotionally despite its smaller viewership. “Smaller” is definitely the keyword here, especially since this year’s special prize winner is…
What’s there to say about this precious little gem that squeaked past everyone’s attention this year, much like its titular star? Based on a series of animated shorts co-created by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer Camp in his feature-length debut, Marcel The Shell With Shoes On follows a sentient shell living life in an abandoned Airbnb home with his Nana Connie (Isabella Rossellini). Funny, poignant, quirky, and heartfelt, this lighthearted little film beautifully illustrates how we are all a small part of a constantly expanding and greater world. But just like Marcel, our size isn’t what matters — it’s the friends we meet, the experiences we create, the adventures we have, and the memories we share that make life worth living. Marcel The Shell With Shoes On proves that just because you aren’t that big doesn’t mean that you leave a small impact. Marcel is just the miniature-sized hero everyone needed this year, and you’ll quickly learn to fall in love with him (and his shoes) over and over again.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s hop into the 10 best movies I’ve seen in 2022, starting with…
In an age where Batman has been done and redone over and over again (this is the fifth big-screen iteration we’ve seen in 10 years), Matt Reeves’ The Batman manages to feel wholly unique, original, and captivating — as dark and ethereal as David Fincher and as daring and dramatic as Alfred Hitchcock. While his Bruce Wayne isn’t as refined as Christian Bale or Ben Affleck, Robert Pattinson’s Batman is the greatest we’ve ever gotten on screen, beautifully illustrating a tortured man haunted by his grief and trauma. Paul Dano plays an excellent foil to Pattinson’s Batman as the Riddler, a Zodiac-esque serial killer who sees himself as the only cure to the corruption poisoning Gotham City. Never before has Batman felt so grounded in a film. Yes, that even includes Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Three and a half stars.
A glorious, riveting, and heart-pounding historical epic that makes you feel the power behind the Dahomey Amazons. Gina Prince-Bythewood returns to direct her first feature-length production in eight years since 2014’s Beyond The Lights, and if The Woman King succeeded in anything, it showed us why she should be hired to direct more blockbusters. Great scripting, amazing cinematography, a moving score by Terence Blanchard, brilliant fight choreography, and some of the best performances of the year are all featured in this sprawling narrative about the evils of slavery and colonialism. Viola Davis, as always, is a dramatic powerhouse in every scene she’s in. The Woman King may not be the most historically accurate blockbuster out there, but it is definitively the most compelling and empowering. Three and a half stars.
A snazzy and stylish tribute to the King of Rock and Roll and the best biopic of the year. Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, The Great Gatsby) brings his traditional flair and pizzazz to Elvis’ iconic story, with the elaborate sets, lightning-quick cutaways, and eye-popping costumes matching the high energy of the King’s larger-than-life shows. But the real scene-stealer here is Austin Butler. He delivers a passionate, mesmerizing, and unquestionably authentic performance as Elvis Presley that you never doubt for a second. Much like Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln or David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., Butler channels Elvis perfectly to the point where you can’t even tell whose voice you’re hearing when he sings. An engrossing and absorbing historical drama that you can’t help falling in love with over and over again. Three and a half stars.
A vibrant, colorful, and eye-popping animated gem that makes you want to get up and let out your inner red panda in a loud and triumphant roar. Directed by Academy Award-winning animator Domee Shi, this fantasy family film tells the story of a 13-year-old girl named Mei, whose family is cursed with turning into red pandas when they feel intense emotions. Turning Red exemplifies the best of Pixar storytelling: equally emotional and heartfelt as it is funny and entertaining. The animation adopts an anime art style that works perfectly for the story it’s trying to tell, and the characters are just as infectious and lovable. Turning Red isn’t just a fun time at the movies: it’s a moving and monumental coming-of-age story that inspires growth, challenges your perspective, and transforms you into something bigger and better: just like its furry red heroine. Four stars.
A compelling and captivating underdog story neatly wrapped into a heartfelt tribute to the sport of basketball. Adam Sandler is following up from his flawless Uncut Gems role to deliver yet another phenomenal dramatic performance as Stanley Sugerman, a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers who dreams of becoming a coach. Real-life Toronto Raptors player Juancho Hernangomez portrays up-and-comer Bo Cruz, and his chemistry with Sandler is so great that his acting ability is never brought into question. This is Rocky for basketball if the perspective was shifted to Mickey, and you’re invested every bit as you watch these two nobodies hustle for something bigger than themselves. A genuinely great basketball drama where Sandler’s deep love of the sport can be felt in every dribble, every pass, and every slam dunk. Four stars.
A wildly exciting, action-packed and fast-paced dogfighting drama that puts you up in the air with the rest of its adrenaline-addicted pilots and asks you to buckle up for the ride. Taking place 36 years (yowza!) after the original movie came out, Tom Cruise suits up once again as the hot-headed fighter pilot Maverick in a new aerial adventure with Goose’s son, Rooster (Miles Teller). Top Gun: Maverick proudly displays the moviemaking magic that is sorely missing in today’s blockbusters. The aerial dogfights are out of this world and make you feel the G-forces with every maneuver. The stakes are established very well and the tension gradually builds up into the climax with heart-racing execution. And Tom Cruise and Miles Teller are at their very best, with their chemistry embodying the heart and soul of this movie. A masterclass in blockbuster moviemaking that achieved the impossible. Four stars.
A raw, visceral, and violent revenge tale that explores just how deep mankind’s depravities truly go. Based on the Scandinavian legend, The Northman tells the story of Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard), a Viking warrior who swears to kill his uncle after he decapitates his father and kidnaps his mother. This blood-soaked fable has some of the most brutal and unflinching action scenes out of the whole year, with many of the battle scenes matching the scope and scale of historical epics like Braveheart or Gladiator. Director Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse) builds a brilliantly dark and ethereal world whose lore feels much bigger than what we see here. And the performances are simply breathtaking, with Skarsgard and Anya Taylor-Joy delivering some of the film’s most tragic and heart-piercing moments. A bold, monumental, and powerful Nordic legend that feels destined to be echoed throughout time. Four stars.
Far from the gaudy and horrific remake that Disney+ released earlier this year, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio takes a more mature, true-to-life approach on the beloved fairy tale to bring us a mesmerizing stop-motion masterpiece that is as ingenious and creative as it is heartfelt and emotional. After his son Carlo dies as a casualty of war, woodcarver Gepetto (David Bradley) creates a wooden puppet in an effort to revive him. But when the spirit of the woods (Tilda Swinton) resonates with Gepetto’s grief, she brings the puppet to life and names him Pinocchio (Gregory Mann). This is a remake that breathes new life into the Pinocchio mythos, pulling from history and real life in a way that feels original while staying true to the source material. The stop-motion animation is also the most beautiful and eye-catching out of the whole year, with Del Toro reportedly shooting over 160,000 frames to make the animation feel seamless and alive. A genuinely beautiful and captivating retelling of this classic story that will make you see Pinocchio in a whole new light. Four stars.
A gorgeous, stunning, and visually spectacular sequel that expands the Avatar lore in new ways that makes it feel much bigger and grander than ever before. After the Na’vi successfully pushed back the human invasion 10 years ago, the Sky People have returned to retake Pandora — and this time, they have their sights on the Toruk Makto, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). This is a sequel that builds on the legacy of Avatar while not feeling repetitive or redundant from the first movie. The new cast of characters are as lovable as the old ones are, with Sigourney Weaver’s Kiri feeling the most majestic and awe-inspiring out of all of them. The movie’s themes of environmentalism and industrialism are as relevant as ever, with a few heart-wrenching scenes adding to the emotional weight of this story. And the visual design is simply breathtaking, with the underwater sequences revealing a whole new world living and breathing beneath the surface of Pandora. Before going in to see this movie, I was hesitant to say Avatar even needed a sequel. Now, I can’t wait for the third, fourth, and even fifth installment of this constantly expanding franchise. Four stars.
And finally, my favorite film of 2022. Talk about a sleeper hit. When I originally saw the trailer for this movie, I thought it was one of the weirdest trailers I ever saw and immediately wrote it off. When I finally gave it a chance and watched it, it was one of the greatest experiences I ever had in the movie theater and made me feel a wealth of emotions all at once. This movie is spellbinding. This movie is transcendental. This movie is…
Never before have I seen a movie so chaotic, so random, so haywire, bonkers, bizarre, and utterly insane, and yet work as brilliantly as it does. Michelle Yeoh stars as Evelyn, a laundromat owner who is dissatisfied with life and her silly, hopelessly optimistic husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) and her rebellious daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). But when a menacing force called the Jobu Tupaki seeks to destroy the multiverse as we know it, Evelyn needs to connect with alternate versions of herself to build the skills she needs to defeat Jobu Tupaki and save the multiverse. This is a film that sounds complex and confusing, but at its heart, tells a simple story about family, fulfillment, and finding happiness no matter where you are in the universe. Michelle Yeoh does a brilliant job as its central character, but really, the whole cast is superb in playing all of their alternate selves, especially Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu, who at times feel like different characters entirely. The whole film is a brilliant fusion of genres ranging from action and martial arts to horror and sci-fi. Yet what amazes me is not the mixture of tones, but rather how flawlessly and seamlessly it all blends together in a cinematic collage of genres. A brilliant deconstruction of nihilism that teaches us that the most important thing you can do in the multiverse is love, be compassionate, and be kind. Four stars.
Thank you all for joining me for yet another Top 10 list and yet another great year at the movies. Whatever 2023 brings, I look forward to experiencing it with all of you and hope you have just as amazing a year as I did. I love you all, and I’ll see you at the movies.
Life feels like it’s been moving fast-forward for us both recently. Just a month ago, we were standing at the altar reciting our vows to each other through our paced breaths and racing heartbeats. A week after that, we went on our first trip out of the country to our honeymoon in Cancun, where we swam in the crystal-clear blue oceans, played with dolphins, and drank more tequila than either of us had any business consuming. A week after that, we went head-first into our first holiday season as a married couple, juggling time between both of our families’ houses. Even now after we have winded down from all of the presents and egg nog, we head into 2023 as different people from who we were earlier this year. If life was moving any faster for us, we’d be parents before Valentine’s even came around.
So much has happened so quickly in the past few months that I don’t want to lose these feelings of joy and happiness, or lose sight of why I fell in love with you in the first place. That’s why before the new year comes around and we once again get wrapped up in the busyness of our everyday lives, I wanted to take a moment to pause, breathe, and simply express everything I’ve felt about you for a while now. No cameras, no calendars, no wedding plans — just you and me.
Our paths crossed through the most generic, millennial way possible — through Bumble. I remember the state of mind I was in before I came across your face. It was Nov. 7, 2020, and after a ridiculous, abysmal year filled with COVID-19, social isolation, economic disaster, police brutality, ongoing social division, and one of the most vitriolic and toxic election cycles in recent memory, I was left feeling depressed, lonely, and angry at the state of the world and how far we have fallen as a country. Mind you, this was also the one-year anniversary of breaking up with my then-girlfriend of two years, totaling my car, and saying goodbye to my grandmother before she passed away.
By all accounts, I was not in a good state of mind — quite possibly the worst I was ever in.
In truth, I don’t even remember much of why I downloaded Bumble in the first place. I think I needed a distraction more than anything else, and swiping left and right gave me something to do other than doomscrolling through Twitter or playing “Spider-Man” for like the 80th time. But then I came across your profile, and I saw your bright, beautiful eyes, your warm, inviting smile, and your red hair that burned as brightly as the sun. You were simply stunning, but I saw something else in you even deeper than that. You radiated like no light I had ever seen before.
I didn’t find out until our first coffee date that light didn’t come from an Instagram filter: it came from you. You were exactly everything I had hoped you were: bright, beautiful, kind, radiant, compassionate, funny, sociable, and powerfully empathetic. To this day, I still don’t know what quality of yours entranced me the most. Was it your bright red hair? Your gorgeous smile? Your beaming personality that shone through every word and every laugh?
You told me that you were a behavioral therapist for a developmental clinic in Dallas and worked with children who were on the Autism spectrum. Knowing that I too was on the spectrum worried me and made me wonder if I was the right fit for you. After all, I knew firsthand how difficult individuals on the spectrum could be. After a long day’s work dealing with children still learning who they are, would you want to come home to a man still learning to do the same?
You assured me quickly that my being on the spectrum didn’t scare you or make you feel any differently about me. In fact, you told me “All I see is David, and I’m really enjoying him.” I can’t tell you how liberating that felt to me. All my life, I felt shackled by who I was — by my tunnel-visioned way of thinking, my social awkwardness, and my inability to connect with others. But just like you do with all of your children, you made me feel less like these are inherent negative qualities of myself and more like personal obstacles that I too can overcome. You truly are the only one who ever made me feel free from myself, just as you do for so many other young souls daily.
The next year with you was spent in absolute bliss. I truly do not remember spending a single bad day with you. Whether we were going out to the movies, on spontaneous shopping trips to Target, skipping town for weekend adventures, or just staying in for a quiet, relaxing night at home, everything just felt right with you.
There was never a moment where I questioned us or where we were headed. You became my new home, and I have never felt more secure than when I am with you.
That’s not to say last year was an easy year for either one of us. From personal family tragedies to work-related stresses to that blasted snowmageddon, 2021 was a year of many challenges for us both. Yet, what inspired me most through it all was not the lack of adversity, but rather how you being there made everything easier for me. Through your cute and infectious little laugh to your sweet and sentimental touch to your deep care and compassion, you made every hardship a little easier, every burden a little lighter to bear, every loss a little less devastating. You have and continue to get me through so much on a daily basis. I only hope I do the same for you as you do for me.
Funny enough, my favorite quote that makes me think of you is in, what else, the 2002 Spider-Man film, where Peter finally tells Mary Jane what he truly thinks of her. Because when he describes his emotions, they are all too real for how I feel about you:
“The great thing about MJ is… when you look into her eyes and she’s looking back in yours, everything feels… not quite normal. You feel stronger and weaker at the same time. You feel excited, and at the same time, terrified. The truth is, you don’t know what you feel except you know what kind of man you want to be. It’s as if you’ve reached the unreachable, and you weren’t ready for it.”
It’s for that exact same reason that I wanted to marry you. You not only make me a better man every day. You make everyone around you want to be the best person they can be — because you empower them to be.
In Matthew 5:16, Jesus commanded his followers to shine their light onto the world: “That they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Every day, it’s easy to see that your light is the brightest one there is. Truthfully, the world would be a much better place if more people like you were in it.
So as we head into our first year of marriage and the rest of our lives, I just want to say that I am so, so proud of and thankful for you. You excite me, you empower me, you strengthen me, you embolden me, and you inspire me more than any movie, any filmmaker, any actor, any character or any superhero ever could. That’s because unlike these larger-than-life heroes like Luke Skywalker, James Bond, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, or Frodo Baggins, you are real. And you can make anyone feel like they can fly.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, my beloved Meagan Dunn. I can’t wait to spend eternity with you.
“In my culture, death is not the end. It’s more of a stepping-off point. You reach out with both hands, and Bast and Sekhmet lead you into a green field… where you can run forever.” These words that Chadwick Boseman spoke in his first appearance as T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War echoed in my memory while watching Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, a poignant and thoughtful reflection on the Black Panther legacy, what it means to people, and how we are expected to grieve and move forward when our king is no longer with us. Chadwick Boseman is gone. How is the Black Panther expected to survive without him?
After King T’Challa suddenly and unexpectedly passes away, the kingdom of Wakanda is left in a weakened, vulnerable state. The United Nations is after Wakanda and its precious Vibranium. Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) is struggling to balance her new life as a ruler and as a grieving mother. And while all of this is going on, a new threat emerges from the oceans: Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the king of the underwater nation of Talokan, who seeks war on the world for what the surface dwellers have done to his people. Now left to defend itself from both Talokan and the world, a new Black Panther must rise from Wakanda to protect the nation and its people.
It’s difficult to critique or even write about this movie without reflecting on what it was originally supposed to be. Before Chadwick Boseman tragically passed away from colon cancer in 2020, writer-director Ryan Coogler was knee-deep in writing the sequel and even completed a draft before Chadwick’s sudden passing. Coogler famously said after the fact that he “spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say that we weren’t destined to see.” That’s the most heartbreaking part of all, knowing that Chadwick had a big part to play in this sequel that we’ll never get to see what could have been.
So when the movie feels like it’s supposed to be two separate movies, in a way, it’s kind of because they’re supposed to be. There are two intertwining narratives that are conflicting with each other in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The first and stronger one is the fact that T’Challa has passed away and the nation of Wakanda is grieving for their fallen hero. The second is a geopolitical thriller about two warring nations and how they can peacefully coexist in the same world together. Both of these premises are strong enough to carry an entire movie on their own. Juggling both of these narratives at the same time in a lengthy two-hour and 40-minute runtime feels crammed.
But I don’t blame Coogler for how convoluted the movie feels. The fact is he and the rest of his creative team were thrust into a very uncomfortable position and had to make a difficult choice — continue telling the story of Wakanda without its hero, or let its legacy die alongside Chadwick Boseman? Ultimately, Coogler and the rest of the cast and crew decided that the Black Panther mantle was far too important to be left alone or forgotten, though maybe they should have taken some time to grieve and flesh out the script a little more when the loss wasn’t so raw to them.
One thing I will say is that the performances are powerful in this movie — quite possibly even more so than in the first movie. But that’s somewhat to be expected. After all, the entire cast isn’t so much acting as they are expressing their true feelings of loss and grief. While the rest of the world lost a king, a superhero, and an icon two years ago, the cast of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever lost a colleague, a mentor, and a friend. That pain translates beautifully and meaningfully into their performances. Even traditionally comedic actors like Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira and Winston Duke carry a much more somber, serious delivery with their lines. And Angela Basset was straight-up fierce as Queen Ramonda. She had a couple of truly powerful monologues in the film that was effective in expressing her strength, her resoluteness, and her sadness all at the same time.
Even the newcomers were just as impressive. Dominique Thorne (If Beale Street Could Talk, Judas And The Black Messiah) takes over for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark as the new Ironheart, and while I was initially worried about how she would fit into this already packed story, she was a standout among the cast and gave the film some much-needed attitude and energy to help keep up the pace. And Tenoch Huerta especially crushed it as Namor. Far from the cheap one-dimensional supervillains Marvel is usually known for churning out, Namor is a much more complex, layered antagonist who is compelled to action not by world domination or destruction, but out of deep love, care, and protection for his people. He serves as an excellent foil to Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, and it makes my heart hurt thinking of all of the great interactions we could have seen from these characters that we’ll never get to.
All in all, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is not as great as its predecessor. Then again though, it doesn’t need to be. While the film makes you feel the weight of Chadwick Boseman’s loss and the hollow, empty feelings that come with it, it’s also incredibly healing and reassures you that tomorrow will still come, even when the ones we love are no longer with us. Chadwick Boseman may be gone, but let us be grateful that the Black Panther continues to live on — not just in the people of Wakanda, but in all of us.
Nuh-uh, nope, nada, nonononono, goodbye, no thank you.
Mankind has a great interest in the unknown. That’s partly why we’ve always been fascinated with the phenomenon of extraterrestrial life and what’s out there in a larger universe. Is there life beyond our small planet? If there is, what is it like? Is it friendly? Fearsome? Frightening? Or violent? Whatever it is, we as a species don’t have the answers to those impossible questions. That’s why the possibilities of aliens excite us and terrify us at the same time.
In Nope, Jordan Peele tackles the alien genre in the unconventional way that only he knows how: with loads of thrills, dark humor, eerie, unsettling tension, and a butt-load of subcontext that will fly right over people’s heads. The biggest obstacle most alien sci-fi films face is being too predictable or similar to each other. Let me assure you that you won’t be able to predict a single thing that happens in Nope: not even what the aliens look like.
In this trippy sci-fi horror flick, Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer play OJ and Emerald Hayward, a brother-sister duo who trains and handles horses for film and television productions. But recently, they’ve been noticing some strange happenings around their ranch. Horses vanish in the middle of the night without a trace. The power cuts off randomly at times without any explanation. And one evening, OJ swears that he saw something move through the clouds. Now determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, OJ and Em outfit their whole house with security and recording equipment to capture… whatever it is they think they saw.
Ever since Jordan Peele released his Oscar-winning picture Get Out in 2015, fans have come to expect a few things from the acclaimed horror filmmaker. They expect his films to be highly unconventional and unpredictable. They expect high moments of stress, unease, and tension that make us feel anxious and on edge. They expect visceral, violent moments brilliantly building up to spontaneous moments of dark humor. And they expect his films to carry a deeper theme to them, whether it involves racism, prejudice, neoliberalism, feminism, or wealth inequality.
The best thing that can be said about Nope is that it retains Peele’s trademarks as a director. One of my biggest hangups with most horror movies is that they reveal their penultimate threat way too early so that by the time the climax arrives, it’s lost any and all effect of being fearsome or intimidating. The best horror movies masterfully obscure their villains so that by the time they are revealed, their actions leave an impact and give you a reason to remain afraid for the rest of the movie’s runtime.
Just like the shark in Jaws, Michael Meyers in Halloween, and the Xenomorph in Alien, Jordan Peele shows as little of the aliens as possible throughout the film. That’s because he understands that aliens in and of themselves are not what mankind as a whole fears: it’s what’s unknown about them. About where they come from, what they look like, and what they want from us. Nope asks those questions just like any other alien film does. The difference is once we’ve discovered the answer, we wish we could forget.
And this is a weird compliment for me to make because I don’t usually make it in my reviews, but the sound design in this film is… horrifying. The first time I heard what I thought was the alien’s voice, I thought “That was a weird creative choice to make.” When I realized what the sound actually was later on, it terrified me and sent shivers down my spine.
But while the film is a technical and a visual marvel, the script is unfortunately not as well-refined. For one thing, it lacks the depth and complexion as Peele’s previous works have. While both Get Out and Us had clearly-defined themes about racism, classism, and inequality, Nope is a lot more obscure with its message and portrayal. Which is fine with me: Us was just as subtle in its messaging and relied much more on implication rather than spelling everything out for its audiences. The difference is I understood everything Jordan Peele was trying to tell us at the end of Us. By the time Nope’s credits rolled, I had to piece everything together until I thought to myself “Wait, that’s it?”
Also, while the plot twist near the end of the film was wickedly clever and creative, the alien’s final form in the film is… kind of stupid. And unfortunately, the ending is even worse.
Looking back at Jordan Peele’s wildly successful filmography, Get Out and Us remains to be the greatest achievements of his young directing career so far. Nope lacks the same edge as his previous works do, but it’s still a lot of fun and brings something fresh and unexpected to the alien genre. Thanks to Jordan Peele, I’m never going to look at UFO sightings the same way ever again. I don’t know whether I should be thanking him or just say “Nope.”
Thor: Love And Thunder is Thor: Ragnarok gone wrong, a silly, spastic, stupid, and straight-up ridiculous experience that feels more like a satire of an MCU film rather than an actual MCU film. Thanks to this movie, Thor is the first superhero in the MCU to have four movies in his franchise. And if it succeeded at anything, it showed why most superheroes should just stick with three movies going forward.
Taking place well after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Thor: Love And Thunder picks up where everyone’s favorite blonde-haired thunder god (once again played by Chris Hemsworth) left off as he tries to discover who he is (as if he hasn’t already found out the answer to that question after eight movie appearances). But as he begins his journey of self-discovery (again), a vicious new enemy called Gorr the god butcher (Christian Bale) rises with one goal: to kill all of the living gods.
But wait! As he begins his violent quest, a new god emerges: specially Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) wielding Mjolnir. With two hammer-wielding thunder gods, the two Thors now have to team up to defeat Gorr and bring an end to his god-killing crusade.
When Thor: Ragnarok burst out onto the scene 10 years ago, director Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, What We Do In The Shadows) boldly redefined Thor and his mythos, putting him through a compelling story where he lost his home, his powers, and his hammer and asking who the man behind Mjolnir is. Everything in that film worked to near perfection, from the colorful and eye-popping visuals to the deeply dramatic character moments to the gut-bustingly hilarious jokes. It was a great film back then and it remains one of the best MCU entries to this day.
The best thing I can say about Thor: Love And Thunder is that it replicates *some* of the inspiration behind Thor: Ragnarok. I specifically say “some” because while it possesses many of the same qualities, they’re used nowhere near as effectively as they were in Ragnarok. Still, Chris Hemsworth is as likable in the role as he’s always been, the visual effects are captivating at times, and Taika Waititi brings his usual humorous, lighthearted energy to a character that has typically taken himself way too seriously.
The problem is Taika has gone completely off of the deep end. While Thor: Ragnarok perfectly balanced its action, comedy, and drama, Thor: Love And Thunder flails about aimlessly without sense or direction, and most of its jokes repeat themselves and quickly become redundant. There are a pair of screaming goats introduced early on that I thought were funny at first, but by the 100th scream, they were giving me a migraine. There’s an odd love triangle between Thor, Mjolnir, and Stormbreaker and Thor gets the bright idea of easing tensions by… pouring beer over them. And the climax involves a ridiculous action sequence where kids are imbued with Thor’s lightning that allow them to fight an army of shadow monsters. That’s what you can expect to find in Thor’s fourth movie, ladies and gentlemen: superkids.
What of the rest of the cast? How do they handle in this mess of a movie? Well like everything else in Love And Thunder, their skill is technically present. The error lies in how they are used and misappropriated. Tessa Thompson was such a standout as Valkrie in Thor: Ragnarok, but here, she’s shoved to the side in favor of some forced humor and semi-hammersexuality. In the same vein, Natalie Portman is brilliant as Jane Foster, a powerful, fierce, and domineering woman who has fought for and earned the right to call herself Thor too. Yet she is also forced through an overly dramatic plot that feels emotionally manipulative and ends up negating all of the development we see her go through in the film.
But Christian Bale is the worst of all. Strictly speaking on performance alone, Christian Bale is downright chilling as Gorr, a menacing, slithery presence who feels like the monster that children find hiding under their bed. Between his creepy, eerie performance and a compelling, human motivation, Christian Bale’s Gorr had the potential to be one of the best villains in the MCU.
But potential does not equal reality, and Taika’s biggest error with casting Christian Bale is not using him enough. Out of the movie’s two-hour runtime, Gorr appears four, maybe five times tops. That’s not enough time to care for and get invested into a villlain’s plight. It’s barely enough time to get invested into a character at all. Because Christian Bale is so absent for most of the film, he ends up having the least impact out of all of Thor’s movie villains. I am not kidding when I say that Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith is a more memorable villain than Christian Bale solely because of his screentime. It’s such a shame, because you can see the effort that Bale puts into his performance. And in the end, it’s all left on the cutting room floor.
And if anything, that demonstrates the biggest flaw with Thor: Love And Thunder: it is wasteful. It wastes Chris Hemsworth’s and Christian Bale’s amazing performances. It wastes Jane Foster’s debut as the Mighty Thor. It wastes the Guardians Of The Galaxy, its jokes, and its visual effects. That’s ultimately what this movie is: a giant, pitiful waste.
Guys, I really can’t express this any more bluntly: Thor: Love And Thunder is terrible. The more I think about it, the more it enrages me. For every joke that landed, there were like five that made me groan in the theater. For every emotional moment that pulled at my heartstrings, there were three that felt cheap and unearned. And for every visually stunning and captivating sequence, there was another green screen-assembled mess that looked ungodly awful.
I make no exaggeration when I say this is my least favorite MCU film. There are certainly other films that are as badly written (including Thor: The Dark World and the recently released Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness), but they at least had some technical competency when it came to their editing, cinematography, and visual effects. Thor: Love And Thunder by comparison feels like it isn’t even trying. This is one movie that proves that lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice.
The number “500” is significant for many reasons. For one thing, in Empire Magazine, they listed 500 movies as the greatest films of all time. In Tarot readings, the number “500” represents completeness: a sign that you have lived a fulfilling life and that it will only become more adventurous and exciting from here. Heck, at my current publication, we have a monthly section called “In 500” where readers can submit their own opinion columns in, yup, you guessed it, 500 words.
All my life, the number “500” has followed me in one elusive way or another. This month, the number “500” has a different meaning to me. As of this moment, I have published 500 articles on my website.
Yes, that includes the very same article you’re reading right now.
This is a very strange milestone for me because it’s one I never thought I would reach. Or perhaps more specifically, not one I would have reached on this website so soon.
When I started David Dunn Reviews in 2013, I launched this website as a way to express my thoughts and opinions on movies and entertainment when I couldn’t express them through other avenues. Before I even published my first byline on here, I was writing movie reviews under the notes tab on my Facebook page.
I’ll sometimes read through my old reviews, and they were… rough, to say the least. I both cringed and cackled as I went into long-winded monologues diving into director’s filmographies and characters’ comic-book origins, completely unaware that neither of them are relevant when talking about the quality of the film you’re reviewing. And man, the caps. All of the caps. I can’t tell you how many times I wrote words in all capitalizations whenever I was excited, WHICH NEEDLESS TO SAY, WAS WAY MORE OFTEN THAN IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN. After seeing it for the 50-millionth time, I can definitely see how my reviews might have been exhausting for my readers at the time.
But after joining my college paper, it didn’t take long for me to become a sharper, more concise writer. It definitely wasn’t without its own learning curves or creative differences, but after doing it enough times, my writing became more professional, polished, and easy to read. I still remember seeing some of the comments, with readers chiming in on how they wanted to see a particular movie because of my review, or laughing at one of my more scathing critiques.
But the proudest achievement of my college career remains to be winning Best Review in 2015 at the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association for my review of the DreamWorks animated film Home. My proudest line in that review was where I criticized the main alien race for having “the intelligence of a kumquat and the personality of a doormat.” And most importantly, I got rid of those blasted capitalizations.
I graduated from college a year later, which seemed scary at the time but eventually became something I adjusted to quickly. I started freelancing for every publication that I could (shoutout to MoviePilot) until I got my first official reporting gig for a local community newspaper. A year later, I was hired to work at a lifestyle magazine, which is the publishing job that I have always wanted.
This website — and the articles therein — is one of many reasons why I was hired. So in many ways, this website is a big part of my success to this very day.
I must admit, it hasn’t always been easy maintaining this website — especially during my first year out of college, where I was hopping from one freelance gig to another all while working my day job. But throughout it all, I maintained my love of movies and writing through every new release that came out. I kept reviewing movies whether they were good or bad. I continued my coverage of the Oscars even when writing my recap would take me well into early Monday morning. And every year, I kept ranking my favorite films of the year and sharing the movies that made the biggest impact on me — even those that didn’t make much money at the box office. Especially those movies.
Now don’t be mistaken — I am still not where I’m at in my publishing career where I thought I would have been. At this point in my life, I thought I would have been writing film reviews for either a newspaper or a magazine, hosting my own podcasts, and talking to movie stars and filmmakers on the red carpet. That dream as it stands has not yet come to pass, although I look back on my experiences interviewing Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Aaron Paul, and Vanessa Hudgens quite fondly.
But new dreams have taken its place that are bigger and better than I would have imagined. I’m still doing what I love, whether I’m writing for this website or for my magazine. I’m still watching movies, playing video games, and live-streaming on the weekends. And later this year, I’ll be marrying the love of my life. It’s crazy how fast and how hard life hits you, and I’m happy to say that, well, I’m happy at where I’m at in my life right now.
It certainly hasn’t always been that way. 2020 was a particularly rough year for this website since, you know, no new movies came out. Then in 2021, my mental health took a drastic decline to the point where I had to step away from this website for a time being.
What saved me and what pulled me out of my depression was, as always, the movies. Specifically, a 2021 musical comedy by Bo Burnham called Inside, which touched on issues such as depression, anxiety, and self-worth through a clever and creative lens of a comedian trapped inside his room during a pandemic. That film inspired me, made me feel seen, and made me feel less alone in a cruel, callous, and crumbling world that will probably burn up in the atmosphere a few years down the line. But I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, and seeing that film and the reactions to it reminded me that there were many others that felt the same way that I did. Indeed, I was way less alone than I could have ever realized.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m grateful. Grateful that I have this website. Grateful that I have my life. Grateful that I have you, my fellow readers, who keep coming back here to read my thoughts and opinions despite how infrequent they may be. This life of mine is not perfect, but whose life is? I find that the key to happiness is contentment: not in feeling disappointed in what we don’t have, but rather in feeling thankful for the things that we do.
And I am so, so thankful for you — for any click you made on my website, for any words that you took the time to read, for any comment you left (provided it wasn’t a smartass one), and for any laugh or emotion you experienced while reading my reviews. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you for being a loyal reader of mine. You’ve made writing 500 bylines on this website more valuable than you know.