A+E: The Best Films of 2022, Cult Classics vs. Mainstream Masterpieces

by Mark Lutke

These films from 2022 reflect several elements of what makes film great – beautiful artistry, powerful messaging and, occasionally, satisfying blockbusters that serve as great eye candy.

  1. Cult Classic – Vortex – Gaspar Noé

This movie by French director Gaspar Noé focuses on an elderly couple suffering from dementia. They use various medications to cope with their crumbling reality, in which their son is the only family who they can remember. He tries to take care of them but is held back by drug-problems of his own.

Instead of the descent-into-madness thriller that Noé is known for, this movie serves more as a descent-into-madness drama. That is to say that it makes the viewer think about their own life, rather than just going along for the ride.

For some less-seasoned viewers, it may come across as slow, but for many, it will catalyze the existential crisis that serious film-goers crave.

  1. Mainstream Masterpiece – The Banshees of Inisherin – Martin McDonaugh

By all metrics, The Banshees of Inisherin is the most visually beautiful film on this list. Its story is solid, but its cinematography is where it truly shines. 

The film takes viewers on a trip to 1920’s Ireland in the midst of civil war. But this film isn’t about battle strategies or history, rather it’s about the relationships between its characters, who all live on an island.

When Colm (Brendan Gleeson) severs his lifelong friendship with Pádriac (Colin Farrell), each of these character’s worlds begin to change. Pádriac is understandably distraught and much of his character arc is about developing a backbone and learning to live without Colm’s approval.

Pádriac’s sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon), also has her own plot line. Her story demonstrates the mental and emotional impact that living on an island can have on a person, as well as the effects of finding oneself in isolation.

The Banshees of Inisherin has something to offer for everybody.

Whether one wants a humanistic take on island life, or to be dazzled by beautiful cinematography, this film will undeniably sit well with the masses. Which is why it came as no surprise when it took home three Golden Globe awards (Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actor (Farrell) Musical or Comedy, and Best Screenplay)

  1. Cult Classic – We’re All Going to the World’s Fair – Jane Shoenbrun

Jane Schoenbrun (Collective: Unconscious and The Eyeslicer) has already achieved cult status among fans and critics alike. This is all the more impressive when one considers that they have only released one full-length film. 

We’re All Going To The World’s Fair is a psychological horror-drama that showcases a descent into abstractions and surrealism. It explores themes of isolation, gender identity and existential dread, which Schoenbrun catalyzes with Black Mirror-esque social commentary primarily focused on the isolating effect of technology. 

Alongside these elements stands Anna Cobb’s unassuming yet jarring performance as Casey, a lonesome teenager whose primary motivation is human connection in a lonesome and unaccepting world. To achieve this Casey joins an online role-playing horror game in an attempt to find excitement and adventure. Instead, she is met by JLB (portrayed by Michael J. Rodgers of Beyond the Black Rainbow ). JLB is a sadistic predator who tries to take advantage of Casey’s isolated state. 

We’re All Going To The World’s Fair portrays the internet as a manipulative cesspit full of consumption-driven false promises. This depiction rings true to many who have praised the film’s brutally honest and realistic tone.

Herein lies the essence of We’re all Going to the World’s Fair, a cautionary tale about the dangers of being a disaffected youth with unrestricted internet access and living in a world that seeks to turn everyone and everything into a commodity.

  1. Mainstream Masterpiece – Nope – Jordan Peele  

Perhaps no modern American filmmaker is more misunderstood on a than Jordan Peele. His newest film, Nope, is no exception. Many have theorized about this movies’ meaning and many subplots, as there is no discernable connection between story threads on a first viewing.

However, if one looks at Nope as a critique of blockbusters and spectacle, interpreting it becomes a far easier task. In a world full of Superhero movies and shallow action flicks, like Top Gun: Maverick), Nope brings some much needed nuance to the modern blockbuster. The movie’s apparent lack of depth can be deceiving, but it is through this lack of depth that Jordan Peele is able to craft compelling themes. If the movie was less abstract, it wouldn’t be as fun to pick apart.

Furthermore, Daniel Kaluya’s performance as OJ is reminiscent of the stoic personalities often seen in many Western protagonists. This could be seen as Peele referencing the Westerns that shaped the spectacle of old. It could also be seen as a subversion of stereotypical racial dynamics by placing a black actor in a role similar to that of a John Wayne performance (performances that are often portrayed by white male actors, specifically).

Whatever one’s take on Nope is. It is undeniable that Jordan Peele is a master provocateur of serious and productive discussions through cinema.

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