2022 may have been the year when Hollywood released a number of mainstream movies on streaming platforms and/in theatres. However, this inflation and war sickened year has turned out to be one of the most fruitful ones for movies with less marketing backing and good three-point lighting – please, forgive me – in the media.
Let’s see some of the best gems you have not seen and you should consider!
~ by Dora Endre ~
Bones And All
Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name, I Am Love) carefully places all ingredients he dearly loves in a blender, asks us to place our hand in it too -, which we voluntarily do – mixes it all together and serves it up as a breakfast smoothie. Comparing Bones And All to a summer smoothie might seem odd but hey, see it for yourself; the semblance is undeniable.
Bones And All is an adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’s novel of the same name. The plot revolves around a pair of young outcasts, played by Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet, who hit the road in the ‘80s Virginia. As they cross a number of the picturesque Southern states they grow fond of each other and discover who they really are. Sounds like an idealistic coming-of-age story, right? Have I mentioned that these two happen to be cannibals?
Our heroine, Maren, seems to be just like every other high school student of her age. She plays the piano in secret, doubtful of her talent. She sneaks out of her father’s house at night to sleep over at friends’. She has recently got her driver’s licence and reads Tolkien in her spare time. However, Maren and her father move around quite a bit. Also, they frequently change their names and identity. She has no memories of her mother…
As Guadagnino gives us one hint after another, a weird stomach-twisting feeling starts to build in me. My throat is getting dry. I see sun soaked colors painting one shot after the other – the scene early on where Maren and her schoolmate lie and chat underneath the coffee table covered by nail polishing, make up sponges and leftover meat (!) is a magnificent way of setting the story.
However, their girlie conversation takes an unexpected turn, Maren bites her friend’s finger off. This proves to be the last drop for Maren’s father. He gets too tired to live a life like this and abandons her. He leaves only some bucks and a tape behind, which the Sicilian filmmaker uses as a tool of narration, providing us with bits of information as the plot progresses. Completely alone in the world, our disturbed and disturbing protagonist sets off to find her mother. The woman who she knows is also an “eater”. On her way to Minnesota, Maren encounters a number of “eaters”, and learns about the dark corners of humanity and the power of connection while struggling for her place in society.
The cinematography (Arseni Khachaturan), usual to Guadagnino’s preferred looks, contains loads of geometrical shapes and forms, is rich in detail, vivid with warm colors and ambiguous with contrasty shadows. The sudden jump cuts, pans and zoom ins all add to the odd feeling crawling under the viewer’s skin. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross brilliantly follow the film’s zigzagging nature with their music. We constantly transition from one genre to the other, going from horror to dark comedy, from road movie to psychological thriller, from romance straight back to horror. Guadagnino makes these shifts with precise calculation, and similarly to music, dynamic changes keep us as viewers on the edge of our seats, eager to see what else is to come.
The moody and bloody beautiful (!) film is fueled with fantastic performances. Especially, by Mark Rylance. He plays Willie Nelson, if Willie Nelson was a narcissistic cannibal feeding on dead elderly people. The Oscar-winner easily steals every scene he is in. It is wonderful to see Rylance – and Michael Stuhlbarg, also most noted for the uptight characters he portrays on film – being this free, playful, and wildly eccentric. Their close-ups are as “delicious” as marshmallows made over a campfire. I swear, I do not know why this nasty movie sparks this many food references in my head.
Timothée Chalamet does an outstanding job too. He portrays the turbulent and deeply broken Lee with grace and compassion. Chalamet is one of the young Hollywood actors who is always a joy to see on screen. Also, I have found it easy to relate to Lee due to his awkward dance moves. “It ain’t a crime to be yourself” he sings.
Classic Italian horrors of the ‘70s and ‘80s have undoubtedly had a massive influence on Guadagnino who, after a handful of successful remakes, is now confidently combining all the components he himself enjoys watching and indulging in. Bones And All is a great example why this genre, mastered by such filmmakers as Damiano Damiani and Dario Argento, deserves a revival.
Bones And All proves to be one of the best movies of 2022. It is a thought-provoking, gentle yet disturbing movie about our demons and how love has the ability to soften them, at least temporarily.
It currently streams on Amazon Prime.
Buba is an underrated, straight line crazy action-comedy based on the popular German TV Show titled “How to Sell Drugs Online Fast”. Buba is about two orphaned brothers, growing up in complete reliance on each other. They become crooks, getting involved in break-ins, thefts and, brace yourself, even in sperm robbery. Dante (Georg Fiedrich) is a master manipulator and Jacob aka Buba (Bjarne Mädel) is our complicated yet kind-hearted protagonist.
The movie starts off by Buba’s unfortunate death. No spoilers, but his way of dying is a great little reference to the work of Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, Benny’s Video). After he passes away, we go back in time.
First, in the form of vignettes, we are introduced to Buba’s childhood. Then we get to know more about his adult life, and why it is entirely devoted to his brother. Director Arne Feldhusen (Stromberg) constructed an intriguing backstory for the brothers. Their parents tragically died in a car crash. The accident left Dante with permanent brain damage. This life-changing event occurred while Buba was taking part in a break dance competition. He won the competition by beating the young Leonardo DiCaprio (FACT) and was truly happy for the first time in his life. By his active imagination and the fairy tales their grandmother told Buba, he got convinced, the car crash was his fault. He believes anytime he allows himself to be happy, something horrible happens to someone he loves. Therefore, he decided to dedicate his life to suffering and to his brother, to pay for his “past mistake”. The more he suffers, the happier people around him can be. Interesting life hack.
Feldhusen made a refreshing, compassionate and entertaining movie with a wonderful texture and cinematography. The first half of the story is filled with great jokes and hilarious situations where the brothers struggle to not to get killed by “big fish” gangsters. The second half, seems a lot more like a lesser good Guy Ritchie movie, with the involvement of Albanese mafia, hit person drama and less originality. As the story evolves, it loses some of its pace. However, by then we care too much about Buba. We are too invested in his cute fumbling and heartfelt naivety. We stay on the ride.
Buba is 90 minutes of absolute mad escapism, which we are all very much in need of. It streams on Netflix.
The Good Nurse
Tobias Lindholm (Another Round, Hunt) turned Eddie Redmayne into a loathsome serial killer, which is an achievement all by itself. In his true-crime thriller, we follow two nurses at a hospital in New Jersey, Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain) and Charlie Cullen (Redmayne).
Cullen was one of the most prolific serial killers in American history who, according to most calculations, is responsible for the death of circa 400 hundred patients over the course of his 16-year medical career.
Lindholm does not delve into the murderer’s psyche and stays away from blood too. He maintains his focus on the power of compassion and humanity instead, represented by Amy. She grows into being friends with Cullen during their night shifts at critical care, without realizing that he is injecting a deadly amount of insulin into patients. Once the police begin sniffing around, Amy starts putting the puzzle together. From then on, she tries to bring Cullen down – no spoilers – she does not choose to break the cycle of violence with violence.
Amy sets out to stop someone who the system incubated and is desperate to hide. This aspect of the movie reminded me of paedophile priests being transferred from one parish to the next. As long as we turn a blind eye to it, the problem does not exist, right?
The Good Nurse is a terrifying crime story as well as a powerful social commentary. The outrageously expensive American healthcare system spits out the gravely sick nurse who is struggling to make ends meet while risking her own life to save others. We see Amy pay $980 for a single consultation, try to stay alive (literally) until she gets insured by her hospital, and take care of her daughters as a single mother. Chastain’s nuanced, sweat soaked, beautifully constructed performance vibrates with energy, love and sorrow. She is desperately hiding her any-minute fatal disease from her co-workers – if it gets out, she gets fired and no insurance money can come.
Lindholm’s story has no moments of slowing down. The dynamic, naturalistic looking movie relies on great performances, simple camera movements, many vertical and horizontal lines and lots of doors. Characters constantly walk through doors in near complete darkness (think: open the aperture and just go for it style). And we, as hooked viewers, follow them straight into the dark.
The Good Nurse is now available on Netflix.
Alice Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro, The Wonders) went back to her roots with the making of new short film, Le Pupille. The inspiration behind the movie is a letter Elsa Morante, one of Italy’s most well-known authors, wrote to her good friend Goffredo Fofi.
In this Christmas fable about troublemaking girls of a Catholic boarding school, Rohrwacher explores such themes as poverty, loss, wartime traumas, close-knit communities, the relativity of innocence, authority versus the individual, bullying and the power of faith. If this package sounds somewhat familiar, do not check in with your doctor, there is nothing wrong with you. The producer behind Le Pupille is no other than Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Roma). Cuarón’s A Little Princess (1995) was set in a New York City boarding school during World War I and focused on many of the same themes. He also had a similar central character to the one Rohrwacher has, an anarchic schoolgirl who disrupts the system and pretty much launches a coup.
Magic, imagination, subtle humor, odd and playful events color the holiday season in the Tuscan orphanage slash boarding school. Rohrwacher creates a strong, sensation-fueled atmosphere. She fills every scene with saturated curiosity, early childhood memories and impactful rapports. All characters thrive for something, making the story’s micro world strongly resemble today’s society. Characters dream of food, money, love and others’ compliance with their own rules. Except for that one little girl, you know from the first frames; she will be trouble.
The climax of the short is the student’s Christmas dinner. It involves a present the school received in exchange of the girl’s heartfelt prayers. The present is none other than a fabulous cake made of seventy eggs.
“Seventy eggs, in these times of scarcity”
– says the headmaster.
Let yourself slip into nostalgia and see what happens to the pudding cake in this bittersweet movie. Le Pupille is now available Disney+.
Todd Field’s (Little Children) new movie took years of chasing-after-funding to make. The story has reportedly evolved and changed its shape overtime, but one component stayed doggedly the same: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Carol). Field wrote the role of Lydia Tár, world-famous music conductor specifically for Blanchett.
By the way, Tár is a fictitious character. Just like many viewers I did my own desperate Googling too. The character is only loosely based on Eva Brunelli who was the first woman to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic in 1923.
The always cool-headed, mind-blowingly talented, decisive and manipulative TÁR has a blooming life. She gives speeches at high-end events, guest lectures at Juilliard, dines at fancy restaurants, and lives in Germany with her long-time partner and daughter. She also orchestrates the acclaimed Berlin Philharmonic. She is the North Star of the highly male-dominated world of classical music. However, as she is taking on a new project with her orchestra and is planning the launch of her new book, the maestro’s seemingly immaculate personal and public life begin to fall apart.
I had no prior knowledge of the plot before watching TÁR. I had not read a thing, seen no trailer or clip. The first, long sequence at a podium talk with Tár, made me seriously question whether choosing to see this movie was a good call or not. But eventually, it turned out to be one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking stories of 2022 that I witnessed unfold on the screen.
I went from thinking “Oh my God, this is going to be hyper intellectual artists masturbating on how wonderfully complex it is to be an artist for 158 minutes straight” and “Blanchett is great. This Tár embodies all stereotypes people tend to have about artists. Artists who enjoy playing the part of the BIG artist.”
I was so annoyed at one point I started thinking about pulling a Van Gogh, cutting off my ear(s) so that no music can get to me anymore. And then, something shifted. Suddenly I went “DAMN. This is genius.” It took me time to get in the flow of the movie and get over my personal irritation but once I managed and was in the flow, it swept me away. What a wild ride!
And yes, Field touches upon a variety of themes and gets incredibly analytical – it is important for him to directly reflect on the here and now. Gender bias, the classical music industry, separating the art from its maker and personal or moral tendencies, political correctness, discrimination, sexuality, ego bloating and social media. At one point, Tár says to a Gen-Z student:
“Social media is the architect of your soul”.
She is fierce, quite narcissistic and only openly loving towards Petra, her daughter. She suppresses her entire inner world to give a way to her external projection. Tár keeps all her fears, anxieties and frustration to herself and makes sure if any inner turmoil occurs it gets covered within seconds. Nobody can see who she really is. No notices of her writer’s block, self-doubts, extreme fears, immense guilt, impostor syndrome, pride and social difficulties can get to the surface. She is “not” a human being, she is the maestro.
Tár stops being chic and immaculate when her façade starts chipping away. She becomes filthy, raw, broken, fallible and very real. She is trying to live an impossibly high number of lives; she is a mother, a partner, a composer, an artist in solitude, a hunter, a star and most importantly, a controller. What happens if she loses all control? If people see her for who she is? If all doors close on her? TÁR is almost like a modern take on Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray.
Every frame of the movie projects sophistication, elegance, and immaculacy. We swift with the camera as smoothly as a knife blade cuts through some warm butter. Field and his cinematographer, Florian Hoffmeister (Pachinko, Official Secrets) pull off a handful of long, complicated takes that would make Miklos Jancso (The Red and the White) turn green with envy.
Setting out to watch TÁR is a wonderful experiment, see how far you can stretch yourself. Trust me, it is worth the try.
TÁR is now available on Amazon, Google Play, Vudu and iTunes.