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REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus

2022 has officially come to an end, and what a spectacular year for cinema it was! Movie theatres were back, seeing big tentpole titles being released frequently once the summer movie season began. Film festivals were back in full swing, and attending the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time in person and experiencing thirty-five films over the course of ten days was a truly incredible experience. Audiences flocked back to theatres for blockbuster events like Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World: Dominion, while filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, Damien Chazelle, Sam Mendes, James Cameron, Florian Zeller and Guillermo del Toro all released new films. It was a great year to be a film lover, especially experiencing these ten extraordinary films on the big screen!

10. The Woman King

 

The Woman King is Viola Davis's magnum opus, where she and director Gina Prince-Bythewood have crafted one of the most epic films of the year. As a historical drama, the film features incredible action sequences, while never sacrificing the emotional heart of each woman's story in the film. Viola Davis delivers one of her greatest performances ever, and the supporting cast of Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch and Sheila Atim all soar! The result is a truly spectacular film that will have your jaw drop, raise your heart, and take you on an unforgettable experience!

 

9. Women Talking
 

Sarah Polley directed one of the most powerful films of the year, that everyone must see! Brilliantly acted by the best ensemble cast of the year featuring breathtaking performances Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw, and Frances McDormand, watching a group of individuals talk for an entire film has never been more riveting! Polley's screenplay is a true tour de force adaptation, capturing the emotional honesty of the important gender violence discussions happening in the film while shifting the focus of the narrative to how these women want to see their world, ultimately taking the power away from their abusers. Underscoring this all is a phenomenal musical score from Hildur Guðnadóttir, which helps bolster Women Talking as one of the most important films of the year.

 

8. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

 

My love for the world of Harry Potter is undying, and that is the reason the latest Fantastic Beasts film made my top ten of the year. It's a magical adventure designed as an elaborate heist that will enchant audiences from start to finish. Steve Kloves's screenplay of J.K. Rowling's story alleviates the narrative issues of the first two films, while giving a more prominent role for Jude Law's Dumbledore which is a welcomed addition to the franchise. Mads Mikkelsen's Grindelwald is truly brilliant, capturing the war mongering villain that holds a truly terrifying significance in the history of the Wizarding World, while Eddie Redmayne continues to delight as Newt! Plus the second Hogwarts appeared on screen and James Newton Howard began reprising John William's iconic musical themes, there was no way this film was not making my top ten of the year!

 

7. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

 

Paying tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman was never going to be an easy task given the cultural significance of his performance as T'Challa. But Ryan Coogler accomplished the impossible and created the most beautiful and emotional send off to a fallen star that the industry has ever seen. Every character is given the time to grieve T'Challa's passing, which mirrors the actual cast's mourning of Boseman, making it that much more heartbreaking. Tears will flow, especially when Rihanna's "Lift Me Up" begins playing during the credits before that unforgettable and deeply moving post credit scene. At the same time, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is one of the most exciting Marvel films to date, expanding the universe with new foes and raising the bar for future entries by redefining what Marvel action can be. And the cherry on top: a truly Oscar worth performance from Angela Bassett which steals the entire film!

 

6. Babylon

 

Words cannot describe the pure ecstasy of Babylon, but Damien Chazelle has crafted one of the most ambitious films ever made. It's pure chaos, in the most controlled way possible under Chazelle's incredible direction that proves him as one of the greatest filmmakers of our time. This three hour epic about the transition from silent film into the talkies and the effect it had on Hollywood and those working in it is riveting, aided with outstanding costumes. Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt give what are arguably the finest performances of their careers, and the rest of the cast is just as excellent. But, it is Justin Hurwitz's musical score that is the true start of the film, taking audiences on an extraordinary journey as he captures the wild parties and grand opulence of Hollywood in the best musical score of the year. Keep that film reel going, because Babylon is a once in a lifetime film, best described as the drug addicted cousin of Singin' in the Rain, that I cannot wait to experience over and over again!

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5. Elvis

 

Baz Luhrmann has a one of a kind style that blends so well with music and extravagance, which makes him the perfect director to tell the story of Elvis Presley. Within minutes, his energetic directorial style captures the excitement of a live Elvis concert, plunging the audience right into the show. The production design and costumes are incredible, and Luhrmann's use of modern music perfectly blends in as the film chronicles Elvis's career. But it is the extraordinary performance of Austin Butler that makes this film one of the best of the year. It's a transformative experience where Butler becomes the King of Rock and Roll, with mannerisms that make you feel like you are watching the real Elvis during the concert sequences, and an emotional depth that will tug on your heartstrings. Give Butler his Oscar already, because he gave the best performance of the year!

 

4. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

 

Rian Johnson has truly outdone himself with Glass Onion, creating a sequel that not only outshines the superb original, but is one of the greatest whodunnits ever made! While Johnson follows the traditional structure of the whodunit genre to begin with, at the halfway mark he flips that formula completely on its head and delivers one of the most entertaining films of the year. It's a grand story that has many layers to the mystery, which not only makes it incredibly fun to rewatch, but allows Johnson's signature writing style to shine. You may know the destination of the story if you were watching closely enough, but the ride to get there is such a blast it does not matter. The cast is outstanding, notably Janelle Monáe who is exquisite and dominates the entire film. Kate Hudson is hilarious, creating some of the funniest moments of the film that you won't ever forget, while Daniel Craig has never been better. Throw in a magnificent musical score from Nathan Johnson and outstanding production design, Glass Onion is pure cinematic bliss that never for a second fails to entertain!

 

3. Avatar: The Way of Water

 

The thirteen year long wait to return to Pandora and the world of Avatar was well worth the wait. James Cameron proves himself the king of the blockbuster with this truly epic film. Without a doubt it is the most visually stunning film in recent years, making you forget that you are watching CGI for over three hours. It's impossible not to get lost in the world he has created on screen with the gorgeous underwater sequences, flawless CGI, and remarkable use of 3D. The performances are great, and the story is a captivating family drama that will tug on your heart strings while setting up the future of the franchise. But, it is the insane third act of the film that will make your jaw drop because you cannot believe the thrill ride Cameron has crafted! Do not miss this unforgettable experience on the biggest screen you can find.

 

2. Top Gun: Maverick

 

Tom Cruise took audiences back to the danger zone in Top Gun: Maverick, which is without a doubt one of the finest summer blockbusters ever made! Not only does the film deliver the most breathtaking aerial sequences ever captured on film with the help of the IMAX camera, but it results in one of the most intense and panic-inducing third acts I have ever experienced. The film boasts an emotionally intense story, while recreating the fun of the original. Val Kilmer's scene is instantly unforgettable. The entire cast brings their A-game, notably Cruise and Glen Powell who shine every second they are on camera. Musically speaking, Hans Zimmer's score is outstanding and the two original songs from Lady Gaga and One Republic slap! There is a reason why movies must be experienced on the big screen, and Top Gun: Maverick is a prime example of that!

1. The Fabelmans

 

"Movies are dreams you never forget" perfectly summarizes Spielberg's latest. Not only is it a beautiful love letter to the art of filmmaking, it is an emotionally resonant coming of age story based on his own childhood. It will have you laughing, cheering, and bawling your eyes out as Spielberg takes you on one of the most memorable cinematic journeys you will ever experience. Packed with some of the year's best performances from  Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Judd Hirsch, and Gabriel LaBelle, outstanding cinematography from Janusz Kaminski, and a quiet yet beautiful musical score from John Williams, The Fabelmans is cinematic gold. Not only is it the best of the year and one of Spielberg's finest films of all time, it has quickly become one of my favourite films of all time!

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