A little more than halfway through 2022, the year in cinema has already been an intriguing one, with one of the most popular films currently leading the box office. It will be Top Gun: Maverick. But if you’ve already seen it and want to catch up on other strong films, I asked The Times top critics, A. O. Scott and Manohl Dargis, what their favorite films are. Here they are, in no particular order. — Stephanie Goodman
“Everything is everywhere and at once”
Story: The laundry owner (Michelle Yeoh) is stressed out. Husband files for divorce. The daughter is depressed and angry at her. And to top it all off, the IRS checks it out. As she goes to fight the audit, her encounter with a relentless bureaucrat sets off a multiverse romp that showcases the lives she could have lived (and the hot dog fingers she could have) and, more importantly, the different paths to take. her relationship. .
AO Scott’s opinion: “This trick serves a sincere and generous heart,” wrote our critic of the film directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, working under the pseudonym “Daniels”. “Yes, the film is a metaphysical multiverse, a journey through the galaxy and the brain, but deep down inside – and also right on the surface – it’s a bittersweet family drama, a matrimonial comedy, a story of immigrant aspirations, and a pain-filled ballad about a mother…daughter loves.”
Read review and interview with Yeoh and Ke Hai Quan, who plays her husband. You may remember Quan, who started out as a child actor, playing Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Watch: It’s still playing in select theaters, or you can buy it on major digital platforms. Also check out Anatomy of a Stage with the directors.
Story: In the southwest of France in the early 1960s, Anna (Anamaria Vartholomei) is a 23-year-old student who hopes to become a writer. But when she becomes pregnant, her attempts to have an abortion, recently criminalized, become desperate. The film is based on the memoirs of the French writer Annie Ernault.
Opinion of Manohla Dargis: “Director Audrey Diwan’s gaze remains clear, direct, fearless,” wrote our critic. “She shows you a part of life that is rarely shown in movies. By that I mean: she shows you a woman who is willing, willing to learn, to have sex, to have children on her own terms, to be sovereign – a woman who, having decided to live her life, risks becoming a criminal and dares to be free. ”
Read a review and an article on how the film sparked wider debate in France.
Rent or buy it on Amazon Prime and other major digital platforms.
Inside the world “Everything is everywhere and at once”
In this mind-expanding, idiosyncratic take on a superhero movie, a laundry owner finds himself at the center of an epic, multi-faceted confrontation.
Story: In the world imagined by writer/director Peter Strickland, culinary delights can also be musical, with bands performing by mashing in a blender or throwing food into hot oil. In a mansion where players and devotees have gathered, selfishness and strong principles bring tension to a boil. (Who can resist?)
AO Scott’s opinion: “The film is not so much an allegory or fantasy as a witty philosophical reflection on some elementary human problems,” wrote Scott. “We are animals driven by lust, hunger and aggression, but also gentle creatures in love with beauty and abstraction. These two sides of our nature collide in unexpected, infinitely varied ways.
Story: The pandemic may be receding, but Angela Childs (Zoë Kravitz) continues to work in the attic, possibly out of agoraphobia, debugging KIMI, a Siri-like digital assistant. While working on one of these bugs, she thinks she hears a violent crime. Her surveillance efforts put her at risk.
Opinion of Manohla Dargis: The thriller “self-consciously draws on a host of cinematic references,” including Rear Window, our critic wrote. But director Steven Soderbergh “pulls out all his gimmicks, clearly having fun.” Even as the plot gets more sinister, “it retains the lightness of touch and visual playfulness that keeps the film firmly in the realm of pop pleasure.”
Stream it on HBO Max.
Story: In this Afrofuturistic vision by American multidisciplinary artist Saul Williams and Rwandan filmmaker Anisia Ouseiman, a Burundian miner (Kaya Free) and a fugitive intersex (Cheryl Ishedja and Elvis Ngabo) meet in an African community dedicated to imagination and solidarity.
AO Scott’s opinion: The plot is “vague and suggestive,” he wrote, describing the film as “a collage of vivid images, sounds, and words that thread through the film’s themes like hashtags. Williams and Uziman combine anarchist politics with anarchist aesthetics to create something that feels both handmade and high tech, digital and analog, poetic and punk rock.”
Watch it’s in theaters.
“Lingui, sacred bonds”
Story: In N’Djamena, Chad, 15-year-old Maria (Rihan Khalil Alio) is expelled from school due to her pregnancy. Her single mother, the adventurous Amina (Achuak Abakar Suleiman), earns her living by selling coal stoves she makes out of old tires. Thus, both women are interested in a safe abortion.
Opinion of Manohla Dargis: Director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun “shows you women in motion and rioting, running and escaping, and at times running in sly, joyful circles around the men in their lives,” the critic wrote. “And, if you watch the end credits, you’ll also hear the sounds of female laughter – a divine and triumphant coda.”
Read review and interview with the director and star of the film.
Watch: Stream on Mubi; rent or buy it on major digital platforms.
Story: In a project begun before the pandemic and completed during it, directors Pietro Marcello (Martin Eden), Francesco Munzi (Black Souls) and Alice Rohrwacher (Happy Like Lazzaro) traveled around Italy interviewing young people about everything from their career hopes to the meaning of happiness.
AO Scott’s opinion: “It would be a mistake to give too much consistency to such a kaleidoscopic, open collective portrait,” he wrote. However, the film is “proof of the longevity of an approach to filmmaking based on curiosity, democratic principles and the idea that people can speak for themselves.”
Story: Young Nellie left with her mother and father for the French countryside to clean up the house of her grandmother, who had recently died. In the forest, Nellie befriends another girl who is building a cabin, just like Nellie’s mother once did. As two similar children grow closer (played by twins Josephine and Gabriel Sanz), their mysterious connection hints at a deeper bond.
Opinion of Manohla Dargis: “Part of the mystery is that it is not clear what kind of story this is and where – with her charming child and restrained melancholy – she can be directed,” our critic wrote. By hiding information, director Celine Siamma “encourages you to look at this place and history with the open eyes of a child, which means putting aside your expectations about how films work.”
Rent or buy it on major digital platforms.
‘Mr. Bachmann and his class.
Story: In her action-packed documentary filmed in the 2016-17 school year, Maria Speth follows the protagonist, a charismatic sixth-grade teacher with counterculture leanings, and his mostly immigrant students in a German village north of Frankfurt.
AO Scott’s opinion: While we don’t know much about the subjects’ lives outside of school, some students “draw special attention to themselves, almost dwarfing their teacher and contributing to the film’s emotional richness,” our critic wrote. “This is not a teacher’s heroic drama about idealism in the face of adversity. It’s a recognition of the hard work of learning and the magic of simple decency.”
Story: A young Swede with the stage name Bella Cherry (Sofia Kappel) has recently arrived in Los Angeles and is determined to become a porn star. Performing in extreme scenes, trying to overcome her own limitations, she observes how work affects the humanity of fellow performers, men and women.
Opinion of Manohla Dargis: “This is a smart, bold, completely unexpected film, centered on an old-fashioned tale of an ambitious wrestler overcoming adversity to become another American success story,” the critic wrote. Director Ninja Tyberg “knows horror, as the harrowing scene highlights. But women make porn and women watch it for different reasons, including because they like it. Because it’s their choice.”
Rent or buy it on major digital platforms.