We all know about the Oscars and the BAFTAs and such, but they’re just so limited with their categories like Best Film and Best Original Screenplay. There’s so much more out there that deserves recognition, for better or for worse, and with that in mind, here’s the 2022 edition of Film Awards That Aren’t Given But Should Be.
Best social use of the horror genre: Nikyatu Jusu’s Nanny, which communicates in the most visceral possible way what it means for a young mother to leave her son behind and come to America to work so she can make enough money to bring him over to join her. This film is also yet another demonstration of the fact that Blumhouse Productions is doing all of us a huge favor by taking a chance on less well-known directors and less mainstream ideas—if some of their films are misfires, others pack a real punch while broadening the range of films that get made.
Film with the highest quotient of spectacle: S. S. Rajamouli’s Telugu-language epic RRR, which has just about everything in it—colonialism, revolution, mateship, a massive cast, insane stunts, amazing costumes and sets, and lots of music and dance. The central characters, Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan Teja) and Komaram Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao, Jr.), never met in real life, but imagining what might have happened if they did is the conceit that forms the backbone of a film that’s simply dazzling in its scope and complexity.
Insanest genre mash-up: Everything Everywhere All at Once, written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, which mixes science fiction, martial arts, comedy, fantasy, parody, animation, social realism, and probably a few more styles I’ve left out. Plus, any film rewritten to feature Michelle Yeoh, and which gets Ke Huy Quan back on screen (in his first acting role since the 1990s) deserves recognition for those facts alone.
Least expected imitation of Steve Coogan: Adam Driver in White Noise. Seriously, until I looked at the cast list I thought it was Coogan playing the central role of Jack Gladney in this adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel. I’m sure there’s a story behind this choice, because Driver has a distinctive look of his own that would have worked perfectly well in this role. This film actually deserves another award as well: Best credits sequence in a film that otherwise doesn’t work that well, as it ends with an absolutely bananas song-and-dance number set is a garishly modern supermarket. If only the rest of the film were as daring.
Most unlikely premise for a film that is definitely award-worthy: Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All, which stars Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet as a pair of emo outsiders on a road trip/romantic adventure. So far, nothing out of the ordinary, but they’re also Eaters, a.k.a. cannibals, a premise that Guadagnino and the cast pull off with an absolutely straight face.
Most unnecessary fictionalization of a subject already well-covered in a documentary: Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives, which re-enacts the 2018 rescue of 12 Thai teenagers and their soccer coach from the flooded Tham Luang cave. It’s not a terrible film, but it’s nothing special, and the story was told better by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi in the 2021 documentary The Rescue, making Howard’s film the equivalent of an English-language remake of a film already done better in another language.
Movie most obviously made to be seen in an IMAX theatre: Devotion, directed by J.D. Dillard. The script may have been constructed via plot-o-matic (war movie edition), but the real point of this film is the epic flying sequences, shot using authentic vintage aircraft. Jesse Brown, recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and the first African-American naval officer killed in the Korean War, deserves a real movie devoted to his life, but maybe this one will attract enough attention to his story to get that other movie made.
On-the-nose opening of the year: The Fabelmans, which begins with young Sammy Fabelman (director Steven Spielberg’s alter ego) going to his first movie, after a lecture about persistence of vision from his electrical engineer Dad. The film is The Greatest Show on Earth, and next thing you know Sammy is enacting a key scene from it, then filming the scene. It doesn’t get more subtle, and even for a fable, The Fabelmans displays some serious loyalty to the most obvious possible way to construct a biopic.
Slowest burning film: Murina, by first-time director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, who won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes for it. Shot in coastal Croatia, Murina slowly reveals the discrepancy between the beauty of the natural surroundings and the simmering tensions within a family that make their living by fishing. The appearance of the mother’s old flame, coupled with the teenage daughter’s desire to experience a bigger world, clash with the father’s need to dominate both of them, and the tension builds inexorably for 96 min.
Unlikeliest successful pairing of director and source material: Lena Dunham and Karen Cushman’s children’s novel Catherine, Called Birdy (the comma is omitted in the film title). There are no overeducated, overprivileged New Yorkers on hand in this tale of medieval England, just Bella Ramsey as a young lady with a mind of her own in a society has no time whatsoever for her. Dunham finds exactly the right tone in a film that’s funny, fast-moving, and expertly juggles the combination of sort-of-historically-correct details and unabashed anachronisms. | Sarah Boslaugh