Happy holidays, FITI readers! I hope whatever your tradition you’re getting time off this year to watch some engaging movies.
Traditionally, as I assemble my list of the best films of the past 12 months I find I have a number of perhaps lesser-known pictures that don’t quite fit among the ones I most want to highlight. These titles could easily end up on my proper Top 10 on a different day, but I think publishing a list of alternatives might be useful for readers looking for something out of the ordinary.
My official Top 10 List is a few days away — I’m hoping to post it before New Years. In the meantime, consider these other 10, presented in alphabetical order. (Click on the titles to read my original, longer form reviews.)
Armageddon Time | on VOD
With the trend in senior filmmakers mining their younger years for stories to bring to the big screen, James Gray’s entry into this nostalgic sub-genre is certainly the most modest, but may be the best. Ostensibly the story of the friendship between a Jewish kid and a Black kid in suburban Queens in the early 1980s, it also shows us the roots of the current conservative movement in the United States. In both the micro and macro, it’s unassuming yet moving.
Atlantis | not yet available on streaming
A post-apocalyptic Ukrainian-made dystopia — set after a “future” Russian War — Valentyn Vasyanovych’s feature is a chilly. art-house science fiction picture, but one that carries a huge, undeniable relevance, including using the Zaporizhzhia power plant as a location. It’s also one of the most beautifully shot films of the year.
Benedetta | on VOD
Paul Verhoeven’s lesbian nun thriller is a reminder — a little like what David Cronenberg did this year with Crimes Of The Future — that there’s still gas in the tank for these master filmmakers and their singular, lurid obsessions. You can connect a direct thematic thread between one of his earliest pictures, 1973’s Turkish Delight, and this film, 50 years later.
Bodies Bodies Bodies | on VOD
This movie cracks like a whip, a sharply funny tale of a group of friends’ very bad night that functions as both a murder mystery and a lacerating take-down of social media-fuelled performative values.
Catherine Called Birdy | on Amazon Prime
The triumphant return of creative force, Lena Dunham, who’s found an ideal project, both funny and feminist, in adapting a YA novel about a willful teen in medieval England desperate not to get married, no matter what her father wants. Bella Ramsey and Andrew Scott shine in their respective, combative roles.
Causeway | on Apple TV+
Jennifer Lawrence is undoubtedly Hollywood’s biggest female star of the past decade, and her choice to return to indie films that demand she elevate her game can only be good for the industry, for her career, and for us in the audience. As a military veteran managing her war wounds, her ambition to return to the battle, and a growing friendship with a New Orleans mechanic — Brian Tyree Henry, meeting Lawrence’s every step — Causeway is a quietly connective experience.
Girl Picture | on VOD
A charming Finnish coming-of-age picture following the fortunes of three teenage girls busy managing love, sex, and their dynamic with each other, there’s something wonderfully fresh and relatable about the film.
Hit The Road | on Amazon Prime, VOD
As Jafar Panahi faces persecution in Iran for his filmmaking — and still getting a film out in 2022, No Bears — his son Panah Panahi has picked up the activist filmmaker baton from his father with this gorgeous, charming film about how loving your family means having to be OK with their leaving, especially living under a political regime without mercy.
Mrs Harris Goes To Paris | on VOD
A real surprise this one, a movie that delivers all the good feelings and wish-fulfillment anyone could ask for — Lesley Manville in one of her finest roles as Cockney cleaning lady whose spirit and spunk wins over the House of Dior in Paris. A celebration of fashion, it’s also about strength in working-class values, and it’s a total delight.
Operation Mincemeat | on Netflix
Just because it’s a kind of movie we’ve all seen done a million times before doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate a new entry, especially if it’s superb. To wit: A tweedy Second World War thriller delivers in all the ways it intends, deftly bringing to life a true story of the efforts of a basement-dwelling set of spies who managed to hoodwink the Nazis from a distance. Full marks to Kelly Macdonald, typically the best thing in any cast, true here once again.