6. Crimes of the Future
With a few exceptions like “Jaws” and “Get Out”, it has been incredibly unusual for horror movies to achieve any level of recognition at the Oscars —much less in major categories like Best Director and Best Picture. Considering that the Academy’s old guard tends to gravitate towards mass-appealing crowd-pleasers over the type of squirm-inducing body horror the Canadian’s shockmeister has accustomed us to in the past century, “Crimes” chances at Oscar glory were always going to be slim.
On reflection, however, David Cronenberg’s latest offering didn’t deserve to be cold-shouldered this awards season. If certainly not for the faint-hearted, “Crimes of the Futures” provides a fascinating examination of human evolution through the warped lens of a surgeon-turned-artist who turns body mutilation into bold acts of self-expression. Though hardly catnip for Academy voters, watching Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart and Léa Seydoux share the screen and feed off each other in a vintage Cronenberg nail-biter was more than worth the price of admission.
7. The Batman
Just when superhero fatigue seemed to have reached an all-time high among casual and diehard fans alike, “Planet of the Apes” director Matt Reeves reminded us how exciting comic book adaptations used to be with a three-plus hour rush in DC’s latest reboot of Gotham’s famed caped crusader.
By nature of being a billion-dollar franchise posturing as highbrow cinema, “The Batman” hews closer to hard-boiled detective thrillers like “Se7en” and “Zodiac” than any Marvel release in the past 15 years, in fact, its lineage stretches further back to old-school noirs like “Chinatown” both in gritty realism, atmosphere and narrative. The fact that Reeves wears its cocktail of cinematic influences on its sleeve does not take away in the slightest from the pure delight of watching former teenage heartthrob turned emo-king Robert Pattinson throw karate chops and flex his detective skills against Paul Dano, John Turturro, Colin Farrell, and the rest of Gotham’s corrupt underworld. Not that the superhero machine needs any more publicity or validation, but the fact that they actually put in some effort instead of phoning it in as per usual should be commended.
Whether or not “RRR” actually deserved a place in the 10-movie Oscar shortlist is ultimately up for debate. What is rather unquestionable, however, is that no major storyline was more fascinating to follow all throughout awards season than the meteoric rise of S.S. Rajamouli’s Telugu-language revelatory hit.
In a moment when Hollywood epics are few and far between, “Rise, Roar and Revolt” reminded moviegoers around the globe what a maximalist spectacle looks like. No other film in 2022 gave us more bang for our buck than this three-plus hour anti-colonialist saga, which centers around two freedom fighters in 1920s colonial India and doubles down as a high-octane actioner full of insane music dance-offs and jaw-dropping action sequences. This improbable word-of-mouth hit took the world by storm, heaping praise from the likes of Edgar Wright and James Cameron, the latter of whom gushed about it at the 2022 Critics Choice Awards. Sadly, the film did not manage to get any nomination outside Best Original Song for “Naatu Naatu”, but its status as a cross-over cultural phenomenon has long been cemented.
9. The Woman King
It was surprising to see little love for Gina Prince-Bythewood’s pulse-pounding historical epic, which turned out to be a cultural sensation that grossed almost $100 million at the box office and not long ago seemed like a shoo-in for Best Picture. Centering around the Agojie, an all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s, “The Woman King” is an empowering and adrenaline-pumping actioner with superb choreography and a powerhouse lead performance by the ever-reliable Viola Davis.
For what is worth, the 4-time Academy Award nominee hardly needs another nod to establish herself as one of the finest actresses of her generation, but one would’ve thought her badass turn as General Nanisca would be enough to sway voters this year, especially after heaping praise at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards and BAFTAs. Alas, it was not meant to be—but if you’re looking for a film that juggles pulp pleasures and an interesting piece of our actual history, “The Woman King” will do the trick.
10. White Noise
It is a minor miracle that an algorithm-focused streaming giant like Netflix tried to muscle into the Oscar race by bankrolling a $120 million adaptation of a Don DeLillo novel of all things. One suspects that a studio big-wig expected the 1985 book’s incisive exploration of death, late-capitalism, and global pandemonium to cut deeper than ever with today’s audiences, despite the source material having been deemed unfilmable due to its dense prose and post-modern satirical edge.
Whatever the case may be, every DeLillo fan including myself was over the moon about the news of “Marriage Story” director Noah Baumbach being handed out a blank check and an A-list ensemble to make his adaptation work. A pitch-perfect Adam Driver leads all proceedings as a college professor in ‘Hitler Studies’ who watches his idyllic lifestyle crash down in front of his eyes after an apocalypse-level toxic chemical leak forces his entire community to evacuate. After a lukewarm opening at TIFF, the Netflix-produced family-slash-disaster drama scared away general audiences and flamed out with zero nominations, but it would have been nice for it to be included in the Best Picture mix.