We made it! This is my December roundup, the last of about two weeks of posting generally very tardy recaps of the movies I watched in each month of 2022. Whew. It feels good to be finally caught up.
The end of the year was a good time for a sub-genre that I like to call “eat-the-rich” movies, in which clever film directors satirize the many, many shortcomings, absurdities and humiliations of the very wealthy. This is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, because few people are dumb enough to object to targeting this particular demographic for ridicule. I always try to remember that punching down on very stupid rich people (there are a lot of them, to be fair) is still punching down. Still, this basic cinematic bargain—audiences fork over the cost of a movie ticket and filmmakers deliver economic schadenfreude—is robust enough to have delivered some great cinema over the years. Jean Renoir’s revered 1939 satire “The Rules of the Game” is the prime example, but 2022 produced at least two new exhibits which, if not destined for the same immortality, were nevertheless loads of fun.
First, in November I went to see Ruben Ostlund’s “Triangle of Sadness,” which lampoons the social hierarchy on a luxury cruise yacht to generally brilliant effect. It’s a bit digressive and unwieldy, but it’s exceedingly well made, especially in its uncannily naturalistic performances and dialogue, and it’s already got a place on my best-of list for the year.
Then in late December I went to see Mark Mylod’s “The Menu,” which is thematically quite similar. This black comedy veers into horror territory and skewers the rarefied dining experience at a fictional haute cuisine restaurant named Hawthorn, reportedly inspired by the famous Cornelius Sjømatrestaurant in Norway. The movie takes the inherent tension in the relationship between service laborers and their wealthy customers to wild extremes, with delicious (sorry!) results. Its premise is so enthralling, so outrageous that it seems hard to believe that the filmmakers can pay it off. In the end, sadly, they cannot. But the execution—especially the dark, dark humor doled out along the way (not coincidentally, Mylod is an executive producer on HBO’s “Sucession”)—is almost good enough to justify that irresistible hook. Even if ultimately not fully successful, it still somehow manages to be satisfying and, I’ve found, to be memorable, too. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
“The Menu” was in fact the very last feature I watched in 2022, and I even got to see it at the theater, a happy way to conclude my movie year. I’ll be working on my best-of list for the year soon, too. First I’m going to try to make it through as many of the 2022 movies I haven’t seen yet as I can in the next week or two. Meanwhile, here are all twenty-one movies I saw in December.
“Paper Moon” (1973) ★★★★½ Rewatched. Transgressive fun for the whole family.
“The Blue Dahlia” (1946) ★★ Beautiful couple Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake can’t bring alive this generally sedate noir.
“Athena” (2022) ★★★½ Ambitious, vital rendering of a ghetto riot on the outskirts of Paris.
“The Northman” (2022) ★★ Visually arresting but essentially dunderheaded.
“Lost Bullet 2” (2022) ★★★½ Forget the Fast & Furious movies. This is the best insane car chases franchise out there—by miles.