With the Oscars only two weeks away, it’s time for me to use my formidable industry clout to influence the outcome of the ceremony. That’s right, the Cool Stuff Awards are back as we take a close look at the past year in cinema, with 2022 marking the first time that one film has managed close to a clean sweep. Deservingly so, if you ask me – but I am biased as the awards are literally a figment of my imagination.
Ranked Worst to Best: 2021 Movies
Ranked Worst to Best: 2019 Movies
Ranked Worst to Best: 2018 Movies
Top Ten Movies of 2017
25. The Gray Man
Worst Screenplay: Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
It was a close race indeed for Worst Picture, but ultimately, I had to give it to the only entry on this list which I physically couldn’t finish. In fact, in a room of eight people, not one could stay awake past the first hour of this terrible slog, which suggests it could be a miracle breakthrough treatment for insomnia.
Following this and their previous clunker Cherry, it appears the Russo Brothers – who won the Cool Stuff Award for Best Director(s) in 2018 – have little to offer outside of the Marvel machine and television comedy (the latter being where they got their start). But it’s the screenplay for this clunker that I’ve chosen to name-and-shame for its sheer laziness. And to think, it’s the combined effort of three people!
Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling also should have known better than to sign up for this obvious pay cheque gig. It really is embarrassing for all involved.
24. Black Adam
Worst Lead Performance: Dwayne Johnson
Worst Producer: Dwayne Johnson
There has been a bitter feud going on between myself and Dwayne Johnson for some years now – and it is in no way diminished by only one of us knowing about it. Last year, the conflict deepened with the release of this repulsive vanity project, which encapsulated everything wrong with the wrestler’s style of acting, producing and even promotion.
It speaks volumes that the marketing for this film hinged not on the quality of its content, but rather a 20-second cameo from Henry Cavill at the very end. I don’t know what disgusts me more: that Johnson and company deemed the general public so sheep-like that they would wander into anything with a Superman logo, or the way that fanboy media outlets encouraged him for weeks.
Ultimately, justice was served. At the risk of sounding petty, watching this film flop at the box office was one of the great joys of my year, made only more exquisite by Johnson’s increasingly desperate attempts to disprove basic mathematics. That alone was worth the $200 million that Warner Bros spent on this dud.
23. Thor: Love and Thunder
Worst Director: Taika Waititi
Worst Supporting Performance: Taika Waititi
Though many people swooned over Taika Waititi’s Marvel debut Thor: Ragnarok, my appreciation for the film was only ever moderate and, as a result, I was somewhat sceptical about this sequel. However, with two esteemed comic book storylines as its bedrock and the return of Academy Award winner Natalie Portman, most of us assumed there was bound to be something here.
To quote Noomi Rapace in Prometheus: “We were so wrong.”
Thor: Love and Thunder is an obvious case of a filmmaker buying into their own hype. After crushing the box office with Ragnarok and striking Oscar gold with Jojo Rabbit, Waititi clearly felt that his silly, rambling style of comedy was superior to fusty old ideas like character development and narrative tension. The result is a lean 119 minutes of drivel. That Waititi went on to poke fun at Marvel’s infamously overworked VFX teams only heightened the ‘ick’ factor.
22. Choose or Die
It feels almost unfair to be lumping Choose or Die in with three mega-budget blockbusters, but this indie horror flick – that went straight to streaming’s irradiated dumping ground, Netflix – can’t honestly be classed in a higher category.
Asa Butterfield and Iola Evans star as two friends who play a forgotten ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style video game, only to realise that it interacts with the real-world in gruesome and lethal ways.
Though it had a couple of memorable moments and the vocal talent of Elm Street’s Robert Englund, who would go on to have a resurgence in Stranger Things 4, this was little more than another drab entry in a crowded genre.
21. Bullet Train
Nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is.
20. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is.
19. The Batman
Most Overrated Film
Why so serious?
I’m way too dumb to get anything out of this.
Stop trying to make cannibalism happen.
16. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Fighting the homosexual urge to stan Wanda.
My second favourite film featuring the Na’vi of 2022.
14. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Not fucked up enough.
A bit too fucked up.
Just the right amount of fucked up.
11. The Woman King
Viola Davis, our woman king.
10. The Menu
Valerian Prize for Most Underrated Film
Anya Taylor-Joy hasn’t had a huge amount of luck turning the popularity of The Queen’s Gambit into a thriving film career. In 2021, she starred in Valerian Prize winner Last Night in Soho, a wonderful horror-thriller from Edgar Wright that didn’t deserve to flop so painfully at the box office. In fact, out of her last five projects, The Menu is the only one that could be classed as a financial success, albeit modest enough that it qualifies for the same category this year.
It’s a shame that her cinematic efforts are passing by unnoticed as Taylor-Joy is a tremendous talent, who sparks opposite Nicholas Hoult as pretentious foodie Tyler and Ralph Fiennes as enigmatic chef Julian Slowik. The latter is clearly having a blast in a role that utilises his comedic ability and capacity to fright. Director Mark Mylod, best known for his recent work on Succession, is right at home in another satire of the one percent.
Unsung Hero: Mia Goth
This first chapter in a soon-to-be trilogy proved a sharp new addition to the slasher genre, capturing the imagination of viewers by casting Mia Goth as both main protagonist Maxine and ageing villain Pearl. She embraces the challenge with aplomb, breathing life and nuance into both roles, culminating in an absolutely thrilling final showdown.
The casting is strong across the board, with writer-director Ti West also making great use of Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow, Scott Mescudi and Martin Henderson as the cast and crew of a doomed ’70s porn film. What could easily have been a throwaway exploitation flick is instead a thought-provoking piece grounded by authentic characters.
8. Avatar: The Way of Water
Best Motion Capture Performance: Sigourney Weaver
I was one of the many people who hopped onto the ‘Avatar has no cultural impact’ bandwagon as it rattled through town, but The Way of Water has certainly disbanded that party. James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel dominated at the box office just as its predecessor did – and for good reason. This was a spectacle that had to be seen on the big screen, with extensive world-building and compelling new characters revitalising interest in the world of Pandora.
Cameron’s longtime collaborator Sigourney Weaver was a definite highlight, taking on the unusual task of playing her own teenage daughter and knocking it out of the park. Newcomers Britain Dalton and Jack Champion also did an excellent job, with the complex dynamic between Lo’ak and Spider promising more interesting stories to come. I, for one, am looking forward to them, although I wouldn’t object to a shorter runtime.
7. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
As a former Marvel super-fan, it brings me no joy to say that the franchise is in a state of rapid decline (you’ll notice that its other two cinematic entries from last year have not ranked well on this list). The pressure on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever to break this unfortunate trend was especially high as it also had the important job of paying tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman.
Ryan Coogler admirably rose to the occasion. The writer-director crafted a sensitive story exploring the grief of its core characters, which poignantly mirrored that of its cast and crew, who reunited to make this film having lost a treasured friend. Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett and Danai Gurira proved a forceful trinity of leads, with MCU newcomer Tenoch Huerta also making a strong impression as the formidable Namor.
6. Top Gun: Maverick
Best Stunt Work
It’s hard not to be impressed by the career rehabilitation of one Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. His public image as Scary Scientologist Man now seems a distant memory as he takes on the altogether more flattering persona of Cinematic Saviour. Unlike some other Hollywood comebacks, this one certainly feels earned, with Cruise’s infectious enthusiasm for filmmaking and penchant for death-defying stunts eliciting respect from even his most ardent sceptics.
Top Gun: Maverick could very easily have been another forgettable legacy sequel (à la Independence Day: Resurgence or Ghostbusters: Afterlife), but Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski’s dedication to practical stunt work immediately set it apart from those less ambitious efforts. The film is more than mere spectacle, however, with a likeable cast of characters and charged references to the first entry providing a weighty emotional hook.
5. The Banshees of Inisherin
Best Screenplay: Martin McDonagh
I was so perplexed by the premise of this movie that I almost skipped it entirely. Two blokes having a row on a remote island – how is that going to stay interesting for almost two hours? But having enjoyed writer-director Martin McDonagh’s previous works Seven Psychopaths and Three Billboards, I decided to give it a chance out of nothing more than good will.
Suffice to say, that’s one of the better decisions I made last year. The Banshees of Inisherin is utterly engrossing from start to finish, spinning a yarn as witty as it is heartbreaking and populated with a number of memorable personalities. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson remain electric screen partners, but Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan very nearly steal the show in captivating supporting roles.
Best Lead Actor: Austin Butler
Though some viewers took issue with the hyperactive editing in Baz Luhrmann’s music biopic, I found it to be an entrancing, fresh take on a genre that can so often feel tired and formulaic. Watching the film with my parents – both genuine Elvis fans with an impressive amount of knowledge on his career – also proved a benefit, as they could authoritatively vouch for the authenticity of this retelling.
All three of us were wowed by the central performance of relative unknown Austin Butler, who truly disappeared into the role of Elvis Presley – and infamously didn’t resurface until halfway through awards season. That odd personal choice aside, it’s hard to overstate how perfect Butler was for this role, with his pitch-perfect renditions of the King’s most iconic tracks being nothing short of astonishing.
As for Tom Hanks? Yeah, that was a bit weird.
Though it doesn’t carry the same industry prestige as other titles in this top ten, Scream stands tall as one of my personal favourites from last year. As a long time fan of the franchise, I was decidedly nervous about the first theatrical entry produced without the late Wes Craven nor original screenwriter Kevin Williamson, especially given the generally poor track record of horror revivals – from the soulless Nightmare on Elm Street reboot to 2018’s overrated Halloween.
To my delight, the team behind 2022’s Scream understood the assignment and aced it. James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick crafted a screenplay honouring the meta qualities that have always been integral to this franchise, while introducing a group of characters interesting enough to replace the original cast. Meanwhile, directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett packed in the scares, providing some truly edge-of-your-seat moments.
Another triumph of casting, Scream wisely mined the landscape of film and television for genuine talent, rather than lazily plucking a few photogenic nobodies as lesser slashers are wont to do. Jenna Ortega (Wednesday), Melissa Barrera (In The Heights), Jack Quaid (The Boys), Dylan Minnette (Don’t Breathe), Mikey Madison (Better Things), Jasmin Savoy Brown (Yellowjackets) and Mason Gooding (Love, Victor) all proved worthy carriers of the torch.
I now feel assured the series is in safe hands – and I pray Scream VI doesn’t make me regret saying this. See you next month, Ghostface.
Best Score: M. M. Keeravani
When it comes to Indian cinema, my frame of reference is literally non-existent. Somewhat shamefully, this is the first film I’ve ever seen from the second-largest country in the world by population – but it certainly won’t be the last. From the very beginning, the sheer ambition of this period action drama is jaw-dropping, telling an epic revenge story set against the cruel backdrop of the British Raj.
Stars N T Rama Rao Jr and Ram Charan embody what is perhaps the ultimate screen bromance as revolutionaries Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju. The charming chemistry between them is ever-present, adding some real heft to the film’s more dramatic moments and joyfully bursting out of the screen in other sequences – not least the lauded Naatu Naatu dance number, which really lives up to the hype.
1. Everything Everywhere All at Once
Best Director(s): Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Best Lead Actress: Michelle Yeoh
Best Supporting Actor: Ke Huy Quan
Best Supporting Actress: Stephanie Hsu
Everything Everywhere All at Once lives up to its name. Not only does it take us across the full breadth of a wild and unpredictable multiverse, but it pulls us through virtually every emotional state in the process. It’s a film that made me laugh and cry – at the same time, in parts – and most of all, provoked some inward reflection on my own chaotic journey through this unruly existence.
Michelle Yeoh demonstrates her stunning versatility in the role of Evelyn Quan Wang, traversing action sequences and physical comedy as well as profoundly dramatic scenes. Co-stars Stephanie Hsu and Ke Huy Quan are also extraordinary, with the former bringing a unique panache to very challenging material and the latter breaking hearts with some truly earth-shattering line delivery.
The journey these characters go on is achingly personal and compelling enough on its own, but the film’s distinct visual style undeniably takes things to another level. Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have created a genuine technical marvel, which seamlessly hurls Evelyn and the unstoppable Jobu Tupaki through vividly realised worlds and a seemingly endless wardrobe. And they did it all on a fraction of the budget enjoyed by a typical blockbuster.
For these reasons and more, Everything Everywhere All at Once has swept the Cool Stuff Awards 2022. The Oscars are next up – and to the Academy, I plead: don’t fuck this up.