in 2021 i discovered how much i loved movies and had a blast watching them. this year i had a bit of a harder time. real-life stresses have depleted me in ways that have made me less patient, less emotionally available, less energetic. i've had less excitement to watch movies and less inclination to reflect on them afterward. it's unfortunate because through dylan i've continued to watch a ton of beautiful and challenging films. many are ranked on tiers that don't reflect their true quality because my muscles were too tense to let them penetrate me.

that said, here are my comments on some of the movies that did manage to seep all the way down to my bones, including my top 10 watches of the year - and followed by the full list of all the feature-length films i watched, sorted into tiers based on their impact, just for fun.

when you're finished with mine, make sure to check out dyl's top 10 list too for second opinions on many of the same movies, plus some really cool ones that he watched without me


It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
we watched this on christmas eve and i cried like a dog the whole way through. what can i say? watching jimmy stewart defer his dreams over and over again to help keep a soulless capitalist from gobbling up his town feels like a dagger in the heart, i guess because i wonder if i'll someday have to give up my own personal aspirations for a greater good too, or if perhaps i already should have.

12 Pups of Christmas (2019)
a sort of power fantasy about a white woman who is correct about everything, never in the moral wrong, and therefore never needs to grow or concede anything. the lead actress, whose performance is the smuggest, most passive-aggressive i've ever seen, with even the smallest, most innocuous line coming out dripping with contempt under her polite smile. i kept waiting for her to relent but it never happened, and i never got used to it; i stayed stunned and laughing until the very end.

They Live (1988)
i've forgotten most of the movie at this point, but dyl and i have gotten so much mileage out of invoking the "they live glasses" the core conceit will live on in my brain forever.


#10. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

probably not actually my 10th favorite movie, but one of the easiest to talk about. i remember it for the set and costume design capturing well a certain kind of familiar tension, of being in a place with sharp objects or other dangerous things, and instinctively leaning away from them, giving them a wide berth in case you happy to fall or lose control of your body, or they come to life and spring forth of their own accord. it reminds me of working in a factory and picking up the pace whenever i had to walk past the giant compressed gas canister because i couldn't shake the feeling that it might explode if i stayed in its present too long. it's like that times a thousand; a nightmare made real. somehow it culminates in a jojo fight

#9. Mon Oncle (1958)

part social satire, part clown show, part rube goldberg machine, the imagery in it has come up again and again in conversation with dyl as a reference point. i half-watched this over his shoulder while drawing maps for a game project and didn't quite absorb all of it; if i had rewatched it in full like i planned i suspect it would be higher up the list.

#8. Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

this kicked off a movie night theme called "de palma de cember" where we went on to watch body double, raising cain, snake eyes, and dressed to kill. i liked them all - you might describe brian de palma's work as "crazy", which is to say he takes big swings casually, with great confidence and competence that downplays the size of the gesture, inviting you to believe they're swings of totally reasonable size. i picked phantom of the paradise because i thought it was the "craziest" of the bunch, but to some extent it's on the list to represent de palma de cember as a whole; i probably enjoyed the others, on average, just as much.

#7. The Hidden (1987)

alien pretending to act like a normal human is one of my favorite tropes, i guess i find it extremely relatable as someone who has to try pretty hard to approximate a normal social performance. kyle mclaughlin is probably the #1 person in the world i'd pick to see play this archetype (honestly it's not far off from his "dougie" role in twin peaks the return) and he doesn't disappoint. he's up against a shapeshifting alien who just wants to steal as many fast cars and luxury goods as possible. it's stupid if you question it, but there's no need to. just have a nice time watching a fun movie.

#6. Vampire's Kiss (1988)

between this, the hidden, and the de palma block, there's a lot of "crazy" movies on my list this year. nic cage in general is a pretty good embodiment of this kind of feeling, even if he's not in the other two movies (though he is in snake eyes). more than any other nic cage movie vampire's kiss is about him just going wild, as an actor and as a character. who else but him?

#5. Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)

i've always liked movies about committing crimes but it didn't become clear to me until this year. there's no better story than someone doing something they're not supposed to and trying to get away with it... it's a fun situation to watch characters process, react to, define themselves in relation to, and try to get away with. i hope its sequel, the fast and the furious, can live up to the high bar better luck tomorrow sets.

#4. Terminal USA (1993)

the most important works are the ones that remind me that art can be anything, that there are no rules and you should just fucking go for it. i guess that's a theme with the de palma and nic cage movies and other "crazy" films - i guess you could say this is the pinnacle of that trend, although it's very different. de palma's insanity is about sneaking the insane into familiar hollywood frameworks. they might make me go "why would anyone think to do this", but in the end, the thing they are is something that fits in among the company of big budget hollywood movies. that's still a constraint on them. we could still be a lot freer.

terminal usa gets a lot closer. break enough rules and you make something that feels like it came from another world. there are a lot of possible worlds out there and any given one may or may not have anything for you - there's a lot of unworldly art cinema out there i just can't get into. but terminal usa is showing me a glimpse of something i've been reaching for that's just out of reach, trying to see clearly that's out of focus. i'd like to see a lot more of this world.

#3. Gerontophilia (2013)

an examination of grandpa fucking that weighs the pros and cons but comes out firmly in favor. i think it's precious and sensitive but celebrates ethically fraught love with respect and compassion for all parties and, most importantly, without apology or reservation. a milestone for pervert representation

#2. Bacurau (2019)

feels like the other half of a tag team with parasite, released the same year and punching in the same weight class, but somehow i didn't hear of this one until this year. one of those rare works with a clear, committed, and relevant political identity while bursting with love and passion for the craft of its genre(s). i hope history deems it a classic like it deserves.

#1. Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)

watching the movie that kicked off the blaxploitation genre i was taken aback at how much sweetback differed from the suave, stylish image i had in my head of a typical blaxploitation protagonist. sweetback wore the mantle of manhood readily and ably but seemed so sad and pained for it. one of the most painful movies i've watched but not in the same way as anything else that felt painful. van peebles is a legend


made an immediate and lasting positive impression; i would eagerly rewatch it or share it with a friend

  • Bacurau (2019)
  • Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)
  • Don't Play Us Cheap (1972)
  • Dressed To Kill (1980)
  • Gerontophilia (2013)
  • Ghostwatch (1992)
  • It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
  • Mon Oncle (1958)
  • Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
  • Snake Eyes (1998)
  • Society (1989)
  • Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)
  • Tampopo (1985)
  • Taste of Cherry (1997)
  • Terminal USA (1993)
  • Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
  • The Annihilation of Fish (1999)
  • The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)
  • The Hidden (1987)
  • The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
  • The Plumber (1979)
  • The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
  • They Live (1988)
  • Vampire's Kiss (1988)
  • Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)

  • B-Rank
    i enjoyed it at the time, but i didn't think about it much after; or i was lukewarm on it much at the time, but it made a lasting impression

  • 12 Pups of Christmas (2019)
  • All Screwed Up (1974)
  • Basket Case (1982)
  • Blood and Black Lace (1964)
  • Body Double (1984)
  • Constantine (2005)
  • Cronos (1993)
  • Double Indemnity (1944)
  • Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993)
  • F for Fake (1975)
  • Faya Dayi (2021)
  • Finding Frances (2017)
  • His Motorbike, Her Island (1986)
  • How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) (2005)
  • Losing Ground (1982)
  • Memories of Underdevelopment (1969)
  • PlayTime (1967)
  • Raising Cain (1992)
  • Shaolin Soccer (2001)
  • Some Like it Hot (1959)
  • Stud Life (2012)
  • Supermarket Woman (1996)
  • Sweet Country (2017)
  • Teknolust (2002)
  • The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978)
  • The Fifth Element (1997)
  • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
  • The Two Faces of a Bamiléké Woman (2018)
  • The Watermelon Woman (1997)
  • This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (2019)
  • Topkapi (1965)
  • Valley Girl (1983)
  • Walker (1987)

  • C-Rank
    worth the watch, even if it didn't connect for me

  • Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
  • Babes in Toyland (1986)
  • Dead Poets Society (1989)
  • Deadly Weapons (1974)
  • Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005)
  • Edward II (1991)
  • Fresh Kill (1994)
  • Halloween (1978)
  • Ichi the Killer (2001)
  • Inland Empire (2006)
  • Inside (2022)
  • Jason and Shirley (2015)
  • Jingle All the Way (1996)
  • Jubilee (1978)
  • Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack (1988)
  • Portrait of Jason (1967)
  • Syndromes and a Century (2006)
  • The Rules of the Game (1939)
  • Watermelon Man (1970)

  • D-Rank
    enduring feelings of annoyance, or possibly an actual waste of time

  • A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018)
  • Boo! A Madea Halloween (2016)
  • Pacific Rim (2013)