I had the chance to see 190 cinema releases during 2022 and, as I’ve done every year since 1996, I like to put together a list which outlines my favourites.  We’ve all got different tastes but hopefully it inspires a few people out there to hunt down these movies and watch something great they may otherwise have missed.  I went this through this list on ABC Brisbane breakfast radio a couple of weeks ago.

Honourable mentions this year which I couldn’t quite squeeze into my top 10 were – A Hero, Barbarian, Red Rocket, Blaze, King Richard, Belfast, Decision to Leave, The Good Boss, Petite Maman, All Quiet on the Western Front, Cyrano, Moonage Daydream, Happening, Triangle of Sadness, Bardo False Chronicles of a Handful of Truths, and Nowhere Special.

The above films are all worth a look but to narrow it down to my top 10 of the year…

10. Full Time (out Jul 28) is an intense French drama about a single mum (Laure Calamy) having a tough time. We may not personally relate to her problems but, thanks to the skills of writer-director Eric Gravel, it feels like we’re walking alongside her throughout, and this provides us with a deep appreciation of her troubled life and fragile emotional state.

9. Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (out Jun 2) is the first movie from Bhutan to be nominated at the Oscars for best international feature film. It's the tale of a young teacher who is posted to "the most remote school in the world" to educate a small group of kids. This is a beautiful film which offers much to reflect upon.

8. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (out Aug 18) is an interesting, progressive character study that offers up material we don’t usually see on the big screen. It’ll provide great talking points with family/friends and is not to be missed. It's the tale of 60-something-year-old Nancy (Emma Thompson) who, having had a disappointing sex life with her late husband, hires a young escort to fulfil her needs.

7. Quo Vadis, Aida? (out Feb 17) was nominated at last year’s Oscars for best international feature. Taking place in July 1995 and based on actual events, it’s the story of a Bosnian woman, working for the UN, who tries to save her family when Serbian troops invade the town. Shot like a documentary, this is a powerful, depressing piece of cinema that shines the spotlight on events that should never be forgotten.

6. C’mon C’mon (out Feb 17) is the story of a unmarried man with no kids (Joaquin Phoenix) asked by his sister to care for his 8-year-old nephew while she deals with family issues. He finds the experience both rewarding and exhausting. The way writer-director Mike Mills can make audiences care so deeply about characters in the space of two hours is a skill many other filmmakers struggle to master.

5. Flee (out Feb 17) is the first film to be nominated at the Academy Awards for best international feature, best animated feature and best documentary feature. It’s the story of a boy who fled war torn Afghanistan with his family in 1980s and sought a new home and a new future. Blending different styles of animation, this is an incredibly moving film that highlights the emotional scars forever carried by refugees.

4. The Banshees of Inisherin (out Dec 26) is an engaging, throught-provoking 1923 dark comedy about two friends on a remote Irish island who have a bizarre falling out. There are many rich, fascinating layers to peel back here. Every member of the cast is in peak form.

3. Top Gun Maverick (out May 26) is a sensational film that surpasses its predecessor in almost every way. The flight scenes will have you twitching in your seat, the splashes of comedy are perfectly timed, and the story is kept short and straightforward. I can't imagine too many people being disappointed. Editor Eddie Hamilton deserves a lot of praise.

2. Lost Illusions (out Jun 23) is a French 19th Century drama which won seven César Awards (the French equivalent of the Oscars) including best film and best adapted screenplay. It’s a fascinating tale about a young journalist caught up in a dodgy media world. It’s filled with rich, interesting characters playing power games and trying to outmanoeuvre their adversaries.

1. Everything Everywhere All at Once (out Apr 14) is one of the year’s best and most original feature films. It's like Sliding Doors on steroids. A storyline which is insanely crazy (characters existing in multiple universes) with a touching finale offering heartfelt joy and significant life lessons. A rich, wonderful, audacious project.

Kaitlyn Dever Interview

Ticket to Paradise is a new romantic comedy filmed here in Queensland, Australia.  I recently spoke to one of the film’s stars, Kaitlyn Dever, about the film…

Matt:  What stood out for you when you first came across this project?  What made you want to play Lily?

Kaitlyn:  So many things.  The script was incredible and so much fun.  I had met Ol before and was excited to work with him again.  To be part of a rom-com was something I hadn’t done before and I’m always looking to do something different.  This was all of those things packed into one.  Maybe also, working with George Clooney and Julia Roberts was an element I was kind of interested in (laughs). 

Matt:  George and Julia are two of the best in the business.  Had you met them before this movie?

Kaitlyn:  No but I love both of their work.  I’m such a big fan of the two of them.  They’re so talented and I was nervous to meet them for the first time.  They were just the best.  They were both so sweet and nice and kind to me and my sister, who was with me on the shoot.  We had the best couple of months making this movie.

Matt:  It’s not quite my backyard but you shot the film in my home state of Queensland here in Australia.  What did you enjoy most about the time you spent here?

Kaitlyn:  We loved it.  We stayed in Broadbeach for the second half of the movie and for the first half, we were on Hamilton Island.  I had never experienced anything like it.  Shooting in such a beautiful location was mind-blowing to me.  The island itself was a standalone, singular experience.  It’s so small that we could all just drive golf carts around and have adventures.

We shot the film over Christmas and my family was able to come down and it was one of the best Christmases we’ve ever had.  My parents still talk about Queensland to this day and we can’t wait to go back.

Matt:  You mentioned it being a romantic comedy.  How do you approach that in terms of developing chemistry and comedic timing and the like?  Is it an easier film that others or more challenging in some regard?

Kaitlyn:  You find challenge in everything.  I never try to have too many expectations going into something.  I follow a gut instinct when I first read something and this was immediately something I felt that people were going to love and they really needed right now.  I had never played a character like this before.

In terms of the chemistry, it really starts with the script.  Ol’s writing is so brilliant and natural.  It was really easy to be George and Julia’s daughter because they were so sweet.  We were constantly telling stories and making each other laugh.  It was a special thing to bond with them and it became easier to create dialogue with them.  With Max, he’s the sweetest person in the world.  We had a lot of fun doing our scenes together.  It was the easiest thing.

Matt:  Talking specifically about your character, Lily goes to Bali, falls in love, and gets engaged almost immediately.  Was it easy tapping into the character in that regard and playing someone who could do something so impulsively?

Kaitlyn:  It is impulsive but I feel like I could do that if really falling in love with someone and a place.  It shows you how powerful the love is she has for Gede and that he has for Lily.  When I first read the script, I admired her determination for her career and how, throughout the course of the story, you discover she’s a more curious person who is open to new ideas and change.  Especially when she meets Gede.  I think he opens her mind to things she never thought about which is really exciting.  I had a great time bringing this character to life.

Matt:  In the film, we see you prepping for a Balinese wedding.  What did you find most interesting about that process and their traditions?

Kaitlyn:  It’s really beautiful but it’s also a lot about celebrating family which I appreciated.  I loved my dress as well.  It was quite a process which required many fittings.  It was made from actual, traditional Balinese fabric.  Our costume designer had an incredible mind and I love her a lot.  The wedding sequence in general has a real representation of peace and you could feel that when we were shooting it at that location over two days.

Matt:  I’ll finish up by asking about the Emmys coming up this week.  You’re a first-time nominee.  Are you going to the ceremony?

Kaitlyn:  I am going.  I’ve never been to the Emmys before and I’m really, really excited.  I’m taking my parents and it’s going to be an exciting night.  I’m looking forward to celebrating with the cast and it’s going to be really cool.

Beast Interview

Beast is a new action-thriller from Iceland director Baltasar Kormákur.  I recently had a chance to speak with Kormákur and one of the film’s stars, Sharlto Copley, about the project…

Matt:  The long, continuous shots stand out and they do a great job building tension in key scenes.  Can you take us through that thought process?

Baltasar:  That’s exactly why I used it.  I wanted to create a more immersive, claustrophobic feeling with you being stuck there with the characters and see things coming at you.  I didn’t want to cut to them and tell audiences what was going to happen.  I started with the shot where the lion attacks for the first time and hits the window.   That’s where I started the thought process in the prep.  I was thinking about that shot and how we could make the most impact.  I then started to work that throughout the film with some quieter scenes in between to give it a better flow.

Matt:  Are the longer takes more difficult to shoot?

Baltasar:  Way more.  You need a crew who is totally with you and actors that are ready to work it out with you.  The first few takes are always going to be awful but you have to be shooting the whole time because you don’t want to miss “the one”.  I think it’s very rewarding once you get it.  There’s a shot in the beginning which is 5-6 minutes which is CGI lions interacting with characters – it’s a lot of prep but it was a great high when we got the shot.  We’ve seen films in this genre but we haven’t seen them shot like this and so I wanted to take the idea of a blockbuster and add a different taste to it and see if it would work. 

Matt:  Action movies often fall into the trap of having characters do dumb things to prolong the story but here, I really liked their smarts and the rational way they speak and go about things.  Was that all part of Ryan Engle’s script?

Baltasar:  Some of it was.  I did work with Zack Snyder as well who isn’t credited.  Being there on the ground in Africa helped inform so much of what you do and say in the end.  The singing in the car was just made up while we waited for the next shot.  I was “hey guys, that’s family, let’s use it.”  Ingmar Bergman said something that’s always been close to my heart – “the more you prepare for a scene, the more you can let go of it and meet what is presented to you on set.”  It’s never going to be as you imagine in your head. 

Matt:  Idris Elba is very good – a role that requires him to be physically strong but also emotionally vulnerable at times.  How did he become involved with the project?

Baltasar:  It was very early on.  He loved it because it was different from what he’d done previously.  He was the right choice for me because of exactly what you said.  There aren’t many movie stars of that calibre who have that mission as actors.  He also has a physicality which you can believe in the end.

Matt:  Shartlo, You’ve made movies across the globe but getting to shoot a big Hollywood production in your home country – it must be pretty cool?

Sharlto:  It’s fantastic.  You get very few opportunities to do it.  This one was very personal to me with the poaching theme and wildlife stuff.  I love being in the bush, being in the wild.  It’s something I wish I can do more of.  They said I can play a character hosting Idris and his daughters and in real life, you can basically be the guy from South Africa that hosts everyone from Hollywood, and you can stay in a game lodge where you’d be normally be paying $5,000 a night and stay for a month and half and do safaris on your off days.  I was like “are you kidding me?”  Of course I’m going to say yes.

Matt:  Baltasar Kormákur has crafted some wonderful long, continuous shots in this movie.  Does that make the rehearsal and shooting process any different from the perspective of the actors?

Sharlto:  It really does.  I’ve never done anything like that before to that degree.  There’s a scene where I engage with the lions which is 7 minutes long and we spent a day rehearsing it.  You then get three chances to do it right at the end of the day.  It’s a totally different way of working.  I love the freedom of being able to mix it up and change lines.  We had to do that up front in the rehearsal – “what if tried this, what if I tried that?”  We’d nail it down during the day.

Matt:  Without giving too much away, you’re playing a badly injured person throughout much of the film.  Is there a secret to doing that?  I must say that I felt your pain at times.

Sharlto:  On the days when I wasn’t working, I would ride a mountain bike through the safari park by myself.  It was the craziest thing I’ve ever done and I was terrified all the time.  When I got back, the fact I was still alive would be the most unbelievable feeling.  You’re reminded of how vulnerable you are and many humans won’t experience that – being in the wild with nothing to protect yourself.   A buck could lose it’s cool and panic and kill you… let alone the things like lions that are designed to kill you.

I’d be in that space about understanding how vulnerable we are and it therefore wasn’t a difficult stretch to imagine myself being with a lion.  I actually got chased down by a black rhino.  If they see something they don’t know which makes them uncomfortable, they just start running at it.  When they can see, which is about 3 metres away from you, they decide if they’re going to hit you.  I was trying to get off the bike so I could throw it at him, and then I tried to sound assertive by doing a Steve Irwin “no boy, not too aggressive” and he decided to turn away. 

Matt:  I like the connection you build in the film with Idris Elba and the way you both come across as old friends.  Did you know each other at all before the movie?

Sharlto:  I did not.  We hadn’t met.  We had a very similar energy.  When you have that, I think it’s much easier and I think our acting style is very open and accessible.  It was a real pleasure working with someone so phenomenally impressive.  There was a scene where he acts drunk and it was during the first take where I zoned out of my character and thought “that is a fucking amazing drunk performance… what is this guy doing?”  He’s just really good.

Sophie Hyde Interview

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a fantastic new film starring Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack.  I recently spoke to its Australian director, Sophie Hyde, about the movie…

Matt:  When did you first become involved in the project?

Sophie:  Just over 18 months ago.  I was sent a version of the script and it was a concept that really appealed to me – an older woman who decides she just wants to have good sex for the first time in her life and she hires a sex worker.  I knew it was going to be mostly set in one room and so there was a lot of potential to explore intimacy and connection… and Emma Thompson was attached which made it a tantalising idea.

Matt:  So was Emma Thompson attached right from the very start?

Sophie:  Yeah, she knows the screenwriter Katy Brand who had written it with her in mind.  When Emma read it, she recognised the character of Nancy as someone very familiar and as an interesting woman who have never been put on screen before.  As Emma would say, she’s a character who is usually next to the person doing the interesting thing.  Katy put her in a position that was very fascinating and when anyone is in a position that is unusual to them, you start to see the layers of interest.

Matt:  Can you tell me about the way you and screenwriter Katy Brand worked together during the production?

Sophie:  The script was very early when I came in.  Katy had an original idea and had written a very funny, short script.  Before I came on, I had a meeting with them all and said what I’d like to do with it which is expand and make it a bit longer.  We added an extra meeting and some sex.  There was no sex in the original concept.  I also wanted to explore the character of Leo more.

We worked back and forth remotely for about six months.  Katy was in Germany, I was in Australia and our producers were in the UK.  My partner Brian, who was the cinematographer and editor, and I then got on a plane in the middle of the pandemic over to the UK and shot the film.

Matt:  Filmmaking is such a collaborative medium.  What do you learn as a director from working with someone with as much experience as Emma Thompson?

Sophie:  It’s a delight to work with someone like Emma who is a very smart woman but also at the top of her game.  She’s so skilled.  She’s seen a lot of sex too.  Anytime there’s a great collaboration between people, you feel like you’re in a little boat together on the ocean and you have to look after each other.  My job as a director is to challenge my actors but also to support them and make them feel like they can do the best that they can. 

What I learned from Emma is that it’s really important to show up for the things that matter to you and to put yourself on the line for those things.  Instead of thinking about things in terms of a “career trajectory”, you go after what you believe needs to be in the world.

Matt:  Thomson is so great as Nancy – a constant mix of nerves and tension and being uncomfortable.  It looks like such an exhausting role to play so I was wondering how easy it was for her and to get what you were looking for on screen?

Sophie:  Emma is so skilful that you can get anything you want all of the time.  It’s the truth.  A lot of our time together was working out the tone we were going for.  Nancy is terrified and I think Emma enjoyed playing her very much.  When Emma is inside a role, she thinks like the character.  In terms of exhaustion, there’s so much dialogue and it’s such a quick shoot, the two actors had to be ready all the time and churning out so much material in the many different ways I asked for.  Every time we got to a scene which was more physical with less dialogue, I think they were like “oh thank goodness”.

Matt:  Daryl McCormack is someone I didn’t know a lot about before this.  What made him stand out for you?

Sophie:  We auditioned so many great actors for this role and we knew it had the potential to show audiences someone they didn’t know very well.  Daryl stood out because of his gentleness.  It was important that Leo could come in and present himself as a fantasy that Nancy would have chosen but at the same time, what’s really interesting about Leo is how much he can put aside his own stuff and try really hard to be what Nancy needs him to be.  Daryl is a very generous, interesting human and that layer he brought, in addition to his physical beauty, was what we were looking for.  He didn’t feel like he was fitting into an idea of masculinity that I’m bored of.  He felt like a version that is real and that I want to see more of on screen.

Matt:  We get these great glimpses into Leo when Nancy slips into the bathroom and the camera chooses to stay with Leo.  He doesn’t say anything but these are rare moments where we see him as himself and not as a character.  Can you tell me about your creative choices there?

Leo:  It was really important for us to show that Leo was performing a role for somebody.  It’s his job to be there and be what Nancy wants and eventually what Nancy needs.  I hate it in films when someone’s on their own and they’re exactly the same as they are around other people.  They’re the bits when you get to see under the surface, under the façade.  I also enjoy a character who is trying very hard to be good at what he does and that first moment with Leo alone where he’s trying to work out how to be the perfect man for her… I love watching him do that. 

In terms of Leo’s longer-term choices across the film, it’s important that we worked out who he was, and how he got where he was, and the things he had dealt with in his history.  There was a shame that had been placed on him which he had risen above, and he’d become very good at what he does despite that shame.

It was important to me is that what Nancy offered back to Leo was her acknowledging he was really good at this, and what you are doing is important – offering pleasure and release to somebody.  That feeling of being seen and recognised for your skills is what frees him.  It’s not about him being saved from a life he doesn’t want, or saving him from some trauma.  It’s what a lot of us want – to be acknowledged.

Matt:  With limited exceptions, the film is shot entirely in a small hotel room.  How did you approach that with Bryan Mason in terms of the cinematography?

Leo:  It was a set we used.  It had to be.  I asked for a neutral hotel room which was not too posh but not too cheap.  I wanted the textures to be nice and sensual.  I also wanted a giant great window and have it set during the day.  That was an unusual thing to do – neutral room in the daylight – for something that is primarily about sex.  For me, the look of the film was always about light.

We wanted to shoot into the window and see the light in every shot and watch the light change in the same way as the bodies and characters change.  We didn’t want it to be seductive in a different way or seedy or any of those things.  Also, because it was set in one room, we needed things like light to help us feel the film move and change and be cinematic.  That was a huge part of it.  In the first meeting, the sun goes down and in the third meeting, there’s rain.  These things become important in keeping the audience there in the room and in the space with them.

Matt:  I think the film does a great job breaking down the stigma of sex workers but there are people in this world who don’t believe it’s an appropriate profession.  Have you received much in the way of a negative respond to the film for that reason?

Sophie:  I’m sure there are people who are still puritans about the idea.  There’s certainly been some brilliant conversations about sex work.  I worked with a lot of sex workers to make the movie and it was important to me that they were part of the conversation – those with lived experience.  There are so many stories and so much we could be telling in this field and we’re only telling a tiny droplet of it.

I think we’re telling a story that is really interesting and connects to some of the people I met.  I was amazed at their unique skills.  Obviously, there are millions of other stories and I’d love to hear more of them.  We’ve had stories about the dangers and the history of sex work and where it’s gone wrong.  It’s still criminalised in places and it’s very much “in the dark” and secretive which means people can be mistreated.  We’re not saying that it’s all good but in this film, I enjoyed showing a part of sex work we haven’t seen very much.