Lee: Five Films to Soothe a Strenuous Year


Graphic by Noah Lee

Featuring films from Jordan Peele and Martin McDonagh, the choices for film of the year varied from the animated “Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio” to shell’s with googly eyes in “Marcel the Shell with Shoes on.”

Noah Curtis Lee, Staff Writer

Junior year at MSMS has been disastrous for my hobby of film criticism. The simple fact is this year, as a reviewer, even if I have not lost a particular sharpness of film criticism, I have certainly lost my once-expansive output.

Last year, between August and May of my sophomore year at a small, marginally challenging private school in DeSoto County, I watched 120 films and wrote more than 90 mini-reviews/blurbs concerning them. My output at MSMS dropped drastically; I have only watched 47 films and written nine mini-reviews this year. Watching films used to be my near-daily stress reliever, and when things at my prior quaint school were getting unfavorably busy, I would pop on an old, comforting flick and wait for my anxieties to be enraptured into the screen.

Unfortunately, MSMS has not afforded me with the same generosity of time.

Now, this all isn’t to say I haven’t seen any films this year, but to make a definitive and objectively leveled “Top Five Films of the Year” list is a ridiculous ask, for any person who has seen every notable film over the last year is either occupationally obligated to or has no life aside from it. 

Nevertheless, every once in a while I feel a distinct need to reassert my love of cinema, so I promptly pitch myself in front of a theater screen, living room television or laptop monitor and remind myself of the dormant obsession I have for the artform.

Unfortunately, I still missed hundreds of great films this year, and my feeble attempts to stay current in the hyper world of popular culture only scratched a thin layer off a year of great cinema. But, in spite of the year’s limitations, I present to you one of the strangest, most self-indulgent top-five-movies-of-the-last-year-lists (covering anything with a wide release from June 2022 to the present). Brace yourself.

5. “Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio”

No, this isn’t the live action, heavily criticized remake that Disney released in September, but the more stylistic, at-times-slightly-creepy stop motion film released in October. Though the film at first may strike a viewer as a simple remake for children, “Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio” distinguishes itself from adaptations of the story through its rich themes of grief and carefully tinkered physical artistry, proving it is indeed possible for a mere puppet to exemplify life.

4. “Nope”

Despite every effort to warn against the societal dangers of spectacle, “Nope” rouses an extravagant spectacle in itself — though this irony is undoubtedly a precise thematic decision by director-genius Jordan Peele. The film masterfully handles a cinematic double-edged sword, providing the horror thrills audiences expect from a horror film but also delivering striking results in the fields of production design, visual effects and purposeful scriptwriting.

3. “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On”

Last year, unexpectedly, was an incredible one for stop-motion animation. While “Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio” meticulously crafted an entirely original world out of the clay pitting of our own, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” took the antithetical approach, fusing live-action elements with the quaint, dusty corners of a playful imagination. Most of the characters of the film are seashells with googly eyes stickered onto them, but, even with a protagonist weighing less than an ounce, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” manages to tackle one of the most ambitious family-search stories portrayed in recent cinema.

2. “The Banshees of Inisherin”

It’s impossible to explain “The Banshees of Inisherin” to someone unfamiliar with it. Any kind of simplification of the film’s packed style makes it appear gaudily whimsical. The film’s cast is aggressively Irish. The plot centers around the sudden — and messy — breakup of an eccentric male friendship. Colin Farrell’s character is child-like and, at times, exceedingly pathetic. However, a magical thing happens when each of the film’s parts are combined. Absurd comedy and existential bleakness mix to form a unique tonal richness, and, although “The Banshees of Inisherin” takes many innovative risks, each one succeeds, giving the film a textural quality unlike anything else this year.

1. “Cha Cha Real Smooth”

“Cha Cha Real Smooth” is the only film on this list that was not nominated for an Academy Award, and, in fact, it seems this film is not very well known by a general audience, which is a terrible shame. “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” while perhaps not for everyone, strikes an endearing balance between the last generation’s slice-of-life indie movement and the still developing, slightly awkward humor of Generation Z. While the film does not have the grandiose innovativeness that any of the other entries on this list possesses, “Cha Cha Real Smooth” portrays young-and-lost, modern life in a grounded — and at times wildly hilarious — way, staking itself as one of our generations most culturally attuned and effortlessly relatable films.