In a lot of ways, 2022 wasn’t a “great year” for film, but that certainly wasn’t because it lacked great films. In fact, this was definitely the most competitive year we’ve ever had at the Sundae Film Awards and we genuinely considered tying most of the awards to reflect that. (We only tied one in the end.) We had a truly agonising experience picking our winners, and more than most years, you should check out our full slates of nominees at the bottom of the post, because there is nothing in there but great films.
The real reason 2022 won’t go down in film history is there was no one big story to tell about it. Instead, we had lots of little trends: semi-autobiographical films about the director’s youth (Aftersun, Armageddon Time, The Fabelmans), satires of the modern rich (Glass Onion, The Menu, Triangle of Sadness), movies that are mostly just people talking in one room (Three Thousands Years of Longing, The Whale, Women Talking) actors who appeared on Scrubs at the height of their movie stardom getting late career plaudits (Colin Farrell, Brendan Fraser). It was also a big year for poop, puke, piss, donkeys, stop-motion, and ominous concrete steps into dark. The last superstar actor and director on the planet each released a long-awaited blockbuster that helped to save theatrical distribution (Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water) and dormant auteurs returned with the best films of their careers (Elvis, Tár). Sony released the biggest superhero flop of the year twice because of memes and a canny campaign launched an indie actress to the front of the Best Actress race.
Most shockingly of all, the Academy… actually did a pretty good job of nominating worthwhile films for Oscars? Excitingly for us, that included correctly noticing that an Irish-language film was one of the best of the year for the first time ever. Irish cinema has been building towards a breakout on the global stage for a while now, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to see this moment finally arrive and celebrate it in our own annual film awards too.
As with every year, we gave one award for each of the eight major Oscars: we care about most of the others (except for the fake awards like Best Original Song) but this post would be absurdly long if we picked those too. We each did out our personal nominees and then selected the winner by consensus, so the winners only come from films that both of us have seen and nominated, but we’ve each picked a personal runner-up regardless of whether the other has seen or nominated it. We also each gave a Special Achievement Award for something that doesn’t fit our other categories: this year, by sheer coincidence, both to animated films.
BEST PICTURE – The Banshees of Inisherin
Ciara: “I’m Irish, so I’m biased. I’m doing my PhD on Martin McDonagh, so I’m very biased. I’m forever hyped about a Colin Farrell/Brendan Gleeson reunion, and sneakily as hyped about Farrell reuniting with Barry Keoghan post-Killing of a Sacred Deer, so I’m extremely biased. But here’s the thing: The Banshees of Inisherin is the film of the year. It’s a story about two men who stop being friends: an acrimonious break-up on an island off Ireland during the Civil War. And like the Civil War, their war is as bloody as it is pointless.
It’s the best thing Martin McDonagh has ever done, both as a writer and a director. He effortlessly spins lines as funny as ‘A stick with a hook on it! What would you use it for, I wonder? To hook things that were the length of a stick away?’ He and cinematographer Ben Davis shoot the tandem of rugged landscapes and cramped indoor spaces in a way that would make John Ford proud.
It’s the best thing Colin Farrell has ever done. Pádraic is deeply affecting in his hands, a dull, dim man whose happy-go-lucky disposition is suddenly challenged and curdles inside him. Brendan Gleeson is a stonier presence opposite him, intensely aware of his own mortality and unwilling to waste any more time. He can articulate his thoughts better than Pádraic can, but he’s the one who resorts to cutting off fingers.
It reunites D’Unbelievables. It finally gives Kerry Condon the part she deserves. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and I can’t wait to watch it again.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Top Gun: Maverick – “In this sincerely great year for cinema, nothing blazed a trail of joy through my heart quite like the much belated Top Gun sequel. Out of the reckless MTV collage of Top Gun, it makes as perfectly structured an action movie as this century has seen. Rewatching it when they rereleased each of the Best Picture nominees at my local cinema, I felt compelled to whisper to my companion, ‘this is the greatest film ever made.’ And no matter how quickly I would back down from that opinion at the slightest pushback, I meant it.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: White Noise – “White Noise is an academic satire, an epic disaster movie, a domestic drama, a black comic thriller, a family comedy. It’s like nothing else Noah Baumbach has ever done and I unironically think it may be the Great American Movie of this era. Don Cheadle gives his best performance in years as Adam Driver’s best friend and they make a beguiling comic duo together, whether they’re quipping in the supermarket or duetting a lecture. If you think it would be funny to watch a film where people are constantly, earnestly comparing Elvis and Hitler, then you need to watch White Noise.”
BEST DIRECTOR – Baz Luhrmann for Elvis
Dean: “Elvis is a queerer musical biopic than Bohemian Rhapsody and a better film about the political danger of black music than Straight Outta Compton, narrated by its villain, Col. Tom Parker, in what friend of the blog Darren Mooney described as ‘the New Testament from Satan’s perspective’. Ciara said it use of split-screen ‘would make Brian De Palma throw up’, and that’s just one of the hundreds of ingredients in the most maximalist film to ever maximalist. Baz Luhrmann’s films have always been defined by their visual excess, but it was all just a trial run for Elvis, one of the most thoroughly directed films I’ve ever seen.
Elvis reimagines the life story of its subject as a queer fantasia on national themes that literally plays with his body of work, reframing and reforming the raw material of his cultural footprint, including modern remixes of his songs and recreations of his film and television work that alternate between realistic and distorted. So many of my most memorable images in film last year came from Elvis. The child Elvis racing between a rundown blues joint and a gospel revival tent until he’s ‘with the Spirit’. The police photographing his explosive pelvic thrusts during ‘Trouble’ at Russwood Park, just across town from a white nationalist rally denouncing him as a perverted race traitor. The infectious sense of excitement as he talks his band through the arrangement his first time on stage in Vegas, and the hallucinogenic despair of his later performances, drunk and drugged and doomed, each set another Station of the Cross. These, and a hundred more besides. Baz is a master, and this is his masterpiece.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans – “In the way Roald Dahl wrote Boy or Ingmar Bergman made Fanny and Alexander, Steven Spielberg tells his life story in The Fabelmans in the style of a Steven Spielberg movie – kids on bikes and all. It is both a very ordinary family drama and a portrait of the artist as a young man, knows bone-deep that the latter is a product of the former. It makes the act of directing itself – of figuring out to pin holes in the frames to make the gunshots look real, of making the jock kid you hate look like he can fly – thrilling.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert for Everything Everywhere All at Once – “Everything Everywhere All at Once is the culmination of Daniels’ entire career to this point, a potent fusion of hyperkinetic action-driven absurdist pop art and hypersincere character-driven humanist drama, a weird, ballsy, sprawling rush of a film I still can’t quite believe exists. I’d heard it talked to death months before I saw it, but I was still totally unprepared for how exhilaratingly inventive it is, especially once its godlike reality-warping villain shows up and starts killing cops by flamenco dancing them into the paths of oncoming bullets. Crazy that two guys this good at filmmaking found each other.”
BEST ACTOR – Brendan Fraser as Charlie in The Whale
Dean: “The fat suit that Brendan Fraser wears in The Whale is an extraordinary feat of design and engineering that represents a radical creative and technical departure from essentially all previous American cinema. But the most impressive thing about it is that it exists in service of a performance as great as Fraser’s interpretation of Charlie, the dying protagonist of The Whale. It’s never gonna make a sizzle reel, but the moment I knew Fraser was going to kill this role was when Liz tickles Charlie early on in the film and he giggles and holds up his hands in mock surrender. A lot of other actors could pull off the heavy, dramatic material in this film as well as Brendan Fraser, but not the happy stuff, the sappy stuff, the silly stuff, the sweetness and laughter and warmth. He’s been one of my favourite actors since the days of Scrubs and The Quiet American, and one of his greatest gifts has always been how well he plays men of sincere joy and wonderment and kindness.
Never have those qualities elevated a performance, and a film, and especially a script, as they do in The Whale. You believe Charlie can be so hopeful and awed by the kindness of people despite all the tragedy he’s suffered because of his easy smile, his throaty laugh. It’s the sweet that accentuates the bitter, makes his pain so heartbreaking and his rage so shocking. One of the finest performances of the year and a fitting culmination for the Brenaissance.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Austin Butler as Elvis Presley in Elvis – “For most people, as Austin Butler noted in a recent Hollywood Reporter roundtable, Elvis Presley is a Halloween costume. Butler imbues him with the humanity such icons are denied. Austin Butler is Elvis: the vulnerable boy, the exploited man who escapes into drugs and sex, the bloated past-his-prime legend sat in front of a giant pile of Coke cups. He’s stunning – and would have emphatically won this award any other year.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Colin Farrell as Pádraic Súilleabháin in The Banshees of Inisherin – “Farrell’s fifteen-year transformation into one of the best character actors of his generation wrapped up last year right around when he inverted his eyebrows and said ‘but you liked me yesterday’. His performance as Pádraic Súilleabháin – ‘one of life’s good guys’ – is an extraordinary bit of acting, so stupid and silly and sweet and sad. The slowly-then-all-at-once process of Pádraic letting the sting of Colm’s rejection fester into a septic wound plays out in the gradually congealing bitterness in Farrell’s expression, from the bright, open smile of his first appearance to the stony silence of his last.”
BEST ACTRESS – Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár in Tár
Ciara: “Cate Blanchett is a colossus towering above us all. In this difficult, difficult year to do these awards – in this year of debates and draws – there was no conversation about who should win Best Actress. I have always enjoyed Blanchett as an actress, but Tár set me alight, fully understanding the breadth of her talent. As Lydia Tár, she goes off like a bomb, and watching the fuse burn down is just as exhilarating as the explosion.
Tár is a monstrous creature: as a hugely successful conductor, she sexually exploits her students, punishes them if they object, and verbally abuses her employees regardless of gender. #MeToo hangs over her like an oncoming storm cloud. She’s the kind of monster we associate with masculinity, but that Tár reveals is a product of power. It takes an actress of Blanchett’s prowess to make this land, and it lands. Everything about Lydia Tár is artifice – even her name – but the way she accumulates and wields power is authentic in her bones. It’s the truth that underpins all of her lies. It is subtly accomplished as a physical performance, too: when I think about Tár, so much of what I think about is how Blanchett holds and moves her body. The shake of her hair as she conducts. Her pacing the apartment discordantly playing an accordion while yelling ‘Apartment for sale!’ And, ultimately, the tension in her shoulders as she waits in the wings, and in this year’s most heartstopping moment in cinema, tackles her replacement to the ground.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie Till in Till – “Till is the true story of Mamie Till, who seeks justice when her fourteen-year-old son Emmett is lynched in Mississippi. Its greatest strength is Danielle Deadwyler’s radiant lead performance, one it has the good sense to play to in close-ups and unbroken shots. In her testimony at the trial, she is both anguished and controlled, at once facing dead-on the worst, rawest pain imaginable and consciously performing for the all-white jury. The best gesture of my brain is less than her eyelids’ flutter.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Quan Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once – “Everything Everywhere All at Once is in no small part a film about how fucking awesome Michelle Yeoh is, and how criminally she’s been underrated for too much of her career. As evidence, it offers Michelle Yeoh’s performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once, and I mean, case closed. Action, comedy, drama, horror, romance, this film calls on Yeoh to perform at every register an actor could ever expect, and whether she’s kicking a demonic superbeing’s ass or getting Ratatouilled by Henry Shum Jr., you know you’re watching one of the best to ever do it. Michelle Yeoh forever!”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker in Elvis and Paul Dano as Burt Fabelman in The Fabelmans
Ciara: “On one hand, I’ve loved Tom Hanks forever, and seeing him do a villainous turn – to, essentially, play Satan himself, filtered through Goldfinger – with such aplomb was a thrill. I’ve seen Tom Hanks play so, so many roles over the years, but his Colonel Tom Parker was genuinely revelatory. Menacing, slimy, at once a virtuoso manipulator and a crass conman. When I was a kid I believed Tom Hanks was the best actor in the world, and this year, I believed that again.
On the other hand, The Sundae – and the Sundae Film Awards in particular – exists in no small part because of Dean and I’s outrage when Paul Dano didn’t get an Oscar nomination for Love & Mercy in 2015. In fact, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seems to have a vendetta against Paul Dano precedented only by their shunning of Donald Sutherland. He is wonderful as Burt Fabelman, based on Spielberg’s father. As a computer engineer, he’s a genius and a prophet, under-appreciated and under-used in a company run by people who can’t see as far as he can. At home, he’s just trying to hold everyone together, keep them safe. What makes Dano’s performance so special is Burt’s reticence: he fought in World War II, but as Sammy says, he doesn’t talk about it; he slowly realises that Sammy’s filmmaking is more than a hobby, but both his pride and his worry remain internalised. But we feel it all the same, right beneath the skin.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Barry Keoghan as Dominic Kearney in The Banshees of Inisherin – “We’re big Barry Keoghan heads around here, and his performance as Dominic might be his best yet. Poor dopey Dominic, so guileless and vulnerable. The scene where he confesses his love to Siobhán aches with yearning, only to give way to blunter, blacker pains when Dominic mumbles, ‘There goes that dream.’”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Andrew Bennett as Seán Cinnsealach in An Cailín Ciúin – “I am but one of many for whom one of the most emotionally powerful moments in film this year was Andrew Bennett putting a Kimberley biscuit on a table. In a film dominated by silence, it is Seán who chooses to share his with Cáit, to love her exactly as she is and let her know she’s not alone. Andrew Bennett makes every gesture feel hauntingly authentic. His gradual, fumbling efforts to reach out to her. His desperate fear when he can’t find Cáit on the farm, his terrified fury when he finally does and gives out to her. The way he encourages her to run. That final hug. A masterclass.”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Kerry Condon as Siobhán Súilleabháin in The Banshees of Inisherin
Dean: “Kerry Condon gives what I call a ‘Lose Yourself’ performance as Siobhán. An actor on the cusp of breaking out gets a supporting role in a major film, and given one shot, one opportunity, they put everything they have into their performance and steal the show. They capture the moment. In the best film of last year, opposite some of the most acclaimed Irish actors of three generations, Kerry Condon walked on set every single day and ate their fucking lunch. I went around for weeks after just repeating her best line readings and giggling to myself. ‘I do not hide behind walls.’ ‘Wild? Was I never wild?’ ‘You’re all feckin’ boring!’
Siobhán doesn’t just act as a literal bridge between the characters, going to Colm on Pádraic’s behalf to try and end their conflict. She’s also the person who best understands both sides, a sensitive and artistic intellectual who yearns for more than this provincial life just like Colm, but who dearly loves her brother, and loves him for exactly the simple niceness that Colm finds so dreary. Condon plays her deep-in-the-bones compassion as elegantly as her dry wit and sharp tongue. The soft, sad way she asks Pádraic does he never feel lonely, the shock in her eyes when Colm insists she understands his desperation for a bit of peace. Her baffled irritation at the shopkeeper who opens her post, the gentle warmth in her voice when she tells Dominic she doesn’t think she’ll ever fall in love with him. Here’s to many more fantastic roles.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Dolly de Leon as Abigail in Triangle of Sadness – “Dolly de Leon emerges as the key to the whole movie in Triangle of Sadness’s final act. On the yacht, she was a toilet cleaner, but here, washed up on an island, she quickly takes command over the wealthy cruise guests – and her boss. She cooly establishes new power relations, and takes no time in ruthlessly exploiting them. In a film full of reversals, de Leon makes this one the most mesmerising.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story – “In a year of very funny films full of very funny performances, few people made me laugh as hard and often as Evan Rachel Wood in Weird. Madonna is immediately and obviously the villain of the movie from the second she appears, and Wood plays her like Harley Quinn finally got to be the abuser for once, comically manipulative, duplicitous and cruel, pouring booze down Al’s throat at every chance, not even offended when Dr Demento calls her a bad influence. Just the way she chews gum made me laugh out loud multiple times. Comedy directors should be beating down her door.”
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Ruben Östlund for Triangle of Sadness
Ciara: “Triangle of Sadness is a satirical epic about class, gender and capitalism, but for Ruben Östlund, that’s playing the hits. But Triangle of Sadness might be his best script yet. Each of its three sections feel satisfying and whole even as each builds on what came before – if not quite Place Beyond the Pines style, than something just as good. From section to section, and within each section, Östlund pulls off a series of reversals of the typical dynamics of class/gender/capitalism that keep things fresh, funny, and thoroughly original. The fraught, frustrated and comically dog-with-a-bone ways gender roles play out for and are dissected by Carl and Yaya, as models – one of the few industries where women out-earn men. The American Marxist ship captain and Russian capitalist guest quoting Lenin and Thatcher to each other and, two quotes deep, just reading stuff off their phones. That same Russian capitalist sincerely saying ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’ when the ship’s survivors wash up on a beach and he wants to get fed. It’s a film about how rich people see the world in a way fundamentally distorted from the rest of us, and how power silently confers all that more power to be abused.
But there’s also non-stop great gag writing, from the woman who asks to have the sails cleaned when there aren’t any to the best extended vomiting and shitting sequence this side of 1990s Farrelly Brothers. And one of the funniest, most fucked up endings in a movie I’ve seen in quite a while.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Damien Chazelle for Babylon – “Damien Chazelle is a genius, and Babylon is Chazelle at his most freewheeling, having a ton of fun throwing shit at the wall. It’s Fellini Satyricon, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Singin’ in the Rain’s evil twin. It’s his One From The Heart, his New York New York, his Heaven’s Gate: a great big flop that no-one will appreciate for twenty years. So I’m happy to get in on the ground floor: the “hello, college!” scene alone is the most frustrating, hilarious thing I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. Catch the fuck up.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Todd Field for Tár – “It’s a testament to how well-written this film is that a long dialogue between two characters at a university about whether it’s worthwhile engaging with the artistic work of racist old white guys is widely considered one of the best scenes in film this year. From start to finish, it’s so smart and funny and layered, so insightful and observant about social dynamics and so deft at translating them into character relationships. Lydia Tár isn’t just one of the best roles in film last year, she’s one of the best characters in fiction this decade. And then it all ends with the punchline of the year. What more could you want?”
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Colm Bairéad for An Cailín Ciúin
Dean: “I was an emotional wreck as I left the cinema after seeing the greatest Irish-language film of all time. Not a single person in my very well-attended screening so much as stood up from their chair until they saw the copyright notice at the end of the credits. It instantly became one of my favourite coming-of-age movies ever, not least for its detailed and insightful portrayal of rural Irish social life, including the nasty way people gossip.
One of the most impressive things about its screenplay is that it’s adapted from an English-language novel with the most naturalistic Irish dialogue I’ve heard in a film. Even very good Irish-language films often suffer from a paradoxically strained effort to seem casual, but every single line in An Cailín Ciúin feels at once precisely crafted and perfectly organic. Even more impressively, it communicates so much without dialogue, as with the iconic Kimberley biscuit on the kitchen table. One of its greatest strengths is it never treats Cáit’s silence as an issue she needs to overcome even when others do, and she’s hardly more vocal at her happiest than her most depressed. It’s not just great writing, it’s the key to the whole movie, the foundation of the relationship between shy, quiet Cáit and reserved, withholding Seán.
I’ve also rarely wanted to cave in a fictional character’s skull with a frying pan as much as Athair Cháit, one of the most exquisitely repulsive figures I’ve seen in a film in some time. I gasped aloud when he said ‘sure ye know yerselves’. I wasn’t alone.”
Ciara’s Runner-Up: Sarah Polley for Women Talking – “In lesser hands, Women Talking – which consists near-exclusively of exactly that, as a group of women in a Mennonite community debate whether to stay or leave after being subject to sexual abuse – would seem stagey and inert. But as written by Sarah Polley, it’s thrilling: arch and literary, delicate and tough, heart-rending and sometimes cathartically funny. As it declares at the start, it’s an act of female imagination.”
Dean’s Runner-Up: Augusta Gore & George Miller for Three Thousand Years of Longing – “The true brilliance of Three Thousand Years of Longing is how perfectly it balances the competing priorities of its script. The leads talk at length about the nature and meaning of stories, but it always feels true to their characterisation and situation, and never becomes overly didactic. Their narration is both fantastic as storytelling for the audience and credible as dialogue for the characters. And the balance struck between the framing story and the anthology-style flashbacks is so perfect that Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba chatting in a hotel room organically becomes part of a romantic epic that begins with Solomon and Sheba.”
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (ANIMATED FEATURE) – Apollo 10 1⁄2: A Space Age Childhood
Ciara: “The Academy initially disqualified Apollo 10 1⁄2: A Space Age Childhood from Best Animated Feature under the ridiculous premise that rotoscoping – when animators trace over and animate around live-action footage frame by frame – isn’t animation. (Spit in Max Fleischer’s face, why don’tcha?) They ultimately reversed that decision, but too late. And it sucks, because Apollo 10 ½ is, I think we can all agree without consulting the evidence, Richard Linklater’s best film since School of Rock.
It’s the story of a kid in Texas in the summer of 1969, and the inseparable mundanity and extraordinary of being a kid during the moon landing – and, maybe, landing on the moon yourself. Lots of home movie footage was used for reference, and the film has the distinct quality of memory: its nostalgia is pure and sweet and well-earned, the one entry in the ‘during lockdown I finally wrote that screenplay about my childhood traumas’ cycle that doesn’t have any trauma in it. Dreams and reality are mushed together, but not in a Lynchian way, in the way what’s real or not gets blurry at fifty years distance. It feels like your parents telling you a story. It feels like being just the right age to find your parents’ mundane tales of the good old days edge-of-your-seat stuff. And it’s obviously animation. Idiots.”
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (ANIMATED FEATURE) – Mad God
Dean: “Mad God is a product of mad genius, dedication, collaboration, and art for its own sake: Phil Tippett’s 2001: A Clay Odyssey, the most ambitious work of stop-motion filmmaking ever. ‘Plot’ is a dangerous word to throw around with a film this experimental, but if I had to describe what happens in it, it’s about an explorer from the skies who ventures down through layers upon layers of hellish landscapes full of dystopian industrial environments and grotesque body horror creatures in search of… something? It doesn’t really matter. Mad God is about the journey, not the destination. It exists just to revel in the epic scope of its own nightmare surrealism, a haunting voyage through a brutal and violent cosmos punctuated with shocking bursts of pitch-black comedy.
Director Phil Tippett is one of the most acclaimed and influential special effects artists of all time, a legend with credits that include ‘Dinosaur Supervisor’ on Jurassic Park. He first started filming Mad God during production of RoboCop 2, but abandoned it after working with digital effects on Jurassic Park convinced him stop-motion animation had no future. He resumed making it twenty years later with the encouragement of friends and collaborators who helped raise money for production from a successful Kickstarter and volunteered their time and labour on weekends as Tippett finished it over the next decade. Even if it underwhelmed as a film, I would want to celebrate a work of passion this pure, but it is also, incredibly, one of the most astonishing feats of animation I’ve ever seen. It’s not for everyone, to put it lightly, but if you’ve ever wanted to visit David Cronenberg’s Garden of Earthly Delights, have I got a film for you.”