Best First Time Watches of 2022

April 27, 2022
Sophie Glassman

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Class of 2023

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My New Year's resolution for 2022 is to watch more movies. My goal is to reach 365 films by the end of the year. I am trying to watch anything I can get my hands on, such as documentaries, classic comedies, and international cinema. So far, some films have been absolute flops, while others exceeded my expectations. The following is a ranked list of my top four first-time watches of the year so far.

1. Fargo (dir. Joel Coen)

At the top of the list is none other than the Coen Brother classic, Fargo. It's set in desolate, remote Minnesota and North Dakota, in the dead of winter. The sky is unfailingly gray and bleak. But in contrast, the characters are surprisingly upbeat; everyone is smiling and polite to each other. It must be that midwestern charm, yah? 

Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is an incompetent car salesman, desperate for money. He hires two men, Carl (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear (Peter Stormare), to kidnap his wife and demand a costly ransom from Jerry's father-in-law (Harve Presnell). Things go more awry when they get tangled in a series of murders on their way to North Dakota, forcing local officer Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) to investigate.

I exalt the Coen brothers and believe they do a fabulous job creating solid characters in their films; this is particularly evident with the Marge Gunderson character. Perhaps I am biased because I adore Frances McDormand, but Marge may be one of my favorite characters of all time. Although the plot is quite literally about kidnapping, bribery, and murder, I feel blinded by everyone's unfailing politeness. The movie's portrayal of stereotypical midwestern charm masks the enormity of the crimes committed. As a midwesterner myself, I have a level of comfort while watching Fargo, minus the homicides. Nonetheless, you betcha I can't stop using Minnesotan slang after watching Fargo, don't cha' know.

2. Amélie (dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

I don't speak a word of French, but that doesn't stop me from ranking Amélie second on this list. If you like cute and whimsical movies, this one is for you! 

Amélie is a French romantic comedy following a quirky and shy Parisian waitress, Amelie (Audrey Tautou). One day while brushing her teeth, she finds an old box of knick-knacks in her bathroom and decides to find the person to whom it belonged. She meets eccentric characters throughout her journey to return the box, helps people, and falls in love herself. Amélie is a heartwarming and charming movie and narrated exquisitely.

I enjoy rewatchable movies that don't contain complicated subplots or hidden meanings, and Amélie is precisely that. It's a movie that I didn't think I would be fond of, but Amélie definitely deserves this spot upon viewing.

3. Buffalo ‘66 (dir. Vincent Gallo)

Buffalo '66 is a movie in which it is essential to separate the art from the artist. Vincent Gallo is known for his problematic behavior and views, so why did he have to make such a good movie?!  

Fresh out of jail, Billy Brown (Vincent Gallo) is on his way to visit his parents, who are oblivious of his son's sentence. Billy has built a ludicrous story about himself, convincing them that he is successful, rich, and married. He abducts a teenage girl named Layla (Christina Ricci) and forces her to pose as his wife and meet his parents. Instead of leaving him afterward, Layla tags along with Billy. 

In this offbeat, Stockholm Syndrome love story, I found myself genuinely rooting for their twisted love. People dare say that Buffalo '66 is a "rom-com," but it is not romantic nor comedic. It's a movie for those who tend to root for the offbeat character because everyone in this movie resembles the classic offbeat character. Some aspects feel like fever dreams, and you might have to watch it twice to comprehend what you just saw.

4. Night of the Hunter (dir. Charles Laughton)

Attention all cinematography geeks!

This movie might seem like the black sheep of this list. What is a 1950s film noir doing here? I'll tell you one word: cinematography. Upon taking a film analysis class at school, I've come to appreciate precise cinematography. If you like shadowy, spooky, old movies, you will love Night of the Hunter. 

Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is a southern preacher and serial killer who strives to obtain his former cell-mate, Ben Harper's (Peter Graves) fortune upon his release from jail. Harry marries Ben's wife, Willa Harper (Shelley Winters). Although she promised never to remarry, Willa felt compelled by Harry's devout Christianity. Unfortunately, Willa vowed never to tell anyone where her husband hid his money, so Harry murders her and turns to her kids to find the fortune. Everything comes to a head with a goose chase for the money along the Ohio River.

The grainy film, transatlantic accents, and Robert Mitchum's beautiful voice tie everything together. I don't really like old movies, but I have to say that Night of the Hunter is a must-watch.

Sophie Glassman is a BBG living in Cincinnati, Ohio.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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