Cinema Unbound: 22 Stories in 2022 That Pushed the Boundaries of What’s Possible

PAM CUT Director Amy Dotson reflects on her favorite stories of the past year that underscore our interconnectedness.

These 2022 films, series, animated magnum opuses—and yes, there’s even two good ol’ fashioned cinematically wild books thrown in there—really captured the spirit of where we are right now, no longer content to be contained by one way of seeing or being.

This year’s best works messed with conventions like time, genre, form, format, and most importantly, questioned by whom, for whom and how cinematic storytelling can be.

And in between the gasps, the laughs, and the cheering at the screen (it really was Keke Palmer’s year, no?), more than one inanimate object ultimately made me cry (I’m looking at you Pinocchio and Marcel—and Hot Dog Hands, and let’s face it, maybe even fake Nicolas Cage).

The stories below were constant reminders that we are all interconnected, from the many people it takes to bring these stories and worlds to life, to the audiences the world over who can be transported deeply into the bizarre and wonderfully diverse realities of others.

Check out one or treat yourself to all of them to relive the year that was.

1. Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24) – The most mindblowing, singularly wild ride of the year. Do we live in the metaverse? How many different versions of ourselves can we imagine? Or is life just a mess of family obligations, laundry, and taxes?

2. The Rehearsal (HBO) – This Oregon-based project is the strangest, most bonkers thing I’ve seen in 10 years. And that’s saying something! Just turn it on, watch Nathan Fielder do what he does and see where it all goes.

3. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow – A (gasp) novel by Gabrielle Zevin that is one of the most cinematic, operatic, and gut wrenching stories about the power and fluidity of friendship, creativity and gaming to help people navigate the real and virtual world.

4. Memoria (NEON) – As good as the movie is (Tilda Swinton hears strange noises…take it from there), the genius of this film is that it will always, forever, only be seen in theaters. Rotating around the globe in perpetuity, we loved having it here for two sold out nights at the Portland Art Museum.

5. Heartstopper (Netflix) – Young love was never sweeter and more romantic. Two seasons (and many graphic novels) in and I’m still rooting for every teenager on that show to find happiness just by being themselves.

6. Atlanta (FX) – One of the greatest TV series ever didn’t disappoint, especially in Amsterdam.

7. Neptune Frost (Kino Lorber) – If you only see one Afrofuturist sci-fi punk musical this year, this is the one. Saul Williams is a poet and artist and filmmaker and contains it all in this one-of-a-kind singular vision.

8. Nanny (Amazon Prime) – This grand jury prize winner of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival marks the arrival of powerhouse director Nikyatu Jusu. A harrowing rollercoaster ride of a film, its best to go in knowing little to nothing about what you’re about to see.

9. Nope (Universal) – A pop-culture mash up that makes you question everything you thought you knew about movies, television, theme parks, UFOs and whew, let me know what you think of that ending. Undeniably, Keke Palmer is a national treasure.

10. Marcel the Shell with the Shoes On (A24) – No capsule review of a google-eyed shell does this film justice. Isabella Rosselini’s voice work is stunning and will bring you to your knees.

11. Severance (Apple) – From the opening tracking shot to the intricate art direction and origami-like design of the conceit that people can implant a brain chip that truly divides work and “real” life to create balance, it’s simply marvelous storytelling.

12. Central Park (Apple) – The cleverest family show on television. With a cadre of special guests, musical theater vibes and a sublime Stanley Tucci as evil foil Bitsy Brandingham, it’s a musical, an animated story cool enough for teenagers and adults alike, and full of inside jokes that make you smirk like a real in-the-know New Yorker.

13. Nightbitch – Motherhood can be hard at times. Unless you decide to transform into a feral dog. Then it starts to get interesting. Read the book now by Rachel Yoder before Amy Adams brings the story to life next year on the silver screen.

14. White Lotus (HBO) – Mike White is best know as a director AND in certain circles, an Amazing Race contestant. This series combines both these talents and takes us on a frenetic ride where we think we know what will happen, but then our expectations are upended completely.

15. Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Lionsgate) – A thoroughly entertaining tale of a fan obsessed with Nicolas Cage, Nicolas Cage plays himself in this bizarro romp of an action adventure movie.

16. The Bear (Hulu) – Even just thinking about this series makes me sweaty. You’ll never hear “Yes, Chef!” the same way again. Performances throughout are top notch and there’s no way you can’t binge this whole thing at once.

17. Leonor Will Never Die (Music Box) – The real and the unreal swirl together when a retired filmmaker falls into a coma after a TV falls on her head. But the good news is that she actually becomes a character in the 80’s inspired Filipino action-adventure screenplay she’s been writing.

18. Somebody Somewhere (HBO) – Sweet and profound all at once and featuring doyennes and divos of the NY comedy scene who finally get their due in a Kansas set drama of all places! Bridget Everrett and Murray Hill slay every scene they’re in together.

19. Hacks (HBO) – This Vegas-set comedy series anchored by Jean Smart is brilliant, timely and always both funny ha-ha and funny strange. In a good way.

20. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Netflix) – Both timeless and very 2022, this stop motion animation classic reimagines everything. Refreshingly, the end goal is not becoming a real boy, but to not collapse into conformity and doing what you’re told.

21. Ozark (Netflix) – It’s been around for a while, but damned if I’m not gonna miss it. The season finale was one for the ages. Who knew the kid from The Hogan Family would turn out like this?

22. Fire of Love (NEON) – The footage of two volcanologists alone is worth the watch. It’s the closest most of us will ever get to the fire…