The Best Cinematography Of 2022

Feb 26, 2023

We all love actors, directors, music, and all of it, but cinema is obviously a visual medium first and foremost, and boy, do we love a handsome, nice-to-look-at picture. Cinematography usually gets turned into “pretty pictures,” what is the most colorful, the most sun-dappled, etc. And sure, some of that is represented here (“Aftersun”), but what represents “Best Cinematography,” to us, should be as layered, complex, and meaningful as cinema itself.
READ MORE: The 25 Best Films Of 2022
So the dank, ugly, oppressive despair of “The Batman” is here, a movie whose incredible aesthetics of grime and water-logged hopelessness pervade a movie that’s milieu screams: a horrible, corrupt city that needs light and a hero, but not before he gets his furious anger out about how awful it all is. Or “Athena” with its jaw-dropping, astonishing 11-minute opening shot that feels like an utter impossibility. Its dazzling opening, raw, fiery, and angry is also a call to arms, a shot to the heart that says, wake up, this is cinema you have to engage with while grabbing you by the throat. Or the meditative, simple but super effective framing and composition of films like “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “The Wonder,” where the claustrophobic interiors are just as meaningful as the exterior vistas of beauty, and speak to the emotional struggles of each and every character.
READ MORE: The 100 Most Anticipated Films Of 2023
If you watch enough movies every year, you know every year is a great year for movies. You can complain about maybe the mediocre blockbusters or mainstream films, but when you’re looking into every dark hole, nook, or cranny, you will certainly discover all kinds of gems. And so these are the gems with our favorite cinematography, aesthetics, etc. striking images that go beyond just the surface of pretty to look at or dark but speak to the emotional philosophy and spiritual meaning of a movie. Good images are nice to look at yes. Great images are transformative and take the whole of a movie, the images, the performances, and the sound and move it to that transcendent next level. OK, less babbling and without further ado, our picks for the Best Cinematography of 2022.
Follow along with all our Best Of 2022 coverage here.
Florian Hoffmeister, “Tár” Todd Field took his sweet time getting his third feature, “Tár,” out in the world after making “Little Children” in 2006, so why should its camerawork be hurried? Florian Hoffmeister has nowhere to be other than wherever the film’s namesake, the domineering composer-conductor Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) goes. He’s Tár’s shadow, tailing her every footfall; he’s her witness, too, documenting her highs and lows sans judgment, reservation, or a shred of mess. The immaculate control Hoffmeister has over his lens, and forgive the easy interpretation, reflects the control Tár attempts to exert over her world, meaning the worlds of everyone revolving in her orbit: Her wife, Sharon (Nina Hoss), her assistant, Francesca (Noémie Merlant), her new cellist and drastically younger crush, Olga (Sophie Kauer), and even the playground bullies giving her adopted daughter, Petra (Mila Bogojevic), grief. Unlike Tár, Hoffmeister is a neutral force. Ultimately, he has a better grip over himself than she does: The film is all clean angles and compositions to the very end, even in the occasional dream sequence where Tár floats on a jungle river in her luxurious bed.  – Andrew Crump
Janusz Kamiński, “The Fabelmans”With his semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale “The Fabelmans,” director Steven Spielberg continues his thirty-year collaboration with cinematographer Janusz Kamiński. His most personal film to date, Spielberg and Kamiński, not only craft the slick imagery we come to expect from the duo but also have a blast recreating the rudimentary filmmaking from the acclaimed director’s youth. These include home movies shot during a camping trip by Spielberg’s teenage stand-in Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) that have seismic repercussions on his entire family. As well as Sammy’s short films made with fellow Cub Scouts that ape the style of filmmakers he admires like John Ford. Kamiński’s cinematography must capture the moment Sammy discovers that ineffable magic that takes real life into that stuff dreams are made of. By synthesizing the look and feel of filmmakers that made Spielberg the artist he is today (and more than a few of his contemporaries), Kamiński’s work unfolds the many layers within this artistry, while maintaining its own specific persistence of vision.  – Marya E. Gates
Darius Khonji – “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” In “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths,” Oscar-winning writer-director Alejandro González Iñárritu mines his own life and the complicated history of post-colonial Mexico to create a surrealist dreamscape through the hopes and fears, memories and regrets of fictional journalist-turned-documentarian Silverio Gama (Daniel Giménez Cacho). This epic black comedy follows Silverio through many epic and dazzling set pieces, from flying through an endless desert to the flooding of a Los Angeles Metro train. Cinematographer Darius Khondji‘s fluid camera movements heighten the film’s otherworldly vibe. Two of the most impressive moments are in conversation with the long takes from Iñárritu’s Oscar-winning “Birdman.” In one, Silverio makes his way through a serpentine television studio filled with showgirls and other colorful mayhem on his way to a nightmarish talk show interview with a combative former colleague. The other, and absolutely one of the most impressive sequences captured on film all year, features Silverio and his family dancing at a party held in his honor. Khondji’s camera swirls through the crowd with the same balletic grace as the cast’s impassioned dance moves, transporting the audience directly into the room with them.   – MG
Bobby Bukowski, “Till”In the biographical drama “Till,” director Chinonye Chukwu is tasked with first exploring the joy in the lives of Emmett Till (Jalyn Hall) and his mother Mamie Till-Bradley (Danielle Deadwyler), before Emmett’s brutal murder changed her life forever, and catalyzed a nation around a movement. She accomplishes this in part through Bobby Bukowski‘s sublime cinematography. At first golden hues surround the family in Chicago, as well as Emmett’s joyous first day, visiting his family in Money, Mississippi. Yet even during these moments, through Bukowski’s meticulously placed camera, Mamie’s apprehension is ever-present. Later, as Mamie endures the trauma of his death and the indignation of his murder’s mock trial, his camera holds on Deadwyler’s expressive face, using classic close-ups to amplify Deadwyler’s tremendous performance. This is never more impactful than in the courtroom scene where Mamie’s own parenting is called into question. Bukowski and Chukwu hold steady, trusting their lead to convey the internal strength of Mamie and the heartbreaking systematic inequality the scene reveals.   – MG
Linus Sandgren, “Babylon”With “Babylon,” writer-director Damien Chazelle returns to cinemas with his most ambitious film to date, continuing his collaboration with “La La Land” Oscar-winner Linus Sandgren. Mostly set in the 1920s, this tragicomedy traces the tail end of the silent era through Hollywood’s transition to talkies, following the lives and careers of a handful of fictional movie stars and filmmakers. “No Time to Die” lenser Sandgren’s swirling cinematography matches Chazelle’s bombastic and super-choreographed set pieces, from the opening gold-washed twenty-minute orgy to the natural light of an outdoor studio lot where multiple films are being made simultaneously (reminding us of the early days of Paul Thomas Anderson’s keyed-up, hyper-kinetic cinema). Sandgren utilizes modern equipment while also using techniques like monochromatic blue, green, and red tints and crisp black and whites found in many films of the era. Close-ups of matinee idol Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) and Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) mirror the style opined by Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Blvd.” They had faces then, and Sandgren transforms these modern stars into icons of yore. His work deftly captures the artistic heights of the best silent films while also pushing the art ever forward.   – MG

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