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Best of 2022: Scene on the screen

Scene has voted. Here are the top 15 films of 2022, carefully selected and compiled by The Observer’s entertainment and culture section.

15. “Fire of Love” directed by Sara Dosa

Sara Dosa’s sizzling documentary chronicles the daring adventures (and untimely end) of two volcanologists in love. Katia and Maurice Krafft were French scientists who specialized in the study of volcanoes, making a name for themselves throughout the 1970s and 1980s with books, television appearances, speaking tours and travel films. Composed of Krafft’s own archival footage (restored in stunning high-definition) and finished off with a wistful narration by raspy filmmaker, Miranda July, “Fire of Love” is less a documentary than an elegy. Poetry is written in lava. — Aidan O’Malley, Managing Editor 

Read the full review here.

14. “The Northman” directed by Robert Eggers

Robert Eggers takes us back to the Viking Age as we follow a young Viking prince on his quest to reclaim his kingdom, kill his murderous uncle, avenge his father’s death and save his mother. If this sounds at all familiar, that’s because it’s basically “Hamlet” (well, actually it’s closer to “The Lion King”) but with Vikings. Interestingly, the plot of the film is based on an Icelandic saga that inspired Shakespeare to write “Hamlet,” so we’re actually watching one of the earliest versions of the classic royal revenge tale. That’s basically all you need to know about the plot. — Justin George (Notre Dame ’22), Scene Writer

Read the full review here.

13. “The Menu” directed by Mark Mylod

Have you ever watched “Hell’s Kitchen” and thought it could be even more intense?

If you answered yes, you’re insane and I hope you enjoy tonight’s “The Menu.” It-girl Anya Taylor-Joy plays Margot Mills, who is invited on an expensive dinner date that she cannot escape. The chef, Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), runs his kitchen with a vicious precision that would put even Gordon Ramsey to shame. But as the night goes on, it seems like Margot might be on the menu. 

“The Menu” is what every food service employee daydreams about, and it’s every Instagram foodie’s worst nightmare. But even with its unpredictable twists and turns, surprisingly, this black comedy horror film might have you leaving the theater thinking: “Hey, that was a lot like ‘Ratatouille.’” — Claire Lyons, Associate Scene Editor

12. “Morbius” directed by Daniel Espinosa

“Morbius” holds a special place in my heart. It was one of the last films me and my friends saw together during our senior year of high school. When my last birthday came, one of my friends gave me a Morbius poster. The film holds a lot of sentimental value to me. Is it good? Not really. I don’t know if it’s the fact that it is hard to buy Jared Leto’s Michael Morbius as threatening or morally ambiguous, or the absolutely hammy performance of Matt Smith as his adopted brother and the film’s villain, Milo. That’s not his name actually. Morbius calls him that because he had a friend named Milo who no longer lived near him, so he calls all his friends Milo. And everyone else calls Matt Smith’s character Milo too. No wonder he’s a villain. You can watch it on Netflix, but I don’t advise it. — Andy Ottone, Scene Writer

11. “Licorice Pizza” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Set in 1973, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s beloved San Fernando Valley, “Licorice Pizza,” takes the viewer to summer under the shadow of Hollywood and the weight of national tumult. On its face, “Licorice Pizza” is the tale of two complicated people, 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) — based on the teenage exploits of real-life producer and former child actor Gary Goetzman — and 25-year-old Alana Kane (Alana Haim), Gary’s down-to-earth friend who struggles with her direction. Hoffman and Haim, both in debut roles, are marvelous. With a laid-back story told over the course of two hours — from a water mattress installation gone wrong to a particularly memorable client seeking Gary’s advertising services, with characters based on Hollywood icons big and small — PTA’s ninth movie succeeds, much like Joan Didion’s “The White Album,” in comprehensively capturing the pervasive tones and dreams, the colors and confusion, of California (and adolescence) in the 70s.— Isa Sheikh, Associate News Editor

Read the full review here.

10. “All Quiet on the Western Front” directed by Edward Berger

“All Quiet on the Western Front” is Netflix’s best shot for the Oscars this year. Adapted from the book of a German WWI survivor, Erich Maria Remarque, this depiction of war finally answers the question “can one truly make an anti-war film?” The answer is a terrifying yes. The muddy trenches of the western front put the phrase “war is hell” to shame, as even hell itself is a spa resort compared to the corpse-riddled craters and barbed wire that coats this French countryside. No lives can be saved, and no innocents are spared. As a film, the cinematography is gorgeous with gruesome editing and a violent score; but as a depiction of war, it’s the closest we get without staining our hands. Please watch the German language version as its creators intended to tell this story in its true language. It is a creative freedom only Netflix would produce. — JP Spoonmore, Scene Writer

Read the full review here.

9. “Don’t Worry Darling” directed by Olivia Wilde

If you want serious social commentary with a virtual reality plot twist, you probably should’ve watched “The Matrix” or read “More Than This” instead of traipsing into the South Bend AMC to see “Don’t Worry Darling.” Scene knows what you’re here for, but even the combined star power of Florence Pugh and Harry Styles couldn’t save this movie from its strange directorial decisions and poorly-written screenplay. “Don’t Worry Darling” was the talk of movie fanatics everywhere, and not in a good way. It’s a plane crash nobody can look away from, and the behind-the-scenes carnage is even messier. — Claire Lyons, Associate Scene Editor

Read the full review here.

8. “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” directed by Rian Johnson

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is a bizarre sequel to its surprise-hit predecessor, in that it wants nothing to do with that first film. Rian Johnson proves once again that his talent shines brightest when working alone to dissect the most delicious parodies put to screen. Moving on from the “Clue”-board shenanigans of “Knives Out,” Benoit Blanc takes an exotic vacation into political satire —where backstabbing is a cheap investment rather than an act of wit. The cast of rich friends he follows is much more memorable than the family in “Knives Out,” since every single one is characterized by unique backstories and running jokes. The colorful collection of new characters is always fun, but Benoit Blanc, Daniel Craig’s best character, once again steals the show. Filled with break-neck twists, perfectly timed reveals, and endless laughs, the adventures of Benoit Blanc might become the best original mystery series in cinema. — JP Spoonmore, Scene Writer

7. “Nope” directed by Jordan Peele

The third directorial work of Jordan Peele takes a new spin on the alien invasion movie, tying it to themes of spectacle, an appropriate theme for a horror blockbuster film to take. The film asks the question “How far would you go for the perfect entertainment?” with commentary on the exploitation of actors and animals within the film industry. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, portraying siblings within the film, and when an unnatural natural disaster heads their way, they try to take advantage of it in any way they can. For a thought-provoking, visually-stunning take on the “invasion” horror movie, you can’t go wrong with Jordan Peele’s “Nope.” — Andy Ottone, Scene Writer

6. “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp

A small, dainty shell with one googly eye who sports tiny pink sneakers.

Fleischer-Camp’s simplistic and unique stop-motion mockumentary has stolen the hearts of millions. Based on the director’s YouTube shorts with Jenny Slate of the same name, Marcel is now a household name. The film is a wholesome tale of life, community and the meaning of family. This film explores ordinary life through a magical lens, revealing the wonders and beauty of even the smallest things in life. “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” is a film where you’ll find yourself laughing, crying and cheering for the pure love and innocence of a small fashionable shell. — Willoughby Thom, Scene Editor

Read the full review here.

5. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” directed by Ryan Coogler

Set six years after the first film and one year after T’Challa’s death, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” focuses on T’Challa’s sister Shuri as she tries to take on the mantle of the Black Panther while also having to combat a new foe and protect Wakanda. Better than its predecessor, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a massive blockbuster that is even bigger in its world-building, character development and impressive plot. The raw emotion is clearly shown in the film and is accompanied beautifully at the end credits with Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up.” The action in the film is also beautifully choreographed and very fast-paced. Shuri truly is the next Black Panther. — Nicole Bilyak, Scene Writer

Read the full review here.

4. “Elvis” directed by Baz Luhrmann

The moody, smoky world of “Elvis” is a dream of decay and a parable of the peculiar parasitic relationships we have with our celebrities. Austin Butler’s superlative performance as the King of Rock has no false notes while still maintaining a necessary distance from the audience for most of the movie, always suggesting emotional depths beyond sight. But it is Tom Hanks who serves as the anchor of the film, the repulsive Colonel Tom Parker, who is Elvis’ exploitative manager. The twisted affection the Colonel has for his host is reflective of how we all make celebrities the vessels for our aspirations, and how that inhuman pressure is destined to break a person. “Elvis” is the tragedy of a musician’s pure love for his craft and audience being poisoned by the pressures and base cravings of music celebrity, incarnated in his manager. — Ayden Kowalski, Scene Writer

Read the full review here.

3. “The Batman” directed by Matt Reeve

As someone who is not well-versed in the world of superheroes, I am surprised to say Matt Reeve’s “The Batman” was one of my favorite films this year. It was a refreshing take on a classic character whose story has been through countless iterations since 1939. Of course, the most well-known version of the caped crusader was envisioned by Christopher Nolan, but Reeve’s film breathed new life into Batman and the characters who populate Gotham: Catwoman, the Riddler, James Gordon, the Penguin, among others. This nearly three-hour film was almost completely enshrouded in darkness, sometimes completely hiding the action before launching you into the chaos. Robert Pattinson was the angsty protagonist the world needed, and he played the classic hero with grace and power. The director’s attention to detail was also remarkable, especially with the smearing of Batman’s eye makeup leading to the birth of “emo Batman.”Willoughby Thom, Scene Editor

Read the full review here.

2. “Top Gun: Maverick” directed by Joseph Kosinski

“Maverick” is a masterfully constructed movie, inspiring and exhilarating for all the right reasons. The flight sequences are seamless, and the audience believes — and more importantly, feels — each move of the planes. But the movie is smart enough to know that it is our pilots who make us care, and so it invests even more in constructing these characters. Maverick and Rooster’s relationship is the engine of this film, and it is the highlight as we understand, admonish and root for both characters. This makes their success and survival in the final mission paramount — they need to accomplish it and outlast it because we need them to heal their relationship. It isn’t that complicated. In the end, this is a cast and crew that makes us care, and once our hearts are secured, takes us for a ride. And that ride is Scene’s second-best film of the year. — Ayden Kowalski, Scene Writer

1. “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once” directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

“Get Sucked Into The Bagel …”

I can say with no embarrassment that this film made me cry like a newborn baby. I didn’t think a mom traveling between dimensions to fight a multi-dimensional entity would be such a funny and emotional rollercoaster. A Chinese-American immigrant (played by the amazing Michelle Yeoh) discovers that she must connect with versions of herself from infinite universes to prevent someone from destroying the multiverse. This film takes every “rule” of cinema and flips it upside down. From parodies of “Ratatouille” to the deepest conversation on what life really is being talked about between two rocks, this movie will catch you off guard for its entire runtime. If you have any kind of heart, this film will make you emotional, it’s just that beautiful. I hope that anyone who watched this will someday find the person they would love to do laundry and taxes with. — Gabriel Zarazua, Scene Writer

Read the reviews by Associate Scene Editor Claire Lyons and Scene Writer JP Spoonmore.

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Multimedia

From the Archives: Creepy tales and cultural traditions

With this week’s edition falling on October 31, we felt obligated to write about Halloween. For those currently imbued with the holiday spirit, the following stories about campus ghosts, ouija sessions and seances will not disappoint.

But we also wanted to look beyond “spooky season” stereotypes. The blurbs below consider the transformation of Halloween from its pagan origins, pondering the lost significance of the original “All Hallows Eve.” We also feature some other holidays occurring in late October. Diwali and Dia de los Muertos represent important ethnic traditions whose cultural depth contrasts with the seemingly-frivolous nature of modern Halloween. While costume parties and ghost stories are always entertaining, it is important to consider the deeper meaning of this season for certain people in the tri-campus community and around the world.

Campus lore and the ghost of Washington Hall

Oct. 31, 1988 | Julie Ryan | Oct. 31, 2006 | Joe Piarulli | Researched by Cade Czarnecki

Over time, there have been many eerie reports of paranormal activity at the building situated between the Dome and LaFortune Student Center. Doors slamming, lights turning off and transparent silhouettes entering the building comprise only a few of the spooky tales about Washington Hall’s ghost.

Campus lore contains numerous possible identities for the supernatural being that haunts Washington Hall. One tale tells of a steeplejack who fell to his death from the roof while helping to construct the hall. Another tells of a cavalry soldier that was killed by Native Americans and buried on the sacred native land that the Notre Dame campus now stands upon.

The most prominent and widely accepted attribution of the haunting of Washington Hall, though, is to the ghost of George Gipp, a football player in the early 1900s under then-head coach Knute Rockne.

The origin of Ghost of the Gipper stems from a commonly echoed story that Gipp would often sneak into Washington Hall when he had missed curfew and could not return to his residence.

On one such night, Gipp could not get inside Washington Hall and resorted to sleeping on its steps. He contracted pneumonia as a result of the harsh conditions of South Bend, Indiana and later succumbed to the disease.

The first reported sighting of the Ghost of the Gipper was in 1925, five years after Gipp’s death. Many more stories followed in subsequent years.

Tom Barkes, Washington Hall’s manager in 1988, saw the stories as both fun and natural to the hall’s lifespan: “No self-respecting 107 year old theater should be without its ghost stories. Theater is magic to begin with, so it is a natural place for stories.”

An illustration depicts students interacting with a ouija board inside Washington Hall, hoping to contact the legendary Ghost of the Gipper. Observer archives, Oct. 31, 1988.

Others take them far more seriously, such as the group of four students who snuck into Washington Hall with an ouija board in 1985. They attempted to contact the Ghost of the Gipper only to have the board spell out “S…G” and then slide the planchette to “Goodbye.” After a second attempt that garnered the same result, the students hurried out of the hall. A security guard (SG) was seen making his rounds as they snuck out.

Such Notre Dame lore has persisted for hundreds of years and is sure to continue into the future. The question now is simply when, not if, the ghost of George “The Gipper” Gipp will next be seen in his old sanctuary, Washington Hall.

Halloween: horrifying or hilarious?

Oct. 31, 1988 | Mark Ridgeway | Oct. 31, 1991 | Paige SmoronOct. 30, 1996 | Dan Cichalski | Researched by Lilyann Gardner

Even as the Ghost of the Gipper captured the imaginations of some students, the spirit of Halloween and its holiday traditions were a topic of debate at Notre Dame throughout the late 1980s and well into the 90s. 

Dan Cichalski (‘98), Assistant Accent Editor, took a strong stance in favor of making Halloween an official national holiday, arguing that it would establish a day in which everyone would be able to celebrate those who have passed away while also allowing themselves to be someone or something else for a short while.  

“With Halloween officially recognized by the government though, people in such positions would be able to let their fun side go wild,” wrote Cichalski. 

Conversely, Mark Ridgeway (‘89), Systems Manager, argued that the meaning of Halloween had been lost. Ridgeway claimed that the celebration of the deceased surrounding All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints Day had been overrun by a dark side of violence, gore and evil. 

Morbid curiosity and the thrill of adrenaline that stemmed from watching horror films and attempting to commune with ghosts have cast the origins of Halloween into the shadows, according to Ridgeway. 

“As an adult, looking at the way Halloween is today, I feel the true meaning of the night has been lost, but that the fun of the celebration has not been lost,” Ridgeway wrote.

Mark Ridgeway’s column criticized the evolution of Halloween from its roots as “All Hallows Eve,” a pagan celebration of the deceased. Observer archives, Oct. 31, 1988.

The Observer and the University of Notre Dame were sure to maintain the playful nature of Halloween with dorm decorations, pumpkin carving competitions and hypothetical seances. 

Paige Smoron (‘92), Assistant Accent Writer, interviewed students and faculty in 1991 to see which famous spirits should be conjured up at a Halloween seance.

Elvis was at the top of the list, and other notable figures included Marilyn Monroe, Knute Rockne, Nikola Tesla, Caspar the friendly ghost and Jesus Christ. However, some students refused to entertain the notion of a seance at all due to its pagan origins. 

The moral meaning behind these Halloween traditions at Notre Dame may still be up in the air, but there is no denying that remembering the dead plays a role in more ways than one. 

 Beyond Halloween: Diwali and Dia De Los Muertos at Notre Dame

 Oct. 30, 1997 | Bernadette Pampuch | Nov. 10, 2014 | Paul Stevenson | Researched by Thomas Dobbs

Halloween may garner the most on-campus attention this season, but autumn also marks a time to consider celebrations that hold deeper spiritual and religious significance.

In order to emphasize global religious events on campus, in 2004 Campus Ministry began the Prayer from Around the World series to offer “the opportunity for various faith traditions to share their forms of praying with the campus communities.”

One such holiday, Diwali, is a major five-day Hindu festival occurring in October or November that celebrates the “triumph of good over evil, light over dark and knowledge over darkness.”

Nishant Singh (‘17) recalled eating candies and sweets during the Diwali festival as a child but emphasized that “Diwali is much bigger than Halloween. It is like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years combined into one.”

As evidence of Diwali’s broad significance, Priscilla Wong, senior advisor at the graduate and multicultural student ministry, shared that she felt connected to Diwali despite not practicing Hinduism. Wong described celebrations of Diwali at friends’ houses and with her daughter’s Hindu spouse.

A member of the Indian Association of Notre Dame celebrates Diwali, an ancient Hindu festival “like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years combined into one.” Observer archives, Nov. 10, 2014.

While the sense of community is clear in Diwali celebrations, familial connections form the foundation of another autumnal holiday: Dia de los Muertos. Celebrated on the first and second of November, Dia de los Muertos may at first resemble Halloween with its elaborate displays of skulls or candy offerings.

But unlike Halloween, Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday centered on reflection and the remembrance of “departed ancestors whose spirits visit the earth once each year.” Some celebrate by setting up altars in their homes to welcome their ancestors, while entire families can “spend the day cleaning and repainting graves, decorating tombstones with flowers.”

Although fire precautions, untrustworthy roommates or engineering shortcomings may limit the construction of an altar here on campus, one can celebrate Dia de los Muertos with a simple “prayer [or moment of remembrance] for a deceased family member.”

While Halloween parties and costume contests provide for an uncomplicated and amusing holiday, the concurrent celebrations of Diwali and Dia de los Muertos elicit meaningful celebrations of family and renewal that are closely connected to the rituals themselves.

Contact Spencer Kelly at skelly25@nd.edu

Cade Czarnecki at cczarne3@nd.edu

Lilyann Gardner at lgardne2@nd.edu

Thomas Dobbs at tdobbs@nd.edu