Welcome to 2022! Wait, don’t run away. 

While I acknowledge there’s been some, let’s call it “unfortunate carryover” from a truly abysmal 2020, there’s still one thing we can all look forward to, even in the darkest, most pandemic-clouded of days, and that’s the movies. Indie movies, specifically. 

And before anyone gets all huffy, I love Hollywood movies. Should we ever feel completely comfortable slouching back into our theater seats on opening night of the latest, universe-conquering superhero blockbuster again, I assure you I shall be front and center, massive popcorn bucket and gummy bears at the ready. 

But, kicking off the 2022 movie calendar (and remembering the name of this column), here’s to the indie films left fighting for our ticket-buying scraps. The weird, the challenging, the tough-to-market and the truly, defiantly independent work of some of the best directors you’ve never heard of. 

Just a note: all release dates are seriously tentative, what with that whole pandemic screwing with film production because, as mentioned, 2020 was hot garbage. 

“Kimi,” Feb. 10

No director’s as comfy flitting between Hollywood and the fringes as Steven Soderbergh. In his latest indie venture, an agoraphobic tech worker (Zoë Kravitz) must set out to solve a violent crime during lockdown, and with her Seattle hometown buffeted by protests against police brutality. 

“Everything Everywhere All At Once,” April 1

The great Michelle Yeoh (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) stars in this bananas-looking fantasy about a Chinese immigrant housewife who discovers that only she can save the universe – by summoning the alternative selves she would have been. Fun fact: If you were wondering what happened to Ke Huy Quan (“The Goonies,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”), he’s playing Yeoh’s understandably baffled husband, the lucky so-and-so.  

“The Northman,” April 6

It might be sprawling, but this Viking revenge saga is directed by the reliably out-there Robert Eggers (“The Witch,” “The Lighthouse”), so be prepared for this “Hamlet”-adjacent drama to get majestically strange. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Alexander Skarsgård in the lead, even though we all know brother Gustaf Skarsgård (TV’s “Vikings”) is the only real Norseman in the family. 

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” April 22

The enigma that is Nicolas Cage emerges from streaming purgatory to play … Nicolas Cage! In this promising bit of weirdness, Cage is himself, a semi-washed-up actor sent by the CIA to spy on his No. 1 fan, a notorious drug lord (the always-excellent Pedro Pascal).

“The Black Phone,” June 24

Maine’s own Joe Hill (son of Maine’s own Stephen King) wrote the short story inspiring this horror thriller, about a masked serial killer (Ethan Hawke), and the young boy trying to escape his clutches with the help of a mysterious telephone that lets him communicate with the dead. Specifically, the other kids Hawke’s psycho has killed. Leave it to Mainers to make things terrifying. 

“Nope,” July 20

We know so, so little about Jordan Peele’s next mind-twisting horror movie. There’s an ominous poster, the film stars Keke Palmer, “Get Out’s” Daniel Kaluuya and Steven Yeun, and some people speculate you can see a face in the clouds. But Jordan Peele is the standard-bearer for intelligent, socially incisive horror, so I am 100 percent in, no further info necessary. 

“Till,” Oct. 17

Director Chinonye Chukwu (“Clemency”) takes on one of the most infamous cases of racially motivated murder in our nation’s checkered history in this biopic. Danielle Deadwyler (“The Harder They Fall”) plays real-life educator and activist Mamie Till-Mobley, whose quest for justice in the 1955 lynching murder of her 14-year-old son Emmett tears right to the heart of American institutional racism. Look for this at awards season. 

“Call Jane” and “The Janes,” release dates TBD, although both are premiering at Sundance in January

The unfortunately continuing battle for women’s bodily autonomy sees these two films draw from the same true-life inspiration. “Call Jane” (starring Elizabeth Banks, Kate Mara and Sigourney Weaver) is a fictionalized portrayal of the underground network called The Jane Collective, which helped women attain safe abortions when abortion was illegal. Premiering at Sundance also is “The Janes,” a documentary chronicling the same, suddenly relevant again group, who were ultimately arrested in the final days before Roe v. Wade.

“Crimes of the Future,” TBD

David Cronenberg repurposes the name of one of his earliest, uniquely chilling cinematic explorations of our queasy desire to monkey around with nature for this as-yet mysterious film. We know it stars Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart, and that the 1970 film was about scientists whose unwise experiments and a deadly plague cause seriously Cronenbergian body horror mutations. So, fingers crossed. 

“Disappointment Blvd.,” TBD

Ari Aster made some of the most gorgeously horrifying films of recent years in the cult horrors “Midsommar” and “Hereditary.” Now he’s bringing along fellow fan of Method intensity Joaquin Phoenix for a purported four-hour horror “nightmare comedy” described only as “an intimate, decades-spanning portrait of one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time.” How will that freak us out as thoroughly as Aster’s previous work? I have no idea – and that’s what’s so thrilling. 

“Showing Up,” TBD

Kelly Reichardt is the aforementioned best director you’ve likely never heard of. Teaming for the fourth time with the stellar Michelle Williams (after “Wendy and Lucy,” “Meek’s Cutoff” and “Certain Women”), Reichardt’s latest is about an artist (Williams) preparing to unveil her latest, career-defining artwork to a public that never quite understands. Which is pretty much a summation of the uniformly brilliant Reichardt’s work – and the essence of what indie filmmaking is all about. 

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.


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