Ladies and gentlepeople, thanks for sticking with us for our whopping TWELFTH post of the year! Needless to say, 2023 was excessively busy, most with my wife and newborn son. But we still watched some movies! I found that I didn't get to see nearly as many films on my list as I would have liked, so I wanted to do this in parts. First is a mild ranking of my favorite 2023 films that I actually saw. It's...it's not great, people. So I then cobbled together a mix of let's call them projected favorites. More and more I'm finding that we should just do a list a year from now when everything is settled.
And let's face it folks - there is only one big reason why I didn't see a lot of 2023's films this year. The collapse of Netflix DVD! It pains me quite a bit to lose access to what was once one of the greatest movie libraries of all time. I really did spent a lot of November / December catching up each year. Now I wait until streaming (The Holdovers comes to Peacock Dec 29!) but it does become tough when I clearly don't have things like Peacock.
So, let's start with the most honest ranking ever of movies I actually saw in 2023:
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Beau is Afraid
Well, there actually were nine films that I'd consider rankable. And yeah, we've got The Machine and Strays on there. These aren't good movies. But they're definitely the #8 and #9 movie I actually saw in 2023.
Movies I think I would like:
Killers of the Flower Moon
Anatomy of a Fall
Zone of Interest
Godzilla Minus One
Alright, now let's be real bold and just straight up combine these lists and make the ultimate Top Ten list of films I have both seen and not seen.
Killers of the Flower Moon
Godzilla Minus One
Beau is Afraid
It pains me to boot off Across the Spider-Verse. It is a very good film but ultimately too scatter-brained and incomplete to be truly great cinema. Maybe I'll change my mind next year....
Napoleon is probably not actually the great film it wants to be, and to be honest I wasn't that enthralled by the trailer for The Holdovers, although I dig the style and it's getting great reviews. American Fiction has gotten praise, but some are saying it's not actually treading new ground. I am cautious about Dream Scenario, too. The Cage says it's one of his best and it's an intriguing premise, but the trailer didn't seem to push the concept enough (one might assume the actual film pushes it farther and doesn't spill its hand).
I knocked off weird foreign and indie films. They're probably all very good. I'm really intrigued by Godland and Anatomy of a Fall, but based on not seeing them, I'm not actually all that jazzed up. From there let's get into the official, immutable, unchangeable TOP TEN of 2023!
#10: Poor Things is the latest Yorgos Lanthimos film. Someone get this guy an MCU contract! No, no, please don't. I actually thought The Favorite (2018) wasn't especially great, but I'm still an eternal fan of The Lobster (2015). There's a lot of humor to the darkness of his subject matter and this is combining a stellar cast, feminine doctrine, and Frankenstein into a pretty palpable mix.
#9: Bottoms looks pretty fun. Get Marshawn Lynch a Best Supporting Actor statue! Probably! In an era where it's supposedly impossible to make a comedy film, we need more Bottoms. Again, I have not seen this movie, but it's got a grind and lack of polish to it that actual comedies need. Probably.
#8: Killers of the Flower Moon - I came so close to actually seeing this in theaters. But it's three hours long and my wife was eight and half months pregnant. Oh well. I do really want to see this and even the most pretentious of year-end lists have this ranked pretty high. It will probably creep higher by the time I see it on Apple TV+ next year. I really did want to support this in theaters. The De Niro / DiCaprio is of course really interesting, and any S-tier Scorsese needs a lot of attention. Hopefully this is actually good,
#7: Godzilla: Minus One is a film I've loved since it was announced. The Legendary Godzillas have been hit or miss in terms of being actual movies (I have been a die hard fan for all of them of course), but it's nice for Toho to reassert itself and throw down some really legit Godzilla films in recent years. It's such an evolution from the hokiness that persisted, even through the Millennium Era. I'm not sure what Era we are in now, but I'll take these one-off reinventions as long as they continue being this good. Probably.
#6: The Killer was a lot of really sly fun. It felt like Dave Fincher taking a big step back from big filmmaking and just having a bit of of fun. The moment you realize that Mike Fassbender is full of shit is incredible and then the film keeps building his hypocrisy and idiocy from there. There is a constant juxtaposition throughout the film and it does it all while reminding you that Fincher really know how to light and shoot a film.
#5: Barbie was a huge event this year and the movie really backs up all the hype. With all the talk of Ryan Gosling as Best Supporting Ken, Margot Robbie really deserves more attention for her role as the Barbie. She has such a ridiculous range but is also a perfect Barbie, both in her eloquence, flustered, and preoccupation with Death. It legit hits humor hard, hits obscure Barbie Lore hard, and pivots as a great meta movie and obviously feminist. But also shows how Barbie is anti-feminist. It's all a big pot of fun.
#4: May December is full of real REAL thorny material, but navigates it well. It's simultaneously a character study, a commentary on acting, trauma, generational trauma, and also weirdly funny. The ending is brilliant and almost impossible to conceive based on what has preceded it. It's really that kind of movie that pushes everyone out to the emotional edge. I loved the 4:3 aspect ratio. So many films are praised for their visuals that are really just made in a computer lab. I mean, that does take skill, but Toddy Haynes shows us that you can have incredible images that advance the story and supplement theming with simple shots in the mirror.
#3: Saltburn definitely will have its detractors but dude this movie rules. It's pretty fucked up and some of that just dips into shock value, but it's basically Parasite (2019) and everyone liked that, right. And it's not even all THAT fucked up. Right? Like, that bath water was mostly drained. It's got this cheekiness to it, straight from the opening titles and I always enjoy films where every single character is awful. When will Barry Keoghan get his statue? I think he's probably just too weird. I love the ending, too.
#2: Oppenheimer, I mean, of course. This is just a monumental film, the kind of old war film that features every actor who has ever lived. It succeeds on so many levels simultaneously - a character study, a historical epic, a cautionary tale, subjective vs. objective playing with cinema, an acting tour de force from everyone involved, and at times even a surrealist masterpiece. It's got everything and as a film about the atomic bomb, that is precisely the point. Give these people Oscars. Nice to remember how good of an actor Robert Downey, Jr is.
#1: Beau is Afraid I watched on a plane and even that didn't bar my enjoyment. It is a long, rambling, wackadoodle film that fits my sensibilities with Saltburn, May December, and The Killer in being a super dark comedy. It's maybe the most comedic of these four in that it revels in absolute absurdism. It's not even quite satire as it plays its world straight. You never quite know if it's in Joaquin Phoenix's mind that we are just seeing or the world as it is being played out. It's again full of fearless acting, although it's far too weird to get any real notice. The journey depicted here is truly epic and although it loses a bit of steam as it goes along, it stuck its landing really well. I still don't know if that thing in the attic was a metaphor or not. Just an altogether fun flick.
I really do need to get on some of these if I'd like to continue to claim to run an unsuccessful film blog, but c'mon, this is good enough for you animals! We'll end the year with much more fun recaps, so stay tuned!