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Thread: Best movies of 2023

  1. #1
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    Best movies of 2023

    BEST MOVIES OF 2023

    As before I'll include as many other people's lists as seem interesting. Unlike the mainstream media, I won't try to say what kind of "movie year" it was. "Terrific," raves Manohla Dargis of the Times, who claims she's seen "hundreds" of films this year (rather vague: Mike D'Angelo could tell us exactly how many). It was good year for me simply because after a long break I got to attend the press screenings of the New York Film Festival, whose Main Slate is always a compendium of the year's best.

    What follows first is just a first working list (I'm late this year) - starting from the NYFF, from which these come:


    SANDRA HÜLLER IN ANATOMY OF A FALL

    ANATOMY OF A FALL (Justine Triet)
    THE ZONE OF INFLUENCE (Jonathan Glazer)
    POOR THINGS (Yourgos Lanthimos)
    PERFECT DAYS (Wim Wenders)
    MAESTRO (Bradley Cooper
    KIDNAPPED (Marco Bellocchio)
    ABOUT DRY GRASSES (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
    PRISCILLA (Sofia Coppola)
    MAY DECEMBER (Todd Haynes)
    THE BEAST (Bertrand Bonello)
    Sandra Hüller is the actress of the year: starring in both ANATOMY OF A FALL and THE ZONE OF INFLUENCE. I like all of these, especially the top five, but also like others not in the festival and may pare this down, and juggle them around.
    Note: in the NYFF I did not get to see ALL DIRT ROADS TASTE OF SALT and EVIL DOES NOT EXIST. They don't schedule the press screenings so you can see everything anymore, and I haven't caught up. Didn't like, or grasp, MAY DECEMBER that much, but think maybe I missed something, and should rewatch. If you have not seen the films listed above I suggest you do so, if you can.

    OTHER TITLES I RATE HIGHLY:

    THE HOLDOVERS (Alexander Payne) is another strong American candidate.
    OPPENHEIMER (Nolan), or youu could call it BARBENHEIMER, and include Gerwig's BARBIE. Nolan's film is both grand and boring, and introduces us to one of the most exciting American men of the twentieth century.
    PAST LIVES (Celine Song), an Asian-American triumph, full of longing and disappointments, attempts to cross barriers, to come home.
    PACIFICTION (Albert Serra): "Pacifiction is by far Serra’s most serious and sombre film to date, an epic of neutered power and human expendability – a death-knell for humanity rendered as a tropical daydream," David Jenkins, Little White Lies.
    JOYLAND (Salim Said). From Pakistan, a fascinating amalgam of original storytelling and visual delight, it tells of a married man's unexpected falling for a trans woman.
    OTHER LISTS
    There is usually a documentary list, sometimes separate English language vs. foreign list. A foreign list should include AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Mubarak), THE BLUE CAFTAN (Maryam Touzani 2022) GODLAND (Hlynur Palmason); I've already listed PERFECT DAYS (Wim Wenders).

    STILL TO COME - NEED TO SEE
    There are big movies still coming out before year's end, including WONKA (with Timothee Chalamet, THE BOY AND THE HERON (by Miyazaki, a big hit at TIFF, and ORIGIN (Ava DuVarnay, about class and race), THE PROMISED LAND (Nikolaj Arcel, a Danish epic).
    Need to see: LITTLE RICHARD: I AM EVERYTHING, RUSTIN (George C. Wolfe). THE COLOR PURPLE (Blitz Bazawule), on awards lists, not out yet, and other Dec. 25, 2023 releases.

    DELIBERATELY LEFT OUT:

    I usually leave off big epics and blockbusters, which dontn't need my publicity. Will not include Martin Scorsese's KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON because I hated it. I'm a big Marty fan except for his movies. No NAPOLEON. This could be a special list, because I did love SPIDER MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE. Wes Anderson's ASTEROID CITY was disappointing, and made little sense, despite my love of Wes. SALTBURN (Emerald Fennell) Ditto AIR (Ben Affleck), which is a commercial for Nike.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-17-2023 at 06:31 PM.

  2. #2
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    Some other 2023 best lists

    Stephanie Zacharek, Time Magazine
    FALLEN LEAVES (Aki Kaurismaaki)
    MAESTRO (Bradley Cooper}
    THE ZONE OF INTEREST (Jonathan Glazer)
    PRISCILLA (Sofia Coppola)
    REVOIR PARIS (Alice Winocour)
    PAST LIVES (Celine Song)
    KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON (Martin Scorsese)
    ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET (Kelly Fremon Craig)
    DREAMIN' WILD (Bill Poland)
    These are numbered with a big emphasis on the number and listed from ten down to one; I changed that. A big reason to conslult these lists is for suggestions of films to catch up on. This has enough points of contact to make me want to do that for the three I haven't seen,REVOIR PARIS, ARE YOU THERE GOD? etc., and DREAMIN' WILD. I'm surprised she puts Kaurismaaki's somewhat blah film at the top. Fine the list and explanations HERE.

    Max Cea, Esquire
    He has a list of 65 best movies of 2023 (in reverse order of course), and number 65 is THERAPY DOGS (Ethan Eng 2022), the high school boy's do-it-your-self movie - worth remembering. Let's skip to the end:
    MAY DECEMBER (Todd Haynes)
    ASTEROID CITY (Wes Anderson)
    KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON (Martin Scorsese)
    POOR THINGS (Yourgos Lanthimos)
    SHOWING UP (Kelly Reichardt)
    THE ZONE OF INTEREST (Jonathan Glazer)
    HOW TO BLOW UP A PIPELINE (Daniel Goldhaber)
    THE HOLDOVERS (Alexander Payne)
    FREMONT (Babak Jalalia)
    THE KILLER (David Fincher)
    Look up the explanations, which are good, if you like this list. I don't know if a filmmaker wants to be on a list of 64 films. It's the top ten or, forget it. I mean, AMERICAN FICTION, one of the most eagerly awaited films, is #54 here. The byline for this list is Max Cea, who says the year seemed a return to form but that "it looks as though we’ll end 2023 with just over half the total releases of 2019 (and 70 percent of that year’s total box office)."

    Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
    MAY DECEMBER (Todd Haynes)
    PAST LIVES (Celine Song)
    THE HOLDOVERS (Alexander Payne)
    THE ZONE OF INTEREST (Jonathan Glazer)
    PASSAGES (Ira Sachs)
    EARTH MAMA (Savanah Leaf)
    ANATOMY OF A FALL (Justine Triet)
    SHOWING UP (Kelly Reichardt)
    YOU HURT MY FEELINGS (Nicole Holofcener)
    ASTEROID CITY (Wes Anderson)
    Maybe I should see EARTH MAMA and PASSAGES - the only ones in Lawson's top ten I haven't seen. He has 21 on his list and 13 is PERFECT DAYS and 13 is POOR THINGS!. See the whole list with the comments HERE.
    I just realized they are hot listing OPPENHEIMER or BARBIE. The Oscar Expert twins have been assuming OPPENHEIMER will win big in the Oscars.

    Angelica Jade Bastién, Bilge Ebiri, and Alison Willmore, Vulture
    I can't give this list because (1) it's from early November, (2) it's not numbered and there are too many movies on the list, only listed from newest to oldest. You can consULT it HERE.

    Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

    AMERICAN FICTION (Cord Jefferson)
    THE HOLDOVERS (Alexander Payne)
    YOU HURT MY FEELINGS (Nicole Holofcener)
    ANATOMY OF A FALL (Justine Triet)
    BARBENHEIMER (Gerwig, Nolan)
    JOAN BAEZ I AM A NOISE (Karen O’Connor, Miri Navasky and Maeve O’Boyle)
    PAST LIVES (Celine Song)
    REALITY (Tina Satter )
    AIR (Ben Affleck)
    ORIGIN (Ava DuVernay)
    This corrects that omission so far of OPPENHEIMER and BARBIE, and wittily combines them. She calls I AM A NOISE "superbly constructed" and is probably such a Joanie that she doesn't notice the negativity this picture of her sadly exudes. And it puts AMERICAN FICTION way up on the list. Maybe I should watch REALITY. I consider AIR a mistake to list: it's just a giant product placement. But this list, which you will find HERE, is is half, maybe more than helf, fine. I should probably watch ORIGIN.

    List of movies from these lists (on this whole thread) that I might need to look into:

    REVOIR PARIS (Alice Wincour)
    ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET (Kelly Fremon Craig)
    FREMONT (Babak Jalalia)
    DREAMIN' WILD (Bill Poland)
    PASSAGES (Ira Sachs)
    EARTH MAMA (Savanah Leaf)
    REALITY (Tina Satter )
    ORIGIN (Ava DuVernay)
    THE BOY AND THE HERON (Miyazaki)
    ALL DIRT ROADS TASTE OF SALT (Raven Jackson)
    HOW TO BLOW UP A PIPELINE (Daniel Goldhaber)
    I'll be juggling priorities with availabilities.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-17-2023 at 06:35 PM.

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    David Erlich, Kate Erbland, IndieWire
    PAST LIVES
    THE TASTE OF THINGS (Tran Anh Hung)
    ASTEROID CITY
    THE BOY AND THE HERON
    MAY DECEMBER
    POOR THINGS
    PASSAGES
    ANATOMY OF A FALL
    ALL OF US STRANGERS (Andrew Haigh)
    THE ZONE OF INTEREST
    I haven't mentioned ALL OF US STRANGERS (Andrew Hough whose WEEKEND and FORTY YEARS were so excellent), with its gay main characters and starring Andrew Scott, the engaging Irish gay actor of FLEABAG, and the current "it" boy Paul Mescal, and which was one of the biggest hits and had the youngest audience at the NYFF press screenings. I have (personally, perhaps mistakenly) discounted it because it has a fantasy at the center of it that makes it hard for me to relate to. THE TASTE OF THINGS (also reviewed here in the NYFF) hasn't come up on a list here yet. The other titles readers of this thread will recognize; their order is just rearranged. This list was jointly arrived at by the site's two film critics (how do you do that?), For the generous and interesting introductory comments and thumbnails for each film, as well as for the rest of the list of 25, go HERE. PACIFICTION is no 17, KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON no. 15, OPPENHEIMER no. 14, BARBIE no. 12.

    Indiewire also has their end-of-year poll, which I'll watch for.

    The site's (Nov. 30, 2023) list of best new indie directors is mostly of black and Asian directed ones, but for SCRAPPER (Charlotte Regan), an underclass Brit item that looks up my alley, so I will try to watch it. A Sundance hit, it''s about a 12-year-old girl (Lola Campbell) left alone in her London flat whose irresponsible dad (Harris Dickinson) shows up. We could be in similar territory to Andrea Arnold's FISH TANK - a great favorite of mine.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-06-2023 at 05:38 PM.

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    David Fear, Rolling Stone
    I'm including Fear's whole list of 20 since it starts with OPPENHEIMER, at no. 20.
    PAST LIVES
    THE ZONE OF INTEREST
    KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON
    POOR THINGS
    SHOWING UP
    THE QUIET GIRL (Colm Bairéad)
    ANATOMY OF A FALL
    THE DELINQUENTS (Rodrigo Moreno)
    ALL DIRT ROADS TASTE OF SALT (Raven Jackson)
    BARBIE
    ____________________
    11 to 20:
    AMERICAN FICTION
    ALL OF US STRANGERS
    RETURN TO SEOUL (Davy Chou)
    BEAU IS AFRAID (Ari Aster)
    SKINAMARINK (Kyle Edward Ball)
    PASSAGES
    YOU HURT MY FEELINGS
    BOTTOMS (Emma Seligman)
    THE BOY AND THE HERON
    OPPENHEIMER
    Titles new to appear on this thread have the director given. AMERICAN FICTION I've said is one I'm eager to see. The others I've mentioned already. SKINAMRINK is altogether new to me, but I'm not a horror movie fan. Interesting that as you go down on the list as originally given from 20 down to 1, it starts to seem more sensible. THE DELINQUENTS I had told myself I must rewatch (from the NYFF) because my friend Marcia convinced me it was much better than I thought. BEAU IS AFRAID (starring Joaquin Phoenix in a very messy role) I had decided to pass on as just not my kind of thing.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-17-2023 at 06:45 PM.

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    Film Comment’s Top 20 Films Released in 2023

    1. May December Todd Haynes, U.S.
    2. Showing Up Kelly Reichardt, U.S.
    3. Killers of the Flower Moon Martin Scorsese, U.S.
    4. Fallen Leaves Aki Kaurismäki, Finland
    5. Pacifiction Albert Serra, France/Spain/Germany/Portugal
    6. Anatomy of a Fall Justine Triet, France
    7. Afire Christian Petzold, Germany
    8. The Zone of Interest Jonathan Glazer, U.K./U.S./Poland
    9. Unrest Cyril Schäublin, Switzerland
    10. Our Body Claire Simon, France
    11, Dry Ground Burning Joana Pimenta and Adirley Queirós, Brazil
    12. Passages Ira Sachs, France
    13. Trenque Lauquen Laura Citarella, Argentina
    14. Orlando, My Political Biography Paul B. Preciado, France
    15. De Humani Corporis Fabrica Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, France/Switzerland/U.S.
    16. Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros Frederick Wiseman, France/U.S.
    17. Youth (Spring) Wang Bing, France/Luxembourg/Netherlands
    18. Asteroid City Wes Anderson, U.S.
    19. Rewind & Play Alain Gomis, France/Germany
    20. The Boy and the Heron Hayao Miyazaki, Japan
    . I'm dubious about the second half of this list.


    Film Comment’s Top 10 Undistributed Films of 2023

    1. The Human Surge 3 Eduardo Williams, Argentina/Portugal/Netherlands/Taiwan/Brazil/Hong Kong/Sri Lanka/Peru
    2. Eureka Lisandro Alonso, Argentina/France/Portugal
    3. Close Your Eyes Víctor Erice, Spain
    4. ALLENSWORTH James Benning, U.S.
    5. Gush Fox Maxy, U.S.
    6. Nowhere Near Miko Revereza, U.S./Philippines
    7. The Plough Philippe Garrel, France
    8.La práctica Martín Rejtman, Argentina/Chile/Germany/Portugal
    9. About Thirty Martín Shanly, Argentina
    10. Samsara Lois Patiño, Spain

    CLOSE OUR EYES I can recommend.

    This comes from Film at Lincoln Center. Their full list of films and participants can be found on FilmComment.com.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-15-2023 at 01:50 PM.

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    Owen Gleiberman, Peter Debruge, Variety



    The lead trade jouirnal's two senior critics include a few titles we
    have not seen on 2023 best lists before. I'm including their comments. SOURCE

    The Best Movies of 2023, Variety
    By Peter Debruge, Owen Gleiberman


    Looking back, 2023 was a year of wild swings. And two big strikes (if you’ll forgive the pun) — first the Writers Guild and then the Screen Actors Guild took the studios and streamers to task, forcing production to a halt. Yet whatever was going on behind the scenes, Hollywood had a grand-slam year, asserting its audacious cultural relevance with the historic double-header that was "Barbenheimer."

    Variety’s two chief film critics agree that Christopher Nolan’s portrait of the man behind the Manhattan Project is one for the ages — a Lawrence of Arabia-level feat about a turning point in human history, as seen through the haunted blue eyes of one of our finest actors. At the same time, some of the year’s best movies flew under the radar. Consider this a guide to the top cinematic achievements, large and small, whether shot on Imax cameras or hand-drawn by an artisanal French couple. The film industry is constantly in transition, but one thing doesn’t change: the power of a well-told story to transport us. From a visionary new take on Frankenstein to the dazzling old-school Ferrari, what follows are some of the best vehicles your imagination could hope for.

    Peter Debruge’s Top 10

    1. Poor Things

    And God created woman. Playing God in this equation, Willem Dafoe suggests a cross between Dr. Frankenstein and the mad scientist’s monster, whose crudely stitched facial scars belie a childhood of cruel experimentation. Decades later, the benign Godwin Baxter continues his father’s research, reanimating a fully grown woman with the brain of an infant, whom he christens Bella (a fearless and very funny Emma Stone). This tragicomic premise sets up a boldly expressionistic provocation from absurdist social critic Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”), who assembles a demented, Buñuelian satire of gender roles that’s part “Pygmalion,” part “Lolita,” and otherwise totally distinct from anything else on the scene. While “Barbie” poked fun at the patriarchy, born-again Bella upends it.

    2. Oppenheimer

    I admit to being underwhelmed by “Oppenheimer” on first viewing. (Hard to imagine, considering the scale, but it didn’t help that the Imax print broke at the film’s press screening, forcing the theater to switch over to a lower-res backup projector — a twist that must have horrified control freak Christopher Nolan.) Grand as anything David Lean ever directed, this massive, awe-powered biopic had been marketed as the making of the atomic bomb, the detonation of which occurs at the two-hour mark, with a third of the movie still to go. Turns out, that last hour holds the (moral) key to why Nolan had to tell this story. After racing to beat the Germans, Manhattan Project super-brain J. Robert Oppenheimer (a never-better Cillian Murphy) faces the terrifying ramifications of what he’s wrought: We now live in a world of nuclear weapons, whose secrets inevitably fell into dangerous hands. I should have known that “Oppenheimer” would demand multiple viewings, as that was true of “Memento,” “Inception” and nearly all Nolan’s films. My advice to you: See it as big as possible as many times as it takes.

    3. Chicken for Linda!

    The best film at this year’s Cannes (a stellar edition that launched no fewer than four of the entries on this list) debuted quietly in the festival’s indie-centric sidebar, ACID, without pomp or the obligatory standing ovation that official selection screenings get. Three weeks later, it took the top prize at Annecy, the world’s leading animation festival. It’s uncanny, but the Crayola-colorful hand-drawn feature from directing duo Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach (“The Girl Without Hands”) captures the complicated relationship between a single mother and her 8-year-old child better than any live-action movie. The setup is simple: Linda can’t remember her late father, so she asks Mom to cook his signature chicken dish, but the main ingredient proves unusually difficult to come by. From its opening lullaby through to the loony watermelon-fight finale, this observant toon entertains the kids, while giving exasperated parents permission to be imperfect.

    4. Past Lives

    Ten years into A24’s existence, audiences have learned what to expect from the indie studio’s slate, as the company’s films tend to fall into two categories. There are flashy, style-forward movies, like “Spring Breakers” and “Uncut Gems,” and there are subtler, piercingly personal entries (often from voices denied the opportunity to tell their stories a decade earlier) like “Moonlight” and “Minari.” Celine Song’s poetic debut falls into the latter category, offering a poignant counterpoint to A24’s busy, Oscar-winning “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” while suggesting a low-key alternative to that movie’s multiverse premise: What if, instead of there being infinite parallel realities, old souls found one another again and again over the centuries? Here, Nora (Greta Lee), a New York-based playwright born in Korea, reconnects with her childhood sweetheart (Teo Yoo), confronting what her life might have been.

    5. The Monk and the Gun

    If you weren’t lucky enough to catch Bhutan’s official Oscar submission on the festival circuit this fall, keep an eye open for this unpredictable and enlightening comedy in early 2024. Previously nominated for “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom,” director Pawo Choyning Dorji rewinds the clock a few years, as Bhutan was preparing for its first democratic election — a concept none of the locals seem to grasp, or want, even as they sip Coca-Cola and watch Bond movies on TV. Dorji, who studied in the States, invites Western viewers to observe his idyllic kingdom, contrasting modern materialism with traditional Buddhist values via the film’s lone American character, a rare-gun collector who travels halfway around the world to retrieve a rare Civil War rifle. There’s just one problem: The weapon currently belongs to a pacifist monk.

    6. Anatomy of a Fall

    For the U.S. release of director Justine Triet’s Cannes-winning drama, Neon added an exasperating “didshedoit.com” slate to the beginning, focusing audiences’ attention on the wrong aspect of this unconventional courtroom drama. It’s only natural to wonder: A frustrated writer plunges to his death from the upper floor of his mountain chalet, making his wife (Sandra Hüller) the only suspect. As with “The Staircase,” however, what gripped me about the ensuing investigation was how this tragedy forces the most intimate aspects of the couple’s marriage into the light, effectively putting their relationship on trial. What matters more than the verdict (or the “you be the judge” court of public opinion) is whatever their young son decides, since the trial affords the grieving boy a chance to make sense of what happened.

    7. Origin

    Not since “Roots” has an American drama taken such an ambitious, all-encompassing approach to the stain of slavery. “Origin” is not about ancestry, but the seeds of a system that dehumanizes one group so that others may dominate them — a dynamic for which Pulitzer-winning author Isabel Wilkerson found analogs in Nazi Germany and the Indian caste system. If “Origin” sounds like a lecture (of the sort the Florida school system seems determined to avoid), think again. Rather than making another documentary, à la remarkable “13th,” director Ava DuVernay personalizes Wilkerson’s research, dramatizing how a woman wounded by national tragedy (the murder of Trayvon Martin) and personal setbacks (casual racism, the loss of loved ones) connected disparate ideas to reframe the country’s most difficult conversation.

    8. May December

    At a moment when audiences can’t seem to get enough of true-crime movies on Netflix (where this meta-melodrama is now streaming), Todd Haynes takes a sly look at the imperfect prism through which such stories are presented to the public. Natalie Portman plays a professional actor who swoops into the life of an ex-con (Julianne Moore, channeling tabloid subject Mary Kay Letourneau) years after she went to prison for initiating a sexual relationship with her underage baby daddy (Charles Melton). Determined to absorb all she can from the “real” woman, Portman’s vampire-like star winds up crossing the lines in highly inappropriate ways. Zoom out, and it’s all performance — since Moore’s acting, too — in a mirror room where empathy and exploitation tend to blur.

    9. The Holdovers

    Alexander Payne is back on form, following 2017’s disappointing “Downsizing,” with the kind of intelligent character study that’s earned him comparisons to the great 1970s filmmakers before. “The Holdovers” is set early that decade and features a weathered-celluloid filter designed to look like it was also shot back then, though much of the comedy arises from the tough-love way a boarding school Scrooge deals with his students over Christmas break — conduct that would never fly today. Less a lost relic than a shrewdly contemporary commentary on how the way we expect people to treat one another has changed, the project reunites Payne with Paul Giamatti, uncorking more of that special “Sideways” mojo.

    10. The Taste of Things

    It’s easy to be seduced by the voluptuous way director Tran Anh Hung films the preparation of a series of gourmet French meals, his camera floating about a country kitchen as sunlight and birdsong filter through the open windows. The film, like its characters, takes the time to appreciate life’s pleasures. And yet, like “Babette’s Feast” before it, “Taste” is more than mere food porn. The subtext — and true subject — of this rich dish turns out to be the emotional connection simmering between chef Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel, as the fictional late-19th-century “Napoleon of culinary arts”) and his cook (Juliette Binoche), who’ve shared a decades-long professional passion. The two actors have history, too, adding unspoken depth to this moving workplace romance, whose tender last scene says it all.

    10 more for good measure: “Afire,” “Asteroid City,” “The Color Purple,” “Dream Scenario,” “Eight Mountains,” “Eileen,” “Memory,” “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One,” “Perfect Days,” “Reality”

    Owen Gleiberman's Top 10

    1. Oppenheimer

    Christopher Nolan’s mesmerizing drama became a testament to the promise that serious movies for adults can, and will, have a future in movie theaters. In the wake of its success, however, many have asked: How is it that a densely packed three-hour movie about the father of the atomic bomb became a big-ticket blockbuster on the level of films featuring superheroes, avatars, and Tom Cruise? The answer lies in Nolan’s wizardry as a storyteller. He stages “Oppenheimer” as a coruscating light show of history, dazzling in every detail. It’s a film that draws you in with centrifugal force, even at it both celebrates and interrogates the fabled figure of J. Robert Oppenheimer, played by Cillian Murphy as a charismatic mandarin whose scientific genius is matched by his self-justifying insolence. If you think the movie falls off in its last third, you haven’t watched it closely enough. Long after the bomb has been dropped, Nolan uses both the extended 1954 security hearing and the amazing performance of Robert Downey Jr. to place Oppenheimer in the crosshairs of judgment, revealing that his delusions were nearly as large as his heroism.

    2. Anatomy of a Fall

    For a while, Justine Triet’s brilliant drama is built around a mystery of tantalizing darkness. Samuel (Samuel Theis), a teacher and writer, has fallen to his death from the upper level of his sprawling chalet home in the French Alps. Was he killed by his wife, Sandra (Sandra Hüller), a more successful author than he is, and a woman who’s been given ample motivation to resent and even hate him? Or did he commit suicide? Triet hard-wires the tension, gripping us in every moment, and some viewers have come away feeling that the film’s central question — did she or didn’t she? — is never answered. In fact, it’s answered midway through (just look closely at the moment when the police drop a dummy from the top of the house). Yet the tension remains, as Triet stages an explosive courtroom drama that turns into “Scenes from a Marriage” as staged by a 21st-century Hitchcock. “Anatomy of a Fall” tells the story of this marriage — but more to the point it tells a story of women and men in our time, when the shifting power dynamics have increased women’s equality, leaving certain men feeling as if that assertion of justice were somehow a fatal assault.

    3. Ferrari

    Michael Mann brings off a masterful piece of supple ’70s storytelling in this thrilling, humane, high-stakes biographical drama about three months in the life of Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver), the legendary Italian automaker. It’s 1957, and Ferrari’s company is on the brink of bankruptcy. To attract enough business to save it, his cars and drivers must win the Mille Miglia, the thousand-mile motorsport endurance race through the open roads of Italy. Driver gives Ferrari a coiled authority, and Penélope Cruz is Lady Macbeth fierce as his wife and business partner, who must subsume her rage when she learns that her husband not only has a mistress (Shailene Woodley, good despite a thin accent) but a secret second family. Money and risk, love and hate, all fused by speed — “Ferrari” is a hypnotic ride, one rooted in the specter of death that’s hovering over every hairpin turn.

    4. Maestro

    It’s no exaggeration to say that every scene of Bradley Cooper’s drama about the life of Leonard Bernstein is a lush and vibrant surprise. Cooper stages each moment with great emotional and historical precision (he wants you to feel like you’re right there, eavesdropping). At the same time, the film leaps around with impressionistic freedom, omitting most of Bernstein’s formative conducting career as well as such minor details as his composing of “West Side Story.” Yet Cooper plays Lenny — now aged, now a giddy young man, now courting the woman he will marry, now pursuing the men he also loves, now conducting Mahler with a sweaty transcendent passion —in a performance of such vivid soul-sharing that it scarcely matters what the film leaves out; you’re so caught up in what’s there. As Felicia Montealegre, who married Lenny with open eyes and stood by him, Carey Mulligan creates an indelible portrait of a love rooted in intimacy and play, empathy and heartbreak.

    5. Past Lives

    Celine Song’s drama has a lyrical deceptive quality — and not just because it’s tranquil on the surface and tumultuous underneath. It begins in Seoul, where a 12-year-old boy and girl develop an innocent attraction, then lose touch after her family emigrates to North America. Years later, Nora Moon (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (John Magaro) reconnect through video calls, a bond that’s maintained after she attends a writer’s retreat and meets the prickly New York doofus she goes on to marry. We could swear there are still romantic vibes between the childhood friends, and we wait for them to bloom. The movie, however, has played a trick on us; for that’s not what happens. Yet we weren’t quite wrong. “Past Lives” is a neorealist multiverse film — not a fantasy but a moving drama of the universes of love and possibility, from the past and into the future, we carry around inside us.

    6. Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre

    In 25 years, I’ve rarely liked a Guy Ritchie film; I have never loved one. But this was the year he upped his game, relaxing his dynamo craftsmanship into something less bombastic and more startlingly accomplished. “The Covenant,” the Afghanistan War rescue drama Ritchie directed, is one of the finest movies ever made about the post-9/11 world. That said, my choice for Ritchie movie of the year — and one of the most riotously enjoyable movies of the year, period — is this delirious screwball espionage caper, staged with a quick-talk nonchalance worthy of Howard Hawks, starring Jason Statham as the iciest of superspies, who leads his team, including a divine Aubrey Plaza and a star-worthy Josh Hartnett, on a mission that makes the latest “M:I” adventure look stodgy, all to foil an arms dealer played by Hugh Grant with irresistible sociopathic glee.

    7. Little Richard: I Am Everything

    Lisa Cortes’ transfixing documentary about the wildest king of rock ‘n’ roll is a movie that thrills you in two ways. It uses stunning archival footage to channel the electricity of Little Richard, and the eruptive glory of his volcanic gospel-on-amphetamines music still hits you like a revolution. Yet the movie also takes a deep dive into how Little Richard, a Black queer man who was not about to conceal who he was, entwined the very DNA of rock ‘n’ roll with the perverse power of his identity. His story becomes the stirring and in some ways tragic tale of an artist so ahead of his time that even his own life couldn’t catch up with how he’d changed the world.

    8. May December

    Two words have stood in the way of a full appreciation of Todd Haynes’s daring psychodrama. The first word is “camp” — as if the extravagant elements of this lurid tale of seduction were somehow meant to add up to a postmodern wink. The second word is “tabloid” — as if the fact that it’s a gloss on the true story of Mary Kay Letourneau somehow meant that we’re supposed to place the experience of it in a box marked “trash Americana.” But Haynes, in telling the story of a famous actress (Natalie Portman), who spends a few weeks with the Letorneau-like Gracie (Julianne Moore), who married the former 13-year-old (Charles Melton) she slept with, is actually posing a serious and even dangerous question. He’s looking at a relationship our culture condemns as criminal and abusive and asking: Is it defensible? Could it be love? (Nabokov asked the same question.) Elizabeth, who wants to “become” Gracie (so that she can portray her), becomes our representative as she acts out the answer.

    9. Fair Play

    You could say that this delectably heated-up drama about two hedge-fund analysts, Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) and Emily (Phoebe Dynevor), who are carrying on a serious romantic relationship they have to keep secret (because it breaks the rules of their firm), is like something Adrian Lyne would have made in the ’90s. Except that it may also be the most telling, plugged-in portrait of the killer go-go finance world since Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street.” The writer-director, Chloe Domont, creates money-fueled dialogue (part jargon, all greed) that sizzles and convinces, and once Emily gets the promotion that Luke was angling for, the dissolution of their engagement is fueled by enough psychology and emotional playacting to make the movie a genuine heightened projection of the post-#MeToo world.

    10. The Zone of Interest

    A movie that channels the horror of the Holocaust should hit you with the force of revelation. Yet too many movies with this subject matter do not; Jonathan Glazer’s quietly shocking drama assuredly does. It’s set in and around the stately German bourgeois home where Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), an SS officer, carries on a comfortable domestic existence with his wife, Hedwig (Sandra Hüller), and children. The catch is: He’s the commandant of Auschwitz — and the concentration camp is literally right over the wall next to their garden. Glazer creates an unnerving true-life fairy-tale nightmare of evil, using the distant sounds of Auschwitz (the fire from the ovens, the screams) to evoke a monstrousness we can’t see, and that the Höss family lives in denial of. The film is transcendental in style until, in its second half, it becomes a tale of corporate intrigue. Christian Friedel makes Höss an architect of death with the devil’s haircut, and Hüller’s performance as the Carmela Soprano of the Third Reich is chilling.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-17-2023 at 06:55 PM.

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    Notes for a Best Foreign list

    Anthony Lane of The New Yorker provides a hint because he writes early in his Best List essay as follows:
    A rough list of films that I happened to admire would include works from Ireland, Iceland, Pakistan, and Japan—to be specific, “The Quiet Girl,” “Godland,” “Joyland,” and “Monster.” The first is about a nine-year-old dispatched to live with relatives and finding a safe but sad haven; the second shows the trek of an inexperienced priest across landscapes that look primeval; the third follows the romance of a transgender dancer and her hapless suitor in Punjab; and the last introduces a couple of schoolboys, swept up in secrets and lies.
    I haven't seen MONSTER yet but the others, THE QUIET GIRL, GODLAND, and JOYLAND, need to be on a Best Foreign list. I also have already mentioned ANATOMY OF A FALL and THE ZONE OF INTEREST, as well as Nuri Bilge Celan's ABOUT DRY GRASSES, Bellocchio's KIDNAPPED, and Bertrand Bonello's THE BEAST.

    So we have (alphabetically):
    ABOUT DRY GRASSES (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
    ANATOMY OF A FALL (Justine Triet)
    THE BEAST (Bertrand Bonello)
    GODLAND (Hlynur Pálmason)
    JOYLAND (Sam Sadiq)
    KIDNAPPED (Marco Bellocchio)
    THE QUIET GIRL (Colm Bairéad)
    MONSTER (Hirakasu Koreeda)
    THE ZONE OF INTEREST (Jonathan Glazer)
    That's all I've got now; I haven't seen MONSTER yet.Everyone likes PERFECT DAYS, a sort of hybrid since it's a Japanese film directed by Wim Wenders. I loved Makbul Mubarak's AUTOBIOGRAPHY, but it's not released here yet; it's just the Indonesian entry to the Best Foreign competition. This is not my final list. I see that Kleber Mendonça Filho)'s PICTURE OF GHOSTS is Brazil's Oscar entry but it's almost more a poetical documentary than a feature. Albert Serra's PACIFICTION makies a leftfield entry worth considering. Others: CAIRO CONSPIRACY, CONCRETE UTOPIA. Victor Erice's CLOSE YOUR EYES. Dhont's CLOSE - no!

    Is Celine Song's PAST LIVES a foreign film because iti's half in Korean? NO BEARS - Panahi? Didn't really like it, sorry.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-10-2024 at 07:48 PM.

  8. #8
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    Richard Brody, The New Yorker. (Anthony Lane?)

    Again the explanations are included to see how he justifies these in some cases by now familiar choices. Brody's film commentaries appear in the online back pages of the magazine. SOURCE
    1. KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON
    Martin Scorsese’s vast adaptation of David Grann’s nonfiction investigation of the violent encroachment of white Americans on the oil wealth of the Osage Nation unpacks American history as a widespread criminal conspiracy and distills it into a drama of marital mysteries as disturbing and resonant as those of “Eyes Wide Shut.”

    2. ASTEROID CITY
    Wes Anderson’s exquisitely filigreed and ardently romantic view of a grieving family and a lonely actress at the science-fiction-adjacent setting of a young astronomers’ conference mines the weirdness of the nineteen-fifties—an enduring and still active complex of troubles and tropes hiding in plain sight in the era’s movies and in its political paranoia.

    3. BARBIE
    The irrepressible outpouring of giddy but principled inspiration in Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster—a vision of the earnest passions embodied in child’s play and the progressive power of girls’ uninhibited imagination—feels like the first display of her comprehensive artistry and like a new dimension in modern cinema.

    4. ALL DIRT ROADS TASTE OF SALT (Raven Jackson)
    Spanning half a century in the life of a woman in rural Mississippi, Raven Jackson’s first feature unites family lore and the legacy of history with a breathtaking romantic melodrama—and does so with a bold command of time and intensely sensitive image-making.

    5. SHOWING UP (Killy Reichardt)
    From the modest premise of a sculptor preparing her work for a show while also working at an art school, Kelly Reichardt explores the bonds and the conflicts of a tight-knit community, the burdens of family, and the inescapably fruitful frustrations of life’s impingement on art. The depths of an artist’s soul have rarely been filmed as finely.

    6.PASSAGES (Ira Sachs)
    The American filmmaker Ira Sachs’s turbulent melodrama set in Paris—in which a German movie director married to a British man embarks on a reckless romance with a French woman—unleashes torrents of violently mixed emotions and yields a vertiginous, ecstatic sense of liberation.

    7. CIVIC (Dwayne LeBlanc)
    There’s a feature film’s worth of style and experience crammed into the twenty-minute span of Dwayne LeBlanc’s first film, a classic tale of a young man’s return home (to South Central Los Angeles) conveyed with an audacious and original sense of form.

    8. A THOUSAND AND ONE (A.V. Rockwell)
    A. V. Rockwell’s first feature, spanning about two decades in the life of a mother and child in Harlem, fiercely depicts the ardor of family life and the fragility of family ties amid political pressures on the community, including oppressive policing, gentrification, and the trauma of incarceration.

    9. EARTH MAMA (Savanah Leaf)
    Savanah Leaf’s début feature, the drama of a young woman’s fervent efforts to regain custody of her children and to maintain a bond with her newborn, offers some of the most expressive closeups in recent movies, along with a sharply detailed analysis of bureaucratic obstacles to the legal unity of families that Black women face.

    10. PINBALL: THE MAN WHO SAVED THE GAME (Austin, Meridith Bragg)
    For their first feature, the brothers Austin and Meredith Bragg dramatize an extraordinary byway of history: the longtime illegality of pinball in New York City and its legalization, in the mid-seventies, through the efforts of a journalist who loved the game. The film employs a daring narrative framework to present a bittersweet, vibrantly scrappy re-creation of the times.

    11. THE WONDERFUL STORY OF HENRY SUGAR, THE SWAN, THE RAT CATCHER, POISON (Wes Anderson)
    With this quartet of short films adapted from stories by Roald Dahl, Wes Anderson invents a new kind of cinematic storytelling—characters are both onscreen narrators and participants in the action—and portrays the cruelties of Dahl’s world as those of life at large.

    12. MENUS PLASIRS - LES TROIGROS (Frederick Wiseman)
    For his forty-fourth documentary, the nonagenarian filmmaker Frederick Wiseman embeds with the chefs of a three-star French restaurant. Filming trenchantly and editing daringly, he uncovers the vast range of knowledge (scientific and culinary), experience (artisanal and administrative), and passion (artistic and personal) that energizes the enterprise—and finds the place of haute cuisine in the cultural pantheon.

    13. PETITE SOLANGE (Alelle Ropert)
    The coming-of-age story of a teen-age girl in a small French city against the backdrop of her parents’ divorce gets both a melodramatic twist and a classical grandeur through Axelle Ropert’s poised and discerning direction.

    14. FERRARI (Michael Mann)
    Now in his eighties, Michael Mann makes his best film in decades with this grandly romantic yet death-haunted biographical story about Enzo Ferrari’s effort, in the fifties, to rescue his company by winning a major auto race.

    15. ORLANDO, MY POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY (Paul B. Preciado)
    The philosopher Paul B. Preciado’s first film, a docufictional and reflexive adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s historical fantasy “Orlando,” features more than twenty trans or gender-nonconforming actors in the title role. Integrating their personal reflections into Woolf’s story, the filmmaker pulls its drama into the present tense and even into a visionary future.

    16. WALK UP (Hong Sang-soo)
    The prolific South Korean director Hong Sangsoo, working cheaply and spontaneously, delivers one of his most wide-ranging stories—of family conflicts and long-lost friends, the frustrations of filmmaking and the passion of art, the bewilderment of youth and the burden of age—in and around a single multistory building in Seoul.

    17. ORIGIN (Ava Duvernay)
    To dramatize the real-life story of how the journalist Isabel Wilkerson wrote her nonfiction book “Caste,” the director Ava DuVernay boldly blends the contours of a bio-pic with documentary-based aspects of the author’s research.

    18. PRISCILLA
    The life of Priscilla Presley, as overshadowed in adolescence by Elvis’s attention and in adulthood by his inattention, is presented by Sofia Coppola as a poignant synecdoche for the subordination of women in the culture at large.

    19. THE COLOR PURPLE (Blitz Bazawule)
    The director Blitz Bazawule, with his second feature, approaches the Broadway razzle-dazzle of the stage musical with stylish inspiration and gets hearty, exuberant, grounded performances from his superb cast.

    20. OUR BODY (Claire Simon)
    Claire Simon’s documentary, set in the gynecology ward of a French hospital, explores a vast range of women’s-health and gender-related concerns, including abortion and gender confirmation, and looks closely at the invasive intricacies of medical technology—as well as the filmmaker’s own treatment there for a serious illness. ♦[
    He has five African American titles. I should probably try to watch PASSAGES (ugh) and ORIGIN (maybe). ALL DIRT ROADS TASTE OF SALT will be useful for me as a NYFF completist; I missed it there because the screening competed with Trân Anh Hùng's THE TASTE OF THINGS. THE COLOR PURPLE isn't out to see till Christmas Day but is frequently mentioned in awards noms. CIVIC and PINBALL are new to me.

    Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

    It's only fair to include Anthony Lane, the longtime film critic of The New Yorker. It's his reviews we turn to and pour over every week in the magazine, on paper, on pages. But due to his British indirectness, it's hard to boil down his end-of-year commentary to a list of movies. See HERE. What I can find is:
    THE QUIET GIRL
    GODLAND
    JOYLAND
    MONSTER
    KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON
    MAESTRO
    POOR THINGS
    ANATOMY OF A FALL
    THE ZONE OF INTEREST
    THE HOLDOVERS

    But then after mentioning BARBIE he starts talking about big budgets and lists
    INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY
    THE SUPER MARIO BROTHERS MOVIE
    NAPOLEON
    OPPENHEIMER

    At the end the slippery (or supple) Lane, who just seems to be presenting a chatty review of the year's films, says "Oh, and the one film that I genuinely loved?" CLOSE YOUR EYES (Víctor Erice)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-17-2023 at 07:06 PM.

  9. #9
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    THE BEST (my favorites) FILMS (anything audiovisual) OF 2023 (or 2022, who cares? They're all recent films)

    CLOSE YOUR EYES (Victor Erice)
    PACIFICTION (Albert Serra)
    KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON (Martin Scorsese)
    PAST LIVES (Celine Song)
    POOR THINGS (Yorgos Lanthimos)
    THE FABRIC OF THE HUMAN BODY (Lucien Castaing-Taylor)
    SAINT OMER (Alice Diop)
    MAY DECEMBER (Todd Haynes)
    EUREKA (Lisandro Alonso)
    FALLEN LEAVES (Aki Kaurismaki)


    THE BOY AND THE HERON (Hiyao Miyazaki)
    PINOCCHIO (Guillermo del Toro)
    BARBIE (Greta Gerwig)
    OPPENHEIMER (Christopher Nolan)
    ASTEROID CITY (Wes Anderson)
    AMERICAN FICTION (Cord Jefferson)
    MAESTRO (Bradley Cooper)

  10. #10
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    HAPPY NEW YEAR, OSCAR!

    You seem to be earlier this year with your list, and more mainstream perhaps.

    "2022, who cares? They're all recent films)." Well, actually we may care if this is a game and we play by the rules. But I think only PACIFICTION and PINOCCHOIO are from last year, among your choices.

    There are many on your list that I strongly agree on and nearly all I can understand. Nothing eccentric.

    I see something very personal in your choices of CLOSE YOUR EYES and PACIFICTION, the Érice being a discovery for me of this year's NYFF and the Serra being one championed last year by my longtime Lincoln Center screening companion Kurt Brokaw, who wrote a lot about it in The Independent, in his piece there about the 2022 NYFF, and I understand its offbeat charm. It's so much more interesting a role for Benoit Magimel than France's "stupid" choice (the Oscar Expert bro's word) for Oscar submission of THE TASTE OF THINGS, when the bro's and I would strongly agree that Justine Triet's ANATOMY OF A FALL should have been chosen as France's Best International Feature submission.

    I love MAESTRO, PAST LIVES, POOR THINGS, and OPPENHEIMER - as do many other people. I can't go along on Scorsese's KILLERS and Haynes' MAY DECEMBER (both NYFF 2023 Main Slate choices), and, though normally a Wes fan, couldn't get on board with ASTEROID CITY either. All three I found disappointing; MAY DECMBER I didn't quite get. This is a problem others share, which, along with the unappealingness of the two female characters, the Oscar Expert bro's think may harm its awards chances.

    In his annual list Mike D'Angelo (see below) lists FALLEN LEAVES as the year's "most overrated" and I agree. Not that there's anything at all wrong with the film but it's just slightly below-par Kaurismaaki. It seems to me obvious that people should instead have chosen the similarly titled ABOUT DRY GRASSES, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's much better film.

    Despite its bevy of French César awards, SAINT OMER was a slog. The Miyasaki seemed to me not up to his best and chosen on so many best lists mostly out of respect for the filmmaker, an emeritus award. PINOCCHIO I haven't seen. I'm not a huge fan of Guillermo Del Toro. But I passed on it already last year.

    I didn't personally adore BARBIE but get that it's significant and plan to rewatch it. I eagerly awaited AMERICAN FICTION but was hoping for a little more. EUREKA other journalists at this year's NYFF thought below par for the director, flawed. The Lucien Castaing Taylor (De humani corporis fabrica the original title) I can't watch right now - I have a bad cold. That's my excuse. We'll see. It was one among several 2023 NYFF Main Slate films that, due to their new overlapping scheduling, I was forced to miss, which included Hamaguchi's EVIL DOES NOT EXIST; Breillat's LAST SUMMER, Hong Sang-soo's IN WATER, and Raven Jackson's debut ALL DIRT ROADS TASTE OF SALT, which I should see. Previously when I had access to the press screenings if one had the time, which I did, one could see all the Main Slate, which now one can't. There are also more Main Slate films.

    What about Rodrigo Moreno's THE DELINQUENTS, from Argentina, also NYFF, which I wanted to like but lost me, but a friend strongly defended. Have you seen it?
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2024 at 01:43 AM.

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    MIKE D'ANGELO'S YEAR IN REVIEW "TOP TEN" (on Patreon)

    The Year in Review
    MIKE D'ANGELO

    [ALL COMMENTARY BELOW IS MIKE'S, FROM HIS WEBSITE]
    No new information here for those who regularly check my site, where I maintain a running list (albeit organized by year of premiere rather than year of U.S. release) all year long. But I like to formally weigh in at this time, even though I'll spend much of January catching up with a handful of probably-not-my-thing titles, including but not necessarily limited to Maestro, Ferrari, Origin, Occupied City, The Boy and the Heron, The Crime Is Mine, The Color Purple, American Fiction, and (for some reason; you can see I've been dragging my feet) Napoleon. Final film that seemed a likely contender for my list was The Zone of Interest, which I drove down to see in L.A. on New Year's Eve; I have many thoughts, which are forthcoming, but you shan't find it below. Nor will you find many of the usual suspects—I've never exactly been Mr. Consensus, but 2023 represents a break from my peers more pronounced than any I can previously recall, culminating in a #1 that virtually nobody else cares about. Indeed, at this writing I've concatenated the top 10 lists of more than 40 critics, and three of my top four films (it was the top three period before Poor Things got bumped up a spot) have appeared on literally none of them, not a one. I do not set out to be this way, believe me. I just think y'all are wrong about what's great, even more than usual. "Jury's still out," I wrote in this space last year, "on whether the recent paucity of movies that genuinely excite me [...] reflects pandemic tribulations or just a general shift away from the sort of fearsomely complex, arguably 'problematic' character study I tend to favor"; it's now pretty clear that it's the latter, and who knows whether that'll shift over my remaining lifetime.

    Anyway, here's where things stand as the calendar turns. It's my "polls" list, including some films that premiered at festivals last year but are Skandie-eligible this year. Oh, and I'm starting at the bottom, even though there's zero suspense for many of you, because dammit that's how this should work when the list is meant to be read rather than merely browsed.

    10. Showing Up (Kelly Reichardt, USA)

    Everybody loves that film! you point out. And indeed they do, but I don't want it here (which is true of every film up to #5; none of them would have made the cut as recently as 2018 or 2019). Perfect example of solidly good work that just doesn't excite me in any respect, though I really admire how unsympathetic and sometimes downright annoying Michelle Williams makes Lizzy. Like another title on the list, Showing Up is one I'm gonna watch again soon, hoping it'll catch fire this time. (That happened with TÁR last year. Went from 68/100 to 79/100 when I took a second gander.)

    9. Anatomy of a Fall (Justine Triet, France)

    And here's that other title now. Again, no significant complaints—I just wasn't wowed the way that so many others have been, possibly because it feels more conventionally case-of-the-week to me than does its titularly acknowledged inspiration, Anatomy of a Murder. Only the flashback to Samuel's secret recording of his furious argument with Sandra transcended a baseline of keen interest and threatened to shake me up a bit, and then that didn't prove as instrumental as I'd have liked. Maybe I'll get more invested in Daniel, their son, upon a second viewing. You really need to.

    8. The Five Devils/Les cinq diables (Léa Mysius, France)

    Give it up for the 2022 Quinzaine, which I only just realized served as the world premiere for no fewer than four of the films on this list. From a purely narrative standpoint, this was perhaps the most interesting (if definitely not the most successful) fantasy-centric picture I've seen in some time, with a conception of "time travel"—those are some pronounced scare quotes, which you'll understand if you've seen it—that truly caught me off guard. Its spell has lingered. Skandies voters: Please strongly consider Sally Dramé (who plays the child) for your Actress ballot.

    7. De humani corporis fabrica (Véréna Paravel & Lucien Castaing-Taylor, France/Switzerland/USA)

    Another Fortnight '22 premiere. I'm not bothered by surgery unless the patient is both conscious and experiencing pain, so didn't have to steel my way through this duo's latest experimental doc; indeed, had it been all surgery all the time—omitting lengthy sequences in the dementia ward that just didn't feel of a piece with everything else—it'd likely be in my top five somewhere. Just this minute realized that I should maybe add "dropped suction tube" to my Best Scene shortlist, though I'll have to double-check whether that qualifies as a scene and not just a darkly hilarious moment.

    6. The Royal Hotel (Kitty Green, Australia/UK)

    Far and away the film I'm most surprised to find on this list, as I thought The Assistant wildly overrated. There's a lot more fascinating self-interrogation here, thanks to the contrast between Hanna and Liv; mostly, though, I just spent the entire movie with my stomach tied in knots, awaiting the seemingly inevitable violence that sort of does arrive but also sort of doesn't, quite? It's an amazing tonal balancing act that Green inexplicably chose to ruin with a spectacularly misguided finale (especially the final shot). Still, I got rattled, and Scorsese didn't manage that.

    5. White Noise (Noah Baumbach, USA)

    This was last year's #5, but I'm leaving it here because everyone was wrong about it.

    5. The Apartment With Two Women (Kim Se-in, South Korea)

    Arguably a cheat, as it hasn't been released in the U.S.; I don't anticipate that it ever will be, though, and it's Skandie-eligible, and my list desperately needs it, so here it is. As I noted in my review, Two Women Wearing the Same Underwear (as its Korean title roughly translates) better captures the flavor of this insanely volatile mother-daughter relationship/feud/codependence, which plays like the human equivalent of mutually assured destruction. Imagine one of those Shirley MacLaine mom movies (Terms of Endearment, Postcards From the Edge), but so Korean.

    (Here's where we finally reach films that I legitimately love. Cue copious weeping from Bilge Ebiri, who probably legitimately loved at least 40 films last year.)

    4. in water (Hong Sangsoo, South Korea)

    Guess I'm a sucker for formal gimmickry—I like Woo's Silent Night better than most (though not enough for it to be here), and was captivated by Hong's hour-long portrait of anhedonia, visually represented by images that are never quite in focus and are sometimes wildly out of focus. The most extreme shots are beautiful to me in the same way as are Almereyda's PixelVision films, and what's going on emotionally somehow managed to sneak up on me the second time as well as the first. Best "snap out of it" since Moonstruck—this one, as recounted after the fact, haunts me.

    3. Poor Things (Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland/UK/US)

    Not sure I've ever identified as strongly with a movie character as I do when Bella suddenly announces "I must go punch that baby." She's a magnificent creation (literally), encompassing every stage of human development refracted through the twin lenses of "sugar and violence," as she describes her solo adventure in Gorgeously Fake Lisbon. I'm not keen on much from the wedding to the ending, and feel as if that stretch creates a false impression of the whole, but will give the final word to Madame Swiney: "We must experience everything. Not just the good, but degradation, horror, sadness. This makes us whole, Bella. Makes us people of substance, not flighty untouched children." Artistically speaking, at least, amen.

    (Also upon reflection I may give Mark Ruffalo 30 Skandie points just for the way he says "Mmm, well..." when Bella asks whether the refractory period is a physiological weakness in men.)

    2. Enys Men (Mark Jenkin, UK)

    It's not a horror film! So long as you're not expecting to be frightened (you won't be), there's at least a chance that you'll be able to get on Enys Men's hypnotic wavelength, which comes as close to pure filmmaking as any picture I saw last year. By which I mean that close to 100% of its impact derives from composition, shot duration and editing rhythm, at all of which Jenkin excels. I quite liked Bait as a formal exercise but never got involved in its familiar village-tension narrative; applying the same style to something mysterious and inscrutable pays enormous dividends.

    1. Falcon Lake (Charlotte Le Bon, France/Canada)

    I'm a bit scared to watch this again, for fear that it'll be revealed as ordinary, just another coming-of-age story (with a tragic element). Virtually nobody else cares—Falcon Lake is absent not merely from the year-end awards conversation but from any conversation at all within my own earshot—so did I somehow imagine that Le Bon, making her first feature, demonstrates an uncanny emotional sensitivity and a quietly arresting visual assurance? Watched the entire film with a growing sense of hushed awe, and then the ending—not what happens, but specifically how it's orchestrated, and the way that it creates an overpowering retroactive sadness—knocked me right the fuck out. The only 2023 release that I'd call truly great. Skandies voters who haven't seen it are directed to Theo's 2022 list, where it sits at #5; I won't spoil Daniel Waters' list, to which I was given a sneak preview, but can tell you that he has it even higher. Not just me. But mostly just me.

    Now for the old-school A.V. Club bonus categories, excepting Outlier (a film on your list but nobody else's), which I can't know. Almost certainly would've been Falcon Lake, which would have made it my first #1 Outlier.

    Most overrated: Fallen Leaves

    I should note that last year I had Aftersun here, and then liked that film a whole lot more on second viewing (though still less than most people). Could happen again. I chose Kaurismäki's film not because I disliked it (rating 59/100, solid B-) but because the praise for it seems to me so bizarrely disproportionate to its very modest virtues. Yeah, Aki's films are always "minor," by design, but the dude's alcoholism here is a simple romantic obstacle that winds up being just as simply resolved. "Please stop drinking." "Okay, I will." That somehow takes 81 minutes. (At least it doesn't take 132.) There's just not enough to this movie for it to be among any year's best, imo. But many differ!

    Most underrated: Silent Night

    Don't understand the knocks. Kinnaman is fine—the role demands very little of him, and that's what he gives, but I don't believe that substituting [whoever you think might've been better] would make any appreciable difference. Woo's working in a different mode than he did 30 years ago, still knows what's he doing—I repeat myself, but the prolonged brawl here (with the dude our hero idiotically kidnaps) is to me far more impressive than its equivalent setpiece in Fincher's Killer. I did see it with my dad, who's 78, and it could wind up being the last movie we ever see together (he's fine, but we only get together a few times a year and the end is coming), but I don't think that made me orders of magnitude more receptive/forgiving than I ordinarily would be. Had fun.

    Biggest disappointment: The Line

    What the hell is The Line? you're probably wondering. Barely got a release (it played four non-consecutive days at Metrograph—not quite enough to qualify for the Skandies), and for good reason; I've consistently liked Ursula Meier's films, and even recently managed to spur a flurry of interest in Strong Shoulders (judging from its immediate appearance on a certain site's freeleech roster), but The Line, about a young woman whose mother files a restraining order against her, and who then proceeds to spend all of her time exactly 101 meters from her former home (keeping beyond an actual, wildly irregular line painted by her younger sister), is just plain moronic.

    Most pleasant surprise: Bottoms

    Really it's The Royal Hotel, but the idea is to avoid repeating films from your top 10 (or top 15, as was the case when I actually did this for the A.V. Club; I now have five extra options). Same idea, really—I didn't care for what I saw of Shiva Baby (which, as that phrasing suggests, I didn't finish), and initially thought that I might be too damn old and straight to appreciate Seligman's follow-up. But it won me over, in large part by embracing a "we're such losers" sensibility that's gone all but extinct in the indie world. Most recent movies remind me of Liz Phair's "Extraordinary" (shudder); Bottoms is more like "Fuck and Run." Imperfect analogy, but hopefully you get the idea.
    CK COMMENT:
    Enys Men was in last year's NYFF Main Slate. I decided not to watch it because it's too grim. I watched FALCON LAKE, and decided it was too insignificant to review! I also am turned off by Quebecois French. So he, Oscar, like you, thumbs his nose at the technical rules of year's lists. THE APARTMENT WITH TWO WOMEN I can't access now. I could watch THE FIVE DEVILS and THE ROYAL HOTEL but not while I've got a bad cold and need soothing things. I agree with him on FALLEN LEAVES - again, not because it's bad but that it's too below-par to be on so many best lists for this year, and, as the Oscar Expert bro's have repeatedly noted, nobody ever lists the Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan, and his new one, ABOUT DRY GRASSES, is as interesting as ever. He is one of the world's great filmmakers. Why is he ignored?
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-09-2024 at 12:50 PM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Posts
    4,843
    Happy New Year Chris!
    No, I haven't seen The Delinquents
    Anatomy of a Fall won the screenplay Golden Globe tonight. It's one I must watch.
    You do a great job sharing so much information on this site!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    15,826
    Thanks, Oscar,
    Happy New Year to you too!

    Glad Filmleaf got back up, it was down for some hours.

    I hadn't digested the Golden Globes yet - you beat me to it. I was listening to classical music for a change. It's on the awards thread now. They look pretty close to predictions - with the big snubs being to Barbie.

    Thank you. It's my pleasure to cover films. I've seen a lot of the good ones and awards-listed but there are many I haven't seen too.

    I would be interested if you see Moreno's The Delinquents and to know what you think. It was a disappointment to me. I had read very intriguing descriptions prior to its NYFF showing, but it just seemed to drag. I like Anatomy of a Fall and am happy it won the Golden Globes foreign feature category. I have seen it twice and it completely held up the second time. I wonder if The Zone of Interest will hold up as well.

    I rely a lot on Cole and Justin Jaeger of YouTube's The Oscar Expert lately for the latest about the awards categories. They live in New York and have attended Cannes, Toronto and Sundance. They majored in film in college and their evaluations of films are quite intelligent. They, like me, favor Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest. But their main aim is to predict what will win, regardless of our taste. And they have a wealth of detail about the current crop of movies in their heads.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-10-2024 at 08:00 PM.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    15,826
    Comment on Mike D'Angelo's list

    He sent that one above to subscribers, but on his website he has another list, which seem to as he reevaluates films according to an arcane personal system. The list is in descending numerical order of ratings. Here this is currently:
    2023 Top Ten List
    Poor Things (Yorgos Lanthimos)
    in Water (Hong Sangsoo)
    The Royal Hotel (Kitty Green)
    Anatomy of a Fall (Justine Triet)
    Perfect Days (Wim Wenders)
    Bottoms (Emma Seligman)
    Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese)
    Asteroid City (Wes Anderson)
    Menus-Plaisirs: Les Troisgros (Frederick Wiseman)
    Reality (Tina Satter)

    Additional 2023 Films By Rating
    Pictures of Ghosts (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
    Last Summer (Catherine Breillat)
    The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer)
    Anselm (Wim Wenders)
    Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. (Kelly Fremon Craig)
    Air (Ben Affleck)
    The Holdovers (Alexander Payne)
    Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley)
    Silent Night (John Woo)
    A Thousand and One (A.V. Rockwell)
    The Killer (David Fincher)
    Wham! (Chris Smith)
    The Delinquents (Rodrigo Moreno)
    Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One (Christopher McQuarrie)
    Fallen Leaves (Aki Kaurismäki)
    Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Joaquim Dos Santos & Kemp Powers & Justin K. Thompson)
    No Hard Feelings (Gene Stupnitsky)
    All of Us Strangers (Andrew Haigh)
    The Pigeon Tunnel (Errol Morris)
    Past Lives (Celine Song)
    About Dry Grasses (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
    Full River Red (Zhang Yimou)
    The Boy and the Heron (Hayao Miyazaki)
    Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan)
    The Caine Mutiny Court Martial (William Friedkin)
    Polite Society (Nida Manzoor)
    John Wick Chapter 4 (Chad Stahelski)
    Eileen (William Oldroyd)
    The Taste of Things (Tran Anh Hung)
    Four Daughters (Kaouther Ben Hania)
    The Iron Claw (Sean Durkin)
    Barbie (Greta Gerwig)
    May December (Todd Haynes)
    Beau Is Afraid (Ari Aster)
    Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (James Mangold)
    Kidnapped (Marco Bellocchio)
    Orlando, My Political Biography (Paul B. Preciado)
    You Hurt My Feelings (Nicole Holofcener)
    La chimera (Alice Rohrwacher)
    Monster (Kore-eda Hirokazu)
    BlackBerry (Matt Johnson)
    El Conde (Pablo Larraín)
    Afire (Christian Petzold)
    Youth (Spring) (Wang Bing)
    Passages (Ira Sachs)
    Magic Mike's Last Dance (Steven Soderbergh)
    In Our Day (Hong Sang-soo)
    Priscilla (Sofia Coppola)
    Saltburn (Emerald Fennell)
    Origin (Ava DuVernay)
    All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson)
    Go to the website and you will find the numerical ratings attached to each title. Poor things is 75 and All Dirt Roads is 26 - on a 1-100 percent scale he himself describes as "needlessly precise." He has put the popular Poor Things at the top and dropped out completely Falcon Lake, surely a wise decision.

    The two I don't know on Mike's top ten list are The Royal Hotel and Reality. They both seem to relate to women's rights and Reality is a docudrama. I'm disappointed that he lists Air high up, or at all; I consider it a Nike promo film, and not that interesting anyway. I am expecting to catch up maybe on Are You There God? It's Me Margaret and definitely on Anselm but on a 2D screener. Some good stuff here to follow up on. Reports were that the Chinese doc Youth (included at the NYFF) is a bore.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-10-2024 at 08:03 PM.

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