2023 Recap – Top 10

by - January 1st, 2024 - Features


TOP TEN of 2023

1. All of Us Strangers (Dir.: Andrew Haigh)

My goodness, what a movie! This stupendously shattering “what if?” melodrama loosely adapted from Japanese author Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel Strangers broke me in two. Andrew Scott delivers the performance of a lifetime as Adam, a struggling and lonely writer who enters into a torrid affair with a younger man (Paul Mescal) who also resides in his near-empty London high-rise. There’s also the small matter of Adam’s parents (Jamie Bell, Claire Foy), both of whom died nearly 30 years earlier but are now suddenly living back in his suburban childhood home. This one leaves a permanent mark.

2. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Dir.: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson)

No 2023 moment with an audience came close to the finale of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. With Miles Morales trapped in the wrong corner of the multiverse and under the thumb of his villainous doppelganger, Gwen Stacy assembles a band of fellow spider-heroes to go and save him. It’s a rousing, one-of-a-kind, triumphant call to action, and she invites the audience to join them on this latest, undeniably dangerous adventure. Who are any of us to turn her down?

3. Killers of the Flower Moon (Dir.: Martin Scorsese)

Masterpiece. There’s little else to be said about Scorsese’s latest examination of banal evil in its most insidious and disturbing form. This horrifying American historical calamity has left scars that have lingered for generations, what was done to the Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma is a crushing indictment of incompetence and indifference that should never be forgotten. Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of the best performances of his career, but it is Lily Gladstone who commanded my attention. She is magnificent.

4. Godzilla Minus One (Dir.: Takashi Yamazaki)

Godzilla is scary again in Yamazaki’s towering kaiju epic. As Japan struggles to rebuild after WWII, a disgraced kamikaze pilot and a homeless young woman team up to help parent an orphaned infant. As things start to look up for this ragtag trio, a mutated Godzilla appears out of the oceanic depths to wreak unimaginable havoc. While the expected carnage ensues, it is the human story at the heart of this latest Toho hit that makes this the best film featuring the atomic-breath titan since his 1954 debut.

5. Priscilla (Dir.: Sofia Coppola)

Coppola tackles Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir in her own distinctively observational style, and in doing so crafts a portrait of Elvis unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Priscilla’s story is a fractured fairy-tale romance that showcases the dark side of American fame and fortune. It is also the empowering saga of a woman discovering who she is and can be, and loving the man who’s given her this opportunity to find herself — even though being under his controlling thumb is splinting her in two. Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi melt the screen.

6. Bottoms (Dir.: Emma Seligman)

In a year of great comedies, Seligman’s delightfully Queer Bottoms (written with Rachel Sennott) proudly reigns supreme. A subversively smart monster mash of Heathers, Mean Girls, Bring It On, and Fight Club, this sexually sly deconstruction of genre tropes has so much more to say than initially meets the eye. Overflowing in dazzling moments, a football field melee in which the bodies literally hit the grass is an eye-popping cacophony of ingenuity and chaos that’s as hysterical as it is shrewdly perceptive.

7. Huesera: The Bone Woman (Dir.: Michelle Garza Cervera)

Mexican import Huesera: The Bone Woman leaves a lasting impression. This is impending motherhood stripped to its visceral basics. Garza Cervera’s feature-length debut is a hauntingly nasty marvel that goes immediately for the jugular and attacks its subject matter with such pugnacious grace that it all becomes shockingly beautiful. The ending is unforgettable.

8. Monica (Dir.: Andrea Pallaoro)

There are scenes in Pallaoro’s hard, unapologetic melodrama that left me feeling bruised and battered, and yet enlivened and uplifted at almost the same time. Trace Lysette is superb as the titular Trans daughter who returns home to a dying mother (a sublime Patricia Clarkson) who disowned her years prior. Now, due to her brain tumor, she has no idea this woman is her own flesh and blood, and the constant question is whether or not Monica will reveal who she is before her mom passes. This movie never takes the easy way out and rarely does what is expected. I couldn’t shake this one off even if I had wanted to (and I didn’t).

9. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (Dir.: Kelly Fremon Craig)

Judy Blume’s supposedly unadaptable timeless novel is lovingly transported to the big screen with tenderness, humor, care, and joyful effervescence. This may be the best story of a tween girl coming into her own ever made. Youngster Abby Ryder Fortson is a ray of constant sunshine that makes the entire world feel a wee bit better just from her being a part of it. Rachel McAdams adds outstanding support as her mother, and Benny Safdie is the coolest of the cool dads in recent memory.

10. Past Lives (Dir.: Celine Song)

I firmly believe that how much a person ends up adoring Song’s spellbinding Past Lives is entirely based on how they react to the climactic final ten minutes. This superlative drama of friendship, companionship, and love culminates in a series of quick sucker punches that are so realistically authentic that they can’t help but feel almost like a personal assault. This is all a good thing, as the entire motion picture is built on a foundation of emotional honesty that makes even its saddest moments a triumphant, celebratory call to action.

FAVORITE DOCUMENTARIES of 2023 (in alphabetic order)

20 Days in Mariupol (Dir.: Mstyslav Chernov), 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture (Dir.: Sharon Roggio), Beyond Utopia (Dir.: Madeleine Gavin), Every Body (Dir.: Julie Cohen), Four Daughters (Dir.: Kaouther Ben Hania), Kokomo City (Dir.: D. Smith), Richland (Dir.: Irene Lusztig), Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Dir.: Sam Wrench)

– Portions of this feature reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle

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