Well, I think we can all say that this wasn’t how 2023 was supposed to go for the film industry. Trust me, I hate to go all Jimmy Carter on you, but it’s got to be said. 2022 had fucking energy, dudes: Movies were back and in a big way following two years of on-and-off COVID restrictions and the entire release schedule being thrown into perpetual disarray. The streamers were in turmoil (and that hasn’t changed, as much as everything else did), folks went back to the arthouses, and Tom Cruise again took to the skies. Sure, things weren’t as fantastic as they used to be – again, two years of limbo will do that to any economic sector – but they were getting better.
Then 2023 came along, and phew, what a clusterfuck. The WGA and SAG-AFTRA won a hard-fought war against the studio bosses and the streamers, thanks in no small part to Fran Drescher’s skill as a negotiator (words I never thought I would have written), and as great as that was, it still cast a big ol’ pallor over everything: releases got punted about the schedule, the publicity machine ground to a halt, and observers were subjected to a thousand “Barbie is Pro-Union” signs, even though Mattel most definitely is not (I’m just kidding, guys, congratulations on the win). Think of it this way: whenever you lose sleep about Dune Part II coming out months after it should, remember that we don’t have to sit through ChatGPT’s interpretation of a Young Sheldon episode.
But wait! There’s more! Streaming’s now pay cable, but worse and more expensive. The studios themselves are also eating shit left and right, with practically every one of them wrapped up in some sort of controversy. Sony treats its animators like shit, Warner Bros. is habitually stepping on rakes and still canceling finished-fucking-movies, Paramount put all their eggs in the Tom Cruise basket and got them cracked by a release-date meme, and Universal… well, Universal’s doing alright, even if they’re going to become a Nintendo-and-Minions factory in just a few years from now. Then there’s Disney, whose salad days have come to an end. Even with COVID, an ill-fated orientation toward streaming, and a change in executive leadership, there’s still something to be said about going from multiple billion-dollar releases four years ago to a string of flops so bad that they actually pulled the grosses from the reported box office listings for The Marvels. Theaters can’t rely on them to bring in the bacon anymore, and who knows what the industry will look like in a year’s time.
Yet, even with all of that, fantastic movies still hit theaters this year, though I was genuinely worried if I’d be able to fully fill out this list around June. The independents brought some heat, the streamers seemed to bank all of their truly fantastic releases for the back half of the year, and the majors did their part, too, including putting out my favorite film of the year back in July (and, spoiler alert, it’s the second half of that popular portmanteau that everybody was freaking out about and wearing pink). It was a bad year in other respects, as well, and cinema was, once again, a lovely respite from the troubles of the world.* And one thing that definitely did not change, even through all of the chaos, is how absurdly grateful I feel to each and every one of you who reads my writing. To be able to connect with all of you and converse about this art is an indescribable joy, and I can’t wait to do even more in 2024.
With all that said, there are plenty of good movies (or, well, ones I liked) I saw this year that just didn’t quite make the cut but deserve mention for bringing something to the table, especially when it seemed like this year was going to blow back in May. So, without further ado, here’s the 2023 Honor Roll:
Those are all solid, but these were even better. Here are my picks for the best movies of 2023:
Best Movie About Footwear and Labor Politics: Air
From the review: “Air is really about the birth of an icon and the creation of an industry around him. As mentioned, Affleck only shoots Jordan in-scene from behind and lets us fill in the details. But for one magical moment, during a speech that Vaccaro gives to the family after unveiling the first Air Jordan model to them and realizing that the pre-packaged greatest hits video is just boring everyone to death, he relents and lets forth a collection of moments, iconic and infamous, from Jordan’s life. It’s a rare acknowledgment of the man wearing the Hanes as anything other than a golden god: that his success on the court was a way of transcending his humanity. It’s the price of becoming a legend, the one-two punch of scrutiny giving way to a kind of mystical acceptance of the supernatural skill he possessed, proving in real-time Vaccaro’s thesis, that no one would give a good goddamn about that shoe until he put them on and dunked from the three-point line. It’s that interrogation of this image, through the depiction of its crafting, that makes Air a genuinely novel and unique sports film, as well as one of the best modern-day films about advertising you’ll ever see. It’s a bit rosy-eyed in that respect, but I imagine more folks are going to sign up for classes and look for careers in the field because of what they see here: A chance to become storytellers and prophets through the crafting of secular iconography.”
Most-Frequently Misstated Title for a Palme Winner in Recent Memory: Anatomy of a Murde— aw, shit, Anatomy of *a Fall*
Justine Triet’s Palme-winner may not have a lawyerin’ Jimmy Stewart in the cast, but she’s got the next best thing: A fantastic Sandra Muller, who deserved every inch of praise that she got for bringing a deep, rich life to one of the most complex characters in a film released this year. As the widow of a man who died under mysterious circumstances – he may have fallen off of a roof, or he may have been pushed – she’s accused of his murder, and quickly taken to trial. Her young son has his own doubts, and her lawyer, a friend of her husband’s, takes his defense a little too personally, but her guilt is never confirmed. The film is an inkblot test of one’s own observational skills, and it’s a testament to Triet’s ample skill as a filmmaker that it never reaches Law and Order salaciousness while somehow managing to be much more compelling and amusing than one might assume. After all, this is the movie that brought that amazing steel band cover of ‘P.I.M.P.’ to Dolby Atmos-equipped theaters this year, and its sense of humor, even in dire circumstances, is an essential aspect that cements Anatomy of a Fall’s greatness.
Ensemble to Most Likely to Have One of Your Crushes in It: Asteroid City
From the review: “There’s a pervasive melancholy at the core of all of Anderson’s work, even in his films for children, which has gone somewhat unaddressed within each successive release until now. I don’t mean in the specific ways he’s crafted a kind of romantic depression in a given scene — as potent as a Nico or Elliott Smith needle-drop is in context, they’re only a part of the tonal composition of a localized moment of pain — but rather at the core of his whole ethos. Like a number of filmmakers, Anderson presents to us worlds that he wishes he could live in, informed by the real and represented by their analogs, and for the first time, he’s acknowledged the tragic burden at the heart of this type of creation. His fables and fantasies are aesthetic delights presented to us to dive deep into, to draw inspiration from, and to be moved by. But they are not reality. No matter how much one could wish they could hop into those frames, we cannot, and I think this helps to explain exactly why he journeyed into the past as a kind of insularity against realist cynicism. His work became explicitly fabulous so that his films could exist in a genuinely unrealistic form, letting them accumulate layers of pathos, even as they became more foreign to our present yet universal in their meaning. That’s why I see Owen Wilson’s death in Life Aquatic to be the pivot point: At that point, Anderson stopped making movies for ‘adults’ and made them for the 12-and-a-half-year-olds within them so that they might fully comprehend the beauty and tragedy of something like Asteroid City with open, wanting hearts.”
Most Likely To Be Used by Your Weeb Cousin to Prove that Anime is Capital-A Art at the Christmas Dinner Table Even Though Everybody Already Thinks So: The Boy and The Heron
From the review: “Would it be fair to say that Miyazaki has again found joy in his art? The burden of his dreams has lightened, and magic, tempered by a clear-eyed vision of depths of human emotion, both light and dark, once again fills every single frame unabashedly. There will be, of course, a day in which Miyazaki actually does release that last film, with undoubtedly more grace and honor than, to complete the metaphor, a ball directly towards Tracy Porter at the end of the last playoff run. But The Boy and the Heron shows that Miyazaki’s work isn’t finished, even as it serves as a hopeful capstone to the kind of career that every would-be director dreams of: There are more worlds left to explore in the halls of imagination, with unimaginable beauty just waiting to be uncovered and witnessed through Miyazaki’s eyes.” (The Brett Favre joke is my favorite gag I’ve written this year.)
Most Likely To Have 20 Different Cuts Released in the Next 30 Years: The Creator
From the review: “The Creator is, in a way, a rarity for a filmmaker who’s directed a Star Wars movie: It sees Edwards take the lessons that he learned working within the Lucasfilm toybox and apply them in service of something approximating ol’ George’s original vision for the Star Wars films. Now, by this, I don’t mean in the “let’s rip-off Dune and Republic serials” vein; I mean in the thematic sense that you will often hear about at a film school’s equivalent of a frat party, spouted off by some kid who thinks they’re imparting grand knowledge to you by saying “You know Star Wars is actually about the terrorists winning, right?” And it’s true – a lot of Star Wars emerged from the Vietnam-era anger that Lucas and the New Hollywood felt towards the government (and keep in mind, there’s an alternative universe in which Lucas and John Milius made Apocalypse Now, albeit with a very different outlook). Edwards takes all of those influences and makes them explicit[.]”
The Most Cage: Dream Scenario
From the review: “But [Kristoffer] Borgli recovers and steers the film into a smooth and surprisingly moving landing, paying off one of the film’s best gags with a meaningful callback. If the ending really is a given narrative’s conceit, this one is swell, being one that sees Cage and his director fully sync up and dig into Paul’s emotions as established early on, retaining a sense of character continuity that Borgli occasionally forgets about in the sweep of the plot’s expanding scope. Yet Cage does his best to ground things in a kind of realistic and removed sweetness – his graying beard, balding head, and sweater-vested paunch evoking both the nightmare world of a curdled memory of a sitcom and the earnest plainness of someone dearly loved and yet perpetually undervalued. Cage’s strange tenderness is one of his most undervalued assets as a performer, which is odd given just how long it’s been apparent – there’s a throughline from Birdy to Adaptation to Mandy to Dream Scenario – of just how aggressively human Cage is when it comes to realizing his characters in all of their infamies and glories. This is the kind of tender portrait Cage deserves at this point of his career – a man grappling with the imaginary image that folks have of him but using it to further himself toward catharsis.”
Best Assortment of “Should I Really Be Laughing At That?” Moments: Eileen
From the review: “It should be emphasized that the black comedy emerges from the pairing of these two characters – a deeply fucked-up yet endlessly pitiable being, nearly otherworldly in her eccentric presence, being matched with the patriarchal idea of “liberated womanhood” that passed muster in ’64. Eileen does her best to seem worldly, to often hilarious ends, to Rebecca’s bemused reactions, and the film could function as just a bizarre meet-cute, which wouldn’t be too out of place in modern cinema on its own. But the film hinges on a third-act reveal, where it looks like their “relationship” may finally be consummated, only for something genuinely twisted to be dropped on the audience. With one giant exception – coming in the form of a monologue delivered full of searing emotion stemming from well-deserved guilt – Oldroyd has crafted the kind of climax that the Coens were once famous for, in which characters are exposed for what they are, and causality ensures a kind of cosmic justice, assisted by a kind of buffoonery. In short, it’s a prime example of the storytelling joys that modern neo-noir can still provide, shot handsomely in a period-appropriate fashion without defaulting to horseshit stylistic homage.”
Best Reminder Not to Shit Where You Eat: Fair Play
Aside from perhaps Sandra Huller, has any actor had a better year than Alden Ehrenreich? It seemed that, after his critical coming-out-party in the Coens’ Hail, Caesar!, he hopped along a streaming current of misfires and box office failures like Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply and Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. Yet 2023, at least for an American actor, was his year: stealing scenes in Oppenheimer, yukking it up with Ray Liotta in Cocaine Bear (RIP), and performing ferociously as one of the leads in Chloe Domont’s Sundance hit. He’s paired with Bridgerton’s Phoebe Dynevor in this tale of high finance and relationship power dynamics, as a couple who keep their pairing secret from their bosses at a hedge fund, only have it to all unravel when Dynevor gets a promotion that Ehrenreich’s character expected. Domont directs the hell out of her actors, who return her volleys with force, and the result is one of the year’s best-kept secrets: a drama with legitimate bite, full of vagaries and intrigue.
Best Reminder to Wear Your Seatbelt: Ferrari
From the review: “[Ferrari’s own] perspective well [is] in line with Mann’s as a filmmaker – that through embracing chaos and its formal expression, much as he did with his shift to digital filmmaking in the ‘00s, there’s a chance for one to reach even greater highs with less-than-perfect means. Ferrari is a tribute to the messiness of perfection, in subject and in form, and it’s yet another Mann classic, even if it’ll have Ford fanboys seeing red.”
Most Massachusetts Movie: The Holdovers
From the existential crisis I masked as a review: “There’s a good likelihood that The Holdovers will eventually assume Oscar-villain status, especially if Barbie winds up on the nominee list because it is precisely the kind of movie geared to piss off a particular breed of cinema populist. It’s a throwback movie emerging into a hypermodern world, the rare film for adults – and all audiences because there’s nothing that objectionable for older kids – whose delights don’t require pages of analysis or excessive amounts of hype to generate enthusiasm. But it really doesn’t deserve that status (the old Kurt Vonnegut quote about “dressing up in a suit of armor to combat a hot fudge sundae” is apt for some of these films that find themselves, accidentally, in a horse race instead of an art museum), and I say this with plenty of experience in hating Alexander Payne movies and being frustrated with their near-universal acclaim. This is a new kind of movie from him, one that adds to his depth as a filmmaker and storyteller. It rope-a-dopes with its humor, and like Ali, it’ll knock you the fuck out with just how moving it is. So, I plead with you, Alexander Payne haters: As a former member of your outfit, give this one a shot. Everyone has said that to you before, but it is different. You might find yourself amazed.”
Best Finisher: The Iron Claw
Ever since Foxcatcher, there’s been a Bennett Miller-shaped hole in sports filmmaking for the last half-decade, and Martha Marcy May Marlene director Sean Durkin has amply filled it with this incredible drama about the family and wrestling stable known as the Von Erichs. Aside from Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, I genuinely don’t think a film has ever understood the appeal and struggles inherent to professional wrasslin’ quite like this one. The action is filmed with the rigor of a Creed entry, there’s a surprising psychological depth to the characters, and Durkin somehow manages to blend his oftentimes removed (yet gorgeously rendered) cinematic style with intense, theatrical melodrama. His ensemble rises to the occasion, taking in-ring bumps like Stallone took punches, and particular mention should go to Zac Efron, whose work here is destined to be misunderstood by a broad segment of the audience bound to mistake characterization for performance. Yet, even more, The Iron Claw rejects “kayfabe” to get to a deeper truth: the squared circle is only that, and one is more than they are when they step foot in the ring. One bad Ric Flair impression is the only thing keeping this from serious competition with Oppenheimer, but Durkin has crafted a gorgeous homage to the Von Erich legacy, with the highs and lows illustrated in adrenaline-pumping fashion.
Best Tribute to Modern-Day Action Icons: John Wick: Chapter 4
From the review: “I’m kind of a funny one, in that I prefer all of the John Wick sequels to the first one. Shedding David Leitch might have been the best possible outcome for the franchise, because it feels like a weight was shed. All the attributes teased at in the first film were allowed to fully blossom, and became, in a roundabout way, the purest expression of love for the action genre that you can find onscreen at the local multiplex. You can see what John Wick might have been in the Expendables films, which trades its potential for high-flying and wild action for the pseudo-connection of the audience’s proximity to star power. “Look, it’s Stallone and Arnold and Bruce! Together, at last!” Meanwhile, everyone’s checked out by the time the aging badasses have to throw down. The Wick movies do the same, but they never let their stars get in the way of the process — sure, you’re using Mark Dacascos’s iconography in some ways, but if you don’t know shit about Double Dragon, you’ll find it just as fun regardless — and everything works together as a seamless whole, with everyone playing Jerry Lewis to Keanu’s Dino.”
Most “He Just Like Me Frs” Uttered By Sadboys in a Theater: The Killer
From the review: “Yet his latest, The Killer, is a continuation of the stylistic alterations that he’s experimented with ever since he signed a deal with Netflix. Mindhunter was an attempt to sustain that feeling over the course of television seasons, Mank was a stylistic exercise that helped to put his father to rest, and Love Death and Robots was an anything-sticks attempt to broaden the purview of what type of animation audiences might watch on streaming. All, with the possible exception of Mindhunter, have proven to be alienating in their own right, and this is no exception. Yet all have found some sort of weird audience, and The Killer’s may prove to attract the broadest in the flock: Nerds like myself who, had this film dropped in the fall of 2011, might have had a hard time choosing between a bucket hat and a scorpion jacket. It is also fucking hilarious, deconstructing similar “cool and collected tough guy” narratives in the same way that Nicolas Winding Refn did in the ‘10s, and will undoubtedly be on my best-of-the-year list.” (See, sometimes my predictions do come true!)
Most Intimidating Runtime:Killers of the Flower Moon
From the review: “Scorsese’s mob movies have always been virulently anti-mob, even folks tend to forget that his depictions aren’t endorsements of his subject matter, but Killers of the Flower Moon acts as a perfect companion piece to I Heard You Paint Houses in its thematics. They’re both patient deconstructions of the appeal of criminal enterprises, with Sheeran’s old-age isolation and utter meaninglessness – nobody knows who Jimmy Hoffa is anymore in the nursing home – serving to counteract the importance of his actions and his “loyalties” when he’s actually lost everything that he actually valued in the process. But Flower Moon doesn’t hold its revelations until its conclusion: It immediately immerses you in the ugly realities of a “conspiracy brotherhood” and the emptiness of those transactional relationships. There’s little entertainment in a shallow conspiracy being uncovered and the attempts of the powerful to prevent it from winding up in a criminal record, and there’s even less to be had in the deeds to ensure that this money flows King’s way. This critique is made plain in the film’s conclusion, which is audaciously metatextual and is the factor that pushes Flower Moon into “outright masterpiece” territory, acknowledging how, to paraphrase The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, when truth becomes narrative, the narrative will be printed and publicized, made easily digestible for the audiences at home so as to not scare off the advertisers.”
Most Remarkable Feat of Baking Excellence: May December
Todd Haynes has something for everyone here. Longtime Haynes fans will appreciate his return to melodramatic camp, Carol stans will find things to thirst over and plenty of psychosexual drama to dig into, casual viewers will be plenty entertained, and the director himself will continue his tradition of never quite settling into a given form for a significant amount of time. Should anybody really be surprised that he hit another grand slam? Probably not, but May December is a strikingly compelling subversion of the power dynamics that underline both an infamous relationship and its adjacent show business exploitation, set into motion when Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) arrives in Savannah, Georgia, to do research for a film she’s working on about the relationship that once was at a center of a media circus, in which a much older woman (Julianne Moore) slept with one of her middle-school-aged son’s friends (Charles Melton, in a role that will put Riverdale to rest in the minds of most viewers) and then married him when she got out of jail. Talk about drama. It’s supported by Haynes’ often-subtle direction of the triumvirate of great talents at the center of this work, who manage to find the bits of humanity that exist within a group of characters trapped in extraordinary circumstances. It’s also bitingly, bracingly funny, filled to the nines with an empathetic yet strident contempt for all those caught up in its web. Plus, pineapple upside-down cake!
Biggest “Fuck You” to Mass-Market Paperback Historians: Napoleon
From the review: “What [Ridley] Scott and [Joaquin] Phoenix have done with Napoleon is nothing short of historical vandalism, and it’s a pleasure to watch. If graffiti is often seen as an expression of artistic truth emerging from societal decay, then their metaphorical tagging of the Arc de Triomphe presents to us the rotten core behind the marble, covering the façade with color and disrupting its clean presentation. Icons are often rendered sterile figures, free of vitality and humanity, and the stories we glean from their legacies are often reduced to casualty figures and simple morals. In the grand tradition of historical satirists, what they’ve done is remind us that behind many crowns lay two-pump chumps who petulantly shout “’You think you’re so great because you have boats!’ at foreign ambassadors (and yes, this is an actual line from the movie) and have an astonishing amount of trouble maintaining eye contact.”
Best (and Favorite) Film of 2023: Oppenheimer
From the review: “His famous quote, taken from the lines of the Bhagavad Gita, is a tacit admission of guilt made a man of the old world in the face of the new: The metaphorical descendant of Einstein realizing the enormity of his actions and the fresh horrors that will supplant his endeavors in the years to come. Nolan references it twice, both at moments of vulnerability in which the ego is forced to proverbially (and on the first occasion, physically) bare itself. The assertation is that this moment of immense importance is still defined by the personal: A flashback to happy times curdled over by time and blood. Yet while Oppenheimer turned to Vishnu to express himself at a moment of sheer existential horror, Nolan, given his vantage point in time, uses Oppenheimer to allegorically echo a bleeding Christ mounted atop the cross, albeit with a careful omission: They know not what they do. Forgiveness isn’t really even a part of the matter, after all. But this ultimately is where Oppenheimer leads: the satisfaction of the narrative gives way to its meaninglessness in the face of annihilation. What’s a story if there’s no one around to tell it? What’s forgiveness if there’s no one left to offer it?”
Most Likely To Horrify Viewers Who Have Only Watched ‘The Favourite’: Poor Things
Aside from Searchlight, before this film dominated Venice back in September, did anybody expect Yorgos Lanthimos to strike out at the plate now? After making a bid for the respect of the general audience with The Favourite, Lanthimos has taken the lessons learned from the period stylings of that film and added them to a work that is well in line thematically with everything he did before, with all the abstract oddity and salaciousness that comes with it. Led by a ferocious Emma Stone, Poor Things takes the Ken Doll anatomy of Shelley’s Frankenstein and grafts the well-endowed sensibility of John Cleland’s Fanny Hill to it, creating a bizarre sexual coming-of-age that is filled with humor and pathos while expanding Lanthimos’ palette with exciting new styles and colors. It also features perhaps the single-best comedic performance of the year from Mark Ruffalo, playing a sleazy-as-fuck lawyer who becomes enamored with Stone’s character and descends into hilariously bitchy depths once he realizes that he’s not the master of her life and merely just another notch on the soul-enrichment bedpost. One can understand why this movie terrified studio bosses, especially ones with adjacent C-Suite office space with Kevin Feige, but their terror, sensed throughout the picture, is a feature, not a bug. To put it plainly, Poor Things feels like it escaped from Camp Hero’s Montauk experiments in cross-dimensional travel, in which porno chic never ended and only got weirder as it lurched towards a different modern cinema. What an experience.
Most Likely To Make Grown Men Cry at a Cartoon Ostensibly Intended for Children: Robot Dreams
From the review (which, honestly, is less positive than it should be, because this movie is my favorite animated movie of the year): “Even more impressive is how well it captures the experience of stumbling upon a new favorite comic at your comic book shop or local library and tearing into it – especially if, say, you’re reading it on the floor at your local big-box bookstore (real heads know) – falling more and more in love with the distinct pleasures of this colorful medium and all of its quirks. Robot Dreams can feel kind of strangely paced, and it seems to wallow in some of its more depressing moments a bit too long, but I began to appreciate this the more I thought about it: those are, in fact, the moments that you pay a sort of closer attention to. If sequential art is centered upon self-pace as much as it is oriented around its page layouts, Berger does a swell job preserving an approximation of how most read their comics, and he never loses sight of the fact that he’s adapting a tale from one visual artform to the other. There’s no dialogue in Robot Dreams (though there is sound, obviously), forcing you to pay attention to its imagery to properly experience it. Look away at your own peril because you might miss out on something blissful.”
Most Likely to Enchant a Viewer When They Stumbled Upon It on Hulu: Rye Lane
From the review (which, again, is also less positive than it should be, because this movie is sweet and wholesome in a way that doesn’t feel treacly): “If anything is truly wrong with Rye Lane, it’s just how intense the aesthetic is at times, with the earliest moments seeking to shock-and-awe you with just how skilled Miller and her crew are at making cool shit — there’s a jokey quip about Wes Anderson here, which is honestly one of the operative comparisons I’d make in a visual sense though certainly not in a thematic one — and it can be somewhat exasperating. But by the time Miller keys in onto the emotional cores of her characters, the stylistics only enhance the sweetness as the light fades and the bright city lights slowly start to turn on. It’s got a whipfire and often cracklingly-smart script, full of big belly laughs and winsome smiles, with an un-patronizing kindness embedded in its core. Even if you can’t totally buy some of the circumstances (and let’s be real, screwball comedies aren’t necessarily known for their realism), the characters are so charmingly rendered that it’s easy to love them, with Oparah and Jonsson being impossibly charismatic and relatable in their wants and needs. It’s a rare occurrence for me to roll my eyes pretty heavily at a movie’s start and find myself rooting for its protagonists to make it together by its end, but Rye Lane is such a film — the kind of romantic comedy one doesn’t necessarily expect for someone to make anymore. But, as Miller goes out of her way to prove, sometimes you should expect the unexpected. “
Best Proof that the Superhero Fatigue Hasn’t Fully Set In: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
From the review: “I’ll return to that thematic tease at the end here because there’s a lot to praise before I do a dance around the film’s subject matter. Normally when you see six credited names across the directing (Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson) and writing credits (David Callaham alongside producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller), it’s a cause for alarm – it means nobody was really steering the ship in a productive way, and though good movies can emerge from that creative soup, it’s an uphill battle to get there – but Spider-Verse avoids that problem entirely. Perhaps it’s the very nature of the film’s hyper-detailed and hyper-active nature, but it’s hard to imagine that a stray thought or suggestion was abandoned in favor of some studio dictate. Every frame, every scene, and every line of dialogue is both packed to the point of excess and yet fine-tuned to run fast and hard, like a well-calibrated McLaren engine.”
Most Likely To Have The Superlative Writer Say To Themselves “How the Fuck Do I Write a Jokey Superlative About This?” When Doing Their Usual Bit for Their Year-End List: The Zone of Interest
At first glance, Jonathan Glazer’s long-gestating follow-up to Under the Skin may seem like a strange yet provocative follow-up to an abstract science-fiction picture. But ultimately they are linked in that they depict abyssal creatures inhabiting recognizable bodies (including Sandra Huller, who had one hell of a year between this and Anatomy of a Fall) – only, this time, the point is how painfully and hideously human these characters are. An adaptation of Martin Amis’ novel (that shares very little with its source aside from an abstract logline), The Zone of Interest documents several months in the life of Rudolph Hoss (Christian Friedel), the commandant of Auschwitz, as he and his family attempt to make his quarters into a home. The “banality of evil” doesn’t even begin to describe it: ceaseless terrors outside of the walls, cremains filling the air, and yet the paramount concern is the garden. It is fucking bone-chilling, with the circumstances of its filming approximating something like Dau in their voyeuristic nature and Mica Levi’s gorgeous, haunting score resounding throughout the silent auditoriums. Glazer can’t help the fact that the world has changed drastically since his film premiered at Cannes in May, but this masterpiece will undoubtedly outlive the moment, as it offers a timeless reflection on the nature of true human evil.
* Given that this is a space of reflection and not simply normal content, I’d like to pay tribute to the memories of my cat, Handles, and my dog, Clara, who both passed away earlier this year. A Roman wrote this as his dog’s epitaph, and I’d like to modify it here for my purposes: “[n]ever again shall thou give me a thousand kisses. Never canst thou be contentedly in my lap. In sadness have I buried thee, and thou deservist[…] In thy qualities, sagacious thou wert like a human being. Ah, me! What a loved companion have we lost!” Even as centuries pass by, some things never change, it seems. I won’t ever stop missing either of you.