Friday, December 29, 2023

Chrystian's Top 10 Movies of 2023

2023 was the year that I got to fall back in love with movies. I didn't see the volume of movies that I have in years past; just over 30 films as we near the end of the year, where in past years I have seen in the area of 80-100. But the thing about 2023 is that I remember all of those 30+ movies, because 2023 is the years the year I really, truly got sober from alcohol and drugs. My head is more clear now than it has been in years, and I have the capacity again to really consider the artistry of my favorite medium. Let's get into it.

10. Asteroid City

I love Wes Anderson. His last two outings, The French Dispatch and Isle of Dogs, did not land with me, so my expectations for Asteroid City were not high. However my reservations were proven completely unfounded, because Asteroid City is the best Anderson film since The Grand Budapest Hotel. It has the same style you've come to expect from the filmmaker, but dives into topics like grief, the unknowable nature of the universe, and the existential dread of wondering what "the point" of life is. The charm and humor present in his other works is still here if you're not interested in anything below the surface, but this one has a lot to dig into if you're willing.

9. May December

What does it mean to get inside the mind of a monster? It perhaps takes one to know one. May December is not a particularly showy movie, it is slow and methodical as all of Todd Haynes films are. What it is an absolute showcase for it's 3 leads, most notably in my opinion Charles Melton. I certainly did not think I would walk away from a film starring Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore thinking the guy from Riverdale stole the show, but that's certainly how things turned out. The film, based loosely on the case of Mary Kay Letourneau, is not an easy sit, but the twisted web that it weaves is more than worth your time

8. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Kelly Fremon Craig is so good at what she does. Her previous film, The Edge of Seventeen, came out of nowhere to become one of my favorite films of 2016. Are You There God? It's Me Margaret serves as a sort of spiritual successor to that film; Edge of Seventeen dealing with being a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, this film deals with what it means to be a girl on the cusp of being a young woman. It's all confusion, frustration, and rapid change, and Kelly Fremon Craig captures that with a level of authenticity and reverence that you rarely see on screen these days. Abby Ryder Fortson delivers a fearless performance completely devoid of ego as the titular Margaret. Rachel McAdams is Oscar worthy as Margaret's mother, and I'm already mad for her inevitable snub. 

7. Godzilla Minus One

One of my favorite things every year are the movies that I never see coming. The ones that sneak up on me and blow me away. The biggest surprise of 2023 for me is Godzilla Minus One. I would have told you that I'd never be caught dead crying at a Godzilla movie of all things. But it happened, both times I saw this film. It captures the horror of Godzilla, and intertwines it perfectly with human characters we actually care about. It grapples with death, honor, and grief with such an even hand. And at a budget of only $15 million, the visual effects outshine superhero films that cost hundreds of millions. It's a really special piece of art, and it does something I wish we got more often in the modern film landscape; a happy ending.

6. Bottoms

Comedy is a tough one for me. The four-quadrant comedy schlock that manages to slink its way into theaters more and more rarely draws my ire to no end. It takes a very particular brand of absurdist comedy to resonate with me and draw from me more than an amused chuckle. Bottoms is exactly that. It exists in a world all it's own; it elevates and exacerbates reality into something nearly unrecognizable from our own, and feels no obligation to explain its own ridiculousness. It throws you into the deep end and expects you to swim. Emma Seligman continues to prove herself as the young filmmaker to keep your eye on, and Rachel Sennott yet again proves the same in the acting space. If you can keep up, you're in for the funniest film of the year.

5. Barbie

Few movies have lived rent-free in my mind for so long as Greta Gerwig's Barbie. It gave my favorite actor, Ryan Gosling, arguably the role he was born to play. The sets and production design were immaculate. The music was fun and memorable. The message was clear and powerful. I bleached my hair blonde and learned to rollerblade. I saw it 5 times in the theater. Barbie was a motion picture phenomenon the likes of which we have not seen in a very long time. It captured the collective consciousness of the world, and for a while the world was pink. Tentpole films from major studios are rarely, if ever, this good. Barbie is an outlier, a reminder of what cinema is and can be.

4. Poor Things

It would seem like a disservice to say that Yorgos Lanthimos's work so far has been contained, but after seeing Poor Things one can truly tell that he has been let off the leash and given free reign to fully realize his very specific brand of gonzo filmmaking. Poor Things is like nothing you've ever seen. It's like Barbie by way of David Lynch. Emma Stone delivers a career best performance, and Mark Ruffalo does the same in a role unlike any we've ever seen him do. Underneath it's absurdity it's a film about finding yourself, and navigating your way through a world just as brutal as our own. It's about having full agency over your body and what you do with it. It's about how the mind of a child might be better equipped to make sense of chaos, free of the jaded patina of adult living. There's a lot to dive into, and I can barely scratch the surface.

3. Beau is Afraid

It is near impossible to fully describe the scope and specificity of one's anxiety and the way the it reaches out into the life and tints the world around you. The totally mundane can become the stuff of nightmares in only an instant with only an errant thought. Beau is Afraid encapsulates anxiety perfectly and puts it on screen raw. It is long, unrelenting and all-consuming. You can get lost in it and leave utterly confused. Your brain will try to make sense of it, and it will fail. And that is exactly the point. It is beautiful in its own way, and totally unique.

2. Past Lives

It's easy to get caught up in the "should haves" and "could haves." To look at one's past and build a fantasy in your mind about the ways things could have been different; we all do it. But the truth is our past is set in stone. We can't remake it and we can't go back. Celine Song's Past Lives is a portrait of exactly that. It opens the window into the past and allows us to look through, cherish what we had, and accept our present for what it is. It isn't better or worse, it simply is. Past Lives is melancholy, heartbreaking, and features three of the best performances I saw all year. It has only grown in my estimation the further I get from it, and it hasn't stopped lingering in my mind since.

1. All of Us Strangers

I live for a tragic romance. Most of my favorite films of all time are tragic romances, in one form or the other. And one starring Adam Scott and Paul Mescal? I'm there. All of Us Strangers is about how it's never too late for reconciliation. It's about how the dead never really leave us, and how even after someone is gone, it's never too late for new levels of understanding. No one is really gone as long as we carry them in our hearts. It's beautiful and heart wrenching, and contains two of the best performances of the year. It's a quietly haunting ghost story that will continue to linger in my mind for some time.