I love going to the movies every year, but I really loved going to the movies this year. I saw Knock at the Cabin in Providence, I saw May December in Tallinn. I saw Enys Men in a small theater at Village East where it felt like everyone in the audience turned against the film but me. Somehow I liked Equalizer 3 despite loathing the other two. The worst movie I saw in theaters was Fast X, which I watched on an edible that put me to sleep during a set piece. I missed out on seeing Magic Mike’s Last Dance with some friends who wound up running into Christopher Nolan going to see Skinamarink. I loved breaking Yom Kippur fast during The Beast (out next year—I hated it). So much of what was memorable and strange and moving occurred in the movie theater this year. I can’t wait to go back soon.
I still haven’t seen, don’t get mad at me: The Holdovers, Priscilla, The Killer, Rotting in the Sun, Monster, The Boy and the Heron, The Color Purple
Ten favorite first-time watches: The Awful Truth, Grown-Ups (Mike Leigh––not the Sandler one), Deep Cover, Barcelona, The Daytrippers, Birth, Manakamana, Fabian: Going to the Dogs, Dottie Gets Spanked, How to score 10 runs in the first inning and lose
2023 honorable mentions: Passages, You Hurt My Feelings, The Eight Mountains, Fallen Leaves, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Enys Men, Joy Ride, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (no, seriously)
10. Return to Seoul (Davy Chou)
There were several films released this year about women struggling to understand themselves, their sexuality, and their place in the world, but none that felt as potent, exciting, and tragic as Davy Chou’s debut feature Return to Seoul. Starring an excellent Park Ji-min as Freddie—a South Korean woman adopted and raised in France who travels back in search of her birth parents as years and haircuts and jobs and outfits tumble into each other. The journey to the inside of herself is frustratingly elusive, like catching water in your hand.
9. Ferrari (Michael Mann)
Urgent and monumental—either Michael Mann films elude me completely or I am moved beyond words. The violence spills out of the screen like an overturned bowl of spaghetti; if it were any more real, we wouldn’t be able to watch. Everyone loves harping on Shailene as though Marion Cotillard knew how to say “Milwaukee” in an American accent a decade ago.
8. Maestro (Bradley Cooper)
I’ve seen too many bad faith reads suggesting the film does not “teach” you about Leonard Bernstein after years of complaints about biopics being too didactic. Enough! Being an insane guy who wants an Oscar so, so, so bad used to mean something in this country. I’m glad at least one person in America knows that.
7. May December (Todd Haynes)
Fun for the whole family!
6. Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese)
Between The Irishman and Killers of the Flower Moon, Scorsese has blown up the evil of this country––then and now. There is blood on nearly everyone’s hands. Lily Gladstone’s scream at the bottom of the staircase haunts me, even months later.
5. Our Body (Claire Simon)
Direct and understated, full of life and living. A woman tells her doctor she is afraid. Of what? “That same old fear of dying.”
4. Last Things (Deborah Stratman)
To my luck, my partner is both a genius and a documentary filmmaker, and though I was otherwise unfamiliar with her work, I watched Last Things at virtual Sundance at his urging. I sat not in silence, but delighted in awe. Despite its experimental nature, I believe that Last Things is––as best a thing can be––“for everyone.” It is scary and mystical, funny and wholesome. It is both educational and profoundly entertaining.
3. La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher)
On one hand, I am rarely inclined to agree with the sex-negative Twitter mobs who find sex scenes in movies superfluous, finding their predilections tiresome and prudish. On the other hand, La Chimera’s two-hour buildup to a single kiss is the best slow burn of the year.
2. Showing Up (Kelly Reichardt)
I was lucky enough to see Reichardt’s latest in spring of 2022 in anticipation of a Cannes Film Festival I wasn’t attending. I revisited the film in its theatrical release on my birthday this past year, in which Judd Hirsch’s character’s slow, observant walk around the table at his daughter’s (Michelle Williams) long-awaited gallery show brought me to tears.
1. Asteroid City (Wes Anderson)
The biggest surprise of my year: a monumental, beautiful new work by a filmmaker by whom I’d thought myself long exhausted. Old dog, new tricks—by which I mean, me and him alike.