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The best and worst movies of 2023, critic Michael Phillips!

There are so many good and even great movies this year! It’s nice to have a non-ironic exclamation point for a year of film set in the midst of a year of political fear and threat in America and beyond.

Strikes by the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild have gained meaningful financial ground by fighting back against studios and streaming giants, and at least some hurdles to slow AI abuses in an industry that has gone chaotically unnoticed for several years. before.

The summer of 2023 captured audiences’ attention as if COVID was no longer a thing. Millions of people responded to the strangest, simplest, happiest temporary marketing coup of recent movie times: Barbenheimer! The “thorny” part was based on a toy, while the “enheimer” part told the story of the man behind the weapon that deprived our planet of the certainty of the future. Both had verifiable and remarkable eyes. And “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” earned nearly $2.5 billion for their double act.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. Discovery’s corporate consolidation conundrum is such that “Barbie” could gross $1.4 billion and a gnat on the debt elephant is now troubling CEO David Zaslav.

Money can be a hit in the marketplace, and sometimes a success, but this year’s standouts (generously budgeted in some cases, micro-budgeted in others) worked closer to an artistic impulse. We are encouraged by the year’s signs of cinematic life. In some cases, the films on my list premiered on the 2023 festival circuit and will be commercially available in 2024. In one or two cases, I’m deliberately delaying the inclusion of a movie or two until next year. There’s more than enough to contend with as is!

Again with the monotonous exclamation point. I never thought I would see the day or write the punctuation mark.

10. “May December”: Dueling, intertwined portraits of damaged and damaging women, with extraordinary tonal range and superb work by Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore. Directed by Todd Haynes.

9. “Oppenheimer”: It’s a real feat of clever showmanship in the service of moral complexity that’s almost off-putting to a fault, but legitimately sticky and eternally disturbing. Film written and directed by Christopher Nolan.

8. “The Wonderful Story of Sugar Henry”, “The Mouse Catcher”, “The Swan” and “Poison”: Wes Anderson has achieved a nearly perfect 90-minute experience by adapting four Roald Dahl stories for Netflix. Comparisons are cheap but I prefer this project to Anderson’s “Asteroid City” Even if I’m still singing “Dear Alien (The One in Heaven).”

7. “Return to Seoul”: A Korean-born traveler returns to Seoul three different times in his life to find his long-buried origin story. This continues in mysterious ways. Film written and directed by Davy Chou.

6: “Area of ​​Interest”: Writer-director Jonathan Glazer’s razor-sharp execution of sustained and brutal irony, using only the grim Auschwitz setting of Martin Amis’s novel, is unlike anything else on the subject, or even close to it. It premieres in Chicago on January 12.

Starring: Rachel McAdams as Barbara Simon, Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret Simon, and Benny Safdie as Herb Simon. "Are you there God?

5. “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.”: Judy Blume’s ever-fascinating, bestselling book gets the movie version it deserves, even if it doesn’t impress audiences. Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, it’s full of great work from everyone, none better than Rachel McAdams.

4. “Barbie”: Director/co-writer Greta Gerwig takes Mattel on an existential quest that’s funny at first, thoughtful and poignant when necessary. This probably wasn’t what the toy company wanted until the money came in. But Gerwig wanted it and so did we.

3. “Killers of the Flower Moon”: Martin Scorsese’s wistful elegy is an Old West gangster movie about American might, the right and virulent racism. Although it didn’t delve deeply enough into the lives of the Osage Nation characters, this was a near-miss that was rescued and elevated by late-stage rewrites. It will last a long time.

A scene of Margot Robbie "Barbie."

2. “Boy”: In a time of constant war, filmmaker Yahav Winner’s singular 25-minute portrait of life in the home of a dismembered Israeli soldier killed in the October 7 Hamas massacre has no interest in anti-Palestinian propaganda. It is broadcast on YouTube.

one. “Past Lives”: Expanding chronologically, “Brief Encounter” follows a Korean woman (Greta Lee) as she reconnects with her childhood friend (Teo Yoo) in New York. It was written and directed by Celine Song with a brilliant eye for observation.

Greta Lee (right) and Teo Yoo in a scene "Past Lives."

Top 11-20, In alphabetical order: “All Dirt Roads Taste Like Salt”; “Fair play”; “Four Girls”; “I am a Virgo” Amazon mini-series; “In Rear View”; “Poor Things”; “Royal Hotel”; “Showing”; “One Thousand and One”; “Unknown Country.”

List of vagabonds in alphabetical order:

Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.

mjphillips@chicagotribune.com

excitement @phillipstribune



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