Sunday, December 31, 2023

Best of 2023: Number Four

Promising Young Woman was my favorite movie of 2020, so I've been looking forward to Emerald Fennell's follow-up since then. When I heard Saltburn referred to as a kind of Brideshead Revisited and Talented Mr. Ripley mash-up, I knew, if nothing else, it would at least hit the aesthetically pleasing mark.

I was pleased to find it was more than that, although I feel like there's been some backlash against it of late, accusing it of being shallow or meaningless. I don't agree that its either of those things, but also think had it been made by anyone else, it wouldn't be getting that type of criticism. 

Saltburn has plenty to say about class, and yearning, both for a lifestyle and for people who will never have you. And man, does Fennell get the yearning part down; Jacob Elordi and Barry Keoghan have never looked more beautiful than they do in this film. I definitely had my moments of yearning watching them.

I'll say the movie also benefited a lot from seeing it in a crowded theater, as there are some moments in it, and if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about, that elicit such a comedic variety of reactions you don't usually hear unless you're watching a horror movie.

Saltburn isn't perfect, and I can't really argue with those who may issue with it's ending, though to me it works beautifully. I think the ultimate aim of the film is just pleasure and fun, and there's nothing wrong with that. As long as you aren't killing to get it.

Saltburn is currently streaming on Prime Video.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Best of 2023: Number Five

I'm always a little trepidatious about creating top ten or even top five lists every year, because I'm always certain there's some movie out there I haven't gotten a chance to see that could very well turn out to be my favorite when I finally do get to see it, one, two, or three years from now. But I have to say, I've done a pretty good job of seeing as much as I could in the past two months (over 60 films, if we're counting) so I am fairly confident that I can narrow it down to at least five.

5. May December and Priscilla

OK, I lied, it's really a top six, because I just couldn't decide between these two as my number five.

I saw Priscilla early in the "awards season," so while other movies definitely demoted it, it was still a movie that lingered with me for a long time. It's not a traditional biopic, and I can see how that might annoy some, especially when you compare it to last year's manic Elvis, which I did not like at all. In fact, I'd say Priscilla is the antidote to that headache inducing movie. It's a calm, introspective look at a period of time in one woman's life, from her point of view. And yes, Jacob Elordi, is too tall (I think this worked visually because it emphasized just how young Priscilla was when they met), and the period details are not entirely accurate (the heels are just all wrong), and you aren't going to learn a lot about either of them (if you're an Elvis fan, you already know everything, and if you aren't, Wikipedia is your friend).

But none of that ruined the movie for me. Priscilla is about memories, and teenage dreams, and adult realizations. It's another Sofia Coppola movie about sad girls in pretty rooms, and I am here for it.

I've watched all of my top movies more than once, but May December is one I watched again almost immediately, because once it ends, you kind of realize you've been watching a different kind of movie all along. I've dubbed it "the year's best camp melodrama horror comedy," because it's all those things, and maybe even more. (Let's not forget thinly disguised true crime drama!) 

Julianne Moore and composer Marcelo Zarvos both deserve an Oscar for the combined genius that is the "I don't think we have enough hot dogs" moment at the beginning of the film. Charles Melton definitely deserves one for his heartbreaking performance as a man who's slowly realizing he may be married to a monster. And Natalie Portman deserves one for that ending, which lets the audience realize she's....not as great of an actress as she thinks she is. It's an ending that really caught me off guard the first viewing, but then I heard more than one person compare it to the ending of Tár, and it all made sense. 

And while we're giving out Oscars, or at least nominations, give Todd Haynes one too (can you believe he hasn't been nominated for Best Director yet?), and definitely give one to screenwriter Samy Burch, for one of the best debut screenplays I've ever read.

Priscilla is currently available to rent, and May December is streaming on Netflix.