Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Best of 2023: Number One

I came out of my first viewing of Poor Things feeling much like its heroine, Bella. I wanted more of it and as soon as possible. I had to wait a few weeks for that second helping, and it confirmed what I had suspected, that this was my favorite movie of the year.

I mean, the movie is almost a Stefon worthy collections of things I love! Slapstick comedy; Emma Stone; huge sleeves on dresses; retro-futuristic cityscapes; Mark Ruffalo; a BULLDOG GOOSE.

There really is too much visual spender in the movie to catch in a single viewing, and I also found a second viewing really helped me appreciate Emma Stone's tour de force performance as Bella Baxter. Just what Bella is, is laid out slowly in the film, by watching it a second time, with that full knowledge, I was able to really understand just what she was playing, and it's simply brilliant.

My favorite take, which I read on Letterboxd, is Poor Things is Barbie, if Weird Barbie were the lead. And indeed the films do offer similar journeys of self-discovery for its two leading ladies, though Poor Things is in no way for kids; if I have any complaint about it, it's that there is maybe, just a little too much sex. Although, I think that ultimately works well to illustrate the journey Bella is on. Like all good things, too much can actually lead to displeasure.

And because this post has been delayed way too long I'll end with three more things that made me love Poor Things.

- That Bella, who for the first part of the movie is essentially a toddler, dresses how a toddler would dress herself, with no regard to what is "right," but only what she likes. And if that means a huge frilly top, tap pants, and boots, so be it.

-  When Bella is annoyed by crying at a table next to her and says,  "I must go punch that baby."

- When Max (Ramy Youssef) does not get angry about Bella's stint at a Parisian brothel and instead says, "It is your body, Bella Baxter, yours to give freely." I know it's kind of an obvious line, but it absolutely made me tear up.

And with that said, let me end with some of the films that did not make my top five, but would definitely be in my top ten:

The Zone of Interest


The Taste of Things 


Past Lives

Friday, January 5, 2024

Best of 2023: Number Two

I braved the almost three and half hour running time of Killers of the Flower in a theater, and I will say, I was never bored; didn't even take a bathroom break. And that's coming from someone whose chief complaint about movies these days is they're too damn long. But Killers of the Flower Moon almost didn't feel long enough. I could have watched Scorsese align the crimes committed by these early twentieth century white men with crimes committed by his later twentieth century white men for two more hours. At least!

By making changes to the structure of the story, versus how the story is relayed in the book, he turns it into a classic Scorsese set-up. It is no longer a whoddunit. It is a "these assholes did it" story, and that makes it all the more horrifying and heartbreaking, especially in the context of the central "love story" between Mollie (Lily Gladstone) and Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio). How could he do what he does to her? But then again, how could we do what we did to the natives of this continent?

Lily Gladsstone's Mollie is the heart of the film, and her performance is so luminous, the film would not be as good without her. And that comes back to my wanting even more of it, and especially her.

I know there have been some complaints about how this story perhaps should not have been told by a white man, and how the story centers more on the whites, and not the Osage. I get that. But Scorsese is also our greatest living filmmaker, and his making this movie means that many, many more people will now learn about this horrible history.

If I have any complaint about the film it's that the Ernest character is so evil, and so dumb. It was at times difficult to watch that for over three hours. And Scorsese is no stranger to centering his films on dumb, bad men! But in all of those other films, I've found something to identify with, or sympathize with, or even root for. But not here. Ernest's crimes, this nation's crimes, are just too horrible.

Killers of the Flower Moon will begin streaming on Apple TV+ on January 12th.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Best of 2023: Number Three

I'm someone who cries at the movies a lot, but I'm also someone who can be pretty cynical when it comes to films that are manipulative tearjerkers. But every now and then, a movie can be both manipulative and feel completely heartfelt, and All of Us Strangers is one of those movies.

I mean, it centers on a lonely man who reconnects with his parents....who died when he was twelve. Like, "pause for audience tears" can basically be written into a script with a concept like that! Add to that a burgeoning romance with a slightly mysterious neighbor, and the fact they these two men are played by Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, two actors who just ooze charisma and soulfullnes, and you've got a movie that earns its tears.

I'll also have to admit one other factor that contributed to my absolutely dissolving into a teary mess at the film's end, and that's the use of a song I listened to obsessively when it came out in 1984; "The Power of Love" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. (Side note: I do NOT remember them--the band behind "Relax"!--releasing a Birth of Jesus-themed video for the song! That's a plot twist!) Hearing that song during the film's finale brought up a TON of feels, and I was an absolute sobbing mess. I didn't think I'd ever emotionally recover from it.

And then a week later I just had to watch the movie again. That says it all.

All of Us Strangers is currently playing in theaters.