2023 Movie Diary

By Published On: December 20th, 2023Categories: Capitol Notes, Poozer Pop Culture

My movie consumption more than doubled this year, as I made more trips in 2023 to see films on the big screen, explored the catalogues of directors with new works, and was willing to sacrifice a night of television.

This year in movies will be remembered – by me and many others – for the cinematic experiences in the theater, most notably Stop Making Sense, Barbie, Killers of the Flower Moon, Oppenheimer, and another Mission: Impossible installment. There was also the fun of laughing with strangers to Joy Ride and Bottoms or getting an intimate story like Past Lives blown up on a big screen.

This year was also notable for the dearth of quality live-action comic book flicks, star-driven movies getting kicked to 2024, and consuming high-class films on streaming services.

But enough chit chat, let’s get to my movie diary for 2023.

My 10 Favorites!

 Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (2023) – A heartwarming coming-of-age story and family drama that has the right balance of sweetness, humor and emotional stakes, with strong performances from Rachel McAdams and Abby Ryder Fortson.

Joy Ride (2023) – A constant barrage of filthy humor that blends elements of Superbad and The Hangover to create the best comedy that I’ve seen in theaters in about a decade.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning: Part 1 (2023) – This reliable action series continues to deliver creative, fun, and sometimes shocking set pieces, while also getting new energy from Hayley Atwell. At points you can feel the 163-minute run time, but the climax delivers a strong finish.

Spiderman: Across the Spider-Verse (2023) – What is nominally a kid’s cartoon packs some of the most emotional, funny, and visually engaging storytelling of the year.

 Past Lives (2023) – A soulful and sweet drama about the choices we make in life, which challenges cliched narratives about the “one true love” and has a beautifully poignant ending.

You Hurt My Feelings (2023) – Writer/Director Nicole Holofcener may be the best at delivering grounded portrayals of real people and their relationships, which also sound like a genuine slice of life. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tobias Menzies are absolutely mesmerizing as a husband and wife that make you question whether you loathe or love them.

Stop Making Sense (1983) – My first-time dancing and singing in a movie theater. The music and filming are still captivating 40 years later.

Nightcrawler (2014) – A non-stop, butt-on-the-edge-of-your-seat ride featuring Jake Gyllenhaal as an unscrupulous entrepreneur who dives head first into freelance television news and culminates with an amazing car chase.

 The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) – A meta comedy that is more charming, self-aware, and fun than you might expect. It also figured out how to make me cry at the end.

Triple Frontier (2019) – A potentially banal action film that reaches epic heights because of an all-star ensemble, moody set pieces, and perfectly executed story tropes.

The Next 10

Priscilla (2023) – A biopic that defies expectations by being a horror film (and not too long).

Dream Scenario (2023) – A sharp and inventive satire that turns the cringe comedy up to 11 at points.  Nicolas Cage is perfect as the hapless protagonist.

Shiva Baby (2021) – A very specific and intimate world is created with a story that is simultaneously sweet, sour, and packed with laughs.

Triangle of Sadness (2022) – An enjoyable skewering of class that is a more grounded companion to The Menu.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) – A funny fantasy movie that artfully deploys handsome Chris Pine and is visually surprising.

The Killer (2023) – A compact adventure that is surprisingly funny in retrospect and offers an appealing look at how a hitman gets from point A to B.

Wind River (2017) – I had to pause the movie and collect myself after the climactic gut punch of this dark, tense, and somewhat hokey crime drama. dark.

Boiling Point (2021) – It wasn’t until a third of the way through this stressful, workplace drama that I realized it was being shot in a continuous take. one shot.

Bottoms (2023)- A spoof of high school dramedies that uses violence to great comedic effect.

Blackberry (2023) – As opposed to the corporate promotion of some movies, it’s clear who and what the villains are in this smartphone origin story.  Regardless, I will watch bald Glenn Howerton yell all day long.

The Bombs!

Amsterdam (2022) – After 20 minutes, I had to stop watching this movie, which I had been really anticipating. Something spoiled was thrown into this star-studded ensemble.

White Noise (2022) – This heavily-stylized film offers heavy-handed commentary on everything from A to Z and is entertaining for about 20 minutes. Started to fall asleep three-quarters of the way into the journey and decided not to finish the movie.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) – Some initial fun, nostalgia for the series, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge are wasted in pursuit of a story that is too long, visually uninteresting, fails when it tries to be emotional, and features irrational decision making. So much squandered potential.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2023) – The most unintentionally funny movie I’ve ever seen. A complete waste of a maniacal Viola Davis and hilarious Jason Schwartzman.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023) – A disappointing comic book sequel with a mostly predictable plot, humor that largely falls flat, and uninteresting CGI.

 And the rest…

Glass Onion (2022) – This puzzle-box movie has a fun setup and Daniel Craig is delightful, but the film’s twist and second half aren’t satisfying. It may be a crowd pleaser, but it lacks the heft and emotional stakes of Knives Out.

Ingrid Goes West (2017) – Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen slip seamlessly into two of the archetypes from our social media obsessed world in a dark dark comedy that is awkward, depressing and too close to home.

Emily the Criminal (2022) – An enjoyable crime thriller based on the millennial life experience that escalate dramatically with the climax, but it never feels as high-stakes as it wants to be.

Enemy (2013) – This quiet, psychological drama features interesting performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, but ultimately the movie was more premise and less delivery for me.

Black Adam (2022) – A surprisingly enjoyable entry into the DC film universe that avoids most origin story problems, but is plagued by some corny storytelling and boring action.

Argentina, 1985 (2022) – A courtroom/period drama that scratches that feel good, underdog story itch.

Save Yourselves! (2020) – An engaging premise about millennials disconnecting from technology amid an alien invasion ultimately fizzles out at the halfway mark.

Neighbors * (2014) – This college/family comedy keeps its foot on the gas for the entire ride and is a perfect vehicle for Zac Effron and Rose Byrne.

Tár (2022) – Cate Blanchett is dynamite in a fall from grace, but the movie was too artsy for me.

Bros (2022) – A pleasant enough hang, but there aren’t many laughs for a movie that’s supposed to be comedy.

The Fablemans (2022) – The trip down memory lane with Steven Spielberg is the most enjoyable when you’re following his young avatar making movies, as I had little interest in following the film’s parental figures.

Armageddon Time (2022) – A heartbreaking coming-of-age story that pops when Anthony Hopkins is on the screen.

Air (2023) – A light and fun hangout in the spirit of Moneyball, but lacks the same gravitas and procedural elements.

Ant Man & the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) – Marvel has completely abandoned what made this series work – low stakes charm – in exchange for an unsatisfying attempt at a sprawling narrative that feels claustrophobic and is mostly uninteresting. Ultimately, it’s fine.

Luther: The Fallen Sun (2023) – The joy of Idris Elba’s Luther donning his signature doesn’t outweigh this film’s undercooked plot.

American Hustle * (2013) – A combination of star power and escalating cons produce enough rewatchable scenes to overcome a narrative that doesn’t work at times.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery * (1997) – The jokes in this comedy land no matter how many times you’ve heard them. This spoof has a fantastic, up-and-coming cast and has almost no dead time.

This is the End * (2013) – Your expectations are always challenged in this filthy, gross-out comedy that will have you repeating NSFW quotes for weeks.

Asteroid City (2023) – A fun, funny, and fast-paced trip into a familiar looking Wes Anderson world.

Rushmore * (1999) – It’s a trip to see the early development of a filmmaker’s style, and wonder if this type of grounded storytelling is still within his reach.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade * (1989) – A fast-paced adventure that makes great use of Sean Connery off of Harrison Ford, but is dated at parts and has a villain problem.

A Most Violent Year (2014) – This pressure cooker has a moody, Lady MacBeth vibe, but not enough of the world is fleshed out.

Mission: Impossible II *(2000) – This compact movie feels like a time capsule, with its grounded set pieces, Y2K era tech, and John Woo choreography. The concept of a rogue agent turned villain is a classic, but the execution fails.

Mission: Impossible III(2006) – Phillip Seymour Hoffman brings a level of gravitas and tenacity to an emotional and refreshing action ride that might be my favorite installment of the series.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol * (2011) – After an explosive opening with Josh Holloway, the movie is basically just a collection of good action set pieces.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation * (2015) – Rebecca Ferguson and Christopher McQuarrie breathe new energy into this reliable action series.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout * (2018) – Henry Cavill is a fun, mustache-twirling antagonist for Tom Cruise in this enjoyable sixth installment, which has varying levels of successfully delivered emotional stakes.

Oppenheimer (2023) – A visual feast that is always captivating that feels like a collection of disparate chapters.

They cloned Tyrone (2023) – A modern take on the blaxploitation genre that features fun supporting turns from Jamie Foxx and Teyonah Parris.

Talk to Me (2023) – The Euphoria generation gets its own horror movie.

Dreamin’ Wild (2022) – A quiet family drama that ultimately feels like one note and doesn’t explore the most compelling story elements, such as the character portrayed by Walton Goggins.

Guardian of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 (2023) – Another pleasant installment in one of the most consistent Marvel properties. It also provides a sense of finality and transition, with meaningful emotion.

The Five-Year Engagement – A predictable narrative for a rom-com and blah performance from Jason Segel get elevated by Emily Blunt and a strong supporting cast getting wacky.

Barbie (2023) – A charming, funny satire that speaks to millennial men and women. The movie is less successful when it enters the real world.

The Flash (2023) – A favorite comic storyline of mine and the great Michael Keaton are wasted in a movie that doesn’t look very good, has tonal inconsistencies, and frustrating plot choices.

The Drop (2014) – A fun turn for James Gandolfini in a movie that generally feel like a CBS procedural, as opposed to a lived in crime drama.

Whiplash * (2014) – An addictive cat-and-mouse thriller that in retrospect is a horror film with J.K. Simmons as the ultimate monster.

Game Night (2018) – Rachel McAdams and Jesse Plemons are hilarious in this comedy/action hybrid that has engaging set pieces and fun twists.

Theater Camp (2023) – An immersive mockumentary that – while more rewarding for former theater kids – is consistently charming and ends strong. My favorite scenes are with Ayo Edebiri and least favorite feature Ben Platt.

All the President’s Men * (1976) – The movie star performances and cinematography have aged well after nearly five decades, but the pacing has not.

Casino (1995) – It’s extremely watchable, but the movie is repetitive at points, relies too much on narration and feels too violent.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) – A good road movie that offers a strong female point of view. Some of the dramatic and comedic elements feel dated. I can’t believe this spawned a long-running sitcom.

Vacation *(1983) – If you’re able to put aside how poorly some of the humor has aged in 40 years, you can marvel at the physical comedy and line deliveries of Chevy Chase.

The Wolf of Wall Street *(2013) – Despite a run time of three hours, this movie feels like being shot out of a cannon.

The Batman *(2022) – On a second viewing the movie feels too long, but the mood created by the cinematography and score kept me engaged.

Mean Streets (1973) – Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel jump off the screen in what feels like a documentary at times.

Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) – The movie looks great, elevates a story in a way that hasn’t been seen before, and has an interesting coda. The entire project would have been better as a miniseries and should have been trimmed down for the theater.

Lost City of Z (2016) – A sweeping, fast-paced epic that follows a traditional narrative about a man’s obsession and his inevitable downfall.

No Hard Feelings (2023) – An overly sentimental comedy that is at its best when it is at its raunchiest and Jennifer Lawrence is turned up to 100.

In the Line of Fire * (1993) – A taught thriller that expertly plays familiar notes with familiar faces.

The Big Lebowski (1998) – This Coen brothers cult hit was funnier than I expected, but the trippy elements didn’t connect with me and left me wanting a Burn After Reading palette cleanser.

The Burial (2023) – A throwback to the melodramatic legal procedurals of the 90s and features a magnetic performance  from Jamie Foxx.

Batman: The Doom that came to Gotham (2023) – A Lovecraft spin on a traditional comic book story that really works.

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018) – A serial killer hunt that artfully uses a turn-of-the-century setting and an impending world’s fair.

The Firm * (1993) – Not all 154 minutes of this legal thriller are thrilling, but the movie is a reminder of why Tom Cruise and Holly Hunter were stars.

Midnight Run (1988) – Why can’t Hollywood make more movies like this nonsensical, fun road trip that – despite the life or death stakes – never feels to serious and is constantly a good hang?

Nyad (2023) – A new spin on a cliched sports film that features a winning performance from Jodie Foster.

The Hunger Games * (2012) – This YA adaptation is longer than it needs to be, but the ensemble – even Josh Hutcherson – is better than they need to be and Jennifer Lawrence pops.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire * (2013) – A creative spin on an amped up version of the first movie.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 * (2014) – Not much plot here, as you can feel the decision to split this book into two movies.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 * (2015) – The horror elements and political intrigue work well in a final installment that doesn’t know when to end and is overly complicated.

Love Actually * (2003) – There are too many plotlines in this Christmas comedy that has not aged well in two decades. With that caveat, though, it really hits when the movie hits.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2022) – If you ever wondered what it would be like to see an unlikable, environmentally-conscious version of the gang from Ocean’s Eleven pull off a heist, this movie is for you.

Interstellar * (2014) – This movie was better than I remembered and looked surprisingly good on an airplane monitor. The ending (and plot device to get there) is way too corny.

A Christmas Story * (1983) – This is probably my favorite Christmas movie and a genuinely funny film because of the performances by the adults.

It’s a Wonderful Life * (1946) – On the millionth rewatch, I’m mostly struck by George Bailey’s ability to treat people like crap. I still cried at the end.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – I’m a little late to this party and I think the magic passed me by, as I only really enjoyed the set piece in Christmas Town and didn’t connect with the rest of the movie.

Unfinished business: Maestro, Leave the World Behind, May December

*A rewatch