Sunday, January 14, 2024

Beta's Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2023

Today marks fourteen years since my first bog post on Beta is Dead. As has been the custom, I will celebrate by sharing my To Ten Movie list of the past year, in this case 2023.

As usual, take in mind that this is my personal list of favorite movies, not an objective “Top Films of the Year” list, since I didn’t watch every single movie. This is just my personal opinion and, frankly, I’d be interested to hear your favorite movies of the year in the comment section.

Some quick notes about some honorable mentions: I really enjoyed The Marvels and Blue Beetle (especially Blue Beetle) but neither appears on the list because there were just way too many better flicks this year. I still want to make a special note that they were both good and should have done better at the Box Office. Also, Barbie just barely got edged off of the list, and I struggled with this quite a bit. I think it was great, and on any other year it would have made it on here easily. However don’t be surprised if you see the other half of Barbenheimer shortly.

Full Top Ten after the jump.

#10: The Holdovers

If you didn't hate rich folks before, just wait...

I don’t want to call this a surprise, because Paul Giamatti always turns in great performances, Alexander Payne is a very solid director, and the trailer was exactly the right kind to draw me in, so let’s instead say “I was surprised by how much I was charmed by the heartwarming story about a bitter old teacher and his equally bitter young student.” Full of interesting story turns, this somber yet sweet film hit most of the right notes for me. And hey, it’s a Christmas movie for the most part, so perhaps this is a good pick for a future holiday classic to put on annually?

4 out 5 Adorable Pandas

#9: Creed III

Creed III: We Don't Need Rocky Anymore

The elephant in the room here is that Jonathan Majors had a tremendous acting year only to lose everything in a frustrating fall from  grace where he is currently reaping what he sowed. Doing our best to ignore that, Creed III is interesting because it’s not only the first Rocky film to not involve Rocky or Sylvester Stallone but it is also the directorial debut of Michael B. Jordan…and it’s great. Jordan has a really intriguing visually style that I’ve never seen in a boxing movie before (or should I saw “live-action boxing movie) and being able to balance his duties behind the camera and being the lead was rather impressive. The story is great, the fights are great, this is probably Jordan’s best performance as Donnie, Majors delivers a fantastic performance, and not only do you not miss Rocky, we’re not getting to the point where the Creed movies are just flat-out better than the previous franchise (the first Rocky notwithstanding). If they stopped making these flicks this would be a good way to go out, but I hope Jordan doesn’t stop directing movies regardless.

4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

#8: Past Lives

Can we all agree to stop saying "Birthday Baby" now?

Having reviewed this movie earlier this year, I don’t have much to add here. Despite being a very specific cultural story, I found myself relating to this flick quite heavily, as even though most of us are not Canadian immigrants or Korean, we can all relate to the idea of wondering what the road not taken would be like, and some of us know what’s like when the road not taken suddenly creeps into your current life. Aside form that, Greta Lee turns in the type of performance that should embarrass all of us for not making her a bigger deal in Hollywood, as she is goddamned good in this movie. A great, bittersweet film, marred only by how much I hate that pencil neck wimp Arthur. Grow a f**king spine, you dork!

4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas (Review)

#7: Dungeons & Dragons - Honor Among Thieves

If this movie had been a hit it would have solved Climate Change

My biggest frustration in film this year had to be without a doubt that Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves bombed at the Box Office and likely will never have any follow-ups, despite being the best D&D film by a damn mile and also the huge success of Baldur’s Gate 3 this year cementing that D&D is a viable product outside the tabletop game. Regardless of how few people have any kindness or decency in their souls (if you didn’t watch this movie, I’m unsure if you’re a good person), this movie was still a fun blast. Very funny, it felt like a good presentation of a D&D game, including all the dicking around. Clearly a film that was inspired by the Guardians of the Galaxy formula, but it did it well so I can’t complain. I can, however, complain about all you ghouls who didn’t watch it in theaters. I dare you to watch it now, you fiends!

4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas (Review)

#6: M3gan

The real villain here is lazy parenting
...and also the killer robot doll, I guess

If you are a long time reader of this blog, you’ll recall that I’m not a big horror guy and therefore it’s rare that scary movies find their way on to my favorite movie list. However, there were a solid few month in 2023 where I was concerned that no movie would end up being more enjoyable than M3gan. While not a full-on horror parody, it’s a film that is pretty self-aware and leans into its own ridiculousness (including a scene where Megan bursts into a song for no damn reason and it was great). It was good writing and for the first time I found myself rooting for the “slasher.” I loved this movie and I was shocked by how much I dug it. Important note: I watched the theatrical PG-13 version, not the unrated cut, so I saw the much tamer film. If the Uncut version is a significantly different movie, or if the gore would have changed my enjoyment of the movie, it’s hard to say.

4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

#5: Spider-Man - Across the Spider-Verse

Spider-Punk: F**k the Spider-Verse


The sequel to the amazingly animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, “Across” is essentially more of the same. While that doesn’t make it a better movie, it does feature all the things I loved about the first one, introduces a ton of memorable new characters, has a legitimately different story from the first, and has surprisingly deep stakes. While there is nothing particularly bad about this film, I think the primary reason I say it comes up short of it’s predecessor is because this in an obvious “Part 1 of 2” situation and the story doesn’t feel complete. Still, with mind blowing animation and characters that you can’t help but fall in love with (i.e., Spider-Punk) this is absolutely one of the best sequels ever made.

Note: There were allegations of crunch and overall overworking of the animation staff during the production of the film, which the producers haven’t really denied. If true, it must be said that no matter how good this flick was, the cost was too high. I can only hope that the producers understand that it’s okay for “Beyond the Spider-Verse” to take longer to come out in order to maintain humane working conditions AND that the animators should unionize and f**k shit up over at Sony (and everywhere else).

5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas (Review)

#4: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

All good things come to an end

I struggled on where to place this and the next film, and I have shifted their positions several times. I’m unsure if GoG Vol. 3 is still going to be my #4 tomorrow, but this is where we’re at now. This movie is the culmination of what is easily the best trilogy of movies Marvel Studios has released. This is James Gunn’s swan song at Marvel, as it is for several of the cast members, and he is going out with a bang. The movie is a heartfelt flick that feels like it properly wraps up three films worth of storytelling, while also having the single most hateable (and easily top five) villain in the whole MCU. To me, GoG Vol. 3 is one of the best movies in the meta-franchise and the best superhero film of the year. I rank this movie up there with the likes of Black Panther and the Avengers. If we never see the Guardians of the Galaxy on screen again then this was the best way they could have gone out.

5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas (Review)

#3: Oppenheimer

It took all my strength to not put a "Barbenheimer" poster here

It’s hard to call this movie anything other than a “powerhouse”. This flick has some of the best acting you’ll see all year, especially from Robert Downey Jr. and Cillian Murphy, who gives a potentially career changing performance that may well make him a household name if he’s not careful. Honestly, this is the first Christopher Nolan movie I’ve enjoyed in YEARS. The writing is good but it’s really the acting that is the star of this show. It’s a pretty bad movie when it comes to the portrayal of women, the story seems to be pretty lenient on Oppenheimer’s gross womanizing, the movie slows down to crawl after the atomic test actually happens, and I think the people who have argued that it’s problematic to have a movie like this and not have any Japanese characters or viewpoints have a valid criticism. If you can look past those issues then this is easily one of the best movies of the year.

5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

#2: Godzilla Minus One

This film had the most effective and earned use of the theme song in the series

Jesus Christ, what can I saw about this movie? When it came out in theaters late in 2023 it completely wrecked my Top Ten list, coming out of nowhere to secure the top spot. Not every Godzilla movie has something to say (and, indeed, not every one of them is any good period), but when they do they tend to hit hard. Minus One is the closest thing we’ve gotten to a remake of the original movie and it has a lot of strong themes involving survivors’ guilt and government apathy towards its citizens. Oh, also it has one of the most terrifying portrayals of the Big G ever. I have never been so tense watching one of these films in my thirty years of watching Godzilla movies, nor have I have been so concerned with the main human’s storyline. In this movie I was 100% focused on KĊichi’s character and journey.

"WHAT'D YOU SAY 'BOUT MY MOMMA?!?!"

This movie is, simply put, almost perfect and I am so happy that it has been doing so well in American theaters. Not to say that I don’t like the Legendary Godzilla movies, but none of them come close to the quality of wiring, acting, and general feelings of dread that come out of Minus One.

5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

#1: Poor Things

It's like if Wes Anderson had a really weird sex dream...

And for a few weeks it felt like Godzilla Minus One would likely be the king of my Top Ten list, but then I went I saw Poor Things. I said Minus One was near perfect, but Poor Things is probably as perfect as a movie can get and what I would call a masterpiece. Everything about this movie works for me, and Emma Stone gives a performance of a lifetime. The movie somehow ends up being quirky, tense, grotesque, thought proving, ridiculous, and surreal all at once and never did it feel jarring or jumbled. That said, this is an extremely sexual film, and to be frank I’m not usually into that. But even my prudish butt was able to see past all the humping and even appreciate it in the context of the greater story being told. I cannot say enough good things about this movie but at that same time to I don't want to reveal too much, as it’s probably best to know as little as possible going into a viewing.

I've never mumbled "Yeah, I relate to that" so many times during one movie

I will briefly mention that Emma Stone’s character, Bella, is VERY autistic coded here and some people in the autism community have expressed frustration about her being viewed as a “quirky pixie”. I think that is a valid observation and complaint, but as someone who has Autism Spectrum Disorder I can say that it never bothered me and I rather loved Bella in the end. I can only speak for myself, however, and the community.

5 out of 5 Adorable Pandas

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