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Toto’s Best Movies of 2023

Alexander Payne's triumphant return a rare highlight in lackluster film year

Another year, another struggle to select enough movies worthy of a “Best of” list.

This critic found most of the critic-bait selections to be either merely good (“May December,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Priscilla,” “Poor Things” and “Oppenheimer”) or wildly overrated (“The Zone of Interest,” “Saltburn,” “The Iron Claw”).

The following films came closest to fulfilling the true meaning of the year’s “Best” films. 

“The Holdovers”

Welcome back, Alexander Payne.

The “Sideways” auteur hit a speed bump with 2017’s “Downsizing,” a terrible stab at a fascinating premise. He rebounded in a big way with “The Holdovers,” a bittersweet tale anchored by two great performances.

THE HOLDOVERS - Official Trailer [HD] - In Select Theaters October 27, Everywhere November 10

Paul Giamatti reigns supreme as a crusty teacher pushed out of his comfort zone during the holidays. He’s forced to stay on campus and watch over a wayward teen (Dominic Sessa), a challenging task given their emotional baggage. They’re joined by the school’s cook (Da’Vine Joy Randolph, sublime) who is processing the death of her son.

Smart, wise and winning, “The Holdovers” isn’t Payne’s best film, but it reminds us how good awards season movies can be. 

“Re-Opening”

The year’s best comedy (faint praise in the Age of Woke) came courtesy of Blaze Media. This gentle takedown of COVID-19 mania doubled as a spiritual sequel to “Waiting for Guffman.” A theatre troupe rallies to put on a show despite the most absurd pandemic precautions.

Hilarity ensues.

Really.

RE-OPENING | OFFICIAL TRAILER 2023

The film’s satirical swipes are spot on, but so is the look at folks whose Hollywood dreams never come close to reality. They carry on anyway, and that stirring truth gives “Re-Opening” its poignancy.

“Air”

Director Ben Affleck’s ode to Nike, Inc. doubles as a mash note to American capitalism. A deep cast (Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Tucker, Jason Bateman) recalls how the fledgling company snagged the biggest basketball star on the planet before he ever stepped foot on an NBA court.

Air - Official Trailer (2023) Ben Affleck, Matt Damon

We never see Michael Jordan’s face, but his presence looms large over this rigorously told story. So does the American dream, echoed by both Damon’s relentless salesman and Jordan’s mother, played with vigor by Viola Davis.

“The Fall of Minneapolis”

Alpha News reporter Liz Collin is the un-Michael Moore.

The Emmy-winner’s “The Fall of Minneapolis” doesn’t wallow in shoddy arguments and emotional pleas. It’s fact-based, rigorously researched and downright frightening.

Forget about Jason, Freddy or Art the Clown. The lies debunked in “Fall” proved scarier than all three combined.

TEASER: The Fall of Minneapolis

The film alleges that almost everything we were told about George Floyd’s death wasn’t true, from the events leading up to his passing to the case against the officers involved in that tragic confrontation.

The film debuted on Rumble, and that’s no accident. What streaming platform would dare share the facts uncovered by Collin and company?

That’s rhetorical.

“Good Boy”

Movies can make us laugh, think or question the world around us. Some, like this Norwegian import, are just flat-out hypnotic.

Good Boy Trailer #1 (2023)

A single woman starts dating a handsome stranger, but their bond gets short-circuited when she learns about his roommate. Her potential Prince Charming lives with a friend who dresses up like a dog 24/7. She decides to overlook his choice in pets and, suffice to say, regrets it.

“Good Boy” offers the single best shock of any film this year, and the screenplay’s quiet takedown of dating mores is similarly sly.

Yes, the ending requires a suspension of disbelief, but it rings frighteningly true to the rest of the story.

“M3GAN”

The year’s best horror film dipped a big, fat toe in the comedy genre. The smart thriller spoke to our A.I. fears without crumbling in the third act like too many good movies do these days.

Let’s not forget rising genre star Allison Williams, the “Get Out” alum who anchors the movie and proved Final Girl types can be flawed.

It’s not a surprise that the director of 2014’s “Housebound,” Gerard Johnstone, brought “M3GAN” to the big screen.

“GODZILLA MINUS ONE”

Believe the hype.

The cynic in me quipped it took nearly 70 years to get a great Godzilla movie. Sarcasm aside, “Godzilla Minus One” is everything you want in a story, plus a gargantuan lizard destroying whole cities for good measure.

The story echoes what made “Top Gun: Maverick” a sensation while serving up first-rate monster movie thrills.

11 Comments

  1. That seems like a very small list. How sad that they no longer make movies worth seeing. The only movie I saw from 2023 was The Sound of Freedom, everything else looked awful. From the way it sounds 2024 is going to be worse. Is there any hope for movies? Where are all the great new independent film makers? RIP Hollywood.

  2. Upon further review, I have a few more that I really enjoyed:

    John Wick 4
    Extraction 2
    Sisu barely missed – 2022, but really over the top.
    Police State was a good doc.
    I’ll watch Oppenheimer one of these days.

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