Drama Movies of 2023
A German production, All Quiet on the Western Front re-adapts the 1928 novel of the same name, adding some distinctive scenes and commentary to the story of a young German man, and his friends, thrust onto the “Western Front” to fight the French in the final months of World War I. Accompanied by some stunning cinematography, dominating sound and music, and visceral visual effects, the film reaches new heights in presenting the horror of war. It also adds another, very important message about how events are felt differently depending on where you stand on the social ladder.
Argentina 1985 is a docudrama telling the story of the world’s first civilian trial of a military dictatorship. It is a courtroom drama lightened with humor and stories of families. A good film, but maybe a bit difficult to absorb. (3.5*)
Babylon has some great moments, but is ultimately an overstuffed mess.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever starts with the death of the former Black Panther and moves through nearly three hours of sometimes beautiful, sometimes action packed, scenes but with so many obligations to fulfill that it is ultimately unsatisfying.
Elvis (4.5*) In a dazzling production full of sights and sounds, Baz Luhrmann paints the tragic story of a man who struggled to get back to his cultural roots.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a superb example of stop-motion animation, but it falls short as a musical and doesn’t tell a story most audiences will enjoy. (2.5*)
Living is a remake of a 70-year-old Japanese film with the setting changed to London. The story is a classic, about a man who, told he only has six months to live, suddenly decides to do something different with his life. Nighy’s acting is “spot on”, and the film is a tearjerker, but ultimately it doesn’t present anything new.
Tar is movie requiring much patience and concentration, but the rewards are unique. About a female who achieves the top position in the classical music world and then falls, it is also about power, individualism, and, yes, cancel culture. My first (5*) movie of the year.
Set during the Irish Civil War in 1923, in a very small village on an isolated island (Inisherin) off the coast of Ireland, Padraic (Colin Farrell) finds his lifelong friendship is torn when his older best friend, Colm (Brendan Gleeson) suddenly, and without apparent reason, finds him “dull” and no longer wants to be with him. The change alters both men, and the entire village, both emotionally and physically. Martin McDonagh’s carefully written and directed script is executed by an Irish-born cast with seemingly perfect chemistry. A must-see film for any adult interested in how and why relationships, of any kind, change and, sometimes, end. (4.5*) The Banshees of Inisherin
The Batman is one of this year’s best movies. While nominally an action film, it also is thrilling detective story, told at a human level.
The Fabelmans is a well crafted movie focusing on the roots of Steven Spielberg’s remarkably successful career. Still, it might not be for everyone. (4*)
The Quiet Girl is quite possibly the best movie of the year. (5*)
The Whale pulls heartstrings as you navigate a week with a morbidly obese man. The movie explores themes of addiction, relationships, literature, and spirituality with an unexpectedly good performance from Brendan Fraser. (4*)
Top Gun: Maverick is this year’s most popular movie. It tells a relatively simple story well, bursting with visual and aural excitement. First of this year’s “popcorn movies” and worth every kernel. (4*)
Triangle of Sadness starts as an interesting riff on money and sexual politics, turns into a disgusting display of sophomore humor, and ends as an insult to the audience. How did this become an Oscar nominee? (1.5*)