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  • Writer's picturezandaleeindigo

2023 Favorites

This year has been full of a lot of learning and introspection and there has been no better companion to encourage my growth than the media I engaged with. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:

2023 Releases

1.) Sanctuary dir. Zachary Wigon

An off-kilter, incredibly quirky romantic comedy between a wealthy nepo baby, played by Christopher Abbott, and the dominatrix he's been employing, played by Margaret Qualley. I went into the movie completely blind and was incredibly pleasantly surprised. The push and pull and ever shifting power dynamics throughout are incredibly engaging and exciting to watch. In the end, it's clear that the two have a symbiotic relationship and need each other to be fulfilled. It's a movie that has my all my favorite things, romance, a fun score, psycho-sexual mind games, and weird little guys.

2.) Past Lives dir. Celine Song

If you know me, it should be no surprise this is one of my favorite releases of the year. I'm a sucker for unrequited love, and this was made for all those people who long for someone they never had. After moving to the states from South Korea at a young age Nora, who is happily married to her American husband Arthur, reconnects with her childhood friend Hae Sung and feels torn. There's a quality to this film that is so simple and also so incredibly effective. I would argue a large percentage of the movie is spent witnessing shared glances between Nora and Hae Sung and I think the incredible performances from Greta Lee and Teo Yoo are the reason why the film works so well. I did indeed cry.

3.) Theater Camp dir. Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman

Theater camp is a movie that came out around the time I was a few months removed from college and knee deep in a serving job that was driving me crazy while I tried to figure out what was next. I was unhappy and unbeknownst to me, missing theatre dearly. It is maybe a perfect film, I wholeheartedly believe that. Featuring some of my personal favorite up and coming actors from some of my favorite shows (Ayo Edebiri from The Bear, Molly Gordon and Noah Galvin from Alice By Heart, and Jimmy Tatro from American Vandal) as well as showcasing some young talent through the campers. It also helps that the songs are so good and the numbers maybe deserve a Tony? Surprising absolutely no one, I cried at this one too.

4.) Killers of The Flower Moon dir. Martin Scorsese

There was actually a few big biopic films released this year, and while I've seen almost all of them (with the exception of Maestro) I think none were quite as effective as Killers. The adaptation of the novel documenting the murders of the Osage people in the 1920s, the film is brutal and unflinching and important. There's not much I can say about that hasn't already been said more effectively by someone better suited to speak than me, but it's a movie I haven't been able to stop thinking about since I saw it the first time. I encourage everyone to give it a watch.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Bottoms dir. Emma Seligman and Asteroid City dir. Wes Anderson which I wrote about here and here

  • Talk to Me dir. Michael and Danny Philippou

  • Rye Lane dir. Raine Allen-Miller

  • How to Blow Up a Pipeline dir. Daniel Goldhaber

  • They Cloned Tyrone dir. Juel Taylor

First Watches

1.) Before Sunrise (1995) / Before Sunset (2004) dir. Richard Linklater

I started my year with Before Sunrise and followed up with the sequel not long after. The concept of a fated romance always interests me (as I discussed in my post about Serendipity (2001)) and the idea of two strangers meeting and immediately having that spark appealed to me even more. I found myself really enjoying how human Jesse and Celine were. How easily the conversation flowed and the small ways they became intimate during their clandestine meetings, the small touches and glances said so much.

2.) Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012) dir. Lee Toland Krieger

I was not expecting to like this film as much as I did. It follows a divorcing couple Celeste, played by Rashida Jones, and Jesse, played by Andy Samberg, and it is absolutely devastating as the two grapple with the fact that they are each other's other half and what it means to no longer be together. The soundtrack is so distinct and aids in the storytelling so well and I felt personally attacked by the character of Celeste. Loved it.

3.) Mark, Mary, + Some Other People (2021) dir. Hannah Marks

Another movie that became an unexpected favorite of mine. It follows the relationship of Mark and Mary as the two decide to try opening their relationship to keep things alive. The narrative is messy and both characters end up being in the wrong at different points in the film but it's another movie that felt incredibly human to me and incredibly familiar (even though I've never really experienced any the characters grapple with). It has a unique style and voice though that I really appreciated.

4.) The Fly (1986) dir. David Cronenberg

I realized somewhere in mid 2023 that I have not seen nearly enough David Cronenberg movies to label myself a cinephile of any kind and I decided to rectify that. Slowly but surely, I'm making my way through his filmography and The Fly is such a stellar movie. Though most of you probably already know that. It's as much of a comedy as it is a horror film but it is also a romance, which I was unaware of. It goes in the same category as Poltergeist for me, where some of the strongest elements of the film are anchored in the main romance between our protagonists and all their connection can withstand. It poses interesting questions about beauty, aging, illness, and mental health. Cronenberg is a genius, but then again most of you already knew that.

5.) Interstellar (2014) dir. Christopher Nolan

It's actually absurd that it took me so long to watch this. I had heard this heralded as one of Christopher Nolan's best films and while I'm no Nolanite myself, it is probably my favorite from him I've seen so far. All I could say afterward was that I get it now, I really do. Love transcends time and space and that's an incredibly beautiful thing.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) dir. Anthony Minghella, which I wrote a bit about here

  • Love Jones (1997) dir. Theodore Witcher

  • The Color Purple (1985) dir. Steven Spielberg

  • The Woman King (2022) dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood

  • Once (2007) dir. John Carney

Usually I do these wrap ups via Instagram or Twitter but I think from now on I'll keep my thoughts over here so everything's more concise and accessible. I'm hoping in the new year to post a bit more often on this blog but, in the meantime I've also created a Substack for more personal, less polished posts. You can read my first piece about my favorite novel I read this year here. There is also a long form YouTube video (ala my Fleabag video) coming diving into the television show that dominated my year, One Tree Hill so keep an eye out for that as well.

As always, thank you all for reading and have a happy new year! <3

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Dec 31, 2023

Thanks for giving us a window into your mind—and time —for 2023! 🥰

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