Qt3 Movie Podcast: Top Ten Movies of 2023

I knew it was him since i was locked in to the movie before it came out. Nonetheless i felt exactly the same i was in disbelief the first 10 minutes that im watching the goof from Star Wars.

My Top Ten list is really strange:

10 - The Boy and the Heron
9 - No One Will Save You
8 - Saltburn
7 - Oppenheimer
6 - The Royal Hotel
5 - The Killer
4 - Killers of the Flower Moon
3 - Past Lives
2 - May December
1 - Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse

Boy, tracking movies on Letterboxd does make putting together a top 10 really easy, doesn’t it?

  1. Across the Spider-Verse (my only 5-star film of 2023)
  2. Past Lives
  3. Bottoms
  4. The Boy and the Heron
  5. Asteroid City
  6. Barbie
  7. The Holdovers
  8. Oppenheimer
  9. Nimona
  10. Wonka

Some other films I enjoyed this year: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Blackberry, Dumb Money, TMNT: Mutant Mayhem, and Flora and Son.

  1. Oppenheimer
  2. Poor Things
  3. Killers of the Flower Moon
  4. Beau is Afraid
  5. How to Blow Up a Pipeline
  6. When Evil Lurks
  7. Maestro
  8. Leave the World Behind
  9. Barbie
  10. The Iron Claw

Haven’t seen: Bottoms, The Holdovers, May December, Showing Up, or All of Us Strangers, which might otherwise place.

Out of interest how many 2023 films have you seen and have you seen the big blockbusters such as Barbenheimer? Apologies if this was covered in your 3.5 hour convo, I simply don’t have the time darling!

I’m thrilled happy to see you guys return!

An awesome year for films. My favorites were:

  1. Past Lives. The most beautiful experience at the movie theater in 2023 and with a story that resonates on a personal level. Greta Lee’s walk (if you know you know) is the kind of moment filmmakers dream of. ADORED THIS!
  2. The Beasts. Genuinely frightening in a way that no horror film has ever been for me. So much is communicated through little gestures and how people occupy space in a room and relate to each other. Simple strategies that instill terror.
  3. Afire. Christian Petzold doesn’t miss. I wish more movies were about guys who are this terrible when under pressure.
  4. Killers of the Flower Moon. An angry film that’s outside the national orthodoxy and deeply critical of American values. The film’s climatic distancing device is a signature Scorsese often uses but here it’s an effective capstone to not only his career but how tragedies are mediated and lose their power. Devastating.
  5. Monster. A beautiful return to form a modern Japanese master. An intricate structure that makes you reconsider everything you see and reassures that sweeping judgments are always partial and harmful.
  6. Return to Seoul. A complete surprise. The lead actress is killer.
  7. Fallen Leaves. The most upbeat film of Aki Kaurismaki’s career despite being the first movie I’ve seen to feature the Ukraine war. All the tropes of bleak working-class life are here but it’s genuinely tender in a way I love.
  8. The Holdovers. A sweet character study reminiscent of a less cynical Hal Ashby film.
  9. Anatomy of a Fall. Outstanding courtroom/ personal drama and the best use of 50 Cent ever.
  10. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Affecting and lovely.

I’d say I’d seen all but maybe three or four movies I’d meant to see by the time we recorded. We go over a lot of the ones we DID see that didn’t make our lists, but the big ones I was unable to discuss bc I hadn’t seen them were American Fiction and Poor Things. Also that Andrew Scott movie, All Us Strangers. But, yes, I saw Barbie and thirty minutes of Oppenheimer, so I’d say I’m covered on that front: as I mentioned on the podcast I bailed on Oppenheimer bc I’m not really interested in watching a movie about Cillian Murphy getting laid. : )

Oh, and Zone of Control! I need to see that! Not to mention all the stuff on some of you guys’ lists! Yow, o missed a lot more than I realized!

The director that I think Emerald Fennell resembles in terms of writing and directing is early Oliver Stone. Unsubtle, obvious, stylized, opinionated, unapologetically political, and able to get actors to swing for the fences. I admire her boldness, and I really liked Saltburn even though I really didn’t need the “let me explain the plot” sequence near the end. But as Tom said, that final sequence is chefs kiss.

I like this comparison a lot, but I’m going to hold out for whatever she does a third time before I sign on for your newsletter. : ) Oliver Stone eventually won me over for a movie or two, but I can’t imagine Emerald Fennell reaching that point. I mean, who wastes Carry Mulligan like that? Was there a cool Richard E. Grant moment that I’m forgetting? Barry Koeghan rising to Rosamund Pike’s flirtations was one of the hottest goddamn things I’ve seen onscreen all year, but why couldn’t it have been in a better movie?

But, yeah, that Oliver Stone comparison is a nice one. Fennell’s certainty and obvious confidence in what she’s doing – even when it falls flat for me – is admirable.

It was a strong year for movies, I feel. In no particular order, these are probably my top ten:

  1. They Cloned Tyrone. What a treat. This is the material Boyega deserves.
  2. Master Gardener. I was a little surprised to hear Tom’s memory slip in regards to First Reformed, in which the priest does indeed end up fucking Amanda Seyfried’s character — I recall Tom complaining about it on Twitter at the time — and which baffled an otherwise excellent movie. Of Schrader’s “Man in a Room” trilogy, I still preferred that one to The Card Counter, which was about post-9/11 torture more than anything to do with card counting. Imagine my relief that Master Gardener finally found the right character for all that philosophizing. Like some of his coworkers, I could sit and listen to Joel Edgerton talk about dirt for hours.
  3. How to Blow Up a Pipeline. Rougher than most of the films on this list, but it still does some very cool stuff in terms of character.
  4. Past Lives. A necessarily sleepy film that still packs a whole lifetime’s worth of What Ifs into a tight package. We’ve probably all “left someone behind,” so to speak. I can’t decide whether the ending is warm or devastating. Maybe it’s both.
  5. Beau Is Afraid. I cannot believe Ari Aster blew so much money on this thing. The entire movie is like an anxiety spiral, getting more and more absurd with each turn. Kelly is right: best sex scene of the year, but not for the reasons you’d assume going in.
  6. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. What a lovely surprise. My daughter (10yo) is enamored with this, which couldn’t make me prouder. Members of my family now bellow “FAT DRAGON!” at unexpected moments.
  7. The Holdovers. It’s unfair of Payne to insist that we can’t call this one “cozy.” It’s so cozy. Like a smothering blanket.
  8. Godzilla Minus One. Got this one in under the radar, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve never really understood kaiju cinema or Godzilla, apart from the basal apprehensions that everybody has absorbed over the decades. I even liked the ending. Like a sucker.
  9. Killers of the Flower Moon. I loved this movie for so many reasons. I lived for a couple of years on the Crow Reservation and have worked in indigenous education, so there’s a sensitive chord being struck. I’m one of those advocates of The Killer being about an absolutely unreliable narrator who bumbles from failure to failure; Killers of the Flower Moon is that writ on a national scale. More than that, even, but the national psyche. It positions DiCaprio as the white savior only to strip through his layers one after the other. Eventually, when a few literal white saviors show up, they unravel the easiest thread of the conspiracy and then move on. There are a few flaws — I wouldn’t have minded Scorsese explaining the conservatorship stuff better — but this trumps the book it’s adapted from, which was basically a polie procedural. What a devastating film.
  10. Poor Things. Best movie of the year. Hands down. No contest.

Runners-up, Comedy Category: Barbie, Bottoms, No Hard Feelings.
Runners-up, Action Category: Mutant Mayhem, Spider-Verse, John Wick 4, Mission Impossible: AI.

Favorite in-cinema moment of the year: The two sweet grandmas who went into Infinity Pool and were disgusted but stuck with it. Instead of walking out, they prowled up and down the aisles, muttering about every gross scene. At the end, they interrogated everybody around them, demanding to understand why any decent human would enjoy this movie. When I announced that I had loved it (some hyperbole on my part), they were mortified.

Most hated movie: It’s a toss-up between Napoleon for being utterly uninterested in one of the most interesting and documented people in European history or Saltburn. Okay, it’s Saltburn. Maybe because The Talented Mr. Ripley is one of my favorite films ever. Saltburn was beat-for-beat and character-for-character the same film, but stupider, more smitten with the rich, and with cummy bathtub water.

Wow, I can imagine! So I’m curious, given your personal experience … how did you feel about the perspective of the film, ie: that this is a story which, despite obvious attempts to include and empathize with the voices of the indigenous community in the creation of it, is coming from white male artists? Did you feel that the story was diminished due to that bias? Did it seem like it was intended to appeal to a “white gaze”, if you know what I mean?

One of the things I admired about KotFM was that it’s clearly a Scorsese film, but it tells a story from the perspective of the villains which in no way glorifies, celebrates, or endorses what they did. I didn’t think that was possible from the man whose portraits of criminals over the years have always contained an element of wish-fulfillment fantasy.


I got out to see ten movies in the theater this year, even encumbered with the task of child rearing. Most of the ones that made us make the effort were high on spectacle. Thanks to the fading miracles of streaming services, I was able to see eight more movies that came out this year from the comfort of home. There are plenty of movies out this year that I didn’t get around to yet, lowbrow and highbrow. Nevertheless, it’s list time: My favorite movies of 2023.

Twenty-23 and Me

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania*
Asteroid City*
Barbie *
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves*
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3*
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Killers of the Flower Moon
The Marvels*
Paw Patrol [2]: The Mighty Movie*
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse*
The Super Mario Bros. Movie
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Totally Killer

That’s only 18 movies, so it shouldn’t be too hard to make a top ten list out of that, right?

#1#3 Killers of the Flower Moon - Oppenheimer - Asteroid City

I’m glad I stayed up really late last night to watch Killers of the Flower Moon. I think there are aspects of these three movies that rhyme a little better than the Barbenheimer behemoth. I came out of Asteroid City thinking, “It’s about the Fifties! I think.” They’re all long and often complicated stories helmed by master directors that have something to do with the good sides and dark sides of America’s twentieth century, where fallible men travel from parts East to the lonesome and scenic stretches of the Southwest and become entangled. They come to enrich their bankbooks, or their uranium, or their knowledge of dimly understood larger worlds. There’s warmth and love and achievements mixed in there with death and regret and the weaknesses of men. Sometimes wit or raw intelligence doesn’t save a clever character from lying down in a pool of leeches. And maybe they (or we Americans in general) come away with an atomic bomb, or a federal bureau of investigations, or a death ray, but that doesn’t quite sum up what the movie was about. Sometime in the future, I’ll rewatch these, and if I was really ambitious, I’d watch 'em on the same day.

#4 Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

It’s a sequel that builds on the tall shoulders of its predecessor, and it’s another fantastic entry into the crowded multiverse subgenre. Across starts with the last movie’s premise, that anyone could wear the Spider-Man mask, and follows that up with, well, what if some of those anyones are real jerks? I don’t know if the creators of this movie (Lord/Miller and the actual directors and artists, and so on) were big fans of The Matrix Reloaded like I was, but this sequel, just like that Part Two, kept ratcheting up its spectacular tensions and revelations as the end of the movie must surely have been fast approaching, and then put a dogeared corner in the story. Well, I hope they pay their animators, let them have a nice long break, and then, with a slower pace, let them wrap up this fascinating story of heroisms and maybes.

#5#6 Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves - Barbie

The titanic battle between Hasbro and Mattel, the yin and yang of the toy industry, reverberated across movie screens this year. The source material for Barbie and D&D consists of plenty of cinematic predecessors better off forgotten, but it all sprang from lumps of plastic, fabric, cardboard, paper, and the overwhelming gush of imagination flowing from hordes of mundane children and children-at-heart. Polygon and Pygmalion – do the dice mean anything until they’re rolled and the game is played? Do the dolls have any point until they’re picked up, played with, hair braided or brushed, dressed, ears filled with whispered secrets and stories, and arranged on shelves or at tea party tables? And so in these movie versions of the game or toy, we travel to the fantastical lands of the Forgotten Realms™ or Malibu™, where we see what marvelous adventures our playthings might get into if they’re played with by coolly professional craftsmen and craftswomen. Honor Among Thieves doesn’t resemble my exact experiences at the gaming table (or more accurately, my shared hallucinations with my fellow players), and Barbie probably doesn’t match your rollicking adventures with Barbie and Friends and Accessories, but I loved the epic journeys these characters went on, and the prices they paid to get back to a rough sense of equilibrium.

(Also, if Ryan Gosling was nominated for Best Actor and Margot Robbie was ignored for Best Actress, that would almost be a better sign that, man, the Academy gets what’s going on with the story, better than if Robbie was (justly) nominated.)

#7 Reality

Hey, a “real” movie, no pun intended, not some franchise thing! Reality is the fascinating story about a pretty cool lady, and the petard she was idly working on at work one day, and how she unexpectedly found herself hoisted on her own petard. If there’s any flaw here, it’s that the main character has the most ludicrous name in cinema since Napoleon Dynamite.

#8#9 The Marvels - TMNT: Mutant Mayhem

I’m getting tired and these aren’t, like, contenders for the National Film Registry, but I liked them a bunch. Fun characters, fun locations, fun spectacle, family working as teams, teams loving each other as family. They measure up to the comics, shows, movies, RPGs, etc. that I enjoyed in the '80s or '90s or '10s. Once I see some more proper movies of 2023, who knows? These might get replaced.

#10 Paw Patrol [2]: The Mighty Movie

This should probably be swapped out with Nimona, except that the only thing about Nimona that I remember is that I really liked it. Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie is not a great movie. It didn’t even show up on the American or Canadian wiki lists of 2023 films, even though it outgrossed the TMNT movie. It’s disposable kiddie fare. The characterizations are the usual Paw Patrol barks of catchphrases. The plot is slickly xeroxed from the TV show, and the TV show’s “original” plot was pasting a Justice League template on their established toys, I mean, puppies that talk and drive complicated vehicles. The villainy is cardboard thin, and the bar was already set low with literally mustache-twirling baddies. The merchandising opportunities are why this movie was made.

And yet.

  1. To me, even with those caveats above, this sequel didn’t feel like such a nakedly mercenary cash-grab as the Super Mario Bros. Movie did.
  2. This was my little boy’s first movie in an actual movie theater. COVID and lots of physical challenges kept us from attending earlier in his life. He behaved himself, and he grinned and gasped and had a great time in the darkened theater. I hope he grows up loving going to the movies as much as I do.
  3. On the way out, we bumped into some friends who had brought their kids to the theater. “Oh, you’re seeing the Paw Patrol sequel? We just saw that! Yes, he had a great time. And we did too!” It was that happy meeting that reminded me of those silly and increasingly dated AMC Theater commercials with Nicole Kidman, where she shouts in an empty theater about how the movies are about human connection. Well, you know what? Sometimes they are!
  4. I think there were some design choices that hearkened back successfully to the old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons. If you’re going to cross some animated superhero antics with your talking dog antics, the Fleischer serial is a rich tapestry to rip off.

Also, honorable mention to The Venture Bros.: Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart. The line between “movie” and “direct-to-video TV…thing” is so thin nowadays, yet this was a fine capstone, coda, or curtain call to a decades-long masterpiece.

Want To See (in alphabetical order only, and acknowledging that there are plenty more movies out there this year that I might love with every chamber of my heart that aren’t here, and that maybe these on this list may in fact suck)

One o' these days

American Fiction
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Babylon 5: The Road Home (which I have, still shrinkwrapped)
The Boy and the Heron
The Caine Mutiny Court-Marital (Will there be strawberries? Dragon balls?)
Cocaine Bear (or, the Co Caine Mutiny Bear-Martial)
The Creator (I know the story is supposed to suck, but I want to see just how pretty the pretty pictures are)
Dicks: The Musical
The Holdovers
May December
The Outlaw Johnny Black (reviews weren’t pretty, but I threw some money at it on Indiegogo and want to see what my cash hath wrought. Plus, followup to Black Dynamite!)
Polite Society
Poor Things (The Favourite was my favourite of that year)
They Cloned Tyrone

Dang, @Djscman, great post. When you see some of those movies on your to-do list, I hope you’ll write about them!

Great question.

I may be approaching it from a slightly different perspective, because to me Scorsese’s finest movies are the ones that function as interrogations, whether of characters or institutions. Along with Truffaut’s famous quote about how it’s impossible to make an anti-war film, I think it may be impossible to make an anti-gangster film. Scorsese sure keeps trying, but stupid young people keep thinking these are paeans rather than laments. Maybe it’s no surprise that my favorite Scorsese is Silence, a film that is unrelenting in its dissection of both its protagonists and their faith.

I would love to see an indigenous film about the Osage murders, but I’m not sure Killers would have materialized without a big white director attached to it. The same goes for centering DiCaprio over Gladstone as the protagonist. But since the project will inevitably get handed to a white guy, Scorsese is probably the right pick. I remember when Bong Joon-ho quoted Scorsese in his Oscar acceptance speech, a few pundits criticized him for raining glory on another old white guy. Well… it’s because Scorsese is an old white guy who’s devoted a lot of money and attention to preserving and promoting global cinema, including South Korean cinema. The recent boom of South Korean films getting American distribution is partially thanks to the efforts of Scorsese.

Okay, so this is a long lead-in to saying that I think Killers of the Flower Moon is a rather devious film, and one of the big tricks it pulls is putting DiCaprio into the role of Ernest Burkhart and focusing on his “journey.” The trailers were edited in such a way as to imply that Burkhart was a white savior who would stand by his wife despite his family entanglements. That’s what a century of Western cinema has inculcated us to expect. Of course, no such reversal occurs. He’s a gormless doofus from start to finish. He’s effortlessly influenced by his uncle and can’t produce even the most reedlike backbone for his wife and children. And that’s what makes it such an assault on the American psyche. There are no heroes riding into town to champion its women and children. Oh, sure, the nascent Bureau of Investigation locks up King Hale, but he’s only the most visible component of the conspiracy against the Osage. It’s bare minimum justice.

In a sense, that transforms the film into a critique of the book it’s adapted from as well. Because all the police procedural stuff is handled almost flippantly in the film, whereas it’s the centerpiece of the book. Killers is a full-bodied assault on white saviorism and the entire concept of the heroic Old West. And I find that thrilling. I was somewhat suspicious of a movie directed by a white man and starring a white man, but I came away persuaded that it was the right framing for this particular story at this particular time.

There were imperfections, though. The whole guardianship thing should have been spelled out better. The state had ruled that the Osage were mental adolescents, so they couldn’t receive their headright payouts without a white person’s sign-off. There was an initial boom of corrupt attorneys charging exorbitant fees, which is why the Osage were fetching for white spouses who could cash out their quarterly dispensations. That’s why Mollie was willing to marry Ernest despite seeming somewhat cool on him. She understood his intentions to a degree — he liked that money — but she figured he was a run-of-the-mill gold-digger, someone who would be content fathering children and living a cushy life, not a member of a wide-ranging conspiracy against her family.

Anyway. I think Killers is one hell of a corrective. And to some degree, the dissatisfaction of a certain cross-section of its audience is a part of that.

Thanks, @DT, that was really insightful. I kept thinking that if Mollie was so smart — and she was obviously the smartest character in the movie — why was she subjecting herself to this white kudzu wrapping around her family tree?

Yes, I did also. In fact I think you can read it almost as a Catholic-style confession. The final radio-drama scene where Scorsese himself comes out and reads the final lines felt to me like an attempt to take responsibility for past sins and make amends. At the very least, I felt he earnestly believed it, which is maybe all you can hope for on that number.

Yeah, it’s a real shortcoming of the film. She’s portrayed as canny and insightful. She clocks Ernest early on as a gold-digger. So why does she pin her hopes on him? Well, it’s because she’s using him as much as he’s using her, but the precise reasons aren’t ever spelled out for the audience. Given how often we’ve been taught how to play poker in movies, you’d think Scorsese could have spared three minutes of explanation about oil headright payouts being locked behind white guardianships. Killers does a great job of showing the personal racism afflicting the Osage, but doesn’t quite spell out the depths of the systemic racism that permitted individuals like King Hale to prey on them. The result, unfortunately, makes the Osage seem somewhat naïve. They were not naïve — or at least not as naïve as the film makes out — just captive to a terrible system.

Oh, I like that. I found that ending affecting for other reasons as well, but that’s an interesting observation. I’ll be mulling on it for a bit.

Also, I’ve reached the point in the podcast where @tomchick and @KellyWand talk about Master Gardener, and I’m surprised with all the talk of First Reformed and Great Expectations, no one mentioned the Alfonso Cuaron Great Expectations starring Ethan Hawke from 1998! Have either of you seen it? It’s not perfect but there’s a lot to like in it, including Anne Bancroft’s Miss Havisham and the lushness of Cuaron’s production design.

Listened to the end last night. So many nice discussions embedded in the episode. Thank you Tom for conceding Pippin Longstocking is not a thing, so I didn’t have to stay stressed. I haven’t seen the movies but the books about her are fantastic. I also like the Emil series-- he’s a little Swedesh farmer boy who unwittingly causes mischief everyone thinks he did on purpose, and then he ends up getting the best of his family or a local farmer or official because he’s bored while having to sit in the woodshed or do an extra chore. There are Swedish film adaptations but none recent, I think.