January 15, 2024

2023 Movie and Book Round-up

Favorite movie(s) released in 2023

A tie: Oppenheimer and May December
Oppenheimer: A brilliantly-paced, three-in-one movie: Midnight in Paris for physicists, heist flick, courtroom drama. A beautiful film to look at, with a thrilling score. Most importantly however, a movie about how a group of men convinced themselves they were simply pursuing a significant technological invention, when they were actually failing the most important moral and philosophical question ever posed. A dense, rich, politically poignant masterpiece.
It took me two watches to come to this conclusion, but now I literally can't stop thinking about this movie.

May December: A movie truly of our moment, reacting to and depicting the anxieties of our post-Me-Too era: who holds power in professional, platonic, and sexual relationships, and what are the consequences of these power dynamics in the worst case scenario? A movie of truly powerhouse performances, with actors who craft the layers of relational complexity necessary to plumb such difficult depths. A complex, brilliant movie through and through.
Didn't see, but would like to at some point: The Color Purple, The Boy and the Heron 

Favorite repertory movies I saw this year

Top: Irma Vep (1996) at MoMA Film 
I went into this movie knowing very little, and was happily swept off my feet. It ended up being a meta-movie about movie-making/image-making, and as a lover of movies, it delighted me to see the chaos that is film production, lovingly depicted here. A genre-spanning movie, it crackles with wit and invention, all while knowingly mourning the making of movies like it. 

Bottom: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) at Quad Cinema
The most beautiful war movie ever made. It makes you believe that love and humanity prevail, even in the midst of senseless cruelty. The Japanese lead, Ryuichi Sakamoto, also composed the film score, which is some of the most compelling, sweeping music I've ever heard. Ryuichi Sakamoto unfortunately died last March, and tributes deservedly poured in from all corners. 
There is an interesting connection to Oppenheimer it turns out: Christopher Nolan picked Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence in his Criterion top 10 in 2013, saying "Tom Conti has rarely been such a sympathetic guide for the audience’s emotions." From this, we can see what Nolan wanted to convey in Einstein with his choice of casting Tom Conti, the emotional center of this other very painful WWII movie. 
Here is the trailer, if you want to get a taste of Sakamoto's affecting and dramatic film score.

2023 Books

Favorite read: I loved so many of the books I read this year; it was a great reading year. The two books that really swept me off my feet were The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
and a more recent book, Hatching by Jenni Quilter. 

The Leopard: Published in 1958 in Italy, this book is an absorbing, sweeping epic. It takes place during the late 1800s, the Risorgimento, which was a time of immense political upheaval for Italy as it struggled to unify into a single state. The book tells us about this period through the compelling perspective of an aristocrat as he loses his former social status and power, and society's rules change right out from under him. An interesting period to learn more about, and a fascinating lens to see it through.

Hatching: there is a lot of great writing coming out from women asking difficult questions about motherhood, familyhood, partner-hood, and personhood in a world and society that takes so much from women and offers so little back. Hatching is one such book, and in it, the author Jenni Quilter chronicles her experience with IVF, along with macro-level and historical consideration of mothers today and throughout history. It felt like a conversation I had been yearning for with a dear, brilliant friend, who could litigate everything I've been wondering to myself. Peter is currently reading; I think any man partnered with a woman should.


If you made it this far, here's last year's round-up 🤓