Winter 2023 Reel Rumble Round-Up –
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As the Oscars approach, studios end up releasing a variety of prestige films in a December flurry in order to make the films eligible and present in the Oscar voters’ minds. As a result, we aren’t able to do traditional reviews for all of these films, since so many come out in a cluster. But with Flickchart’s great Top 20 Films of 2023 list out, and the Oscars ahead, we’re going to round-up several of the late 2023 releases in the traditional Flickchart manner: by ranking them! Let’s see what the best of this bunch were.
When I think about the topic, I’m thinking about the Adam-Driver-playing-Italian-business-moguls cinematic universe, Michael Mann‘s Ferrari feels half as assured as Driver’s lead performance. Mann’s first film in nearly a decade didn’t quite live up to the hype. Despite covering only one summer in the famed automaker’s life, it manages to feel unfocused and scattershot. It was as though Mann couldn’t decide what he wanted to say and instead put all of it in there.
The film has its strengths. The performances of Driver and Penelope CruzMann’s action skills remain impressive. The racing sequences that serve as the act three capstone and culmination of the film’s drama to that point are tense and exciting. And the film’s sudden tragic ending punches due to the sharpness of the edit.
The script needed some work to bring the various elements together. Even the conclusion loses focus after the tragedy. It meanders and rambles. Here’s hoping that Driver’s hypothetical turn as Armani or Prada actually leads to a strong movie and that Mann can finally recapture his glory as well.
Current Global Ranking: #69.465
Total Users Ranking: 53
Bradley Cooper‘s second directed feature is another one focused on music, this time the life and work of Leonard Bernstein. Controversy over a nose prosthetic aside, Cooper’s turn is fairly strong, even if does become a bit of a caricature at times due to Cooper’s insistence on always matching the cadence of Bernstein.
This one is slightly taller. Ferrari because of Cooper’s direction and an even better co-lead performance in the form of Carey Mulligan. The scenes of Cooper and Mulligan fighting as husband and wife, despite the flaws in this film, are captivating. These scenes capture a realistic view of a couple that loves and knows each other, but can still hurt each other. There is a love in these scenes that is endearing, even when they are fighting over smothering each other’s careers.
Cooper’s direction perhaps overuses the closeup, and his film is occasionally meandering. It is a compelling piece of work and could even win an Oscar nomination. It’s easy to make scenes poignant when you rely on Bernstein’s music to score them, but a scene or two where Bernstein is conducting and pouring his entire being into it are electrifying to witness.
Current Global Ranking: #16542.
Total Users Ranking 142
Color me surprised to learn that the original film version wasn’t a musical, as a musical seems to fit the material quite naturally. It is not a remake. 1985 Steven SpielbergThis version is neither a direct adaptation nor a work of the stage musical. Instead, it combines elements from both to produce a moving work, if a bit too long.
Celie, played in the film by Fantasia BarrinoFantasia is a woman living in a small Southern city and dealing with abuse on all fronts: sexual and physical abuse by her older husband, a dad who rejected her and sent away her children, and racial prejudice from the people around her. While Fantasia’s performance can veer towards repetitive, there is a power to this film. Director Blitz BazawuleThe music brings to life the different colors of the film, including purple, to create a beautiful piece. The film is beautifully choreographed with songs that are both punchy and pop.
The film also features a great supporting actor in the form Taraji P. HensonThe following are some examples of how to get started: Danielle Brooks. Both steal the screen anytime they are on it, and their own tragedies and conflicts feel poignant as well, though a bit truncated by the film’s odd storytelling choices. Many of the film’s competing plot threads end up underdeveloped, perhaps the result of a long novel being cut down to make for musical numbers. The musical aspect of the film sometimes clashes with the harshness and violence of the story, trivializing some things, like abuse. But this is a minor concern. It is important to give credit to Colman Domingo‘s captivating turn as Mister, even as an abusive monster. Domingo’s performance is a good one, but the film does cut short his redemption story.
While not a flawless or truly great work by any means, The Color Purple It delivers on what its trailers promised, a new perspective on a classic tale. Despite its storytelling deficiencies, you can’t help but be moved by the film’s predictable yet effective ending. It has that grand musical finale energy to it that can’t help but get under your skin.
Current Global Ranking : #79,690
Total Users Ranking : 24
Director Todd Haynes‘ latest work has a wild, all-over-the-place tonality that is both a strength and weakness of the film. Haynes wants the audience to have all kinds of crazy feelings when they read the story. And thematically, the film acts as an interrogation of interrogation, about someone trying to figure out a predator, and whether or not that’s even something worth figuring out. May December isn’t fully satisfying all the time as a result of all of this, and it’s commentary in the end is a bit vague. This film about a child predator that married the actress who studied him is still darkly compelling.
May December‘s bold editing, striking score,The following are some examples of how to get started: wonderful cast bring it to life. Natalie Portman and Julianne MooreShine in the lead roles. The film’s ending puts such a new light on Moore’s role throughout that you begin to think about all of her decisions and ponder truth. Portman’s turn as the over-confident actress, convinced of her artistic technique, is likewise compelling, with lots of little moments between her and other characters that Portman uses to develop her character further, both the one she’s playing and the one her character is playing. Also sublime is Charles Melton. We get to know his character more and more as he begins the film. Initially, he seems happy with his situation, but cracks appear in the film. Melton is the one who brings it. The scene where he confronts Moore’s character and the one where he gets upset about Portman’s callous treatment of him are both exemplars of his skills.
This is a film which deliberately veers towards the camp. It takes dark subject material and places it under a comedic lens, all in service of a deliberate experiment to push the audience into examining the pretense of performance — both in the terms of acting in a film but also in the terms of the pretense we put on in life. This see-saw tonality won’t work for everyone as a result, and it isn’t entirely successful. All the same, Haynes demonstrates his prowess as a filmmaker in the bold choices he makes, and it’s a film that will stick with you.
Current Global Ranking : #7,629
Total Users Ranking : 179
Similar to May December, Yorgos Lanthimos‘s newest work strikes a bold tone and sticks with you, even if it is a very different film in many ways. Lanthimos’s films have all used a quirky, off-kilter humor, overt sexuality, and wild premises to critique society. Here, he takes Frankenstein’s story and gives it his own twist, with visuals similar to Wes AndersonThe following are some examples of how to get started: Robert Eggers as much as to Lanthimos’s own style. The result is an incredibly funny film, if not a little more simplistic than expected.
Emma StoneThe film’s star is the woman who has been resurrected. Her turn as the Frankenstein’s monster of sorts, a revived woman who goes on a journey of self-discovery, is fantastic. She has a physicality that is not seen before and is quite funny. The script has her character jump from confused babble to intelligent words too quickly, but she still sells this and keeps you entertained. Not to be overlooked are the supporting roles. Mark RuffaloThe following are some examples of how to get started: Willem Dafoe. Ruffalo is hilariously over-the-top in his role as a smug English lawyer with an accent you’ll laugh at. Dafoe’s screentime is more limited, but he too shares in the great physical comedy of the film that makes it work.
Lanthimos’s script is excellent in terms of the dialogue and jokes it makes. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, and there is a lot visual humor. Lanthimos’s fish-eye lens is used as adeptly, as usual, but there are also gags that you simply have to see to understand. The script falls short in terms of the overall direction and character. It’s not poorly done per se, but it lacks the same uniqueness that the rest of the film has. It’s a film about casting aside social norms and doesn’t have much more to it than that. Films about liberation are fine but lack a specificity beyond the humor to make it resonate. By comparison to some of Lanthimos’s earlier works, there is a shallowness to it.
It is still one the most unique releases of 2023. It demonstrates that Lanthimos’s talents as a director and editor place him among the best working today. As long he continues making movies, cinema has something truly unique.
Current Global Ranking: No. 6,305
Total Users Ranking: 139
While not as bold as the previous two films, The Iron Claw The tragically compelling plot and characters of this film are the reason it tops our list. The film is not about the entire family, despite the title and trailer. Zac Efron’s Kevin Von Erich is the clear protagonist of the film, with it centered mostly on his perspective and his arc being the main one of note. Covering a span of years, we see the ups and downs of the family, all contending to be champions due to the pressure of the family’s demanding patriarch. That’s Fritz, the inventor of the Iron Claw and the Von Erich brand. The film is ultimately about the brand of masculinity that Fritz promotes, as well as on the iron-like pressure both parents put on their children to be excellent no matter what.
The film’s writing is its standout strength. Characters who are often reduced to stereotypes such as the over-demanding dad are given a more human side, which makes this film even more compelling. And while Efron’s performance isn’t earth-shattering, he makes Kevin into a compelling character. While the film tends to use montage to convey information and skip over some compelling details, it does a good job of making Kevin relatable. Efron gives the character a natural charm, and we like him for wanting his younger brothers to be safe. Kevin feels this duty in the first of several tear-jerking scenes. The eldest child died when he was a toddler. While the film smartly doesn’t over-emphasize this scene, we get the sense that his survivor’s guilt combined with their father’s harsh and at times uncaring nature is a driving motivation for much of his life. The talk about a family curse drives him even more throughout the movie.
The Iron Claw drowns so much in sorrow that you’d almost call it grief-porn. It’s not until the last thirty minutes that it begins to ooze sentiment. The film overplays it’s hand in a few scenes. Especially the last one, where the dialogue literally spells the takeaway that the script wants you have. But despite its flaws, The Iron ClawThis is still an incredibly compelling work. The characters are vibrant and the script gives a nuanced view of what happens when you strive for excellence or are driven to it by pride or the desire to win the approval of someone you care about. The Iron ClawThe director Sean Durkin’s finest hour.
Current Global Ranking: #6,305
Total Users Ranking 139