2023 crashes to a close, filmwise


Special bonus writeup on the movies of 2023. Click the image to travel to Letterboxd.


Blithe Spirit (2020)

When the trailer for this film dropped, I was utterly delighted by it. Then the film itself dropped off the face of the earth without a trace, it seemed like. So when tonight as I went to Kanopy to look for a film to watch by myself and this was on the front page as a new arrival I figured why not?

Well, the why not is that it's just not that good. Even with strong performances by a good cast it just never comes together. Noël Coward is supposed to be brilliant but this and the 1945 version (which I saw at my grandparents as a child and don't really remember other than a couple images and a generaly vibe and a sense of not getting it*) are about all I know of him. Is the problem one of the screenplay (three credited writers)? Is it the direction? The editing? I don't know. It's an easy trailer to make with so many sparkling moments, but the film itself waters down those moments to a tasteless broth.

What a disappointment.

* One thing about having seen the film and remembering it (however vaguely) was it gave me the ability to get a joke on my favorite episode of my favorite radio comedy. I was given it as a gift (as part of a radio-comedy collection on cassette) in high school and I've hanging out with oldtime radio ever since. And I at fourteen (ish) got a joke about a fifty-year old movie, big at the time but not thought of much anymore. Thank you, grandma's house!

The Doll (1919)

I knew I was going silent last night because I wanted something that a) was short (this is an hour four) and b) wouldn't matter if I left my night filter running (is, black and white). Unfortunately, I was wrong about the latter as the film is heavily colored. Check it out. That link will also let you see some elements of the film I was excited to talk about, including the sets, the drawings, terrific characters, twelve disembodied mouths, etc. Definitely click that link.

I put this on my Kanopy watchlist about a year ago after watching The Shop around the Corner. I suppose it must have been some special features on the dvd that turned me onto Lubitsch's German silents but I can't recall anymore what they'd led me to expect. What I got was something delightfully nutty. It starts with Lubitsch himself putting together a dollhouse, then the dolls come to life and the story begins. Which is about a man who marries a doll in order to trick his baron (and barren) uncle out of a 300,000-franc dowry. Because he really does not want to marry a woman. (There's a lot of queer-coded stuff in the movie but, spoiler alert, being married to a doll lets this guy get used to the idea of women.)

This the ad that leads him to a doll in the first place:

(Sorry it's cut off—Kanopy makes it difficult to capture the bottom of a screen during a screengrab.)

Of course, the gag is that the dollmaker's doll is based on his troublemaking daughter and, through a series of mishaps (involving the very funny, fourthwall-breaking, Mickey Rooney-esque actor who plays his apprentice), he inadvertently sells his daughter mugging as the doll rather than the doll itself.


The doll's played by the enormously popular Ossi Oswalda ("The German Mary Pickford") who has a goofy innocence. The games her face plays remind me of Kirsten Schall; her costume and dolly movements give her lots of peekaboos up her skirt, which I suppose are just as thrilling as they would've been in 1919. They're shot such as to make wonder if they're happy accidents, but the poster I picked for Thutopia shows the kinkiness inherent in keeping a biologically accurate doll in your bedroom was always a feature.

Anyway, I really liked it. Maybe I'll watch it again—in color—someday.

Cinemark Hilltop 16
The Marvels (2023)

This movie only deserves its bad box office because a certain percentage of it is the Marvel bloat we're all sick of. But if you ignore that fat, the movie is absolutely delightful. The teaser was much more accurate than the trailer as to its vibe, and it managed to put together interesting and compelling character motivations/arcs for the leads, even the villain. (Though why was sisterinlaw missing?) Yes, there was a lot of lazy scifi nonsense helping the plot along, but it's a freaking superhero movie. If you stop to think about any of it it'll all fall apart.

In short, good movie!

But not so great that I'm about to get sucked back into Marvel completism.

I had wanted to see this when it came out but the final trailer and the fact that none of the kids wanted to go with me meant it didn't happen. But our Kia was at the dealer's to become less theft-ready so I had time to kill. Glad I did.

Cinemark Hilltop 16
The Boy and the Heron (2023)

Oh, hey. They still haven't finished the car. Could've waited an hour and then watched Napoleon. No regrets! This time, even though I expect to watch it again this week (maybe more than once), I picked Miyazaki over the new Trolls movie, Wonka, or Thanksgiving. No regrets.

Especially for this movie which I think will demand rewatching. What a strange, strange movie. It shares genes with lots of other Miyazaki movies but they're put together into entirely new forms. This is a work of art and I mean that in the it's-weird-as-heck sort of way. I'm sure it has all the keys needed to unlock it built in but viewing one does not prepare me to so unlock. I'm not sure I've been so bewildered by a movie since the first time I saw Miyazaki: Princess Mononoke, c. 2001.

The show starting as I stood there staring at my options was the dubbed version. It's quite possible that the subtitled version will offer some clarity. There is precedent for that, after all.

Can't wait to watch it again.

Prime Video
Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)

Hard to say just how good a movie this is on one viewing. It's pacing is so peculiar that on this initial watch, once the story-telling part ended, I had no idea where we were, in terms of plot or structure or runtime. Add that to the ending and it's no surprise this wasn't a great it.

But it is deeply interesting and visually rich and I love that it's doing things I've not seen done before. George Miller's special, I'll tell you that.

I'm very curious how I'll remember this a few weeks from now, as my brain pieces it into a narrative I tell myself about having seen the film.

Prime Video
Merry Little Batman (2023)

A Damian Wayne more charming and cute than brooding and awful is left home alone Christmas Eve when a couple of Joker's cronies come to rob Wayne Manor of its Christmas presents. Naturally, by the end, Gotham is nearly destroyed.

The movie is funny and delightful, and it plays with the Batman mythos is some reasonably interesting ways without ever getting bogged down in lore or canon.

It's just over 90 minutes and it's fun Christmas whatever. We had fun.

Elf (2003)

I don't know why, but every few years, the third act of Elf just works. Most years, that final act is a slog. But some years it really, really works.

Art is so weird.

Really, the movie is mostly just connective material for Will Ferrell being hilarious and Zooey Deschanel being pretty and singing good. And that's enough, really.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

How far I've come!

Since rediscovering it as an adult, this has become a beloved holiday treasure (2020, 2021). Michael Caine's performance is excellent and Kermit's is so good it's hard to remember Jim Henson was dead.

Anyway. How often do you watch it, year by year?

AMC Bay Street
Godzilla Minus One (2023)



This may be my new favorite Godzilla film. Granted, there where a few moments in the middle where it dragged, but I suspect they won't on rewatch and, regardless, the payoff was absolutely worth it.

Like Shin Godzilla (the most recent, previous Japanese live-action film), the monster is not the main character. The American films attempt to have human-centered storylines, but it's hard to care about any of the idiot getting dollyzoomed in those movies. These films take long breaks away from the monster, this one with even more patience as it tells us about the people at the center of its tale.

Even with the movie down to one screen in town, the theater was packed and the audience was INto it. We had an awesome time. And since Lady Steed didn't get to go, perhaps I'll get to see it big again.

I'm up for it.

8-Bit Christmas (2021)

Another winning performance by Winslow Fegley, first praised here for Timmy Failure, and a hilarious, joyous Christmas movie. This, I can imagine, being added to the regular rotation. And not just because it's A Christmas Story for my generation. (I first heard about this on an A Christmas Story-themed podcast episode.)

Anyway, all ages loved it and certain moments got huge reactions out of all of us. it's one of those movies that is a manic delight to watch the first time and, I expect, mellows into comforting joy on rewatches.

Highly recommended!

123 Movies
Die Hard (1988)

I'm not sure how, but the kids seem to think this is a holiday tradition now. Okay.

As the credits rolled, they all expressed mystification that anyone could say it's not a Christmas movie. Subtract the violence and voila: you got a Hallmark movie.

Anyway, if you want a real review, click on that prior link. Or just skip ahead to Luisa's survey.

Previous films watched










No comments:

Post a Comment