Daily Press (Sunday)

‘Oppenheime­r,’ ‘Fallen Leaves’ lead film picks


Film writers’ picks for the best movies of 2023.

Christophe­r Nolan’s film is the triumphant fusion of everything he’s passionate about: Large format film; the tension between humanity and science; the turmoil of a brilliant mind; and the wonder of an exceptiona­l group coming together to make an impossible thing (in this case a nuclear weapon), but also on a meta level, the film.

The horror in Jonathan Glazer’s film is what is unseen: It’s only a wall that separates one Nazi family from the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The film is a masterclas­s in atmosphere: A chilling, artful representa­tion of the not-so-gray areas of complicity.

Sofia Coppola’s film is so beautiful to look at, it’s easy not to notice its rigorous restraint and minimalism in storytelli­ng. It provides a singular showcase for her very capable actors, Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi, that’s about all the small things — the moments that might be impercepti­ble were it not for her quiet gaze.


The play within a play conceit of this Wes Anderson film is perhaps his most selfconsci­ous movie, made in his signature style but also about his style and the artifice of it. It is immensely rewatchabl­e, funny and quotable, with a career best performanc­e from Scarlett Johansson and a brilliant Margot Robbie cameo.

‘Asteroid City’:

It takes a master like Todd Haynes to authentica­lly blend high camp and melodrama with grounded emotion, but that’s what he has managed

‘May December’:

to do with this film. It’s a satire about actors and the Lifetime-ing of human tragedies and a soulful portrait of a victim who doesn’t realize it.

Aki Kaurismäki was, embarrassi­ngly, a blind spot for me. But the Finnish filmmaker’s deadpan romance about the missed connection­s of two lonely souls in a cold, unglamorou­s, alcohol-soaked setting is a wonderful place to start. Like Holappa and Ansa come to learn, it’s never too late to grow.

‘Fallen Leaves’:

Alexander Payne’s latest is a well-written, acted and composed film that makes you feel like you too are stuck in a New England boarding school over a holiday break and learning things about yourself and those in the trenches with you.

‘The Holdovers’:

Yorgos Lanthimos crafts a deranged, provocativ­e, unabashedl­y stylish and funny fairy tale that feels completely fresh. The themes aren’t exactly subtle, what with Emma Stone’s insatiable Bella

‘Poor Things’:

Baxter calling her creator (Willem Dafoe) God, but it is one of those huge, ambitious swings that works.

‘A Thousand and One’:

Writer-director A.V. Rockwell made the year’s best debut feature in this vibrant portrait of a mother and son in New York City in the 1990s. The city as character may be a tired trope, but here you feel their home changing and gentrifyin­g as their own relationsh­ip takes unexpected turns.

Director Emma Seligman and her co-writer Rachel Sennott created one of the wildest, funniest, weirdest high school movies that Gen Z still needs to discover and claim. It’s OK, there’s time.


Honorable mention:

“20 Days in Mariupol,” “Theater Camp,” “Blue Jean,” “All of Us Strangers,” “Eileen,” “Showing Up,” “You Hurt My Feelings,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “The Eight Mountains,” “Anatomy of a Fall,” “The Pigeon Tunnel.”

Loneliness and lousy bosses are

‘Fallen Leaves’:

everywhere in the cold world of Kaurismäki’s latest. But there are stirring signs of life beneath the deadpan surface of this minimalist fable about a maybe-romance between two working-class loners (Alma Pöysti, Jussi Vatanen). It’s an 82-minute balm for a bleak world.

With its cozy, Christmas New England environs, Payne’s film has been compared to a warm blanket. But there’s a strong anti-authoritar­ian streak running through it, much like the ’70s films it models itself on. The cast — including Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and newcomer Dominic Sessa — is flawless.

‘The Holdovers’:

‘The Eight Mountains’:

Seasons sweep through Felix Van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeer­sch’s gentle tale of friendship set in the Italian Alps. The film, vast and intimate at once, tracks two childhood friends (Luca Marinelli, Alessandro Borghi) over the course of years.

‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’:

The year’s giddiest and most spectacula­r film, the second chapter of this franchise pushes dazzlingly against both superhero convention and the limits of animation.

Japanese actor Koji Yakusho stars as a solitary, soft-spoken public toilet cleaner in Tokyo in Wim Wenders’ profoundly lovely ode to the everyday. Though plot and back story make hesitant inroads, the film is mostly about the day-today rhythms of Hirayam, who reads Faulkner, takes pictures of trees on his lunch break and listens to cassette tapes.

‘Perfect Days’:

Ava DuVernay dramatizes Isabel Wilkerson’s writing of “Caste,” mixing in historical accounts of caste systems with the intimate dramas of Wilkerson’s life.


Greta Gerwig’s runaway sensation is the funniest movie of the year. Nothing was as clever as Gerwig’s I’ll-have-mycake-and-eat-it-too balancing act of brand marketing and gender satire.


The past is everywhere in Alice Rohrwacher’s

‘La Chimera’:

enchanting 1980set folk tale, underfoot and in the melancholy eyes of its Englishman protagonis­t (Josh O’Connor), the gifted but haunted leader of a ramshackle band of tombaroli who raid ancient Etruscan burial sites in Tuscany.

The latest by British filmmaker Andrew Haigh is an aching, unshakeabl­e ghost story. The film toggles between the unfolding relationsh­ip of two gay men,

Adam (Andrew Scott) and Harry (Paul Mescal), and Harry’s visitation­s to his frozen-in-time childhood home where he finds his long-dead parents (Claire Foy, Jamie Bell). It’s about family, loss, fiction, romance, coming out and growing older.

‘All of Us Strangers’:

Mexican writerdire­ctor Lila Aviles’ film is largely seen through the perspectiv­e of young Sol (Naima Senties) on a day when her multigener­ational family is preparing a birthday party for her dying father (Mateo García Elizondo). The teeming, distracted lives of her relatives nearly obscure the hard truth at hand for Sol.


Honorable mention:

“R.M.N.,” “Anatomy of a Fall,” “Oppenheime­r,” “You Hurt My Feelings,” “A Thousand and One,” “Tori and Lokita,” “Youth (Spring),” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “The Delinquent­s,” “Orlando: My Political Documentar­y,” “Past Lives,” “American Fiction,” “Ferrari,” “The Boy and the Heron,” “Asteroid City.”

 ?? ‘Oppenheime­r’:
‘The Zone of Interest’: ?? Steve Carell, left, and Liev Schreiber, right, are among the stars in “Asteroid City.”
‘Oppenheime­r’: ‘The Zone of Interest’: Steve Carell, left, and Liev Schreiber, right, are among the stars in “Asteroid City.”
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