Sunday, December 31, 2023

2023 Flashback: Movies

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Happy New Year's Eve, everybody!

2023 is coming to a close, so it's time for my annual roundup of the best and worst in movies, television, music, books, and everything in between! We're starting with movies, of course, because those are my bread and butter. But gee whiz, this has been a bad year for movies. Like, even 2020 was better, and movies effectively didn't exist for 75% of that year. This is certainly the worst year for movies since I started this blog in 2013, and as such I had no choice but to shrink my Top 10 list to a Top 5 and expand my Bottom 5 into a Bottom 10. 

A few reminders before we start. Nobody's taste in movies/music/etc is bad or wrong. Words like "Best" and "Worst" can be strong, but that's what makes these lists fun to write. They are nevertheless just opinions and not statements of objective fact, which do not exist in criticism. If you love a movie that I hated, well that's fine! Do your thing! But I do hope you find some solid recommendations here either way. If your tastes seem to align opposite to mine, maybe use my "Worst Of" list as a guideline for what to check out next. Variety is the spice of life, and all that! Everybody poops!

Also, last year I introduced a Trans/Nonbinary acting category. This is a complicated process for any awards body, because gender is a spectrum and queerness is all about not being able to fit neatly into tight little boxes. While some contenders in this category would identify under the "Best Actor/Actress" categories, many wouldn't. While many trans people identify as nonbinary, many don't. For the time being, I'm keeping the category as it is in an effort to highlight performances from the trans and nonbinary communities. I'm also keeping the cis categories "Actor" and "Actress" separate, not because I have any faith in the binary, but because it allows me to celebrate a broader spectrum of performance. This certainly doesn't mean that women, trans people, or nonbinary folks wouldn't win if they were in other categories. Frankly, cis men would vanish from this list if I didn't have "Actor/Supporting Actor" categories. But my effort is to ensure inclusion no matter what.


2023 Movies I Missed That I Wish I Had Seen Before Compiling This List: Birth/RebirthFlora and Son, The Outwaters, Missing, PathaanRye Lane, Poor Things, The Blackening

2023 Movies That I Missed, Don't Regret Missing, and Will Go Out of My Way to Continue Missing Until the End of Linear Time: Rebel Moon - Part 1: A Child of Fire, Jesus Revolution, Strays, 80 for Brady, Ghosted, Peter Pan & Wendy, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Sound of Freedom, Heart of StoneThe Holdovers, Foe

2023 Movies I Have No Right To Speak On Because I Got Bored And Walked Out After 15 Minutes: The Super Mario Bros. Movie

The Five Best Movies of 2023

#5 Down Low

Sure, it's a collection of some of the hoariest indie movie tropes imaginable. But this tale of a repressed man's first gay encounter going horribly wrong deploys those tropes to their best advantage, dancing across a dramedy tightrope that never falls too far in either direction.

#4 Good Boy

This Norwegian thriller is about a woman who thinks she's found the perfect guy (rich, caring, ungodly handsome) until she meets his dog, Frank, a very human man dressed in a grimy dog costume. While the cat-and-mouse aspect of this movie is slightly off because the mouse has a habit of making the world's most egregious Stupid Horror Movie Character decisions, it's a taut thrill ride packed with the year's most shocking twists and turns.

#3 No Hard Feelings

In a time when actual movie comedies were more prevalent, No Hard Feelings might have barely registered. But as it stands, it's a real breath of fresh air to see a raunchy R-rated comedy with good performances (Andrew Barth Feldman is a movie star in the making), a real sense of place, and several unforgettable sequences. 
Plus, despite its envelope-pushing storyline (Jennifer Lawrence's character is hired to date a nerdy prospective college student, and sexy antics ensue), it also has an unusual tenderness when presenting its characters, something that also came through in the director's previous better-than-it-had-to-be comedy Good Boys.

#2 Scream VI

I distinctly remember walking out of Scream VI and being really pleased with what I had just seen, but feeling like it would probably end up landing somewhere in the #5 to #7 range of my Top 10 at the end of the year. Poor naive March Brennan had no idea what a brutal year was ahead of him. But while Scream VI perhaps doesn't deserve to be considered the second-best movie in a year worth its salt, it's a delicious bit of horror franchise confection.

What it lacks in Sidney Prescott and any actually legit New York City vibes (minus the subway scene), it makes up for by being the funniest entry in the franchise since the original, peppering its scenes with actual comedy on top of all the oh-so-clever movie references. There are also some stellar sequences here, with the prologue and the Gale Weathers chase scene deserving a spot in the conversation for Top 10 moments in the entire franchise.

#1 Saltburn

It's horny and weird and hilarious and brutal, and while it perhaps fails to be all of those things at the same time, Saltburn is a perfectly engrossing roller coaster ride that I for one couldn't take my eyes off of. It's a big old mess, sure, alternating between smashing your face into its themes and stepping back to give you time to breathe and reflect on subtler moments, but it's a vainglorious mess full of some of the most invitingly lurid scenes I've seen in a theater in years, and the best clipped British comedy line readings since 2020's Emma. Rosamund Pike is fabulous, of course, but Jacob Elordi and Barry Keoghan both conquer the screen as well, dragging you in like a pair of tractor beams.

Best 2022 Movie I Missed: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

How dare they make the sequel to a spinoff of a Shrek sequel worth my time. The Last Wish (thankfully) doesn't require knowledge of the previous Puss in Boots, in case you're scared. 

In the grand new tradition of modern animated features cribbing the aesthetic of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, this movie is a gloriously textured and decadent feat of animation. On top of that, it features one of the scariest animated villains of the modern age and a storyline that, while perhaps predictable, addresses mortality in a way that is at turns harrowing, heartfelt, and profound. I mean this sincerely: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish would be a perfect double feature with Pedro Almodóvar's Pain and Glory.

Best 2021 Movie I Missed: There's Someone Inside Your House

This movie evidently has its detractors online, but I had a great time with it. It's a teen slasher that provides a great mask (the killer 3D prints the faces of each of their victims), a great organizing principle (the killer is targeting students who are hiding massive secrets), and some really gnarly stalk 'n slash sequences. What more could you want?

Honorable Mention: Godzilla Minus One

This movie certainly doesn't need more praise. It's a critical and commercial success the likes of which these shores have never seen. However, I'm not eager to heap on any excess praise considering the lead-in to the third act delivers oodles of crushingly boring, pedestrian postwar drama. Though that's not to say that the human story isn't superb. It mostly is, which does set it apart. And so is the Godzilla rampaging, which is powerful and terrifying but also a little too beholden to recreating moments from the original Godzilla. I think I'd like it more if 2016's Shin Godzilla didn't already exist, and I think it's really standing out in particular because it is thrown into sharp relief by the American Godzilla movies, which have been ranging from mediocre to dreadful lately. Anyway, I really liked this movie, but I have too many qualifications for that appreciation to want to throw my full weight behind it so soon after seeing it.

The Ten Worst Movies of 2023

#10 Five Nights at Freddy's

I have no idea how this was considered Josh Hutcherson's comeback when the one note he was given to play is "sleepy." The movie itself is just as sleepy as his character, constantly forgetting it's even trying to be scary as it unspools endless exposition for a story that you couldn't possibly understand without having played five FNAF video games before sitting down in the theater.

#9 A Strange Way of Life

Oh, Pedro Almodóvar, my love. I was so excited to see your new short film. How could I have possibly known it would be the worst thing you've ever produced? And I would know. I've seen all of it. The script is college film bullshit, the aesthetic is a blandly Western waste of the director's copious talents, and Ethan Hawke is giving one of the most bafflingly miscalibrated performances I've ever seen. What a bummer.

#8 The Exorcist: Believer

I'm no huge fan of David Gordon Green's Halloween trilogy, so I can't say I expected to like The Exorcist: Believer. But it is mind-boggling the degree to which this movie exactly misunderstands The Exorcist. I mean, it doesn't even have any idea what its own themes are, so I guess I can't entirely blame it. It features the worst deployment of legacy characters in an era full of bad legacy characters, a screenplay that always features five people talking at once without having anything to say, and a scatterbrained approach to tension-building that scuttles any chance of forward momentum. 

The double possession isn't a terrible idea, but it is when they put in less than no work at establishing one of the characters experiencing it. And the exorcism itself is hopelessly bungled. With such a potent crib sheet as The Exorcist '73 in front of them, it's shocking that they thought the world would be terrified by two young girls leaning against one another and sighing for like twenty minutes while steam comes out of their mouths.

#7 Book Club: The Next Chapter

I can't say I came into this movie expecting a plot, and for the most part it was a totally charming - if pointless - romp around Italy with a group of talented actresses who aren't trying very hard. But that ending. This movie sees fit to hit you with a one-two-three-four-five punch of bloviating speeches about the nature of love that come one after another like an interminable blitzkrieg of boredom.

#6 Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Enough pixels have been wasted on complaining about Quantumania and its oodles and oodles of crappy CGI, so I won't dwell too long here, but it really is that bad. Ant-Man's small-scale storytelling and world cannot hold up under the weight of a franchise-restarting storyline that demands grand-scale emotional stakes.

#5 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3

Book Club: The Next Chapter was rough enough, but this was the bad vacation movie that really got under my skin. Nia Vardalos directs herself like she's on Ambien the entire time, and every single scene seems to represent human behavior as regurgitated by an alien who spent half their time on Earth asleep and the other half in a Walmart bathroom. 

#4 Insidious: The Red Door

Perhaps this is the result of the "legacy sequel" of it all forcing The Red Door to hitch its wagon to the storyline of the abysmal Insidious: Chapter 2, but a horror movie has hardly been this boring and pointless in a good long while. There's a good scare gag here and there, but it's mostly just a murky slog through infrequent and rote jump scares that boasts a truly godawful script. The movie barely knows what to do with Patrick Wilson and Ty Simpkins, who are the only returning stars with roles worth thinking about, but it has less than no idea how to deliver Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, or Leigh Whannell anything at all interesting despite taking the pain of arranging brief cameos for all of them. It's nice to see them all, but to see them in this way is just a slap in the face.

#3 "Carl's Date"

Pixar's short film department has made a lot of great ones, a few masterpieces, and at least one stinker ("Lava"). But never has a short spent so much time in the intersection between bad and pointless as this Up sequel that was originally intended to be a part of Disney+'s series of (presumably also pointless) shorts titled Dug Days. It was not given the budget or attention it needed to play in theaters, even before something as frivolous as Elemental, and it shows.

#2 Magic Mike's Last Dance

An astounding, mind-boggling misstep. Magic Mike was a pretty good movie, and while its first sequel Magic Mike XXL represented a huge leap down in quality, that was still frothy and soapy fun. This one is just pathetic, with a bad story, underwhelming acting, thin characters (the robust ensemble of the original movies is scrapped in favor of a team of cardboard cutouts with abs drawn on, about whom we know less than nothing), not-great dancing, and cinema history's most ill-judged voiceover narration.

#1 After Everything

None of the After movies have been good, but they swing wildly between bad-good mayhem and devastating tedium. This one lands in the latter camp by assuming that it might be worthwhile to spend more or less the entire runtime in the company of Hardin alone, an ocean away from Tessa. As terrible as he is with her, he is so much worse without her, and being forced to spend a feature film watching him be terrible to completely new characters in Portugal, with practically no connection to the soapy melodrama of the previous four films, is torture of the highest degree.

Best Worst Movie: Journey to Bethlehem

Just like a lot of categories that are meant to express positive sentiments this year, I'm feeling a little less emphatic about this one than I might. But I can't exactly resist a teenybopper musical that fundamentally misunderstands the Nativity story and slathers it with lazy, ill-conceived YA rom-com tropes while periodically breaking to slap you in the face with some of the most viscerally repulsive rhymes ever conceived. It combines all this with quite a few elements that are just pure cinematic confection, like the over-the-top production design of King Herod's castle that turns his throne into a lion's head with glowing red eyes.

Worst Best Movie: Skinamarink

Skinamarink is a movie that is making choices, and I respect its right to commit itself so wholly to embracing experimentalism and eschewing any semblance of narrative, character, or structure. My boyfriend Ben loved it beyond measure, and I genuinely get it. I respect Skinamarink. I honor Skinamarink
There were even one or two moments that got under my skin. But god, did I hate Skinamarink. Never have I had such a vividly painful experience in a movie theater, to the point that I couldn't help making audible groans of pain as I attempted to scrabble out from under the crushing weight of its stultifying self-assurance that spending minutes upon minutes staring at grainy public domain cartoons could be in any way worth my time and money.

Worst 2022 Movie I Missed: Avatar: The Way of Water

To be fair, most of the 2022 movies I caught up on were Oscar contenders that I didn't hate, so this is weighted heavily toward my own bias. But I'm sorry, the blue people continue to not thrill me, and it's very rude that they should contrive to attempt to do so for more than three hours.

Worst 2021 Movie I Missed: The King's Man

I truly don't know how this movie happened. I liked Matthew Vaughn's first two trips to the Kingsman well, but this prequel is a grotesque misfire on every level. It's a mystifying combination of po-faced war drama and WWI Wikipedia synopsis, delivering almost none of the saucy action mayhem the franchise is known for.

Best Dramatic Actor: Kamiki Ryūnosuke, Godzilla Minus One

I have certain qualms about the pat, pedestrian way the post-war drama plays out in Godzilla Minus One, but Kamiki is an absolute marvel, imbuing his stock character with riveting humanity. He gives the trauma and devastation of a post-war Japan a physical body, and without him, the numerous Godzilla-free sequences would be absolutely worthless.

Best Comedic Actor: Andrew Barth Feldman, No Hard Feelings

Rarely has a stage actor transitioned so smoothly to the big screen, and at such a young age! Andrew Barth Feldman shows up, takes control of this movie, and holds his own against Jennifer Lawrence something fierce.

Best Dramatic Actress: Rosamund Pike, Saltburn

It's a shame Rosamund Pike hasn't had more prominent roles in the realm of Jane Austen, because she is exquisite at delivering a caustic barb in polite, clipped British tones. In a movie that is frequently less than subtle, she is a picture of understated effectiveness, delivering oodles of information with every individual glance or inflection.

Best Comedic Actress: Megan Mullally, Dicks: The Musical

Dicks was for the most part on a comic wavelength I found mystifying, but Mullally's fearless commitment to her work found the perfect vessel in this character who seems to have been beamed in from 12 dimensions over from ours. Because of this, something like a simple scene of her asking for an object to be retrieved from a shelf can become a comedy odyssey the likes of which haven't been spotted in these parts for quite some time.

Best Dramatic Supporting Actor: Mark Patton, Swallowed

Mark Patton sets the blueprint for the modern gay villain in Swallowed. He gives us a character who is even queenier than the swishy gay-coded villains of the Hitchcock era or the Disney Renaissance. However, his performance is perfectly calibrated so that the thing you fear isn't the character's well-realized femme-ness, but the utter lack of humanity that hides behind his otherwise soft countenance. It's absolutely bone-chilling work. To watch his performance is to despair over the decades of work Hollywood robbed us of when he was practically chased out of town post-Nightmare on Elm Street 2.

Best Comedic Supporting Actor: Simon Rex, Down Low

Simon Rex gives what is basically the hetero foil to Mark Patton's performance. He revels in his commitment to his character's exuberance for his own particular peccadillos and presents us with a person who's entirely unpredictable yet clearly follows his own unknowable internal logic.

Best Dramatic Supporting Actress: Michelle Yeoh, A Haunting in Venice

Séance scenes can't help but be creepy, though they seldom rise above a sort of baseline "chills down your spine" atmosphere. Yeoh's performance as a medium in the throes of a possible possession is downright startling, however, and she deserves every ounce of kudos she could possibly get.

Best Comedic Supporting Actress: America Ferrera, Barbie

Look, you deserve all the kudos you can get if you're able to deliver that clunky monologue full of pop-feminist buzzwords and still sound like a human being while doing it, let alone doing it seven times in a row. Beyond that, Ferrera simply excels at playing a dorky suburban mom, a type of role that I for one have never seen from her before.

Best Trans/Nonbinary Actor: Morgan Davies, Evil Dead Rise

It's never explicitly stated how Davies' character Danny identifies, but Danny does exhibit a masc presentation. Danny's voice is consciously pitched lower than its natural timbre, and the exquisitely subtle thing that Davies chooses to do with that is show how the character forgets to voice modulate when experiencing bone-rattling terror. In this and many other ways, Danny is brought to life with a great deal of care and intention that is tremendously admirable.

Best Child Actor: Kate Moyer, Children of the Corn

The antagonist in Children of the Corn easily could have gone the Isaac and Malachi "religious zealot" route, but the way that Kate Moyer's performance makes her villainous cult leader character into hardly anything more than a petulant, snotty child makes her that much more terrifying. The banality of evil and all that.

Best Worst Actor: Antonio Banderas, Journey to Bethlehem

Banderas' indolent, wrathful King Herod is almost impossible to get a bead on. The character he created - I assume by taking one glance at the script and then immediately throwing it in the garbage - is delirious and compelling, but never ever explicable. Particularly watchable is the vagueness with which he approaches his line readings, like he wasn't really listening to what the other characters have said but is mad about it anyway. I think that maybe this is actually a proper "Best" performance, but the fact that nobody else in the movie is at his level makes him stand out in a way that's intensely difficult to quantify.

Best Villain: Dr. Volumnia Gaul, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

I'm convinced that Viola Davis read the name "Dr. Volumnia Gaul" and both agreed to the part and decided how to play it before she ever even cracked open the script. She is reveling in the opportunity to play a batshit mad scientist, and her evident glee makes Gaul that much more dangerous of an onscreen presence.

Worst Villain: Corn Subsidies, Children of the Corn

If you asked me beforehand how much of the plot of this movie was going to involve adults holding meetings about corn subsidies, I would have guessed none. So that's egg on my face, I guess.

Best Hero: Transubstantiation, The Nun II

Spoiler alert for The Nun II. They bless the casks at a winery to transform the libation into the blood of Christ so they can blast it at The Nun. It's gloriously ludicrous and almost makes sitting through the rest of the movie worth it.

Worst Hero: Supergirl, The Flash

If you didn't see The Flash, you may be asking, "Who the hell is this?" Well, I did see it and I have the same question. Supergirl is given absolutely no characterization, and the only moment we spend alone with her acts in direct contradiction to the scene before, so it's impossible to make heads or tails of this trumped-up cameo from a character that likely won't ever be seen again, because you can feel the DC franchise crumbling beneath the movie's feet as it races along.

Best Cameo: Carey Mulligan, Saltburn

Mulligan is basically unrecognizable as the star of Promising Young Woman here, and her brief appearance as someone caught in the web of a tragicomedy of manners is one of the most effective evocations of the movie's overall tone.

Worst Cameo: Earring Magic Ken, Barbie

Of course the notorious Ken doll that accidentally became a gay icon was going to show up in the Barbie movie. But in a project with such a stacked cast, could they not get anyone to play this character? This is nothing against Stath Lets Flats star Tom Stourton, who I'm sure is a very nice person, but he is not a huge recognizable international star, nor does he look even a little bit like the doll in question, so it's hard to imagine how this all came together. Did Brad Pitt drop out at the last minute or what?

Dead Wifiest Dead Wife: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Is she the perfect, most loveliest angel? Naturally. Does she have a conversation with Chris Pine's character that elucidates the themes of the movie? Of course. Does she die horribly? Check. Are her flashbacks almost entirely comprised of footage of her giggling beneath a bedsheet while diffuse white light plays around her? Obvi. Does she have a name? ...Jury's still out.

Best Costume: Mask, Infinity Pool

There's a bunch of them and they're all creepy as fuck! I think they promise a movie entirely unlike the one we actually get, but you can't have everything.

Worst Costume: Wasp's Wig, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

She may have still made her Marvel paycheck, but clearly Evangeline Lilly's anti-vax ways weren't going to go unpunished on set.

Best Set: The Cafeteria, Bottoms

Bottoms is a movie I wish I liked a whole lot more than I did, but within its whirling dervish of chaos lies a beautifully grotesque exaggeration of small-town America's borderline erotic obsession with high school football, crystallized in this perfect "Creation of Adam" riff that plasters Nicholas Galitzine's Jeff on the cafeteria wall behind his table.

Worst Set: King Triton's Castle, The Little Mermaid

There's photorealism and then there's "take a look at this underlit mossy turd, idiots." Guess which style director Rob Marshall went for?

Best Cinematography: No One Will Save You

Although the "no dialogue" conceit simply doesn't work given the way the protagonist is forced into situations where either she or other people would speak, which calls out how ramshackle the whole thing is, the way it forces the story to be told visually is nevertheless superb. I would especially like to call out the well-deployed bird's-eye-view shots that give the audience a glimpse into how the alien invasion is affecting the world in ways that the main character is unaware of, and one sequence where she is running and can never quite reach the edge of the frame, putting the audience into her predicament in an immediate and compelling way.

Worst Cinematography: Five Nights at Freddy's

I think this is a still from Five Nights at Freddy's, but honestly it's so dark, who could be sure?

Best Editing: Oppenheimer

Now, it's important to note here that the editor isn't the key figure in deciding the length of a movie. That I have my quibbles with. But this is the movie of 2023 that best uses editing to its advantage to create tension in the viewer, nowhere better than in Oppie's supremely unsettling victory speech.

Worst Editing: Red, White, & Royal Blue

An absolute hash. A single montage cuts between multiple different forms of depicting texts and emails onscreen, to the point that when the lovers are actually just talking on the phone using speakerphone normally, it is impossible to tell what's happening. Also, there's one flabbergasting moment that doesn't so much cross the 180-degree line as nuke it from orbit.

Best Title Card: Evil Dead Rise

The way it "rises" from the trees might be an overly literal interpretation of the title, but it's tremendous and overpowering and comes right at the moment that its super fun prologue reaches a crescendo. Definitely a good time.
Best Score: Suzume

Oooh, that really just gets under your skin, dunnit?

Best Needle Drop: "Push" Matchbox 20, Barbie

Honestly, yes, this song is exactly the perfect totem to represent the type of music that a stereotypical "guy" would worship. They hit the nail on the head and everywhere else.

Worst Needle Drop: "Dog Days Are Over" Florence and the Machine, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

For a writer-director who has built a brand out of curating retro music for his movies and TV shows, this Florence track is both a mystifying choice for the moment it plays over and a showcase of how lazy James Gunn's approach to this entire soundtrack turned out to be.

Best Musical Sequence: "Titanium" M3GAN

The fact that M3GAN is secretly sort of a musical came out of nowhere, and it starts with this deeply uncanny and electrifying moment that I'll never forget.

Worst Musical Sequence: "Wild Uncharted Waters" The Little Mermaid

I was considering going for any of the songs from Wonka, which boast tortured rhymes paired with a frankly alarming sense of meter, but as a sequence, nothing is less compelling than this bland jaunt around some cliffs that Eric takes us on while singing his useless "I Want" song.

Best Monster: Godzilla, Godzilla Minus One

This Godzilla ain't fucking around. While his major city attack sequence is a little more beholden to recreating moments from the 1954 original than I'd like, from his ferocious and surprising island attack to the ways his spines jut from the water in Jaws-like aquatic battles, this is one of the most genuinely formidable versions of the iconic kaiju we've had in a long, long time. 

Worst Monster: Sebastian the Crab, The Little Mermaid

No. Just, no. Get that thing away from me.

Biggest Laugh: Jigsaw's Notebook, Saw X

If Saw X had no other good qualities, simply including this quiet moment where John Kramer is sitting peacefully on a porch and scribbling in his notebook while the sun sets, at which point the shot reverses and you can see he's designing torture traps, would still make the entire thing worth it.

Biggest Cry: Broken Arrow, Scream VI

Including the theme from "Broken Arrow," which has been used as Dewey's theme since Scream 2, during the moment that Gale is forced to contend with his loss is just cruel.

Biggest Scream: The Memory Game, Insidious: The Red Door

I'll give it to you, director-star Patrick Wilson, you had one good scare gag in you. Kudos.

Biggest Squirm: Poor Kid, Talk to Me

The things they do to this kid in Talk to Me. I mean, come on. The fate of this young boy is twisted and trangressive and shocked me more than anything else I've seen in a theater this year.

Biggest Thirst: The Flashback, Strange Way of Life

I should probably resent it for being the one moment in the movie that feels like a proper Almodóvar scene, but the horny, heaving, decadent bacchanalia of this thirty-second flashback is almost worth sitting through the rest of it.

Best Kill: Spoiler, Scream VI 

All these years later, and they're still coming up with compelling places to stick knives.

Biggest Scene Stealer: Baby Yoda, After Everything

This guy is supposed to be the antagonist of the movie (as much as anyone can seem evil when compared to the furiously malevolent lead character Hardin), but he's shirtless in 90% of his scenes, meaning his Baby Yoda tattoo is just chilling out there for all to see. Never has there been a more adorable distraction.

Best Title: Slotherhouse 

It's not the best pun to say out loud, but it sure does the trick at selling a hell of a good horror movie premise.

Worst Title: Dicks: The Musical

It just doesn't work. It begs a lot of questions. Are the main characters dicks? Is the movie about their dicks? I'm not in junior high, so none of these questions are really interesting enough to sell the movie, which has a very specifically queer point of view that is not served by being reduced to this fratty, lazy title. 

Least Title: Anyone But You

Based on the title, this movie could be about literally anything. But none of those things sound like a compelling time at the movies.

Best Line: "I had econ!" Ethan, Scream VI

Maybe the best alibi for not being a murderer ever used. The dorky desperation with which it is spoken is also exquisite.

Worst Line: "It's nice to have friends." Lylla, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

It's bad enough to force Linda Cardellini to say this insipid line once, but she's forced to repeat it over and over again. Truly embarrassing for everyone involved.

Best Poster: Scream VI

Does it write checks the deeply Torontonian movie can't quite cash? Maybe. But it's a hell of an image.

Worst Poster: Wonka

I guess Webster's dictionary called and asked the graphic design team to make an image to represent the word "busy." There is just so much shit crammed into this poster with no rhyme or reason. Its garishly ugly color scheme is enough to permanently to sear the eyes. And, like... sure, we need to see what Wonka and maybe an Oompa Loompa look like. But is it absolutely necessary to tell us that people float in the movie? It's not like those people are large enough to tell what actors are playing them!

I think the thing that angers me the most is the little girl with the lollipop, though. She's just so pointedly extraneous. Like is she meant to represent us, the audience, and what a goddamn effervescent good time we're going to have with Wonka? And what's with the curtain up in the top right corner? Look folks, you can have a stage theme, a Union Jack pinwheel, or a candy forest, but all three combined are just excruciating to navigate.

Best Poster For a Bad Movie: Strange Way of Life

Another thing that promises Almodóvar is working on all cylinders, until watching the short itself disobliges you of that notion.

Worst Poster For a Good Movie: Saltburn

It's an ugly morass of faces, yes, but it also misunderstands the movie completely. I challenge anyone who has actually seen Saltburn to describe it as "kaleidoscopic," which is literally the only concept this poster is attempting to sell.

Top Five Movie Discoveries

#5 Spree (2020)

It's not exactly subtle, but this movie starring Stranger Things' Joe Keery as a murderous rideshare driver attempting to get followers is a bloody fun romp through modern social media culture anchored by a tremendously solid performance.

#4 Z-O-M-B-I-E-S (2018)

I wouldn't have believed you if you had told me that there was a Disney Channel Original Musical about zombies that do eat flesh (but not really) that weaves an incoherent metaphor about school integration and bussing or maybe the Warsaw Ghetto and drenches the whole thing in garish pink and green. But it exists and it is a gloriously messy, delectable thing.

#3 Gambit (1966)

Honestly, this particular heist movie should have way more cultural cache than Michael Caine's other entry in the genre, The Italian Job. Oh well, its structural playfulness is a delight and delivers an indelible Shirley MacLaine performance.

#2 Calendar Girl (1993)

Now this is a qualified recommendation. It's a sex comedy from 1993 about three teenagers who want to have sex with Marilyn Monroe so bad they decide to take a road trip to her house. There are definitely jokes that wouldn't fly today. But honestly, there were way fewer than I expected, and the movie - which is led by a frequently half-dressed Jason Priestley, another recommendation - is chock full of moments that are either unexpectedly sweet or laugh-out-loud funny. It's a lightly homoerotic hangout romp, which is something I for one am very open to experiencing. I think it probably makes sense that Calendar Girl flopped super hard when it was originally released, but it was also kind of a delight?

#1 Son of Rambow (2007)

This movie about homosocial bonding via action cinema is an exquisite little gem featuring a pair of all-timer child performances from Bill Milner and Will Poulter. It's an intimate, tender movie that allows each and every one of its characters at least one opportunity to show off their humanity.

2023 Movie Crush: Serizawa, Suzume

Honestly, if the guy I had a crush on turned into a chair but then I got to go on a road trip with his hot college friend while trying to cure him... Well, let's just say you shouldn't be surprised if you happen to find a three-legged chair dumped in a roadside ditch. 

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