Matt at the Movies: The Matties!
As award season kicks into gear, Matt looks back on some of his favorite film experiences of 2023.
First things first: Golden Globe nominations are out!
After a few years of warranted backlash against the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) for decades of shady practices, the Globes are back in 2024 after a much-needed overhaul.
The new voting base features over 300 members from seventy-five countries in an effort to diversify the awards; as recently as 2021 there were fewer than 100 voters and no Black voting members among them. Other changes include the introduction of two new categories, including “Box Office Achievement” and “Best Performance in Stand-Up Comedy or Television,” another sign the awards are keeping up with the entertainment landscape. Their new broadcast deal is with CBS, and the Globes will air on Sunday, January 7th at 8PM EST. There is no confirmed host at this time, but rest assured Y’all Weekly hopes the ceremony goes back to being a breezy, drunken affair with plenty of self-deprecating humor and biting jokes at the industry.
And the nominees are …
As always, the awards at the Globes are split into two categories, drama and musical/comedy. There is a lot of parity this year as each of the best picture selections in both categories - besides Air - have a realistic chance to garner one of the coveted ten Academy Award for Best Picture nominations as well. There are great epics, smaller indie films, box office smashes, and intense foreign films that represent a stellar year for cinema. Both Barbie and Oppenheimer lead the nominations with multiple acting nods, while Bruce Springsteen has to wonder what he is doing sandwiched between three Barbie songs for best original song. Can Marty bring one more home before riding off into the sunset or will the sheer will of Oppenheimer take the Drama awards?
Not too long ago, the HFPA would nominate baffling selections and little seen movies, but it seems they have acquired some taste since the restructuring. Past Lives, an excellent film about long lost friends from South Korea who find each other again in New York City as adults was the biggest surprise to me. The film received acting, directing, and screenwriting nominations, as well as a nod for best drama. This is a wonderful film that makes you reflect on your choices in life while leaving a bittersweet taste in your mouth.
Netflix and Apple TV+ once again have a good chance at winning multiple awards, making their mark with hits like Maestro, May December, Rustin, Nyad, and Killers of the Flower Moon represented. I was tickled to see both Barry Keoghan (Saltburn) and Nicholas Cage (Dream Scenario) nominated in the actor categories while Margot Robbie (Barbie) and Jennifer Lawrence (No Hard Feelings) showed their comedic chops on the actress side.
My only gripe with the nominations is in the new Stand-Up category, which feels like it’s straight out of 2009. While Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes, and Trevor Noah have decades of comedy under their respective belts, the Globes’ nominees don’t reflect the comedy world in 2023. Not even a mainstream and excellent special like John Mulaney’s Baby J made the cut, and many other deserving nominees were too ripe for the HFPA.
It will be interesting to see how the foreign film nominees play out here as Zone of Interest and Anatomy of a Fall seem to be the two front runners. Excitement and promise is on the horizon as awards season kicks off for an extremely strong overall slate this year.
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2023’s Cinematic Superlatives: The Matties!
I’ve seen fifty-eight new major releases this year, two more than last season. Sixteen of these showings were at the Independent Picture House, with my personal favorite crowd of the year coming opening night for Asteroid City. IMAX viewing was bumped up to almost pre-pandemic levels which can be attributed to larger scale films and directors in action this year including Martin Scorcese, Christopher Nolan, and Ridley Scott. Whether you watched in the theater or at home there was plenty of movie magic to be found. Let’s do a quick round up of some of the highs and lows of 2023.
Hollywood Event of the Year
Runners up: The combined WGA & SAG-AFTRA strikes, Everything Everywhere all at Once sweeping the Oscars, Sound of Freedom cashing in on conservative wallets.
Winner: Barbenheimer was a cultural monolith for nearly two straight months in 2023. The box office returns speak for themselves as Barbie brought in over $1.4 billion to claim the mantle of biggest film of the year, while Oppenheimer sits at $950 million with an IMAX holiday re-release that will push it past the billion dollar threshold as well. We’ve seen the costumes, the double features, and all the fun that could be had by having a good old fashioned day at the movies.
The best part of this whole phenomenon is that both films were exceptional. Each will be heavily represented in the acting and technical categories at this year’s awards ceremonies. Who knows if this can be duplicated again but it goes to show the power of storytelling is as important as the IP behind it.
Flop of the Year
Runners up: The Machine, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, The Flash.
Winner: Haunted Mansion. My students and I decided to put this on during the Halloween season this year. I had enjoyed Eddie Murphy’s original and thought there were some promising actors who could at least have some fun.
Unfortunately, this movie was my lowest rated of the year (2/10) and had no redeeming qualities. The story was convoluted, long, and not quite scary or fun. It played more like a thriller than a funny, scary story with a charismatic lead. The film's $159 million dollar budget returned just $59 million as it now lives in infamy over at Disney+.
It might be time to start retiring movies created over rides at amusement parks before Space Mountain invades our living rooms.
Surprise of the Year
Runners up: Barbie & Oppenheimer (sheer box office returns), No Hard Feelings, Are You There God? It’s me Margaret., Priscilla, The Pope’s Exorcist, Knock at the Cabin.
Winner: Saltburn. This movie took some Babylon type swings with a dark comedic energy befitting last year’s The Menu. Dry, perverse, classist, and most of all funny. Barry Keoghan takes over the screen while surrounded by heavy hitters on all sides, including fellow 2023 Golden Globe nominee Rosamund Pike.
Jacob Elordi - who also stars as Elvis in this year’s Priscilla - shows off his natural charm as a posh aristocratic friend to our main character. Emerald Fennell is two for two after her debut feature Promising Young Woman in 2020. We’ll see if this film garners the same level of plaudits as her Oscar-winning debut.
Indie Film of the Year
Runners up: Past Lives, Anatomy of a Fall, Passages, Blackberry, When Evil Lurks.
Winner: How to Blow Up a Pipeline. Now available to stream on Hulu, this movie came out in the spring and has stuck with me ever since. This cast of unknown Gen Z actors are fighting back against big oil with 1990s-style ecoterrorism. It’s a heist movie wrapped into several character arcs that reveal the background of how this random rag tag group came together for a common goal. There are no frills or special effects that leave you blown away (pun intended), but the film is an important one for the younger generation as we ramp up to another election cycle in 2024.
Scene of the Year
Runners up: Oppenheimer’s nuclear test scene, Saltburn’s ending dance sequence, Anatomy of a Fall’s argument scene, Barbie’s Matchbox 20 montage, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One’s car chase through Rome, When Evil Lurks’ animal scenes.
Winner: The Killer and his fight with the brute. The unreliable narrator assassin played by Michael Fassbender is on a revenge tour that leads him to a peer responsible for horribly injuring his girlfriend. The fight is visceral and overpowering as every MMA punch, throw, and grapple made my teeth hurt. Watching two contract killers destroy each other can be over the top (John Wick) or more practical. David Finchner makes you feel as if you are in the room, and the slow burn of the rest of the film paired with the intensity of this scene makes for a lovely balance of chaos.
Experience of the Year
Runners up: John Wick Chapter 4, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One, Stop Making Sense (rerelease), How to Blow Up a Pipeline, Saltburn
Winner: Beau is Afraid. Horror master Ari Aster made a psychosexual love letter to his mother in a film that was characterized as a Jewish Lord of the Rings. While this was a comedy as much as a thriller, it left me with an anxiety attack. When things fall off the rails in the first twenty minutes as Joaquin Phoenix’s main character is unable to properly hydrate himself with his new medications, he goes out into a surrealistic version of his world that is complete chaos. It made the hair on my neck stand up. This constant and impending dread continues for almost three hours and it’s quite unlike anything else I felt at the movies this year.
Actor of the Year
Runners up: Joaquin Phoenix (Beau is Afraid & Napoleon), Benny Safdie (Oppenheimer, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., The Curse), and Greta Lee (Past Lives, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, The Morning Show).
Winner: Margot Robbie edges out Joaquin Phoenix for the crown.
With all due respect to Phoenix, who played to subdued passive yet complex characters in Beau is Afraid and Napoleon to perfection, Margot Robbie went to the stratosphere with Barbie. She acquired the IP from Mattel and spent years getting things in place as producer before handing the reins over to Greta Gerwig to direct. She kept the titular role and played it to perfection. All the while, her interviews, written features, and class were on display all year in a way that exudes star power.
On top of this performance, she had a side role in Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City just to give her the extra nudge. She has always been one of my favorite actors, and it’s great to see her get her shine after a rollercoaster in 2022 (Babylon & Amsterdam).
There’s more after the credits …
We are about to put a wrap on 2023 for Matt at the Movies, but before that we have a couple films to sneak in before our end of the year top ten. Poor Things, Ferrari, and The Iron Claw are on the docket over the holiday break. Don’t forget Bradley Cooper’s Maestro will be streaming on Netflix beginning December 20th. However if you need your big screen prestige fix ahead of time, it will be playing in limited release at the Independent Picture House starting this Friday the 15th. Auf Wiedersehen my fellow cinephiles!