List of the best films
By Dwight Brown | NNPA News Wire film critic
As 2023 ended, the year’s best films were vying for awards that will crescendo with the Oscar® race. Film fans don’t have to watch from the sidelines. They can join the fun and view them all in theaters, VOD or on streaming services.
Pictures, directors, screenwriters, actors and behind the lens talent have given their all. Now you can experience the results of their work. These are the best and the brightest…
‘The Color Purple’
Steven Spielberg adapted a version of Alice’s Walker’s classic novel in 1985 and caused a rift. Women found their voice in the lead character. Black men were portrayed as devils. This modern version, based on the Broadway musical, is a new and much welcomed interpretation by screenwriters Marsha Norman and Marcus Gardley. Director Blitz Bazawule (video director for Beyonce’s “Black is King”) aces the song and dance routines, pulls stellar performances from the cast and gives this new spin on a tale about two separated sisters a bit of “verve.”
She didn’t see it coming. Eileen (Thomasin McKenzie), a small-town young Boston-area woman works as a secretary in a boys’ prison. The day a blonde bombshell psychologist (Anne Hathaway) walks into the building, she’s smitten and led astray down a path of self-destruction. Credit novelist/screenwriter Ottessa Moshfegh and co-screenwriter Luke Goebel for spinning this twisted, flabbergasting tale. Director William Oldroyd (“Lady MacBeth”) delivers a shocking, ensuing drama so hot that it heats up the placid winter snow scenes.
Sometimes a film’s greatest accomplishment is that warm-hearted feeling you take away from a story you couldn’t fathom. Richard Montañez (Jessie Garcia), a janitor at Frito Lay, turns the munchy food industry on its ears by climbing the corporate ladder and creating a snack that appeals to his Latino community, and the world. Garcia carries the film’s weight and is aided by co-stars Annie Gonzalez, Dennis Haysbert, Emilio Rivera and Matt Walsh. Controversy followed this bio/film, due to an embellished resume.
‘John Wick: Chapter 4’
The best action film of the year features Hollywood’s most laconic actor in an iconic role surrounded by friends who are foes and foes who could be friends. John Wick (Keanu Reeves), a badass hired killer, works under the mandates of a clandestine council, “The High Table.” He’s done them wrong, and they send assassins to hunt him and snuff him out. Extremely evocative settings, especially in Paris. Mindboggling stunts are brilliantly shot by cinematographer Dan Lausten. An elaborately choreographed, gorgeously crafted slaughter fest. A blood-thirsty spectacle all expertly and exquisitely assembled by director Chad Stahelski.
‘Killers of the Flower Moon’
To appreciate this western classic, first you must address the elephant in the room. Why in the 21st century is anyone making films about the Native American experience, which is not from their point of view? Or with them as the lead protagonists? If you want to learn something about America’s indigenous people check out the enlightening documentary “Lakota Nation vs United States.” Still, this masterwork by veteran filmmaker Martin Scorsese is an engaging crime/thriller.
Who knew that the guy who clowned his way through the Hangover franchise was an artiste? Now everyone does. Bradley Cooper, as director, writer, producer, actor, brings the story of famed New York symphony conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein to life in shades and tones not seen in a film before.
Quantum physics and a race against the Nazi’s motivated J. Robert Oppenheimer to be the big man on campus. This retelling of the development of the ultimate, war-ending weapon—the atom bomb—is spellbinding. Its cryptic subject matter is made discernible by genius writer/director Christopher Nolan. He pulls out all the visual stops as he catalogues government intrigue, rivalries among scientists and the hangers-on who were part of that fateful day in Nevada when a flash of light and power changed everything. Noland and the ensemble cast of Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt and Matt Damon were on a mission. Their mission is completed in the most visually stunning ways.
Creating three-character movies is a tough assignment. But somehow Korean-born writer/director Celine Song manages to do that in the most simple, graceful and romantic way. As kids back in Seoul, South Korea, Na Young and Hae Sung were kindred spirits. Life separated them. She (Greta Lee), as an adult, lives in New York, is a writer and goes by the name Nora. He (Teo Yoo), smitten and forlorn, tracks her down. He’s so enraptured he pursues the now married old friend endlessly.
If “Love Actually” and “Love Jones” had a child, this would be it. Dom (David Jonsson), a twentysomething, is ugly crying in a toilet stall in the unisex bathroom of a bar in South London. Yas (Vivian Oparah) overhears the wailing. Fate pulls them together.