December 28, 2023

Now Playing’s Best Films of 2023

We asked the hosts of Now Playing Podcast to name their favorite movie of 2023. Here’s what they said.

Arnie: My favorite film of the year was Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers. While not an entirely original film (how many teachers-get-through-to-students movies have we seen? Dead Poets Society kept coming to mind with this one) the film is grounded by great performances from lead actors Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa. This drama-comedy has heart and some unexpected twists as well. The film has a sublime balance of drama and comedy and kept me engaged. Plus the techniques used to make this digital-shot movie look like old film was a very nice detail. Strong recommend.

Stuart: While it’s tempting to join the multitudes crowning Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer “Best of the Year,” my pick is the equally clever and alarming indie Dream ScenarioNicolas Cage stars as an unsung college professor who experiences a new kind of celebrity after he inexplicably starts popping into the heads of random sleepers every night. Anyone with a social media account will likely recognize the parallels between Cage’s growing popularity and “going viral”, but the movie has even greater ambitions than telling a cautionary tale about internet fame. Writer-director Kristoffer Borgli’s mastery of surrealism and cringe-comedy kept me absorbed, amused, and mystified throughout. And Cage is the perfect avatar of 2023 anxieties, given how his craziest performances have become 21st Century memes. This topical A24 fable raises questions about identity and connection that I’ll be pondering for years to come.

Brock: The 2023 release I enjoyed the most this year was Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse. The impressive visuals, the progression of the characters and the story, and the sheer chaos of the final act made for a great time at the movies, and leaves us eager to see how they wrap it all up. Honorable mention to David Fincher’s The Killer, and the Greta Gerwig surprise Barbie, as I didn’t think I was going to have that much fun going in. I haven’t yet seen Oppenheimer but I definitely will soon as awards season viewing has already begun.

Jakob: Ari Aster’s nutso Oedipal odyssey Beau Is Afraid and Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City remained at the top of my favorite movies of 2023 until I saw French courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall with only a couple days left in the year. What begins as a trial to determine if a wife was involved in the sudden death of her husband, becomes an indictment of the court system that draws conclusions based on only fractions of a person’s life and, as more and more information leaks out, the movie reveals how much we base objectional truth on the slightest, subjective actions in everyday life. Also, I cannot overstate what an amazing performance the family’s pet dog gives.


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