the adventure of movies continued in 2023, and what an adventure it was. last year i remarked that i was kind of emotionally checked out and had a hard time engaging with movies. sadly this condition has been slow to improve and in the arena of film and many other zones of my life, i have spent a lot of time watching without thinking. it doesn’t help that the year began with a run of movies that mostly didn’t connect for me.

but as the year went on, both the number of hits and my capacity for excitement about them improved. somehow this year, for the first time ever, i watched over 100 movies. i’m not really sure how, but this means on average i watched a movie every week on top of our weekly movie night. movie marathons for birthdays and christmas, friend visits, sometimes just for fun… i’m not sure how it adds up, but i guess it must. pretty crazy! i guess there’s no denying at this point that i like watching movies now.

when you’re done reading my list, make sure to check out dyl’s top 10, too. we watch most of our movies together and shared a lot of favorites this year, so you’ll find some thoughtful complementary perspectives on many of the same titles…


Thief (1981)

2023 was a year marked by memory problems, owing to my general emotional disengagement from art. there are many movies i adored at the time but can no longer remember well enough to speak to. i’ve mostly kept those movies off the list for want of anything to say. it feels very embarrassing to say that i love something but not what i love about it. thief is the most important example. i loved it immediately, all year long i was convinced it would rank in my top 3. but when it came time to write it up, i couldn’t remember any of the causes of my positive feelings for it. there are many such cases… but i loved it too much to not mention it, and it gives me an excuse to talk about this unfortunate phenomenon which had an undeniable impact on my list. my chief resolution for 2024 is to reverse it

Femme Fatale (2002)

de palma de cember is back! we went through all his best written-and-directed credits last year so this time we checked out a few of his early works before jumping ahead to this one. i admire a director who can keep making the same movie over and over again and find a way to make it audacious every time. when you do this i think a foray into the venerable tradition of supernatural twist endings isn't just inevitable but correct, the right thing to do. hi mom! (1970) was a little more interesting but unrepresentative of the de palma block (which includes sisters and obsession) due to its lack of eerily identical pairs of women

Welcome II The Terrordome (1995)

racial violence erupts in a dystopian future ghetto, lots of suffering ensues. my ranking system this year doesn't have a good place for movies i disliked that still leave a lasting impression, so terrordome stands out for being hard to place. extremely bleak and uncomfortable, it left me wrestling with the value of art that makes you feel awful with no takeaway… vent art that stuck in me like a rusty nail

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

this move made me so mad and i’m still really mad about it. i’m adamant that i don’t think art is bad just for being expensive, but i do feel pretty strongly that the more expensive a work of art or entertainment is, the less it feels like an achievement to be good, and the more embarrassing it is to be bad. these are the terms in which mario is a contender for the worst movie i’ve ever seen. under most circumstances, if a movie is boring and unfunny i can shrug my shoulders and move on. what do i care? but when the responsible party is a colossus like nintendo with all the power in the world, and this is what they do with it, to be aggressively mediocre becomes an insult. in even a moderately just world, an enormous machine that converts oceans of resources and man-hours into such lazy, cynical entertainment would be dismantled at once and its parts redistributed to better uses. the fact that it instead worked out for them is a sign that something has gone terribly wrong with our society, like gangrene on a peach.

and to be clear like, i never had any illusion that this would be a good movie. i thought it would be dumb fun: safe, predictable, overly referential, but colorful, cheesy, and playful. i’d chuckle occasionally, allow myself to be caught up once or twice by a playful riff on the source material, and leave thinking “yeah that was kinda fun”. i expected nothing and they still found a way to let me down. nintendo keeps getting a pass on being evil because they’re fun, if they can’t even do that then why do we have them? if you liked this movie i hate you and if i find out i’ll yell at you until you block me. i didn’t like tears of the kingdom neither


#10. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

y’know i expect big budget mass media to have simple, safe artistic goals, because it’s mass media; and i expect it to meet those simple goals, because it’s big budget. d&d and mario are in many ways swinging at the same softballs, but where mario whiffs it, d&d hits it into the outfield. which feels like the least you can do in this position! it was just what i wanted from both movies: it cares about its source material but is inventive in finding new ways to have fun with it, fulfills the basic requirements of character writing and storytelling, it's mostly cheesy but with some genuine charm, its action is playful and creative and its jokes put a smile on my face… it was a frivolous good time! it’s a dumb blockbuster adventure designed to get fandom butts in seats, but it’s really good at being that! which is neither a big accomplishment, not with a 150 million dollar pricetag on it, nor is it something i particularly value. but because i’ve been haunted for the last 6 months by how skin-crawlingly bad the fucking mario movie was, d&d, as its natural foil, has come to mind just as often, and my affection for it grows every time. congrats to nintendo for making a movie so rank it makes wizards of the coast smell good

#9. The Queen of Versailles (2012)

a documentary about an impossibly rich family that starts coming undone when the recession hits. there’s some schadenfreude value in it but i think it sticks with me because it really cemented a missing piece of the puzzle for me of how being mega-rich works. i always thought there was a consensus that not being in debt to the bank was a good thing, but early on david siegel suggests it’s crazy to own property and not subsequently mortgage it so you can keep investing that money. i guess you don’t reach a net worth of hundreds of millions without constantly feeding whatever gains you make back into the machinery of capital. if you win, hurray for you. if the machine craps out, then suddenly despite having all these gigantic assets, you don’t actually have the money to pay for the upkeep of your life, and we see this old guy go from feeling on top of the world to getting pissy at his family for leaving the lights on despite still being worth more than everyone i’ve ever known combined. dyl and i make reference to it a lot, so it’s guaranteed to stick with me for a while

obtained this one from a bountiful thread by wine tanuki on twitter, which we still return to from time to time. thanks wine! still lots on there i wanna see

#8. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

we celebrated dyl’s birthday by watching the entire fast and furious corpus inside of a week (we’d catch fast x in theaters in may). i like the very early and very late entries best, for sort of opposite reasons. the aesthetic of ‘cool’ that overtakes the latter half of the series is very mainstream and is usually kinda boring, you really watch for the moments where it pushes excess or absurdity, which are thankfully grander and more common as the series goes on. the more grounded tone of the early entries may work better for me at the end of the day, as it’s 2 that i now remember most fondly over previous favorite 9, perhaps owing to tyrese gibson’s charismatic presence, before they assassinated his character and demoted him to comic relief for all eternity… but really, it's the collective experience of cramming the whole franchise down my eyeholes with my special birthday boy that ranks, more than any individual film

other highlights from the series include the highway truck robbery in the first movie, the fucking vault of destruction in 5, uhh when they jumped between dubai skyscrapers in whichever movie that was in (the last few are a total blur)... what can i say! they found a version of blockbuster spectacle that works for me

#7. Rear Window (1948)

i was never much interested in hitchcock, his movies were kind of a homework watch, in part motivated by their influence on brian de palma. maybe the wrong mindset to go in with, because i wound up not liking vertigo much at all and feeling lukewarm on psycho. i did like rope but rear window wins out over it for a couple of reasons. i really liked its sense of space and sound, the geographic sense you get of all the neighbors’ stacked apartments through jimmy stewart’s window, the score often supplied diegetically by neighbors playing or performing music as part of their own private lives, sometimes just city noises. long shots of just watching strangers live their lives… and then, i was surprised at how different the story was from the expectations i had, which themselves were formed by seeing rear window endlessly riffed on in other media (most significantly the simpsons). i really thought the female lead was gonna be a reluctant accomplice, sneaking into the neighbor’s apartment under pressure and guilt from jimmy stewart. it’s almost completely backward. it was so funny how jimmy’s gf and nurse both get just as obsessed with jimmy’s crazy murder theory as he does. the home invasion itself is really brief and ends in a peaceful if tense surrender almost right away. nothing like i expected. refreshing and humbling to go into a work you thought you knew the gist of from cultural osmosis and find out it’s nothing like you expected at all

#6. Southern Comfort (2001)

documentary about a robert eads, a trans dude from rural georgia, in the last year of his life as he dies of medical neglect. just as heartbreaking as you’d expect, but the movie is less about his neglect and death than about his life and the lives of the small but vibrant trans community around him. if you’re reading this i probably don’t have to explain the feeling of being connected to queers and their lives across time and space. it’s funny people online can annoy you to no end, but when you’re peering into your historical blind spots, comrades who you have even less in common with become the most beautiful people in the world. there’s a powerful feeling in realizing you’re connected in this way, in emotion, in struggle, in experience even as experiences differ greatly in their particulars. it’s also just incredibly good people watching, getting to know some incredibly sweet, strong, imperfect people from another world, not so distant from your own, but distant enough to be full of question marks… robert eads is one of the coolest people i’ve ever seen just in terms of manner and presence. dudes fucking rock

#5. The King of Comedy (1982)

a “god, movies are so good” movie. you can really just make up a guy, give him some desires, and put him in situations. that’s all a story has to be to be good. there’s so much pleasure in just watching people exist and be their weird selves and try to deal with the world. i also had a great time with after hours and alice doesn’t live here anymore, all three of these scorsese comedies, i think he might just be a really funny dude. i don’t care what these movies mean or if they mean anything at all i just love characters

#4. Miami Connection (1987)

i think we got this from how did this get made, which set an expectation of so ‘bad it’s good’. but miami connection was just plain good. follows a group of taekwondo students who are also best friends, in a band together, and also all orphans. as i understand it they’re real life taekwondo students whose real life teacher, y.k. kim, wrote, produced and financed the movie (and stars as their teacher). to some extent it’s an ad for his business and a chance for the martial artists (especially kim) to show off their sick moves, but it ends up being a lot more than that, too. as much as there is to love, perhaps it’s best to say less, our experience was surely helped by going in without expectations. the important thing is that the movie’s commitment to its goofy premise is both completely sincere and fully delivered on. joyous movie

#3. Mysterious Skin (2004)

the one time i was actually glad to be emotionally disconnected ‘cause i think this one would’ve obliterated me otherwise. i don’t really wanna talk about it in detail, it’s a movie about child sexual abuse and the long shadows it casts, deeply uncomfortable watch in multiple ways, i feel dirty just mentioning it. but if it wasn’t willing to be so uncomfortable i don’t think it would be honest. and that honesty is why it connects so well. few other than gregg araki could have threaded this impossible needle

#2. Gloria (1980)

friendship ended with kathleen turner now gena rowlands is my best friend. honestly one of my favorite characters in film, she starts as the middle aged neighbor lady who very begrudgingly accepts care of a kid she doesn’t like and has no idea what to do with after his family is gunned down by gangsters; then by increments we get a fuller picture until we understand her to be (without compromising the original image) a kind of john wick. they do this without contradicting our original image of her, nor does it make her interactions with this small child any less insane. a really singular character in my film viewing experience who is also unbelievably cool and sexy

#1. The Mark of Zorro (1940)

perfect movie, no notes. zorro is the other coolest sexiest person of movies, in a naked way where like, yeah they WANT you to think he’s cool and sexy, they are openly trying to make him that way. but they’re good at it! he’s genuinely every bit as cool and sexy as the movie wants you to think he is! and tyrone power makes it look so easy and natural. you really understand why people fall in love with movie stars. zorro himself is perfect. he’s in california for ONE DAY before deciding to don a mask, publicly wage war on the alcalde, and straight up rob him. we don’t watch him think about it and reach a heavy decision, he just springs into action! it’s the obvious course of action to him! during his escape after breaking into the alcalde’s manor, he poses as a friar to hide to elude pursuit and takes the opportunity to start seducing the alcalde’s daughter. his “oh i don’t care about politics, i just like being a useless dandy and doing magic tricks” act he puts on to disarm his family makes me want to scream. the final swordfight you know is coming the whole movie is flashy but believable, or should i say grounded, because it’s also unbelievable: lightning-fast movements with long, generous shots. real swordsmanship, the pinnacle… everything the movie sets out to do is basically conventional, it’s a very “safe” story, and its trappings have been resurfaced throughout the genre countless of times in the 80 years since. but nobody does it like zorro! it’s like when checking out dragon quest after a lifetime playing its descendants, you see why all the tropes are there to begin with, and they shine brighter than ever in their original context. it almost makes you wonder why the future bothers. there is simply no dashing, witty rogue as dashing, witty and roguish as zorro. i’m smitten still and i may be smitten forever

in 2023 i watched a total of 105 movies, of which 101 were first watches. most of them were american and most of them were fun, undemanding watches, lots of stuff safely within my comfort zone. in the year ahead i would like to get a more challenging and diverse spread, more arthouse films, more foreign films, more films by black and women directors... it's hard to push yourself when you're disengaged overall. but this year i think thinsg will be different. i want to be awake, i want to keep my eyes open and stop trying to look away from the things going on within and around me. movie night is another chance to practice, and practice is the keyword for 2024 for 2024..........



won my personal affection; would readily share or recommend

  • After Hours (1985)
  • Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)
  • An American Werewolf in London (1981)
  • Crimes of Passion (1984)
  • Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
  • Gloria (1980)
  • M (1931)
  • Miami Connection (1987)
  • Mysterious Skin (2004)
  • Rear Window (1954)
  • Southern Comfort (2001)
  • The Italian Connection (1972)
  • The King of Comedy (1982)
  • The Mark of Zorro (1940)
  • The Queen of Versailles (2012)
  • Thief (1981)
  • Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022)

  • B-Rank

    positive experience, made a lasting impression; broadly recommended

  • 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
  • Blade (1998)
  • Delikado (2019)
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)
  • F9 (2021)
  • Fate of the Furious (2017)
  • Fateful Findings (2013)
  • Fist of Fury (1972)
  • Ghost Dog: The Way of The Samurai (1999)
  • Ghost in the Shell (1995)
  • Ghost World (2001)
  • Hi, Mom! (1970)
  • In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
  • Lost Highway (1997)
  • Man Hunt (1941)
  • Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)
  • Neptune Frost (2021)
  • Past Lives (2023)
  • Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa (2002)
  • Rope (1948)
  • The Doom Generation (1995)
  • The Holy Mountain (1973)
  • Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990)
  • The Princess Bride (1987)

  • C-rank

    positive experience but little lasting impact; no particular recommendation

  • A Very Nutty Christmas (2018)
  • Bernie (2011)
  • Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)
  • Body and Soul (1925)
  • Bones of Crows (2023)
  • By Hook or by Crook (2001)
  • Caliber 9 (1972)
  • Cocaine Bear (2023)
  • Ebbie (1995)
  • Fast Five (2011)
  • Fast X (2023)
  • Femme Fatale (2002)
  • Freaks (1932)
  • Furious 7 (2015)
  • Hard Boiled (1992)
  • Homoti (1987)
  • Kill Bill: Volume I (2003)
  • Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)
  • Mad God (2021)
  • Man Hunt (1941)
  • Mod Fuck Explosion (1994)
  • Nobody (2021)
  • Obsession (1976)
  • Psycho (1960)
  • Raspberry Reich (2004)
  • Safety Last! (1923)
  • Sisters (1972)
  • Slumber Party Massacre II (1987)
  • Snowmance (2017)
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
  • Suspiria (1977)
  • The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales (2017)
  • The Doom Generation (1995)
  • The Emperor Jones (1933)
  • The Fast and the Furious (2001)
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
  • The Green Knight (2021)
  • The Killing Floor (1984)
  • The Lure (2015)
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
  • The Raid: Redemption (2011)
  • The Venture Bros.: Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart (2023)
  • Welcome II The Terrordome (1995)
  • Westworld (1973)
  • *Blow Out (1981)
  • *School of Rock (2003)
  • *Terminal USA (1994)

  • D-rank

    unrewarding watch, did not connect with it

  • Akira (1988)
  • Fast & Furious (2009)
  • Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
  • Heat (1995)
  • Infernal Affairs (2002)
  • Jack Frost (1998)
  • Magnificent Warriors (1987)
  • Paddington (2014)
  • Paddington 2 (2017)
  • The Boss (1973)
  • The Dog Who Saved Christmas (2009)
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  • Twisted Pair (2018)
  • Vertigo (1958)
  • White Plastic Sky (2023)
  • *Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

  • E-rank

    still mad

  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)