2023: A Year of Film in Review

2023: A Year of Film in Review

Movie theatres have been a significant part of American culture for decades. A gathering place for everyone. Occasionally, huge movies became cultural events. Everyone saw them at the theatre; they were universal experiences that became part of pop culture and regular conversations everywhere. In 2023, there were some such movies. We will be talking about the shock wave of the Bomb in Oppenheimer and the coldest line of cinema ever (“I believe we did”) for ages. Everyone can reference Ryan Gosling’s “kenergy” from the Barbie movie. 2023 was a good year for the movies.

This is good news, too. The movies have taken a back seat to streaming services in the past few years. Since Avengers: Endgame, no movies were released that had huge significance or wide ranges of audiences, at least none that I can remember—and if I can’t remember them, they weren’t memorable. The pandemic also gave streaming services the upper hand. However, the tide turned in 2022 with the release of Top Gun: Maverick. This was an epic film. A sequel is rarely this good. This film brought old fans of the original film back to the theatres and new audiences as well. It was an instant classic, setting the stage for what I think will be a great comeback for movie theatres. 

The aforementioned Barbie and Oppenheimer films were released on the same day, and the double feature received the mashed-up moniker of Barbenheimer. It spread like wildfire, consuming the news and social media for weeks. To be clear, these are both highly acclaimed movies, and both smash hits. Oppenheimer was a Christopher Nolan masterpiece. Nolan’s film was almost released exclusively on streaming services, too. When he found that out, he went ballistic (pun intended), changed from Warner Brothers to Universal Pictures, and demanded a 100-day theatrical window after its release, to prevent it from going straight to streaming. Both movies are fantastic, each in their own right. But Barbenheimer is important in a different way than either one was by themselves. It got people excited to go to the movies. It continued the momentum from Tom Cruise’s new Top Gun adventure. 

Surely (don’t call me Shirley [sadly, nothing on par with Airplane! was released this year]), movies are important. Not just the films themselves, but the experience of the cinema. Watching films with strangers, sharing an experience with them, and seeing the same movie as millions of people around the country is a unifying experience and a net good for society. Even when everyone sees what consensus determines is a horrible movie, it is good for society because everyone finally agrees on something. Even if people disagree about the movie (for example, debates over feminism in Barbie or communism and nukes in Oppenheimer) people are excited about the same thing. We need more shared experiences like this as a country. Tangible, widespread enthusiasm (and the enthusiasm around Barbenheimer was tangible) is very good.

Another movie in 2023 was Guy Ritchie’s Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre. Haven’t heard of it? That’s a shame; not many people have; it bombed at the box office. This was an action comedy starring Jason Statham (he does his own stunts), and it was excellent. It’s a classic espionage movie with great action sequences, writing, and comedic moments, courtesy of Hugh Grant. It was released in March—before Barbenheimer—and did not get the attention it deserved. 

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant was released in April of 2023. (Big year for Guy Ritchie, eh?) This was a serious, heart-wrenching story of an Afghani interpreter for the U.S. military saving the life of a U.S. soldier. It was inspired by the thousands of interpreters who aided military efforts in Afghanistan on the promise they would be given visas to go to the United States. Many of these promises were not honored, and those stories inspired this film. Ritchie began it in earnest following the military pullout from Afghanistan in 2021. 

The last movie I want to take a look at is The Boys in the Boat, directed by George Clooney. Now, this one very few of you will know. It is based on the book by Daniel James Brown, based on the true events of the eight-man JV boat from the University of Washington winning the golden medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Kind of like Miracle. (‘Merica!) This one was not a major success at the box office, but it was a beautiful film. 

Also released was the Wonka film, which I have not seen. Reviews seem to be very positive.

While in the theater for The Boys in the Boat, I was very impressed by the previews for movies coming out in 2024. The Beekeeper, starring Jason Statham (he does his own stunts) looks promising; The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim also looks promising; apparently Despicable Me 4; Paddington in Peru must be good; apparently Gladiator 2Deadpool 3Kingdom of the Planet of the ApesKnives Out 3Kung Fu Panda 4Bob Marley: One Love, and tons, tons, more. It’s actually hard to believe there’s been a writer’s strike recently. 

The fact that the best movies made in 2023 ranged from serious topics like nuclear war and the war in Afghanistan to “obscure” sports like rowing or a plastic toy amazes me. It proves that movies are a fantastic medium for portraying the human experience compellingly and inspiringly. Movies in theatres, however, are much more powerful, which is why I am excited theatres are making a comeback. Vive le Cinéma!

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