10 Best Films 2023: Margaret Roarty

8. Barbie

Barbie Review

Greta Gerwig’s heart and filmmaking vision shine in Barbie, a glittery disco ball of a film filled with laughter, dance breaks, and a criminally insane amount of pink. From its Old Hollywood-inspired production design and costumes, to the intricate makeup and hairstyles, Barbie is glamourous, joyful, and downright fun.

Gerwig really stretches her legs in this film, proving her strength as a director. Her vision is so bright and vivid, and her love of musicals infuses the movie with rhythm and pulse that makes you want to get up and dance. The “I’m Just Ken” sequence is overindulgent in the best way. The script is convoluted at times, but the sheer scope of the film more than makes up for it.

Barbie is a film about growing up. It’s about realizing how deeply screwed up the world is, but choosing to live in it anyway; that real is better than perfect.

7. The Boy and the Heron

It should come as no surprise that Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film is a masterpiece; both an artistic and technical achievement that showcases the best of what only hand-drawn animation can accomplish. While Western media has consistently conflated animated films with children’s films, choosing more often than not to oversimplify complex themes for its young audiences, Studio Ghibli has consistently put out films that are thought-provoking and challenging, while remaining accessible. A coming-of-age film about how to live with grief, The Boy and the Heron is no exception.

The Boy and the Heron is only one of the films on this list that explores WW2 from the perspective of the Japanese, which is something American audiences are rarely exposed to. Based on his own experiences as a child, Miyazaki sets the film in 1943, during the Pacific War. While the war is not directly addressed in the film, the threat of violence and destruction looms like a dark cloud over the entire story. It’s a feeling, an anxiety, made visceral by Miyazaki’s own memories. The Boy and the Heron asks us how we can live in a world that is so cruel and unjust, where life is so easily extinguished. Like most of Miyazaki’s films, it is melancholy and dreamlike.

While it may not be Miyazaki’s swan song – he has announced his retirement and then backtracked numerous times over recent years – he uses The Boy and the Heron to grapple with his own legacy as a storyteller. It is perhaps his darkest film to date, a reflection of an artist questioning the kind of world he will leave behind. Performance-wise, the film also highlights some incredible ones in the English language dub, such as Robert Pattinson whose voice is utterly unrecognizable as the titular grey heron.

Recommended for you: 10 Best Studio Ghibli Films

6. John Wick: Chapter 4

John Wick: Chapter 4 Review

Despite being the 4th entry in the action movie series, John Wick 4 sticks the landing. Not only is it the highest-grossing film of the franchise, it is also the most ambitious, with the filmmaking throwing everything they could think of at the wall to see what would stick. The runtime might be bloated, with action set piece after action set piece, but the film proves to be potent and thrilling, anchored by a truly powerful performance by Keanu Reeves.

John Wick: Chapter 4 is stunning and pulse-pounding, its action sequences polished and creatively staged. Reeves gives it his all in his final outing as the titular assassin, his physicality marked by age, the mental and physical toll of Wick’s journey evident in every punch, wince, and tumble. Reeves gives one of the best performances of the year, showcasing his star power – the kind of power we rarely get to experience anymore.

The film may be packed wall-to-wall with action, but John Wick: Chapter 4 manages to have a heart and soul too. It is a deeply felt, gruelling, impossible odyssey through the final stages of grief. Wick’s journey toward destruction or redemption is cathartic to experience, especially in a time marked by insurmountable loss.

Recommended for you: Where to Start with Keanu Reeves

Pages: 1 2 3 4

Leave a Comment