10 Best Films 2023: Margaret Roarty

2. Priscilla

Priscilla Review

Last year’s musical extravaganza Elvis gave us a deep look into the life of the iconic King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, from the start of his career to his untimely death, as well as the abuse and career sabotage he suffered at the hands of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. His young wife, Priscilla, was merely a footnote. In Sofia Coppola’s latest film, Priscilla is given center stage. With a keen eye for fashion and music, Coppola bathes Priscilla in pastel hues, in her signature hyper-feminine style, to paint a portrait of 1960s and 70s Americana.

Priscilla forces us to deal with Elvis the man, and doesn’t allow us the reprieve of experiencing Elvis as a performer and icon. His legacy is larger than life, but Priscilla treats him as a human being with flaws and contradictions. His achievements always happen just off-screen, allowing us to really see things from Priscilla’s perspective. Coppola’s style of filmmaking allows Jacob Elordi to give a truly nuanced and unassuming performance as the prolific entertainer. Cailee Spaeny is equally as good as Priscilla herself, transforming from a child to a young woman before our eyes.

Priscilla is a compassionate film, framing Elvis and Priscilla’s love as real and genuine. While it does not sugar-coat the mistreatment Priscilla suffered, including Elvis controlling what she wore and being the outlet for his destructive temper, the film goes to great lengths to show affection and happiness too. As is the case in all of her films, Coppola does not pass judgement on her characters, she lets their actions speak for themselves. Priscilla’s version the truth might be a hard pill to swallow; she doesn’t fit neatly into the role of victim that so many are eager to put her in.

As mainstream Hollywood movies slowly evolve further toward a kind of rigid morality, Coppola continues to tell stories that remind us how complicated and messy life and love can be.

Recommended for you: Sofia Coppola Movies Ranked

1. Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer Review

Picking a best film from this list was not easy. Every single one of these films displayed the absolute best of what movies can do, whether it was in the performances, writing, directing, editing, production design, sound design, or any other element of the process. Maybe this number one is the most obvious choice, maybe it’s unsurprising, but thinking about all of the elements listed above, all of the things that make a movie the best, Oppenheimer was the first one that came to mind every single time.

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer feels monumental. It is a film that is consistently firing on all cylinders and, despite it’s lengthy runtime, never once drags. It’s engaging from beginning to end, an epic spanning decades, led by a quietly powerful and devastating performance by Cillian Murphy.

Most Americans were taught that dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was a necessary evil in order to end the war. As Joyce Evans explains in her book, “Celluloid Mushrooms Clouds: Hollywood and the Atomic Age,” a great deal of Hollywood films made during the Atomic Age and the Cold War perpetuated this myth, with filmmakers pressured into making anti-communist films and forming The Blacklist, barring filmmakers engaged in Unamerican activities from work. With the benefit of hindsight, Oppenheimer explores the delayed consequences of the Atomic Age, laying bare our refusal to take responsibility until it is far too late.

This idea is exemplified in the film’s sound design, and how we don’t hear the explosion of the Trinity Test until scenes later, as well as in its imagery, like when Oppenheimer stares mournfully into the pond, watching the rippling of the water. All of these elements are easily identifiable, but they’re used so effectively and with clear purpose. Oppenheimer is such a visceral visual and auditory experience that truly takes full advantage of film as a medium.

Recommended for you: More 10 Best Films 2023 Lists

Every person you meet will have a different idea of what makes a movie the ‘best’ movie of the year. Everyone has their own criteria and their own perspective. The fact that every end of year list is different highlights how many truly incredible films are made every 365 days. Despite living through a time that is decidedly anti-art, where corporate interests continuously shove aside artistic integrity to fatten the bottom line, it is a comfort to know that movies – good, incredible, show-stopping, brilliant, messy, and insane – have continued, in spite of the odds, to endure.

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