10 Best Films 2023: Mark Carnochan

5. Maestro

Maestro Review

Considering his star-making debut as a director with A Star Is Born, it should come as no surprise that Bradley Cooper’s sophomore directorial effort is just as brilliant, if not more so.

Chronicling the relationship of composer Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia Montealegre, Maestro brings one of the most human portrayals of love to the big screen. As enchanting as Cooper and co-star Carey Mulligan may be together as the couple, their relationship is deeply flawed. The reasons for the two to stay together and the reasons for the two to separate are both extensive, yet the love between them is not one of logic nor reason… it is one of feeling. Though we might sit there wishing for Bernstein to stop repressing who he is or pleading for Felicia to part with her husband for his affairs, we can always feel the love between the couple and it is immensely powerful.

By opening the film with an older Bernstein as he discusses his late wife, the film creates this sense of grief that permeates throughout the entire runtime. Just as they wish to leave each other, they can never be apart. This is beautifully delivered in many of Cooper and Carey Mulligan’s scenes together, but is best portrayed through the scenes of Leonard conducting (and even a dance/musical number).

Maestro is delivered like one of Bernstein’s grand symphonies. Marvellous in its execution and subtle in the way it tells the story. Bradley Cooper is proving himself as one of the greatest directors working today.

4. Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer Review

Given Oppenheimer’s fame for being part of a double bill with Barbie, it would also work marvellously as the first half of a double bill with Godzilla Minus One.

The Yin to Barbie’s Yang. The dark side of the Barbenheimer double bill. Though both films dealt with creation and the destruction it could cause, Barbie handled the subject in a (mostly) more positive manner.

In Oppenheimer’s case, the film instead asks “just because we can do something, does that mean that we should?” and ultimately grapples with the progression of technology and mankind. Eventually, Oppenheimer comes to the conclusion that it is our own power which will eventually destroy us, if it hasn’t already. That’s not quite the glittery, joyful entertainment that is Barbie.

As depressing as three hours of this may seem, Christopher Nolan delivers the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer in such a way that one can’t help but to get swept up in the tension and anxiety surrounding the creation, initial use, and after effects of the atomic bomb.

With a fantastic supporting cast, gorgeous visuals and a wonderful screenplay, Oppenheimer explains the science behind the bomb to us in an accessible way which allows us to appreciate and understand the position of all of the scientists involved. Better yet, by showing us the events through the eyes of Oppenheimer himself, we see the beauty that he could see in the science behind it all. Though, importantly, we also see the horror.

Oppenheimer isn’t just a biopic about the invention of the atomic bomb, it’s a horror story about the world that these men created, one which has been in constant fear of nuclear war ever since the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. 

In a year of tough competition, Oppenheimer is one of the most engaging, human stories. 

Recommended for you: Christopher Nolan Movies Ranked

3. Saltburn

Saltburn Review

Proving herself as one of the most exciting and evocative new directors working today with her 2020 debut Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell’s sophomore effort Saltburn swiftly showed itself as one of the year’s best upon release. 

Set primarily in the summer of 2007, Saltburn follows working class Oxford student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) as he is invited to stay with the charming and aristocratic Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi) over the summer at his eccentric family’s sprawling estate, Saltburn.

It becomes pretty obvious early on that there is something every single member of the family wants and that they are all playing against each other to get it. Furthermore, they are all more than willing – and capable – of stabbing each other in the back if anyone gets in their way. It crafts an excellent odyssey of lust, desire and betrayal that takes us to the deepest, ugliest depths of the psyches of its characters, yet we can’t help but find ourselves seduced by them. As horrified as we are at the behaviour of these people, we find ourselves entranced by them all the same.

Playing out like a Shakespearean episode of ‘Skins’ (with a slight dash of ‘Succession’), Saltburn brings us the worst characters you could imagine and they are each a joy to watch.

Pages: 1 2 3 4

Leave a Comment