2023 – Films in Review

2023 – Films in Review

In 2021 I started keeping a list of all the films I watched in the year, partly because I’m bad at remembering what I have seen particularly if it doesn’t strike a chord with me; but also to gauge how many films I was actually watching which felt like not many!

So in the interest of bring some life back to this website I thought I’d start documenting my year’s movie viewing here. At the end of the list I’ll summarize my thoughts, what stood out, and attempt to justify my viewing behaviour.

Films watched in 2023

  1. Asako I & II (Ryusuke Hamaguchi – Japan, 2018) *
  2. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Ryusuke Hamaguchi – Japan, 2021) *
  3. The Rescue (Doco)*
  4. Drive My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi – Japan, 2021)
  5. Everything, Everywhere, All At Once *
  6. Ju-on: The Grudge
  7. The Roundup
  8. Corpse Bride
  9. Dangan Runner
  10. Gemini
  11. Decision to Leave *
  12. Broker
  13. Daises *
  14. Below
  15. Annihilation *
  16. The Whistleblower
  17. The Producers
  18. Mishima
  19. Ran *
  20. The King of Comedy
  21. Red Notice
  22. Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard
  23. The Lost City
  24. Legend
  25. Memories of Murder *
  26. American Psycho *
  27. Free Fire
  28. 1%
  29. The Trial of Joan of Arc
  30. Sex, Lies, and Videotape *
  31. Body Double
  32. Blade of the Immortal
  33. Rashomon
  34. Jacob’s Ladder *
  35. High Ground
  36. BMX Bandits
  37. Hello Dankness *
  38. Carrie *
  39. The Heroic Trio
  40. Far Away Eyes
  41. What Six Survivors Told… (JTV)
  42. Falling High School Girl and Irresponsible Teacher (JTV)
  43. The Sun Sets and Once Again the Earth is Upright (Short)
  44. Tokyo Vice (TV)
  45. A Janitor
  46. Shin Ultraman
  47. Console Wars (Doco)
  48. The Big Steal
  49. The Heroic Trio 2: Executioners
  50. Shiki-Jitsu *
  51. Suspiria
  52. Mandy *
  53. Jurassic Park
  54. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
  55. Jurassic Park III
  56. Jurassic World
  57. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  58. Jurassic World Dominion
  59. Single8 *
  60. Baby Assassins
  61. Labyrinth
  62. The Dark Crystal
  63. Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Doco)
  64. Dawn of the Felines
  65. I, Tonya *
  66. You Were Never Really Here
  67. Missing
  68. Kin
  69. FLCL (Anime Series)
  70. High Life
  71. Baby Assassins
  72. Stand By Me
  73. Stop Making Sense *
  74. Punk Samurai
  75. Fantastic Mr. Fox
  76. Ju-on: The Grudge 2
  77. John Wick: Chapter 4

69 Features, 3 Docos, 3 TV series, 1 Short, 1 Anime. Bold * denotes favourites watched for the first time.

In 2023 I’m still finding it difficult to spare the time & money to watch films in the cinema, I only managed 5 this year (Decision to Leave, Broker, Hello Dankness, Single8, and Stop Making Sense). As the post production on my own feature film has ground on for another year I feel guilty investing any spare time into anything other than slogging away at the computer eternally finishing my film . This means I can only discover things in my own time and likely years after the hype. I managed only 69 features this year while I know someone who did over 700! I gotta lift my game.

To summarize my viewing, I’m hardly on the bleeding edge of new cinema, more wandering alone through mostly Asian cinema and cult films with a smattering of mainstream crap.

There was some logic though. For 2023 I made a conscious effort to watch a lot more Japanese cinema. I’ve long been a fan of Japanese films and they’ve had a big influence on me but I must admit my interest waned through the mid to late 2010’s. Japanese films have struggled to reclaim the heights of its last heyday with the J-Horror wave 20 years ago and have been left in the shadow of a rising Korean cinema, long dominate in Asia and now breaking out in the West.

The catalyst for this renewed interest was unequivocally watching Baby Assassins at the Japanese Film Festival at the end of 2022. It’s a film I entered with little expectation but ended up loving. Hell I watched it twice more this year! It sparked a curiosity in what a new generation of filmmakers are doing in Japan, enticed me to start learning Japanese (very casually) and dare I say, made me too big a fan of Akari Takaishi! In all I managed 18 Japanese films, 2 JTV series, 1 Anime and 2 American movies/TV shows set in Japan. I also reached A1 Level Japanese… すごい!

I started the year diving into the work of Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Japan’s newest highly acclaimed filmamker and I can see why the acclaim is warranted. I feel I was so enamoured by the earlier films Asako I & II, and Wheel of Fortune & Fantasy that it took away from appreciating the latter Drive my Car, despite it winning an Oscar. What really stood out is the exceptional dialogue in his films, I’d consider them a must watch for this alone. The way that a single scene will twist and turn in unexpected ways purely through dialogue and without the far-fetched histrionics of Western cinema was captivating. I’m hoping to catch his latest Evil Does Not Exist next year, in the cinema.

There were a bunch of older films I viewed for the first time that really made an impression Ran, Memories of Murder, American Psycho, Sex, Lies and Videotape, Jacob’s Ladder, and Carrie. All exceptional and a reminder of how much compelling cinema is there to be discovered in the past.

Films that struck me visually were Annihilation, Shiki-Jitsu and Mandy.

If you’re a Neon Genesis fan like I am then you’ll love the aesthetic of Hideaki Anno’s live action Shiki-Jitsu, it’s similar in visual language but without the Mecha’s. Instead we get Steven Seagal’s daughter Ayako Fujitani who’s novella it’s based on and she is delightfully mesmerizing.

Mandy was visually sublime in a most unexpected way. I’m not a horror film fan so I was reluctant to watch. The only reason I gave it a chance was for the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score and I’m so glad I did. Yes it’s violent, bloody, extreme, demented even… but none of that stands out over it’s fever-dream imagery. Probably the most unexpectedly stand-out movie I watched this year.

A conversation with my sister-in-law lead me on a Jurassic Park binge. This was an interesting although mostly painful excursion. The original Jurassic Park is actually exceptional filmmaking, it’s Spielberg at his peak. What’s interesting is contrasting the original to the increasingly woeful sequels it spawned. Even the Spielberg-directed sequel is weak which makes it an interesting series to deconstruct. A big part of what works in the original is the characters, the pacing of the script, and the limitations of VFX at that time demanding more creative solutions to storytelling. Even Sam Neill can’t save the sequels. In the modern era where you can do anything with CGI we’re now lacking in the restraint of old, even if that was less by choice but technical limitations.

Decision to Leave I feel I need to see again to absorb all the details. Hello Dankness is a must watch if you get the chance. I, Tonya was an unexpected take on real life events with superb performances by the 4 leads. Stop Making Sense in the cinema felt like I legit experienced Talking Heads live for real, 40 years after the fact.

I could ramble on but it’s 4 hours to midnight so lets wrap this up.

My viewing goals for 2024. Watch 104 films in the year, that’s 2 a week. Continue my exploration of Japanese films and perhaps revisit the best of J-Horror. Get to the cinema a bit more often. I might start writing 1 paragraph reviews again to track my first impressions as well.

We’ll see… My own feature film will be out next year so fingers crossed on where that might lead, hopefully to a couple of festivals and I can tick off some viewing goals there 🙂