Life Of Navin

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Movies of 2023

2023 was a plentiful year when it came to entertainment. Whether it was huge movie releases in theaters, sleeper hits across OTT platforms, or story-driven TV series, there truly was way more to consume than anyone could handle. Even though I try my best to keep track of what's new in the world of pop-culture, 2023 was a year when there was so much that I wanted to watch but a lot just slipped into a backlog that I need to get to someday in the future (and let's be honest, most of it is going be in the ever-growing backlog void). Either way, here's a pick of the best movies I watched through this year:

13. Polite Society

Movies about the immigrant experience, especially based on immigrants from the sub-continent are always fun, but Polite Society added a new layer of zaniness, paired with arguably the best rendition of "Maar Dala" since Devdas itself. This story of a girl in the UK, balancing between the demands of tradition and her dreams of being a stuntwoman was completely hilarious, and will absolutely bring up memories of Bend It Like Beckham.

Another fun, whacky movie this year about the immigrant experience, centered around a group of Indian-origin friends in the US, was Four Samosas.

12. Infinity Pool

I'm not sure how I'd even explain to someone what Infinity Pool is about. It's a mix between horror, sci-fi, and dark comedy, while also being a commentary on the excesses of the modern bourgeoisie. Starring Alexander Skarsgard and Mia Goth, both of whom have a penchant for picking scripts that most other mainstream actors would consider "crazy", Infinity Pool keeps you guessing throughout it's the entire runtime. David Cronenberg is definitely someone to watch out for!

Another movie in a similar vein that I enjoyed this year were Knock At The Cabin. Again, a movie that'll have you second guessing yourself right uptil the final reveal.

11. Jawan

OK, I'll be honest. Jawan is probably not the best action movie this year. But yeah, it's my list so I'm going to have it on the list because, well, we're all SRK-simps. I know there's folks who watched the movie and then went about criticizing it as being too over-the-top, but c'mon, admit it! You felt some deeply primal part of you cheering out loud when you saw a 58 year old with a cigar in his mouth, and a belt in his hand, whooping the shit out of nameless goondas. That's it. That's all. Atlee really is in the rarefied space of directors who know how to build stand-up-and-clap moments for our audiences.

Some other standout action flicks from this year were Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, John Wick Chapter 4, Silent Night, and Sisu. Funnily, despite being from different parts of the world,  nearly every one of these stars an actor in his 50s as the lead. Looks like global action cinema really has a type.

10. Vaalvi

 

If #11 was about mindless action, #10 goes the other way. On paper, Vaalvi is a simple story about a man who conspires with his mistress to kill his wife. Well, except, absolutely everything that can go wrong, goes wrong in the most hilarious manner. Swapnil Joshi and Anita Date-Kelkar as the husband and wife put forth really fun performances, and the final scene is total genius in the way it ties everything together.

Marathi cinema pops up with absolute gems like this movie every once in a while, and I hope that movies that Vaalvi get more visibility and appreciation outside the state as well.

9. 12th Fail

Vikrant Massey stars in this biopic of Manoj Kumar Sharma, who made the journey from failing in the 12th standard (hence the title) to becoming a decorated IPS Officer, despite all the obstacles in his path. Everyone puts up an earnest performance in the movie, and reinforces how anyone's success is always a combination of hard work, perseverance, and the ecosystem built around you. 

I think the only reason it doesn't rank higher in the list is because the TV series, TVF Aspirants, had already raised the bar so high for movies/series around this theme, especially with it's incredible first season (:sobs: Sandeep Bhaiyya :sobs:). Some other true-story biopics I enjoyed this year were The Burial, Blackberry, and Tetris.

8. Talk To Me

Well executed horror movies are so few and far in between, and when I came across Talk To Me, I was quite certain it'd be a one-time watch at best. But boy, was I wrong. The movie follows a bunch of kids who are able to talk to the dead by holding an embalmed hand and repeating the titular phrase. And in pure teenager style, everything is all fun and games, until it isn't. If you are a fan of the worlds of Jordan Peele, you'll feel right at home with Talk To Me.

It goes without saying that A24 continues to sharpen it's axe in this genre, and I can't wait to see what they have in store next. Two other horror movies fromn this year that you should check out were When Evil Lurks, a Spanish movie about demonic possession, and M3GAN, which is very prescient in a pseudo-AGI world.

7. Barbie

When me and Arch discussed the whole Barbenheimer phenomenon, it was quite easy to assume that she would like Barbie more than me. However, the exact opposite happened, and I ended up liking Barbie way more than her. Sure, it's a little blunt-tool at times, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't laugh my ass off through the entire runtime of the movie. Even some of the throwaway jokes like the Duolingo line had me ROFL-ing. Hat tip to Ryan Gosling, for pulling off the perfect Ken. And Margot Robbie as Barbie = * chefs kiss *

6. Babylon

Yes, I know Babylon is technically a 2022 movie, but it came out basically in the end of Dec and I watched it in 2023 so I'm going to include it here. Incredible cast (Margot Robbie again, this time with Brad Pitt and Diego Calva), a tremendously talented director (Damien Chazelle), and what is arguably the best movie soundtrack in a long time all come together to create this fever-dream of a movie set in 1920's Hollywood. When it came out, people had very mixed reactions to the movie, but IMHO, Babylon was a better story than even La La Land which Chazelle is known more widely for. 

5. Sapta Sagaradaache Ello

In recent times, it feels like Bollywood has forgotten how to tell love stories, and nearly every great love story seems to come from outside of Bollywood. And the surprise this year was  Hemanth Rao's two-part Kannada saga: Sapta Sagaradaache Ello. Rakshit Shetty and Rukmini Vasanth have chemistry that's simply incredible, and the beautiful screenplay takes us through the trials and tribulations of the couple across multiple decades. Nothing much more to say. Watch it, and keep a box of tissues handy, because you'll need it.

A couple of other movies around love that I enjoyed this year were Joyland, which is easily the best film to come out of Pakistan this decade, and Journey of Love 18+, which is a more light-hearted romcom.

4. Three Of Us

While the rest of the world went gaga over Past Lives, folks in India were very lucky that we also got to see Three Of Us. Just like Past Lives, the movie deals with reliving nostalgia and young love, but through the lens of having lived complete, fulfilling adult lives with other partners. Shefali Shah and  Jaideep Ahlawat have rightfully gotten a lot of credit for their performances in this movie, but a special hat tip goes out to the Swanand Kirkire for his role as Shefali Shah's husband.

I needn't explicitly say it again, but do watch Past Lives and Three Of Us as a double feature, and decide for yourself which movie is better. Maybe because of the setting, or the relatability of the characters, I found myself drawn so much more to the latter.

3. Sick Of Myself

As I've gotten older, I find myself feeling more and more distant from social media. But many of the people I work with, especially from Gen Z, have gone deep into the world of likes and shares, always on the lookout for the next 15 second adrenaline hit. Sick Of Myself is the story of one such person, who is quite literally ready to go to any depths for a minute of attention, even when it takes her closer and closer to self destruction. The modern world is very self-centered, dog-eat-dog, vacuous, and collaboratively disillusioned, yet we all go about our day like this is all very normal. Sick Of Myself is a dark, yet funny, take on this generation and their fallacies.

Some other movies that capture similar themes, and will resonate with people who have been pulled into the selfish, social-media fueled bandwagon from this year are Shortcomings, Passages, and Kho Gaye Hum Kahaan.

2. Oppenheimer

There's so much that I liked about Oppenheimer. The performances: From Cillian Murphy, who really deserves all the credit that he gets for this execution of the tortured genius, to Robert Downey Jr., who makes us forget he was literally, friggin' Iron Man not too long ago, to even smaller performances like Bennie Safdie, Tom Conti, and Emily Blunt. The minute-long silence in the IMAX theater followed by the earth shattering boom of the nuke. The music score, which was quite literally considered impossible to play. The accuracy of so many of the minute details when it comes to showing scientific process on-screen.

Christopher Nolan has time and time again, shown that he is one of the few directors whose works I'll always pay top dollar to watch in the best possible theater I can get to, and he doesn't disappoint.

1. Amerikatsi

First things first: I know nothing about Armenia. I can probably point it out on a well-labeled map, but besides that I know nothing about the country, it's culture, or it's history. Which is probably one reason why Amerikatsi was such an incredible movie-watching experience for me. Or maybe it was because I've gotten into arguments with many friends who "cheer for India from the sidelines" while sitting in their cushy first world apartments, and this movie shows them a picture of what that blind optimism can lead to. Or maybe it's the sublime ending that gets to me. Or maybe it's how it perfectly blends silliness with it's message on patriotism.

I know that Amerikatsi is an outside-shot for the Oscar for Best International Feature Film in 2024, alongside some tremendous juggernauts (many of which have not had wider releases yet so I've not seen), but if there's one nominee I'd strongly want everyone to watch, it's this one.

Honorable Mentions: The Whale (Brendan Fraser deserved that Oscar), 
How To Blow Up A Pipeline (Anarchism + Cinema?), 2018
 (a fine nominee for the Oscars), As Bestas
 (Xenophobia is a global truth), Scrapper
 (Because 'Aftersun' made father-daughter movies cool again), The Holdovers (O Captain, my captain), Viduthalai: Part 1 (Vetrimaaran doing what he does best), Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani (Surprisingly fun family swap, mostly driven by Ranveer's charisma), Chithha (Siddharth continues his run of movies tackling hard subjects), The Male Ghost (Quirky malayalam police procedural), If You Were The Last (Sci-fi romcoms are a thing!), The Creator (OK story, stunning visuals 1.0), The Wandering Earth II (OK story, stunning visuals 2.0)

3 comments :

Mohit said...

Finally broke into upper 50 percentile of your list. 7/13. My parents will be proud :)

Anonymous said...

Good list. Need more regional recomendations from u

Milan said...

Agree with your top 3. Amerikatsi is very underrated and I enjoyed the ending too 🥳

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