The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

2023 was the year of the movie theater. 

Barbenheimer” boasted an opening weekend that seemed like a thing of years past.

Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher and Wes Anderson all released a film in the past 12 months, coaxing people to the theater for films that weren’t all fantasy worlds and CGI. 

As a self-proclaimed film reviewer, here are my 2023 year-end opinions — coming from someone who will never say no to seeing a movie.

My top movie of the year: “Oppenheimer” directed by Christopher Nolan

There is no denying that Nolan is a talented — though long-winded — director, but I was certainly bracing for a dull watch when I walked into the late-night showing of “Oppenheimer” this summer. 

However, the political thriller makes time fly with its gripping depiction of the true life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb.

Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr. and Emily Blunt deliver award-worthy performances, but the true star was Ludwig Göransson, the composer behind the electric — some would say atomic — score, which was made to reflect the conflicting emotions of the protagonist throughout the film. 

“Oppenheimer” is exhilarating in ways that only a true story of explosive treachery could be. 

Nolan’s film is a haunting, dark biopic about the father of the atomic bomb who held world destruction in the palm of his hand, only to be destroyed himself.

Most underrated film of the year: “Air” directed by Ben Affleck

Come on Tar Heels… “Air” is a must-see for UNC basketball fans. The story behind Michael Jordan’s unlikely partnership with Nike comes to life under Affleck’s direction.

With the summer movie boom, Affleck’s April release date was ultimately overshadowed, and “Air” didn’t get enough recognition. The storytelling, acting and directing combine to make for a worthy watch, and it’s now free to stream with Amazon Prime. 

Most tired directorial style: “Asteroid City” directed by Wes Anderson

There is something to be said for a director establishing such a recognizable style, but “Asteroid City” was just 95 minutes of Anderson playing with colors.

“Asteroid City” is, like the rest of his filmography, noticeably Anderson’s work, as the style choices in his cinematography, soundtracks and even cast members ensure the latest release is a continuation of Anderson’s quirky subgenre. 

The eccentric — even out-of-this-world — story coupled with the smattering of incredible actors is entertaining, but it fails to step beyond the predictability of Anderson’s writing and directing. (Author’s note: Jason Schwartzman can save anything.)

UNC film buffs weigh in: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is well-loved; “Beau Is Afraid” is definitely memorable

Campbell Mah, UNC junior and president of the Chapel Hill Film Society, recommendedThe Holdovers,” a recently released dramedy starring Paul Giamatti. 

Mah said the surrealist indie film “Beau is Afraid” wasn’t one of the best films he's seen, but was one of the most memorable.

“The whole film really plays out like a fever dream,” he said. “It's just so absurd and so bizarre, and the ending really leaves you speechless. That was definitely one of my favorite viewing experiences of the year.”

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

“Beau Is Afraid” left UNC senior and CHFS member Jaylon Crisp confused and failed to meet his expectations. 

“Honestly, the film was super overwhelming,” Crisp said. “I think the director was asking a lot from the perception of the viewer in order to understand the true narrative of what was going on.”

Crisp named “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” as his favorite film of 2023, noting that the newest installment had a more original narrative than past Spider-Man movies.

Kolby Oglesby, a UNC junior and Carolina Film Association board member, also applauded the new Spider-Man animated film but is glad to see Marvel’s grip loosening on the box office numbers.

“Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” were first and fifth on the list of the year’s domestic highest-grossing films. The family-friendly “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and the superhero movies "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" and "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" placed second through fourth. In 2021, the four highest-grossing films were superhero movies, with three of them hailing from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.   

“I am happy to see that the box office successes this year seem to be films where most of them aren't franchises or they're taking a different look at a franchise,” Oglesby said.

2023 was the most promising year of movie-going post-pandemic, but this year’s Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild strikes threaten to disrupt Hollywood’s forward motion. 

Let’s hope 2024 brings more reasons to go to the theater and better treatment for the brilliant minds behind the cinema we love so dearly.

@carly20

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com