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Traveling Boy Selects Top Films From 2023

By Ed Boitano

The best films of 2023 proved to be an eclectic and exciting mix of thought provoking cinema. Narratives ranged from genocide, lost loves and rebirth, immigrant experiences, stories pulled from headlines and a teacher with a distracting lazy eye at a small boarding school in New England. The year was rich with directorial vision and personal styles: the unblemished truth by documentarian Frederick Wiseman, lonely science fiction from Andrew Haigh, the exploding imagery of Martin Scorsese, Justine Triet’s moments of tensity, the Bressonian minimalism of Aki Kaurismäki and Jonathan Glazer’s dialectical montage with the collision of image and sound.

Only time will tell if the list of films stands the test of time. As Jean Renoir once said, The best films are those that leave a lasting impact, that linger in your mind long after the credits roll.

15 TOP FILMS FROM 2023

  1. The Zone of Interest:
    Jonathan Glazer (UK)
  2. Past Lives:
    Celine Song (US)
  3. Killers of the Flower Moon:
    Martin Scorsese (US)
  4. Fallen Leaves:
    Aki Kaurismäki (Finland, Germany)
  5. May December:
    Todd Haynes (US)
  6. All of Us Strangers:
    Andrew Haigh (UK)
  7. Anatomy of a Fall:
    Justine Triet (France)
  8. Showing Up:
    Kelly Reichardt (US)
  9. Passages:
    Ira Sachs (France)
  10. Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros:
    Frederick Wiseman (France, US)
  11. Poor Things:
    Yorgos Lanthimos (UK, US, Ireland)
  12. Return to Seoul:
    Davy Chou (France, Germany, Belgium, Qatar, Cambodia)
  13. The Holdovers:
    Alexander Payne (US)
  14. Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist: “Phony Wars”:
    Jean-Luc Godard (France, Switzerland)
  15. Oppenheimer:
    Christopher Nolan (UK)

BEST DIRECTOR

Director Jonathan Glazer (on top of photo).

Jonathan Glazer/The Zone of Interest

Runner-up: Martin Scorsese/Killers of the Flower Moon

BEST DIRECTORIAL DEBUT

Director Celine Song.

Celine Song/Past Lives

Runner-Up: Raine Allen-Miller/Rye Lane

BEST MALE ACTOR

Franz Rogowski.

Franz Rogowski/Passages

Runner-Up: Cillian Murphy/Oppenheimer

BEST FEMALE ACTOR

Greta Lee.

Greta Lee/Past Lives

Runner-Up: Sandra Huller/Anatomy of a Fall & The Zone of Interest

BEST SUPPORTING MALE ACTOR

Robert De Niro.

Robert De Niro/Killers of the Flower Moon

Runner-Up: Robert Downey, Jr/Oppenheimer

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE ACTOR

Tilda Swinton.

Tilda Swinton/The Killer

Runner-Up: Rachel McAdams/Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

BEST ACTING DEBUT

Park Ji-Min.

Park Ji-Min/Return to Seoul

Runner-Up: Dominic Sessa/The Holdovers

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Rodrigo Prieto.

Rodrigo Prieto/Killers of the Flower Moon & Barbie

Runner-Up: Hoyte Van Hoytema/Oppenheimer

Best Original Screenplay

Samy Burch.

Samy Burch/May December

Runner-Up: Celine Song/Past Lives

Best Original Score

Mica Levi.

Mica Levi/The Zone of Interest

Runner-Up: Robbie Robertson/Killers of the Flower Moon

Best Editing

Thelma Schoonmaker.

Thelma Schoonmaker/Killers of the Flower Moon

Runner-Up: Laurent Senechal/Anatomy of a Fall

Best Sound Effects

Johnnie Burn.

Johnnie Burn/The Zone of Interest

Runner-Up: Mark Ulano/Killers of the Flower Moon

Most Disappointing Film

Joel Kinnaman in Silent Night.

Silent Night/John Woo

Runner-Up: Barbie/Greta Gerwig

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14 Comments

  1. Horace

    February 27, 2024 at 9:56 am

    Very interesting selection. Obviously, I missed a lot of good films. What I like about your choices is they are films based on artistic merit instead of commercial standards. We, as a society, have become glazed with the same formulaic junk — including high budgeted trash from Netflix and other Hollywood movies. Your choices gives me hope that there are still genuine film artists out there. Thumbs up on your perspective. Thumbs up with Traveling Boy!

    Reply

  2. Ed Boitano

    February 27, 2024 at 11:09 am

    Hey, Horace – I appreciate your kind words. Yes, there are still genuine film artists out there, but it does require a little digging when the market is dominated by monetary profits; in particular with non film Marvel movies and corporate franchise movies made by faceless committees.

    Reply

  3. Roarke

    February 27, 2024 at 11:13 am

    Watched Zone last night. wow. great film. The opening black screen , the long hold before the image starts, seems to be a nod to Leni Riefenstahl. do you think?
    every element of cinema mastered here : composition, editing, lighting, movement , best sound in a film in years, acting
    will def watch it again.
    still need to see All Of Us, Passages, fallen leaves and american fiction.
    i’m not expecting much from fiction , just watching for the oscars.
    i can’t believe you like fincher

    Reply

  4. Ed Boitano

    February 27, 2024 at 12:09 pm

    I appreciate your astute comments, Roarke; many mirror my own. I also revisited Zone yesterday. Your question regarding
    if ‘the opening black screen, the long hold before the image starts’ is influenced by Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, will require another revisit. It is among my favorite films and look forward to seeing it again.

    READERS NOTE: If you are unfamiliar with Triumph of the Will, it is a 1935 Nazi propaganda documentary directed, produced, edited and co-written by Leni Riefenstahl. Since it was released it has been called a masterpiece due to it’s innovative use of images, camera movement, editing and sound. The literary content, a 1935 Nuremberg PRO Nazi rally, is disturbing. Try to overlook the propagandistic literary content, and concentrate on the film form of the documentary.

    Reply

    • Roarke

      March 4, 2024 at 3:45 pm

      Return to Seoul was one of the best films of the year.

      Reply

      • Ed Boitano

        March 4, 2024 at 3:46 pm

        You’re right; I watched it last night… and was blown away.

        Reply

  5. Marvin

    March 1, 2024 at 8:48 am

    Your movie review is better than the Oscars which are politically motivated. Yours is based on artistic merits. You made me aware of films I didn’t even know existed. Great stuff!

    Reply

  6. Ed Boitano

    March 3, 2024 at 1:20 pm

    Hey, Marvin… Thanks for the kind words. I generally don’t quote Howard Cosell, but “I call them as I see them.”

    Reply

  7. Dan

    March 4, 2024 at 11:22 pm

    Ok list… Zone of Interest, Killer Moon, Poor Things good. Don’t get why folks like Showing Up. What’s the big deal about it?

    Reply

    • Ed

      March 5, 2024 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks, Dan… i appreciate your reaching out to T–Boy. I know many are split on Kelly Reichardt; some consider her to be a towering figure of independent cinema, others are indifferent, wondering why she’s such a big deal. She does get a lot respect from auteurists for her overall body of work due to her consistant minimalist visual style. More literary minded viewers admire her devotion to working-class characters in small, rural communities. Of course it’s not easy being a female director working outside of male dominated mainstrean Hollywood. I was not a fan with Meek’s Cutoff, but have always been impressed with Certain Women, and, though slightly less, with Showing Up. What’s important to me is that she makes personal films which illustrates her passion for cinema. It doesn’t hurt that Michelle Williams has appeared in many of her films. Ed

      Reply

  8. Celina

    March 5, 2024 at 10:13 am

    translations for any foreign movie I feel are questionable

    sometimes I’ll vaguely understand what is being said by someone with what little I know of the language and the subtitles will say something I guess functionally similar and at best slightly more clarifying, I understand literal translations aren’t always ideal and can be misleading but other times rudolph saying “jah” and then the translation being like “I will”, it’s like just translate it as “yes”??? what is being lost there???

    Reply

  9. Ed

    March 5, 2024 at 12:04 pm

    Celina… thanks your thoughtful comment. When you said ‘Rudolph,’ no doubt you’re referring to Rudolph Höss in The Zone of Interest. I’m amazed, but pleased by all the social media chatter devoted to it. For me, it’s an important film that demands revisiting.

    Yes, translations can be a problem… in Remarque’s, In The West, Nothing New (or No News in the West) to All Quiet on the Western Front; Angst to Topsy-turvy, etc, in the same above text.

    I’ve read three different translations of Crime and Punishment, and each versions felt like a new story.

    Reply

  10. Linda Dee

    March 5, 2024 at 4:25 pm

    Glad to see Tboy had The Zone of Interest as best film
    of 2023. It was very interesting and thought provoking. The banalties of evils and how you can see yourself just carrying out orders. How atrocities are conducted as a normal activity, and passing this down to your children. Horrendous.

    How we can easily ignore what is happening just over a wall. Very relevant even in present day events.

    My only problem I have with this movie is that you must have knowledge of the historical events. There are a lot of subtle and long drawn out moments that can be quite confusing even for my dumb brain to know what is actually happening. Example, the infrared parts, I was very confused what was happening, for a good while.

    Only after reading a bit more after can I appreciate the movie even more.

    Reply

  11. Happy Hell – Traveling Boy

    March 15, 2024 at 11:18 am

    […] in case you’re interested, TravelingBoy.com has their own list of award-winning movies. I respect this list more than politicized […]

    Reply

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