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At the movies: Delights and dampers of 2023

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 22, 2023 10:53 am

2023 was an interesting year for movie and entertainment enthusiasts.

Barbie and Oppenheimer conquered the box office and unsurprisingly topped the nominations for the 2024 Golden Globe Awards—with nine nods and eight, respectively—followed by Killers of the Flower Moon. While these offerings made 2023 a delightful one for many, there were also a few dampers that missed the mark in one way or another.

Here's a roundup of some of the cinematic rides we liked this year—and some of the bummers.


There is no universe in which these two very different movies—Barbie and Oppenheimerbelong on a double bill, except for the social media universe, where memes reigned supreme (“Barbie: Destroyer of Worlds”). So it was that Greta Gerwig’s self-aware take on a flexible doll and Christopher Nolan’s brilliant if somewhat over-churned take on the “Father of the Atomic Bomb” ended up the must-see movie(s) early in the year. Barbie made you think, even if it was about the real-life future of a plastic doll, while Oppenheimer made you think about the real-life implications of any new technology, whether it’s atomic power or A.I.

Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One

Despite an unwieldy title, Tom Cruise’s entry followed up on the blockbuster performance of last year’s Top Gun: Maverick, giving people what they want: a good time at the movies. Real-life stunts by the hardest working Ken in Hollywood? We’re down for Part Two.

Killers of the Flower Moon

Yes, it can be argued this is Martin Scorsese going through the motions with yet another take on American Crime, which—we must admit—is his most enduring theme. But turning the tables a bit, he manages to inject enough of the Osage people’s plight into this true-life tale to make us realize that crime doesn’t just play out in Italian neighborhoods, but on a genocidal scale. There’s a blood passion running underneath this movie that’s as mesmerizing as any of his best epics.

Runner-up delights

Let’s not forget Ben Affleck’s Air, a small film about Michael Jordan set in a boardroom that still manages to soar; the hyperkinetic Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse upping the ante on animation and storytelling; a solid adaptation of Judy Blume’s Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret on Netflix; and Jennifer Lawrence poking fun at herself and sex comedies in No Hard Feelings.

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania

We entered a new realm for Marvel Studios: movies that are so consumed with the MCU that they have no reason to exist on their own, and show little evidence that they think we’re paying attention. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is like the person you try to converse with at the dinner table who’s absently scrolling through their phone and going “Uh-huh…” at everything you say. It looks and feels fake, and doesn’t bother to make us care, which is a bad look for the next phase of the MCU.

Fast X

Some were super revved just to see the old gang together again, on another mission to stop a super-villain played (exuberantly) by Jason Momoa. At least Momoa has some fun here; the rest of the gang—from Vin Diesel to Michelle Rodriguez—are going through the motions, set on cruise control for part one of this cliffhanger that doesn’t really leave us wanting to hang out for more.


Sofia Coppola’s take on Priscilla Presley’s life with Elvis is the diametric opposite of Baz Lurhmann’s explosive Elvis. Rather than showing poor Elvis under the control of Colonel Parker, we see Priscilla, a child bride groomed from age 14 to play the part of a dressed-up doll under control of The King, set up in his gloomy Graceland mansion. Though it looks great—masterfully capturing a ’60s and ’70s nostalgic vibe—it lacks the pep and dynamism of Luhrmann’s Elvis and leaves young Cailee Spaeny sadly reduced to a mere prop in Elvis (Jacob Elordi)’s hands. Chalk it up as another entry in Sofia’s Cinema of Sad Girls.

Runner-up dampers

Let’s add Damien Chazelle’s hit-and-miss ode to old Hollywood, Babylon; the divided-opinion Wonka prequel; kitschy Russell Crowe as The Pope’s Exorcist; Elizabeth Banks’ not-crazy-enough Cocaine Bear; and the completely-stripped-from-reality Magic Mike’s Last Dance.