2023 Movie Awards

Favorite Movies of 2023

We conclude Kaedrin Movie Awards season with a traditional top 10 list of my favorite movies of 2023, only a month and a half (or so) late! This marks the eighteenth year in a row that I’ve posted a top 10. For reference, previous top 10s are here: [2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]

It’s traditional at this point to discuss themes of the year in film, usually a fraught exercise even in the best of times, but there’s almost always something worth exploring in this space, however dubious it may be… The two big themes of this year: the decline of superheroes and the rise of… brands? There were a couple of successful superhero standouts this year (Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3), but there were a ton of movies that were both artistic and box-office failures (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Flash, and several others). Part of this is post-Endgame superhero fatigue, but part of it comes down to quality. DC has always been a mixed bag, but Marvel has clearly overextended (the likely culprit being the Disney+ shows, but the overall franchise service in the MCU was already getting overbearing) and the quality has suffered greatly. 2024 will likely continue this trend, but after a Hollywood strike-fueled delay, 2025 will see an uptick in offerings. Only time will tell if this will be the last gasp of a dying genre or a revitalization and return to dominance.

In 2023, at least, part of the slack was taken up by “brand” movies. Not all of these were huge box office successes and I don’t quite think that the genre has legs, but obviously we’re going to see more of these in the future. At minimum, we’re going to get several more Barbie movies, and who knows, we may experience a resurgence not seen since the heady days of the Mattel and Mars Bar Quick Energy Chocobot Hour. Um, anyway, there were tons of other brand movies in 2023, including Tetris, Air, Flamin’ Hot, and BlackBerry. Again, not sure how widespread this will ever get, but it was certainly a thing in 2023.

Smaller trends include half-movies, some of which were hidden by marketing, which is also a component present with the marketing of musicals as if they weren’t musicals. More heartening is the fact that 3 of the top 5 movies are, well, not quite original, but to be disgustingly businesslike, they are basically new IP (and there’s another original movie in the top 10). This is not exactly the Retvrn we may all desire, but it’s a promising step after the last few decades…

As of this writing, this top 10 list is pulling from a total of 119 movies I’ve seen that could be considered a 2023 release. This is less than your usual critic, but probably more than your typical moviegoer. Standard disclaimers apply, and it’s always worth noting that due to release schedules (especially in these plague years), some movies from 2022 that didn’t become available until 2023 qualify for this list. Alrighty then, I think we’ve covered all our bases, so let’s get to the feature presentation:

Top 10 Movies of 2023

* In roughly reverse order

Godzilla Minus One – The best Godzilla movie I’ve seen since the original 1954 classic. While this has plenty of monster smash action, the thing that sets this apart is the focus on a culturally and thematically rich human story at its core. Minus One centers on a flawed but striving protagonist that you can’t help but root for, and that imbues the struggle with Godzilla with much more power than most monster slugfests. It manages to balance spectacle with just the right dollops of melodrama and thematic heft, tying it all together in a surprisingly effective package.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

Killers of the Flower Moon – I’m not quite as rapturous about this Martin Scorsese epic on the plight of the Osage people as many folks are, but it’s an immensely well made film, energetic and agonizing at the same time.

Killers of the Flower Moon

This excruciating portrayal of a town of amoral monsters with no interest in or sense of right-and-wrong isn’t exactly fun to watch, but Scorsese does manage a few Coen-esque moments of dark levity here and there. It’s a bit indulgent and certainly overlong, but also something of an achievement that a movie this unpleasant can still succeed this well.

More Info: [IMDB] [Apple TV+] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner]

John Wick: Chapter 4 – The final installment (for now, I guess) of the Wick saga is also maybe a tad indulgent and overlong, but it’s suffused with grandeur and an unexpected melancholy that suits the series well. It looks great and has several of the best action sequences of the year, including an overhead oner that is utterly glorious cinema. A fitting end to the series, even if it will shamble on in spinoffs and sidequels or whatever they call it.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

The Killer – David Fincher’s self-deprecating paen to the hollowness of perfectionism, a universal critique of the justifications and rationalizations we all indulge in all wrapped up in a tight genre exercise that’s thrilling and even a little funny on its surface levels. It’s better when you know more about Fincher, but his critique isn’t quite as devastating because he’s also making so much fun of himself (or, at least, his filmmaking persona). He’s in it with us.

The Killer

Great performances from the likes of Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton (not to mention all the bit parts swallowed up by character actors like Charles Parnell) and a digital aesthetic that’s actually distinctive (something Fincher’s been doing for a long time). I wish it got more of a theatrical release.

More Info: [IMDB] [Netflix]

The Artifice Girl – Talky, stagey, micro-budget, ideas-driven Science Fiction is my catnip. Underseen and probably best experienced knowing as little as possible going in, so I’ll leave it at that, but it’s a movie that will turn the tables on you multiple times, despite mostly being set in a single room with folks chatting.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

Anatomy of a Fall – The French court system, as portrayed in this movie, is absolutely wild (I’m assuming liberties are taken, but the wacky way the trial unfolds is one of the joys of watching this movie as an outsider).

Anatomy of a Fall

I’m a sucker for twisty courtroom dramas, and this hits all those notes well (French wackiness notwithstanding), anchored by Sandra Hüller’s performance, but I’ve also always connected with the thematic point about the difficulty of recreating the past in the present as well. It’s a daunting problem even in the best of situations, but this movie is a good demonstration of the nuts and bolds of why it’s so difficult to know actually what happened (and not to sermonize, but it’s only going to get more difficult in the future).

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

The Pigeon Tunnel – Errol Morris documentary on the storied life and career of David Cornwell, more famous as his pen name John le Carré. It takes the form of an extended interview (or, should I say, interrogation, a key distinction that sets this apart from Morris’ other similar efforts), but it fits surprisingly well with Morris’ filmography and the impenetrable nature of Cornwell’s character.

The Pigeon Tunnel

Morris and by extension, the audience, is never quite sure where Cornwall is drawing the line between fact and fiction, but he’s such an engaging presence and natural storyteller that it doesn’t really matter. It made me want to read more le Carré, which is always a good sign when watching a movie like this.

More Info: [IMDB] [Apple TV+]

BlackBerry – The best of the rash of “brand” movies we saw in 2023, partly because it covers both the rise and fall of said brand (a few of these movies feel like two hour advertisements for the brand, but not this one), but also because of its good humor and great performances, particularly from Glenn Howerton as the enraged co-CEO.


He’s really cooking here, but even the bit parts from the likes of SungWon Cho or a terrifying Michael Ironside are lights out.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Command Z – Steven Soderbergh’s experimental series wasn’t seen by many folks due to its unconventional distribution scheme, but hopefully it’ll wind up on a streaming service soon enough where it will be seen by many. A unique spin on low-fi time travel with a humorous bent and solid performances, literally episodic in nature, but hits the sweet spot in the overall runtime of 90 minutes or so. It’s worth the hoop jumping that it takes to watch it right now, but it will hopefully be more readily available soon enough.

More Info: [IMDB] [Command Z Website] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

Oppenheimer – Christopher Nolan’s epic biopic of J. Robert Oppenheimer and his role in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II is the obvious choice here.


Ambitious, adventurous filmmaking at its best, which is funny because it’s mostly just a movie filled with dudes talking in rooms about serious subjects, but Nolan just can’t help but make it immersive and thrilling. A masterpiece.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Honorable Mention

* In an order I dare you to discern

American Fiction – A black author writes a satirical parody of “black” literature in an attempt to expose the publishing world’s hypocrisies only to find surprising success. In some ways, it lets its satirical targets off the hook, but on the other hand, it’s probably a more entertaining and funny experience because of that choice.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

The Boy and the Heron – Hayao Miyazaki’s swan song, a contemplation of legacy that perhaps meanders a bit, but pulls it all together admirably in the end. It’s not a crowd pleaser and doesn’t balance the dream logic with its weighty themes as well as some of Miyazaki’s best, but it’s effectively done and worth checking out.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial – A solid farewell for William Friedkin. Formally tight but visually simplistic and unshowy, this is a film driven far more by its taught writing than its visual prowess, which fits with the story being told. I can’t help but think that there’s a better version that blends the two screen versions of this story, but this pure courtroom drama approach is certainly valid and Friedkin pulls great performances from the impressive cast as well.

The Caine Mutiny Court Martial

The core drama is preserved and just as thorny as ever, even if we don’t see any of the action and only get the courtroom accounts of what happened (another film about piecing together what has happened in the past, and all the complications inherent in that enterprise).

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Dream Scenario – Great high concept story about a man whose life is turned upside down when millions of strangers suddenly start seeing him in their dreams. A sorta exaggerated parable of social media and memetic power that’s obviously quite relevant, it can’t quite maintain momentum throughout the runtime, but it’s a worthy attempt and Nicolas Cage is great in the role.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves – A charming action/comedy that’s way better than anyone could possibly have expected. Self-aware without being drenched in ironic detachment, it perfectly balances the goofy way a D&D campaign can progress and features plenty of fun characters and solid action. On the bubble for the top 10, but just barely missed and on another day, could very well have made it.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner]

The Equalizer 3 – It’s so funny to me that Denzel Washington has only made two sequels and they’re both in this series, but this might actually be the best of the three. The action moves to Italy this time around, and while it obviously engages in familiar tropes, Washington imbues it all with surprising gravitas, and director Antoine Fuqua captures the action well, especially in the finale, which almost resembles one of those slasher movies where you root for the killer.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner]

Ferrari – Michael Mann’s longtime passion project, a biopic covering a particularly tumultuous period of Enzo Ferrari’s personal and professional life (three pretty traumatic events converging in a relatively short time period) isn’t quite as fast paced or crowd pleasing as Mann’s best work, but it’s still effective and we get a few corkers of monologues or racing action that make the whole thing a worthwhile exercise.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Full Time – French film in which a woman tries to balance caring for her children, her job, and interviewing for a new career, all during a national transit strike. It might not sound like it, but it’s almost like a Safdie-style thriller, with a fantastic, pulsing, anxiety inducing score (that, for some reason, I can’t find anywhere – someone release this thing!) and excellent lead performance. It doesn’t quite descend into full-on tragedy and I think the surprising ending really cemented the film for me.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

The History of the Minnesota Vikings – Jon Bois has carved out a truly unique style of documentary filmmaking for himself that is perhaps overlooked due to the subject matter, but probably more because these things just show up on YouTube every year or so. That being said, these long sports documentaries that center around a thematically relevant graph are more interesting than the grand majority of talking heads documentaries or activist exercises. I don’t even particularly care about the teams (and sometimes even the entire sports) that Bois covers, but I can’t help but be compelled by these documentaries.

More Info: [IMDB] [YouTube] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner]

The Holdovers – Effectively captures that 1970s throwback vibe that it’s going for, with exceptional performances from Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. This is exactly the sort of movie people claim isn’t being made anymore, but here it is, and too many people probably skipped it. A nice coming of age drama with well drawn characters and darkly humorous tone.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

LOLA – British micro-budget found footage flick about sisters who invent a time travel device during WWII. Seamlessly integrates authentic newsreel footage with fictional found footage to effective ends, telling a twisty time travel story that is reasonably clever and somewhat unique (the time travel consists of information broadcasts from the future, not actual matter). Short and sweet, I’m guessing the David Bowie music license cost more than the rest of the movie combined.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One – The best half-a-movie of the year, by far. Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie continue their consistent one-upping of themselves here with a couple of really amazing action set-pieces. Heck, even one of the more conventional sequences earlier in the film puts a similar sequence in Fast X to shame. It’s not quite as cohesive as Fallout, but it’s also only half a movie, even if it finds a good place to end.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner] [Kaedrin Movie Award Winner]

Past Lives – Another one of those adult dramas that people like to claim aren’t made anymore, and to be fair, this one-that-got-away tearjerker is generally not my favorite sort of thing, but it’s well done, very well acted, and there’s plenty to relate to for just about anyone. I found myself surprisingly moved, and that’s one reason I like catching up with so many movies that I would otherwise skip at the end of the year…

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Rye Lane – The best romantic comedy of the year, with a charming and sweet chemistry between the leads, some visual flare, and a solid structure behind it. Brisk and frothy fun, it puts enough of a spin on the well worn genre that it comes off feeling fresh even if we’ve seen many of these elements before.

Rye Lane

Part of this might just be its British origins, but I still think it’s distinct enough… Well worth seeking out.

More Info: [IMDB] [Hulu] [Kaedrin Arbitrary Award Winner]

When Evil Lurks – Intense Argentinian thriller about a vaguely demonic evil infesting a small town and growing in power or somesuch. It’s messed up and often shocking and thus quite effective. I don’t normally groove on this sort of nihilistic exercise, but it works well here and director Demián Rugna is capable of crafting exquisitely painful sequences. Not exactly fun, but if you can get on its sick frequency, you’ll have a good time.

More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]

Just Missed the Cut

But still worthwhile, in their own way. Presented without comment and in no particular order:

Should Have Seen

Despite having watched over a hundred movies made in 2023, there are plenty that I probably should have caught up with. Sometimes they weren’t readily available, sometimes I couldn’t muster up the will to get to the theater, sometimes I just didn’t wanna watch (because reasons, that’s why). I will almost certainly end up seeing some of these and loving them, which is why the Kaedrin Movie Awards always has a category about the previous year’s movie…

That just about covers it for the top 10 movies of 2023 and Kaedrin Movie Awards season in general. The only thing that remains is Oscar speculations, which are coming up quickly… Stay tuned!

2023 Kaedrin Movie Awards: The Arbitrary Awards

The 2023 Kaedrin Movie Awards Winners were announced last week, which means that it’s time for more arbitrary considerations. The idea is to recognize aspects of films that aren’t reflected in more traditional awards or other praise like a Top 10 list. However, any consistent, formal awards system will fail to capture all the nuances and complexity available; hence the 2023 Arbitrary Awards, an opportunity to commend movies that are weird or flawed in ways that don’t conform to normal standards. A few of these “awards” have become an annual tradition, some were stolen from other folks, but most are just, well, arbitrary. Previous Arbitrary Awards: [2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006]

The “You know what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else” Award for Worst Dialogue: Shazam! Fury of the Gods. I give this award every year, but it’s always one of the most difficult because memorably bad dialogue is actually somewhat rare. Or at least, it is for me. A lot of the worst dialogue is bad because it’s distinctly unmemorable. Anyway, this sometimes means there’s a recency bias in this award, and I literally just watched this one. It has lots of awful dialogue, but the thing that pushed it over the top was: “The most powerful thing about you… is you!” Alright, that’s not great, but is it really the worst of the year? Well, it might not have been if they only said it once in the movie. Instead they say it again, just really calling attention to the badness. Also of note, The Marvels has a planet where everyone has to sing their dialogue, which is just awful but in an almost defensible way. I mean, I don’t like it, but I suspect there are a lot of people who could get into that idea and think it’s fun. That being said, it doesn’t even have the courage of its convictions and abandons the singing halfway through the scene. Anyway, this is more due to the way the dialogue is delivered than the actual contents of the dialogue, so we’ll just leave it as not winning.

The Proximity to Jason Voorhees Award for Heroic Stupidity: It’s a Wonderful Knife. There’s some things to like about this movie, but I found myself baffled by how stupid a lot of it was. A slasher inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life is an interesting idea, but they can’t even really get the premise right, let alone have the characters do things that aren’t just nonsense. Also of note: Scream VI has well and truly driven the series into the ground, and No One Will Save You gets a bit of a pass because the dumbest characters are the invading aliens.

The Garth Marenghi “I know writers who use subtext, and they’re all cowards” Award for Achievement in Didacticism: Killers of the Flower Moon. It’s a good movie, maybe even a great movie, and I think the grand majority of the movie is thematically rich and thought provoking, but then Martin Scorsese, perhaps worn down through decades of people willfully misinterpreting his movies as glorifying the actions of horrible people, literally comes on screen and says something to the effect of “These people were all bad.” I get it, and he actually does it in an interesting way that doesn’t ruin the movie or anything, but that’s why this award is here. One of the fun things about the Arbitrary Awards is that things that seem like they’re a bad category to win aren’t actually bad. They’re just weird (and weird is good in this context!)

Achievement in the Field of Gratuitous Violence: Sisu. The Finnish role in WWII notwithstanding, that guy sure did blow up them Nazis real good. Also of note: Thanksgiving, which has some pretty gnarly effects going on.

The “Scotty Doesn’t Know” Award for Best Cameo: Bradley Cooper in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Genuinely unexpected and probably even unnecessary, the two hallmarks of the best cameos.

Bradley Cooper in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Also of note: John Cena as a Merman (Merken?) in Barbie.

The Hank Scorpio Award for Cheerful Villainy: Pom Klementieff in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. In particular, the sequence where she’s chasing Cruise and Atwell through Rome in a HMMV-like vehicle, just grinning dementedly as she pancakes bystanding cars in pursuit. It’s the sort of performance the elevates an almost rote henchperson role into something much more… Also of note: Casey Affleck’s performance as Boris Pash in Oppenheimer. Infused with a perfect sorta smiling menace and dread, you almost don’t even need Matt Damon’s character to explain Pash’s past exploits to know how much danger Oppenheimer put himself in with that meeting. Genuinely want to explore more about Pash, who seems like an interesting (if a bit unhinged) guy.

Most Unnecessary Subtitle: Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre. I mean, the whole title is somewhat bad, and honestly, most subtitles that aren’t sequels are unnecessary, but man, what were they thinking here? I really enjoyed the movie quite a bit, a frothy, fun spy caper thing that really didn’t catch on, but is worth seeking out if you like that sort of thing. But with a title (and subtitle) like that, I don’t blame you for not knowing about it…

Best Retired Spy: The Equalizer 3. It’s so funny that Denzel has only done two sequels in his career, and it’s these Equalizer movies he keeps coming back to… but this third installment is actually quite good! Maybe even the best of the series. Denzel’s retired spy turned drifter winds up in Italy, and finds peace… until he doesn’t and turns into an avenging spirit, almost like a slasher villain or something (but, like, heroic instead of villainous).

Best Badass/Villain (non-Human Edition): Godzilla from Godzilla Minus One. One of the great things about this movie is that they let Godzilla be a monster, instead of like, a sorta heroic monster that protects humans from bad monsters.

Godzilla Minus One

Most Underseen Romantic Comedy: Rye Lane. Delightful British RomCom that didn’t get much of a release here, but is well worth seeking out for fans of the genre (it’s on Hulu).

Best U.S. Military Cameo: The AC-130 in The Covenant. The movie has some tense action sequences and plenty of intractable bureaucracy, but I was not expecting the AC-130 “Angel of Death” sequence towards the end of the film. It’s disturbingly satisfying to watch.

Bleakest Horror Movie: When Evil Lurks. Absolutely messed up, nihilistic, doomcore, just plain mean movie. It’s pretty damn good.

Best YouTube Release: The History of the Minnesota Vikings. Clocking in at 9 hours and change, this is more of a TV series than a movie, but documentary director Jon Bois has really carved out a particular niche, complete with his own auteurist style. I don’t know if it’s quite as good as his History of the Seattle Mariners series, but it’s still pretty great.

Should Host the Oscars: Chancellor Jarnathan from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Other candidates: M3GAN, The Cocaine Bear (which actually showed up at last year’s Oscar ceremony), and of course, The Entity from Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One.

That does it for the 2023 Arbitrary Awards, but stay tuned, moar 2023 movie commentary incoming, including the traditional Top 10 list (this will probably take a couple weeks) and some Oscars commentary…

2023 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners

The nominees for the 2023 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week, and today we announce the award winners. The Oscars were also announced this past week, and the discourse has produced the usual unhinged complaints about snubs and relatability and other bitter recriminations. As with many things, the Oscars has had a weird few years in this post-pandemic era. Hosting woes, The Slap™, and ever present controversy has taken a toll, but it’s still fun if you don’t take it too seriously. Speaking of which, it’s about time to get to my silly little awards. I realize this is happening about a month or two later than most publications’ year end roundups, but I’m not a critic with access to screeners, so I’m still catching up with a lot of 2023 movies. Anywho, that’s enough preamble, let’s get to the fireworks:

Best Villain/Badass: Leonard, played by Dave Bautista in Knock at the Cabin. This was a surprisingly hard choice, and to be sure, Bautista’s Leonard isn’t your typical villain, which is probably why I ended up choosing him. Bautista’s soulful performance contrasted with his almost comical physical presence was a big part of it. The movie wasn’t my favorite, but his performance was memorable and effective.

Dave Bautista in Knock ad the Cabin

The competition was also quite weak this year. I considered the Marquis, played by Bill Skarsgård in John Wick: Chapter 4, but he’s a sniveling weakling who hides behind Donnie Yen’s Caine (who perhaps should have been the one nominated, but he’s too sympathetic and friendly with John Wick – one of those weird borderline cases that come up in this award sometimes). Gabriel, played by Esai Morales in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One was also in contention, but he’s such a weird addition to the franchise – they play it like he’s been there all along, but this is the first we’ve seen of him. He’s certainly good in the role and I’m looking forward to the next movie, but he doesn’t really stand out. Also of note are the dueling Hugh Grant nominations for Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre and Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, both underrated movies deserving of more love (and Grant has lots of fun in both roles). It’s also nice to see a strong showing from the Slasher contingent in the nominees, but in the end, the unusualness of Bautista in Knock at the Cabin takes the cake.

Best Hero/Badass: John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4. I don’t know how this happened. Somehow, there’s been three previous John Wick movies and Wick/Reeves has not won this award. In some ways it’s fitting that this series finale finally generates the long sought after award win, in other ways, I worry that I’m becoming like the Oscars, handing out lifetime achievement awards over more deserving winners.

Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4

On the other hand, there really isn’t an obvious challenger to Wick and the choice is eminently defensible. Funnily enough, one of the leading challengers would be Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, who defeated Wick a few years ago for this very award (plus, to lean into the Oscar politics aspect, Cruise has won this multiple times). One other strong contender was Denzel Washington in The Equalizer 3, a movie I enjoyed way more than I thought I would (and which seems a bit slept on). Ultimately, though, it was finally time to hand the award to Wick.

Best Comedic Performance: Jennifer Lawrence in No Hard Feelings. A genuinely tough choice as there wasn’t really an obvious winner, though I do think that Lawrence’s performance is genuinely funny and she really put herself out there with this movie (sometimes, *ahem*, literally). The other nominee that I strongly considered and wanted to highlight was Glenn Howerton in BlackBerry. It’s a great performance, quite funny, and deserving of recognition. I dunno, maybe consider this a tie or something? This award is frequently strange because there are so many comedies that are more ensemble pieces than singular comedic vehicles. Plus, comedies are something of a rarity these days, with so many being a component of a larger genre (i.e. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is an adventure with a bunch of comedic beats for flavor, rather than primarily a comedy). Anyway, it’s nice to see an R-rated sex comedy these days, it’s a genre seemingly on the verge of extinction. Margot Robbie was great in Barbie, but I also feel like that’s more of an ensemble piece with a lot of humor coming from elsewhere. Paul Giamatti is amazing in The Holdovers, but while he delivers some zingers and humor, it’s more of a dramatic performance than comedy.

Breakthrough Performance: Sydney Sweeney in Reality and Anyone But You. I’ll admit to this award being somewhat nebulous, but it seems clear to me that Sydney Sweeney is going places, and that we’ll be seeing a lot more from her in the next few years. I will say that I wouldn’t have chosen her if I didn’t catch up with Reality, a high concept acting exercise that shows more range than expected. It seems obvious that Sweeney could achieve success with romantic comedies like Anyone But You, but it seems like she could choose more challenging roles and pull them off if she wanted to… Lily Gladstone was great in Killers of the Flower Moon and I suspect we’ll see more of her, and I do want to call out the last minute addition of Dar Salim in The Covenant. It wasn’t a movie I was particularly excited to see, but his performance was razor sharp and I hope we see a lot more of him in the years to come.

Most Visually Stunning: Asteroid City. Somehow, I’ve never given this award to a Wes Anderson movie. He’s one of our most distinct auteurs and visual stylists, with a brand of fussy, weaponized quirk that is truly beautiful to observe, even if you don’t love the movie (for the record, I really like Asteroid City, though it’s far from my favorite Anderson and probably won’t make the top 10).

Asteroid City

It’s obviously worth noting Barbenheimer (Barbie and Oppenheimer) here, as they’re both visually stunning, and I’ll also through out extra mention to Poor Things and The Creator, which are also beautiful movies.

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Command Z. A genuinely hard choice here, but I figured I’d spread the love around a bit. Command Z is one of those experimental Steven Soderbergh movies, but its genre elements (involving time travel, amongst a few other sub-genres) tickled me in just the right way. It’s worth seeking out, and you truly do need to seek it out because one of the experimental things about this movie is its distribution, which means it’s only currently available via its website. I’m sure it’ll show up on a streaming service at some point, but it’s worth the effort to watch now. I’ll hold off on the runners up, as some will be showing up below. The only thing I should mention though is that I caught up with When Evil Lurks a few days ago and it’s certainly worthy of attention for horror fans (and would have been nominated if I saw it before the nomination post). It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s quite effective.

Best Sequel/Reboot/Remake: Godzilla Minus One. A surprising amount of good choices this year, but this was perhaps the most surprising in that I think it’s the best Godzilla movie I’ve seen since the original. The biggest problem with most Godzilla movies is that the human stories surrounding the monster are often so rote and boring. Minus One centers around a flawed but striving protagonist that you can’t help but root for, and that embues the struggle with Godzilla with much more power than most monster slugfests. Culturally and thematically rich, I haven’t seen this sort of thing in a Godzilla since the original. Lots of competition for this award though, including the trio of John Wick: Chapter 4, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, and The Equalizer 3, all with a similar sort of bent. Heck, it was even nice to catch up with Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and A Haunting in Venice, from series I hope to see more of in coming years…

Biggest Disappointment: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Marvel’s fate post Endgame has been mostly mixed, but this, for me, was where I think it fully went off the rails. I can generally excuse things like poor special effects (like, seriously, did they let these shots finish rendering or what?) if the story is good, but this was so deeply unpleasant. Perhaps it was the near standalone nature of the first two films that made me like them so much, but nearly everything I loved about them was absent here. Not just some of the characters (Luis!) but even something as simple as the good natured relationship that Scott Lang has with his family (including his ex-wife’s husband, etc…) It was always something I loved about this sub-series, and it’s just completely jettisoned in favor of obnoxious daddy/daughter strife and crushed under the weight of Marvel’s franchise-service.

Best Action Sequences: Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. Two of the most amazing action set pieces of the year here: one a stunt where Tom Cruise drives off a cliff on a motorcycle and another in which a train crashes. Even some of the more mundane set pieces were noteworthy – a car chase through Rome works incredibly well thanks to Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell’s comedic tension, not to mention the deranged but gleeful grin that Pom Klementieff sports as she barrels her way through Rome in pursuit. It’s even more effective when you see Fast X try something similar, with much less success. Anyway, tons of competition here and you could certainly mount a strong case for John Wick: Chapter 4 (in particular, the overhead Dragon’s Breath sequence), but let’s spread things around a bit.

Best Plot Twist/Surprise: The Artifice Girl. Obviously I won’t be spoiling this here, especially since I went into this knowing very little about it (which helps with an award like this). Fortunately, this is an underseen movie, so you too could have such an experience. It’s talky and set mostly in a couple of small rooms, but it’s fantastic. Also a strong contender for Best SF/Horror and Best High Concept, I’ve again opted to spread the love with these awards and am sticking with this choice here. Plenty of other worthy nominees, but I feel like even just nominating them is a partial spoiler, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Best High Concept Film: Silent Night and No One Will Save You. Once again, a very tough choice here, so I’m choosing the cop out, because both of these movies essentially have the same gimmick: almost no dialogue in the film at all. It’s a neat gimmick and emphasizes film as a visual medium. If I had to choose one, it would probably be Silent Night, because it’s so clearly a John Woo movie, touching on many of his themes and hobbyhorses, but he’s able to distill his vision in a stripped down, visual way, rather than through clumsy dialogue.

2023’s 2022 Movie of the Year: Orphan: First Kill. The pickins were pretty slim this year, and this award has always been a little weird in that way. The idea was that I was frequently catching up with this after my top 10 that were worthy of recognition, so I created this award for that purpose. The problem is that I rarely catch up with something that’s really that spectacular, and last year was particularly rough on that front. Even some of the nominees weren’t exactly favorites (I’m sure lots of folks would look at that list and think the obvious choice was Triangle of Sadness, but while I respect what that movie is doing, I didn’t exactly love it.) Anyway, I’m giving it to Orphan: First Kill because I wound up having a blast with the movie. Like its predecessor, it’s not exactly good, but the premise in and of itself is almost hilarious. While this seems like simply more of the same at first, it does have a twist that really makes the movie. It’s not the greatest movie or anything, but I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would…

Congratulations to all the 2023 Kaedrin Movie Award winners! And stay tuned, for next week, the awards go arbitrary!

2023 Kaedrin Movie Award Nominees

Welcome to the 2023 Kaedrin Movie Award season, which we’re kicking off with nominees in our standard categories! The idea is to recognize films for achievements that don’t always reflect well on top 10 lists or traditional awards. There are lots of formal award categories and nominees listed below, but once those are announced, we’ll also leave some room for Arbitrary Awards that are more goofy and freeform. Finally, we’ll post a traditional top 10 list (usually sometime in early/mid-February). But first up is the awards! [Previous Installments here: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022]

Standard disclaimers apply: It must be a 2023 movie (with the one caveat that some 2022 films were not accessible until 2023 and are thus eligible under fiat) and I obviously have to have seen the movie. As of this writing, I’ve seen 93 movies that could be considered a 2023 release. This is right about where we were last year at this time, which means that I’ve actually caught up from being behind in early December, but 2023 has been a pretty jam packed year. There are still several films that I want to catch up with, but even though I probably have seen less movies than many critics have seen, I have seen more than your typical moviegoer and have certainly seen enough to populate the awards. I think that’s enough preamble, let’s get to it:

Best Villain/Badass
A moderate year for villainy here, lots of decent choices, but I’m not sure if there’s a true standout. I don’t envy the voting body on this one (um, wait a second…)! In accordance with tradition, my picks in this category are limited to individuals, not groups (i.e. no vampires or zombies as a general menace, etc…) or ideas. This exclusion also, um, includes inhuman monsters or creatures (sorry Godzilla, we’ll hit you up in the Arbitrary Awards). Sometimes there’s a fine line here and certain nominees might be borderline, but we’re all just going to have to learn to live with it.

Best Hero/Badass
A better year for heroism, though this time around there are a few standouts such that the voting will probably not get very contentious (phew)… One fun thing about both the hero and villain categories is that they are not as dominated by superhero movies anymore, even if there is one token representative from the genre… Again limited to individuals and not groups/creatures.

Best Comedic Performance
This is sometimes a difficult category to populate due to the prevalence of ensembles in comedy movies (this year being no exception). That being said, there were definitely a few standout solo performances this year that are definitely worth recognition.

Breakthrough Performance
This used to be a category more centered around my personal evaluation of a given actor (rather than a more general industry breakthrough), but it’s trended more towards the youngsters breaking through as time has gone on…

Most Visually Stunning
Sometimes even bad movies can look really great… But this is a pretty solid list!

Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film
It’s always nice to throw some love to genres that don’t normally get a lot of recognition in end-of-the-year lists. As an avid SF fan, it’s sad that the genre usually has to be combined with Horror in order to come up with a well rounded set of nominees, but here we are.

Best Sequel/Reboot/Remake
Always an awkward category to populate, especially given my normal feeling on this sort of thing (i.e. not a huge fan of sequels), but this year wasn’t that hard.

Biggest Disappointment
A category often dominated by sequels and reboots, but the occasional original film makes an appearance. Note that these movies don’t necessarily need to be “bad” in order to be a “disappointment”. Basically, these movies scored poorly on Joe Posnanski’s Plus-Minus Scale.

Best Action Sequences
This award isn’t for individual action sequences, but rather an overall estimation of each film. We’ve got a pretty great, extensive lineup this year. The added accessibility of streaming DTV actioners has been a boon to this category.

Best Plot Twist/Surprise
I suppose even listing that there is a twist is a bit of a spoiler, but I guess we’ll just have to risk it.

Best High Concept Film
A bit of a nebulous concept for this category, but there’s some good stuff worth recognizing here because they took chances on a weird concept.

2023’s 2022 Movie of the Year
This is a weird category that is sometimes difficult to populate. The idea centers around movies I never caught up with last year during the Kaedrin Awards season, but which are worthwhile in their own right. During the pandemic, things were even weirder with this category, but we’ve seemingly emerged from that wilderness. Still, I must have done a good job with last year’s catch-up, because pickins were slim this year. This list is modest and none of these would kick something off my top 10 from last year but a couple are worthwhile…

So there you have it, please congratulate all of the 2023 Kaedrin Movie Award nominees! Stay tuned for the winners (probably next week, but you never know), followed by the Arbitrary Awards and Top 10 list. I’m still catching up with various flicks, because as usual, those 9 and 10 slots in the top 10 are a little difficult to fill (not, I should add, because there aren’t worthy candidates, but more because there are so many vying for those slots)…