by Rosalie Lewis
Tied for 10: Joy Ride and Red, White & Royal Blue
Quick rundowns of each, for those who haven’t watched yet:
Joy Ride is Adele Lim’s directorial debut and follows friends Audrey (Ashley Park) and Lolo (Sherry Cola) on a trip to China—ostensibly a business trip but also maybe a trip to discover Audrey’s roots since her birth mother is Chinese. Joining the two on their adventures are Lolo’s cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu) and Audrey’s actress roommate Kat (Stephanie Hsu). There are friendship testing moments, sexy hookups, over the top drug taking montages, and a lot of hilarious hijinks. Basically everyone in the cast is really, really ridiculously good looking, to use Zoolander parlance. The working title, according to Wikipedia, was Joy Fuck Club. If you don’t enjoy raunchy comedies this is probably not your bag, but it was very much mine. (Rentable on the usual places and streaming on Starz)
Tied for 8: Priscilla and Barbie
I wasn’t the biggest fan of last year’s Elvis from Baz Luhrmann, but leave it to Sofia Coppola to reveal something new. She excels in creating drama from inconspicuous details, from costume choices to the distance between the camera and its subject. In Priscilla, star Cailee Spaeny inhabits a young woman discovering and testing out the limits of her own agency. That agency bumps up against Elvis, her famous suitor who seems to view her as a doll more than a partner and is then surprised and aggravated when she has wants and needs of her own. I love the way the movie ends, and this is now officially in my top three Sofia Coppola movies.
Speaking of having wants and needs, Barbie invites us to think about why we expect a doll to embody the Platonic ideal of every possible iteration of human womanhood but also it can’t sexualize girls but also let’s not slut shame but also could this toy please fix body dysmorphia and eating disorders and by the way why are you playing with dolls when you could be Learning To Code? I wrestled with this movie a little bit even though I had a great time seeing it in the theater and participating in the Barbenheimer of it all. I wondered, “Does this actually challenge anyone’s existing beliefs or is it just letting us feel like we’re Fixing Sexism by giving our money to the IP of the moment?” I contemplated if it was a little didactic in its handling of gender essentialism. I wondered if a stronger movie would’ve lost the Mattel board subplot. But then, I realized I’m doing the same thing to Barbie the movie that we’ve done to Barbie the toy line and to women-directed movies and ultimately to women themselves. It doesn’t have to fix everything. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to make it pass some morality test to enjoy it. It got a ton of people excited about the movies, it’s directed by Greta Gerwig, it has Ryan Gosling singing and dancing and rollerblading, and it got that Matchbox 20 song stuck in my head for the first time in over twenty years. And that’s (K)enough.
7: Killers of the Flower Moon
The movie takes a different approach than the book because Scorsese centers the story on Mollie and Ernest Burkhardt (Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio) rather than on the FBI detective (Jesse Plemons) sent to investigate the murders. The book is strictly nonfiction, relying on case notes and interviews and other archival sources. The movie is able to add some shading and dialogue that makes the story, the relationship between the couple, and the betrayal of a community by a trusted figure all the more devastating.
Spoilers ahead so if you haven’t watched, skip to the next spot on my list. By casting Leo as Ernest, Scorsese pulls a trick on us. He knows that we’re primed to empathize with Leo, and he lets Leo have the kind of emotionally conflicted, guilt-ridden scenes where we might almost feel bad for Ernest. But then, at the last minute, he reminds us who we should really be crying for when Mollie asks, “What were you giving me in the shots?” No redemption for this guy. He might be in denial of his villainy, but he is absolutely a villain. Oh, and that coda at the end of the film with the last lines being spoken into a microphone by an unexpected person? I sobbed.
5: May Decemberdid a whole podcast on Todd Haynes being a genius so I won’t say a ton here, but wow did I love this movie and how often have I thought about that “we don’t have enough hot dogs” scene in the last 30 days? Often.
Tied for 4: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem and Polite Society
While Turtles is animated, Polite Society is a live action film with emphasis on ACTION! Like TMNT, this movie is also about siblings and conflicts between parents and children. Nida Manzoor directs this fun film about teenage Ria (Priya Kansara), who dreams of being a stuntwoman in movies but in the meantime has a YouTube channel. When her artist sister Lena (Ritu Arya) gets engaged to a rich handsome doctor, Ria worries that he’s too good to be true and her sister is throwing her life away to please society/their parents. So naturally, she enlists her BFFs to dig up whatever dirt they can on him while trying to convince her sister that she must be brainwashed. If you think you know what happens next, I assure you that you don’t. This movie is a little bit Jane Austen, a little bit John Woo, a little bit Bollywood, a little bit Blockers. You HAVE to see it, and thankfully you can because it’s streaming on Prime right now.
3: The Holdovers
Tied for 1: Rye Lane and Sisu
Rye Lane is a slept on British romantic comedy where the meet cute is in a gender neutral bathroom and there’s an art show with pictures of butts and there’s a little bit of Before Sunrise and a sort-of heist to retrieve Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest from an ex’s place. There’s a karaoke scene and there’s a scene with the song “Sign My Name” by Terence Trent D’arby at a barbecue. There are cool fantastical visual sequences and petty declarations. There’s chemistry galore between the two leads (David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah), and confident direction from Raine Allen-Miller in her feature debut. I feel like I’m going to be watching this over and over the way I rewatch Notting Hill and Blast From the Past and Love & Basketball. It’s on Hulu and everyone should check it out immediately!