Saturday, April 1, 2023

It's April and Shotgun Wedding is still my #1 of 2023

April Fool's! 

No, sadly -- not April Fool's.

I don't want to spoil anything for my year-end rankings released next January (ha ha) but we've just slid into the fourth month of the calendar year -- here in Australia anyway -- and I'm still looking at the Amazon original Shotgun Wedding as my favorite movie of the year.

"But in April you've only seen like eight movies from the current year, right Vance?"

It's twice that. Which is actually probably a little low for this time of year.

But out of 16 movies seen, shouldn't I be able to find at least one four-star movie?

I actually got close with Shotgun Wedding, the second 2023 movie I watched. I felt enough of a surge of enjoyment watching Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel try to save their wedding party from kidnappers on an island in the Pacific that I considered whether it got all the way into four-star range. Ultimately, cooler heads and a sense of critical self-respect prevailed, and I gave it only 3.5 on Letterboxd.

But the memory of that enjoyment, plus the inferior quality of the next 14 2023 movies I've watched, has meant that it hasn't had any serious challengers for the top spot. 

Let's not blow things out of perspective here. I'm technically in the fourth month of the year, but I haven't watched any movies in April yet, and more than half of January is lost to finishing up the movies from the previous year. So we're really talking less than two-and-a-half months of watching movies from the new year.

But what I'm really saying is that I've never not had a really strong movie sitting atop my rankings even at this early juncture. By this time last year I had already seen both Everything Everywhere All at Once, the eventual best picture winner, and Turning Red, which finished one spot ahead of EEAAO at #3 for the year for me. And though my #1 movie on April 1st last year did end up in my top three for the year, I'd be surprised if Shotgun Wedding cracks the top 30.

It could, if the movie year continues on at this pace.

I've only seen one movie I really disliked -- the Netflix rom com Your Place or Mine -- but I've seen a ton of mediocrity, and sequelitis has already hit pretty hard early in 2023. Without having even seen the latest Scream or John Wick, a quarter of my 2023 films are still sequels: Creed III, Magic Mike's Last Dance, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Shazam: Fury of the Gods. None of those struck me as memorably as I would have liked, a particular disappointment given my fondness for the first Creed and the second Ant-Man.

Then you've got movies totally original in concept, and dripping with promise, that didn't do a lot for me, like Cocaine Bear. Outside of a few sequences, that movie disappointed me like I could never have anticipated.

I think the real issue is that we haven't gotten anything yet from someone I would characterize as a real auteur. April will change that, at least on the American release schedule if not here in Australia. A couple films that missed 2022 release dates, Kelly Reichardt's Showing Up and Ari Aster's Beau is Afraid -- which also missed its 2022 title, Disappointment Blvd. -- are due to debut this month, though the missing of those release dates does not exude a tremendous amount of promise for their potential. Then I only just realized that David Lowery is the director of Disney's new Peter Pan & Wendy, and though I certainly don't need the umpteenth adaptation of a story that has already been adapted to death, the fact that it's directed by a guy who directed one of my past #1s (A Ghost Story) does feel promising at least. (His previous work with Disney, Pete's Dragon, was a real success. I guess he can only make Disney movies about guys named Pete.)

So I guess what I'm saying is, "It gets better," or at least it should. Don't bail on the year after only 70 days.

I do think, though, that a certain malaise has started to settle into the movies, the sort of thing that may have recently made A.O. Scott decide to stop being a film critic. After seeing and feeling underwhelmed by Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves -- a really quite competent piece of popular entertainment that still left me with a middling reaction -- I considered for a moment writing a post called "Every movie is the same as every other movie." 

Sometimes that feels more true than others.

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