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The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

Laney’s Favorite Films of 2023

After watching over 30 hours of film, these are the ones that moved me.

In my hours of sitting in cramped theaters and scrolling through reviews from the ever sapping energy of my phone, I noticed that critics often focus on the technical, cinematic excellence of films and forget that movies are made for a large audience, the majority of which will not fully grasp the intricacies of what they are viewing.

The question of whether critics appreciate or over analyze is common, and although film is a complex art that deserves deep examination, sometimes a film is good just because it made you feel the right thing at the right time. Though terrible audio and visuals will bring down a brilliant plot, and terrific performances can uplift an awful character, the narrative is often more important. Without a good story, you can’t make a good movie. 

I’ve put together a list of my favorites from 2023, spent over 30 hours watching those that were praised and popular, and dove deep into the recesses of every streaming service I could afford to find the hidden gems. These are the 10 films that made me laugh, cry, and contemplate the meaning of human existence. They may not be flawless, but nothing is. 

10: Society of the Snow

“Society of Snow” is the latest in the attempt to retell the true story of flight 571, which crashed in the Andes mountains in 1972. Although these other  attempts—such as “Alive” in 1993 andStranded: The Andes Plane Crash Survivors” in 2009–retell the same story,“Society of the Snow” is the most accurate portrayal, it adds layers of realism and fear that is a better representation of the trauma the survivors went through. Even though “Society of the Snow” was filmed in Spanish and I had to rely on subtitles, the raw emotion conveyed through incredible performances still made me scared to step foot on another plane.

“Night falls like an ambush. In the span of minutes, the temperature drops 86 degrees. If the plane crash didn’t kill us, the cold will. We huddle together the best we can. Living and dead, as one.” – Numa Turcatti (Ezno Vogrincic), “Society of the Snow”

9: Anatomy of a Fall

“Anatomy of a Fall” is a complex character study that relies on the uncertainty of a woman’s guilt in her husband’s death and exceptional performances from Sandra Hüller as Sandra Voyter and Milo Machado Graner as Daniel, Sandra’s blind son. “Anatomy of a Fallis about more than the death of Sandra’s husband and it is more than the dissection of its resulting court case. It is about the complexities of romantic relationships and the constricting noose of love. Throughout the trail Voyter’s relationship with her husband is deeply analyzed, and the notion of truth is employed as a weapon. 

“Sometimes a couple is kind of a chaos and everybody is lost. Sometimes we fight together and sometimes we fight alone, and sometimes we fight against each other, that happens.” – Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller), “Anatomy of a Fall”

8: Bottoms

By far the most ridiculous movie on this list, “Bottoms” follows two teenage lesbians as they create a school fight club to get together with their cheerleading crushes and kill some football players. Despite the premise of this film being incredibly silly, I found it charming, entertaining and powerful. The film highlights improvisation from Rachel Sennott as PJ, Ayo Edebri as Josie, and is elevated by the performance of Ruby Cruz as Hazel. Beneath the shoulder pads of typical outlandish satire, “Bottoms” pokes fun at serious issues, just as all good comedies should. 

“Okay I might be ugly, but these aren’t overalls.” Josie (Ayo Edebri), Bottoms

7: The Holdovers 

“The Holdovers” is a Christmas comedy that takes a handful of messy people and makes you want to hug them. I imagine many Summit staffers would enjoy this film, as the entitlement of rich students is pitted against the stubborn wisdom of a lonesome professor, who is punished by his principal for failing the rich kid and now has to babysit a handful of them. Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of Paul Hunham, a grumpy teacher, at a New England boys boarding school is as inspiring as it is humorous. The Holdovers is filled with witty sarcasm and near corny characters, but it manages to explore class, race, loneliness, grief, and love, all while clasping your hands around a mug of hot chocolate. 

“The world doesn’t make sense anymore. I mean, it’s on fire. The rich don’t give a sh*t. Poor kids are cannon fodder. Integrity is a punchline. Trust is just a name on a bank.” – Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti), The Holdovers. 

6: Past Lives 

I don’t normally like romance movies, they’re predictable and repetitive and I never care enough about the characters to hope their crush likes them back. But “Past Lives” is different. It’s a story about two people who grow up together, about how their past impacts their everyday life and the definition of fate. “Past Lives” is a visceral and emotional movie that remains modest. What really sets Past Lives apart was the lack of competition within the love triangle between Nora (Greta Lee), Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), Ñoras childhood friend, and Ñoras husband, Aurthur (John Magaro). It’s refreshing and relaxing to see a dynamic in a marriage that is remarkably empathetic and mature. 

“I liked you for who you are, and who you are is a person who leaves. But for him, you’re the person who stays.” – Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), Past Lives. 

5: Monster  

“Monster” is a character driven narrative that is split into three parts which each follow a different character. “Monster” explores the complexities of childhood, family, fear and bullies, all while asking a question I have contemplated for much of my life: why is it that adults fail to understand the emotional turmoil of adolescence, as if they did not also experience it? “Monster” powerfully demonstrates the manifestation of the harmful messages of society and the self hatred and fear they breed through the eyes of single mother Saori Mungino (Sakura Andō), fifth grade boy Minato Mugino (Sōya Kurokawa), and his teacher Michitoshi Hori (Eita Nagayama). 

“But Mr. Hori told him, ‘your brain is a pig’s brain you won’t learn until it really hurts’” – Saori Mugino (Sakura Andō), “Monster.”

4: Oppenheimer  

“Oppenheimer” is an incredible film, it retells the true story of J. Robert Oppenheimer with beautiful, brilliant performances, such as Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer and Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss. “[E]ven though I knew everything that was going to happen in the movie before going in, because I like history, I felt like it the actors portrayed it in such a way that showed me so much more because I got to see it and humanize it in my mind,” said summit sophomore Keira Schroeder. However, the highlight of this movie lies not in its visual composition, but in the score. The music creates much of the film’s tension,  building throughout the film with searing violin and the hint of a distant threat.

“Most of what I loved about Oppenheimer was how it left me feeling throughout and even for hours afterwards. I don’t think I could’ve blinked if I tried, it left me feeling like I was paralyzed and outside of my body. My brain became a black void lit by stage lights that weren’t visible. I felt small and insignificant but in a way that made me feel like I had the capacity to grow and be successful and would later but in that moment I was supposed to be small and quiet and listen because what was happening was important,” said Schroeder. 

3: Maestro

I have an incredible appreciation for music and this film manages to capture that feeling with brilliant cinematography that is undoubtedly the best on this list. Maestro unravels every note of the relationship between American composer Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) and his wife Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan) and explores the dynamic of Bernstein’s sexuality and capacity for love, as he often strays from his wife to become entangled in affairs with men. “Maestro” traverses the idea that life is a performance in which Bernstein and Montealegre are phenomenal actors and masterfully captures the complexities of love and loyalty in a time when both are meant to have concrete boundaries. 

“Your truth makes you brave and strong and saps the rest of us of any kind of bravery or strength. Because it’s so draining Lenny, it’s so f*cking draining to love and accept someone who doesn’t love and accept themselves. And that’s the only truth I know about you.” – Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan), Maestro

2: Barbie 

If you listen to Jo Koy at the 81st annual Golden Globes, Barbie “is on a plastic doll with big boobies.” “Barbie” has been repeatedly misinterpreted as a typical feminist joke, but although it is a creative depiction of sexism, it also explores the idea of equality as something that is always just out of reach. “Barbie” makes an incredibly political and important topic palatable and opens the discussion to a wider audience than ever before. I watched “Barbie” in a full theater, there was a row in front of me entirely occupied by a group of older women. Every single one of them would cackle at punch lines and shed tears at Gloria’s (America Ferrera) monologue. “Barbie” is tragic, creative, powerful, provocative and hilarious, that is why I love it.

“I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.” – Gloria (America Ferrera). 

1: Killers of the Flower Moon 

“Killers of the Flower Moon” is the latest from filmmaker Martin Scorsese, whose films date back to the 1960s. Scorsese is well known for his risky and unique take on different genres which often include unlikable characters that toe the line between good and evil. With “Killers of the Flower Moon” this trend continues, as Ernest Burkhart’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) greed and participation in the murders of several wealthy Osage, despite his marriage to Osage member Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), is framed as a lesser evil due to his care for her. “Killers of the Flower Moon” is a powerful retelling of a true story that is often forgotten which serves as just one example of the racism and greed perpetrated by white colonizers on Native Americans. Although “Killers of the Flower Moon” spans almost 3 hours and 30 minutes I was still left wanting more. 

And more for good measure: 32 sounds, Asteroid City, Talk to Me, Poor Things, The Color Purple, Nyad, Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Zone of Interest, Spider Man: Across The Spider Verse, and Saltburn.


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About the Contributor
Laney McDonald, Staff Writer

When not digging unfinished projects out of the trash and looking around corners to recruit a wild percussionist, Sophomore staff writer Laney McDonald will be found covered in paint with a pencil tucked behind her ear. Funding her obsession of limited-edition records, the innate desire to fill her shelves with books she’ll never read, and her aspirations to own as many instruments as possible has drained any hope to acquire a college fund. For those sympathetic to her constant need of cash, any donations should be hand delivered as soon as possible. 


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