From “Reservation Dogs” to “Past Lives,” here are Austin’s film and tv highlights of 2023.
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As the award season for 2023’s best films and television shows comes to an end, Wherever I Look would like to honor some of our favorite movies, shows, and performances. As the Academy Awards honor some of Hollywood’s best films and the Emmys showcase the best of television, we understand “top” lists and favorites are all subjective titles. From the summer phenomenon of “Barbenheimer” to the streaming delights of “The Last of Us,” 2023 delivered plenty of riveting stories. There are just too many movies and shows to watch, and while it’s difficult to summarize such a remarkable year in visual storytelling, these are just a few that have been entertaining, challenging, and enlightening.
Top Television Shows
A show rarely captures a fresh perspective with magical realism, cultural accuracy, and a celebration of community. “Reservation Dogs” does all 3 and is FUNNY above all else. Sterlin Harjo’s comedy series about four Native American teenagers growing up on a reservation evolved into a show filled with mysticism, historical trauma, and a cast of characters you love to see each week. Each episode of the show’s third and final season sheds insight into culture and people and makes you laugh along the way. The show may primarily follow the Res Dogs’ gang of four (D’Pharoah Woon-a-Tai, Devery Jacobs, Paulina Alexis, and Lane Factor), but it charmingly opens itself to others in the community where just hanging with the Res Dogs feels like visiting family every week.
Where to Watch: Streaming on Hulu
“How to with John Wilson”
John Wilson ends his documentary series on Max with warmth and love for all the weirdness in New York City and all the weirdness you can find in yourself. Each episode sneakily starts as a trivial task or tip, such as “How to Find a Public Restroom” or “How to Clean Your Ears,” but the episodes’ disarming premise takes us on quiet reflections of growth, pain, and what it means to be part of a community. John Wilson is our shy and stuttering narrator and interviewer, but the jokes are never cruel and bond us closer to strangers on camera. The third season of “How To with John Wilson” is the show’s last, but if you want to laugh and learn about subcultures happening all around us, this show is for you. “How To with John Wilson” ultimately gives you a new perspective on the city and shows viewers how to love each other.
Where to Watch: Streaming MAX
“I’m a Virgo”
Filmmaker/Activist/Musician Boots Riley puts all of his political rage and fantastical humor into “I’m a Virgo,” the story about a 13-foot-tall Black teenager who is looking for a place to belong in Oakland, California. Over the season’s 7 episodes, we empathize with the tall and sheltered Cootie (Jharrel Jerome) but witness the eerie similarities between Cootie’s world and our own (a billionaire vigilante, the exploitation of Black men’s bodies, the poisonous rash of capitalism, etc.). “I’m a Virgo” trusts viewers to interpret the story however they want and also identify their own struggles within characters who just want to live but are constantly surveilled and demanded to work. There is nothing like “I’m a Virgo” on television. It can be silly and frustrating, and it is sure to create a conversation with whoever watches it too.
Where to Watch: Streaming on Prime
Read our review for “I’m a Virgo” here.
Top Movie Performances
Charles Melton as Joe Yoo in “May December”
“May December” portrays a character rarely discussed in the media but persists for an unseen minority in the world. Joe Yoo was just 14 when 36-year-old Gracie sexually assaulted him and started a relationship that lasted 20 years. Charles Melton plays Joe as an adult man, now 34, married to Gracie with three children. But Joe never had a chance to grow up, and Melton conveys the tragic, submissive, and quiet Joe as someone who’s still a child but is trying to find agency and answers in his own life. In “May December,” Melton holds decades of stifled trauma within each vacant stare and attempt to connect; he plays a prisoner to his own mind, and we watch with horrid fascination.
Where to Watch: Streaming on Netflix
Read our review of “May December” here.
Paul Giamatti as Paul Hunham in “The Holdovers”
Paul Hunham in “The Holdovers” was written with Paul Giamatti in mind for the role, and the actor seizes the part with reckless abandon. Giamatti plays Professor Hunham as a stubborn pain in the ass for any student unlucky enough to take his history class, but Hunham can also be deeply sympathetic and a protector to anyone who needs one. Giamatti infuses the character with warmth and tragedy, a man who can be happy in a history book for the rest of his life yet still yearns for his unreached ambitions. We see people like Hunham in our own lives, and Giammati’s acting makes us want to reach out to all the Hunman in the world.
Where to Watch: Now on Video-on-Demand
Read our review of “The Holdovers” here.
Lily Gladstone as Mollie Burkhart in “Killers of the Flower Moon”
In “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Lily Gladstone is tasked with representing generations of trauma and grief as her character Mollie watches her friends and family systematically murdered all around her. There are many times in “Killers of the Flower Moon” where you crumble and cry for what Mollie Burkhart has to endure. Just when you think her grief reaches its unimaginable low, more grief soon follows. Lily Gladstone sustains the burden of paranoia and tragedy to the point of delirium. Gladstone demonstrates Mollie’s humanity and strength as an indigenous woman, wary of the changing society around her.
Where to Watch: Now streaming on AppleTV.
Read our review of “Killers of the Flower Moon” here.
“Past Lives” is a gentle, intimate story that asks you to take yourself back to your own adolescence. What happened to your first love? What if you had a chance to see them again? Were you really in love, or were you searching for some piece of yourself in the past? Written and directed by Celine Song, “Past Lives” explores two people’s reunion, their connection, and what happens when different parts of your life collide. Greta Lee stars as Nora Moon, a woman who gets the chance to meet her childhood friend Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) after being separated for decades. But Nora is now married to Arthur (John Magaro), and her feelings for both men speak to different parts of who she is. “Past Lives” is beautiful, heartbreaking, and finds the poetry in a struggle that many have faced.
Where to Watch: Now available for Video-On-Demand.
Read our review of “Past Lives” here.
There hasn’t been a movie that has made me laugh as hard or drop my jaw as much as “Bottoms.” Emma Seligman’s subversive comedy is a satire of teen sex comedies and an absurd ode to friendship. The humor hits fast in the background, foreground, and with literal punches. Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennot operate on another plane as their quips and chemistry are heightened within each scene. Each supporting character gives in to the cartoon energy of the film’s rhythm until the film’s bloody and hilarious climax. “Bottoms” is bonkers, but it has sincere love for its weirdos and all the other weirdos in the world.
Where to Watch: Now available for Video-on-Demand.
Read our review of “Bottoms” here.
“The Holdovers” depicts three people at their darkest, most lonesome time in their lives. Filmmaker Alexander Payne immerses us in the cold, 1970s’ boarding school as a fourth member, witnessing the growth and bond between Hunham (Paul Giamatti), Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa), and Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). But through the tears and anger, their roles as teacher, student, and staff begin to shed, and they start seeing each other as humans. You may predict the turn coming, but the path to Paul, Angus, and Mary bonding is earned, painful, and absolutely beautiful. “The Holdovers” is an excellent movie to nourish any lonely heart.
Where to Watch: Now on Video-on-Demand
Read our review of “The Holdovers” here.
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