Devi’s 2024 New Year Viewing Roundup

January 2nd, 2024

Happy New Year! Granted, it hasn’t been pretty, but we made it through 2023 – so, kudos. It’s important to celebrate life’s little victories. Fortunately, we also ended 2023 with at least a few standout films, including my favorite film of the year reviewed below. That said, I’ve also seen far more less pleasing films than ever before this year, many I turned off halfway through, and more still that I only wish I had. One hopes with the WGA/SAG/AFTRA strikes behind us, we’ll see more impressive fare coming out in 2024 with more gainfully employed writers and thespians. In the meantime, here are some viewing options to consider…


POOR THINGS (in theaters): There are few films I watch and thereafter think, “Damn, I wish I’d been the one to make that film,” and POOR THINGS happens to be one. The eye candy alone—especially the fantastical Dr. Moreau-like creatures—was worth the price of admission. More importantly, however, was the intriguing experiment portrayed. In short, a misguided, but not unlikeable, mad scientist (played beautifully by Willem Dafoe) reanimates Bella, a deceased woman (embodied masterfully by Emma Stone) into whom he places the brain of the unborn child she’d been carrying at the time of death. Attempting an empirical approach to Bella’s upbringing (i.e. trying to let her be her own person without imposing traditional societal gender norms upon her), he, and we viewers, watch her evolve. At first solely she’s primarily driven by her senses: taste, smell, sexual arousal, but as the men around her, react to her as men raised in a patriarchy so often do, bound by their own gender expectations and need for control. Their conduct inspire Bella to undertake an experiment of her own that provides fresh and insightful insights into sex, gender and how living in a patriarchal society inevitably shapes a woman. Inevitably, it’s not a flawless film. There are more than a couple lingering shots of Bella’s naked anatomy that felt unmotivated and thus gratuitously objectified. Then again, there were also those that were logically shot from a male character’s gaze in a moment he was indeed seeing her for her parts and not her person, thereby serving the plot. Overall, I felt the balance was better than most films, and we did also see both the male and female anatomies from Bella’s  perspective. So, kudos to Yorgos Lanthimos and Alasdair Gray (the author of the source novel I’m now very keen to read) for creating such wonderfully anthropological food for thought. Be sure to watch with friends because this film demands thoughtful post-viewing discussion.

OBITUARY (series, Hulu, 2023): Amidst a number of disappointing series and films, I tried viewing this month, I mercifully came across this darkly comedic Irish series about a truly original female psychopath who gets paid by the obituary she writes for her local paper and does what’s needed to ensure a regular paycheck. The distinct setting and memorable characters make for a unique and fun viewing experience.

DISAPPOINTING (at least to me):

THE MAESTRO (2023, Netflix): I had such high hopes for this one but, alas, I do not share the enthusiasm of so many others. Stylish to a fault, this one played like a never-ending preview— a bullet point list of events without taking its time to develop the characters in any deep way.  Though it begins during wartime, and centers around Bernstein’s marriage to a woman despite being primarily homosexual, the first 50 minutes felt like a romantic montage devoid of any conflict. Thereafter, the enormous, seemingly random leaps of time were jarring to say the least. One moment, they’re having their first baby, the next she’s visiting from college. At the halfway point my partner asked, “Do you care about any of this?” I said, “Nope.” He asked, “should we keep watching?” I said, “Probably not.” Nevertheless, we stayed to the end hoping it would pay off. Alas, for us, it did not. A number of friends and family members have had similar responses, while others have lauded it as genius. I think ultimately it came down to a film that was trying to capture too much and wound up capturing too little.

Oh, well.

2023 was by no means the most exciting year for films. Here’s hoping we’ll have better luck in the year to come.  Fortunately, the fabulous Bong Joon-Ho’s follow up to PARASITE is set to come out along with several female-driven classic monster movies, including a remake of DRACULA’S DAUGHTER and a teen FRANKENSTEIN story. I don’t know what to think of Tim Burton’s upcoming sequel to BEETLEJUICE, but if it’s as fun as his series WEDNESDAY, we might be in for a treat. Fingers crossed…






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