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BestOf-Film_TV

Best Film and Television of 2023

These are the on-screen productions we put our phones down for and genuinely enjoyed this year.

by Maggie McPhee and Sierra Riley

Photo illustration by Erik Grice

2023 has heralded a milestone in the history of film and television. Actors and screenwriters challenged studio and streaming monoliths with steadfast strikes. And during that long break when the Hollywood industry slowed to a halt, independent and foreign stories along with experimental projects were able to step into the spotlight. 

In the wake of the pandemic we’ve discovered once again what connecting over movies and television shows can mean. Barbie broke box-office records for a woman-directed film; Blackberry brought Canadian content to the global stage; and communities around the world found common ground in obsessing over a stress-inducing TV drama that takes place in the kitchen of a sandwich shop. This year’s offerings have reminded audiences how great stories can affect our everyday lives. We are so back.

Film

 

Most Likely to Make You Swear Off Relationships: Passages dir. Ira Sachs 

There’s a breathless experience to watching something on the screen that’s too real. Abusive men show up rarely enough in cinema, let alone with such nuance. Director Ira Sachs outdoes himself with Tomas, played by the pitch-perfect Franz Rogowski, a bisexual filmmaker who cheats on his husband with a woman. The engine of impulse whirs beyond Tomas’ control as he runs over those in his way. Smart cinematography and an envy-inducing wardrobe conspire to make this capital-A Art. 

 

Most Likely to Fuck With Your Head: Monster dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda

With an oeuvre as close to perfect as they come, it’s impossible to imagine Kore-eda pushing himself further. Yet here, his politics have expanded beyond the individual and the family, without sacrificing any intimacy. In fact, his courage to criticise Japan’s conservative society brings you closer to his young protagonists. The less you know going in, the better the viewing experience. As honourable a send-off to Ryuichi Sakamoto, who composed the score, as one could hope.  

 

Most Likely to Make You Sweat Through Your Shoes: John Wick: Chapter 4 dir. Chad Stahelski

One of the greatest action franchises—and possibly the highest body count—in cinematic history, and it all started with a dead dog. Keanu Reeves’ Wick conserves his energy in the talking department so that he can live forever. Stunt-man-turned-director Chad Stahelski, like the great martial artists, proves that action is art. The brain can hardly compute his ensuing combination of thrilling enthrallment, and jaws around the world have had to be surgically re-hinged. 

 

Most Likely to Make You Text Your Ex: Past Lives dir. Celine Song

Director Celine Song showcases her genius by crafting love in its absence, and by finding gifts in loss. Layers of life enrich every scene in her heart-rending portrayal of star-crossed childhood sweethearts. Shabier Kirchner’s cinematography captures imperfect reflections, refracting glimpses of other worlds. Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen and Christopher Bear turn their score—a standout in the annals of film music—into an ecosystem. Though Song breaks your heart, she puts it back together again. One of the strongest debuts of all time.  

 

Most Likely to Make You Stare Out A Window For Hours: Hands That Bind dir. Kyle Armstrong 

This prairie gothic follows Andy (Paul Sparks), a hired farmhand in 1981 Alberta, whose life begins to unravel. Uncertainties creep into his world of rigid binaries, until they collapse under their shaky foundation. Kyle Armstrong leaves these uncertainties unresolved, opening more doors than he closes and inviting each viewer to chart their own course through the labyrinth, involving them until they’re a part of the architecture.

 

Most Likely to Make You Sleep With Garlic Under Your Pillow: Last Voyage on the Demeter dir. André Øvredal 

If you’ve never heard of this movie, it’s because it was released the same weekend as Meg 2: The Trench and got lost at sea. And out there, Dracula slaughtered its ass.We were gleefully terrified by this latest from one of our favourite fear fabricators. André Øvredal got that big studio budget and knew exactly what to do with it. Fingers crossed they follow through with a sequel. 

 

Most Likely to Make You Apply For Art School: Showing Up dir. Kelly Reichardt 

Kelly Reichardt is one of our best working filmmakers. Part of her power lies in her ability to wrap anxiety up in calmness which, unlike the usual ultra-intense fare à la Uncut Gems, is actually how anxiety feels. The exact emotional ambivalence of waiting for clay to dry in a kiln. Michelle Williams’ unsmiling sculptor carries that duality through her days at a Portland art school. This slice into her life deals with destruction and regeneration without a paintdrop of pretence. 

 

TELEVSION

 

Most Likely to Usher in a Dawn of Old People Reality TV: The Golden Bachelor 

Gary, a 72-year-old widower who dons his hearing aids with pride, takes a second shot at love as the first-ever Golden Bachelor. In stark contrast to the cohort seen on Bachelor in Paradise, the women vying for Gary’s love are especially wholesome. Job titles on nameplates range from “Retired” to “Pickleball Co-captain.” Every contestant arrives at their dates in earnest. The stakes are as high as their ages. 

 

Most Likely To Make You Cry and Scream At Regular Intervals: Last of Us

Though some assume this video game adaptation to be nothing but a guns-out mushroom slant on the classic zombiefest, Last of Us delivers terror and devastation in equal measure. Don’t worry about the brain-hungry undead – actors Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal will eat your heart out. We at RANGE contend that episode three, starring Nick Offerman and Jeffery Pierce, is one of the greatest one-off episodes ever. 

 

Most Likely to Get You to Do a James Marsden Retrospective: Jury Duty 

Layman Robert Gladden is tricked into serving on a fake jury. Silliness ensues. Featuring James Marsden as a caricature of himself, Jury Duty is something of a hilarious and elaborate practical joke. Is it a prank show, a mockumentary, or a sitcom? This one’s hard to categorise, and it’s the greenest patch of TV you’ll find in the sprawling 2020s graveyard of resurrected IP. 

 

Most Likely to Make You Stop Regretting You Never Learned to Play an Instrument: Daisy Jones & The Six

Though the ending is a charcuterie platter of cheese, Daisy Jones is an adaptation that sticks closely to its source material novel. What makes the show shimmer is its soundtrack, which allows the viewer to buy into the story. It’s plausible that with these songs, the titular band would have been a genuine sensation. 

 

Most Likely To Induce Nostalgia: Goosebumps

All hail Justin Long, our horror king. He carries this show on his back, despite the messy ghost-possession mechanics that the actor is made to play out – that just comes with the territory. Disney breathes new life into R.L. Stine’s old monsters, paying homage to the ’90s books while making the stories relevant to today’s YA audience. 

 

Most Likely to Outrage You in a Good Way: Succession (S4)

Oof — what a gut punch. The stunning conclusion to the Roy saga is a briefcase packed neatly with all the corporate family drama that viewers have come to know, love, and fancam about. As in the first three seasons of the HBO drama, you could cut through the tension with a helicopter rotor. The death of Logan Roy, though inevitable, feels as sudden and jarring as death often does in real life. There, and suddenly gone.

 

Most Likely to Produce Lust: The Bear (S2)

Where first-season hits like Yellowjackets or Big Little Lies have dropped the ball in their reprises, The Bear‘s second season juggles its ensemble with clever dexterity. Not only is the cast of this show talented, they’re also extremely sexy. Count on The Bear to make you crave Italian beef. (Yes, that’s a euphemism.)

 

Most Likely to Make You Question Everything: Beef

Speaking of beef, how about Netflix’s Beef? A parking-lot tiff turned car chase starring comedian Ali Wong and A24 darling Steven Yeun, the limited series is packed with surprises, pettiness and manic-depressive destruction at every wide Calabasas turn. The characters are rageful and at times unlikable, but they still give viewers something to root for — a struggle for a way out of the existential trappings of life as we know it.

 

Most Likely to Get You Hooked on Canadian Television: Bria Mack Gets A Life

TIFF veteran Sasha Leigh Henry premiered her hilarious comedy series at the film festival this fall, receiving oodles of praise for the sitcom’s biting relevancy and originality. Set in Brampton, Ontario, Bria Mack Gets A Life is about a young Black woman who’s thrust into the unpleasant, unending slog of post-grad adulthood. Cutaways to skits are outrageously funny; a certain reality-TV bit prompted audible laughs from the folks at RANGE

 

Nosy Likely to Make You Grateful to Be Born in the Timeline Where There’s 44 Seasons of Survivor: Survivor (S44)

In his 44th season as host, Jeff Probst delivers every scripted Survivor line the same way he’s always done it. “Survivors ready…go!” Still, Survivor 44, feels fresh, organic and ripe for the enjoyment of fans old and new. These days, little is left to chance in the arena of highly choreographed reality television, but Probst intervenes minimally; he trusts his Survivors to keep the show engaging. Fan favourites include Yam Yam, Carolyn and Carson, an unlikely trio of friends who demonstrate radical empathy in a season that’s reminded Probst and co. what this show’s all about. 

By Ben Boddez

After one of the best cinematic years in recent memory, most of these awards will come down to a Barbenheimer battle - but here are our best guesses in some of the closer races.