Nick shares his top 10 movies of the year and discusses some honorable mentions. His list includes a mix of genres and highlights the writing, acting, and directing of each film. The movies range from action-packed thrillers to heartwarming dramas. Nick provides a brief overview of each film and explains why it made his top 10 list. He concludes by expressing his love for movies and his excitement for future film discussions.
You can listen to the episode here (or wherever you listen to podcasts) or read the transcript below:
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My Top 10 Films of 2023
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Hey everyone, Chain Assembly again here and I am going to be doing something a little different. So I am a huge fan of movies. If you know me, you know that I go to the movies a lot. And a lot of the podcasts that I listen to are film related podcasts. And a lot of those creators have been sharing their top 10 movies of the year. Now, since about 2015, I've had a spreadsheet where I keep track of all the movies I see, all the new movies I see that came out that same year.
And I rate each movie on a scale of one to 10 for writing, acting, directing. And at the end of the year, I average those to assemble my top 10. So this is not just kind of like things that thinking back on the year, what I, what stuck with me the most, this is what I rated shortly after seeing that movie and then averaging it. So sometimes it's kind of surprises, like something I didn't expect to be on the top 10, cause I saw it earlier in the year and I'd forgotten about makes its way up. This also is just movies I saw.
So for example, throughout most of the year I did not have access to Netflix, therefore there's a lot of Netflix things that are not on here. Like I didn't see Maestro, I didn't see The Killer, stuff like that. So this is just the movies that I happen to see. And it is my top 10 from the movies that I happen to see. So before I actually get into those top 10 movies, I want to talk about some of the things that didn't make it to the top 10, but I think are still worth chatting about.
So these are things that maybe didn't do well or went under the radar. There's a lot of things like when evil lurks and a ride lane that a lot of people did talk about, but I just want to talk about some of the other ones that didn't come up a lot. First off, Hunger. Hunger made it to the 20th spot on my list. Speaking of which, that list is 111 movies long. So Hunger is a Thai film.
that I think I did watch on Netflix way early, like January or so of 2023, but it was wonderful. It was about the story of a woman who is probably in her twenties. She is a street vendor who is really good at making a traditional noodle dish using a wok and frying it. And she manages to somehow catch the attention of a very fancy restaurateur who is in that part of town and
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is hungry so he gets those noodles. I don't really remember the setup on how they ran into that, but anyways, he says, hey, in my super high end five star restaurant, I need someone who's really good with a walk. Can you come in? So she ends up discovering this world of super high end cooking and very elaborate, like private dining experiences. And she tries to move her way up in that world. So it's like the bear.
but way more specific to Thai culture and Thai cooking and way more. It's not a horror film. So it's not like say the menu, but it is kind of like that, like that way over the top. I can't believe people do this kind of stuff. How to cuisine. So mix the bear with
the menu and you have hunger doesn't go as far as the menu and goes a lot further than the bear. But it is also more like the bear and that it is that kind of like you're watching this person develop their skill and discover that they had a love for high end cooking and high end cuisine that they didn't know they had. So hunger. Great movie. Another one I want to pull point out is every year.
around December, my wife and I try to watch all the new Hallmark movies. And of course I also rate those too, so usually the bottom third of my list is pretty shitty Hallmark movies. But there were two this year that also made it into my top 20 that I do recommend. Hall Out the Holly lit up. That's a sequel to last year's Hall Out the Holly. It is adorable. It is starring Lacey Chabert,
And let's see who else was in it. We also had, there was like a lot of good character actors in it. Stephen Tobolowski, you know him as Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day and as, what was his name? John G from the Memento. So Stephen Tobolowski is in it.
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It is really fun. The first one is about this girl who moves back to her hometown, as most Hallmark movies are, and she goes there for Christmas. She's really depressed and she finds out her parents are not there for Christmas. But the cul -de -sac, the HOA, is still forcing her to decorate the house, even though she's totally not in the mood. So by the end of it, she ends up getting the Christmas spirit, et cetera. In this new one...
This like super famous power couple who's known as the the Jolly Johnsons, I think it is. They've like they had some HGTV show or something about how their Christmas decor is the best. They buy the new house in the cold to sex. Now everyone's trying to compete with them. And of course, they end up losing the sight of the true meaning of Christmas. The movie was adorable, very good writing, very funny, and it's just full of crazy characters.
that is just, it just seems so elevated from a Hallmark movie, and so that they trusted these people to develop a character and play out that character in a way that you don't really see from Hallmark movies. Usually everyone's very stiff. So, haul out the Holly part one, haul out the Holly part two, great. Part two, I think was better than part one. And that's why I made it to the top 10. To be even more specific, I gave that one a eight out of...
10 for writing, 7 out of 10 for acting, and an 8 out of 10 for directing. The second Hallmark movie I want to call out is My Norwegian Holiday. It was a, again, very contrived plot about this girl now has to go to Norway for Christmas and she doesn't know why. But it is very sweet. The writing is very funny, very punny, lots of jokes about Norwegian culture, and it's just...
It gave you all the feels. It did everything you needed, but it didn't do anything incredibly, but it did a bunch of things really well. And overall, I gave it a nine for writing. Wow, that is intense. Maybe that should have been an eight, but I laughed a lot in that movie, which I did not expect from a Hallmark movie. So nine out of 10 for writing. Wow. Okay. Eight out of 10 for acting, six out of 10 for directing. I also want to call out, you hurt my feelings.
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a wonderful small, small stakes comedy about a woman who's a writer and she overhears her husband telling her friend that he didn't really like her book. It's not much of a plot, but it is just a really fun, super New York -y movie with it's like, do you, do you like the films of Woody Allen, but don't want to support Woody Allen? Then this is right up your alley.
It feels like Woody Allen without having to get him involved. Very nice little bits of comedy. Some things that my wife and I have been quoting to each other, such as, I don't wear V -necks because I don't have cleavage. Makes sense if you see the movie. Another one I want to shout out is Mafia Mama, which I don't know why I got such bad reviews. It was a silly premise, but it was really funny. It is, that was starring, what was her name? Let's see.
It was the mother, yeah, Toni Collette, the mother from Hereditary, but it's not a horror movie. It's a comedy. She's like a soccer mom who's depressed that her daughter's going off to college, her husband leaves her, and then she finds out that she had a great uncle in Italy she didn't know about who just died. So she goes to the funeral, and while she's at the funeral, she finds out his dying wish was that she take over the family business, which is the mob.
So she uses her like super sweet soccer mom skills to kind of find her way through that, make friends, make alliances and survive a gang war. Very silly, but very fun. I gave that a seven out of 10 for writing, acting and directing. A little bit further down the list, we have No One Will Save You. This was a direct to Hulu movie that it has no...
Dialogue which doesn't necessarily make the movie better. It's just an interesting thing to point out. But what is really cool is I always love any movie that creates like a world and Doesn't give you the rules of that world. You just have to pick it up Slowly as you watch that movie like you're like, what is that? And then a bit later you're like, oh, that's what that is I'm sure there's a better terminology for that in writing But I I really like movies like that and no one will save you is absolutely that
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You see this, it is a horror film about aliens. That's as much as I'll say, but it is a great action movie with a really smart character who does really smart things and alien forms and life forms that you've never seen, but are really cool. So shout out to no one will save you. I gave that one a six out of 10 for writing, seven out of 10 for acting, seven out of 10 for directing.
And while I'm at it, let me just tell you the worst movie I saw of from the year which ended up a hundred and eleventh place and that is the Netflix original We Have a Ghost. That was horrible. Family moves into a house, the house is haunted, but the ghost is played by... I'm sorry guys. I am not good at remembering names. We have a ghost. David... David Harbour plays a ghost.
He also can't speak. He has no dialogue. So they try to just like help him find his surviving family or something. I remember it was stupid. Don't waste your time with We Have a Ghost. Second to worst was Dashing Through the Snow, the new Christmas movie on... I think it was Disney Plus. Yeah. Starring Ludacris. That was rough. Don't see Dashing Through the Snow. Like I know child actors are bad, but this is one of the worst child actresses I've ever seen.
Alright, so now let's get into the top 10. And the first one I want to call out, coming in at number 10, is Kill Bak Soon.
I gave this one an 8 out of 10 for writing, 9 out of 10 for acting, and a 9 out of 10 for directing. Coming in at 8 .67. This movie is, if you like John Wick, you're definitely going to love Kill Baksoon. It definitely, it absolutely comes from the school of John Wick, if you could say, in that it is about this subculture of assassins and all of the rules that they have to abide by.
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But what it adds to this is the main character, Gil Baksoon, everyone calls her Kil Baksoon. She's like the best assassin out there. She's kind of older, she's thinking about retiring. And the way it works is each assassin organization is a corporation and they have different level executives and she's really high up. She's the highest paid one there. So if anyone needs to get someone killed,
and they want the absolute best person to do it, they'll call her. And the price is gonna depend on how many stipulations they have. Like it must be done at exactly this time, it must have no witnesses, it must look like a suicide, all those different things based on the complexity of it, they will assign a different assassin to it. And she's one of the best. And I thought it was fun that they call it productions when she goes to kill someone, they call that a production. And her family and people who are not killers think that she's a film producer or a director.
But one fun thing too is that she has a daughter and she's really struggling to connect with her daughter. Her daughter's in high school. Her daughter's getting trouble at school. She's got trouble with boys. Oh wait, no. Sorry, I saw this earlier in the year. Trouble with girls. Oh yeah, that's right. So there's like her trying to balance being a good mother and being there for her daughter with the fact that she has to constantly leave town to go to some exotic locale to kill someone.
And of course, what inevitably happens in all these movies, she tries to get out of the game, but they end up putting a hit on her head because they don't want her to leave. So now she has to defend herself against all these other assassins. Unlike John Wick, it has a lot of comedy. It has a lot more heart, not as much anxiety. The action's not as good as John Wick, but overall it is a much more rounded drama with lots of comedy and it just, it, it, it,
puts you in a world that you enjoy being in.
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Number nine on my list, which has a 10 for writing, seven for acting, and a 10 for directing coming in at nine as the average, is Godzilla minus one.
Now, I've never been the biggest Godzilla fan, but this was fantastic. It is so creative the way that, like, so I love a movie such as Ocean's Eleven, where half the movie is them describing a plan and the other half is them completing that plan. And that is absolutely Godzilla minus one. The title is really weird, but it's kind of like a prequel to the original Godzilla film.
So in that regard, I guess it's kind of like Godzilla negative one if the original one was Godzilla zero But it is it's really focusing on like the devastation that Japan suffered after World War two all the bombings and like how they were trying to get their life together and then out of nowhere Godzilla shows up and It really makes it small -stakes because it's all from the point of view of one person who barely survived the war and is trying to build a life for himself But shit just keeps going bad
The effects definitely look cheap, but for the fact that the movie was made for like $10 million, they look incredible. The acting is not the best, which is why I gave it a seven out of 10. But I don't know how much of that is just me being a Westerner, not knowing if that's actually how people in Japan act. It just, a lot of it felt very inflated, very unnatural. So that's why I gave it a seven out of 10. But.
Writing was incredible. You have no idea what's gonna happen. You're so excited on the edge of the seat the entire time. And the directing was beautiful. Again, when you see how huge this movie looks and know how little they made it for, that was them really stretching a penny. And that's what gave it the 10 out of 10 for directing.
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Coming in at number eight on my list is a movie that came in again with 10 for writing, eight for acting, and nine for directing, and that is Bottoms.
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What I really loved about Bottoms was... This movie did not give a shit. It doesn't have... It's a tone that you rarely ever get to see. It will kill people as a joke, as an aside, and not reckon with it. Which is refreshing for a comedy. Because so many comedies have to be like grounded or realistic. This one does not bother. It is a...
hyper -fantasized fantasy comedy in the teen sex comedy raunch. It's almost like not another teen movie or some type of cartoonish comedy like that, but everything is done in the service of a joke that comes from heart and from character. The movie is starring, I really should have had all of this prepared, sorry, bottles. It is starring,
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I just have more of a movie hanging out with her. Ruby Crews playing Hazel, delightful. The general plot is Ayo and Iberi and Rachel Sennett decide to start a fight club in high school so that they think, because they think it'll let them kiss the girls that they like. Very silly premise, but it was super fun, very irreverent, very silly, very high stakes, but in a comedy version, a high school comedy version. And it's not like,
the drama is, oh no, is he gonna kiss me? The drama is like, oh, we just killed a bunch of people. Oh well, what happens tomorrow? It's very strange. So that's what makes it really refreshing is that there's not a lot of movies like that. Maybe Heathers would be close because it's so exaggerated, but like Heathers was an intense drama. This is all comedy all the way.
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Next, coming in at number seven is another movie that happens to star Ayu Edebiri with a nine for writing, a nine for acting, and a nine for directing, averaging to nine overall, is Theater Camp.
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Now, I'm not a big fan of Broadway musicals or stage act or anything like that, but theater camp was hilarious. In the vein of improv comedies like A Mighty Wind or This Is Spinal Tap, theater camp feels like one of those things. It is a fake documentary about a theater camp, a camp for kids who want to be part of the theater, and it is just...
It is overwhelmingly hilarious. All the characters they introduce, all of these middle school and elementary age kids who just want to perform are so funny, so endearing. The music is actually genuinely catchy and I don't know why this didn't get more love. I think it's on Hulu right now so please watch it. It is so funny. I don't know what else I could say other than it's really funny.
The story is not super in -depth, you can kind of come in and out of it, but it was just a delight. Theater Camp, it's one of the few movies I was able to get my wife to watch this year and she loved it too. So definitely check that one out.
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Number six on the list is a movie that I'm sure is not on a lot of other people's top tens And I had to again. I mentioned this is a very subjective list. So this is me bringing my own baggage to it But this one I gave a 10 for writing 10 for acting and 7 for directing coming in again at an average of 9 And that is Dungeons & Dragons honor among thieves
Now the reason why I said this is involving all my baggage is because I absolutely adore the Forgotten Realms, the universe and world, the campaign setting, where this movie takes place. So it blew my mind seeing all these locations that I visited as I played Dungeons and Dragons in my youth realized beautifully on screen and not always with CG but with actual like real life creatures. I really wish this movie made more money because I want to see more movies made in this vein.
And from this group. This was the same writers who put together Game Night, which was my top movie the year that came out. I think that was 2016. But it was great. Chris Pine is always a charm. He's wonderful. You can't say you don't like Chris Pine. But like in this one, he wasn't even the best part. It was just I loved the world that was built around it. I wanted to spend more time in it. I wish the movie didn't end.
And it actually did have a really good ending, which is hard to expect out of movies these days. Usually they are all set up with no finish. It had a great finish.
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Coming in at number five on the list was, now we're moving out of the average of nines. This one had a nine out of writing, nine out of 10 for acting, 10 for directing, and that is, no surprise, Barbie.
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I know Barbie's ended up in a lot of people's top tens, so it's not, you know, I'm not flipping over any new leafs here, but this was wonderful. The only reason I didn't give it a 10 out of writing was because I didn't really care for all the Will Ferrell being on the board of Barbie and Mattel stuff. I feel like that could have been taken out of the movie and could have just spent more time with America Ferrera, who I think is just wonderful. I could watch America Ferrera do anything.
Margot Robbie was perfectly serviceable, but it was all America Ferrera that really made me care about the movie and the characters. Greta Gerwig is a wonderful director. I really liked Lady Bird when it came out. I adored Little Women. My wife's a huge Little Women fan, and I watched all the other ones and I just didn't get it. But when I saw Greta Gerwig's Little Women, the way she split the story in half and laid it on top of itself, I understood it.
I understood how someone could identify with those characters, see themselves in those characters. And so that's what made me so excited moving in to Barbie and seeing how she would tackle this. And working with Noah Baumbach, come on, he's an incredible writer. And together they put something wonderful that didn't need to exist. Like, Barbie would have made a bunch of money if it was not a great movie. But it was a great movie, so it made an incredible amount of money.
And that is all thanks to Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie and Noah Baumbach. So kudos to them for doing something unexpected and making it better than anything needed to be.
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Just above that in number four, speaking of movies that were way better than they needed to be, this one has a nine for writing, a nine for acting, and a 10 for directing. Coming at the same average as Barbie, 9 .33. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem. One thing I keep thinking back on about this movie is Mondo Gecko, voiced by Paul Rudd. Humans, they gots to go. It's so dumb.
But it makes me laugh every time I just picture Paul Rudd in a sound booth doing the Mondo Gecko voice. I'm sure he was shaking his head. Just for that alone, the movie's worth it. But that being said, it is really fun. It actually makes the Ninja Turtles into teenagers, which seems like a novel idea. They don't look like 40 -year -old men in suits. They're actually like kids. They're also all shaped differently too, and not just act differently of different personalities, but...
They have different body types, which is again, a novel idea. Why was that not done before? It is beautifully art directed. It's definitely comes from the, into the spider verse world of CG filmmaking, but it is, it's really a delight. It is super funny. It's got a lot of heart too. You care about these teenagers. You want them to fit in. You want the world to like them. And it's just,
It's... I don't know what to say, it's great. Go see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem. Even if it's for kids, you're gonna have a good time with it, I promise you.
Number three on my list is an eight out of 10 for writing, 10 out of 10 for acting, and 10 out of 10 for directing. And that is John Wick, Chapter Four.
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Now I know this movie has also been in a lot of people's top tens. Just like Barbie, this is one that is constantly up there. And John Wick 3, you could have skipped it. John Wick 2, you kind of could have skipped it. If I just went straight from part one to part four, I'd be happy. Part four was incredible. You really see people putting their all on screen.
The effort, the exercise, the danger, the inventiveness, all of it, showing you things you've never seen, you never thought you would see. Any movie that shows me something new is a movie that I am going to be thinking about, and John Wick Chapter 4 did that, absolutely. That overhead shotgun scene? Geez, I could watch that over and over again. I've seen the movie only twice so far. I'd like to see it more, but obviously I have a -
a lot of the movies I got to see to put on my list. I had my wife watch it, she didn't really care, but I mean, watching it on the couch isn't the same as seeing it in theaters, but John Wick Chapter Four was wonderful. And I don't know if I want to say I want this to be the end of the universe. I guess it could be the end of the John Wick movies. I don't really need, like Keanu Reeves is great, but I think it's really the directors and the writers that are doing.
what I love most. Like I could watch anyone in those same scenes and I'll be happy because they are beautifully done. So not a dig at Keanu Reeves. I think that's probably why I gave it an 8 out of 10. Not him specifically, but because I didn't really care about the actors. I just liked the characters in the universe and the inventive action scenes that were put together.
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Number two on my list is a nine out of 10 for writing, 10 out of 10 for acting, and 10 out of 10 for directing. This one comes in at 9 .67, so just beating the block beneath it of John Wick, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Barbie. And that is the Amazon Prime original that I haven't heard anyone else talk about, Cassandra.
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Cassandro takes me into a world that I didn't know I cared about and that is the world of lucha libre wrestling. It is starring Gael Garcia -Benal who is wonderful. If you saw him on station 11, you know how great he is. If you saw him in old, don't hold that against him. He's a really good actor, but this tells the true story of Cassandro, what is called an exotico that is like referred to as the gay
wrestlers, which there's a small subset of them. They always lost. They were really just for the people who pleased the crowd to defeat as they move on to the more complex fighters. But he really wants to be more. So he ends up developing a character that people root behind and he becomes the first exotico lucha libre wrestler who people cheer for. And it's not like your typical gay story where it's going to be full of like heartbreak and sadness. It is really a movie about triumph and
coming out of the closet and being proud of who you are, it is incredibly shot. The cinematography is wonderful. A lot of shallow depth of field, dark scenes, stationary cameras, and lots of heavy emotional moments. And it's just, it's a feast for the eyes. And in a practical way, like as I've been developing and learning more about photography recently,
This movie got me inspired to want to do darker shots with brighter colors and like show color as a beautiful masterpiece. It was a wonderful movie and I highly recommend everyone see Cassandra.
Now coming in in first place, the final movie on my list, which got a 10 for writing, 10 for acting, and a nine for directing, is Past Lives.
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Now I know I'm not saying anything wild here again because a lot of people have this as their number one and that is because that's exactly what this movie is. It is incredible. I will say the only reason I didn't give it a 10 for directing is because the final shot, which is the most emotional moment in the movie, is slightly out of focus and that took me out of it completely. Maybe they didn't want to get a second take, maybe they didn't notice, but I noticed the background behind the actor was in focus and the actor was just
barely out of focus and that just it cut the ending for me by a lot so that annoyed me but it's an incredible slow heartwarming moving about what could have been it's about just because you are happy now with what you have doesn't mean you can't think about things you don't have and would they have possibly made you happier it doesn't take away from the joy you have at the moment but it does
of are for you that freedom to think about other lives. It's a beautiful story about basically a woman who left Korea when she was a child and grew up in the United States and then reconnects with someone she knew when she was a child. I told the story to my wife of this movie after I came home because it affected me so much and she started crying as I was telling her the story and I really want her to watch it but she refuses because she said just me telling it made her cry so she wouldn't be able to handle it.
Which is a shame, because I think she'd really love it too. But, Past Live had such... Past Lives had such amazing writing, acting, like... Every line they say, you can feel like emotion welling up with that line. Everything keeps you on the verge of tears throughout the movie. And they're not sad tears, they're like longing tears. Happiness tears, just like... It's like a level of...
It grabs your attention emotionally and not a lot of movies can do that. Like they'll give you anxiety, they'll give you horror, they'll keep you on the edge of your seat because of what's about to happen. This keeps you emotionally on the edge of your seat and it's just something that you rarely ever see in a movie and that's past lives.
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So thank you so much for taking the time to listen to these. I'm gonna post the list on my blog as well as on my chain assembly blog, as well as my art for profit sake blog. I am not a film critic. I mostly just do all this for myself, but I do hope to get better at talking about movies in the future. I know I definitely next year wanna bring my wife on to review Hallmark movies as we watch those.
But hopefully I didn't sound crazy, I didn't repeat myself too much. And hopefully you saw some movies on this list that you would like to visit. And I hope to see some of you at the movie theater. So thank you so much for listening to me and following me on this podcast journey throughout these last, I guess, 34 episodes at this point.
So I know I'm still very early on in the podcast, but it has been a really fun adventure. And it looks like 2024 is gonna be kind of a dead year as far as films go. Everything got spread out because of the strikes. But again, thank you very much.
Chain Assembly: Art for profit sake is recorded through Riverside FM, distributed through Spotify for podcasters, and edited on Adobe Audition. The music is provided by Old Romans. If you learned anything useful or found this podcast helpful, please rate and review us five stars. If you want to learn more about me or my art, head over to ChainAssembly.com.