Best Movies of 2023 – The New York Times

By admin Dec1,2023

Alissa Wilkinson

This was the year of evil at the movies: gut-wrenching, bone-chilling, ordinary evil. It didn’t wear villainous capes, nor did it often arrive in the expected horror movie package. That’s why it was so terrifying.

The movies this year posited that evil’s opposite isn’t goodness; it’s reality. Evil was something for men of science, like J. Robert Oppenheimer, to wrestle with, realizing that when the physical universe intersects with human ethics, no decision can really be neutral. Evil was discussed at Cannes in the news conference after “Killers of the Flower Moon,” a film about how barbarous civilization can be. In “The Zone of Interest,” unspeakable evil is obscured, willingly, by people who are just going about their everyday business. Bureaucratic language and euphemism keep them from having to acknowledge the horrors they’re perpetuating.

In fact, the way language can mask and produce evil — especially the banal sort that stems from self-delusion — was all over the movies this year. Todd Haynes’s juicy “May December” is loaded with willful blindness on the part of characters who can’t even form the words to tell the truth about their lives. Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall” takes a marriage built on linguistic compromise — the partners communicate in English, a second language for both — as the jumping-off point for a story about the everyday violence that careless words incur, whether in the courtroom or the living room. And perhaps the strongest and most daring of these was “Reality,” which uses a real interrogation transcript to show the bendiness of words, the way power and justice can be warped to manipulate, well, reality.

When the great novelist Cormac McCarthy, no stranger to the movies himself, died this year, I found myself thinking about him because his vision of evil was far more in line with these depictions than the cartoon villains Hollywood typically serves up. To McCarthy, evil was a force or a being that stalked humanity, the basic fact of the human condition, nearly impossible to resist and embedded somehow in language. In his 1994 novel “The Crossing,” a character says that “the wicked know that if the ill they do be of sufficient horror men will not speak against it.” In fact, “men have just enough stomach for small evils and only these will they oppose.”

If he’s right, that may be why the antidote to cinematic evil could be found in people speaking words of healing to one another, facing truth together. The couples at the center of “The Eternal Memory” and “American Symphony,” the chaplains of “A Still Small Voice,” the family of “You Hurt My Feelings” — all are people who have found that in the midst of an impossible world, communicating with one another is what lets us go on.

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