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Rating Award-Winning Media from 2023

The 2024 Oscars took place this past weekend, making me realize I've seen more mainstream media this past year than usual. I usually don't keep up with popular media and watch whatever interests me, but 2023 was the year I tried out some films and shows I heard good things about. In honor of the recent Oscars, I will give quick reviews for what I watched in 2023: The Bear, Poor Things, and Barbie.


The Bear

The Bear is about a chef returning home to run his family's restaurant after a death in his family. Each episode is about tribulations he and the kitchen staff are faced with. The show has an 8.6/10 on IMD and an incredible 99% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. It has won Golden Globes, Emmys, and Critics' Choice Awards for the show and its actors. I checked it out because it won lots of awards and is Midwest or Chicago-centric. I was a little hesitant because it's not what I usually watch, and even after watching it, I agree. That doesn't make it bad by any means. Far from it. Everything about it is incredible, from the characters to the humor and atmosphere. The actors can create powerful tension, fun, and lightheartedness depending on the scene. Sometimes I would get stressed because the anger and raw emotions of a scene were so strong. It's very well-written, making every character seem grounded in reality. It paints an identifiable picture of Chicago that I could relate to. The whole thing feels so real. Maybe it's because I like to watch media that has more fantastical elements. I'm not sure. My only complaint about The Bear is that it can, at times, feel a little formulaic. For instance, most conflicts are resolved by two characters sitting down and talking it out. Besides that, I have no gripes. It's fantastic. 9/10.


Photo taken by NPR

Poor Things

Poor Things takes place in a steampunk Victorian London, where a scientist restores a human to life, and this creation goes off on an adventure of self-discovery. The movie has an 8.1/10 on IMDB and a 92% Rotten Tomatoes critic score. It has won Golden Globes and Academy Awards for things like its lead actress and costumes. I checked it out partially because I heard good things, but I was also genuinely interested. I couldn't figure out what type of movie it would be. The setting is fantastical and whimsical, and so are the characters, but their struggles are realistic. This is especially true of the main character, Bella Baxter, played by Emma Stone. Bella is a sort of Frankenstein creature, beginning life not knowing anything but then learning a lot about humanity and the world. The story is cohesive and understandable, and its long runtime is justifiable. Poor Things did have some things I don't personally enjoy. It wasn't a horror movie by any means, but it had some body horror that creeped me out. There was also a copious amount of sex scenes, but they were, luckily, all brief and played for comedic effect. Finally, Bella is a bit unlikable in the first half of the movie. I will put my gripes aside, though, because everything was well-put together to create a brilliant film. The production design, cinematography, costumes, direction, and especially acting were all top-notch. One of the best and most thought-provoking films I saw last year. 8/10.


Photo from NPR

Barbie

Barbie is... well, about Barbie. It's the journey of a Barbie and Ken leaving a fairytale-like Barbie Land to discover the real world and that everything isn't as fun here. This movie did not fare as well as The Bear and Poor Things, having a 6.9/10 on IMDb and 88% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, yet those are nothing to scoff at. It won Critics' Choice Awards and one Golden Globe, most of its awards being for its score, like Billie Eilish winning an Oscar for "What Was I Made For?" I've wanted to see Barbie since it came out but didn't until recently (I watched it in 2024). So I don't know if the recency of the watch is affecting my opinion, but I loved this movie. Yes, it could be said it was just a big commercial for Mattel, a bit on-the-nose at times, and garnered more controversy than Oppenheimer. Nonetheless, I had a great time watching it. Most of the jokes landed, and the emotional parts hit, giving it a surprisingly well-balanced tone. I could tell the actors had a fun time filming it, and there were great performances, especially from leads Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Sure, the score is just made up of songs from pop artists, but it's one of the better soundtracks from movies that have done this. Barbie's story was sometimes off the walls but in the best way possible, from the conflict being the patriarchy to the giant musical number of "I'm Just Ken." Its level of camp and lack of taking itself seriously made it more than just a summer blockbuster. Yes, it grossed the most money in the box office for 2023, and yes, most of its hype was just around the Barbie IP, but it was a fantastic movie and experience. 10/10.


Photo from PEOPLE Magazine

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