The Best Films of 2023 … So Far | Features

“Showing Up”

From the housewife trapped in a malaise in “River of Grass” to two strivers in the American West in “First Cow,” the people who live on the margins of the margins have long fascinated Kelly Reichardt. It would therefore seem odd that her newest film, “Showing Up,” set in the cozy confines of a Seattle art school, would take notice of a part-time sculptor and arts administrator. What makes the distant Lizzy (Michelle Williams) so interesting? Through Reichardt and Jon Raymond’s taut script, buoyed by one of Williams’ most idiosyncratic performances, “Showing Up” reveals how this woman subsists on a kind of margin: Her pleasant artist parents are ignorant of the pains felt by their children; her brother (John Magaro) is battling mental health issues. But it’s the economy that diminishes creatives to the point of turning them into landlords, and which demonstrates how the interpersonally rigid Lizzy deserves our time and empathy. As does Reichardt’s quiet, observational eye. She courses through this world—the grounds of the art school, the meditative community that populates it—with the nimbleness of Lizzy’s fingers. The wonderful calibration by Williams and Reichardt in “Showing Up” makes it their most intense, richest, and thematically modern collaboration. (Robert Daniels)

“Sick of Myself”

The big laughs from Kristoffer Borgli’s “Sick of Myself” are select, knowing, and usually followed up with a sinking gut feeling. They’re all from the fantasy of Signe (Kristine Kujath Thorp), who wears our need for spectators in the facial skin disease she has knowingly given herself. When not bandaged up, her mug is colonized with freakish red veins and bulbous sores; Sign hopes these side effects from an illegal Russian drug will get her pity, attention, and real estate in people’s minds. Writer/director Borgli (whose next project is an A24, Ari Aster-produced film starring Nicolas Cage) doesn’t follow up these acts with scenes of her posting updates on Twitter—that would be too on-the-nose for this tactful movie that’s kind of horrific, kind of funny, and mighty Scandinavian about a cultural hunger within us all like Alex’s psychopathy in “A Clockwork Orange.” Borgli’s plotting is too high-minded to simply punch down, and Thorp creates an essential compassion, making us feel every little victory that comes in Signe’s body-destroying, wish-fulfilling journey. To match its shock and awe, cinematographer Benjamin Loeb often embraces slow zooms, as with one of its biggest gag-inducers: Signe, surrounded by art in a museum, is finally the subject of a photo shoot that could make her an iconoclast. The camera gets closer and closer. And then she starts bleeding from the head. (Nick Allen)

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse”

The Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was a blast of pop-art cleverness, rattling the prematurely ossified bones of big-budget Hollywood animation, which seems increasingly stuck in a Pixar-DreamWorks witty-bobbleheads rut. The bigger, wilder, more propulsive sequel builds on the original’s innovations, sending teenage hero Miles Morales on an interdimensional adventure that doubles as a tour of Marvel comics art styles (and textures; some of the characters even seem to have been cut from paper) and offers a clever series of thought prompts for young viewers who may not have considered how comics art relates to painting, drawing, sculpture, and architecture from earlier times (the Guggenheim sequence, complete with Banksy joke, should be shown in museums). Along the way, the movie embroiders its genuinely moving story with subtle affirmations that we all have the same basic needs and desires underneath it all, despite superficial differences of race, culture, and gender identity that bad guys twist to pit us against each other. This is a classic second installment in a grand fantasy trilogy, right up there with “The Two Towers” ​​and “The Empire Strikes Back.” (Matt Zoller Seitz)