Staff Picks: The Best DVDs of 2023

It’s time once again to present the best films and TV shows of 2023 in our collection, as chosen by our librarians. There were a lot of common favourites among the staff this year, including a few that haven’t made it into the collection yet. I’ve included all their recommendations here; hopefully you’ll find a new favourite film among them.

Shinji’s Picks

The Blue CaftanThe blue caftan
Delicate and tender, this touching LGBT drama centres on a middle-aged married couple who run a traditional caftan shop in Sele, Morocco. Hiring a young handsome apprentice to keep up the demand tests their long, caring relationship and they must face their secrets and reality. The actor-turned-director Maryam Touzani weaves this unconventional love story with great care and compassion. A lot of feelings are going on between the three characters, but Touzani’s nuanced direction, with exquisite tempo, effectively uses their gestures, silence and, most importantly, ‘gaze’ to bring out their deep emotions. It’s a meticulously crafted, detailed work including the lighting and the colour. This is only Touzani’s second feature and will surely put her on the map of world cinema. A little gem.

Catalonian filmmaker Carla Simon’s fresh breeze-like debut Summer 1993 was hailed by both critics and audiences alike, and another sunny pastoral tale about a peach farm family Alcarras, is even more wonderful, but bitter. The Sole (Catalonian for “sun”) family has been farming for generations, but they are now facing eviction just because there is no signed document. The worry looms over this extended family, affecting everyone in a different way, while they try to carry on their life as normal. Simon portrays them with great attention to small moments of everyday life, and her masterful character study allows every member of the family to shine. These non-professional actors, especially children (all from the region), are so natural and alive. Their future looks bleak, but by giving us a glimpse of alluring Catalonian rural life Simon makes what could have been a social realism story wonderfully charming and lovable. This marvellous ensemble drama won the Golden Bear (best film) at Berlin International Film Festival in 2022. Deservedly so.

Icelandic filmmaker Hlynur Palmason gained critical acclaim for A White, White Day and his latest effort Godland, inspired by late-19th century photos of Icelandic countryfolks, is a larger scale, more ambitious work. This historical saga follows a young Danish priest who was sent to Iceland to build a church. As he travels to reach his destination he gets to know and photograph its people, but the stunningly beautiful yet brutal wildness and the tension with a rough-edged Icelandic guide turns it into an ordeal. This harshness and intensity echo some vigorous dramas such as There will be blood or The Power of the Dog and it is indeed a powerful film like them. With some impressive long-take shots, it’s also one of the most visionary films in years, capturing the amazing Icelandic landscape. Showing his unique aesthetic, Palmason takes us an incredible cinematic journey. Brilliant.

One Fine MorningOne fine morning
There are a lot of ups and downs in our lives. You may lose someone you love, but life goes on and you might find happiness next. French auteur Mia Hansen-Love (Things to Come and Father of my Children) is a master of crafting the subtleness of the ebb and flow of life, and One Fine Morning is another excellent slice-of-life drama from her. It centres on single mother Sandra (Lea Seydoux) juggling her job and family obligations – caring for her daughter as well as her father, who is suffering from a neurodegenerative disease. She starts a romance with a friend of her late husband and, in the meantime, her father’s condition deteriorates. Although a lot of things are happening and Sandra is grappling with rather challenging life events, the film is seemingly gentle and effortless. With the help of Lea Seydoux’s superb performance, Hansen-Love deftly balances all elements, making it an intimate, profound human drama. A sophisticated work.

Gus’ Picks

Past livesPast Lives
A smartly written and emotionally devastating ‘one that got away’ story. While the title and premise are specifically centered around Korean culture and the classic American dream narrative, it has a universal message about love, regret, and acceptance that will work on anyone.

Decision to leave Decision To Leave
Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) returns to the big screen with Decision to Leave, a twisty procedural thriller-meets-mumblecore romance film about a married detective who develops feelings for the widow of a murder victim. Having watched a good chunk of Park’s filmography last year, I’ve grown to love his dark humour and knack for switching tones on a dime, and Decision to Leave feels like his ‘final exam’ showing off all the skills he’s learned as a filmmaker over the years. It’s a great jumping on-point for anyone interested in ‘Korea’s Alfred Hitchcock’.

A playful, four-quadrant commercial film that also manages to be about the uneasy relationship between art and commerce, the human instinct to work out our emotional lives through our creations, and how the inescapable grip of patriarchy constricts all of us, regardless of identity. This deserves to be held in the same regard as Toy Story and The Lego Movie, other toy-oriented films that have found real psychological depth in how we relate to our playthings (and what they would think about us in turn).

Spider-Man : Across the Spider-VerseSpider-Man : across the Spider-Verse
An absolute triumph of animation and storytelling, this movie somehow improved on the perfection of Into The Spider-Verse. Every frame bursts with artistry, as it runs the eclectic publishing history of Spider-Man through every aesthetic from Renaissance art to Syd Mead techno-brutalism. Fortunately, it isn’t lacking for substance amongst all the style: if the first film was about how ‘anyone can wear the mask’, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is about how one should wear it, leading to the best examination (and ultimately, celebration) of the character in any medium.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles : Mutant MayhemTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles : mutant mayhem
Forgoing the Cintiq-slick style of Spider-Verse for an exercise-book-doodle aesthetic, TMNT:MM finds new life in the eternally recycled Turtles franchise by focusing on their teenage aspirations to fit in and be accepted. It helps that the Turtles are voiced by actual teenagers this time, giving the whole film a delightfully Gen Z joie de vivre. Although it still throws my Millennial brain for a loop to hear Donatello talk about ‘rizz’, the film goes down smooth for me thanks to a punchy electronic score by composer duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and a soundtrack full of bouncy East Coast hip-hop.

Polite SocietyPolite society
The feature debut of British director Nida Manzoor, Polite Society is my favourite kind of genre comedy, taking a grounded, heartfelt story and heightening it for laughs by running it through the tropes of a familiar film genre. In this case, a girl trying to save her sister from an arranged marriage, done as a martial-arts flick. If you’re a fan of Jackie Chan films or Quentin Tarantino genre throwbacks, this one should be on your watch list.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3Guardians of the Galaxy. Volume 3
If Iron Man was the heart of the MCU and Captain America was its conscience, the Guardians of the Galaxy was its soul; proof that a universe of slick-haired super-soldiers and billionaire playboys could give time and room for the marginalised and the misfits. Vol. 3 does a great job of showing how far the Guardians have come as people, but also how far they have left to go in their respective journeys. Nothing ever ends in comics or comic book movies, but if this where we leave our Nice Space Friends, I’ll take it and wish them the best.

John Wick Chapter 4John Wick. Chapter 4
The John Wick team continue to move from strength to strength, crafting fantastically choreographed action set-pieces that are a joy to behold. Particular highlights this time include a top-down run-and-gun inspired by twitchy video games like Hotline Miami, and a chase through Paris that shouts out one of my favourite films, Walter Hill’s The Warriors. But the most thrilling part for me is its commitment to its relatively simple theme that ‘actions have consequences’, and that consistency provides the best kind of catharsis in what may be Wick’s final outing.

Succession : The Final SeasonSuccession. The fourth and final season
An uproarious comedy that somehow tricked the higher-ups at HBO into thinking it was a serious drama, Succession smartly draws to a close in its fourth outing. An unexpected early season twist gives the show’s ensemble cast a renewed vigour to seize the coveted head position at multimedia conglomerate Waystar-Royco, leading to an ending that is both devastating yet completely deserved. If you’re after a show with the quality of The Sopranos at half the length, this comes highly recommended.

Other picks not in the collection

  • The Boy and the Heron
  • Monster
  • The Killer
  • Godzilla Minus One

Amy’s Picks

The White Lotus. The complete second season
Triangle of sadness
The banshees of Inisherin

The White Lotus. The complete second seasonBrokerTriangle of SadnessPearlThe Banshees of InisherinWhina

Monty’s Picks

Cocaine BearCocaine BearExcellent, entertaining homage to B-grade creature features of the past with effectively satisfying schlocky acting, plotting and action.

Marcel the shell with shoes onMarcel the Shell with Shoes OnEndearing, funny and often moving cartoon. The live action story of a wee lost shell, Marcel, and his search for his family.

The last of us. The complete first seasonThe Last of Us. The Complete First SeasonOne of the best streaming options of 2023 incorporated sci-fi themes covered through TV before – post-apocalyptic, zombie-ish survival scenario – but in a fresh, compelling way. Acting is uniformly excellent and outstanding stand-alone episodes like Long Long Time, are some of the best TV ever made.

Weird : the Al Yankovic storyWeird : The Al Yankovic StoryOne of the best parody films, about a parody singer, played by Daniel Radcliffe, ever made!

You hurt my feelingsYou Hurt My FeelingsSharply written and acted New York comedy that focuses on a small betrayal and the wider implications for a couple and those in their close-knit middle-class community.

Wei Jing’s Picks

Past Lives

Past lives

Other picks not in the collection
The Boy and the Heron

Neil’s Picks

Spider-Man : Across the Spider-VerseMy top five films in order were:

The Creator (awesome and totally under rated)
Godzilla Minus One (best Godzilla film in decades)
Perfect Days (due to get a general release in 2024)
Spider-Man : across the Spider-Verse

Alison’s Picks

Joy rideJoy Ride – Lots of fun, enjoyably irreverent, a stellar cast.

The banshees of InisherinThe Banshees of Inisherin – To be honest, In Bruges hasn’t aged all that well but its spiritual successor Banshees of Inisherin really blew me away. I saw it on the plane and was completely absorbed by its unique themes.

David Farrier’s Mister OrganDavid Farrier's Mister Organ – An unbelievable true portrait of a person that has all kinds of dark twists and turns.

The Last of Us. The Complete First SeasonThe last of us. The complete first season – I played the video game the series is based on during lockdown and found it to be a very cathartic activity in the middle of a pandemic. The way the series adapted and expanded on the characters and the plot was really satisfying for this prior fan of the game!

Kath’s Picks

Joy RideJoy ride – It’s naughty, it’s hilarious, it has got a heart. Brilliant comedic acting by four young Asian actors.

Barbie Barbie – She’s Barbie, what more do I need to say? An explosion of colour and nostalgia with a solid story. And Ken, let’s not forget Ken.

Past LivesPast lives – Some of the best acting I’ve seen in a long time. Melancholy without being soppy, a film to just slow down and enjoy.

No Hard Feelings No hard feelings – Surprisingly good, Jennifer Lawrence really shines in this one, for both her comedy chops and as a talented actress. Another naughty romp with heart.

Bluey Bluey – Without a doubt the best children’s show created in a long time. I love it and I don’t even have kids! Fun, thoughtful, stunning animation and enjoyable for any age to watch.

Other picks not in the collection

  • Poker Face
  • Cunk on Earth

Joshua’s Picks

Spider-Man : Across the Spider-VerseSpider-Man : across the Spider-Verse
Even after extreme Marvel fatigue, this movie is just so nice. It’s an interesting take on multi-verses and on the concept of what’s “supposed to happen”. It’s also just a really brilliantly animated movie with multiple different styles. A beauty on the eyes, the ears, and the heart.

Puss in Boots : The Last WishPuss in Boots : the last wish
Very good. Beautiful animation, good comedy, great action, delightful characters.

A horror movie about artificial intelligence and the effect of technology on children, very very relevant for today’s modern world. Also it was filmed in Auckland, which is really neat. The main mega building is played by AUT.

Avatar : The Way of WaterAvatar : the way of water
The story is okay I guess. But let’s be honest, you’re watching this movie for the visuals, and Avatar 2 delivers. Stunning to watch with a story that is good enough to keep you entertained.

Just all around good.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *