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Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The Golden Tigers: Celebrating the Best of 2023 Cinema

Spoilers for “Oppenheimer,” “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Asteroid City”
Sydney Chong
The design for the world-renowned Golden Tiger award.

Awards season is keeping film discussion alive in the cinematic drought of January, so it’s necessary to reflect on 2023’s releases by picking the best of the year. 2023 was monumental, as the slate of releases was as inspired and masterful as anything from those halcyon pre-pandemic days. 

The year saw releases from some of the greatest minds in Hollywood, like Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” and Martin Scorcese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Screenwriters and directors spent their time in quarantine perfecting their works, and that tireless effort proved its worth in some of the best releases of the century.

A vacuum has been left by the multiversal collapse of the MCU and DCEU, as both franchises saw releases that were nothing short of flops. Luckily, a rich crop of films filled that empty space – and then some.

Best Actor: Cillian Murphy, “Oppenheimer”

Cillian Murphy has been your favorite actor’s favorite actor since his role in 2005’s “Batman Begins.” In his portrayal of J. Robert Oppeneheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, he shows why: even when playing an unlikable, morally dubious man, Murphy maintains a high level of intrigue that drives the film forward.

Murphy hasn’t won an Oscar yet, but with an Academy nomination and a Golden Globe win for “Oppenheimer,” in addition to a Golden Tiger, his most popular role yet is leading to a full trophy case.

There are plenty of movies about geniuses with abrasive personalities; “Good Will Hunting,” “The Imitation Game” and “A Beautiful Mind” all feature some of the most intelligent yet realistic characters in recent memory. 

“Oppenheimer” is certainly on the list, as it tells the story of the prodigious physicist who struggles to balance being one of the most important people in the world with maintaining a personal life without controversy. 

What puts the film with some of the titans of this microgenre is how deliberately it weighs Oppenheimer’s scientific genius and social naivete, and in Murphy’s performance you can see both sides of his character.  

As his character loses that balance, Murphy perfectly shows Oppenheimer’s fall in the public eye from being one of the most influential people on Earth to the man who created the weapon that could end humanity.

Best Actress: Lily Gladstone, “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Six years ago, Lily Gladstone was doing small bit parts in independent movies and hosting the YouTube education series “Crash Course: Film Production.” Now, she has now won both a Golden Globe and a Golden Tiger.

In “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Gladstone plays Mollie Kyle, an Osage woman whose familial headrights to oil-rich land on an Oklahoma reservation are slowly being taken away by the reservation’s shady underbelly.

As her character’s health deteriorates and her family is murdered throughout the film, Gladstone remains in firm control of every scene. There’s a line in the movie explaining “blackbird talk,” where Osage characters, such as Kyle, allow people who are trying to take advantage of their resources to talk for great lengths, often leading the potential exploiters to reveal their hands.

While Gladstone may not have many lines in such conversations, she still acts with authority, allowing Leonardo DiCaprio’s character to expose his half-baked schemes by rambling on and on.

There is something so soft-spoken yet powerful about Gladstone’s on-screen presence, and her maturity perfectly contrasts the incompetence of those trying to take advantage of her. Her silence in the “blackbird” scenes is deafening.

When her character is bedridden with diabetes and slowly being poisoned, Gladstone portrays the illness with an exact amount of consciousness that shows the audience everything they need to know without telling them.

A major theme in “Killers of the Flower Moon” is not revealing your hand too early and making a mess of things, and throughout the film Gladstone is so deliberate about not showing what she knows.

Best Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro, “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Robert De Niro is possibly the greatest actor of all time, up there with Brando, Nicholson and Pacino, and has been honored with two Oscars in his career. Now he has his first Golden Tiger.

“Can you find the wolves in this picture?” Leonardo DiCaprio asks at the end of the trailer for Martin Scorcese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

As it turns out, it’s a lot easier to when they’re not trying to hide.

De Niro, who plays the scummy mob boss William King Hale, is eerily cold in his portrayal of the two-faced father figure. To most in the Osage reservation where the film takes place, Hale is a benevolent philanthropist and a leader of the community. To those who stand between him and the headrights to the oil fields that fuel the reservation’s economy, he’s a mafioso ordering hit after hit after hit.

De Niro hits every beat perfectly. Every stare and lie is deliberate, and as his character’s empire begins to crumble, he sinks further yet into the confident, sleazy, wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing outward appearance that his character demands. Even when faced with years of prison time, De Niro never lets the audience know that he’s not in control.

Best Supporting Actress: Emily Blunt, “Oppenheimer”

Emily Blunt has now doubled her honors from major awards programs with her first Golden Tiger win, honoring her outstanding performance in “Oppenheimer.”

Blunt plays Kitty, the wife of the unfaithful eponymous physicist. Throughout the film, Kitty is constantly betrayed and cheated on by her husband, and she rightfully shames and all but disowns him. 

Her line “you don’t get to commit sin, and then ask all of us to feel sorry for you when there are consequences,” delivered after Oppenheimer tells her he cheated on her with a former flame, is a painful yet confident twist of the knife to Cillian Murphy’s lead.

That’s the first adjective that comes to mind when describing Blunt’s performance: confident. In the backroom interview of Kitty towards the end of the movie, even though she and Oppenheimer had split, she defends him from an unjust questioning. Blunt plays the role with such confidence and worldliness that it’s believable that she’s the smartest person in the room, even if that room has some of the greatest minds of the 20th century.

Blunt is a driving force within the story, and the actress’ impact is felt with every delivery.

Best Director: Wes Anderson, “Asteroid City”

Wes Anderson’s filmmaking style is the most distinct in Hollywood. His symmetrical, dollhouse-like shots are immediately recognizable to even casual filmgoers, and his ability to consistently get a full cast worth its weight in gold is the best in show business.

While “Asteroid City” may not be Anderson’s best script, it is certainly the best display of his talents as a director. His multi-layered narrative is shot and edited to perfection, allowing for shots to linger or cut at just the right moment every time.

Anderson is one of the only auteurs in the business. Audiences can see his artistic influence in every color choice, shot composition and effect, commanding attention for every second of every scene.

Though Anderson has received criticism in the past for monotonous line direction that may neutralize otherwise effective performances, the blunt, dry line readings of “Asteroid City” benefit the movie’s tone and narrative.

Anderson’s dry charm comes across in his characters and his lush set design is demonstrated so well throughout the movie, making one of the most enjoyable filmgoing experiences of the year.

Best Picture: “Oppenheimer”

For the past two decades or so, Hollywood has struggled to find its balance between mainstream popularity and critical merit. 

For every well-known Best Picture winner at the Oscars like “Parasite” and “12 Years a Slave,” there’s five more like “The Artist” and “Nomadland” that seem to have no pop culture relevance whatsoever. While some of the latter group may be quality releases, the glitz and glamor of awards shows has fallen by the wayside.

On Dec. 18, 2022, however, a primordial force from within the Dolby Theatre awoke with a trailer for Chistopher Nolan’s newest feature, this time detailing the physicist who led the world into the atomic age. 

“Oppenheimer” is a triumph. Not just for its cast and crew, who all deserve every bit of recognition they get, but for movies as a whole. If “Oppenheimer” wins “Best Picture” at the Oscars this February, which it very well may, it will be the highest grossing winner since 2003’s “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” according to ScreenRant.

The film itself is a masterpiece. From performances to set design to direction to writing to the very artistry at the core of the story, every piece delivers. To highlight every stellar scene and impeccable delivery would lead to a review 10,000 words long, which again would be a disservice in its lack of brevity.

What is most admirable about “Oppenheimer” is the amount of effort put into every aspect of the film. The film had a somewhat low budget of $100 million, but every cent of it was spent on creating realistic, period-fitting sets and buying the services of every talented actor in Beverly Hills.

Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt’s performances have been detailed in other categories, but supporting actors like Matt Damon and Robert Downey Jr. heighten the tension and remind the audience of the reality of a volatile program like the Manhattan Project.

Ludwig Göransson’s score is the only weakness here. Nolan stalwart Hans Zimmer was replaced by one of the biggest producers in popular music, but Göransson misses the mark that Zimmer so expertly hit every time in his prior Nolan scores. Dialogue scenes are weighed down by the score, which betrays the calculated coldness of so many of the characters.

Beyond that, though, the film is flawless. Through “Oppenheimer,” Nolan reminds audiences of everything movies can, and should, be.

About the Contributor
Zach Kennett, Sports Editor
Zach Kennett is a first-time journalism student and first-time member of the Claw. He currently serves as the co-editor-in-chief of The Tiger, which is the school’s yearbook. He formerly served as the managing editor. He has also won two sectional titles in scholastic journalism, with one being in news writing and the other being in sports writing. Zach enjoys spending his (dwindling) free time with his dogs, playing video games, cooking or driving his truck, Hank. Being a member of the Claw is important to him in that he was previously mentored by former Claw members and looks forward to leaving his mark on the publication.