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BaeBae’s Top 10 of 2023

I haven’t stared aimlessly at a blank page for this long in a while. That blinking cursor fades in and out of reality. Do you think they designed a cursor to blink to make writers feel anxious? Like a passive-aggressive metronome? Also, where does this little fucker go? Does it get high? Travel to more interesting Google Docs? Does it say, “Can you watch this essay while I go smoke?” 

Why am I stalling?   

If you’re here, reading this on your phone or laptop at your desk or toilet you probably know the deal. I’m Robby Anderson, my friends call me BaeBae, and for the past seven years, I’ve been writing a top ten list of movies for Story Screen. Sorry to all the hardcore BaeBabies, a term I coined just now for my adoring fans if I’m boring you with my recap. We both know BaeBae lore is important and you’ve done the homework. 

But for the new BaeBabies or BaeEnemies let me catch you up to speed on where my head is by sharing an excerpt from my Top 10 list of 2022:  

My intro last year lamented on feeling burnt out like I was spinning my tires and had accomplished very little with my craft. Throughout 2022, I actually tried to change that. I was proactive: I made a resume. I applied for jobs. I took jobs that fell through and I had my biggest accomplishment in years: I got paid to write. How about that! 

I have 2023 in my sights. It took me a long time to realize that the mud I was spinning my tires in was made up of all the gross feelings I’d let myself sink into. No more! Big things are ahead for me, I can feel it, and if in a year I look back at this little annual journal entry and think, “Damn, I was wrong lol,” at least I’ll know it wasn’t for lack of trying.

I don’t usually make my previous year’s list required reading like it’s some bullshit Disney + show setting up four movies no one wants to watch but for those who come here because of an investment in my character development and my personal story then guess what: Damn, I wasn’t wrong lol. 

In the year that was 2023, I started my career as a freelance writer and was published a total of fifteen times. I got a new car (beep beep) (why did I type that?). I quit my job that I was miserable at and got a new part-time gig that I really dig. My fiancé and I moved into a sick apartment. Oh, and I got engaged

Not too shabby if I do say so myself. 

When you have an eventful year filled with milestones and progress: It’s hard to find time to go to the movies! This year I’m breaking my rules a little bit. There are so many 2023 movies I have yet to see, but there was also a lot of media outside the medium of film that really spoke to me. So when you see a YouTube video in my top 5, try not to freak out.  


Alright, time to stop stalling. My name is Robby Anderson, and my friends call me BaeBae, I’m a writer, and this isn’t a list of the best movies of the year, this is a list of my favorite art of the year. 

10. Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse 

The long-awaited sequel to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse had some mighty big shoes to fill. Into the Spider-Verse felt like a cornerstone in nerd culture. Its plot is extremely ambitious for its time, making something as geeky, complicated, and vast as the multiverse streamlined and easy for audiences to comprehend. It pioneered an aesthetic that blends 3D CGI models with 2D hand-drawn art that is so beautiful to look at, animated films would use it for years to come. At the film’s core is an intimate story. New webhead Miles Morales has to learn what it means to be a hero; what it means to put on the mask (the kind of platitude that’s usually summed up well by someone’s dying Uncle).  

Fast forward to 2023 and general audiences are basically multiverse scholars. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is everything great about the first movie but MORE. MORE Spider-Folks, MORE universes, MORE varied and beautiful art. One might imagine producers and writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller as that Adam Driver meme from The Last Jedi during production. 

Across the Spider-Verse feels like a part one. It was announced alongside its trilogy capper, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, a movie that I don’t think is coming out anytime soon. That being said, its plot is still entertaining and satisfying. Gwen Stacy takes more of a center role in this film. After her identity is revealed to her father, a police sergeant, she flees her dimension and joins Miguel O’Hara’s elite squad of Spider-People. Miles’ story is a bit more grand than his first outing as he is tasked with defying fate and the meta-narrative that befalls all Spider-Heroes.

The movie's biggest triumph is its art. Across the Spider-Verse may be the best-looking animated movie I’ve ever seen. Every Spider-Locale has its own distinct flavor. Gwen Stacy’s world is a watercolor mood ring, where her emotions paint the scene. Mumbattan, home of Indian Spider-Man Pavitr Prabhakar, is a dense metropolis doused in vibrant greens, yellows, and purples. Nueva York is home to the Spider-Society’s HQ, a gravity-defying MC Escher-esque design that accounts for the sticky feet of all the wall-crawling heroes. All of these extra settings make you appreciate Miles’ world even more, the familiar blend of street and pop art that captures the best aspects of New York City and classic comic books.     

Before moving on from this flick, it doesn’t feel right to include this film on my list without mentioning reports of the problematic working conditions behind the scenes. The film is a herculean effort accomplished through the labor of hundreds of talented artists. Across the Spider-Verse artists were forced to work grueling 11-hour work days, 7 days a week at various points during production. I hope Beyond the Spider-Verse is delayed for as long as it needs to be to avoid putting any more crunch on the artists who worked so hard to make one of the greatest animated films of all time. In a year where good art was mired by studio greed, forcing creators into striking and fighting for their livelihood, it's sad to know that behind the colorful worlds of the Spider-Verse was the same gloomy darkness.       

9. Past Lives 

I think Past Lives is the best movie of the year. So when you see that I enjoyed Shin Kamen Rider more than the best movie of the year, hopefully, you won’t think less of me. Why do I think it's the best movie of the year? It’s shot beautifully, framing our characters in ways that create distance when they’re in the same room and intimacy when they’re thousands of miles apart. I think the performances are masterful. Greta Lee and Teo Yoo make the feeling of longing tangible. They make something as elusive and slippery as an emotion feel solid, and dense, like longing could be placed in your hands and it would weigh a thousand pounds.  

Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) were elementary school sweethearts in Korea before Nora and her family immigrated to the United States. The two grow up, and no matter how much time passes, or how different their lives are from one another, they remember that pure, innocent romance they had for one another when they were children. When they finally meet in person again, Nora is in a happy marriage and Hae Sung is freshly single. 

Sounds spicy right? Luckily, I’m really secure and only asked my fiancé once, “You don’t have a long-lost love from your past, right?”    


I think Past Lives can easily be seen as a film about an emotional affair. I think it is relatable for anyone who never got closure from a relationship. I think what Past Lives really nails is when you love the idea of someone more than the actual person. People, friends, family, or lovers exist in our lives in two forms: the literal, physical self who exists in reality, and the concept, the way that person exists in the narrative of our lives. Our memory creates the story of what they mean to us and how they change us, writing their dialogue whenever we hear their voice echoing against the walls of our mind palace. Past Lives wrestles with this corporeal dissonance in a way that transcends fiction and simply feels real.     

8. Oppenheimer 

Obviously, when Christopher Nolan makes a movie, I’m going to show up. While I do enjoy most movies in Nolan’s film catalog, I wouldn’t say I’m a die-hard Nolan bro. I’m not a Nolan Chad, which is a cross between a film nerd and high school jock, aka the biggest piece of shit you’ve ever met. Nolan always makes interesting movies and he’s one of the last big-budget blockbuster auteurs making films that are more than simple cash grabs. His last movie, Tenet, wasn’t my cup of tea, so I was cautiously optimistic about Oppenheimer. 

The man delivered. My favorite aspect of the movie is its pacing. Despite its three-hour runtime, the film flies by without a single wasted moment. Perhaps this is because it was produced in an unbelievably short amount of time. Nolan and company shot the film in less than 60 days, an appropriate speed for a film about creating a super weapon as fast as possible. 

I don’t love the term “Oscar bait.” I generally like to be more optimistic about art and think that creators are setting out to make awesome art, not to make something that will get an award. Whether this is award-season catnip or not, I do think it deserves some accolades. I can’t think of a movie that does anything better on any technical level when pitted against Nolan and Oppy. It's visually captivating. Its scenes are broken up by esoteric vignettes of chemical drama within the atomic bomb itself: macro videography of electrical currents snapping and writhing in pain, white searing heat expanding against watery prisons, and fiery infernos tumbling and rising to meet the surface of hell or the base of heaven. Also, the bomb drop scene in IMAX was so loud I think it permanently damaged my hearing. 

Oppenheimer is one of the best horror movies of the year. The story of how a madman’s scientific intrigue led to the single most impactful discovery of human existence: the very thing that could end it.  

7. Shin Kamen Rider 

When I first started watching Shin Kamen Rider I kept thinking, “This feels familiar.” It felt like I was watching a live-action anime, but not with the budget or sheen one might expect a modern superhero movie to have. It reminded me of last year’s RRR, a movie with great visual effects that was never striving for realism, but style. I was enamored with the movie. I loved the costume design, the action, and the goofy exposition dumps. I couldn’t quite figure out why I felt nostalgic while watching it until I remembered what it reminded me of: Power Rangers. 

Shin Kamen Rider, aka Shin Masked Rider, is the third movie directed by Hideaki Anno in his “Shin” series. Shin in Japanese means “new,” and with this series of films, Anno is reimagining classic Japanese characters that belong to the Tokusatsu genre. This style of filmmaking refers to live-action films or television shows that make heavy use of practical effects. The genre would be associated with Japanese monster films like Godzilla before eventually shifting popularity to masked heroes in what is referred to as the “Henshin Boom”, beginning with Kamen Rider in 1971. 

It was watching Shin Kamen Rider that led me down this historical rabbit hole and made me realize a deep, personal truth about myself: I like seeing guys in cool helmets kicking ass. For me, this admiration for helmet-wearing heroes started with several teenagers with attitude who were kicking ass in the 90s, and I didn't know just how nostalgic I was for this style of filmmaking. If you still have images of 90s-era Power Rangers episodes in your mind like every well-adjusted adult in their early 30s, then watch a little bit of the first episode of the original Kamen Rider on YouTube for this to all start making perfect sense. 

Shin Kamen Rider is more than Power Rangers nostalgia fuel. It's a dark retelling of the Kamen Rider story; the story of a man captured and turned into a weapon against his will. He uses his power to take down those who changed him. It’s a story of sacrifice; of protecting those you love, and doing a crazy airborne kick into a bat-man. I don’t know if Shin Kamen Rider is for everyone, but it sure as hell is for me.  

6. Godzilla Minus One

Did someone order an allegory for the indomitable human spirit? I’ve never been the biggest Godzilla guy. I always thought he was cool, because who wouldn’t think a giant lizard was cool? I didn’t grow up with him in my life, and the newest Godzilla versus (or team-ups with) King Kong movies are...fine. Watching Godzilla Minus One had me like Frank Reynolds at the end of that one It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode saying, ”Oh my God, I get it.

Godzilla Minus One is a period drama that takes place in Japan soon after World War II. Its title refers to the fact that post-war Japan was at zero, and when Godzilla appeared they were minus one. If there's anything worse than an atomic bomb, it's the allegory for one rising from the sea to spit a laser beam at you. 

Godzilla doesn’t get a ton of screen time but when he does, it's terrifying. When you hear his classic theme in the film’s score, you shuffle in your seat and think “Oh lawd, he’s coming.” When he appears, there are consequences. People die and cities are leveled. It’s refreshing when compared to some of the recent Godzilla outings where he’s kind of an ambiguous force for good, which is an interesting twist on the character, but I prefer for him to be…a monster doing monster stuff. 

This film is more focused on its human characters than its scaly ones. The citizens of Japan have a distrust for their government and must unite to take down this monstrous threat. The film is about the will to live, and the courage it takes to fight not for your own life, but for the lives of the future. The film's thematic and emotional anchor is Kōichi Shikishima, a former kamikaze pilot whose arc I won’t spoil here but you can imagine it’s pretty satisfying. 

Side note: I just watched the trailer for the black and white release of the film and I got goosebumps.    

5. Plagiarism and You(tube)

Welcome to the first, “Hey! This isn’t a movie!” on my top 10 list. Plagiarism and You(tube) is a YouTube video essay by Hbomberguy AKA Harry Brewis. Brewis’ brand of video essays is a bit hard to pin down. He’s been making videos on YouTube for almost ten years and the subjects vary between analytical breakdowns of video games and television shows, topical political response videos, and deep-dive journalistic assassinations of giant pieces of shit. Plagiarism and You(tube) is the latter. It is an almost four-hour-long video essay, filled to the brim with research that makes a case against several prominent Youtubers who have made a career off of plagiarizing people who are better than them. Brewis is a supremely talented writer, researcher, and video creator. In this video essay, he explains step by step how plagiarism is commonly done on the video platform, why plagiarists do it, and how they impact our history. 

Brewis is critical of the YouTube business model. The ad-supported revenue stream leads content creators to fill their scripts with stolen words so they can output content at an unrealistically fast pace for an audience that cherry-picks “information” from background noise. Brewis teaches us about “YouTube Content Mills,” channels whose goal is to make cruddy videos as fast as possible to then monetize those videos. Content mills are just regurgitated work from other people. Reaction videos, A.I. voiceovers reading the synopsis of a movie, and video essayists that can pump a video out every other day are all a part of the content problem on YouTube. This video essay acts as an exposé on specific plagiarists and draws a hard line in the sand separating “content” from “art”.       

The word “content” has started to sound more and more gross in my mind; a word that only a few years ago I would use to describe my own creative work. Another one of my favorite YouTubers, Patrick H. Willems recently made a video that criticizes the word “content,” how it's used in 2023, and how it no longer should apply to art. It’s a word that is now owned by corporations and studios, homogenizing all labor done by creatives into capital. “Content” now more accurately describes media sludge that is shat onto a conveyer belt that is then fed to whatever orifice we’re not currently using to consume plagiarized media. 


Brewis’ Plagiarism video culminates in the takedown of James Somerton, a Content Creator (derogatory) who made video essays analyzing media through a queer lens. Somerton had a massively successful channel, Patreon, and eventually leveraged his audience to fund his very own production company where he made original queer cinema. Brewis takes down this guy so badly that I’m surprised he didn’t just evaporate into thin air. Somerton stole almost every word that went into all of his videos, and Brewis spends over an hour proving it. Somerton is not only a plagiarist, but the nature of his content means he’s stealing from other queer writers and artists. By the end of the video, Brewis gives us the heartbreaking thesis of his four-hour-long epic, shining a bright light on the queer erasure that happens through plagiarism. 

Is Plagiarism and You(tube) just a video essay? Is it more of a documentary? Is it journalism at its finest? I’m not sure. But I do know it's important, and I think we all should watch it.  

4. John Wick: Chapter 4 

Usually, sequels offer diminishing returns on great original stories. I don’t mean monetarily, in that way it's the opposite. Film studios want to expand the original story into a franchise machine, turning an original idea into a money-making IP (intellectual property), and spinning it out into as many sequels, television series, prequels, and video games as humanly possible. If a story is good, best to bleed it dry and sell that blood as content. The John Wick franchise is the perfect example of an original story that has become a bankable IP. We got a bad television show, we’re getting a prequel, and they’re making video games.  

Despite the John Wick franchise representing every cynical thought I have on Hollywood productions… I love seeing this guy in a bespoke bulletproof suit fight goons.  

Narratively, no future John Wick installment can top the simplicity of that original movie. What happens when you kill the most dangerous man in the world’s dog? You get a great, original story designed by stunt performers and fight coordinators to house some of the most impressive action sequences ever performed on screen. I don’t watch these movies for the plot. I watch them to see John Wick go sicko mode in beautifully shot environments, set to dance music. John Wick: Chapter 4 is three hours of that, so yeah, I’m thinking it's number four on my list.  

John Wick: Chapter 4 is one of the most confident movies I’ve ever seen. It knows it's cool. Its shallow, trope-riddled characters are performed beautifully by a cast of absolute bangers. There are so many incredible set pieces that when you think about your favorite part of the movie, you remember there are like six more even crazier scenes that you forgot about. It’s a murder music video. It's like putting vibes into a syringe and shooting it into your neck. 

Its story is as good as it needs to be. It paints in broad strokes. Wick wants out of the organized crime world. He has nothing left to fight for. He wants peace and he’ll literally kill everyone on the planet to get it. What elevates the plot of John Wick: Chapter 4 beyond a few moments of dialogue that strings together action scenes is twofold. One is the thing the John Wick franchise has always been good at: world-building. It’s fun to learn about the intricate, polite, and bureaucratic world of organized crime in these movies - so much so that they’re going to drown us in spin-offs. The second is Donnie Fucking Yen. Yen plays Caine, the blind hitman who uses an almost drunken boxing style of fighting. He’s the perfect foil to Wick. Wick has lost everything, Caine’s daughter is alive but is used as collateral to ensure Caine fulfills his task of eliminating Wick. What happens when a man who lost everything fights a man who has everything to lose? 

John Wick: Chapter 4 yearns to be the exciting conclusion to a blood-soaked revenge odyssey, but we’ll see if the powers at be let Keanu get some rest. Unless, of course, he gets to wear a cool helmet while he kicks ass in John Wick: Chapter 5. In that case, make three hundred more of these. I don't care. 

3. Poor Things 

I guess Poor Things is my favorite movie of the year? I just realized that right now in real time. My top two spots on this list are television shows (please don’t freak out), so by default…yeah Poor Things is my favorite movie of the year. 

Director Yorgos Lanthimos is one of my favorite creatives working right now. The Lobster is one of my favorite movies ever. I adored Killing of a Sacred Deer and I really liked The Favourite, just not as much as everyone else. The Favourite marked Lanthimos’ first team-up with writer Tony McNamara. One of The Favourite’s greatest qualities is its dialogue - beautifully crafted faux-victorian quips that somehow always feel modern. What The Favourite lacked, for me, was the level of absurdism and surrealism found in Lanthimos’ previous films. It was still plenty weird by normie standards, but I’m a little freak

Poor Things is a weird horny masterpiece for little freaks. Tony McNamara returns and brings that same style of dialogue to the film but in a far stranger setting. It’s a story that feels a little bit like Frankenstein before it becomes an odyssey through human sensations. Bella Baxter’s (Emma Stone) journey of reanimation is an allegory for life itself. It celebrates the miracle of carnal sensations. It celebrates the endorphins that power our desires. It celebrates the human need to explore and be explored. It is not without darkness, as behind every bright light there is a shadow, but Bella Baxter has an innocence about her and an infectious curiosity that makes you wish your brain could return to a simpler time. The film starts with a character whose mind and body are disconnected, exploring the absurdity of both. Bella Baxter’s quest is to unite the two and create herself. 

The design of the world of Poor Things is delightful. It seems to exist in a strange oil painting of Victorian cities plucked from the imaginations of the past. The sky is cotton candy colored. The costumes look like they were designed by a drunk person trying to recreate “old-timey” from memory. Its cinematography is delightfully fitting for its strange plot and setting, morphing and changing to stay in step with Bella on her journey. Using awkward zooms and black-and-white color grading seen through a fisheye lens, its visual boldness meets its narrative peculiarities head-on.  

Poor Things is a Frankenstein’s feminine monster-esque journey of self-discovery. It’s hilarious, stunning, and features some of the best performances of the year. There was also a third-act cameo that had me cheering in my seat. I’m just happy movies like this exist.   

2. Blue Eye Samurai 

Blue Eye Samurai is extremely my shit. It’s a blood-soaked revenge story set in 17th-century Edo-period Japan. It is an homage to some of the greatest action movies of the past twenty years as well as an examination of race, gender, prejudice, and self-hatred. At the nexus of these themes is a samurai named Mizu, a mixed-race woman, disguised as a man on a mission to kill the men responsible for her blue eyes. During this period in Japan, the nation closed its borders to the world. Its citizens saw those with white physical features as ugly and impure. Throughout her life, Mizu internalizes the hatred towards her, fueling her lust for revenge. Mizu learns that at the time of her birth, there were four white men in Japan. One of these men is her father. To hedge her bets, she makes it her life’s mission to kill them all. 

The series features some of the greatest fight sequences I’ve ever seen. Obviously, animation can have exciting fight choreography, but Blue Eye Samurai hits are different. The fights feel like live-action. The way the “camera” moves through the action is more akin to a fight scene in a movie than, for lack of a better term, the static “camera” work of an animated fight scene. This is because of the show’s Supervising Director Jane Wu and Stunt Choreographer Sunny Sun. In Netflix’s behind-the-scenes short, Blue Eye Samurai: Making a Warrior, we learn about the work that goes into creating realistic martial arts that not only look cool but tell a story. The fights in Blue Eye Samurai are gory, brutal, and above all, character-driven. As all great fights should be, they are extensions of the narratives of our heroes and villains literally crashing into one another. The series pays homage to many amazing films and fight scenes that came before it. It includes musical cues from Kill Bill and features an entire episode that’s a love letter to The Raid

Blue Eye Samurai is about diversity. It’s about the hate that marginalized people can face and the way they internalize it. It’s about how strength is found in what makes us unique or different. A katana is forged by different metals, and when it is too pure, it breaks. Mizu is a challenging character to root for. She has faced a ton of adversity and hate, but her mission is born from her self-hatred. You’d rather see her accept herself, see herself as special. We know her bloody quest won’t bring her peace. Her quest is mirrored by a cast of amazing characters. Princess Akemi yearns for freedom outside the prison of archaic gender norms. Taigan, a dishonored samurai, battles for respect. Then there’s Ringo; the bleeding heart of the show. Ringo is a ramen chef, born without hands, who wants to be something great, whether that be a samurai or the greatest ramen chef in the world. Ringo is the best. I love Ringo. 

I value what Blue Eye Samurai adds to the fabric of entertainment. We need more diverse stories. They breed freshness and excitement. I don’t relate to Blue Eye Samurai. I mean duh, right? Even when art isn’t relatable, it should teach you how to relate. It’s an exercise in empathy that can benefit us all. Blue Eye Samurai is one of the most badass, beautiful, and entertaining stories I’ve seen all year, but it’s also something we need a lot more of.

I love Ringo.   

1. Pluto

Originally, Pluto was a manga that ran from 2003 to 2009. The story was based on Astro Boy, specifically, the The Greatest Robot in the World story arc. The original Astro Boy manga was geared towards kids. This story arc follows the robot named Pluto, whose desire to be king of all robots is so great that he sets out to destroy the seven other most powerful robots in the world. Pluto, the manga, and later anime, is a dark retelling of this story. Creator Naoki Urasawa aimed to retell the story he felt was always in that original Astro Boy manga; a story about the emptiness of war. 

Pluto is a science fiction noir that is like Blade Runner meets Hannibal. After a series of gruesome murders of powerful robots and human robot-sympathizers, Europol detective Gesicht is tasked with solving the case. After investigating a human murder, Gesicht realizes a robot is responsible. This is the first case of a robot murder in years. What starts as an engaging mystery quickly becomes a meditation on what it means to be alive, critiquing society’s potential treatment and legislation of artificial life. In the world of Pluto, robots and humans coexist. Robots have jobs and families. Older models look like traditional metal human-shaped robots and newer ones look just like a flesh and blood person. Even if they look human, there are key differences between the two. Robots are programmed to be unable to harm or kill a human. They cannot lie. Of course, like any good story, if rules are established in the first act, that means they’ll be broken by the last. 

Robots cannot kill or lie by design, which makes them subservient to humans. It’s the lack of darkness that makes them second-class citizens in this world. When Gesicht meets Atom (aka Astro Boy), we’re shocked to learn how impressed he is with the boy’s artificial intelligence. Before this moment we see Gesicht do crazy high-tech detective stuff, like analyze crime scenes with his mind in seconds or morph his hand into a gun. Atom is known to have the most advanced A.I. in the world because of his capacity to feel. His ability to have emotions and feel excitement, curiosity, and sadness makes him more advanced than a gun-toting detective-bot. 

Pluto dares to ask, “What makes us human?” Is it our ability to hate, to kill, to lie? If a robot can commit atrocities, is it the most human robot? As viewers, we meet seven powerful robots before they’re attacked by Pluto. We learn that it’s their empathy, their kindness, and their capacity to do good that makes them as human as any one of us. They’re told they cannot feel like humans can, but as an audience, we see that they feel plenty.  



Robert Anderson

Robby has a degree in Screenwriting and Playwriting and works in multiple genres. He's just your typical man-child who enjoys most things nerd culture. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RoBaeBae





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