As we approach the end of 2023, it’s only natural for us to look back on the past year in entertainment. We covered a lot of things here on The Workprint, from The Mandalorian to Magnum P.I. and all points in between. So as we await the dawn of 2024, the writers here though it would be cool to share with you some of the things that brought us the most joy in 2023.
We present a few of our favorite things.
Mary Fan’s 2023 Favorites
Fave Sports Movie You Probably Haven’t Watched:
Chang Can Dunk (Disney+)
Xiao Ming “Bernard” Chang, a 5’8″ unpopular sophomore, is determined to prove the mean kids wrong by dunking a basketball in front of the whole school. Classic sports-movie set-up, right? Except this film plays with the old clichés and in the end flouts them. The combination of complex characterizations and warmhearted comedy makes for a feel-good sports movie that doesn’t quite go the way you expect.
Fave TV Show that Must Be Saved:
After being canceled and then un-canceled, Season 3 of this pulpy martial arts crime drama, set in gilded age San Francisco, finally made it to MAX. And dang, was it fun! Full of gorgeously choreographed fight sequences and thrilling plot twists, this season was a (bloody) joy to watch. Sadly, the show has been canceled AGAIN. Here’s hoping its growing cult status will help resurrect it… again.
Fave Casting in a Broadway Show:
Jordan Fisher as Orpheus in Hadestown
Hadestown, a folksy retelling of the Orpheus myth, arrived on Broadway in 2019 to great acclaim, and I had the good fortune to see it that year. And it was excellent, with a phenomenal cast, with one glaring exception: the guy who played Orpheus. As depicted in Hadestown, Orpheus is meant to be a penniless but brilliant young musician, naive yet pure-hearted. Played wrong, he just seems stupid and self-indulgent, and that’s how he came off in the show I saw. But I saw it again this month with Jordan Fisher, who recently stepped into the role, and that changed the whole show for me (turns out, it’s easier to love a show when you actually like the hero). Fisher brought that pure quality to Orpheus and made the character ring true, and I’m just bummed there isn’t a recording I can listen to over and over.
Norton’s Best of 2023
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Since I did a glowing review of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, I thought I would focus on a different animated film deserving of love: TMNT – MM, was a refreshing reboot of a classic franchise that did not stoop to fan service but instead embraced the property in a way previous iterations had not. Simply put: It made those mutant ninja turtles into Teenagers! For REAL. How novel, to stop ignoring the “teenage” in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Is it flawless? No, but that kind of works in its favor. Rather than making another fan service throwback cash-grab, this movie forces the fans to love the property in a new way — in the present no less. Easily one of the best of this year.
Much like its progenitor, Gen V is violent and surprising, but it has something The Boys sorely lacks: hope! Made up of a hardcore diverse class (we’re talking Black, Latinx, Asian, and white, not to mention the LGBTQ+ angle), this show represents the pun of its namesake pretty well. But, Gen V isn’t just The Boys with a younger, more inclusive cast; it has its own personality, too. Less about revenge and brute force, this show hones in on flawed heroes coming to terms with a flawed system. A fine reflection of the world today, eh? Better still, instead of violence for violence’s sake, Gen V really makes it count. Dialing back the gore in favor of a better way to tell the story — see the puppet massacre. I highly recommend this show. It took me a while to watch it, but man, am I glad I did.
Because I watch way too much TV, it is hard for me to pick out a single show for love, but I can pour some out for the ones leaving us this year. Plenty of shows ended this year, but I’m singling out two for very different reasons.
First is Kung Fu — what could have been a tired reboot of a vaguely insensitive show turned out to be an excellent injection of empathy at a time when anti-Asian sentiment was at its zenith. Not to mention, when this show ended earlier this year, it brought things around in a nod to the original. Classy!
Second is Miracle Workers — an actual comedy anthology where each season takes place in a completely different time period while boasting the same cast. And what a cast it was! Daniel Radcliffe, Geraldine Viswanathan, Karan Soni, Jon Bass, and Steve Buscemi all played their parts magnificently, regardless of how those parts changed. What’s more impressive is that it managed to tell a complete love story over the many seasons — poor Daniel and Geraldine finally got their happy ending.
Sunil Patel’s Three Favorite Indian Films of 2023
Being an Indian and a cinephile, I’ve made it a point in the last few years to actually watch movies from the homeland, and with the breakout success of RRR last year, I’ve seen a lot more interest in Indian cinema from Western audiences, so for my money (in rupees, of course), here are the cream of the crop this year:
1. The Archies (dir. Zoya Akhtar)
Zoya Akhtar reimagines Riverdale of Archie Comics as an Anglo-Indian hamlet in 1960s India, and the results are absolutely delightful! The film juggles a multitude of subplots encompassing the classic Archie-Betty-Veronica love triangle and a classic Save the Community Center whose narrative tendrils affect everyone from Reggie and Jughead to Ethel and Moose. I was completely transported to this retro world I didn’t want to leave and bopping on my couch to these melodic and sonorous rock ‘n’ roll tunes. Akhtar captures the energy of American sixties youth counterculture in this different context so well, it’s impossible not to be charmed. Movie musicals are coming back into fashion, and this was my favorite of the year.
I had very little interest in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani (aka Rocky and Rani’s Love Story) despite the presence of my Bollywood crush, Alia Bhatt, because it looked like a very typical Bollywood rom-com/family melodrama from Karan Johar, that being his specialty… but it’s been four months since I’ve seen it, and I can’t stop thinking about how fucking good it is. This is an incredible version of that typical film that actually updates it for a more progressive time. The titular Rocky is a hilarious himbo who massacres the English language in creative ways (Ranveer Singh would have made a great Ken), and the titular Rani is a strong-willed career woman who challenges him to grow up but also challenges herself to see the world from a new perspective. After a very successful rom-com, the family-swap plot of the second half really allows all the characters to shine, and I was rather astonished at some of the ideas I was hearing brought to the mainstream Indian film audience here. The soundtrack is fantastic, full of references to Old Bollywood, and the film itself is one-way ticket to Bollywood bliss.
3. Jawan (dir. Atlee)
Megastar Shah Rukh Khan starred in three movies this year — and had a cameo in another— and Jawan was by far the best due to Tamil director Atlee bringing that South Indian flavor to Hindi audiences. It’s an excellent example of the Indian masala film, a multigenre extravaganza featuring wild action sequences, a twisty crime plot, a rom-com interlude, an incredible dance sequence with hundreds of background dancers, and a pointed social message all in 169 minutes that remain consistently engaging throughout. Jawan is best going in without knowing anything at all because it has so many surprises in store — and the best pre-interval sequence of the year — but this socially conscious vigilante thriller has backstories involving suicide and dead children and a scene in which Shah Rukh Khan stabs a man with a knife he’s holding in his mouth, so it’s got everything. Everything!
Robert J Kijowski’s Best of 2023
BEST STREAMING PODCAST
The Best Show has been a staple in comedy for over two decades. Having moved base from their humble studio in Jersey City to Forever Dog studio in Los Angeles, CA, the show has only grown in audaciousness, streaming live every Tuesday night. That includes this year’s 24-Hour Podcast.You read that right. On a summery Jersey night, I spent nearly 16 hours on and off (“the spirit was willing, but the flesh, weak”) watching Twitch, in awe of and in total hysterics from the likes of host Tom Scharpling and a plethora guests musical and otherwise to rocket this podcast into a stratosphere all its own, all of which can be seen on Patreon and heard wherever you get your podcasts.
BEST MUSIC VIDEO
Victoria Monét’s video for “On My Mama” hit the scene hard this summer, drenched in sexy-as-fuck throwback Y2K R&B swag. Incorporating complex choreography from start to finish, the banger plays out like something that exists out of time and space — a scintillating look into the future through the lens of the past. Ms. Monét knows exactly how to blow the roof off with heavy confidence, elegance and sapience in these 3 minutes and 36 seconds of baggy drip that look even better now than when I remember them back in high school.
BEST TRUE CRIME DOCUMENTARY
The third month of summer seems like the only month fitting for HBO to have dropped Telemarketers. Directed and produced by Adam Bala Lough and Sam Lipman-Stern, the 3-parter is nothing but genuine, confrontational and, I’ll say it, august.Following two former telemarketers, the serious sleeper of a series takes a deep dive on those who put national dread on the map: the cigarette smoking, on-the-job drug-taking, Central Jersey crew of the CDG that made the unscrupulous draining of unsuspecting citizens’ funds a high-fucking-art form.
Victor Catano’s 2023 Favorites
GODZILLA MINUS ONE
It wasn’t a banner year for franchises. Marvel and Disney had well publicized stumbles at the box office. Both Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford had trouble connecting their classic characters with audiences. And DC… well, let’s just not mention them right now.But there was one literal box office titan that towered over all of them.Produced by Toho Studios at about a tenth the cost of the recent Hollywood versions, Godzilla Minus One is both a tribute to the classic Godzilla films of old and something completely new. I’ve always been a Godzilla fan, but the giant monsters can sometimes feel campy. Not here. For the first time I can remember, I was scared in a Godzilla movie. The destruction and loss of life feels real and visceral. It’s a return to Godzilla‘s roots as a metaphor for Japan’s post-war trauma and nuclear anxiety. For the first time, I was invested in the humans and actually cared if they got squashed. It’s a remarkable movie, better than any Hollywood SFX blockbuster I saw this year, and in a just world it would get some Oscar love.
BLUE EYE SAMURAI
I reviewed this in depth a month ago. This was not only the best animated show of the year, it was my favorite show, period. A beautiful and bloody tale of revenge and identity in feudal Japan… yet it was so much more. The characters are all perfectly defined, the dialogue is so sharp it could cut you, and the animation is the best you’ve ever seen. If you’ve got the week off, there is no better way to ring in the New Year than by binging this epic on Netflix.
HERE WE ARE, ACT I
The final show of the late master of musical theater, Stephen Sondheim, arrived in New York, off Broadway. Even if this were terrible, it would still be noteworthy because it’s the very last music we will ever get from him. But it’s Sondheim! Even his lesser works are fascinating. And this is a very moving show.Here We Are adapts two movies from surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel. Act One adapts The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and Act Two covers The Exterminating Angel. Act Two is a very black comedy and only has a couple songs early on (because Sondheim was unavailable for rewrites, obviously). Act One is much more of a farce or comedy of manners, and it is a pure delight.
The cast — featuring Bobby Canavale, Dennis O’Hare, and David Hyde Pierce — is wonderful. The songs feature all of Sondheim’s trademark wit and wordplay. In the best number, which has a waiter at the Everything Cafe explaining that they are, in fact, out of everything, he gets off the line “we may get a little latte later,” which recalls his classic wordplay in “Into the Woods.” (“While her withers wither with her.”) Even going into his nineties, Sondheim was an unmatched talent to the very end. Cross your fingers and hope that a cast album comes out soon.
Victor Catano lives in New York City with his wonderful wife, Kim, and his adorable pughuaua, Danerys. When not writing, he works in live theater as a stage manager, production manager, and chaos coordinator. His hobbies include coffee, Broadway musicals, and complaining about the NY Mets and Philadelphia Eagles. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @vgcatano and find his books on Amazon