As New Year’s Day draws near, so concludes an excellent year for arts and entertainment. 2023 gave us many great films, music, games and stunning television, and historic advancements in labor rights for Hollywood writers and actors as a result of strikes by the Writers Guild of America (WAG) and the Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) during “hot labor summer.”
2023 also saw Marvel Studios VFX workers vote unanimously to unionize, citing a lack of protections enjoyed by other workers in Hollywood. This would be the first ever unionization effort by VFX artists to date.
As hot labor summer cools off and Madison settles in for a long winter’s nap, now is the time to show our appreciation for the work of these and many other artists from the past year. To that end, The Daily Cardinal is here to call out our favorites in film, television, gaming and music from 2023.
‘Oppenhiemer’ - Joseph Panzer
“Oppenheimer” is separated from other spectacular films that came out this year due to Christopher Nolan’s impeccable visual and narrative style.
The nuclear bomb test sequence, codenamed “Trinity,” was a marvel to behold in IMAX and masterfully conveys the overwhelming destructive power of the bomb. As the columns of fire emanating from the mushroom cloud overwhelmed the frame, it became clear why Oppenheimer viewed that moment in his life as one of divine significance.
Likewise, the inspired decision to tell the film in a non-chronological order, a rarity in mainstream American cinema, lent the story an almost stream-of-consciousness quality that allowed the audience to experience the world as Oppenheimer did.
Nolan is one of the few directors who can create a film which is monumentally grand in its themes yet intimate in its presentation, and that is why “Oppenheimer” is one of my favorite films of the year.
‘Five Nights at Freddy’s,’ the movie - Tess Voigt
I was a little late to the Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNaF) trend. However, after a friend attempted to explain the entire plot of the franchise to me on a walk home, I decided to explore FNaF for myself.
To call the series’ lore extensive is an understatement. Like many fans, what first attracted me to the franchise were the numerous easter eggs and hidden meanings woven into the games for more eagle-eyed players and franchise enjoyers. Five Nights at Freddy's is nostalgic escapism that has united an online community around a simple video game about surviving five nights stalked by evil, possessed animatronic animals. Yes, it may be cringe, but we cringe together.
I can also unabashedly say that the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie is one of my favorites, especially for its use of Josh Hutcherson and, like the games that inspired it, the film’s many hidden easter eggs.
‘Succession’ Season 4 - Spencer Ball
"Rich people doing stupid things" is an increasingly hot genre, and no film or television series has done it better than “Succession.”
The show is incredibly layered and complex, deftly weaving smart comedy, character-driven drama and cultural satire without losing sight of itself. The talent on both sides of the camera brings their A-game to every episode, and it’s impossible to find a weak link in the bunch.
This year’s fourth and final season stayed true to its characters, following every idiosyncrasy and ambition to its Shakespearean conclusion. Secrets were revealed, politicians were elected and corporate blood was shed in a whirlwind that deserves a spot in the pantheon of all-time TV greats. Topping it all off is Nicholas Britell's breathtaking score, which never ceases to excite.
‘Loki’ Season 2 - Jasper Bernstein
“Loki” Season 2 is the culmination of a character arc that’s spanned half my life. And, oh, is it glorious.
Over the course of 12 years, we’ve watched Loki evolve from an irredeemable villain into someone who cares so deeply for his friends that he’s willing to sacrifice his life for their safety.
As a series, “Loki” serves as a model for all directors on how to approach the concept of the multiverse. The show demonstrates that, when dealing with a concept as expansive as the multiverse, the most compelling approach is to concentrate on character-driven stories.
Tom Hiddleston, along with the rest of the cast of “Loki” — including Owen Wilson and Jonathan Majors — delivered a pitch-perfect performance that gave the former villain the most complete character arc in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’ - Ian Wilder
Nintendo faced a massive challenge when developing a follow-up to the ever-successful “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” Nevertheless, “Tears of the Kingdom” is a worthy — if not better — game.
Far from a weakness, the similarities to the game’s predecessor are a major strength — one that allows the game to build on the Hyrule fans know and love to create a uniquely breathtaking experience. Whether you're soaring through the sky, exploring the vast open world or getting lost in Link's story, everyone can find a reason to love this game.
The beauty and familiarity gamers came to love in the previous installment will certainly engross them in this memorable new addition to the ever-growing Legend of Zelda series.
‘GUTS’ - Ava Menkes
After two years of re-listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album “Sour,” her sophomore album “GUTS'' offers a vibrant comeback that mixes her slower breakup songs with a more pop-punk sound.
I always loved Rodrigo for her relatable lyrics centered on the teenage girl experience, and she continues this trend in “GUTS” with tracks like “all-american bitch” and “lacy.” These songs capture the confidence and self-consciousness a young girl can feel, whether conveyed through a piano ballad or tracks of her screaming.
The album perfectly navigates a fine line between love, rage, obsession and revenge. It often feels as though she’s read lines out of your journal.
Jasper Bernstein is the Associate News Editor for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @jasperberns.
Noah Fellinger is an Arts Editor for The Daily Cardinal. He's covered the performing arts, new film and television releases, and labor issues in the arts. Follow him on Twitter at @Noah_Fellinger.
Ava Menkes is the state news editor at The Daily Cardinal. She has covered multiple stories about Wisconsin politics and written in-depth about nurses unions and youth voter turnout. Follow her on Twitter at @AvaMenkes.
Ian Wilder is a senior staff writer and current men’s hockey beat reporter for The Daily Cardinal. He’s a former state politics and features reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.