This week/weekend is one of the highlights, not just of April, but of the year so far. Not only is the best film of 2023 to date out in Air, another terrific movie in How to Blow Up a Pipeline has begun its theatrical life. Throw in the financial juggernaut that is The Super Mario Bros. Movie and there’s no shortage of flicks this weekend to see. So, why not just ask you for your thoughts once you see them? Lo and behold, a new Awards Radar Community Question is born!
First up is Air, the best film I’ve seen so far this year. It’s truly terrific stuff, reminding everyone just how terrific a filmmaker Ben Affleck really is. We may well have just seen the first awards contender of this year, it’s that good. That’s still to be determined, but the quality is certainly there, without question. This here is some of what I had to say in my first four star rave review of 2023:
Sports movies can often center on athletes, sure, but some of the great ones (or sports-adjacent ones) never even focus on game being played. Just think of Jerry Maguire and Moneyball, for example. The characters and the drive to win a different kind of game fuel the narrative. Ben Affleck‘s return to directing, as well as his latest collaboration with Matt Damon, is of that ilk, and it truly stands tall with those other films. Air is an absolute triumph, supremely entertaining while also trafficking in emotion and ideas. It’s the full package and the cinematic equivalent of a franchise player. Nothing else so far this year can match the slam dunk (excuse the pun, but everyone will be doing it) that is Air. Affleck has been gone from behind the camera for too long. We’ve missed him.
Air is far more than just the best “dad movie” in years, or even just a sports flick. Utilizing the story of Nike pursuing a partnership with a rookie Michael Jordan, we get a testament to believing in yourself, believing in others, and standing for something. It takes real talent to invest you in the tale of a shoe salesman, the underdog aspect of an eventual billion dollar corporation, and the budding career of a legend you barely see, but Affleck and company pull it off in spades. It runs like clockwork and never ceases to be a delight.
Next, we have How to Blow Up a Pipeline. This is an effective and intense flick, one that never lets up. It’s only out in limited release, but if you enjoy independent cinema, it’s unquestionably one to have on your radar. I had this to say in my highly positive review:
How do you get a point across when it seems like no one is actually listening? Depending on the situation, you might raise your voice, bring in visual elements, or potentially go bigger. When it comes to environmental activism, there’s a segment of the community that sees bigger as the only option. In How to Blow Up a Pipeline, we see one way that a point can be made. It’s an extreme one, but presented with a clear head and sound rationale. This film snuck up on me with its gut-punch of a story, leaving a real mark.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline is razor sharp with its lean and impactful story. Following a group of anti-heroes as they potentially engage in domestic terrorism is a fine line to walk, but this movie does it shockingly well. Whether it actually inspires any change or not is another story, but as just supremely effective filmmaking? It’s an unqualified success.
Finally, there’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which I’m far more lukewarm on. Kids will almost certainly love it. Adults? It may just depend on how blinded by nostalgia for the games you are, so your mileage may vary. For me, I wanted more. My mixed review here begins like so:
There probably is not a more well-known, let alone successful, video game character in the world than Mario. There also likely isn’t a more notorious failed adaptation of a game than Super Mario Bros. back in 1993. So, there was an opportunity to do something special and unique with the property when Nintendo decided to partner with Illumination on The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Unfortunately, what we got is so bland and safe, it feels more like a commercial than an actual film.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie is akin to watching someone play a new Mario game. It seems fun if you’re in control, but to passively view? Not so much. Now, there are moments that work, and when the movie is allowed to be a little weird, that’s a plus as well. Mostly though, it’s aimed at very young audiences and mostly seems designed to make you want to buy some games. That’s honestly not a surprise and potentially even the intended goal, but hopes had been high for something less disposable than what we’ve got here.
Now, we want to hear from you. If you saw any combination of Air, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, and/or The Super Mario Bros. Movie, chime in with your take. We’ll be eager to know your thoughts, whether or not they’re similar to mine. Have at it!
What are your thoughts on Air and/or The Super Mario Bros. Movie? Let us know!