What we’re watching in 2023

Despite all the talk of new resolutions and improved habits, January can be a bit of a slow month — we’re recouping from holidays, we’re in the middle of winter.

In the spirit of easing into the new year, we asked folks on our editorial team what they’ve been watching and rewatching lately. Which movie scene is lodged in their brains? What show do they find themselves bingeing? What exactly makes a film or TV show so compelling?

Here’s our round-up.

Documentary Now!

Fred Armisen and Bill Hader in Documentary Now!

“My show is Documentary Now!, specifically the season three episode ‘Original Cast Album: Co-op.’ When I need a creative boost, I return to shows and books that I’ve loved. Something about reexamining how a text was able to affect me always seems to drive new ideas and new writing. Documentary Now! is indeed a funny show, but it’s the most rewarding sort of humor, which requires some investment from the viewer. ‘Original Cast Album: Co-o’ is this weird little 1970’s New York world, with legitimately catchy music and a slate of fully realized characters, despite its 22-minute run time. I’ve watched it dozens of times now. If I could ever write a story half as weird and funny and creative and immersive as this episode, I could be done writing forever. There would be nothing left to accomplish.”

Eric Rasmussen, Fiction Editor

The Banshees of Inisherin

Colin Farrell in Banshees of Inisherin

“My recent watch is The Banshees of Inisherin. I love how this film seems to focus on the mundane — unearthing both the beauty and the grotesque nature of the everyday. It inspires me to try to write a poem that pushes an ordinary experience as far as it can possibly go. Of course, that is perhaps what all poems strive to do, but The Banshees of Inisherin presents us with a seemingly simple premise (a funny one, even!) and moves us emotionally toward devastation. The balance! The tension!”

Saba Keramati, Poetry Editor

The Great Beauty

Toni Servillo in The Great Beauty

“A film that I come back to whenever I feel creatively stuck is The Great Beauty by Paolo Sorrentino — I just rewatched it recently, when I was working towards the end of a big writing project. Something about the way the camera sees the world in that film… it reminds me so much of the way a child looks out at the world, with a sense of wonder, and heightened attunement to the sensory richness of things. It always helps me to inhabit that gaze for a while when I’m working on something, and feel like I’ve lost my sense of magic and play.”

— Shze-Hui Tjoa, Nonfiction Editor

The Human Centipede  

Dieter Laser in Human Centipede

“My favorite rewatchable movie which I’ve recently revisited is The Human Centipede. This may sound like a gag but, I assure you, it is not. I first watched this movie with my parents in undergrad and while they were less than impressed, I was stricken dumb with love. There’s something far more entertaining and gripping in a ‘bad’ movie than in a ‘good’ movie to me, and I’d rather chew off my own foot than watch a mid movie. There is such desperation not only in the plot of The Human Centipede itself but in how the actors attack their lines and action. They throw themselves into it like Daniel Day Lewis or Meryl Streep though they will never be recognized as such. Katsuro’s final speech, for example, is the definition of euphoric and illuminating.The same reasons people deride this movie are the same reasons I love it — over-the-top, disgusting, shocking. Who doesn’t want their writing described this way? I know I do. Roger Ebert said of this movie, The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine. What a goddamn champion of modern cinema.”

— Robyn Ritchie, Assistant Fiction Editor

Fire of Love

“I watched Fire of Love three weeks ago and can’t stop thinking about it. The documentary follows famous volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft (they were professional partners as well as spouses) as they travel to and conduct research on deadly volcanoes around the world. Most of the film is made up of the couple’s own footage, footage unlike any you’ve ever seen: walls of lava rising behind tiny human bodies; the Katia running along lava flows; Maurice peering into an active crater, smiling. The visuals take the front seat in this film, and it’s so mesmerizing, you almost forget how absolutely insane the work that the Kraffts were doing was. This immersion gets us so close to the Kraffts — you can really feel their love for their work, for these deadly volcanoes. You feel the love they have for each other, too. Watching this doc is like briefly inhabiting another world, one that’s both strange, even dangerous, and very, very intimate. That’s the kind of environment I want to create in my writing.”

— Aleina Grace Edwards, Social Media & Blog Editor