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kottke.org posts about best of 2023

The 25 Best Films of 2023: A Video Countdown

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2024

I always look forward to David Ehrlich’s annual love letter to cinema and his favorite films of the year. So put this thing on the biggest screen you can find, slap on some headphones, and get ready to put a bunch of excellent films on your must-watch list. This year in conjunction with the video, Ehrlich is raising money for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

You can also watch this video on YouTube and past countdowns on his website.

Some Wonderful Things from 2023

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 03, 2024

view of the green rolling hills of Vermont under a mostly sunny sky

As the bulk of 2023 recedes from memory, I wanted to share some of the things from my media diet posts that stood out for me last year. Enjoy.

Succession. I did not think I would enjoy a show about extremely wealthy people acting poorly, but the writing and acting were so fantastic that I could not resist.

25 years of kottke.org. Very proud of what I’ve accomplished here and also genuinely humbled by how many people have made this little site a part of their lives.

Fleishman Is in Trouble. Uncomfortably true to life at times.

Antidepressants + therapy. I was in a bad way last spring and it is not too strong to say that finding the right antidepressant and arriving at some personal truths in therapy changed my life.

The Bear (season two). I don’t always love it (especially when the intensity ramps up) but there’s definitely something special about this show.

Barr Hill Gin & Tonic. The best canned cocktail I’ve had, by a mile.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Brutal and inspiring.

Crossword puzzles. A few times a week, a friend and I do the NY Times crossword puzzle together over FaceTime. It’s become one of my favorite things.

AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Am I ever going to shut up about these? Possibly not. The sound quality is better than the first-gen ones and the sound cancelling is just fantastic. I used these on several long flights recently and you basically can’t hear much of anything but your music.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Visually stunning.

The Kottke Hypertext Tee. Might be bad form to put your own merch on a list like this, but I’m just tickled that these exist. Putting an actual physical good out into the world that people connect with is somehow satisfying in a way that digital media is not.

ChatGPT. This very quickly became an indispensable part of my work process.

Downhill mountain biking. I did this a couple years ago and it didn’t click for me. But my son and I went last summer and I loved it…it’s one my favorite things I did all year. Gonna try and get out more in 2024!

Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland. Probably the best TV thing I watched last year. Listening to survivors of The Troubles talking about their experiences was unbelievably compelling.

Au Kouign-Amann. One of my all-time favorite pastries. Looks like a boring cake, tastes like magic.

Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America by Heather Cox Richardson. An extremely clear-eyed explanation of how Trumpism fits in with the Republicans’ decades-long project of weakening American democracy.

The Creator. I liked this original sci-fi a lot — more stuff that’s not Star Wars and Marvel pls.

Northern Thailand Walk and Talk. I will write this up soon, but this was one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

BLTs. I could not get enough of this simple sandwich at the end of last summer — I was eating like 4-5 a week. When the tomatoes are good, there’s nothing like a BLT.

The little hearts my daughter put on the backs of the envelopes containing her letters from camp. Self explanatory, no notes.

The smoked beef sandwich at Snowdon Deli. The best smoked sandwich I’ve had in Montreal.

The Last of Us. A bit too video game-y in parts but overall great. A couple of the episodes were incredible.

Photo of a Vermont vista taken by me this summer while mountain biking.

The Best Movie Posters of 2023

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 27, 2023

movie poster for Barbenheimer

movie poster for John Wick 4

movie poster for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

movie poster for Asteroid City

movie poster for They Cloned Tyrone

movie poster for Poor Things

movie poster for John Wick 4

I am not in the habit of buying movie posters, but I bought one this year — for a movie that doesn’t even exist. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to snag one of Sean Longmore’s Barbenheimer posters. It’s still in the shipping canister, but I’m gonna get it framed and find a spot for it on my wall soon.

As for the rest of my favorite movie posters of 2023, I’ve included a few above that caught my eye. For more excellent picks, check out Daniel Benneworth-Gray’s Movie posters of the year 2023, Mubi’s The Best Movie Posters of 2023, First Showing’s 10 Favorite Movie Posters from 2023, The Playlist’s The 20 Best Film Posters Of 2023, and IndieWire’s The Best Film and TV Posters of 2023.

The Best Book Cover Designs of 2023

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 26, 2023

Book cover for Fire Rush

Book cover for The Nursery

Book cover for Yellowface

Book cover for Big Swiss

Book cover for Kairos

Book cover for The Employees

Book cover for Good Men

I love a good book cover design. As I wrote last year:

The book cover is one of my all-time favorite design objects and a big part of the reason I love going to bookstores is to visually feast on new covers. I don’t keep an explicit list of my favorites from those trips, but there are definitely those that stick in my mind, covers that I’ll instantly recognize from across the room on subsequent trips.

I used those bookshop trips and several year-end lists to compile my list of favorites, pictured above and listed here, along with their designers:

Fire Rush (French edition) by Jacqueline Crooks, designed by Jodi Hunt.
The Nursery by Szilvia Molnar, designed by Linda Huang.
Yellowface by R. F Kuang (couldn’t find the designer’s name).
Big Swiss by Jen Beagin, designed by Jaya Miceli.
Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, designed by John Gall.
The Employees by Olga Ravn, designed by Paul Sahre.
Good Men by Arnon Grunberg, designed by Anna Jordan.

Do you have a particular favorite cover? Let me know in the comments!

The lists I consulted are Literary Hub’s The 139 Best Book Covers of 2023 (don’t be dissuaded by that big number…this is the best list bc they consult actual cover designers), The Casual Optimist’s Notable Book Covers of 2023 (always a great list from an indie site), the NY Times’ The Best Book Covers of 2023, The Book Designer’s 2023 Coolest Book Covers (that bucked the year’s trends), Print’s 50 of the Best Book Covers of 2023, Book covers designs of the year 2023 from Creative Review, and Spine’s 2023 Book Covers We Loved.

It’s fun to see how cover design changes throughout the years — here are my lists from 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

Note: When you buy through links on kottke.org, I may earn an affiliate commission. Thanks for supporting the site!

Winners of the 2023 Natural Landscape Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2023

overhead view of a volcanic eruption with lava pouring out

a pair of birds fly over a craggy mountain peak

a hilly winter scene

some cracked dry ground

The winners have been announced in the Natural Landscape Photography Awards for 2023. The competition rules are worth a look — they are pretty hardcore on the types of editing and retouching allowed. I posted some favorites above; from top to bottom by Jeroen Van Nieuwenhove, Xavier Lequarre, Blake Randall, and Jay Tayag. (via in focus)

The Finalists in the 2023 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2023

a bird that looks like it's telling two other birds which way to go

a giraffe that looks like it's got its head up another giraffe's butt

a fox that looks like it's smoking a cigar

an optical illusion that looks like a tropical fish has the legs of a human scuba diver

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are always a good time…and here are the finalists for the 2023 competition.

The Nature Conservancy’s Photo Contest Winners for 2023

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 06, 2023

a spider generating its egg sac with its own web

Nature Conv 2023 02

The holes dug by fish for spawning can be seen after the pond has dried up

The Nature Conservancy has announced this year’s winners of their annual photo contest. Collectively, the winning photographs “gave voice to nature and showed us the power and peril of the natural world”. As usual, I selected a few of my favorites and included them above. From top to bottom:

(via in focus)

The Winners of the 2023 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2023

The optic nerves of a rodent

A heart shape is visible amongst breast cancer cells

Sunflower pollen on an acupuncture needle

Nikon has announced the winners of the Small World Photomicrography Competition for 2023. I’ve included a few of my favorites above. From the top:

And I love a good slime mold photo too. (via ars technica)

Winners of the 2023 Bird Photographer of the Year Competition

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2023

a vivid green bird sitting in the midst of a large green leaf

a diving bird returning to the surface with a fish in its mouth

a pair of parrots fighting on a tree branch

From over 23,000 entered images, the judges in the Bird Photographer of the Year competition for 2023 have selected their winners and runners-up. I selected a few of my favorite images above; the photographers from top to bottom: Nicolas Reusens, Henley Spiers, and Gianni Maitan.

Some Stunning Shots From the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023 Competition

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2023

a colorful shot of The Running Chicken Nebula

what looks like a question mark on the surface of the sun

purple sprites in the upper reaches of the atmosphere

a photo of the whole sun

the Andromeda galaxy next to a giant blue plasma arc

The Royal Observatory Greenwich in London has announced the winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2023 competition and as you can see from the selection above, there were some amazing shots. From top to bottom:

  1. Runwei Xu and Binyu Wang for their photo of The Running Chicken Nebula.
  2. Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau for capturing a question mark on the Sun. I will never tire of looking at the detail of the Sun’s surface.
  3. Angel An. “This is not, as it might first appear, an enormous extraterrestrial, but the lower tendrils of a sprite (red lightning)! This rarely seen electrical discharge occurs much higher in the atmosphere than normal lightning (and indeed, despite the name, is created by a different mechanism), giving the image an intriguingly misleading sense of scale.”
  4. Mehmet Ergün. More Sun!
  5. Marcel Drechsler, Xavier Strottner and Yann Sainty for their shot of the Andromeda galaxy.

The last shot was the overall winner. While not as dramatic as some of the others, it documented the discovery of a previously unknown feature of a nearby cosmic neighbor:

The Andromeda galaxy is the closest spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way, and one of the most photographed deep-sky objects. Yet this particular photo, captured by an international trio of amateur astronomers, revealed a feature that had never been seen before: a huge plasma arc, stretching out across space right next to the Andromeda galaxy.

“Scientists are now investigating the newly discovered giant in a transnational collaboration,” explain the photographers. “It could be the largest such structure nearest to us in the Universe.”

You can see the rest of the winning images on the Royal Observatory site as well as coverage from the BBC, the Guardian, Colossal, and Universe Today.

The Winners of the 2023 Drone Photo Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 05, 2023

aerial photo of a very tidy Polish playground

aerial photo of a surfer and crashing waves

aerial photo of a colorful abstract landscape

aerial photo of a border crossing between Haiti and the Dominican Republic

I am a sucker for aerial photography, so I had a lot of fun looking through all the winners and runners-up of the 2023 Drone Photo Awards. As usual, I picked out a few favorites and included them above. From top to bottom, photos by: Sebastian Piórek (a very tidy Polish playground), Brad Weiner (surfer), Gheorghe Popa (amazing abstract shot), and Matias Delacroix (a border crossing between Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

The Winners of the 2023 Audubon Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2023

a bright yellow and brown bird collects material for its nest

a small white and gray bird jumps back from a wave

an egret catches a fish

The National Audubon Society has announced the winners of the 2023 Audubon Photography Awards. I’ve highlighted a few of my favorites above (from top to bottom, photos by Sandra Rothenberg, Kieran Barlow, and Nathan Arnold). Oh, and don’t miss the pair of videos from Steven Chu…

The 2023 Food Photographer of the Year Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 06, 2023

a man in a white apron pulls taffy

overhead view of two farmers tending cabbages

a long table hosts a communal feast in war-torn Syria

an overhead view of three people packing fish

The Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year awards have been announced for 2023 and there is lots of good work in more than a dozen categories. As usual, I’ve included a few of my favorites above (photographers from top to bottom: Zhonghua Yang, Md. Asker Ibne Firoz, Mouneb Taim, Khanh Phan Thi) but you should click through to see the rest. (via curious about everything)

The Best Illusions of 2023 Contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 05, 2023

The mind-boggling winners of the Best Illusion of the Year Contest for 2023 have been announced. The entries for each the ten finalists include a video that demonstrates each illusion and then shows how it works. The top prize winner is this working model of Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter books:

One of my favorites is The Poggendorff Triangles, which goes to show you that straight lines aren’t always straight:

Here’s an audio illusion that sounds as though the tempo is endlessly rising (similar to the Shepard tone):

And then there’s this hollow face illusion in which this woman’s face looks at you as you move around her:

You can check out the rest of the finalists here.

The Best Photos of the Milky Way for 2023

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 01, 2023

the Milky Way shines brilliantly at night above the mountains and a layer of clouds

a composite view of the Milky Way combining how it looks in the night sky during the winter and summer

the Milky Way in the night sky over baobab trees in Madagascar

Capture the Atlas have announced their picks for the 2023 Milky Way Photographer of the Year competition. As usual, I’ve included a few of my favorites here — from top to bottom: Jakob Sahner’s photo from the Canary Islands, Mihail Minkov’s composite shot of the Milky Way as it looks in both the summer & winter, and Steffi Lieberman amongst the baobab trees in Madagascar. Here’s Minkov explaining his full-galactic view:

I’ve always wondered what the night sky would look like if we could see the two Milky Way arches from the winter and summer side by side. This is practically impossible, since they are part of a whole and are visible at different times of the day.

However, this 360-degree time-blended panorama shows us what they would look like. The two arches of the Milky Way represent one object in the starry sky, with part of it visible in winter and part of it in summer. Therefore, they are called the winter and summer arches. The winter arch includes objects that we can observe from October to March, primarily associated with the constellation Orion.

On the other hand, the summer arch features the Milky Way core, visible from March to September, which is the most characteristic and luminous part of the night sky, representing the center of our galaxy.

Everything Everywhere All at Once!

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2023

I loved Everything Everywhere All at Once so much when I saw it in the theater last spring. It caught me in a low moment and swept me up in a protective embrace; it was magic. I was afraid this joyously weird movie would get lost in the Very Serious Film shuffle come awards time but I was beyond thrilled when I woke up this morning to the news that EEAAO swept the major categories for which it was nominated at the Oscars. Here are all the film’s wins from last night:

So happy for Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in particular! Here are their acceptance speeches:

I am disappointed, but only slightly, that Stephanie Hsu didn’t win Best Supporting Actress — her audition for the role of Joy/Jobu Tupaki is amazing if you haven’t seen it. (And she also sang with David Byrne (who wore hot dog fingers) last night?)

Winners of This Year’s World Nature Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2023

a bunch of bright yellow mushrooms on a log

a mud-caked crocodile head peeks out of muddy water

the Milky Way stretches above snowy mountains

a snow leopard walks on a snowy mountaintop

The winners and runners-up of the 2022 World Nature Photography Awards have been announced. An amazing collection of photos as usual — I’ve included some of my favorites above. From top to bottom, photos by Mr. Endy (couldn’t find a website), Jens Cullmann, Jake Mosher, and Sascha Fonseca. Fonseca had this to say about his incredible photo of the snow leopard above:

A beautiful snow leopard triggers my camera trap high up in the Indian Himalayas. I captured this image during a 3-year DSLR camera trap project in the Ladakh region in northern India. The mystery surrounding the snow leopard always fascinated me. They are some of the most difficult large cats to photograph in the wild. Not only because of their incredible stealth, but also because of the remote environment they live in.

The Winners of the 2023 Underwater Photographer of the Year Competition

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 15, 2023

several rays swimming across waxy sand

closeup of a shark's eye

group of embryonic fish still attached to their egg sacs

The winners of the 2023 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition have been announced — you can check out all of the winners here. The photos above are by Gregory Sherman, Kat Zhou, and Shane Gross. Sherman’s photo of stingrays swimming near the Cayman Islands is just spectacular; I can’t stop looking at it. (via colossal & petapixel)