Monday, March 1, 2021

My favourite films of 2020...

Scene from 'Supernova'
2020 was a tough year.  So was getting a chance to watch the many 2020 flicks that got released as theatres were completely shuttered, and not all flicks are available on the streaming service of our choice. 

So this list, which usually comes out late December or early January, is now here on March 1, the day after the Golden Globes.   I've stuck to my instincts drawing up this list, picking the favourites that meant the most to me personally, trying to ignore the hype which so frequently trips me up.   UPDATED April 18 with new top 10 entry, Minari.  This follows adding Palm Springs as well a few days ago.  

1: Supernova, it could've easily been maudlin and melodramatic, but instead this is one of the most beautiful portraits of love I've seen in years, and the same sex nature of the central relationship between Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci is pretty much irrelevant to the restrained proceedings, such a breath of fresh air, stunning acting and cinematography.  Love wins my heart over more acclaimed, darker stuff. 

2: Promising Young Woman, make sure you know as little as possible about this film before you see it and its shock value will be most greatly experienced.  Unforgettable.  Very dark but as timely as it gets, putting center stage a tragedy all too familiar but never quite explored like this. 

3: Nomadland, yes the hype is well-deserved, this moves at such a gentle, poetic, almost hypnotic pace, I was in awe and carried along.  Frances McDormand gives Prime Frances McDormand here and it's wonderful to behold. 

4: Sound of Metal, Riz Ahmed is sexy and perfect in this touching, deeply powerful portrait of an average guy/talented drummer who suddenly loses his hearing.  The sound editing is perfection.  I can't imagine a more compassionate and realistic portrait of something most of us would dread to experience.  A must watch.    

5: Tenet, Christopher Nolan's latest is also his most beautiful film.  If you're going to embrace a bizarre scientific premise in your story, this is how you do it.  It unfolds with little explanation and is confusing at first, but eventually I totally got into its rhythm before the end of the first viewing.  Subsequent viewings cemented my love for this film.  Oh and being able to stare at John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, not to mention a cast of other Nolan regulars, was a lot of fun.  

6: Minari, very cute, gentle, sweet, enjoyable experience watching a Korean family re-start their lives on a 1980s Arkansas farm, perfect performances from everyone

7: Judas and the Black Messiah, Daniel Kaluuya is mesmerizing in this, I could tell watching his power on screen that he'll probably be winning awards for this portrait of a natural born leader who takes his place in the Black Panther movement of the 1960s, only to be betrayed by a troubled FBI informant. 

8: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, short and sweet, makes it point and then finishes, Chadwick Boseman is fabulous here as is Viola Davis. 

9: Palm Springs, Adam Samberg is great alongside co-star Cristin Milioti in this funny, and thought-provoking piece about a man and a woman (and one or two others we see) caught in a Groundhog Day-esque time loop.  I so needed this charmer during Covid Wave Three, thank you!  

10: Violation, dark, dark, dark, but strangely satisfying, its objectification of the naked male form, also the perpetrator in this story, was long overdue.  Perhaps I would've liked it more had I seen this after Promising Young Woman.   

And the rest in order of preference: 

Monsoon, a slow burn that really drew me in, a love letter to lost homelands, this story chronicles the beautiful Henry Golding's return to Vietnam, a place he left as a child with his family.  There, he enjoys a hot affair with the stunning Parker Sawyers.  Beautiful story, beautiful cinematography, beautiful men.  

One Night in Miami, impeccably polished, well-acted and written, it's fun being a fly on the wall listening to these conversations, although I wished for more actual drama.  

Mank, interesting, but not as interesting as I was hoping, and definitely not the sum of its parts.  David Fincher has done much more interesting films than this.  

The United States Vs. Billie Holiday, Andra Day along with the incredibly hot Trevante Rhodes of Moonlight fame are awesome in this biopic about the Jazz legend's struggles with racist U.S. authorities and her own demons.   

The Mauritanian, great, restrained flick about a wrongfully imprisoned man stuck in Guantanamo for years.  Also loved Jodie Foster. 

Antebellum, fascinating, surprising allegory of how the legacy of racism impacts on the present day.  Modern day queer goddess Janelle Monáe is stunning in the lead role.

Ammonite, interesting watch, Kate Winslet can do no wrong, not riveting but still I had no difficulty finishing it. 

The Social Dilemma, a completely accessible documentary with dramatizations that make clear to the masses how social media giants like Facebook have been not only hurting all of us, but undermining democracy itself. 

The Trial of the Chicago 7, I'm not a fan of Aaron Sorkin's writing, it's always too showy, too smart for its own good.  Plus scenes in this flick kept repeating over and over, perhaps it was true to the actual trial transcripts but it was annoying.  Sacha Baron Cohen did bring his dialogue to life, as did many, but I didn't buy Eddie Redmayne in this for a second, he kept trying to seem likeable and palatable to the masses, miscast in my opinion. 

News of the World, what's with older straight male directors obsessing this year over relationships between old white straight dudes and prepubescent girls who don't speak much if at all?  Still I enjoyed Tom Hanks in this flick which was interesting some of the time.  

Death to 2020!, the tonic we needed at the end of last year.  

Love and Monsters, its special effects are superb and made me squeamish when I watched the trailer, I almost didn't start it.  But Dylan O'Brien's gorgeous talents and a friend's recommendation helped me press play and I wasn't let down.  Lots of fun.  

Still Processing, a short film by Sophy Romvari I saw at TIFF 2020, this really moved and impacted me with its unique portrait of the director coming to terms with her family's tragic past.

Greyhound, great little WWII flick about the Battle of the Atlantic, gripping, well-done. 

Uncle Frank, didn't break much ground but superbly acted and lovely all around. 

Summer of '85, the hottest French boys you could imagine have a tortured affair, mostly pointless though, so it needed either way more story or way more nudity to be memorable.  

Ava, I could stare at Jessica Chastain, aka 'Brandy' in this flick forever.  A lot of fun. 

Hillbilly Elegy, finally watched it and liked it, although Glenn Close's best moments don't happen until near the end, but was glad when they did.  Still, this movie wasn't good enough to win Oscars, so sadly Glenn will be empty-handed again on April 25, I predict.

Escape from Pretoria, lovely Daniel Radcliffe doing lovely things in a South African prison, get your minds out of the gutter. 

Cherry, I had no idea this film contains uber hottie Tom Holland's first nude scenes, which make this film a landmark.  But sadly, the film is otherwise godawful.  So I recommend you just search for the Holland nude clips online and skip this torturous depiction of two loser addicts.     

Falling, a bit too tortured of an experience, can't really recommend it. 

Songbird, not the greatest, a bit too timely this portrait of a love affair during a horrendous pandemic, but this flick gives us the first look at KJ Apa's beautiful butt, so I'll forgive it for anything. 

Rebecca, meh.

Want to see as soon as possible:

Da 5 Bloods

Pieces of a Woman

MLK/FBI

On The Rocks

The Father

French Exit

Possessor

Disappointing: 

The Boys in the Band (remake)

The Midnight Sky

 

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