2020 in Film: A Very Delayed Overview

By Christian DiMartino

2020 was uh… it was a weird one, for a lot of reasons. For this though, we’re talking movies. The year began as usual, with plenty of theatrical releases- some good, some duds. Then… the world shut down, as did movie theatres, and suddenly everything turned upside down. All of the big movies slated to be released- from No Time to Die to Dune to A Quiet Place Part II all pushed back. As the year went on, some big movies did come along, but most of them were released through streaming services as well, or with an upcharge or something.

I, like Christopher Nolan, am one for the theatrical experience. There is a reason why Nolan tried forcing Tenet into theatres, despite the circumstances: the theatre was, quite simply, where the film was meant to be seen. His gamble- a theatrical release in early September, shortly after movie theatres re-opened- paid off overseas but, understandably, didn’t pay off here. Truth is, I wish he had waited, because as it stands, the film is his only current box-office flop. While I don’t think it was a wise move on his behalf, I also cannot deny his crusade: streaming services, convenient as they may be, aren’t the real deal.

It’s great to get new movies included with services that you’re already paying for… but it isn’t the same as a movie theatre experience. I like a big roar, a rumble; something that is going to keep my attention. At home, unless you turn your phone off (which I have done) it’s pretty difficult to feel fully immersed. I could’ve watched Godzilla vs. Kong for free on HBO Max; I forked over the money to see it in a theatre. I could’ve streamed David Fincher’s Mank on Netflix; I forked over the money to see it. I’m all fine with streaming services, especially considering the circumstances we faced last year… but it’s not the same.

In a normal year, I’d probably see 175-200 movies over the course of 14 months. Usually, I unveil my “Best of the Year” lists after I make sure I have seen all of the Oscar nominees. As it currently stands (and it took me 16 months to do it this year), I have seen 100 movies from 2020. Ouch. I just wasn’t quite as invested, and usually come Oscar morning I’d have seen everything… but not this time. One noteworthy thing about this year in terms of film though is that we didn’t get many big movies, which is upsetting, and yet 2020 made plenty of room for small movies. If you looked for these movies, the ones that are worth looking for, then you were given a treat. My favorite films of 2020 all did something for me. Mind you, some of these choices might’ve done nothing for you, and that’s fine: movies hit everyone differently. My favorite film of the year might be your 7th, or my 8th favorite might be your 5th least favorite. Again, movies hit everyone differently, and my choices for the best films of 2020 hit all the right notes with me. So, let’s get to it.

How 'The Invisible Man' Movie Compares to the Original Book | Time
10. The Invisible Man: I fought to keep Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man on this list, and considering the long year (14 months long, in the eyes of the Academy) it was no small feat. Yet it hung on, because here was one of the year’s most diabolically entertaining films, anchored by a brilliant performance by Elisabeth Moss that deserved the attention it didn’t get. Not to mention, this film has one of the most jaw-droppingly shocking moments I saw in any movie this year- watch it with someone who hasn’t seen it, and wait for the gasp.
The Trial of the Chicago 7': What to Know - The New York Times
9. The Trial of the Chicago 7: I’m really not a political person in the slightest, so I was pretty shocked by how moved I was by Aaron Sorkin’s current Best Picture contender, The Trial of the Chicago 7. Featuring a great ensemble that includes Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Frank Langella, and so on, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is effective in its message, and yet it is also a film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, so you can expect his typical snappy dialogue (it is quite snappy, and great). Furthermore, it takes a subject that doesn’t interest me much, and manages to make it not only powerful, but richly entertaining.
Christopher Nolan's Tenet Falls Back Again | Vanity Fair
8. Tenet: Controversial choice numero uno. It is no secret that I have been a major fangirl of Christopher Nolan’s for over a decade… and yeah, I went for Tenet, which isn’t quite his best work, but is very much his. As I wrote in my review last September, the film is essentially Christopher Nolan porn- it’s huge, it’s flashy, it’s expensive, it has a huge concept and ideas that are totally nuts, it could be considered the markings of a mad man. Truth be told though, much of the talk about this film is how confusing it is, but… I’m not a smart person, and it didn’t lose me too much. Nolan just expects us to avoid getting on Twitter and actually pay attention to his movie. I did, and it was a dizzying, spectacular time (seeing it in a theatre certainly helped too).
Charlie Kaufman Explains I'm Thinking of Ending Things | IndieWire
7. I’m Thinking of Ending Things: Controversial choice number deux. Here was the “love it or loathe it” film of the year. Those who love it, love it, those who loathe it, loathe it- there was no in-between. You can clearly see where I fell, though that’s just it: is the film brilliant, or complete nonsense? I can see the argument for both. To me though, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a fascinating film, one that sets out to drive you nuts, but also leave you thinking. Perhaps writer/director Charlie Kaufman (of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation) sees himself as a genius… but so do I, and if this film was nonsense, it was nonsense that I went for.
Promising Young Woman' ending explained by director, stars - Los Angeles  Times
6. Promising Young Woman: I have considered, on many occasions, writing a full length review of Promising Young Woman, but haven’t for some reason. That being said, I do join the chorus of people who love this film. Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut is a film that bursts with confidence. It makes a lot of tonal shifts that seem… odd, considering the subject matter. The film is often so funny that I was surprised when the film was nominated in the Drama category at the Golden Globes… until I remembered, oh yes, this is a movie about avenging a rape victim. Those shifts might not work for everyone… but they worked for me, as did the film, which is fast, furious, sharp, and richly entertaining, all beautifully held together by a leading performance from Carey Mulligan that tops anything she’s done, and deserves the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Who Wrote 'Citizen Kane'? It's No Mystery - The New York Times
5. Mank: Is it silly to love a movie simply because of the way it looks? Perhaps, yet that’s what blew me away about David Fincher’s Mank. This film is as beautiful as they come, and yet what really wowed me about this film was the craftsmanship. Fincher does everything here with such beautiful precision, telling an interesting story while serving as an homage to old Hollywood while trashing old Hollywood while depicting the life and career of Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman, in one of his finest hours). The performances, story and screenplay are all top notch, but Fincher is the real star here, and his film is marvelous.
On Location: Chloé Zhao's 'Nomadland' Is a Love Letter to America's Wide  Open Spaces | Condé Nast Traveler
4. Nomadland: Another one that, for some reason, I never wrote a full-length review on, yet here I am to join the choir on this film too. Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, the current frontrunner for Best Picture, is a real beauty; a moving depiction of American life, told from the perspective of a group of people that certainly don’t ever receive depiction: the nomads. Featuring real nomads, no less, in a gamble that might not have worked, but works wonders. Nomadland is as rich as human dramas can get, yet at the heart of the film is not only a great supporting turn from David Strathairn, but an even greater turn from Frances McDormand, who doesn’t give a flashy, Oscar-baity performance here, but nonetheless gives one from the soul.
Another Round' Review: Mad Mikkelsen in a Drama of Drinking - Variety
3. Another Round: Thomas Vinteberg’s Another Round, the obvious frontrunner for Best International Feature Film, is one of the sharpest, funniest, and richest experiences of 2020; a film with a creative concept that just seems to keep giving. As someone who has certainly hit the sauce more than enough in his lifetime, I fell in love with this about 30 minutes in, and the love didn’t stop. It’s wonderfully entertaining, splendidly acted, and yet when the good time fades and the characters meet reality, it’s all beautifully done and earned. Vinteberg’s Best Director nomination was a shocker, but it was more than earned.
Why you should watch... a Korean family pursue the American Dream in Minari
2. Minari: Describing the plot of Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari simply wouldn’t do the film justice, because on paper it sounds pretty boring: a Korean family attempts to start a farm in America. Yet watching Minari, I got a warm feeling inside. Every once in a blue moon, I come across a film where, as I’m watching it, I get the sense that I’m watching something special, and Minari is such a film. It’s a lovely film, made from the heart and with soul; a film so grounded in reality that you often forget that you’re witnessing acting, which is also top notch. This is a very small movie- small in concept and ideas- and yet it’s also a very special one; a true, moving gem.
Anthony Hopkins habla sobre el reto de su papel en “The father”
1. The Father: Everyone seems to be aboard the hype train for Florian Zeller’s The Father, and yet I think I might be its biggest fan. I have never known anyone who has had dementia, and yet it’s a testament to Zeller’s writing that the film is as affective as it is. Like Minari, this is one of those films where part of the way through I knew I was watching something special, and it only gets better. The Father is the work of genius, in the sly ways that it toys with your mind for entertainment purposes, yet it also uses the trickery to tap into the psyche of someone with dementia, and it makes for a rich, dizzying, magnificent experience. The film is a grand achievement of production design and editing, but more importantly, of acting, writing, and directing. Olivia Colman is lovely here as a caring woman trying her best to cope with what’s happening in front of her. It is Anthony Hopkins though who makes the film sing. In nearly his greatest onscreen performance, Hopkins is a marvel as a man who is aware that something is wrong with him, and is also aware that it is beyond his control. The final minutes of The Father are so powerful that when I got in the car, I let out a good cry, not just because the film has such an impact, but also because it amazed me so.

Other films that were worth a damn: Soul, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, On the Rocks, Kajillionaire, Let Him Go, The Nest, Let Them All Talk, One Night in Miami, Bad Education, The Gentlemen, Relic, The Lodge, Palm Springs, Birds of Prey, Judas and the Black Messiah

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