Friday, January 29, 2021

The Top Ten Movies of 2020

2020 was a hard year, and an unusual one for the movie business at large. In the void of many larger films being rescheduled and pulled from theaters due to COVID, the vacancies left room for many smaller films to garner more attention than normal. While the year may not have given us all that we wanted, and left several movie houses on the verge of bankruptcy, the quality of the movies did not diminish. The list includes all films released up until this date (so it does not include 2020 releases which won't be available to the public until February or later). Here's a look back the best films of 2020.

10. An Unlikely Pairing
The Norwegian documentary explores the unlikely friendship that develops between artist Barbora Kysilkova and a thief, Karl Bertil-Nordland, who stole paintings from her exhibit. In a year stuffed with solid documentaries, this unexpected gem from Benjamin Ree is the only one to make the list (although there are plenty more worth watching). There's a beauty and grace to the story that unfolds in surprising and wonderful ways. The Painter and the Thief is available on Hulu and for rental on several steaming services. Read the full review.

9. The Open Road
I enjoy Westerns, even if the are a scarce commodity these days. Paul Greengrass shows a knack for the genre as well; hopefully this won't be the last we see from him. The pairing of director Greengrass and star Tom Hanks about a traveling newsman reading the news town by town taking on the responsibility of seeing a twice-orphaned young girl (Helena Zengel) home forces both characters to come to terms with their pasts and present situation. News of the World is currently playing in theaters and is available for purchase on multiple streaming services. Read the full review.

8. The Loudness of Silence
Riz Ahmed offers one of the year's best performances a drummer ill-prepared for the life changes required when he begins to lose his hearing. Co-writer/director Darius Marder makes great use of both his star and some inventive sound design to help illustrate the seismic changes the drummer experiences. Sound of Metal is currently available on Amazon Prime. Read the full review.

7. Murder for Hire
Writer/director Brandon Cronenberg's disturbing gory techno-thriller imagines a world where anyone can be hijacked and turned into a killer. Andrea Riseborough stars as the agency's most successful assassin, stealing the bodies of others to complete her mission, but not without a cost. When things start to go wrong, the real fun begins. Possessor is currently available for purchase on streaming services and on DVD and Blu-ray. Read the full review.

6. Wide Open Spaces
ChloƩ Zhao blends a dramatic character study and documentary around the unusual subculture of those who became nomads after the Great Recession. Frances McDormand's Fern provides us access to stories told by real people about living life on the road. The slow moving film is a treat for McDormand's performance and a glimpse into a world many don't know exist. Nomadland is currently in theaters. Read the full review.

5. A Dimension Not Only of Sight and Sound but of Mind
Andrew Patterson delivers on this low-budget sci-fi thriller set in a small town in the 1950s that is as close as anyone has come to capturing the feel of the original Twilight Zone. With the rest of the town all distracted by a high school basketball game, a disc jokey (Jake Horowitz) and telephone operator (Sierra McCormick) investigate an odd signal leading the pair down the rabbit hole. The Vast of Night is currently available on Amazon Prime. Read the full review.

4. Worth the Wait
Writer/director Bong Joon Ho's classic crime drama about a pair of detectives (Song Kang-Ho and Kim Sang-kyung) hunting for a serial killer has earned enormous acclaim since it's release in its home country. However, despite playing at in a number of film festivals, and earning both recognition and awards, it took 17 years for Memories of Murder to get a world-wide release (spurred on by the real crimes which the film depicts finally being solved). While some might object to it's inclusion here, the film (which was named the Best Korean Film of the Century) is simply too good to ignore. Memories of Murder is available to purchase on several streaming platforms. Read the full review.

3. More Than Simple Revenge
Mixing revenge, genuine dramatic underpinnings, and a dark sense of humor, Emerald Fennell's tale twists and turns as once-promising medical student Cassie (Carey Mulligan) targets men who take advantage of women in compromising positions. The script finds inventive ways for Cassie to seek revenge while teasing both the audience and her victims about just how far she's willing to go while also introducing a romantic subplot that blindsides both the audience and the character. The emotionally-charged dark comedy provides one hell of a ride as Mulligan shines. Promising Young Woman is currently in theaters and available for purchase at a number of streaming services. Read the full review.

2. Live. Die. Repeat
The most fun I had with any film released in 2020 was the Groundhog Day-esqe Palm Springs starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti getting stuck in a time loop and being forced to relive the day of her sister's (Camila Mendes) wedding over and over again. The pairing of Samberg and Milioti turns out not only deliver on the film’s many comedic moments, but also offers large payoffs when the script turns dramatic or introspective. Palm Springs is currently available on Hulu. Read the full review.

1. The Best Film of 2020
Regina King brings Kemp Powers' award-winning play to the silver screen offering a fictionalized account of the gathering of four prominent Black Americans, - Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) one night in Miami after Clay beat Sonny Liston (Aaron D. Alexander) to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. While focused on their disagreements and differences, the film never loses what the men have in common and their place in history. The film's simple set-up, throwing four larger than life characters together in a hotel room, provides the space necessary to create a number of great performances that fit together into an engaging whole. It's the perfect movie at the perfect time and the best film of 2020. Read the full review.

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