The 2020 Movies

With all of the “free time” on our hands in 2020 you’d imagine movie fans would have watched loads of films.

Yet lockdown, cinema closures and money worries held us back.

There may be some obvious films missing from my list. There’s no Tenet, or Bad Boys for Life, or Da 5 Bloods, or The Trial of the Chicago Seven as I simply didn’t get around to those.

At the same time there were a few films that I did catch that left me strangely unimpressed. But I won’t mention them here. Let’s keep it positive.

Most of the posters here are all from the great website IMP Awards.

1. Parasite

From the opening shot, this film captivated me. The great characters, brilliant performances and the sly script with many surprises makes this my top choice. It’s immediately absorbing and the cast are wonderful. The cinematography is excellent and the house provides a fantastic set for the story.

2. Bombshell

Performances are everything in this very enjoyable movie about such a serious topic. The silent moments where Margot Robbie is humiliated in the office with John Lithgow are excruciating. Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman also deliver exceptional performances. The animated end titles with Regina Spektor’s great somg One Little Soldier are also a delight.

3. Mulan

A big, colourful adventure with some good action and lovely performances. The set, scenery and costumes look great and the action choreography, while heightened and stylised, works well. Watch the deleted scene which was cut because test audiences didn’t believe that the imaginary phoenix that watches over Mulan would swim underwater, and dismay at humanity.

4. Birds of Prey

The first ten minutes were a struggle, but I loved the verve, the colour, the PERFORMANCES, the genuinely exciting action, and struggle to understand the hate the film gets from Angry Movie Twitter Karen. Did I mention the performances? Every one of the main cast is having a ball: Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, the hilarious Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and the glorious Jurnee Smollett.

5. 1917

I love long takes, and was worried the gimmick would be a novelty, but the film is a triumph on so many levels. The inventiveness of the script and Thomas Newman‘s music help Sam Mendes create an engrossing movie experience. While many like to keep the behind the scenes “making of” part of the mystery, I really enjoy learning how the magic is made and the planning, the set/location building, and the camera movements they had to organise to make the movie are a marvel.

6. The Old Guard

High concept graphic novel inspired movies can be hit or miss, but I loved the mix of mythology, history and frenetic gunplay. Charlize Theron returns to action after Fury Road and Atomic Blonde and is a great central character for the group of immortals. Arguably, some of the adventures we only glimpse in newspaper reports in the film are more enticing adventures, but the contemporary setting works. It screams for a sequel and I’d love to see more.

7. Uncle Frank

A simple coming of age hits with an emotional gut punch as Beth (Sophia Lillis) narrates the story of her uncle. For half of the running time the film seems to just tell it’s own quiet story at a leisurely pace, but the slow burn works especially when an appalling humiliation happens near the end. Alan Ball writes great characters, and the performances of the whole cast, but especially Lillis, Paul Bettany, and Peter Macdissi are superb.

8. Extraction

An elevator pitch movie which is thrilling and enjoyable: mercenary has to rescue kidnap victim and escape hostile city. The main character does seem pretty invincible, but Chris Hemsworth is great playing it straight. The action blistering, the long, seemingly uninterrupted car chase is crazy but pretty cool, and by the end you suddenly find yourself wondering if they can figure out a way to have a sequel.

9. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

This Netflix drama, brilliantly acted by Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman and the ensemble cast can’t escape from its play origins, but that itself is refreshing, allowing for some intense and powerful scenes. The camera prowls around the confines of the 1920s recording studio and rehearsal room, honing in on the characters on one long hot afternoon. Netflix even have an interesting documentary on the history, and the making of the film.

10. Sonic the Hedgehog

This film is just plain fun. I was never a gamer so the character means nothing to me, but the film was good family fayre and Sonic is funny, never annoying. James Marston as natural as ever, and it is fantastic to see Jim Carrey having a ball. Some nice humour amongst the sight gags too.

And one film I forgot to add to the list, but would probably sit around number 7.

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War.

This animated movie brought an end to the years-long, multiple movie sequence that has dominated DC Animation releases. The film brings together a huge number of DC characters to try and fight back against the end-of-all-things-as-we-know-it from the evil Darkseid. And boy, is it dark. For an animated movie they really push the boundaries of story expectations. I’ve not watched all of the preceding movies but even so was surprisingly emotional at the devastation caused, and by the ending.

Films I hope to see in 2021

Click on the posters below to see the trailers.

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