18.1.21

Top 20 of 2020

THIS is what we're all here for! The BEST films of 2020. Too much badness in that year. We need and deserve some good films, and here are my favorites....

THE LIST

20) DeadTectives

I know this looks dumb. And to be fair, it IS dumb. It's meant to be! The delightful Chris Geere (of You're the Worst-fame) leads a pack of fake ghost-hunters, who are suddenly forced to step up, when they come across a real haunting for the first time. Cheeky, silly and full of energy. It takes a big, deserved shit on the face of "real" ghost-hunter shows, while refusing to let its obvious low budget hinder it in any way. Irresistible!

19) The Witch: Part 1 – The Subversion

It's hard to put The Witch higher on the list, because even though I enjoyed it, it's clearly the first part of a larger story, and it feels a bit unfinished. Having said that this Korean film sets up an interesting scenario: A teenage girl's dormant abilities awakes after she goes on a singing competition TV-show. The title calls her a witch, but what she does would not be out of place in a straight up superhero movie. These abilities turn the film into a full-on, kick-ass action extravaganza, full of brutal fights and all-out epic coolness.

18) A Perfect Plan

This low-budget heist movie charmed the hell out of me. I'm not sure if everybody will feel the same way, but I really enjoyed it! I liked the clever twist on a familiar genre, I found the actors immensely likeable, and the central story works surprisingly well. You're going to have to forgive this film that it's not a $100 million Hollywood production, but once you get past that, this slick-fingered devil has a few tricks up its sleeve.

17) James vs. His Future Self

The premise is as simple as it is intriguing: James is a brilliant scientist, trying to invent time travel. One day his future self arrives to a) inform him that he will succeed and b) urge him to stop his research immediately! What follows is a surprisingly heartfelt story, nowhere near as silly as the title perhaps suggests, and Daniel Stern knocks it out of the park in the role of "older" James.

16) The Plagues of Breslau

This Polish ripoff of Se7en delighted me to no end. It's never anything short of absolutely preposterous, but I found myself drawn to the lead detective and her quest to solve a mysteries series of murders: And I loved that the mood and style was distinctly NOT American.

15) Banana Split

A girl becomes best friends with her ex's new girlfriend. A simple pitch. A simple movie, but I fell instantly in love with the couple in the center of the story. Hannah Marks, who both wrote and plays the lead as the scorned lover, steals the show. We're gonna have to keep an eye on her in the future.

14) Spontaneous

What if teenagers in a small town just started to explode? No, not metaphorically, like for real! Giant explosions in a cloud of blood! The implications for a young couple in love make this an intriguing teen film. Katherine Langford leaves quite an impression in the lead role, as does Charlie Plummer as her charming, unusual love interest. Their banter is irresistible and you'll never look at a dick pick in the same way, I promise. A touching, funny and quite cheeky little flick.

13) Rabbit

Fascinating, but demanding mystery thriller that feels like a combination of episodes from Twilight Zone, The X-files and True Detective! It's a bit hard to follow at times, but in a good way, and with the always watchable Adelaide Clemens in the lead, the film never loses its emotional feet on the ground, even when the story takes off towards the sky.

12) Project Power

This Netflix film seemed to rub a lot of people the wrong way. Pitched as an "alternative superhero movie" Project Power caught flack for not being on par with the stuff Marvel delivers. You're damn right, this is WAY better than anything Marvel could hope to produce. What really makes this interesting, however, is not the flashy action stuff, but the real underlying theme that deals with drug addiction and all the collateral damages that comes with it. A gorgeous film, with something to say. You paying attention, Marvel?

11) Sea Fever

Alien meets The Thing on a fishing boat! I mean, is there anything else to say? There is, but I won't. Just watch this fine, little thriller!

10) Coma

A Russian take on Inception? Sign me up!

Admittedly, I was drawn to this because of the insane, mind-bending visuals, and honestly if that was all the film had, it would have been enough. Surprisingly, Coma has a bit more going for it than that. A likeable hero, an intersting mystery, and a suitable, not too forced love story. I know some people have a hard time with Inception, finding the plot too impenetrable and the characters too cold. I don't agree, but I do understand the sentiment. Coma is the kind of film I would recommend to those who feel that way. Assuming the language isn't a barrier, this film delivers a more down to earth, relatable version of Nolans masterpiece, along with some truly memorable visuals.

9) Sputnik

I find the set-up for this film utterly intriguing. A psychiatrist with a questionable reputation is called in to interview an astronaut who's returned to Earth with.... something! This delightfully moody Russian science fiction film doesn't disappoint. Even when the big reveal comes the film stays the course and takes the story to a fascinating conclusion.

8) Queen & Slim

In the year of #BlackLivesMatter this movie is especially relevant. Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith are riveting to watch as the star-crossed, 1st date, Tinder couple who is forced to go on the run after a fatal run-in with a cop. It's a simple story, and it's familiar at times. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful, poetic, devastating film that is very hard to shake. As well it should be.

7) Volition

Volition caught me off guard. I thought it was just going to be a cool film about a guy who can see his future, and then suddenly sees his own death, but it turned out to be something even more clever. Better still, the film also turned out to be much more heartfelt than I expected. Don't read anything about it ahead of time, just trust me and watch it. This is a real treat!

6) "1917"

1917 crawls quite a bit higher up on this list than I expected. I think I was a little harsh when I originally reviewed it after having seen it only once. At that time I felt it was style over substance and that perhaps the film didn't have all that much to say. I think I expected a more cerebral film from Sam Mendes. Having rewatching the film a few times, I've come to the conclusion that the style and the emotional content is enough. I don't need a history lecture. Good thing, because the film has no interest in providing one. The technical merits alone are worth noting, but it's the "hopeless mission with an impossible deadline" pitch that makes me go back to the film again and again. That part works flawlessly.

5) 21 Bridges

I guess you could argue that 21 Bridges is merely a traditional Hollywood thriller, but then you'd be missing the point. It's an EXCEPTIONALLY solid Hollywood thriller. It plays in a genre, where Tinseltown often disappoints. Everything in this film has the volume turned up. The story is just a bit tighter than similar films. The violence more shocking. The dialogue more slick. The characters have just a little more depth. It all adds up to a gorgeous, engaging film that stands up to repeated viewings, made even more powerful by the tragic fate of Chadwick Boseman. He burns so very, very brightly in this film.

4) The Trial of the Chicago 7

Aaron Sorkin directs this movie about the famous trial against protesters during the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Any person with a decent bone in their body will get SO mad watching this story unfold. Even if you know where this is going you WILL get pissed.

Aaron Sorkin is famous for his words, but here he manages to conjure up some memorable visuals and a few very cinematic sequences. I gotta say, I'm impressed. This is a solid piece of work, dealing with a very important historic event.

3) The Vast of Night

Unbelievable. This is made by a first-time filmmaker, Andrew Patterson. It's so stylish, so confident. It looks so cool, and it's so moody. Plus, the story itself is right up my alley. A kind of The X-files meets American Graffiti, a UFO story set in the 50's.

Now, I'll admit, the opening half hour is a bit challenging, because the film doesn't provide a primer to guide the viewer. It requires a bit of patience, which will pay off in the end. The finale is also a bit underwhelming, until you realize it's perfect.

Amazon bought this, and that's unfortunate. This is not a film for a streaming service. It needs to be seen on a large, good screen (it's quite a dark film), in a good video quality, in a dark room, with no interruptions.

2) Tenet

I just can't in good conscience put this any lower on the list. Despite its many faults - and it has MANY - Tenet just too damn brilliant.

I never liked  the hero. I never bought the love story. The bad guy is almost embarrassingly weak. And the less we say about the idea of making a film that simply DOES NOT work on the first viewing, the better. Despite all this, Chris Nolan has managed to construct an amazing, unique film. Tenet is a deeply flawed, confusing, often unlikable, sometimes downright cocky masterpiece, but it IS a masterpiece. The more I watch it, the more I'm convince this will be the final verdict.

1) Misbehaviour

Imagine my surprise, when I went through my list of 2020 favourites and discovered that I had given this film the highest marks. I'm not sure why I was surprised, after all I enjoy the hell out of this deceptively unassuming little gem. It pretends to be a bit silly, but don't be fooled, this is a solid piece of focused filmmaking, full of great performances. Best of all, though, it's got something on its mind, and despite the 70's setting, its themes are still relevant in the world today. I've already rewatched it once, and dare say I enjoyed it even more the second time. I can't wait to watch it again.

WRAP-UP

And so we bid 2020 farewell. A year that changed a lot for the world and for cinema. The effects of The Rona will ripple through 2021 and beyond. It's be interesting to see where we are 1 year from now.