List compiled by Eddie on 23/12/2020
2020, the year the world and in turn cinema/movies changed forever.
As with most aspects of our daily lives, the way in which we all watch and enjoy movies changed more than anyone could’ve ever predicted as the global Covid-19 pandemic swept across the globe and many films we all thought we would get to enjoy throughout the year have been placed on long term holds or even in some instances been delivered in ways we didn’t expect through streaming services.
It’s great that in light of a bad situation we were still able to watch countless films across the abundant platforms that have become more and more prevalent over the last few years, as I would’ve hated to think about how we as movie fans would’ve been able to enjoy content without them.
This list below certainly reflects a landscape that didn’t have as much content as we’ve come to expect but despite all the issues that prevailed in the calendar year a number of great films still managed to entertain, enlighten and enliven our lives, even if this is possibly the lightest year on record when it comes to blockbuster films being released (no Marvel films at the cinema!).
I truly hope that cinema we all know and love can continue on in some form in the future, streaming is great and convenient but there really is nothing like the movies and a world in which cinema is no longer active seems like a lesser one to me.
As per usual the films below are based off Australian release dates so many of you may have seen these products many moons ago while we simple Aussie’s wait patiently to join up with the rest of the world!
Happy reading and happy watching!
10 Best Films of 2020
10. The Peanut Butter Falcon
In a year where we needed cheering up more than ever, along comes The Peanut Butter Falcon to come in and save the day. A gloriously fun road trip buddy comedy that teamed up the never better Shia LaBeouf with budding star Zack Gottsagen, Falcon is a wonderfully uplifting film that will cause everyone who watches it to walk away with a big smile on their face.
It’s far from director Christopher Nolan’s best film but there’s no doubt in a year almost free of blockbuster event pictures that his latest time manipulating adventure is one of if not the years premier big screen spectacles. Like James Bond done by the way of Inception, Tenet is pure cinematic fun and one that will be debated for the years to come.
8. The Way Back
Described by its director as a drama with basketball in it rather than a basketball film with drama in it, The Way Back is not your typical sporting themed movie and its one that allows Ben Affleck the chance to deliver one of the performances of his career. A moving and realistic tale, The Way Back is filled with emotion and care and is one of the years most underrated efforts.
For many the dream of seeing hit musical Hamilton on Broadway was but that, a dream but thanks to Disney+ viewers from across the globe were able to enjoy this smash hit production from the comfort of their own homes. A genre mashing affair with a number of star making turns to boot, Hamilton is an experience worth the hype and this carefully staged filming of it acted as one of the years most memorable outings.
6. Sound of Metal
With an awards worthy central performance from lead Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal marked an incredible debut effort from first time feature director Darius Marder who follows the journey of heavy metal drummer Ruben Stone on a journey dealing with his sudden hearing loss. Easily one of the most touching human portrait tales of 2020, Sound of Metal is the little film that could.
5. Les Miserables
So very far from the film you may expect when you see the title, the Oscar nominated Les Miserables is not only one of the years best films but one of the best police thrillers to be released in years as this French production barely lets up for a single second as we are thrust into one of Paris’s premier neighbourhoods for criminal activity.
4. Light of My Life
Criminally forgotten about by many with a low key release that was not befitting of its quality, Casey Affleck’s haunting dystopian drama that focuses on the relationship between a dedicated father and his savvy daughter in a harsh and unforgiving space is grand stuff that should be sought out at the nearest opportunity.
3. A Hidden Life
Terrence Malick’s greatest achievement since the triumphant Tree of Life, A Hidden Life sees the director return to his mesmerising best as he explores the life of Austrian conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter who refused to bow to the Nazi’s regime during World War 2. A hugely emotionally epic that will sweep you off your feet should you allow it to, anyone who thought the best of Malick was long gone should witness this as proof that was never the case.
2. Uncut Gems
The film that once more proved Adam Sandler was more than Netflix comedies and excuses for a paid holiday, the Safdie Brothers New York set thriller set a new modern benchmark for sweat inducing rides as we follow Sandler’s Jewish jeweller and chronic gambler Howard Ratner across an eventful couple of days centred around a once in a lifetime collection of gems.
One of the finest feats of film-making ever produced on a technical level, 1917 is also a powerful examination of war during the World War 1 conflict and acted as a triumphant return to form for its director Sam Mendes and another career defining piece of work from cinematographer Roger Deakins. A gripping one-take thriller that will have you glued to the screen from start to finish, 1917 provided cinema-goers one of the most memorable big screen experiences of the decade.
10 Worst Films of 2020
10. Lucy in the Sky
Earning renown for his work on TV series Fargo, many anticipated director/writer Noah Hawley’s feature debut but his Natalie Portman starring space drama was one of the years biggest flops. Emotionally void and oddly bizarre in parts, Lucy in the Sky could’ve been something special but as a final product, its nothing but a complete misfire.
9. The Rhythm Section
A wannabe attempt to craft a new female-orientated Jason Bourne like franchise, this Blake Lively starring film came and went without so much as a whimper earlier in the year and its not hard to see why. Failing to create any action moments worth a note and featuring a collection of bland characters in an even blander narrative, The Rhythm Section lacks any significant moments of redemption.
8. The Beach Bum
You know when Harmony Korine makes a film its going to get weird and when a Harmony Korine film stars a stoned Matthew McConaughey and supports from the likes of Snoop Dogg and Martin Lawrence it can only get weirder. A shame then that this bizarre Miami set affair is a pointless exercise in nothingness as McConaughey’s poet Moondog roams around the sun-soaked surrounds.
Attempting to be this years Us/Get Out, Antebellum wanted desperately to be a word of mouth hit but it ends up being nothing more than a very dire version of The Village as it remains scare free and lacking throughout.
While Becky may show off a different side to the much-maligned Kevin James who finally gets to do something other than a family oriented so-called comedy, Becky is a horror film that fizzles rather than dazzles as its bizarre plot and awkward tone clash in terrible ways.
5. The New Mutants
It took years for The New Mutants to finally see the light of day and its not hard to see why as this X-Men spin-off struggles to do anything well. Possibly designed to be a more teen-orientated horror offering, the final version of The New Mutants is a cold and dreary affair that even the most hardcore of Marvel fans would struggle to find any joy in.
4. Project Power
One of those Netflix films that appears to be something worth getting excited about on paper, Project Power squanders a great cast, setting and plot on a generic affair that fails to bring anything new to the table while only offering up bad CGI, weak scripting and wasted potential in return. There’s a great film somewhere hidden away in Project Power, but this version fails to realise it.
3. The Old Guard
I can’t understand why critics and audience members were so kind to this hit Netflix tentpole that is so boring and bland I was hoping desperately it would end very early into its runtime. An action thriller with a sci-fi twist should not be this hard to enjoy but despite the best attempts of its leading lady Charlize Theron, The Old Guard is another example of Netflix’s odd habit of turning potential into failure.
2. The Fanatic
Directed by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst and starring a mulleted John Travolta, its hard to even understand how The Fanatic saw the light of day and while its likely to get to a The Room like level of cult fandom, this is about as irredeemably bad as your likely ever going to get from a feature offering even if its slightly fun watching such a train wreck in motion.
A big budget, an all-star cast and world renowned source material, Dolittle should’ve been a family film winner but this box-office flop is one of the worst examples of blockbuster movie-making in recent memory. Victim to many behind the scenes issues and a clearly not in love leading man, Dolittle is an all-time epic failure that needs to be seen to be believed, just ready yourself for one insanely bad ride.
Sam Mendes (1917)
A daring technically achievement that also provided emotional connection to boot, Sam Mende’s World War 1 Oscar winner saw a return to form for the esteemed director. It’s hard to even begin to fathom how Mendes and his team executed 1917’s operations but we can all be thankful that they did as the film becomes one of the most thrilling and enthralling of recent memory.
Ben Affleck (The Way Back)
In some ways Affleck’s turn as high school basketball star turned single alcoholic Jack Cunningham might not seem like that big of a deal but when you consider Affleck’s own personal battles with alcoholism and his past experiences you begin to understand that the actors turn here is both full of emotion and lived in experiences. The best work Affleck has done in front of camera in well over a decade (if not ever), it was great to see the talented star once more find some work that suits his talents.
Anna Pniowsky (Light of My Life)
One of the most impressive young performances in years, Pniowsky’s turn as young girl Rag in the world of Light of My Life where females have become and endangered species is mindbogglingly good. You know when watching the film that you are witnessing the birth of a future star, here’s hoping Pniowsky continues to find products worthy of her talents.
Stephen Gaghan (Dolittle)
How could the director of Syriana and the man responsible for writing Oscar winner Traffic manage to commit the movie crime that is Dolittle? No one may ever know how Dolittle ended up being the utter mess it was upon release and not all the blame can fall to to Gaghan who was victim to studio requested re-shoots and edits but at the end of the day Gaghan was the captain of a sinking ship that appeared to be doomed from the start.
Robert Downey Jr. (Dolittle)
Everyone’s favourite wise-cracking superhero, Robert Downey Jr. is a hard man to hate on screen but he certainly tries his best as this who knows what accented version of Dr. Dolittle. You get a sense that Downey Jr. is hating almost every minute of his screen time here and perhaps he knew he’d signed on for a dud but that doesn’t excuse his lifeless performance in an all-time dud of a film.
Janelle Monáe (Antebellum)
A supposed “next big thing”, Janelle Monáe will need to be a lot more picky moving forward after her duel-performance in horror dud Antebellum feel flat on the ground. The type of role that could’ve launched Monáe to the next level, Antebellum instead leaves her with work to do to once more convince us she is deserving of the hype that has followed her early career work.
3 Underrated Films
3. Light of My Life
It’s a shame Casey Affleck’s narrative feature debut was so under-seen and undervalued by both the public and critics as his impressively realised post-apocalyptic drama is one of the years most emotionally engaging and memorable efforts. With a fantastic performance from young actress Anna Pniowsky and some great work by Affleck in front of and behind the camera, Light of My Life is a film that deserves to be tracked down.
2. The Way Back
On surface level The Way Back may appear to be just another sporting drama but Gavin O’Connor’s addiction themed drama is much more. Lead by a great performance from its star Ben Affleck (a performance that should honestly be in awards contention), The Way Back is one of the better sport themed dramas of the last five years.
1. A Hidden Life
After years of experimenting to various levels of success, A Hidden Life saw Terrence Malick return to a more narrative focused affair and what a joy it was to behold. A beautifully shot, performed and executed World War 2 drama, the film’s slow pace may not be for all but for those that let the tale wash over them, A Hidden Life will provide one of the cinematic experiences of the year. A true shame that this film was overlooked at all major awards ceremonies this year.
3 Overrated Films
At the end of the day Extraction is an action/thriller nothing more and nothing less but the overrated tag comes from far too many acting as though Extraction was some type of never before seen genre beast. Featuring a great much-talked about one take scene, there are awesome moments in this Chris Hemsworth affair that has now been pegged to be a new action series but overall this is a generic offering that is far from memorable.
We hold Pixar to high standards and for good reason. Onward is one of the companies rare missteps that fails to capitalise on its amazing set-up and while many would blame the global pandemic of 2020 for Onward’s poor public performance, you can’t help but feel even if things were normal during its release, not many would’ve been shouting its joys from the rooftops.
1. Da 5 Bloods
One of those rare cases where it feels as though I had watched a completely different film to many critics that hailed this Spike Lee epic as one of the years best, Da 5 Bloods is a messily edited and bizarrely plotted Vietnam tinged affair that at times feels as though its the work of a college student. Squandering a great cast and victim to an increasingly unbelievable plot, Da 5 Bloods is no where near the masterpiece some would have you believe it is.
Australian Film of the Year
The Invisible Man
An Australian/American co-production, The Invisible Man might not feel like an Australian film as such but its a fine achievement from local talent Leigh Whannell who proved that his debut Upgrade was no fluke with this surprisingly well-done redo of the classic tale. It’s exiting to think of where Whannell will move to next with work currently underway on big projects Wolfman and an Escape From New York update that could see his stocks rise even further.
Birds of Prey & Mank
Birds – After the sour taste that Suicide Squad left in viewers mouths many hoped this female orientated spinoff of Harley Quinn and her girl power using friends would be a winner. Sadly this was not to be. A film that tries so very hard to take the Deadpool approach to comic book cinematic adaptations, all Birds of Prey does is reek of desperation as its lame plot and so-so comedy gets lost in an instantly forgettable outing.
Mank – Now don’t get me wrong, Mank isn’t a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination but considering its the newest film from David Fincher and that it had the potential to be an unforgettable examination of old school Hollywood and the creation of Citizen Kane, one can’t help but leave this affair feeling cold from the emotionless nature of this beautifully filmed affair.
A huge hit at this years Sundance Film Festival where it set a record purchasing price from distributor Amazon, Palm Springs seemingly came out of nowhere to become a critical and audience favourite. The film 2020 needed, the Andy Samberg starring time loop comedy may not have broke any new ground but its a highly enjoyable comedy that is destined for cult icon status in the years to come.
Colourful and attention grabbing, in many ways this Wonder Woman 1984 poster is super simplistic but is also deceptively smart. Not trying to cram too much into one poster, you get a feeling this poster will be living a long life on the walls of DC fans for a long time to come.
For a film about a super power giving wonder drug and a world full of opportunities, this dark and dreary attempt by Netflix to market one of their years biggest missed opportunities is just sad. ‘What would you risk for 5 minutes of pure power?” isn’t exactly the greatest of taglines and surely someone at the billion dollar company could’ve conjured up a more entertaining promo!
Does the world need another Batman movie? You know, probably not but I am not going to say no to what looks like a really promising new addition to the capped crusader’s latest cinematic ride. Not out until 2022 (thanks Covid), The Batman is still some way off but this trailer to Matt Reeve’s dark and brooding film accompanied by a perfectly Nirvana track points to a great offering coming our way. And what a cast!
The Hillbilly Elegy
An awards baiting affair if there ever was one, The Hillbilly Elegy was supposed to be a key player at this years awards season but after witnessing the trailer for the Ron Howard directed feature most people agreed that things were not looking good for the real life tale. The final product only confirmed these fears were deserved.
Top 3 Scenes of 2020 (Spoilers)
3. Tenet: Oslo Airport Heist x 2
Rogue Boeing planes, insane fisticuffs and breath holding tension, Tenet’s two key segments at Oslo International Airport are some of the most gloriously executed segments of any blockbuster in recent memory. Holding key information about the films central plot and use of inverted timelines, these two combined scenes prove that Nolan is still king of gloriously OTT filmmaking.
2. 1917: Schofield’s Final Sprint
After near two hours of build up, George MacKay’s final sprint to get to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Colonel Mackenzie is the very definition of edge of your seat stuff. To be honest so many scenes from 1917 could be included here such as crossing of no man’s land, the farm segment or Schofield’s hellish experience in a war torn cityscape but this scene (that includes some gloriously unedited extra knock-downs) is unforgettable.
1. Uncut Gems: The Finale
One of the most tension riddled films you’re ever likely to watch, Uncut Gems finale will likely go down as one of the most talked about endings of the modern era. As Adam Sandler’s hapless jeweller/gambler Howard Ratner holds Russian mobsters hostage in his store as he watches a key basketball game play out before his very eyes, you can’t help but work up a significant sweat as the films brilliant editing and performances culminate in a moment of pure shock that will leave you speechless and breathless.
What were your favourite films of the strange year that was 2020? Let me know in the comments below!
P.S – This will be the last post on the blog for a few weeks while I head off and enjoy the Australian summer. Look forward to seeing you all again soon!