Realing Point Best movies of 2020
2020 was, in many respects, a year to forget—but not so when it came to film. Although most were viewed on inadequately small screens, the legion of fiction and non-fiction releases that helped us cope with our pandemic-wracked reality delivered welcome doses of excitement, drama, terror, and humor. There were lots of movies worth noting in 2020.
Whether tapping into universal hopes and fears, or incisively reflecting our current insane circumstances, they offered insight and escape, as well as thrills of a breathtakingly varied sort. As evidenced by the numerous gems that arrived over the course of the past twelve months, cinema remains as vital as ever. While we can’t celebrate all the great movies, this year rundown has certainly tried to do justice to the finest that filmmakers had to offer. Dynamic, unique and altogether triumphant, these are our selections for the best movies of 2020.
Da 5 Bloods
Netflix threw a bunch of money at Spike Lee, and he turned a Treasure of the Sierra Madre-like adventure story. Its one about a group of Vietnam vets returning to Southeast Asia in search of buried treasure into a densely allusive, explosive journey through America’s latticework history of imperialism, patriotism, bigotry, and betrayal. The film gained extra urgency when it hit right as the country was seized by a new wave of outrage and protest over systemic racism. But the scary truth is that it’s timeless
Da 5 Bloods
Soul is a thought-provoking animated movie from Pixar about a middle-aged band teacher named Joe (voiced by Jamie Foxx.) He nearly dies and gets stuck in the “Great Before” section of the afterlife. The message of the latest Pixar feature — a lyrical, metaphysical tale of a jazz pianist’s adventures in the afterlife — is that it’s good to be alive. The movie was originally slated for release in the spring, so the filmmakers could not have imagined just how timely, and how welcome, that message would feel.
Cecilia’s abusive ex-boyfriend fakes his death and becomes invisible to stalk and torment her. She begins experiencing strange events and decides to hunt down the truth on her own. “The Invisible Man,” is Leigh Whannell’s sophisticated sci-fi-horror. One, that dares to turn a woman’s often silenced trauma from a toxic relationship into something unbearably tangible.
Mickey Pearson is an American expatriate who became rich by building a highly profitable marijuana empire in London. When word gets out that he’s looking to cash out of the business, it soon triggers an array of plots and schemes. Including bribery and blackmail — from shady characters who want to steal his domain.
Guy Ritchie’s “The Gentlemen” plays like a tall tale. A yarn heard at the corner pub, filled with exaggerations and embellishments. Where the storyteller expects you to pay his bar tab at the end. And maybe you won’t mind doing so.
Christopher Nolan’s labyrinthine blockbuster was overshadowed by debates over its theatrical release and its financial aftermath, which is perhaps understandable. And while the movie does deserve a big screen and demands your total attention (how novel!), I’m also hoping that a home video release will allow people to look past the industry blather and finally see Tenet for what it is. A crazy, exciting, even moving spy thriller that actually dares to trust its audience.
A black-market mercenary who has nothing to lose is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. But in the murky underworld of weapons dealers and drug traffickers, an already deadly mission approaches the impossible
The Midnight Sky
A scientist is working alone at a remote Arctic research station when he learns of a mysterious global disaster. At the same time, he meets a strange girl in the Arctic. With whom, he must stop the return to Earth of the crew of the spaceship “Ether”.
Most of the time, “The Midnight Sky” drifts like space debris between its three settings. Shuttle, Arctic, flashbacks—instead of feeling like it’s building momentum. It’s like Clooney the director was so concerned about adequately conveying the details of each part of his story. That he never broke down the meaning of them or the characters involved.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
The surest indication of Aaron Sorkin’s auteurism is that sometimes he finds a context in which his most reliable. Often most annoying, tics suddenly just work. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is one of those occasions, a courtroom drama about the 1969 trial of prominent protesters at the Democratic National Convention held the year before. It’s full of grandstanding, speechifying, and self-righteousness, all of which absolutely rules. The ensemble cast includes Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, and Jeremy Strong. Though it’s Sacha Baron Cohen who emerges as the MVP, playing Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman. He is as an angry stoner clown who understands the strategic power of refusing to behave respectably. And you know what? He’s right
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Acting doesn’t come much bolder and more blistering than in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, George C. Wolfe’s adaptation of August Wilson’s 1982 play about a 1927 Chicago recording session by real-life blues legend Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and her backing band, comprised of trombonist Cutler (Colman Domingo), bassist Slow Drag (Michael Potts), pianist Toledo (Glynn Turner) and trumpeter Levee (Chadwick Boseman). Courtesy of Ma’s demanding diva imperiousness and Levee’s cock-of-the-walk arrogance, the session becomes a powder keg whose fuses are related to African-American oppression, ambition and music-industry exploitation.
Wolfe keeps the material spry and sensual (as well as explosive) by keeping his roving camera trained on his stars, who swing for the fences with ferocious gusto. Davis has rarely been better as the take-no-shit Ma, staring down anyone who might question her authority – including her manager (Jeremy Shamos) and the studio’s owner (Jonny Coyne) – with a glare that would fell an angel. In his final screen performance, Boseman matches his co-headliner’s intensity, his Levee so full of vibrant, self-destructive fury, desire and life that it’s a tragedy the performance stands as the late actor’s swan song.
Notable Movies of 2020
Hugh Jackman is as good as he’s ever been in the second film from Thoroughbreds director Cory Finley, a based-on-a-true-story drama about an early aughts embezzlement scandal in an upscale Long Island public-school district. As Frank Tassone, Jackman plays a liar, a showman, a consummate politician,. He also appears as an actually, pretty good superintendent, if you don’t mind the crimes. It’s a role that makes enjoyable use of the innate theatrical flare. One that can sometimes make the actor read as phony in more scaled-down roles.
Bad Education is slyly grounded in regional details. The most delightful of them having to do with Allison Janney as fellow administrator, co-conspirator, and reluctant fall gal Pam Gluckin. But it’s ultimately as tragic as it is funny, a story about the fundamental contradictions of public schools that generate and benefit vastly from local dollars. All the while paying lip service to education as a higher calling.
Steve McQueen’s first “Small Axe” release is a historical drama set in the late nineteen-sixties. It is centered on a Black-owned restaurant that serves as a social hub for the West Indian community in London. The gathering place becomes a target of police harassment, resulting in a historic court battle; McQueen focusses on the intellectual background that comes to the fore under pressure and develops into a mass movement.
Sorry we missed you.
We wish we could have been a fly on the wall when Ken Loach — Britain’s foremost cinematic chronicler of working-class angst and quotidian humanism — first learned about the gig economy. The concept fits right in with the veteran director’s moral vision. One of a world in which ordinary humans regularly think they can outsmart a system designed to destroy them. In this infuriating, heartbreaking drama, a middle-aged former builder starts driving a truck making e-commerce deliveries. He discovers that his dream of being his own boss is the cruelest of illusions.
Meanwhile, his wife, a home health-aide worker, struggles with her own corner of a so-called growth industry. What makes this one of Loach’s best isn’t just its rage (which is plentiful) but its compassion (which is overwhelming). It offers a touching cross section of humanity, in which everybody is caught inside a giant machine that discards the weak. Feeds on the strong, and perpetuates itself.
A small unit of U.S. soldiers, alone at the remote Combat Outpost Keating, located deep in the valley of three mountains in Afghanistan. Battles an overwhelming force of Taliban fighters in a coordinated attack. The Battle of Kamdesh became the bloodiest American engagement of the Afghanistan War in 2009. Bravo Troop 3-61 CAV became one of the most decorated units of the 19-year conflict.
“The Outpost” isn’t the first film to document how human errors led to the loss of life. The Battle of Kamdesh resulted in multiple disciplinary actions against people who failed to support the base in the first place. It certainly won’t be the last. Sadly, acts of heroism often emerge from acts of failure on a structural level. What elevates Lurie’s film is the balance. Never allowing his film to turn into blind jingoism, or a castigation of a broken system that sacrifices young men. He keeps his eye where it belongs, on the real people caught in the middle of it all. Stuck in the valley of war.
Never rarely sometimes always
Sidney Flanigan plays a seventeen-year-old high-school student in rural Pennsylvania. Who, unable to get an abortion in that state without parental consent, travels to New York for the procedure. The writer and director, Eliza Hittman, emphasizes the bureaucratic obstacles and administrative infrastructure abortion involves. Also, highlighting the inseparable connection of private life and public policy.
The Croods: A New Age
Searching for a safer habitat, the prehistoric Crood family discovers an idyllic, walled-in paradise that meets all of its needs. Unfortunately, they must also learn to live with the Bettermans. A family that’s a couple of steps above the Croods on the evolutionary ladder. As tensions between the new neighbors start to rise, a new threat soon propels both clans on an epic adventure that forces them to embrace their differences. Drawing strength from one another to survive together. Its a fun animation movie to watch!
Six months after their mother’s suicide, Aidan and Mia’s father takes them for a family vacation to his girlfriend’s lodge. However, things take a turn when they start experiencing strange events. “The Lodge” is more disturbing than scary, with its eerie ambiance and chilling plot handling most of the scares. The film’s terrors come not from an outside or supernatural force but the cruelty that even children can carry.
The Way back
Ben Affleck gets one of his greatest (and most personally resonant) roles as an alcoholic former high-school basketball star who gets a chance at redemption when he’s hired to coach his alma mater’s hopeless hoops team. This could easily become mired in clichés, but director Gavin O’Connor and writer Brad Ingelsby strike a fine balance between delivering the promised underdog sports drama and presenting a portrait of trauma and grief that resists easy solutions. At the center of it all is the star’s tense, restrained performance as an emotionally distant man whose considerable demons can’t really be vanquished with a few wins.