Top Movies Watched in 2020
in no particular order…
Chlöe Swarbrick Short-Doc
This short documentary from The New Yorker on Chlöe Swarbrick is a revelation in its portrayal of a young politican bringing a fresh perspective to her country’s political make-up. Her comment about not wanting to be in politics for the long run especially resounded with me - she doesn’t see herself as a career politician, but felt the call to action to shift things in her local area in a way she didn’t perceive powerful people were doing. Bravo.
Multi-dimensional, multiple genres, and surprising in all the best ways, any film that can weave social commentary into such an enjoyable experience is worthy of the accolades lauded on Parasite.
I’m a fan of all things Greta Gerwig, however was unfamiliar with the source material of her latest film. She quickly won me over with the films tender and loving approach to each of its characters. I particularly fell for both Jo and Amy, played by Saorsie Ronan and Florence Pugh respectively. Their handling of the complexities of the trials and tribulations of young women of their day were completely engrossing.
Jo Jo Rabbit
I watched all of the movies so far mentioned during that heady period early in a (normal) year when great movies nominated for prestigious statues are released in cinemas, and you’ve got nowhere else to be but in a warm cinema on a cold night.
Jo Jo was the movie that brought me the most joy of these films, so much so that I watched it again later in the year as well. Taika Waititi, a favourite anyway, injected his brand of childlike glee into material that could so easily have been deeply dour and dark. It sums up Joseph Campbell’s definition of comedy: “ the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.” I’ll be watching this for years to come, always building anticipation for that dance scene.
I’ve been a World War One buff for as long as I can remember, and always harboured an idea I would one day make a movie depicting my own family’s story from the period. It was with anticipation and anxiety then that I awaited Sam Mendes’ 1917. Fortunately it was completely glorious. There have been a few great pieces on WW1 (Journey’s End, Paths of Glory, Blackadder Goes Forth), and 1917 resoundingly steadicam’s itself into the mix with a breathtaking cinematic event. I was hooked and completely emotionally invested in every moment. Heartbreaking and astounding in equal measure.
Few documentaries have been made like this. I hope few people will have to go through an experience like the one experienced by those depicted within For Sama. Only possible with the advent of light-weight digital cameras and microphones, the documentary is worthy of every superlative thrown at it. I left it feeling changed, and has been a conversation totem pole for every person I have met who has seen it. Waad Al-Kateab is a complete inspiration.
The Two Popes
I completely adored this intimate, humorous, and surprisingly down-to-earth film from Fernando Meirelles. It allowed me to enter the headspace of a man who holds still one of the most powerful positions on the planet, and the performances of Hopkins and Pryce ground the Popes themselves in all their human idiosyncrasies and charm.
A documentary that will be referred back to in years to come.
Depicting not only the realities of living in rust-belt USA, but also the culture-clash of China’s modern Communism and American Capitalism smashed together in a car-window factory. Scenes both hilarious and darkly-absurd, it sets the tone for what will be a century of struggling ideologies between these two superpowers.
It’s a testament to the beauty in every scene of The Farewell that I can’t for the life of me remember how it ends. Guess that means I’ll have to watch it again.
It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It?
One of the movies that had the biggest impact on my thinking in 2020. By having the subjects of the documentary, prisoners at a High Security Prison no less, tell their own story, you are changing the dynamics of storytelling, and changing the dynamics of how you can involve people in their own narratives.
The Silence of Others
I had a vague understanding of Franco’s Spain, but nothing like the insight this documentary gave me as to the extent of his cleansing of his enemies, and the extent to which the Spanish government, nor The Crown, still will not acknowledge the crimes committed. Powerful and core-shaking.
One of the most vividly human and touching fiction movies I saw in 2020. Set in a small town in Paraguay, it follows an ageing woman who gradually reignites her passion for life when her partner goes to jail, and she begins a pulsating crush with a younger woman. The cinematography is simply breathtaking. Tweeted some stills here.
“I ask no favour of my sex, all I ask of our brethren, is that they take their feet off our necks.” One of the most inspiring women in American politics for much of her life, this documentary opens up just how impressive she was in other aspects of her life. Her relationship with her husband I found particularly touching.
One of the most original thriller-horrors I’ve seen, and an interesting exercise in memory and murder. A nice surprise.
So filled with joy and gratitude, this film is a perfect example of how activism and wider social change can be born out of a group of people encouraging children that they are enough. Beautiful.
Three Colours Blue
It’s taken me a long time to see this Krzysztof Kieślowski masterpiece, and it was worth the wait. A million lessons in how to make a moment feel like an eternity, and how details are everything.
Such a wonderful idea: Taking a 1940s-set diary of escapees from Nazi Germany, and placing it, with no explanation, in the modern day. Definitely thought about it a lot when escaping Brexit for Germany.
Pain and Glory
Inspired by Almodóvar’s own life, and driven by Antonio Banderas’s quiet performance, Dolor y Gloria is a deep and heartfelt exercise in memory and reconciliation.
Thanks to my Mubi subscription (#humblebrag), I’ve been catching up on a lot of old classics. The Producers really knocked my socks off with its absurd, idiotic, and hilarious audacity. I couldn’t get enough.
Sound of Metal
Riz Ahmed’s performance in Sound of Metal is so intense I was shaking through half of the film. The story of a heavy metal drummer that begins going deaf started out as a docu-drama and became a fiction, yet the realness of the story shines through.
Red Light - Short Film
I discovered this short early on in the year and prompty showed it to 3 separate groups of friends. It is a perfect example of what can be done with one actor in one location, in this case a car waiting at a red light. A lifetime in a road-stop. So good.
For They Know Not What They Do
Dan Karslake’s pulsating and illuminating documentary on how religion and homosexuality converge in modern United States is inspiring and infuriating in equal measure. A powerful watch.