all the films i watched in 2020
Ah, 2020. What is there to say about it that has not already been expressed? Not much, I wager. A lot happened, shan’t rehash most of it except to say: I’m pretty fucking tired.
For all that blew about this year there were (perhaps frustratingly) some upshots too. Hate studying from home but my marks have never been better. I miss the cinema-going experience desperately, but in place of it I took more to sharing films with my friends, and that has been special in it’s own way.
In terms of films released, 2020 pales compared to 2019. Many of the films I anticipated most — No Time To Die, The French Dispatch, Dune, The Green Knight — did not get released. Whether or not a full-bodied 2020 release slate could have competed with the royal flush that was A Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Parasite, The Farewell, Ad Astra, and Little Women we’ll never know. (I suspect it probably couldn’t have.) This is not to say no good films came out, many did! In lieu of seeing major blockbuster fair, I focused more on small budget, esoteric projects. I’m actually quite grateful for this in some regards, as it shook up my viewing habits. I also watched many more non-2020 releases than usual (some of which are mentioned below) and feel better for it.
1917 (someone finally dared to ask: what if Dunkirk was boring?)
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (I had a really wholesome cry!)
John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch (great comfort food)
I Lost My Body (*John Travolta in Pulp Fiction looking around gif*)
Honey Boy (The Academy dropped the ball on this one)
Bombshell (the politics were so bad I got a headache)
Last Christmas (George Michael should go to jail for this)
Something Wild (Jeff Daniels!!!)
Swing Shift (Goldie Hawn!!!)
Stop Making Sense (David Byrne!!!)
Married to the Mob (Michelle Pfeiffer!!!)
The Silence of the Lambs (Jodie Foster!!!)
Mad Max (good but it unleashed Mel Gibson upon the world, so electric chair for this one, actually)
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (you can meet The Lord Humungus at any gay club)
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (the 2nd best Mad Max)
The Witches of Eastwick (cinema peaked with 80’s hair)
Lorenzo’s Oil (Nick Nolte does a Mario voice in this one)
Babe Pig in the City (I’M GAGA FOR THE PIG)
Happy Feet (the Penguin’s have a religion???)
Happy Feet 2 (unironically one of my favourite watches of this year)
Mad Max: Fury Road (I’m in my mums car, broom broom)
When Harry Met Sally… (Nora invented autumn)
This Is My Life (*chefs kiss*)
Sleepless in Seattle (*double chefs kiss*)
Julie & Julia (*literal chefs kiss*)
Back to the Future (a classic, obviously)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (peak awooga-core)
Back to the Future Pt. II (lmao sure)
Back to the Future Pt. III (Mary Steenburgen!!!)
Contact (the Katya of it all…)
Cast Away (I only cared about Helen Hunt tbh)
Polar Express (…I liked it)
Meet Me in St. Louis (lost my mind when ‘The Trolley Song’ hit)
Interview with a Vampire (Tom Cruise… hot…)
Saving Private Ryan (while technically perfect, I hated this)
Vanilla Sky (Tom Cruise ugly… but secretly hot…)
A Bug’s Life (…sure?)
Atlantis: The Lose Empire (bad, sorry)
Shirkers (essential viewing; it’s on Netflix)
Mulholland Drive (this David Lynch is, uh, a little weird!)
Mission Impossible III (Tom Cruise… hot…)
The Producers (good, obviously)
Some Like It Hot (“Some” being me, “It” being Tom Cruise)
Whisper of the Heart (just spectacular)
Barbie: Fairytopia (Bibble can choke)
The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (Kovu…)
Yi Yi (not to be a filmbro, but, uh, masterpiece)
Hairspray (cute, shit politics, however)
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (groovy baby!)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (BRIE LARSON ‘BLACK SHEEP’ HIVE)
The Geurnesy Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (Lily James delightful as always)
Clueless (perfect, obviously)
Black Swan (I can see why filmbros love it so)
Scream (hated it lol)
Bridget Jones’s Diary (I too, wish to be desired by Colin Firth and douchebag Hugh Grant)
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (I just like this trilogy)
Bridget Jones’s Baby (…McDreamy)
The Witches (ANGELICA HOUSTON!!!)
Dune (my favourite David Lynch so far, sorry!)
Elf (is. bad.)
The Swan Princess (bad… but good)
What to Expect When You’re Expecting (voluntarily having children, or as I call it, an unforced error)
The Virgin Suicides (a masterpiece of mood)
Rashomon (not for me)
Pete Davidson: Alive from New York
More a TED-Talk than stand-up comedy. Who “Pete Davidson: Celebrity Figure and/or Comedian” actually “is” remains a huge question mark for me. I really enjoyed the Ariana gossip, but the “jokes” fell flat.
Hannah Gadsby: Douglas
Epic Rap Battles of History, no? All seriousness, I have a lot of reservations about Hamilton. I loathe act one (struggled to follow the war plot), Lin Manuel Miranda is a great writer but should not have cast himself in the lead (very nasally vocals), and I don’t really jam with a lot of the songs (sorry!). The entire “is it un-woke to cast black people as slave owners?” discourse feels reductive, if you worry about this you’re missing the point. As far as self-insert fanfic’s go, there’s been much worse. On an ~objective level~ this is fantastic, it’s just not for me.
Taylor Swift — Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions
Love folklore enough to watch this once. Don’t love this enough to watch it again.
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical
Finding out Matthew Morrison channelled Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker for his portrayal of The Grinch really is just the icing on top of this particular hell-cake.
Birds of Prey and the Fabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
Dodges all the superhero stuff I hate. The jokes ruled — the egg and bacon sandwich bit, if you know, you know. Loved every performance, Ewan McGregor and Mary Elizabeth Winsted especially. Margot Robbie is also great, leagues above her Suicide Squad effort (what are we, some kind of birds of prey?).
The editing was so deranged it could probably pass as post-modern art.
The Old Guard
The kind of nonsense I gobble up! The premise is “what if The Age of Adeline but instead of Blake Lively its Charlize Theron in action-mode (and she has an axe)”. The meditations on immortality and its affect on one’s ability to empathise are genuinely stellar? The silliness and and seriousness don’t always sit well together, but world-weary Charlize sits surprisingly well with action-mode Charlize (and her axe). Kiki Layne is also a treat. I’m very keen to see what she does next. Could watch one of these every year. “Charlize Theron fights men” might be my favourite niche genre (she has an axe in this one). Cant wait for Atomic Blonde 2.
The New Mutants
Wonder Woman 1984
A nightmare. One would think my international relations degree would equip me to talk about the Middle-East, Cold War, and Reagan subplots and yet…? Pedro Pascal is the Eddie Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending of 2020. I had a blast, naturally.
Miss Fisher & The Crypt of Tears
Fully incomprehensible; I think it might be a masterpiece? All the flashbacks look like they were shot by a 15 year-old with their home camera. They found the titular crypt with trigonometry! Miss Fisher changes her outfit all the time (I too change my outfit all the time!). This was lowkey about Israel-Palestine and British colonialism; for $5 and a subway cookie I will explain politics to you (I have a degree in international relations). This also straightwashes Alexander the Great, the most famous twink in history? I think this is the best Australian film (Miss Fisher has so many outfits! And a rhinestone covered pistol — not a euphemism). I’ve never seen an episode of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
Trolls World Tour
Calamitous. What if Trolls was about international relations, but international relations was music (not in a fun Eurovision way either).
Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe
Easily the most fun — and funniest — film of the year (missed out on my top 10 by the slightest of margins):
Their hot new take was? What if Mulan? Had midichlorians?
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
A film in which a demon child and his imaginary polar bear best friend try to give Wallace Shaw a nervous breakdown. Thank you Tom McCarthy, director of Spotlight.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
Victorian-era Slumdog Millionaire complete with Dev Patel.
Fleabag for kids. Millie Bobby Brown is great when she’s allowed to speak (increasingly anti-Stranger Things). Love that Henry Cavill’s take on Sherlock Holmes is “what if Sherlock Holmes was played by Henry Cavill.”
To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You
Lara Jean should have picked John Ambrose.
Color Out of Space
The Kissing Booth 2
Really enjoyed the DDR Olympics subplot?
Never read the books but I’m told this is a Percy Jackson-level bad adaptation. Kenneth Branagh arguably committed a hate crime against Ireland by making this. Happy for Judi Dench, who has made a late-career pivot into playing insane characters exclusively (see also: Cats, Murder on the Orient Express, Tulip Fever, and Red Joan).
The Devil All The Time
At no point does Robert Pattinson, in his silly little accent, say “What the devil?”
Love Wedding Repeat
Love Olivia Munn Repeat.
About as good as an action film with a Bush-era mentality toward international relations can be. Starts with execution of an asian child and then get’s worse from there.
If you want to ruin any perfectly good film just put ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry on the soundtrack.
A Nice Girl Like You
I am not taking questions at this time.
Over the Moon
2003 Disney called???
All year my Twitter friend Angie had a running bit where she would say I look like Tom Holland Elf:
Selah and the Spades
Annoyingly plotless. If Riverdale committed to being a The Secret History rip-off, it would be kind of like this, but better I think. Again: plotless.
A Mermaid in Paris
Straight men be like: splash splash gonna objectify the lady fish.
Perfect runtime but perfect little else. I thought about Taylor Swift more in 2020 than I, or anyone I know, expected me to; wrote a piece about her for Kill Your Darlings (plug) and analysed folklore for class. And while this did turn me into an out-and-out Swiftie (sorry), I’m not so uncritical as to ignore the numerous issues here.
Da 5 Bloods
Don’t even know how to begin approaching this one. Hate the way it looks, the Netflix Original aesthetic can die, honestly. Love what this is about, but I don’t know if I love how Spike Lee went about talking about it — including on-the-ground footage of Vietnam War casualties really din’t sit well with me. Still grappling with the depiction of Vietnamese people (here’s a great Vulture piece about it). I’m the only person on planet Earth who didn’t like Delroy Lindo’s performance? That said, this still rules. Scrappy, insane premise, works well as an allegory. Da 4 stars out of 5.
The Vast of Night
For 90-minutes this is a transcendent experience. Then the last 30-seconds happen.
The Invisible Man
You would think in a film about believing women who have been through abuse you might want to develop your female characters, and yet…
Black is King
Love Beyoncé, love Beyoncé’s Homecoming, love Lemonade, truly believe she should have been artist of the decade for the 2010s, but this 2019 Lion King tie-in capitalist nightmare masquerading as a social issues art film was real yikes moment for her.
Bargain bin Hereditary.
All my favourite Pixar films are the one’s that feel least like Pixar films (Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Wall-E). Love when they want to tell a good story rather then getting too caught up in Being About Life’s Big Questions. All this is to say while I understand why this film — which is essentially Inside Out 2: Electric Boogaloo — works for most people, it really does not work for me.
Ride Your Wave
Bluewater High meets the final two episodes of Dance Academy season 2.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Weird of Hollywood to make a Sonic film that’s about current issues in modern international relations. Even weirder that it kind of works?
The Old Man: The Movie
This is to comedies about cows and tree fucking what Mother! was to environmentalism and The Bible.
Trial of the Chicago 7
A real “ok, boomer” moment for Aaron Sorkin. Love the man’s writing, but he is a reprehensibly bad director, everything that works about this works in spite of him and not because of him. Sasha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II are great, though.
Feels like Clea Duvall’s answer to every creative question was “sure, why not?” Kristen Stewert and Mackenzie Davis as girlfriends? Mary Steenburgen, Dan Levy, and Aubery Plaza all eyebrow reacting to girls fighting? A scene where Alison Brie loads up large ornamental plate with two (2) comically small pieces of Turkish Delight? Sure, why not!
Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen
Lilly Wachowski politely explaining how important bugs bunny is to her trans narrative is a cinematic highlight of 2020 for me.
Feel The Beat
Not especially good but all emotional bits absolutely walloped me, so who’s to say?
Fun. Great use of a Dua Lipa song. Someone give Jordan Fisher and Sabrina Carpenter a rom-com.
This is what I imagine my honours year will be like.
No Hard Feelings
Would love for a queer indie-film to try having a plot some day.
The Killing of Two Lovers
What Marriage Story but the Adam Driver character had a gun?
Kill It and Leave This Town
Deeply-upsetting, beautiful looking film that is (possibly) impossible to enjoy.
She Dies Tomorrow
Moody in a way I really liked. That said if I thought I was going to die tomorrow I wouldn’t waste time being “depressed”. Rather I would write a nice letter to each of my loved ones and then throw them a mad pizza party where we listen to Fleetwood Mac and otherwise be chill, ya’know?
Catholic guilt by way of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. Hoped the two main boys would kiss but no dice.
Hook but good. The cinematography is wonderful, all lacquered and honey-looking. Features the largest amount of non-irritating child performances since The Florida Project.
Four short films cobbled together and stretched out for 90-minutes.
A film about the dangers of letting performance students out into the wild. At one point they give the main character — who looks like a young Tilda Swinton cosplaying as Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie — a flame thrower? As I understand it this is meant to be a metaphor for performance but also a metaphor for motherhood.
Oh my God I’m so sorry but this is also about international relations.
The Half of It
Would that it were so simple.
An essential text in “be gay, do crime” canon. Allison Janney and Hugh Jackman are bitchy little friends — amo!
That one Card’s Against Humanity card that says “cancer teens”.
A perfect example of how one can (as Lindsay Ellis puts it) enjoy a piece of media while still critically engaging with its flawed, problematic, or pernicious elements. I have a laundry list of issues with it: why does Christopher Nolan think he can critique class without addressing his own class? I don’t like how it treats the one (1) female character! Does it “have” coherent “themes”? That said, I still like this. It is a romp that blends James Bond with Doctor Who — always a recipe for success is my books. Also, Robert Pattison is boozy and sweaty and Elizabeth Debiki is 6'3.
On The Rocks
I’m such a sucker for the Sofia Coppola formula that I still found myself delighted by this collection of scenes stacked atop each other, wearing a trench coat, calling itself a film.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Loved whenever Chadwick (RIP) played his little trumpet: toot toot, honk honk, etc.
In My Blood It Runs
The spiritual sequel to, and superior version of, the 4 Corners report on Northern Territory Juvenile Detention. Watched this with my housemate for class on Australian film early in the year and, because of the BLM of everything, it turned out to be a prescient watch. Light on its feet as far as documentaries go, politically advocative without feeling didactic. The kid is cute!
The freshest entry in my top 10, haven’t really had time to process it properly. Best looking film of the year, undoubtably. If The Cranberries covered an Of Monsters and Men song it would feel like this film. (This is also about international relations.)
What a romp! A delectable looking film, like Austen by way of a Wes Anderson cake shop. The soundtrack honks. All the jokes knocked me out, “Mother you must sample the tart!”, “Is there a draft?”, and so on. Crackerjack old-timey dance scene, it has the exact right amount of longing stares, waist cupping, and — most importantly — hand holding (if you know, you know). Oh, and Anya Taylor-Joy rules, obviously!
Fun! If our world is a desert, devoid of good rom coms, this film is an oasis. Wonderful chemistry between the leads, loads of funny gags, and it manages to find a new approach to the Groundhog Day premise. When the Kate Bush needle drop hit I lost my mind; if you are an editor reading this, please commission my deep dive on the intertextual relationship between this and The Hounds of Love.
Matthias & Maxime
Catnip for members of the yearning fandom. This film is a fanfiction trope played straight (bad word choice) — “what if two best friends were forced to kiss for another friends short film and then… fell in love?” Open-hearted in ways you want a romantic drama to be; found myself relating Too Much Too Often.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Designed for the Youtube video-essay mill. Every element can be poured over endlessly, debating back and forth forever. Challenging, definitely not for everyone. Feels like the filmed experience of trying to have a conversation with an English Lit or Creative Writing student about narrative structure — don’t! Jessie and Jesse rule, as does Toni Colette.
Marona’s Fantastic Tale
It’s been 6-months (thereabouts) since I saw this the and vocabulary to properly describe it still eludes me. In part due to how sentimental it is, but also because all the apt descriptions sound, I don’t know, trite? I could say it’s “heartbreaking” or whatever, which it is, but I think that phrase does more to diminish its value. All I can say is pretty much every line made me want to fold into myself. When the Marona’s response to being abandoned is “If I’d been human I could have cried.” Jinkies! Ya feel?
David Byrne’s American Utopia
Clears the astronomically high bar set by Stop Making Sense. There were few feelings more cathartic in 2020 than watching an audience go nuts over ‘Once in a Lifetime’. A nice-core masterpiece; earnestness is good, actually? To lift something Joan Cusack says to Holly Hunter in Broadcast News: in all ways but social, David Byrne is my role model.
Gorgeous film that touches on a lot of things that have really been stressing me out this year. All about being a writer while living under capitalism; can any creative truly be a comrade?
Moo moo. The Revenant for hipster boys who drink espresso. I’ve only had Evie the Cow for a few months but I would protect her with my life… Dictionary definition of cottagecore and nicecore and cowcore. Moo moo. So many people can earnestly talk about what they love about this one — tender, soft, soothing, nice boys baking, anti-captialism, teaches you how to pronounce “clafoutis”, Evie the Cow (pictured) — yet I find myself having to hide behind pithiness because, quite frankly, it rends me.
See y’all in 2021.