The first half of 2020 is over and needless to say, this was a one weird year. Thanks to COVID-19, movie theaters have been shutdown in the U.S. since mid-March, which has caused a number of movies to change release dates, some coming out later this year (hopefully) and others pushing their release dates to 2021. Most of the new releases this year have been smaller independent films released directly to video-on-demand, which has made for some unique viewing as well as giving people the opportunity to see films they may not have had movie theaters not shut down.
Overall in 2020 I have seen 51 new release films. This does not include the movies that I saw at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival or the 2020 Chattanooga Film Festival that have not been released yet. But in looking at the 51 movies that I saw and came out, 2020 has actually been an interesting and good year for movies and performances.
Here are my picks for the best movies and performances of 2020 so far.
*NOTE – For each category, I am going to list the “nominees” for the category and then choose one winner. For Best Picture, I am going to rank them from 10 – 1.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Essie Davis, Babyteeth
Allison Janney, Bad Education *Winner*
Margo Martindale, Blow the Man Down
Talia Ryder, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Marisa Tomei, The King of Staten Island
- Janney isn’t in the movie long, but she gives a powerhouse performance as a woman’s who’s career and life are shattered after she gets caught laundering money from the high school she works at.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Bill Burr, The King of Staten Island
Russell Crowe, True History of the Kelly Gang *Winner*
Orion Lee, First Cow
Ben Mendelsohn, Babyteeth
Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods
- This is a great lineup of character actors giving some of the best performances of their careers, particularly Burr, whom I really loved in The King of Staten Island. But Russell Crowe’s menacing, intense, layered performance as the burly father-figure to Ned Kelly is the best performance of the Oscar-wining actors career in a long, long time.
Zoey Deutch, Buffaloed *Winner*
Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Rachel McAdams, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man
Anya Taylor-Joy, Emma
- Even with the unique cinematic year we’ve had, the Best Actress field was still pretty loaded. I felt bad leaving off performances like Haley Bennett in Swallow, Eliza Scanlen in Babyteeth, and Julia Garner in The Assistant. But of all the great lead actress performances this year, Zoey Deutch’s performance in Buffaloed is hands-down my favorite. This wild, electric, gripping performance solidifies Deutch as a true movie star and one of my favorite actors working today.
Ben Affleck, The Way Back *Winner*
Hugh Jackman, Bad Education
Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods
John Magaro, First Cow
Will Smith, Bad Boys For Life
- Unlike Best Actress, the Best Actor field was a bit weak in terms of how many great performances we got in the first half. However, the five men listed above gave truly stunning performances that made this the toughest category to pick. After flipping back-and-forth for days, it was Affleck’s career-best, emotionally charged performance that came out on top over Delroy Lindo’s incredible turn in Da 5 Bloods. The Way Back‘s greatness lands solely on Affleck’s shoulders and he carries it from start to finish.
Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods
Gavin O’Connor, The Way Back
Kelly Reichardt, First Cow *Winner*
Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man
- Lee’s film was ambitious and relevant. Hittman’s film was intimate and raw. But Reichardt’s delicate, human touch made First Cow the best movie of 2020 so far.
TOP 10 FILMS OF 2020 SO FAR
10 – THE ASSISTANT (Kitty Green)
- This look inside working for a high-powered movie studio head feels chillingly real.
9 – THE INVISIBLE MAN (Leigh Whannell)
- Leigh Whannell’s horror remake is intense and stylish and features a stellar performance from the always great Elisabeth Moss.
8 – BE WATER (Bao Nguyen)
- An insightful look at the great Bruce Lee.
7 – BUFFALOED (Tanya Wexler)
- Zoey Deutch is excellent in this pulsating crime comedy.
6 – BAD EDUCATION (Cory Finley)
- Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney give two of the best performances in their illustrious careers in this crime drama about the dark side of suburbia.
5 – BAD BOYS FOR LIFE (Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah)
- The third entry in the Bad Boys franchise features tons of excitement and action while also being the most emotional of the trilogy.
4 – THE WAY BACK (Gavin O’Connor)
- Ben Affleck’s showcase performance carries Gavin O’Connor’s character study of a man looking for redemption.
3 – NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS (Eliza Hittman)
- Eliza Hittman’s gritty and authentic look at a teenager’s journey to take care of an unwanted pregnancy.
2 – DA 5 BLOODS (Spike Lee)
- Spike Lee looks at the effects of war and racism in this ambitious war film that features an incredible ensemble, a biting script, and Lee’s passionate filmmaking.
1 – FIRST COW (Kelly Reichardt)
- Director/co-writer Kelly Reichardt’s best film to date is a gorgeous, subdued, quiet film about friendship, greed, and capitalism. This is a masterful, gorgeous film and one that I wanted to watch again immediately after the credits rolled.
BEST OF THE REST
Best Original Screenplay – DA 5 BLOODS
Runner Up – The Way Back
Best Adapted Screenplay – FIRST COW
Runner Up – Emma
Best Editing – DA 5 BLOODS
Runner Up – The Invisible Man
Best Cinematography – FIRST COW
Runner Up – Emma
Best Documentary – BE WATER
Runner Up – The Last Dance
Best Comedy – BUFFALOED
Runner Up – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Best Horror/Thriller – THE INVISIBLE MAN
Runner Up – Color Out of Space
Best Animated Movie – THE WILLOUGHBY’S
Runner up – Onward
Best Action Movie – BAD BOYS FOR LIFE
Runner Up – Spenser Confidential
Favorite Movie Nobody Liked – WENDY
Runner Up – Spenser Confidential
Movie Everyone Liked That I Didn’t – THE VAST OF NIGHT
Runner Up – Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Here’s to the next six months of 2020 cinema, whatever it may be.
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