2020. Good riddance. That’s about the best I can say about a terrible year. The only highlight is a global pandemic that has killed over 300,000 people and stopped everything from functioning in a comfortable manner. On top of all that, movie theaters were shut down, sports were changed, racial injustice continued, our president was still shitty, great actors passed away, and on, and on. The goal however, is finding a bright spot in all the misery and AMovieGuy.com had some great moments. We just updated our website design which has been a massive task but it looks fantastic. On top of that we had plenty of movie reviews, covered Fantastic Fest and Fantasia 2020, interviewed fantastic actors and directors such as Louis Gossett Jr. Shohreh Agdashloo, Jules Willcox, Carlo Mirabella-Davis, Sean Durkin, and Ruby Rose; And already we are going to be covering SXSW in 2021. Things are going to be better in 2021 but before we move on, let’s take a look at the best movies of 2020 and give out awards to the best performances.
HONORABLE MENTION: NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS, THE DARK AND THE WICKED, SMALL AXE: RED, WHITE AND BLUE, BACURAU, SMALL AXE: MANGROVE, THE FATHER, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, AMMONITE, TOMMASO, COLLECTIVE, ON THE ROCKS, SHE DIES TOMORROW, BLACK BEAR, MONSTER HUNTER, WOLFWALKERS, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S LETTER TO YOU
10: NEW ORDER
There were plenty of movies to watch in 2020, but I kept waiting for a movie to completely embody the hellish experience that was this year. It arrived in the most unlikely of films in New Order, Michel Franco’s wild, apocalyptic drama, about a wedding that turns into total chaos is exactly what fits the bill. This is Mexico’s submission for the foreign language film category, but considering the world we live in now, it could represent any continent on the globe. It involves the wedding of Marian and Christian, a celebration with their wealthy families and a party filled with high society types, government officials, and plenty of servers to meet their needs. Outside the walls there is civil unrest, protestors vs. military, and when the violence breaches beyond the wall of the party, all hell breaks loose. The motto of “eat the rich” takes on another meaning, and when the military is equally corrupt it adds an added layer that everyone has gone completely insane. The only question is if anyone will survive? New Order is Parasite on speed. Mixing the chaotic moments of Roma, the wedding segment in Wild Tales, and the massive chaos of a Mad Max universe. New Order is all things 2020.
There is only one movie that has sat on my top 10 all of 2020 and it is Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ Swallow. I could never shake this film. The story of a wife, played perfectly by Haley Bennett, stuck in her home, and expected to become this domesticated mother to her thick headed husband. While spending her lonely time isolated at home, she develops this coping mechanism of swallowing small objects. With each item digested it is a call for help, a cry for someone to allow her to choose for herself, to be herself, and be seen as more than just a vessel for a child. Swallow is psychologically marvelous, visually spectacular in it’s minimal concept, and a movie you never forget.
When we think of movies that transcend the narrative structure, nobody is better at it than Charlie Kaufman. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is the strangest movie of 2020 and it’s what makes it incredibly memorable. If the goal of cinema is to keep you thinking and never forgetting it, then the number one movie that fits the bill is I’m Thinking of Ending Things. It’s a constantly shifting narrative, rapidly sending us through the life, love and relationship of a woman (Jessie Buckley) and Jake (Jesse Plemons). It’s the first date, it’s the last date, it’s the moment when our parents need our care, it’s a version of the afterlife, and it’s many other things. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a beautiful enigma.
The opening sequence of Leigh Whanell’s The Invisible Man immediately hooks you in. It’s intense and terrifying without saying a single word. You just know that Elizabeth Moss’ Cecilia Kass is in trouble and trying to escape. Everything that follows after is the gravy on top of the feast. The Invisible Man is gripping from start to finish and it’s a fascinating metaphor for the toxic nature of men, the struggles that women must go through, the reality of abusive relationships, and a fascinating study in human control. The Invisible Man must be praised, because horror movies, such as this, must continue to be loved so we can see many many more just like it.
In 2020 it’s hard to describe the viewing experiences as events or memorable because they all took place on my laptop at my kitchen table. But the one viewing experience that I will never forget is Babyteeth. I was an emotional wreck. The end comes out of nowhere and hits me like a brick to the face. Shannon Murphy’s story of Milla (Eliza Scanlen), a teenage girl falling in love with a misguided boy named Moses (Toby Wallace) seems cliche and then it mixes in Milla’s struggle with cancer, her beautifully flawed parents (played perfectly by Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn), and the heart to live life to the fullest. That’s all cliche really, and yet, it’s done so effortlessly, so beautifully that you cannot deny it. Babyteeth fills me up with love just writing about it.
5: DA 5 BLOODS
Da 5 Bloods made such an impact on me that I watched it two days in a row. Spike Lee is one of my favorite directors, but Da 5 Bloods feels unlike a lot of his other films. It’s the furthest he’s ever been from New York, but he’s touching a subject that America has failed to address: the way the United States has treated Black Americans that served in Viet Nam. It’s all anchored by arguably the best performance in all of 2020, Delroy Lindo, producing a scorched earth approach as Paul, a bitter man, forgotten by his country, a flawed person to his son, and filled with regret. It all plays out in a biting monologue, direct to the camera, which might be the best movie moment of 2020. Da 5 Bloods may not be top 5 Spike Lee but it’s one of the most impassioned films of the year.
Typically, I look for movies that challenge audiences and separate themselves from the traditional awards movie path. For me, Possessor was that movie. It’s a strange science fiction narrative that will not connect with the mainstream audiences. It’s too weird. It’s too bloody and violent. It’s exactly what you would expect from a movie made by a guy named Cronenberg. Possessor features Andrea Riseborough as an assassin that inhabits the bodies of other people. The result is a woman that is losing connection with herself and her family. Possessor is filled with imagery I can’t get out of my head and ideas that continue to fascinate me. Sign me up in the Brandon Cronenberg fan club.
3: DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA
If the concept of watching movies is to have fun or to feel something, then that is exactly why David Byrne’s American Utopia is in my top 5 of 2020. In a year so painful, American Utopia reminded me what it was like to have fun, what it was like to feel passion for art. This stage concert of the Talking Heads lead singer, playing a variety of his classic hits, and cerebral sounds, is a beautiful experience. I can’t stop listening to the album, but director Spike Lee also adds his flare of making a statement with his art. It’s the ultimate collaboration of artists that say so much with their craft. After the pandemic hit, American Utopia was the closest I would get to feeling absolute joy. It’s something I long to experience in person again.
Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari blindsided me. It took me a bit of time to finally see it, but it made the impact even more powerful. This is a film about a family moving from California to Arkansas to make it on their own farm and the struggle in the 1980’s, but it’s also about loving one another through the struggle. There’s a compassion and authenticity of how hard life can be in every character, from Steven Yeun’s father Jacob, to young David played by the adorable Alan S. Kim, and grandma Soonja, played spectacularly by Yuh-jung Youn. The answer to it all is that the American dream is not taken over night, but through sheer will, and even then it’s difficult for a family to survive on the other side. Minari is worthy of multiple viewings and the dissection of just how much the immigrant experience must be cherished and appreciated. Sometimes the plants grow without any work and other times we must burn it down and start anew. That is what Minari is all about and it’s fantastic from start to finish.
It’s easy for me to talk about Nomadland for a long time because it is about more than just this woman selling her belongings and living her life in the west as a nomad in a van. That’s the basic plot. But Nomadland is about much more. It’s about finding oneself, or the struggles of everyone around us, and finding peace with the universe. It’s a thought about a way of living that we have all had or had aspirations of doing. We all want to escape and run away to the beautiful skies and live free. Nomadland is that exact experience. Chloe Zhao and Frances McDormond are the ones bringing it all to life. Everything we see is a slice of heaven or a dream we are yet to have. The cinematography is gorgeous, the performance from McDormand is beautiful, and Zhao is arguably the best filmmaker working today. Nomadland was a no brainer #1 for me. I watched it, I fell in love with the entire experience, and I won’t ever forget it. Nomadland took me away to a better place. For a brief moment, I was able to forget pandemics, constant death, or constant fighting. Nomadland is pure and beautiful cinema. An absolute masterpiece.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
YUH-JUNG YOUN- MINARI
AMANDA SEYFRIED- MANK
ESSIE DAVIS- BABYTEETH
ELLEN BURSTYN- PIECES OF A WOMAN
HONORABLE MENTION: OLIVIA COLEMAN- THE FATHER; MARIA BAKALOVA- BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIE FILM; RACHEL MCADAMS- EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA; FIONA SHAW- KINDRED; LETITIA WRIGHT- SMALL AXE:MANGROVE
WINNER: ESSIE DAVIS- BABYTEETH
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
BEN MENDELSOHN- BABYTEETH
MARK RYLANCE- TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
LESLIE ODOM JR.- ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
BILL MURRAY- ON THE ROCKS
WINNER: BEN MENDELSOHN- BABYTEETH
SIDNEY FLANIGAN- NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS
FRANCES MCDORMAND- NOMADLAND
VIOLA DAVIS- MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
HALEY BENNETT- SWALLOW
WINNER: SIDNEY FLANIGAN- NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS
CHADWICK BOSEMAN- MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
ANTHONY HOPKINS- THE FATHER
RIZ AHMED- SOUND OF METAL
DELROY LINDO- DA 5 BLOODS
STEVEN YEUN- MINARI
WINNER: DELROY LINDO- DA 5 BLOODS
CHLOE ZHAO- NOMADLAND
SPIKE LEE- DA 5 BLOODS
STEVE MCQUEEN- SMALL AXE
SHANNON MURPHY- BABYTEETH
WINNER: CHLOE ZHAO- NOMADLAND
NOMADLAND– CHLOE ZHAO
DA 5 BLOODS– SPIKE LEE
MINARI- LEE ISAAC CHUNG
BABYTEETH– SHANNON MURPHY
WINNER: NOMADLAND- CHLOE ZHAO