End of Year Review Part 2 – The 25 Best Films of 2020 (25- 21)

Every year I put up the disclaimer that my list is subjective, its off the UK release schedule and some of the 2020 oscar contenders are in there because of this fact but ultimately I want to start with another disclaimer. 2020 was a good year for movies. It wasn’t a good year, plenty was pushed back and we didn’t get to see but what we did get in the few months cinemas were open and what was pushed to online releases was mostly great. Sure there was the occasional stinker but more often than not I came out of most of what I watched eager to watch more. While I wanted to get a few last minute additions in such as Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Uncle Frank and Sylvie’s Love I didn’t find time for them so if you don’t see a film you love assume I haven’t seen it, its better that way. So without further ado, here is the start of my 25 best films of 2020.

Honourable Mentions

Blow The Man Down

Sophie Lowe, Margo Martindale and Morgan Saylor in Blow The Man Down

This female led crime story about two sisters trying to cover up a murder in a small town full of secrets is not only darkly comic but it also features a viciously assured performance by Margo Martindale. Framed like a greek tragedy in the same vein of Antigone or Medea (complete with sea shanty singing chorus), Blow The Man Down is a dark tale of fractured sisterhood and the unspoken truths that fester in small communities, the idle gossip that gives way to myths in time. Wonderfully chilling thanks to its New England setting and cold blue imagery, there is an unexpected sincerity to this group of women just trying to do the right thing while losing track over time of what that ultimately is.

Read my full review here.

Weathering With You

Weathering With You

Japanese YA animated drama Weathering With You is more than exquisite animation and the love story at its centre. It’s a serious discussion of global warming and its effects on both the state of people’s wellbeing and on a world actively trying to ignore it. From the first shot as rain hits a hospital room window and a faint beam of light is seen illuminating a sliver of Tokyo, Weathering With You is breathtaking but mostly its how it intricately weaves social commentary into its romance as these two teenagers struggle to decide their own future in the face of adults who think they know best for all of us, its potent in its ideas and moving in how it speaks to two vastly different generations at once.

Read my full review here.

Plus One

Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid in Plus One

Released in January in the UK, Plus One alluded to a better year ahead than the one we got but it also spoke to the various issues that come from dating in the millennial generation by effectively flipping the gender roles here while never making it obvious to those watching it. For all its conventional rom-com traditions, writers and directors Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer here tell a story of commitment in the age of divorce but also the disconnect between what is expected and what we actually need. Maya Erskine is terrific here and while Jack Quaid is stuck playing the straight man, their chemistry means the subtle writing proves rib bustingly funny and more than a little heartening.

Read my full review here.

While these films just missed the list, it was by a hair’s breadth and you should seek them out if you can. However here are the ones that won out.

25. Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

There hasn’t been a character this year as slimy or unpleasant as Adam Sandler’s self destructive jeweller Howard Ratner. Be it in his train wreck of a home life or in how he sucks up to celebrities or makes deals with gangsters, Howard cannot get out of his own way and the Safdie brothers latest film revels in not only Sandler’s fearless performance but also a story where around every corner is another threat. To say its edge of your seat cinema is putting it mildly. By the end you’re standing. While its a gruesome watch, not for any expected reason, mainly because Howard is just awful. However watching him do things you in your right mind never would is also oddly freeing. Howard walks the line between genius and stupidity, risk and reward and the film that comes out of it is one of pure electricity and heartstopping dread.

Read my full review here.

24. The Broken Hearts Gallery

Geraldine Viswanathan and Dacre Montgomery in The Broken Hearts Gallery

Natalie Krinsky’s The Broken Hearts Gallery is a callback to old school romantic comedies, a heart on its sleeve love story with a modern twist but also enough fantasy to get lost in. Telling the classic New York romance but instead here speaking to a city filling up with new perspectives and people. The city here is vibrant and so are the people but Krinsky provides enough biting cynicism to ensure this isn’t a film for hopeless romantics, another forgettable big screen rom-com to be forgotten in years to come. The dialogue is crisp, the sets are bright and inviting and the city feels alive in Krinsky’s hands, something that has been sorely missing for the last 10 months. It all comes together into a film so unashamedly gleeful its hard not to get swept up in it. Featuring another star turn by newcomer Geraldine Viswanathan after her entertaining turn in 2018’s Blockers, The Broken Hearts Gallery was exactly what was needed at the time it was released. However this would have been true of any date it hit cinemas.

Read my full review here.

23. Buffaloed

Zoey Deutch in Buffaloed

If there was one film that wouldn’t be the same without its lead performer this year it would be Buffaloed. Not enough can be said about Zoey Deutch’s work in this comedy drama about a grifter who starts profiting off other people’s debt as a way of making quick cash, regardless of the consequences. While on its own, Tanya Wexler’s feature is a smart look at a booming crisis in America, one all too often ignored, with Deutch’s frenetic, jittery, shameless take on Peg giving Buffaloed the shot in the arm it needs to be shockingly funny and endlessly charismatic. The fun that comes from it means that the sucker punch of an ending lands that much harder. Much like Peg, it is easy to ignore the people being hurt when you are having so much fun watching. With a great turn by Judy Greer in support, Buffaloed is one of the years best comedies, one where nobody comes out looking clean at the end.

Read my full review here.

22. The Vast of Night

Sierra McCormick in The Vast of Night

Andrew Patterson’s feature debut The Vast of Night is a film that embraces the history of 1950s radio stories and classic Sci-Fi, Twilight Zone-esque storytelling where sometimes the most important part of the tale is the imagination it brings forth from it. That is why it is so surprising that it comes in a film that is a visual spectacle in and of itself. Telling the story of a radio host and a switchboard operator trying to figure out the origin of a strange signal as the town lays dormant thanks to a Basketball game in the town gym. With one of the years most elaborate and hypnotising tracking shots through the desolate town and some intricate and patient directing, this is a mystery that hooks you right from the start and highlights a fresh talent well worth looking out for in the future.

Read my full review here.

21. Miss Americana

Taylor Swift in Miss Americana

Lana Wilson’s documentary looking at the inner life of singer Taylor Swift is more than just the predictable concert movie, one that never goes further than skin deep into who the person behind the persona is. Miss Americana is less interested in Swift as a singer, more in the power her fame has brought her and how still as a woman people are looking to silence her and strip her of her voice. While it never discusses her ongoing struggle with music producer Scooter Braun regarding the ownership of her music, Wilson’s feature is the story of a progressively misunderstood woman seeking to figure out who she is outside of what everyone wants her to be. Not just a piece designed to put a face and voice to the name, this is a rallying cry to young women to let their voices be heard and a younger community that are all too often told they don’t know anything because they are too young. Miss Americana is the voice of a new generation and rises above the music that brought it about.

Read my full review here.

Check in on the next part for three expertly crafted documentaries, two vastly different gangster films and five other features when I cover numbers 20 -11.

TSR

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