Wes's Top 10 Movies of 2020
Even with online releases, there were still many good films released in 2020, and there are still a handful that won't see wide release until early 2021, including "Judas and the Black Messiah and “Supernova" mainly with the 2020 Oscars being pushed to April of 2021. My top 10 list below could change again with the release of these films in the next two months.
Here are my Top 10 best movies, in no particular order.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 - Aaron Sorkin's searing, superbly acted account of the 1969 trial of the infamous Chicago 7 is a must-see, and filled with excellent performances from an ensemble cast, with standout Sacha Baron Cohen and Emmy-winner Yahya Abdul Mateen, who's having a breakout year. Catch it on Netflix.
The Father - This is a tender, heartbreaking portrait of dementia from playwright Florian Zeller in his film debut and is based on his play of the same name. It’s highlighted by two heartbreaking, unforgettable performances from Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins as a proud Englishman grappling with the illness, and Olivia Colman as his daughter attempting to care for him.
Nomadland - Chloe Zhao's adaptation of Jessica Bruder's non-fiction best seller of the same name is a heartfelt, sublime tribute to those older "nomads" traversing the country looking for work. It helps that Oscar-winner Frances McDormand is in the lead, in another outstanding (yet much lower-key) turn. Many feel it's a shoo-in for many Oscars, including Best Picture and Director.
Promising Young Woman - This sublime dark comedy from debut director/actress Emerald Fennell was a huge surprise, given that the trailers for the film are less than exciting. Done in the vein of "Heathers," it's dark, wonderful look at a young revengeful sociopath, played by Carey Mulligan in a career-best performance.
Sound of Metal - Another low-key surprise from Darius Marder and Amazon Prime, this drama about a hard-rock drummer who loses his hearing, is one of the year's most touching films, grounded by a searing turn from Riz Ahmed in the lead.
Minari - This moving, heartfelt semi-autobiographical drama from Lee Isaac Chung about a Korean family's adjustment to living in the rural, Southern U.S. is one of the year's most satisfying films, led by "The Walking Dead's" Steven Yeun, and a scene-stealing turn by South Korean actress Youn Yuh-jun, both of whom could see Oscar nominations.
Soul - The fun, stellar new Pixar effort from Pete Docter ("Up") featuring memorable voice work from Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx and "Saturday Night Live's" Tina Fey, feels similar to Docter's "Inside Out" but with as much heart and yes, soul.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - The intensity is felt in this excellent film adaptation of August Wilson's play, led by two knockout performances from Oscar-winner Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman in his last film role. They're both shoo-ins for Oscars for their work; don't think it's a sympathy vote for Boseman - it's truly an astonishing performance. Currently on Netflix.
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution - This fascinating, inspiring Netflix documentary explores the revolutionary special camp offered for the disabled in the 1970's, and the many disability rights activists it produced, including Judith Heumann, Stephen Hoffman and James LeBrecht. The best documentary feature of the year.
The Way Back - The way back could also refer to this inspiring, emotional sports film's release, way back in March pre-pandemic. Starring Ben Affleck and in the same mold as "Hoosiers," this film about an alcoholic basketball coach trying to turn the team into winners will have you cheering (and crying) most of the way. Affleck's best role in years, and one that hit close to home for the actor, who had his own relapse during filming.
Honorable Mention: Da 5 Bloods, Palm Springs, News of the World, The Personal History of David Copperfield, One Night in Miami, The Invisible Man, Pieces of a Woman.
The Worst 5:
Doolittle - Also going way back to pre-pandemic January, this awful big-budget flop and remake of the 1967 film "Dr. Doolittle" (which itself was an expensive flop) starring "Iron Man's" Robert Downey Jr. again proves these days most of what he does outside of the Marvel films isn't all that memorable, especially when it involves unstopping a constipated dragon (I'm not making that up).
Hillbilly Elegy - This Ron Howard adaptation of the novel of the same name had Oscar-bait written all over it, but it's an excruciating, annoying portrait of a truly unsympathetic family. It wastes Glenn Close and Amy Adams in exceedingly hammy turns.
The Wrong Missy - Another low-brow, stupid Netflix Sandler production starring David Spade, is offensive, sexist and lacking in anything resembling good taste. Admittedly, there are a few reflex laughs, but it'll be soon forgotten after the film's over.
Extraction - This needlessly bloody, vacuous Netflix action film starring Chris Hemsworth was a huge hit for the streaming service, but also proves all you have to do is hire a handsome actor to fire a thousand rounds of bullets into one person to kill them.
Superintelligence - An interesting title for this dumb, pointless HBO comedy wastes the talents of many, including the likable Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale and James Corden. Directed by McCarthy's husband Ben Falcone (who also appears here), the whole set up is wasted at the end, with an ending that basically says, "oh well, never mind."
Not the worst, but a few disappointments:
Wonder Woman: 1984 - Wonder Woman is one of my favorite superheroes, but this cheesy, overlong sequel lacked the verve and color of the 2017 original. It didn't help it was 2 1/2 hours long.
The King of Staten Island - I like "Saturday Night Live's" Pete Davidson. I like Judd Apatow. I appreciate the fact he helps rising comedic stars tell their stories, and Davidson's is a worthy one to tell. Modestly entertaining, but like similar autobiographical Apatow productions, it's redundant and overlong (130 minutes).
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga - Another overlong, redundant comedy, this one starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams on Netflix about a pair of singers trying to win the global Eurovision music competition, is very hit and miss. Maybe I didn't quite get its offbeat, silly humor, but it's a premise that's far funnier on paper than actual execution.