Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Top Ten Films of 2020.

I usually post this right before the Oscars, but this year they've been pushed back to late April—which means the Academy is an even bigger procrastinator than I am. With that pushback also comes the expansion of eligibility requirements to films released through February 2021. I don't like to pretend 2020 didn't end in December, so some of the Oscar nominees don't qualify for this list. I have very strict requirements for how I define what films were released in 2020 (I check IMDB). So, since Minari was released in 2021, maybe we'll see it on next year's list (we probably will). Like most of you, I didn't see a single 2020 movie in theaters and I probably wouldn't have gone even if I could have. Thankfully, due to Covid, you can now watch movies at home for approximately $40 instead of going to the theater, which seems like an affordable, sustainable model.

Anyways, some movies came out in 2020. Hopefully, you watched some of them since you weren't allowed to do much else. Here's a list of my favorites, as well as the rest of the riff-raff.

10. A Sun

A Sun
is on Netflix, but Netflix has hidden it from your feed because it really wants you to watch the third To All the Boys movie instead. Netflix may also think you're unlikely to watch a 156 minute movie with subtitles and—let's be honest—they're probably right. If you can manage to look up from your phone for 156 minutes, A Sun is a visually stunning family drama about loss, grief, and unmet expectations that (mostly) manages to avoid the melodramatic. Maybe it's the runtime or the occasional bursts of violence, but A Sun feels surprisingly epic for a movie about a Taiwanese family being sad. And in a year where most directors seem to forgotten that they are allowed to move their cameras, the cinematography is appreciated.
9. Promising Young Woman

It currently costs $20 to stream Promising Young Woman, so once it's not financially devastating to view, I recommend that you do so. Carey Mulligan plays Cassie, who spends her nights pretending to be drunk, waiting for a "nice guy" to take her home, and then murders scolds them. While you may scoff at the lack of violence, the film works because it spends a lot of its runtime subverting the banal tropes of a revenge thriller and flirting instead with the idea of becoming a romantic comedy. Let me be clear: A Promising Young Woman is not a romantic comedy—but Cassie's late night endeavors are interspersed with a budding romance that touches on all the romcom tropes. They navigate through flirting, fighting, and dancing maniacally to Paris Hilton in a pharmacy; so I think things are really going to turn out well for these two. Ultimately though, this is a film about rape culture, obsession, and revenge; pretty much every character sucks; and the film makes several choices that will probably upset you. There is a lot to love and to hate here. Trying to understand your feelings about the movie is half the fun.
8. The Wolf of Snow Hollow

2018's excellent Thunder Road saw Jim Cummings take on the role of an alcoholic, divorced police officer having a mental breakdown after the death of a parent. With his follow up, The Wolf of Snow Hollow, Cummings surprisingly shifts gears entirely: taking on the role of an alcoholic, divorced police officer having a mental breakdown after a wolf begins attacking people in his small town during the full moon. Oh, and his father might be dying. Cummings' apparent trademark is unhinged monologue, and he somehow makes that work in this unorthodox horror/comedy. We spend much of the movie following the small town police force as they try to solve the mystery of the attacks. As they make little progress, the town begins to turn against them—as do Jim's personal demons against him. Ultimately, the third act resolution feels rushed, but there are enough laughs and alcohol-induced rants to keep things fun.
7. Straight Up

Todd has always thought he was gay, but he doesn't like bodily fluids, and maybe society has just tricked him into being gay, so he's decided to try dating girls. He meets Rory—they both love Gilmore Girls—and they begin a courtship of banter that would make the writers of that show proud. Straight Up is a dialogue-driven romantic comedy centered around an unconventional couple. It's a very funny examination of finding your soulmate, sexual and romantic fluidity, and the role of sex in relationships. Todd's neuroticism is on full display throughout and his anxious, meandering run-ons are always welcome. Straight Up is available on Netflix.
6. Shithouse

is probably not the most marketable name for an indie film, but it appears to have worked in this case. Despite its aggressive title, Shithouse is the story of a lonely guy at college who meets a girl and talks to her for most of the movie. We all know Before Sunrise vibes score big points on this list. The third act drops off in quality a bit as Alex attempts to bond with his hard-partying roommate, but Shithouse has a number of strong emotional moments throughout, and the dialogue always feels authentic—even if that sometimes means its a bit cringe-inducing. The flaws are easy to forgive when you remember the film was made on a budget of less than half a Bitcoin. Turns out all it takes to make a strong movie is realistic characters and honest storytelling. Someone should tell Hollywood.
5. Emma.

I may be getting soft in my old age because I've started to appreciate set and costume design and I don't know how to feel about that. Every shot in Emma. is perfectly framed and there's something about the silly hats that just works for me. The whole film is a bit silly, really. But that works in its favor and injects most of the humor. The minor characters are mostly slapstick caricatures, including Bill Nighy as a delightful hypochondriac constantly flustered by a cool draft. Emma. also delivers some disarmingly genuine moments as we watch Anya Taylor-Joy evolve from a spoiled child into a grounded, young woman. I revisited Clueless as well this year—it shares the same source material—and somehow the 19th Century has aged better than the 1990's. Seriously, try to watch Clueless again, it's horrifying. But also watch Emma. It has better hats, I promise.
4. I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) has built an impressive catalog of screenplays that are incredibly strange but commercially successful. As a director, he's been building a catalog of existential surrealist nightmares that most people would not like. I love Synecdoche, New York, but I don't know anyone I'd recommend it to that hasn't already seen it. I'm Thinking of Ending Things feels a little more accessible, but that may be because I haven't seen another human being in almost a year. It's still a surreal, existential nightmare; but one I couldn't stop thinking about. It took a second viewing for it to make this list. Turns out knowing what is actually going on makes the gut punch of the story hit that much harder. If you're okay with things not making sense for a while, I'm Thinking of Ending Things is available on Netflix.
3. The Kid Detective

Abe was once an accomplished child detective who used to lie in bed wondering if he was the smartest person in the world. He solved the case of the missing fundraiser money after all. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to solve the disappearance of his 14-year-old assistant Gracie, and now he's a drunk, thirty-something washup fixated on his former glory. Finally, a character I can identify with. His most recent cases have been proving that a teenager didn't practice with the New York Knicks and tailing a husband suspected of cheating. When a high-school student is murdered, he takes the case—hoping to reclaim some of his dignity. The Kid Detective is a dark comedy that is a lot funnier than it should be, and a whole lot darker than I expected. It's about unmet expectations, suspended adolescence, and that moment you realize that maybe you aren't the smartest person in the world after all.
2. Black Bear

The narrative of Black Bear begins with Aubrey Plaza retreating to a remote lakeside cabin in order to concoct her next film. Her hosts are a young couple, and much of the film is an alcohol-fueled conversation between the three that gets very personal, very fast. What happens beyond that, I won't begin to explain, but know that the dialogue is always sharp and that Aubrey Plaza is a national treasure. Black Bear sees Plaza make major dramatic shifts throughout and her performance in the back half of the film is anxiety-inducing and brilliant.
 Black Bear ultimately lacks any sort of tidy denouement, but it is a well-paced, engaging dissection of the creative process that is absolutely worthy of your time.
1. Palm Springs

I've basically been stuck in the same day since March and it's not so bad. Andy Samberg has been stuck in a time loop for who knows how long, and he seems to be doing okay too. He's embraced the fact that nothing matters, and when Cristin Milioti gets pulled into the loop as well, he attempts to get her to adopt this mantra as her own. She rejects it at first but quickly comes around, and the two begin a zany courtship in repeatedly funny scenarios that only a time loop movie could allow. I'm actually surprised how long it took for Groundhog Day to become an entire genre of films. There have been a few time loop movies leading up to the 2010's, but it's a downright phenomenon at this point. Even more surprising is how many of them are good, especially considering Hollywood's tendency to take everything you love and destroy it. Palm Springs is charming and hilarious, and if it ever starts to falter, J.K. Simmons shows up with a bow and arrow to revitalize things. Palm Springs came out on Hulu in July, and has maintained it's number one spot (in my mind) ever since. I can easily recommend this to everyone I know. As a final summary to the quality of 2020 as a whole, Palm Springs might have made my top ten in 2019, but it's the only film on this list to even have a shot. That being said, please go watch all of them and send me hate mail when you disagree.



Guns Akimbo - Cancel Culture gets so bad that Harry Potter is forced to kill or be killed because he was mean on the Internet. Avada Kedavra, my dude.
Tigertail - Being old and alone is sad.
One Night in Miami - Malcolm X hosts the worst parties.
Relic - Dementia is evil.
Mank - A well-constructed throwback to a classic without any real conflict.
The King of Staten Island - Pete Davidson tattoos a child.
The Devil All the Time - A bunch of people do evil stuff.
The Half of It - To All the Girls I loved Before This Boy Hired Me
Synchronic - Drugs make you time travel.
Happiest Season - A woman brings her girlfriend home and treats her like garbage.
Sound of Metal - A rock drummer pays $60,000 for a medical procedure he doesn't understand.
Another Round - I wish my high school teachers experimented with day drinking.
The Platform - The quality of Door Dash has really gone downhill.
Spontaneous - High school kids start exploding, but at least they learn to appreciate the time they have left.
Mangrove - The good version of The Trial of the Chicago 7.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom - Chadwick Boseman acting showcase.
The Forty Year Old Version - A failed playwright decides to rap instead. 
Dating Amber - Basically Straight Up but the couple isn't in denial and therefore less fun.
Beanpole - Two really sad Russians form a weird bond.
Big Time Adolescence - Pete Davidson is a bad influence, but tattoos no children.
Sorry We Missed You - A guy delivers packages.
Banana Split - Two girls form a fun friendship even though they both dated the same guy.
The Babysitter: Killer Queen - If you liked the first one, this ones aight.
Blow the Man Down - A group of savage, old ladies take care of business.
Deerskin - A man spends his life savings on a deer skin jacket, and then leads a vendetta to destroy all other jackets in existence.
The Whistlers - A guy learns how to speak in whistles and then commits a crime or something.
The Twentieth Century - A Guy Maddin inspired look at Canadian politicians and their vices.
The Vast of Night - Two crazy kids go looking for aliens.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always - Getting an abortion probably shouldn't be this hard.
Vivarium - It's like Covid lockdown but orchestrated by alien frog people. Possibly a documentary.
Sonic the Hedgehog - I can't believe this was good. God bless Jim Carrey.
The Climb - A man continues to hang out with a longtime friend despite years of him being an asshole. All my friends should take notes.
Swallow - A woman becomes obsessed with swallowing increasingly large objects.
Butt Boy - It's like a more intense Swallow, but the opposite end.
Saint Frances - A sad thirty-year-old learns to babysit.
Beasts Clawing At Straws - A very solid Korean crime thriller.
Looks that Kill - A boy is so good looking that if you see his face, you die. Basically, my biography.
Lover’s Rock - It cannot be overstated how much these characters appreciate "Kung Fu Fighting."
Kajillionaire - A weird family makes a new friend and gets weirder.


True History of the Kelly Gang - Tough Irish dudes wear dresses to scare their enemies.
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets - People are sad that their favorite bar is closing.
Color Out of Space - Nicolas Cage loses his shit: Episode 143.
Yes, God, Yes - The most boring possible version of youth group.
House of Hummingbird - A girl wanders around with her friends and a boy.
The Traitor - The most boring gangster movie of all time.
How to Build a Girl - Almost Famous, but as a mediocre comedy.
The Nest - I'd call this a sadistic, hippophilic necrophile, but that would be beating a dead horse.
Archive - A software engineer tries to store his wife on Google Drive, but exceeds his storage limit.
Come to Daddy - Elijah Wood has a moustache and his dad is weird.
She Dies Tomorrow - The impending dread we all feel isn't enough to make a horror movie.
End of Sentence - A kid gets out of prison and bonds with his dad.
The Binge - I will watch Vince Vaugh rant in anything.
The Old Guard - Charlize Theron beats some people up.
Bill and Ted Face the Music - Bill and Ted try to make a few bucks since Bill hasn't been successful.
Ammonite - Portrait of Two Ladies with No Fire
News of the World - Tom Hanks takes a girl on a horse ride.
Birds of Prey - At least it wasn't Suicide Squad.
Da 5 Bloods - Five old men try to carry heavy backpacks through Vietnam.
Hubie Halloween - This is actually closer to The Waterboy in quality than it is to his other recent works.
Shirley - Elizabeth Moss plays an unbearable character. Again. What a surprise.
Save Yourselves! - A Comedy that's not really that funny.
Nomadland - Frances McDormand wanders around and meets zero interesting people.
On the Rocks - Bill Murray gives bad advice to his daughter.
Antebellum - 12 Years a Slave meets The Hunt.
First Cow - Two guys make biscuits and sell them.
Misbehaviour - Some people protest a beauty pageant.
Sylvie’s Love - Two people in love continuously find reasons to not be together.
Love and Monsters - A dude fights monsters to meet up with a girl who probably doesn't like him.
Calm with Horses - If you're going to join a gang, know that you should be ready to follow orders.
The Hunt - The left got so mad at anti-vaxxers that they started hunting them for sport.
The New Mutants - Some superheroes experience a horror movie.
Arkansas - A waste of a lot of great actors. This started great and went downhill fast.
Holidate - A mildly amusing Netflix romcom.
Paint - Some artists paint things and are inappropriate with their mothers.
Babyteeth - A chronically ill girl starts dating a drug dealer for some reason.
Mafia Inc - Any contractor working on the Death Star knew the risk involved. This tailor apparently doesn't.
The Invisible Man - A decent horror movie probably. If you like that sort of thing.
The Gentlemen - I was going to say it feels like a mediocre Guy Ritchie movie, then I realized it is one.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 - It has it's moments I guess, but too much of the plot is a red herring.
Bacarau - The arthouse equivalent of The Hunt.
#Alive - It's a zombie movie that will satisfy your zombie movie craving.
Tenet - Christopher Nolan rewrites Inception to make it more confusing.
Possessor - A background look into what Facebook does with your data.
I Propose We Never See Each Other Again After Tonight - An indie romcom I wanted to love, but ultimately did not.
The Broken Hearts Gallery - I think I have a lot of stuff in my basement I could contribute to this gallery.
Unpregnant - A more light-hearted Never Rarely Sometimes Always.
His House - There's demons in the house and it's like, a metaphor.
The Assistant - Julia Garner has a boring day at work. 
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga - Thank you so much for Jaja Ding Dong. And Dan Stevens.
Freaky - There's some great scenes in this otherwise mediocre horror/comedy.
Martin Eden - A dude learns to read in order to impress a girl or something.
Antarctica - Some teenagers act like weirdos but not in a funny enough way.


Death to 2020 - By the time this came out, most of the good jokes had already been made online by someone else.
Valley Girl - I hoped for awesomely bad, but this was just bad. Really, really bad.
Dogs Don’t Wear Pants - A boring movie about BDSM.
Hillbilly Elegy - Famous actresses attempt to win awards by playing poor characters with drug addictions.
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You - If the first movie felt like it was written by a twelve-year-old, this one was written by a Twitter bot.
The Prom - Dawson's Creek covered this in the nineties more effectively and with a better soundtrack.
Fatman - The premise is so good. The execution is so, so bad.
Wonder Woman 1984 - A two hour motivational speech.
The Personal History of David Copperfield - Some boring stuff happens to uninteresting characters.
Run - Literally exactly what you would expect.
Ham On Rye - Close to being weirdly great, ended up being weirdly dull.
Faith Based - I would like to make a faith-based movie. It would be funnier than this supposed comedy.
Project Power - Cops do drugs that give them superpowers. As if the military budget wasn't enough.
We Are Little Zombies - A group of orphans start a band that is mostly terrible.


Wild Mountain Thyme - This is marked as a travesty, but it's also a glorious train wreck of nonsense.
The Tax Collector - Shia Labeouf got a full back tattoo for this movie and he's in it for maybe fifteen minutes.

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