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Top Ten Films of 2020 - We Are Movie Geeks

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Top Ten Films of 2020

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Despite the ups and downs, 2020 was a year worth celebrating when it came to movies. WAMG’s list contains stories that provided insight, inspiration, and escapism in the wild year that was 2020.

With movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, there were true social and cultural films that showed everyone how important it is to celebrate diversity.

Even with the dark days, we came together in peaceful protest to bring light to the awful injustices. Diversity and inclusion go hand-in-hand and we must keep working to bring about an inclusive culture. In June The Academy announced that it will encourage equitable hiring practices and representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the film community.

There were moments of film brilliance that shone brightly whether you were streaming at home or viewing it from your car at the drive-in. Check out our list of Amazing Moments of last year HERE.

Reminding us of the importance of film, here’s WAMG’s Top 10 Films of 2020.

Let’s jump in with our Honorable Mention.

BOYS STATE

This informative movie from filmmakers Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine followed a group of teenage boys who run a mock government in Austin, TX every year. This must-see film won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival and was truly one of the best documentaries of 2020. Be assured, if you’ve never heard of Boys or Girls State, and have a high school Junior, you will definitely want to send them to this week long event after watching this political coming-of-age story.

10. THE OUTPOST

Director Rod Lurie’s THE OUTPOST depicts the Battle of Kamdesh, which took place on October of 2009, near the border with Pakistan in Afghanistan. 53 American Soldiers were expected to defend the worst position possible from 300 Taliban fighters and the stage was set for one of the bloodiest close quarter conflicts of the war in Afghanistan. The second half of THE OUTPOST is a visceral depiction of combat and an amazing job portraying the odds that were stacked against these men. Scott Eastwood does away with Clint imitation shtick this time and proves himself a more than capable action star.

9. MANK

With MANK, director David Fincher and his late screenwriter father Jack Fincher tell the story of how the screenplay for CITIZEN KANE, regarded as one of the greatest ever written, was primarily penned by Herman J. Mankiewicz. Gary Oldman is a powerhouse in the titular role, playing Mank as a brilliant drunk. Tom Burke plays Orson Welles as kind of an annoying show off, but that’s not what MANK is about.  The story jumps back and forth in time, an epic parade through ‘30s Hollywood, and focuses much of its story on the studio head’s reactions to the 1934 California governor’s race. The cinematography is spot-on, perfectly matching the look an atmosphere of CITIZEN KANE. MANK is a must-watch for fans of Hollywood history and politics

8. WOLFWALKERS

From the filmmakers of the Oscar-nominated short THE SECRET OF KELS, which combines magic, fantasy and Celtic mythology, WOLFWALKERS is the third film in Cartoon Saloon’s “Irish Folklore” trilogy. From Oscar-nominated director Tomm Moore and director Ross Stewart, this gorgeous film was an official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival, and one of the best of 2020. Jim Batts says in his review of the the film, “the CGI feature films are stunning, but a variety of styles raises the level of all animated efforts. These arresting visuals are complemented by the lyrical score by Bruno Coulais). WOLFWALKERS is a dazzling combination of a compelling story matched by art that smoothly blends the best current techniques while recalling classic works that helped shape our childhood.”

7. ON THE ROCKS

2020 saw several actors and directors re-uniting in new films, with none perhaps more entertaining than this modern-day family fable. After having two adorable daughters, Rashida Jones’ Laura suspects that her hubby may be cheating on her. When she voices her concerns during a long-distance call to her daddy, surprisingly he soon arrives. Bill Murray as grandpa’ Felix is indeed a “wonderful, wonderful cat” as whisks her away on an undercover adventure, leaving a trail of empty martini glasses along the road to Mexico. Seventeen years after Sofia Coppola directed him in LOST IN TRANSLATION, she guides him in serving up another helping of that irresistible Murray charm, this time tinged with longing and regret, for a most enjoyable visit with one of cinema’s great “wiseguy” icons.

6. NOMADLAND

The wanderer on the open road is an icon of American tales from classic Westerns to Jack London to Kerouac. NOMADLAND upends our expectation of the usual male central character, making the wanderer instead an older woman. Frances McDormand gives a stunning performance as a woman reflecting on both past and the future, someone who has become untethered from ordinary life after small town where she and her late husband had lived evaporates when its sole employer shuts down. Hitting the road in a van, McDormand’s lone traveler encounters a loosely-connected community of fellow wanderers living in trailers and vans, moving from place to place in search of jobs, but also enjoying the freedom of the road amid the raw beauty of the Western landscape. Filled with breath-taking photography,, and by turns sad or joyous, NOMDALAND is a powerful, engrossing story that is both personal journey and social commentary, and one that is both timeless and timely.

5. PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

Carey Mulligan gives a fearless, powerhouse performance as a once-promising young woman who now spends her nights prowling bars, posing as a drunken woman, to exact revenge on would-be rapists, in PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN. Director Emerald Fennel’s smart, clever, darkly funny film is an equally fearless take down of rape culture and its enablers, a film that straddles the lines between thriller, dark comedy and drama genres. The surprising, and surprisingly entertaining, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN is at once a hard-hitting attack on rape culture, a highly entertaining experience, and an impressive showcase for Mulligan.

4. THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF

Codependency between the roles of the artist and the muse is examined in Benjamin Ree’s fascinating documentary that feels as riveting and unexpected as a scripted drama. What begins as a woman investigating her missing paintings evolves into an unlikely friendship that sets the stage for a stirring look at self-healing, how we see ourselves and how we are seen by others. As the film shows in beautiful and heartbreaking moments, a portrait is a reflection of both the artist and the subject — an image stuck in time despite what changes lie ahead for the two.

3. POSSESSOR

In the not-so-distant future, your body is just a vessel that can be used and manipulated to be a weapon. One part cyber-punk, body-horror freakout and one part existential metaphor about our lack of identity and the soul-crushing effects of a job controlling your life, POSSESSOR shows director Brandon Cronenberg continuing in his iconic father’s footsteps of creating experiences that meld sex, violence and technology in unforgettable ways. A bleak and visceral look at corporate espionage delivered at a time when data mining, surveillance and slipping into online virtual worlds isn’t the future but rather our “normal” paranoid lives.

2. NEWS OF THE WORLD

And here’s another terrific 2020 actor/ director reunion. Seven years after their fateful voyage in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, director Paul Greengrass embarks on another tension-filled trek with actor Tom Hanks, this one set in the old West, just a few years after the Civil War. Hanks is a former Union officer who now lives by traveling from one isolated dusty town to the next, reading stories from a variety of newspapers from around the world to the settlers. His solidary life is upended when he meets a young girl of seven years, Johanna (Helena Zengel) who had been abducted by the Kiowa tribe, and decides to personally return her to his family. Greengrass skillfully twists the themes of the iconic film classic THE SEARCHERS to deliver a “road trip” adventure highlighting the deep emotional bond slowly forming between the two leads. And Hanks finally gets to saddle-up for his first live-action foray into the Western genre after several decades as our “fav’rit” plastic sheriff.

1. THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

Director/ writer Aaron Sorkin takes us on another dramatic trip into the world of politics but set in the now distant, but oh so familiar past. Indeed its main focus is on the legal “three-ring circus” that riveted the US a couple of years after the violent demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Convention in the Windy City when those protest organizers were charged with a litany of federal and state offenses. An impressive all-star cast, headed by Oscar-winners Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance, bring this slice of history to vibrant life under Sorkin’s taut guidance as he balances the courtroom “theatrics” with harrowing flashbacks of that turbulent era. After the past of summer of societal unrest, this 50 year-old story feels incredibly “of the moment” thanks to his filmmaking skills and perhaps this movie year’s scariest villain, Frank Langella as the single-minded stubborn Judge Hoffman.

The individual favorites from the WAMG team:

Michael’s Favorite Films of 2020

  1. Welcome to Chechnya
  2. Possessor
  3. The Painter and The Thief
  4. Relic
  5. Boys State
  6. Black Bear
  7. Minari
  8. Bacurau
  9. Wolfwalkers
  10. Sound of Metal

Honorable mentions:
Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Promising Young Woman, Lovers Rock

Cate’s Favorite Films of 2020

  1. Nomadland
  2. First Cow
  3. Mank
  4. The Painter and the Thief
  5. Antigone (French Canadian, Canada’s official Oscar entry)
  6. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  7. Promising Young Woman
  8. Blow the Man Down
  9. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  10. Beanpole

Honorable Mentions:
Vast of Night, Emma., Lucky Grandma, Coded Bias, Painted Bird

Michelle’s Favorite Films of 2020

  1. Nomadland
  2. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  3. The Personal History of David Copperfield
  4. The Painter and the Thief
  5. First Cow
  6. News of the World
  7. Promising Young Woman
  8. Wolfwalkers
  9. The Outpost
  10. Boys State

Honorable Mentions:
Love and Monsters, Bill & Ted 3 (BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC), Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, The Vast of Night, The Midnight Sky, Tenet

Jim’s Favorite Films of 2020

  1. Soul
  2. Desert One
  3. Promising Young Woman
  4. The Personal History of David Copperfield
  5. Belushi
  6. BORAT: Subsequent Movie Film
  7. News Of The World
  8. Wolfwalkers
  9. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  10. On The Rocks

Honorable Mentions:

THE ASSISTANT, PIECES OF A WOMAN, HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY: THE REN & STIMPY STORY, NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS and OVER THE MOON

Tom’s Favorite Films of 2020

  1. A Rainy Day In New York
  2. Possessor
  3. The Outpost
  4. BORAT: Subsequent Movie Film
  5. Mank
  6. The Call Of The Wild
  7. The Devil All The Time
  8. On The Rocks
  9. News Of The World
  10. VFW

Honorable Mentions:

AMERICA’S LAST LITTLE ITALY: THE HILL, SKIN: A HISTORY OF NUDITY IN THE MOVIES

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