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Top Five Films of 2020

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In addition to listening to music, I also watched a lot of movies in quarantine. I’m guessing you already know what is next so here are my favourite films of 2020! Since releases were halted, I was not able to come up with a list of 10 films I absolutely loved this year but I did make a top five with a few honourable mentions in the runner ups section. Enjoy!

Runner Ups

Da 5 Bloods (dir. Spike Lee)

photo taken from Vanity Fair

I had no idea how Spike Lee would follow up 2017’s BlacKkKlansman. However, in typical Spike Lee fashion, he surprised everyone by dropping an almost three-hour long Vietnam war epic and did not disappoint. The film honours black veterans while also diving into the effects of PTSD and nationalism on families and individuals alike.

I would be lying if I said that Chadwick Boseman’s appearance was not one of the highlights of the film. The role he plays feels like an extremely fitting tribute to Boseman despite Spike Lee not knowing of his condition at the time of filming. All the performances are excellent though, especially Delroy Lindo and Jonathan Majors in the unforgettable scene pictured above. The quality of the direction and cinematography is also fantastic. It may not be my favourite Spike Lee film of all time, but it certainly is his grandest achievement to date.

Onward (dir. Dan Scanlon)

photo taken from Variety

There are actually two Pixar films on this list and, despite Soul being the obvious frontrunner, Onward was able to personally move me in a way I have not experienced in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, Soul was also exceptionally thought-provoking, but the exploration of brotherly connection and familial loss was personally very impactful, especially at the time I saw the film. 

From an actual story standpoint, it is a classic hero’s journey. The animation itself is not as innovative as Soul but is still very pleasing. But by far the best parts of the film are the performances. Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Octavia Spencer, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus all climb out of the woodwork as some of Pixar’s best voice actors since the original Toy Story cast. They’re so convincing, especially Holland and Pratt, which makes the film hit that much harder. 

I feel like this movie has been compared to a lot of other Pixar classics which, by comparison, are monoliths. However, as a standalone film, Onward has a lot to offer and the dynamic between Holland and Pratt is utterly infectious.

Top Five

5. Mank (dir. David Fincher)

photo taken from Variety

Before I saw this movie, I had heard a lot of things about it, particularly that it was “heady” and “slow”. Maybe that’s why I was pleasantly surprised to find this film as engaging as I did. It is actually quite fun! The performances from Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried are obvious highlights but would be nothing without the absolutely flawless dialogue that shoots rapid fire throughout the entirety of the film courtesy of Jack Fincher.

The atmosphere of the film was also particularly interesting to someone who is quite into the medium and history of film. The Finchers have done an excellent job of weaving real-life events into a story that still feels relevant. Now, it does help, nay it might even be necessary, to have seen Citizen Kane before as the film contains quite a few obvious and subliminal references to Orson Welles’ (or rather, Herman Mankiewicz’s) 1941 epic. With Mank, Fincher adds another worthy member to his already impressive lineup of classic films. 

4. Enola Holmes (dir. Harry Bradbeer)

photo taken from The Verge

Stranger Things made it clear that Millie Bobby Brown was one to watch but Enola Holmes shows her undeniable range. She is utterly captivating. The film would be nothing without her enticing mix of charisma, determination, and naivety. She is a star through and through. However, the film itself is also extremely well done, sporting well developed characters, captivating visuals, and a stunning mystery.

But hidden beneath the fun plot is a narrative powerfully dealing with women’s suffrage and sexism. It is incredibly satisfying to see Enola break stereotype and barrier after barrier throughout the run time of the film in a way that does not feel forced. It is just who she is. It has been a long time since I have seen a character who is just so effortlessly empowering. Overall, Enola Holmes is a thoroughly entertaining film while tackling tough issues with the wit of its titular character.

3. Soul (dir. Pete Docter)

photo taken from Entertainment Weekly

Soul has had many talking since its release on Christmas day. Its well-deserved praise complimented virtually every aspect of the film: its sophisticated and well-executed concept, its unparalleled visuals, and its virtuosic sound-mixing and vocal performances. It is truly hard to say something that has not already been said about this wonderful film. I cannot wait to watch it again.

Perhaps something of note is the year in which this film was released. 2020, as I am sure you know, was one of high polarization and civil unrest. To see a film that some may be tempted to label as a “children’s film” effortlessly and simplistically highlight the importance of every life regards of gender or race was truly something of a magnificent feat. It was much-needed to say the least. As with virtually every Pixar film, Soul showcases jaw-droppingly beautiful animation but also packs a serious emotional punch while presenting a message of utmost importance.

2. Tenet (dir. Christopher Nolan)

photo taken from The Indian Express

Are you as confused as I am? Even if you are, it is impossible to not see the absolute genius of Tenet, whether it be visually, conceptually, or narratively. It may not have lived up to box office expectations due to its pandemic release but it was most certainly not a disappointment in Christopher Nolan’s filmography. John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, and Robert Pattison are all absolute knock-outs as usual, which is impressive considering they admitted to not understanding what was happening in the film most of the time.

In all honesty, Tenet is not beyond comprehension and sports some of the best time travel sequences in movie history. The combination of reversed and regular footage also makes for some mind-blowing, larger than life scenes. The pacing of the film is impressive and, despite jumping around quite a lot, all feels necessary. It is just everything you could want in a Christopher Nolan brain-warping thriller. I loved Dunkirk and Interstellar, but Tenet is hands-down Christopher Nolan’s best and most enjoyable film since Inception and one of the most complex films of the year.

1. Trial of the Chicago 7 (dir. Aaron Sorkin)

photo taken from Deadline

In my Soul review, I briefly mentioned the circumstances under which that film was released. I think it is especially important to consider when discussing this film. Upon the release of The Trial of the Chicago 7, protests were being held around the country to fight against systemic racism in society which was unfortunately once again highlighted by the murders of unarmed black civilians by racist police officers and white attackers. Needless to say, a film dealing with systemic injustice, racism, and the fallout of protests hit a little bit harder given the context.

As always, Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue could be studied as a masterclass in this discipline (if he did not already have one!). He is just unparalleled in this realm and the future looks bright for his directing career as well. The performances from Eddie Redmayne, Frank Langella, Mark Rylance, and, with extreme emphasis, Sacha Baron Cohen were absolute magic and only added to the exceptional nature of the film. Although this film, or any other for that matter, could never come close to solving the issues presented within, it does an exceptional job of highlighting just how corrupt society at large is, how little progress has been made, and, consequently, the need to push for additional change.

Thanks for reading!

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