2020 sucked, even if there were some good things.
Most of the good things did come before March though, even in the film world. That was of course we still had a normal film schedule.
But let’s reflect on some of the good that happened in 2020.
Honourable Mentions: Greyhound, Tenet, Bill & Ted Face The Music, Dark Waters and Soul.
This was the last film I saw in the cinemas before lockdown happened and wrecked our lives. In retrospect, this was not a bad one to bow out on until they re-opened for a bit in the summer. Ever since the success of Frozen, lots of films have tried to do films based on the love between siblings. But no one had really made one that could be the definitive brothers film as Frozen could be the definitive sisters film. Well, they have now and it’s Onward. While it could also be called the definitive Dungeons and Dragons film as well due to all the influence it takes from the tabletop game, it is the relationship between Ian and Barley that really makes this an incredible film. They capture that brother dynamic fantastically and make this road trip great fun as well as very moving. Yes, you will cry over a van, Pixar demands it.
4. The Invisible Man
Who would have thought that you could have taken a schlocky Universal Monsters film, remake it for the 21st century and have it be one of the most terrifying films of the last few years? Definitely not me but here we are with The Invisible Man. Blumhouse, who are also responsible for one of the worst films of the year as well, came up with a fantastic slant on the classic by making it a parable for domestic violence. Many of the best horror films in history have simply been heightened versions of a much more realistic horror and nothing has done that better than this film. It’s absolutely terrifying to be stalked by a man you cannot see but it is even scarier when no one believes you and your life steadily gets ruined. This is a stunning horror movie that shows this genre can be so good when handled correctly.
As we have seen in the #MeToo movement, many men, even those that are well-meaning, have struggled to understand how women simply can’t come forward with allegations of sexual assault. So it’s very good that a film has come along to show why women aren’t doing that. This is a very clever movie that is expertly directed to make this story stand out and grab your attention. Using three main protagonists with different levels of influence within Fox News, this is based on the real-life horrors of Roger Ailes, and why it took so long for him to be taken down. I thought I was clued up on a lot of the institutional and cultural issues which caused women to stay silent, but this film was a great education for me. But it’s not a dry, depressing movie. It’s stylishly done and everyone involved puts in a phenomenal performance. It was truly a bombshell of a movie. I will take your complaints about that joke in the form of a haiku.
2. Just Mercy
When I first reviewed Just Mercy back in April, George Floyd was still alive. The lockdown was in full effect and the last thing on many people’s minds was police brutality against minorities in America. Not long after, it would become the dominant news story despite the pandemic. People flooded to the streets to not only protest about police brutality but the systematic racism which held down black people in America. In retrospect, that makes Just Mercy even more powerful. This is a story about justice in America and that if you are black, you are more likely to be sent down for a crime you didn’t commit and end up on death row. In April, this was a frightening reminder of how bad things were. Later on in the year, we’d be reminded that while things might have got better, it still needs a lot of improvement. This powerful drama which examines so much about the effect of oppression, including one of the darkest effects which is just accepting that this is the way things are, has only got better and more relevant as the events of this year has unfolded.
At the start of 2020, I sat in a cinema and watched a film I knew would be the number one on this list. It’s something that has happened before with La La Land, but this was something else entirely.
1917 is spectacular and a reminder of how good cinema can be. Since Covid-19 hit and shut down cinemas, many of us have pined to return to the multiplex. However with so many big movies like Trolls: World Tour, Mulan and most recently Wonder Woman 1984 finding success on streaming services, we have had to wade through many articles declaring the death of the cinema and that this is the future.
It’s enough to bring you to despair. Especially as films like 1917 remind you what only being in a room with a massive screen and powerful sound system can do. A TV series could do an intricate retelling of World War 1 with in-depth character analysis and historical retellings which make it as educational as it is entertaining.
But only a movie in the cinema could give you a feel to what it would be like in those trenches trying to avoid the death which surrounds you. And Sam Mendes pushes cinema to the limit in this one. As you most likely know, this film is done in ‘one-shot’. This is not just a gimmick. It adds to the intensity of the movie and it never allows you to breathe. I wouldn’t be surprised if people watching this fainted simply because they forgot to take a breath. And while this isn’t a character study by any means, the little moments the leads have are made more powerful because we see what they’ve gone through.
I believe despite all the doom-mongering, cinemas will be back and we will be packing them out to see the latest flick. Because yes, sometimes movies suck. They can be bland, they can wretched and they can be offensive. But at their best, they transport you to another world and make you forget everything about your life for two hours. 1917 did that. Many more will hopefully do the same.