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Best Films of 2020

It's that time again!

It's that time again!

Ripping Off the Band-Aid

Shall we rip the band-aid off straight away by saying that 2020 was possibly the worst year for many peoples’ lives around the world. Not even a joke, last year just flat out sucked and 2021 doesn’t seem to be shaping up any better after the events of January 6th at the Capitol building alone. Here’s to hoping for a brighter future and to finally being rid of COVID-19 once and for all. Seriously, in the final months of 2020, I barely mustered up the energy to write a single article; my last one was posted in the middle of November and it was originally intended for Halloween! That’s how bad I had gotten with being exhausted of everything going on throughout the year that I couldn’t even find enjoyment in writing about the one thing I genuinely love more than anything, film. It was a bad year, and unfortunately the bad streak seemingly continues, but I’m now saying “enough is enough” and I am back to typing away my life discussing movies, movies, and more movies!

I apologize for starting this article off on such a ‘downer’ note. Frankly, I felt it was necessary to acknowledge last year’s historical terror in some capacity before getting into what kept myself and presumably many others hopeful; some pretty grand movies. Granted, last year saw many scheduled releases become delayed for possibly a very long time from now due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, we still managed to find a few diamonds in the rough along the way last year… thankfully! After catching up on a number of major titles that I had missed, I figured I would hop back into the swing of things by talking about my personal favorite movies out of 2020.

Subjective is art.

Subjective is art.

For anyone reading, please keep in mind that all art (including film) is completely subjective; what I might find to be mind blowing and masterfully crafted, others might say is a pile of sh*t. On the other hand, what everyone else is calling a mesmerizing action-thriller spectacle that is destined to save cinema, I might find… overly convoluted with relentless exposition and zero character dimension for me to never remotely care… not naming any names here… just know that I’ll be a mindful tenant of the movie-going industry and play nice. In all seriousness, 2020 still had a lot of great features to admire, so I say… to each their own, right?

Disclaimer

Just so everyone knows for incoming context, I have not seen every single movie released out of the year 2020. In a declaration of the obvious, there weren’t nearly as many flicks released last year as there normally have been in previous years and there were quite a few limited releases that were a smidge too difficult for me to lay my eyes on in time to write this article. And admittedly, there are simply some flicks that I didn’t get around to watching and decided to move forward with writing the article anyways. So for anyone wondering why titles such as Pieces of a Woman, The Platform, Greyhound, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Let Him Go, Bad Education, Sound of Metal, The King of Staten Island, and Nomadland are missing from my list... I did not see them, despite word of mouth being nothing less than fantastic. I’m sorry, I know that everyone seemingly loves all these movies, I haven’t gotten around to seeing them or sadly can’t currently.

Honorable Mentions!

Regardless of the fact that I didn’t see nearly as many films as prior years, I still managed to see my fair share of potential greats. So here is a sum up of a few that nearly made the cut, but didn’t quite get there for me; regardless, they still deserve the shoutout!

So without further ado, here is my personal list of what I found to be the very best films of 2020!

You like a horror movie painted by a neon rainbow? Here you go!

You like a horror movie painted by a neon rainbow? Here you go!

10) Color Out of Space

The Plot: A secluded farm is struck by a strange meteorite which has apocalyptic consequences for the family living there and possibly the world.

Richard Stanley makes a wildly hypnotic return to the director’s chair (outside of documentaries) that is colorfully weird and beautifully gruesome in every way. Watching this family, with the head of the house being played by the always great Nic Cage himself, slipping slowly into madness as their secluded home becomes more and more bizarre is one of the craziest spectacles out of any movie from 2020. Color Out of Space is like a horrifically drug fueled, psychedelic trip harkening back to body horror classics such as John Carpenter’s The Thing while imprinting that stylishly strange signature Stanley stamp all over.

Visually speaking, like I mentioned before; it’s wild, man! Creepily disgusting gore and creature designs executed masterfully with seemingly all practical effects. There is undoubtedly CGI sprinkled in to create specific effects throughout, but everything still looks indescribably gorgeous that it’s near impossible to look away. The film truly does utilize color in such creatively vibrant ways that I was completely hooked on what bat-sh*t visuals the story was going to throw at me next. Which speaking of the story, as straightforward as the premise is, the execution of it is anything but predictable. By the time the third act hit, I had no clue which direction the narrative was going to head into next and who was going to survive… if anyone were to survive this insanity at all!

Nic Cage is perfect.

Nic Cage is perfect.

Please, if anything I said appeals to your tastes, give this tie-dye soaked H.P. Lovecraft inspired awesomeness a watch! Plus… it’s Nicolas ‘F*cking’ Cage… He’s a cinematic treasure to behold in every single frame. Support this rockstar of an artist!

The best 'Nam war flick since Kong: Skull Island!

The best 'Nam war flick since Kong: Skull Island!

9) Da 5 Bloods

The Plot: Four African-American Vietnam War vets return to Vietnam in search of the remains of their fallen squad leader from many years ago, along with a gold fortune they had hidden back during days of war.

In all honesty, going into Da 5 Bloods, I had no idea what it was actually about; all I knew is that Spike Lee directed the movie and that it sadly contained one of Chadwick Boseman’s final performances. Which, by the way, Chadwick was terrific in. Then when the journey of these four war vets and one of their sons enter into the jungles of ‘Nam, there was a level of intensity that I could not shake for the continuing two+ hours. Not remotely kidding, even though the events of this picture take place in the modern day, this is still a ‘Nam war flick in disguise and it is freaking great!

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Chadwick Boseman has little screen time here, but is still very affective in the role.

Chadwick Boseman has little screen time here, but is still very affective in the role.

The suspense in most of the film is oddly subtle as it doesn’t necessarily focus on the dangers, yet we are constantly made aware of the imminent threats lurking within those jungles as our protagonists begrudgingly revisit what represents their own personal hell. There are full scenes where our leads are simply walking through the woods, chitchatting about general daily chatter, yet because we are enlightened on the deadly habitat they roam in, it feels as though I can hardly breathe while I’m constantly in fear of what might suddenly harm or kill our lovable characters; venomous snakes, vicious panthers, dormant landmines, vengeful locals, etc. There’s no telling what might happen around any corner of this intimidating jungle, adding to that feel of a genuine Vietnam War movie.

Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods

The chemistry between all of our leads is infectious and feels layered in a natural way where it makes sense that these men would love and care for one another as lifetime friends, holding respect for one another as they all can understand the demons that still haunt them to this very day. However, we can also see how times have changed as some of their lives have progressed fairly well while others, not so much. Again, everyone does a great job, but the absolute standout performance for me was hands down Delroy Lindo as Paul. This performance was chilling in parts and I hope goes down in cinematic history as one of the great War movie performances. We feel for this guy, to an extent we really like this guy and of course respect his personal situation after Vietnam clearly had a major effect on his psyche. Yet we also fear at any moment what this guy might do when he inevitably snaps.

Delroy Lindo better get a nomination for this one.

Delroy Lindo better get a nomination for this one.

Admittedly, I do have a few minor qualms with the picture; there are a few too many convenient coincidences that push forth the story along in whatever way the writer abhorrently wanted it to go. Certain events that felt a little too forced to just “so happen” to transpire. Also, when the group thinks it’s somehow a good idea to let Delroy’s character keep a hold of the ONE gun in the group was obviously the dumbest mistake anyone could ever make as he obviously is the one dude out of everyone with the worst PTSD going on. My final complaint though is the literal last minute of the film where the tone seems to have gotten somewhat confused and the narrative focus kind of flew out the window. Other than those minimal issues, I really did dig the hell out of this movie.

When two brothers just want to spend a day with their dad's legs... wait...

When two brothers just want to spend a day with their dad's legs... wait...

8) Onward

The Plot: In a magical world of elves, wizards, dragons, unicorns, and all things mystical, things have evolved technologically to where magic has grown to be a distant memory to the modern world. In the mix, two elven brothers (Tom Holland & Chris Pratt) who lost their father very young are now presented a chance to bring their dad back for just one day. The two brothers must embark on a quest to find a magic stone in order to make the spell work and see their father again one last time.

Onward was one of the few films out of the year that hit me on an extremely personal level and I ended up gushing over the film endlessly in my review. This is a beautiful film that has so much heart and I related to the story in a ‘what if’ scenario about two sons going above and beyond just to have one more day with their dad. I’m not going to rehash all the great things I raved about already, if anyone cares to know more on my thoughts on the film, the link will be provided above this paragraph. Just know that the story is heartwarming, the animation is of course great seeing how it’s a Pixar movie, and the voice acting is perfect; especially from Chris Pratt who probably provides the movie with the majority of its heart and its laughs. Check it out!

I just realized... I think the title might be referring to her ass... huh. What do ya know?!

I just realized... I think the title might be referring to her ass... huh. What do ya know?!

7) Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

The Plot: Set on one of the hottest days of the summer during the 1920s in Chicago, Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and her blues band spend the day at a recording session where tensions begin to rise amongst the band members, Ma Rainey herself, and the producers.

Now this was one hell of a note for the late-great Chadwick Boseman to go out on, firing all cylinders in what was possibly his best performance. Even though the titular character, Ma Rainey, is sort of the lead, I would say the film is equally shared with Chadwick’s character, Levee; a troubled trumpet player who holds aspirations of being the next great musical artist of his time, while simultaneously still battling his own personal demons. Granted, Viola Davis as Ma Rainey is undoubtedly superb as well and still commands the screen in every one of her scenes; it’s difficult to say who’s movie this one truly belongs to though, as Davis and Boseman are two powerhouses here battling for the spotlight. Which actually works fairly well for their tension filled chemistry between an aging artist seemingly on her way out of popularity and the ambitious youngblood attempting to make his mark as quickly as possible.

However, I can’t lie when I say I was nonstop gripped by every word uttered from Boseman’s character. I felt every thought and emotion that flourished through this man. Scenes would initially start out seemingly harmless and jovial between the band members, yet slowly escalating into a furious chaos where I had no clue just how bad things might go. One moment I’m laughing along with the characters in the locker room rehearsing for their recording session, the next minute it’s as though the breath was stolen from my own lungs while a fight like hell to breathe again because the intensity rises so high in one tiny turn of a once ‘happy’ conversation.

best-films-of-2020

In the same scene, I would go from feeling as if I were hanging with the guys to eventually being scared out of my mind that someone might die… truth be told, that is largely thanks to Chadwick’s beyond perfect performance who does not miss a single beat. It’s heartbreaking to know that this will be the very last new film we will ever witness by this remarkably talented actor. I hope that this movie, or at the very least Chadwick Boseman’s performance, goes down in history as one of his best and is renowned for years to come. It is a shame to see such a young man gone before his time. Hopefully he knows his work has made a real impact culturally, cinematically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and obviously financially on the Marvel side of things. We may mourn the loss of Chadwick, but I hope we also celebrate what he’s accomplished and let Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom be his swan song.

Get ready for an action movie on steroids!

Get ready for an action movie on steroids!

6) Baaghi 3

The Plot: A man embarks on a bloody rampage to save his kidnapped brother.

So… from January 1st, 2020, to January 1st, 2021, I was rather disappointed with the lack of anything all that great in the action movie department. Sure, there were definitely some fun action flicks on occasion; such as Bad Boys For Life, Wonder Woman 1984, Project Power, VFW, and Birds of Prey to name a few. Many would argue that the Chris Hemsworth ‘John Wick-esque’ vehicle Extraction was great, while I do agree that the action within the movie was solid, the movie as a whole was hollow and an obvious retread of better films that came before it. Which is unfortunately a major problem I had with many action installments out of 2020 like Extraction, Ava, Mulan, Hard Kill, The Old Guard, Underwater, and The Rhythm Section. For a long while, I believed that there wasn’t going to be anything from the action genre to make it onto my ‘Best’ list… and then came the miracle.

One man versus THREE military grade choppers? No problem!

One man versus THREE military grade choppers? No problem!

Baaghi 3 is hands down the best third entry of a movie franchise that I have ever seen where I had never previously saw the first two movies in! Much akin to the Tiger Shroff action extravaganza, War, from a couple years ago, Baaghi 3 is what happens when a B-rate action movie straight out of the 1980s snorts a massive amount of cocaine and shoots up 50 extra doses of pure testosterone and farts explosions for the duration of two and a half hours… only taking very minor breaks to include a bombastically extravagant song and dance number for our leads to perform before getting right back into the madness that is ACTION!! I loved it, I loved every f*cking frame of this craziness. Which is funny because before a couple of years ago, I truthfully was not much of a fan for the typical Bollywood formula; mostly reenacting famous Hollywood movies only to randomly jam in a dance number somewhere in the middle and make it needlessly longer with misplaced, melodramatic subplots sprinkled around. While that formula did not work for some past Bollywood flicks I had seen before, oddly enough it works for me tenfold in these extremely self-aware action spectacles like 2018’s War and now Baaghi 3. I love them, I honestly and truly love these movies so much and I cannot wait to see Tiger Shroff’s next starring role as Rambo in the next few years… I’m so freaking excited!!!

Yeah... this image is gonna be imprinted in my brain for a good long while.

Yeah... this image is gonna be imprinted in my brain for a good long while.

5) Possessor: Uncut

The Plot: Following an agent (Andrea Riseborough) who works for a secretive organization that uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other people’s bodies – ultimately driving them to commit assassinations for high-paying clients.

Well here’s a film which probably had the biggest balls out of any other flick I saw last year! Possessor is the hardest R, ambitiously cerebral mind-f*ck of a hitman movie I’ll probably ever personally witness. As we sink further down the rabbit hole of when two minds are breaking and merging as one in the middle of this assassination mission gone wrong, I become more in awe of how seamlessly the two performances blend between Andrea Riseborough (the hit-woman) and Christopher Abbott (the person being driven through brain-implant). These two work wonders capturing each other’s inflections to the point where I’m almost never entirely sure who is actually in the driver’s seat of this man’s body. Also thanks, in part, to the surreal editing as well.

Is she losing her mind or...

Is she losing her mind or...

Is he the one losing his mind with her trapped inside?

Is he the one losing his mind with her trapped inside?

Every moment in this movie feels as though a 100 ton weight is being laid onto my chest because of the sheer intensity being displayed. Largely due to Riseborough’s character having their psyche take a major toll from swapping from one body to the next, completely inhabiting their lives, leaving us to wonder just how far gone she truly is and what she might do next if she snaps. I was gripped from the opening scene, initiating us into just a small taste of the brutality to come, all the way to the final shot asking how much control does our lead have of her own life.

Also, to touch on the violence of the film briefly, it is a honestly a breath of fresh air to see a modern movie go for a hard R production again and without solely relying on CGI blood squibs to capture it; a lazy tactic that’s been annoying me in recent years. There are even movies that I’ve liked from the last few years that include CG blood and gore, and sometimes it looks fine or occasionally really good, but I really do miss when I could tell that a set and a subsequent actor were legitimately made a mess of by a sh*t ton of fake blood.

This is just the after math of what happens to poor Sean Bean here... he only wishes this was one of the movies his character died in.

This is just the after math of what happens to poor Sean Bean here... he only wishes this was one of the movies his character died in.

When gore is done digitally, even at its best, so far it’s still easy to tell that someone in post-production popped it into the scene on their computer. When it’s really there though, on set, with the actors and everything, there’s an authenticity to the blood that can’t quite be mimicked by a computer. At least not yet. That authenticity brings me closer to the world I’m watching and amps up the intensity that much more. So it was great seeing these awfully disgusting practical gore effects and buckets of blood being utilized so well in Possessor. I dug the hell out of it and give a massive amount of respect to director Brandon Cronenberg on going for the full R rating without holding back or taking the easy route during production so they could incorporate the gore through someone’s laptop later in post.

Here's the most stressful interpretation of an invisible man. Talented bastard!

Here's the most stressful interpretation of an invisible man. Talented bastard!

4) The Invisible Man

The Plot: Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) escapes the clutches of her abusive ex (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), but soon is met with news that he has committed suicide and leaves her with his fortune. Not long after though, Cecilia suspects that maybe her ex isn’t quite as deceased as she was led to believe. Cecilia experiences a string of strange occurrences that escalate to true danger in her daily life, as well as everyone around her. Once things go too far, Cecilia is determined to prove that she is being hunted by the man she once knew and he cannot be seen.

Well this was a movie designed to make me continuously fear and question my surroundings for an eternity. Taking this cool idea that’s been done before countless times of an invisible man and adding a slight twist of making this concept into a stalker thriller. That, to me, is brilliant. It results in the best stalker thriller I’ve seen since 2015’s The Gift. 2020’s The Invisible Man could have easily been turned into the generic paranormal Blumhouse horror movie we’ve seen one too many times with maybe some young pretty teeny bopper idiots who are being haunted by someone they can’t see; becoming a run of the mill, toothless PG-13 slasher missing everything that is supposed to make up a real slasher. Thankfully, this remake was written and directed by one of the most talented men working in film today, Leigh Whannell.

No reason why I chose this one picture of Leigh Whannell other than I thought it'd be funny to praise him while he's covered in sweat and blood.

No reason why I chose this one picture of Leigh Whannell other than I thought it'd be funny to praise him while he's covered in sweat and blood.

For decades, Whannell has proven to be a more than capable screenwriter of horror with features such as the original 2004 Saw being a solidly raw crime thriller, 2007’s Dead Silence is an underrated gem, Insidious is a terrifically creepy callback to a classic ‘80s haunted house flick, Cooties was a surprisingly fun take on the zombie genre, and Doggie Heaven is one of the funniest short films I’ve ever seen. Then one day Leigh decided to take on the director’s chair with the third chapter of the Insidious franchise in 2015, revamping the series in a way that actually got me excited to see where else this man’s potential could go… Then he made one of the best sci-fi action movies I’ve seen in decades, Upgrade! After seeing how masterfully he could handle a film with such an insanely low budget, I knew that whatever Leigh Whannell decided to do next, I was fully onboard without question.

Yeah... this was me for the rest of the night after getting back home from the theater.

Yeah... this was me for the rest of the night after getting back home from the theater.