2020 has been an awful year but an interesting year for film. We have the pandemic so films got pushed to either to the end of the year or next and movie theaters around the country have closed. I hope someday they can come back as I miss safely going to the theatre but safety comes first and the Coronavirus needs to be defeated first. This did mean that in my search for great films I was exploring what could be rented on streaming as most of the big studio films were those pushed ahead and it was in that I found these films. I found these films primarily on Amazon and Netflix.
So without further ado before I get into my Top 5 the films I thought were awful this year. “The Rental” and “Color out of Space” were both billed with intriguing ideas for their horror films but were pretty and empty and I would not recommend them. “Altered Carbon: Resleeved” was also awful. It did not make use of the great show it came from. Same goes for “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War” for wasting the entire cinematic universe it had made.
For honorary mentions I must mention “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “The Invisible Man,” “Come to Daddy,” “Soul,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” and “Superman: Red Son.” Each of these either made full use of their premise, explored deeper ideas and were well acted and worth remembering. They just didn’t make the Top 5. Now without further ado, here are the Top 5.
5) The Gentlemen
Directed by Guy Ritchie
This is Guy Ritchie in his element as we follow awful people who are made compelling by the clever writing of Guy Ritchie. This film has some amazing action and how it frames narratives and perspectives enriches the story. This is classic Guy Ritchie so you know what you are getting into. None of these characters except maybe one of them are good people but the dramas and problems they need to get out of drive the narrative in fascinating ways. This is a great and flawed film and was one of the best films to come out earlier in the year.
4) Gretel & Hansel
Directed by Oz Perkins
“Gretel and Hansel” is a meditative heroine’s journey of self-discovery and power. The film follows Gretel as she cares for her brother after escaping with him from an abusive home and a corrupt town which leads them to Alice Krige’s haunting Witch. The film does not shy away from being horror but goes deeper as we learn the backstory of the Witch and Gretel finds her own way not shaped by anyone else. It is really powerful retelling and a beautiful film. The cinematography for this film is a masterpiece which captures the fairy tale nature of the story.
Directed by Christopher Nolan
“Tenet” is Christopher Nolan in his element as I’d say his best film is still probably “Inception.” This film ranks up there with that and “The Dark Knight Trilogy.” This is a spy thriller mixed with science fiction concepts as it uses time as the means to craft the narrative as the mystery of everything comes together and we learn fully who “The Protagonist” is. This film is beautifully acted, the action means something and pays off and it made me care about a main character who had almost no backstory besides being an Agent. I hope we see more films like this from Nolan as when he pushes himself and creates something original it is something great.
2) Da 5 Bloods
Directed by Spike Lee
This is the second time Spike Lee has made my Top 5, last time it was first place with “BlackKklansman.” This film isn’t as narratively tight as that film and it does have a few monologues that kept the pacing slow in certain places. This film is still an amazing favorite though. This film explores intersectionality through the lens of African-American Vietnam vets returning to Vietnam to get CIA gold they’d hid and to honor the dead leader of their squad Norman (Chadwick Boseman). This was Chadwick Boseman’s penultimate film and he made the role of the leader and heart of the squad so memorable. Racism in the context of the United States and Vietnam is how intersectionality is explored and I highly recommend this film that ties the basis of it’s existance to solving the problems of racism in the present.
R.I.P. Chadwick Boseman.
1) Blood Quantum
Directed by Mi’kmaqi Jeff Barnaby
“Blood Quantum” explores intersectionality and oppression in the context of the Red Crow people on a reservation during a zombie outbreak. This film is brutal but has a deep emotional core that it never strays away from as the core relationships between family and friends are explored as we see people wrestle with their trauma and how it plays out when the reservation is the only safe place in the outbreak. The cast is nearly entirely indigenous as is the director and I can’t wait to check out his other work. This film truly explores oppression and the consequences and cost it has on the individual to community scale. This film captures horror, history, action and drama to tell an unforgettable narrative that puts it above the rest. In the end this is why, “Blood Quantum” made my favorite film of the year.
These were my Top 5 Films of 2020. I’m curious to hear about what yours were this year. Here is to a better 2021.