Well folks, we made it through the crazy year that was 2020. Everything is different, but thankfully we still had movies to give us a few distractions and some much-needed laughs at time. But even that was different, we spent less time in a dark theater with a crowd of folks, replacing that experience with our TVs and sound systems at home with numerous streaming services to offer up movies to entertain us. I think I usually average around 70 new movies a year, but sadly this year it was only 42, and that includes even older movies I saw for the first time. And the back catalog of stuff on the various streaming services, I missed out on a bunch of movies too.
And as you can see from the title, we are doing things a little different as well. I had my list down to 11 movies and even after about a week of trying to narrow it down, I couldn’t, so you are getting 10 (+1) this year.
10(+1): Bad Boys For Life
I would say that the next few films on this list were the ones I went back and forth with, trying to figure out if they deserved a spot on my top ten. So that is why I added a bonus film this year, in the year of our lord 2020. Bad Boys For Life is one of the few movies I was able to see in a theater. I saw this while I was on vacation in Las Vegas, and I went in with fairly low expectations, although there were some positive reviews out there. And this ended up being much better than I had expected going in. It seems like this movie was supposed to come out earlier, with numerous delays, and when it takes awhile, you always wonder if we really need another sequel. Well even though they are older, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence still brought it. No Michael Bay behind the camera also had me feeling a little worried. Look past the issues, he still knows how to make some great action movies. But props to Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who proved they could handle the franchise, and perhaps it may continue on longer, but we shall see if that happens.
10: The Lovebirds
And now that we finally begin the top ten list of 2020, we can start talking about a few common themes this year. 2020 was not great, so it should be no surprise that there is going to be a few (spoilers) movies on this list that are going to make you laugh. We did get to see the muscle man transformation of Kumail Nanjiani as he prepared for his role in an upcoming Marvel movie, but he still was able to exercise his comedic skills in this Netflix release, alongside Issa Rae. A couple who are on the verge of calling it quits get caught up in some craziness and fun and laughs follow. You could compare The Lovebirds to Game Night, which is also one I really enjoyed. Michael Showalter, from the comedy group The State, directed this one, as well as another favorite movie of mine, The Big Sick, which also starred Nanjiani. So in theory, if these two work together, you should be sure and check out this movie, and how convenient, it’s on Netflix.
9: Palm Springs
We keep the funny going with our next movie, Palm Springs, starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. We take a premise we have seen before, stuck in a repeating day, but we add a little twist to the mix. I have heard people saying it’s best to not know the premise of this one, but they pretty much give it away in the trailer. I knew the basic premise and as you can see, I still enjoyed it. This is available on Hulu, another theme for this year, the power of the various streaming services.
8: Birds of Prey
Let’s head back to the beginning of the year, when we could still go to the movies. I headed down to my nearest IMAX screen for our next movie on my list, Birds of Prey. Margot Robbie is back as Harley Quinn, as her story continues, after her big breakup with the Joker. As she begins her life without him, she comes across a few ladies to join in the adventure, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett, and Rosie Perez. The story is told in a chaotic way, stopping and starting and going all over in the timeline, but it makes sense when it’s told from Harley’s perspective. And I enjoyed the action sequence in the police station, looked amazing on the IMAX screen. Just realized that DC did release a good movie this year, sick WW84 burn, am I right?
7: Borat 2
AKA: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
And much like Bad Boys, we got another Borat movie this year, and of course things had to be a little different this time around. Pretty much everyone knows the Sacha Baron Cohen character by now, so he had to try a few different looks as a disguise. This time around, he brings his daughter along, played wonderfully by Maria Bakalova. Yes, this was funny; yes, it showed how crazy things are in the United States, but the one surprise was how much heart it had. And of course, it dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, and everyone knows about the infamous scene with Rudy Giuliani, the former NYC Mayor and current personal lawyer to outgoing President Trump. The film is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, and one of the main reasons I finally signed up for that service.
We keep the streak of funny going, but with Emma we go back in time, for another telling of the famous Jane Austen story. It was a pretty good year for Anya Taylor-Joy, other than New Mutants, with Queen’s Gambit and Emma. And for those of us who make Love Actually a must-watch Christmas tradition, we have our favorite old rock star Bill Nighy, once again stealing the scene anytime he’s on the screen.
5: Hamilton: An American Musical
I usually don’t watch or listen to any other people’s top ten lists till after I am done with mine, well this time I did listen to a few and there was a little debate on whether Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s Hamilton should be included, since it’s basically a taped recording of a live performance. But it was scheduled to be released in theaters, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney changed their plans and put it on their streaming service Disney+. Once again, perhaps a reason why more people signed up for the service. I had not had the chance to see this while they were on tour, a little too expensive for my taste, or listened to the soundtrack. I have had people tell me it’s better going into a stage play not knowing any of the songs. Well I think I pretty much watched this one as soon as it was released, and then spent the next few days re-watching and even bought the full soundtrack, along with the mixtape version for when I was working. I think I had most of the songs stuck in my head, so maybe I didn’t need to buy it. Great performances by everyone in the cast, too many to list off, and this way I won’t accidentally miss anyone. You’ll laugh at King George III and you’ll cry anytime Eliza or Angelica belt out a song.
4: Weathering With You
Back in 2016, Your Name was released in theaters, and I was lucky enough to see it, and I was immediately hooked. It ended up being my top movie that year, so in 2020, when another movie from the same director, Makoto Shinkai, I had to make sure and check it out. Once again I had to wait until it was released on Blu-ray before I could check it out. The story revolves around a student who moves to Tokyo, and a chance encounter with a mysterious girl, who we find out can control the weather. They advise a plan to make some money by using her abilities, but that is not the whole story. This one took a little longer to hook me, but my god there is some amazing animation Weathering With You. Water is always a nice way to show off your skills. And there is also a fireworks sequence that puts the one in WW84 to shame, sick burn #2 for that movie.
If you know me, there shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that a Pixar film is in my top ten. The studio released another film earlier in the year, Onward, which was I thought was ok, but not to the standards that I expect from Pixar. They aren’t always winners and that is ok, but boy did they knock it out of the park with Soul. Once again this was released on a streaming service, Disney+, but I would have loved to see this in a theater, even in 3D especially. The art style and visuals would have been enhanced even more in 3D. And part of the story revolves around a cat, so another way to draw me in. As many have stated, this is sort of a grown up version of Inside Out, which was also directed by Pete Docter. With each film that is released from Pixar we get to see the animation improve and become even more realistic.
Amidst the epidemic WB decided to take a chance and release Tenet to theaters. And this one was playing at the IMAX I usually go to, so I decided to go out and see this movie, the way it was intended to be seen. The theaters were making sure to let everyone know the extra precautions they were taking with cleaning and social distancing. So I figured the best way for me to feel comfortable was to go to the first showing of the day, and pass on any concessions, which felt weird. There ended up only being maybe 10 people in the whole theater, so I felt safe. Wow, that turned into a long story, let’s rewind and get back to the point — the movie, a new entry written and directed by Christopher Nolan. A story that requires multiple viewings to fully see all of the little hints along the way, and a viewing with captions, since Nolan likes to overpower the dialogue with the score at times. John David Washington was cool in his suits and did a nice job with the action sequences as well. And I feel like Robert Pattinson gave us a little sneak peak of what he’s bringing to the new Batman movie.
1: Sound of Metal
And so we finally reach #1, and I went back and forth with this one almost as much as I did with the #10 movie. This was the last movie I watched before I started to make my list, and a nice palate cleanser after WW84, burn #3. It kicked off with an intense opening and continued with a great performance from Riz Ahmed, as a drummer in a band, with his girlfriend who loses his hearing. And thanks to the great sound design you really feel what it is like in his world. He spends some time at a home with other deaf people and they try to change his outlook on being deaf, giving him other ways to look at it. In this current climate, sometimes silence is golden. This film is available on Amazon Prime, so you can watch a few of my favorite films of last year.
And since we are spending so much time at home, I would also look into picking up a few of these soundtracks as well. I think I bought more soundtracks/scores than I normally do.
Who knows what 2021 is going to be like for movies, with the new HBOMax deal, perhaps we are going to be spending more time at home than in theaters. But I am going to be positive and hope that soon enough we are going to be back in those dark theaters, and hopefully this time away will make people more respectable to others. I know, very wishful thinking on my part, but one can hope.