The longest year of our lives is about to turn into dust and get whipped away by the winds of years passed. I’m not mad. Even when the universe hit the world with the hardest tragedies, we soldiered on and tried to find the good in our lives. For me, that “good” was movies.
In 2020 I watched 144 films for the first time! That is insane, and what’s even crazier is that I can remember watching each movie like it was yesterday. On my Letterboxd, you can find my full "2020 Film List - Ranked". All of these films, even the horrendous ones (I’m looking at you 365 Days), made me learn more about our world, myself, and the lives of those around me. I only went to the movie theaters a handful of times this year. Once Covid-19 struck, movie theaters were the first to go. I thank my laptop and iTunes for being by my side when it felt like the whole world was crumbling apart. There is nothing more healing to the soul than snuggling under the covers and watching an incredible movie.
Out of the 144 films I watched, ten movies in particular, made my 2020. All of these movies are special to me for a specific reason, whether they comforted me in a dark time in my life or made me laugh until tears rolled down my eyes. Movies have a way of doing everything and nothing you imagined. Getting lost in a world so unlike your own is exhilarating, scary, and awakening.
Thank you to the universe, for opening me up to the film world. And thank you to every director, actor, producer, writer, and more for giving me these ten films below.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)
(dir. Aaron Sorkin, starring Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne)
Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 follows the 1969 trial of the eight political radicals who were accused of inciting the riots that broke out at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The film is hilarious, snappy, and a very theatrical re-enactment of an infamous American courtroom drama. Sorkin has had his hand in courtroom dramas for some time now since he is the mastermind behind “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Broadway. The intelligent and pouncing dialogue, bursting riot scenes, and dramatics of this star-studded cast kept my parents and me engaged for the entire 130-minute duration. It isn’t hard to see the parallels between this year and the ’60s as the film presents. The tension between citizens and police, uprisings of marginalized groups, and the question of what ‘radical’ really means is all woven together in this timely piece.
(dir. Pete Docter , starring Jammie Foxx and Tina Fey)
Soul introduces Pixar’s first Black male lead in Joe Gardener (Jamie Foxx), a middle school music teacher who longs to be a jazz musician on the big stage. After decades of rejection, Joe lands a gig with visiting jazz legend, Dorthea Williams, after a former student puts in a good word for him. Filled with the hope that this performance could be the turning point of his career, Joe rushes home to get prepare — when he falls into a manhole, and his life gets cut tragically short. After his fall, Joe’s soul is supposed to head to the Great Beyond (aka the afterlife), but he desperately wants to return to Earth. Joe then meets a bratty unborn soul, Soul 22 (Tina Fey), who can go to Earth but refuses to go because she doesn’t see the point in living. Joe and Soul 22 make an interesting pair as we learn that being alive isn’t the same thing as living. This film is a fantastic homage to New York City living from the iconic diss at the struggling NBA team, the New York Knicks, to the vibrant storefronts and taxi cabs. Soul is a reminder that one’s purpose in life is never set in stone and can only ever come from within. If it doesn’t, uncertainty and unhappiness lie ahead.
The Lobster (2015)
(dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, starring Colin Farell and Rachel Weisz)
Greek filmmaker, Yorgos Lanthimos, directed this bleak and cynical satire on our society's obsession with love, relationships, and commitment. In this dystopian world, a single person has 45 days after a break up to find a new partner, and if they don't, they will be turned into an animal (of their choice, of course.) Colin Farell brilliantly plays the newly single Dave, who enters a facility where single people try to find a mate. The facility resembles the treatment center in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and spares no expense containing the human emotion "singles" feel. There are frequently seminars about the dangers of being single. (A woman walking by herself is attacked. A woman walking with a man is safe. So on.) Personal connection is pushed to the side because if you want to escape social humiliation and getting turned into an animal, you will marry the first person you have a connection with. The Lobster stabs a pitchfork right through everything Valentine's Day heart you've ever seen. It made me question the ideas of a "soulmate" and "the right person will come along."In Lanthimos's style, he doesn't answer these questions. Instead, he leaves you with a chilling, "We'll Never Know."
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
(dir. Edgar Wright, starring Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead)
In lockdown, my love for merely being a living, breathing, and healthy human, grew as did my appreciation for bubble tea, Netflix Party, and Michael Cera, of course. Cera plays Scott Pilgrim, a 22-year old Candian wannabe rockstar, who falls in love with an American girl he meets at a party, Ramona Flowers. First, he has to dump his 17-year-old girlfriend Knives Chau, and then he can finally be with the gorgeous girl with purple hair that stalks his dream. Scott Pilgrim kind of gets Knives out of the way. But no one told him that he also has to defeat Ramona’s seven deadly exes to date her ?! Ramona Flowers is certainly a Manic Pixie Dream Girl (read my article on that here). But, unlike most MPDG movies, the male love interest eventually realizes the MPDG's potential to be something more than an a person to fix their miserable life. The ending scene of the movie beautifully portrays the growth that is supposed to happen in any relationship. Scott Pilgrim has the perfect amount of obscenity that it's still good. You’ll be quoting this movie for weeks and playing the soundtrack non-stop as well. At least that’s what I did!
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
(dir. Kenneth Lonergan, starring Cassey Affleck and Michelle Williams)
In Manchester by the Sea, your heart will get thrown all over the emotional clouds before hitting the ground with pain more intense than you ever thought possible. Casey Affleck plays depressive loner Lee Chandler, who spends his days as a janitor in Boston. After the death of his treasured older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), he is now the guardian and must take care of Joe’s only son Patrick (Lucas Hedges.) With impeccably seamless flashbacks given throughout the film, we see Lee’s relationship with Joe and Patrick from years before. As a tiny boy on his father’s prized fishing boat cracking jokes with his uncle, those memories of Patrick flood back into Lee’s mind as tensions between him and his now stubborn teenage nephew arise. Through these flashbacks, we also learn that Patrick’s mother was a drug addict and has been absent for most of his life. As the film digs through Lee’s mind capsule, we learn about the entirely different life he once led that makes residents of Manchester, Masschuttes refer to him as “the Lee Chandler.” I’ve never witnessed a film so stunning with its storytelling, dialogue, and cinematography. It comes as no surprise that director Kenneth Lonergan was once a playwright. In a small town whose minds are narrow, pain seeps through nonetheless. This is a film about forgiveness and the price of redemption. Manchester by the Sea is not a story about what it means to fly too close to the sun. It is a story about what it means to get burned by the sun until your skin is pickling red and how one day you can see the sun and not wince in fear anymore.
Beautiful Boy (2019)
(dir. Felix Van Groeningen, starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet)
Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet come together in the most deeply felt and pulling way I have seen to represent father and son David and Nic Sheff. Beautiful Boy is based on each of their memoirs: David’s Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction and Nic’s Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines. After he and his wife separate, David struggles to help their teenage son, Nic, who begins experimenting with drugs and later gets addicted to methamphetamines. Beautiful Boy is close and intimate, from where the film takes place in woodsy Marin County, California, to Carell and Chalamet’s chemistry on screen. Chalamet breaks down the helplessness, resentment, and numbness of Nic. While Carell demonstrates a heartbreaking performance of a father who wants to help his son be the beautiful boy he knows he can be. As John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy” flows throughout the scenes, teardrops will fall, soft as the song itself. We all have someone in our life we want to protect from the monsters that haunt them. Even if we know we can’t, the harm in not trying is more significant than any pain at all.
“The monster's gone, he's on the run/ And your daddy's here/ Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful/ Beautiful boy”
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
(dir. Wes Anderson, starring Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori)
You can fall in love so much harder for a movie the second time you watch it. The first time I watched this Wes Anderson masterpiece, I was half asleep, and truthfully I didn't remember the last thirty minutes. The second time around, my whole body felt as pastel pink as the Grand Budapest Hotel's color and little Mendl's boxes. I was blown away at how happy, mushy and warm a film could make me feel in just an hour and a half! This 2014 critically-acclaimed film tells the legendary concierge Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) and his exciting friendship with young employee Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), who becomes his trustworthy protege. Monsieur Gustave and Zero work at the bustling Grand Budapest Hotel in Europe, and within its colorful walls, love, war, theft, and greed explode. Featuring other star-studded actors like Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, and Adrien Brody, this movie is genuinely unforgettable. Like a Mendl's box, when you unfold its pretty ribbon, you are in for a delightful surprise.
American Psycho (2000)
(dir. Mary Harron, starring Christian Bale and Jared Leto)
Once in a while, I show my "film bro" side, and one must not be afraid of that! Christian Bale plays a wealthy and neat New York investment executive named Patrick Bateman. From nine to five, he is nothing but the man with starched white shirts basking in the privileges of a white American male. Evaluating whose business card is the best is his favorite past time with his co-workers because fonts and getting a reservation at Dorsia are Patrick's largest concerns in life. That is until his psychopathic alternate ego takes over, and he goes on a rampage of slaughterings, rapings, and torture to fulfill his gruesome and illicit fantasies. American Psycho is mind-bending, head-scratching, controversial, and entirely up to your interpretation. Run wild.
Call Me By Your Name (2017)
(dir. Luca Guadagnino, starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer)
Somewhere in 1980s Northern Italy, surrounded by lush trees, sunbathed streets, cracking villas, and a glimmering blue pool, 17-year-old Elio Pearlman (Timothée Chalamet) falls in love with an older man named Oliver (Armie Hammer). Elio returns to his family's summer home in Italy with his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an esteemed professor, and his mother (Amira Casar.) Oliver, an American doctoral student, arrives for Elio's father's annual internship and is everything Elio is not. He is tall, confident, gorgeous, and bold. When Oliver leaves, he always says, "Later," making him an even bigger mystery to the Pearlman family. Elio is shy, gawky, and everything from the way he talks to his pastimes are like a flowing bottle of molasses — long and drawn out. The two fall in love amid psychedelic dances, pissy girlfriends (or sidepieces), peaches, and mountain runs. The question: "Is it better to speak or not to speak ?" is echoed as bright as the colors in this film. In a world of in-betweens, we see two young men grow into their identities, grow away from it, and get lost in a love so deep it hurts. Whenever I need a reminder of why I love film, I watch Call Me By Your Name. Nothing will ever compare to this masterpiece.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
(dir. Ang Lee, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall)
Two modern-day cowboys, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhall), meet during 1963 at a summer job tending sheep on a Wyoming mountainside. Ennis is quiet and offers nothing but his timid smile, while Jack, a rodeo rider, is a bit more outgoing and spontaneous. After a few days have passed on the mountains and whiskey has seeped into their system, the intense feelings between the two rise quickly, and they passionately (and violently) have sex. "This is a one-shot thing we got going on here," Ennis says the next day. But as the film unfolds, we see this is far from the truth. After the summer ends, years pass by and both men live their lives, get married, have kids, and so on. But, Ennis and Jack always find themselves back together. Brokeback Mountain destroyed me in a way I've never felt before. This film is a masterpiece in all respects. The intimacy between Ledger and Gyllenhall will leave you speechless, as they convey the beautiful but depressing truth that love can survive through the darkest times if you don't let fear rule the way.
I can' wait for all the beautiful films 2021 will bring. See you next year !⭐⭐