Last year was a funny one for movies, for obvious reasons. And yet, we still got new ones. I admit, most of those originally destined for cinema ended up either being pushed back indefinitely, or just quietly turned up on Amazon Prime or Netflix.
But still we got great stuff, an amazing crop of movies, to be honest. Here are some of my picks.
Da 5 Bloods
I enjoyed this movie from Spike Lee. In a way, it was yet another Hollywood tale of sons trying to connect with their fathers. It featured a career best performance from Delroy Lindo and was one of the last performances from the late Chadwick Boseman.
This movie that ended up on BBC iPlayer was part of Steve McQueen’s fantastic Small Axe anthology series. This story was set in Notting Hill in the ’70s and told the tale of the ‘Mangrove 9’ and the events surrounding their trial.
The Trial Of The Chicago 7
Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed this true story, which looked at the 1969 trial of seven men following counterculture protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Great writing, as you’d expect from Sorkin, with strong performances from Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance.
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
This film came out in cinemas in France in 2019 but only reached the UK in February 2020, so it makes my list. I had zero expectation going in, knowing nothing about Celine Sciamma as a director, yet this film bowled me over. The performances from the two leads,
Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant, the sumptous sound design, the way the story built and built until the final heartbreaking scene… it hit me hard in the emotional feels.
Queen & Slim
Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith go on the run in this modern day Bonnie and Clyde story, written by Lena Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas. This movie is gorgeous in so many ways, effortlessly cool, and completely and inevitably heartbreaking. This was my first time seeing Jodie Turner-Smith and I’m keen to follow her career now. I’ve been a fan of Kaluuya since day one.
A reggae house party in West London in the 1980s. Another one of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology – this one perfectly captures a moment in time, a single evening of intertwined relationships, against a backdrop of violence, romance and music.
Like we need any more stress during this pandemic, and yet this film is arguably one of Adam Sandler’s best performances. If anyone remembers the series of scenes in Goodfellas where Henry Hill is driving around looking at the sky watching for police, then almost crashes. His nerves are fried. Yeah, the whole of Uncut Gems is like that. This movie also launched actress Julia Fox onto the scene.
I imagine we’ve all seen this film. I mean… it came out at the start of 2020, which feels like a lifetime ago. If somehow you’ve been living under a rock it’s a South Korean black comedy that won four Oscars in 2019, including Best Picture and Best Director for Bong Joon-ho.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
It’s 1920s Chicago and we’re at studio on a hot day, trying to get a recording session with ‘the mother of Blues’ Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), yet it keeps falling apart. Not least because of ambitious horn player Levee (Chadwick Boseman, in his final performance), who clashes with Ma, the band, and everyone. It’s based on an August Wilson play and works well on screen. Not least because of Boseman and Davis, who absolutely nail their performances.
Pixar’s latest movie plays out a bit like a Scrooge tale, although here it’s a jazz musician (Jamie Foxx) who gets shown by a genderless soul (Tina Fey) who ends up in the body of a cat how he’s been missing out on life’s little moments. It’s a good movie. Not without flaws, and not as good as Inside Out, Up or Coco, but still highly enjoyable.
Another movie to come out in early 2020 in the UK, so makes the list. Sam Mendes co-wrote and also directed this World War I movie about two men making their way across enemy territory to deliver a message. Much was made about how this movie was done in a ‘single shot’. Obviously it wasn’t, but Roger Deakins did outstanding work as cinematographer, winning an Academy Award for his efforts.
This came out on 1 January 2020, and was a great way to start the year. Little did we know covid would upend our lives just a couple of months later. This film was a fun start to the year, though, and proved there is a way to do a comedy movie about Hitler.
Released in April last year, a few months into the pandemic and this smashy action movie was just what we needed. Produced by Marvel’s Russo brothers (Avengers Infinity War and Endgame) this film saw Chris Hemsworth shoot and punch his way in a most satisfying fashion through the city of Dhaka in Bangladesh.
True History Of The Kelly Gang
Released in Feb 2020 in the UK, this is the second movie to star George Mackay that makes my list (the other being 1917). Here he plays Ned Kelly, in a fictionalised account of Australian bushranger/freedom fighter, Ned Kelly, and how he and his gang clashed with and fled from authorities in the 1870s.
There’s a few others that were out last year which I have on my ‘to watch’ list but am yet to see. They come recommended by many others – worth checking out.
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things
Charlie Kaufman’s (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich) new film, with the talented Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons in the lead roles.
Netflix gave David Fincher carte blanche, and so he created this story about alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz’s (Gary Oldman) race to finish writing Citizen Kane. Critics loved it, but some regular movie watchers have said it’s boring. You’ll have to decide.
Empire magazine called this the best British teen movie in years. It centres around a group of girls of teenage girls at an East London school in Hackney, and stars newcomer Bukky Bakray.