2020 has certainly been a whirlwind of a year for many reasons thanks due to global pandemic. Like many others within the film community, I have found solace in films during the difficult times and the closure of cinemas have resulted in the majority of new releases being released onto streaming services. My website has seen huge growth and I feel more confident in my writing now thanks to all of the support. This year also saw me review my first lot of film festivals with London Film Festival and Raindance Film Festival providing unforgettable experiences.
As a lot of people begin to post their Best of 2020, I thought I would do the same. Rather than do a top 10, I thought I would do a top 5 instead (it’ll become clear why when you see my choices). Bear in mind that I am counting films that were released after this year’s awards season so films like Parasite won’t be included (if I had included them, it would have to be a top 30 and I don’t have the time sorry!). I will be writing a mini review for each but my full reviews that be accessed by clicking the links.
Before I commence my top 5, I want to give an honourable mention goes to Pedro Almodóvar’s spectacular short film, The Human Voice. As my list consists of feature length films, I thought I would mention The Human Voice here. Featuring a stellar Tilda Swinton performance (as if she delivers anything less!), it’s a fantastic glimpse into the deterioration of a woman whose life slowly becomes to fall apart as she comes to terms with the end of her relationship. You can read my fuller review for The Human Voice here.
Without further ado, here are my top 5 films of the year:
Kicking off this list is the first of two animation choices. In a year of strong animation output, Pixar’s Soul was the most discussed, especially since their awards attention was going to be pushed onto this film more than Onward which was released just before lockdown. Just when you thought Pixar couldn’t get bigger with their imagination, they got Pixar legend Pete Docter in to direct yet another masterpiece. A film that delves deep into one man’s life and his purpose, Soul is mesmerising in both its animation and narrative. At times abstract and bizarre, it feels artistic at times thanks to the limitless minds at Pixar which is what makes the studio so exciting. Boasting an A list cast and a score to die for (pun intended), Soul kicks off this list with hugely high standard.
4) Small Axe
So my number 4 choice is a tad controversial as I have given it to Steve McQueen’s revolutionary anthology film series Small Axe rather than a specific film from the collection. Hear me out though! I initially had compiled a top 10 and unsurprisingly, it was overwhelmed with the films from Small Axe and so I wanted to acknowledge McQueen’s phenomenal cinematic achievement in one go. Spanning several decades and showing the discrimination faced by the West Indies community in London, Small Axe explores well known stories such as first installment Mangrove and lesser known issues as seen in the concluding installment Education. Each film as good as the last, McQueen is one of the most exciting directors working today (you can read my article on his films here). He is a fearless filmmaker who isn’t afraid to confront the racial issues head on, whether that is through the realistic brutality endured at the hands of the police sworn to protect or the vile discriminatory language used to belittle the community. Small Axe is an anthology series that has flipped the script on how filmmaking can be perceived as well as making that important statement that the issues explored haven’t completely gone away.
3) Da 5 Bloods
It couldn’t be a proper top 5 without the incredible Spike Lee. Following on the flawless Blackkklansman with the equally stellar Da 5 Bloods, Lee takes us through the African-American experience in Vietnam during the war and its aftermath. Following 4 men returning to Vietnam to locate their fellow soldier’s body, Da 5 Bloods is a film that makes it statement, showcasing the struggle of men who fought for a country that treats them unfairly. Mixing in different forms of film to provide a wider historical perspective, Lee is a true master of making his films into political statements that have plenty to say. His films are made to show the disturbance within a system that is sworn to protect its people. The racial discord is clearly one that is still evident today and those connections from the Vietnam War to now is evident in how Da Bloods are treated throughout the film. Disrespected wherever they go, the men can only find true solace in each other because no one else has had their experience both in the literal war and racial war.
My number 2 pick takes us deep into the wonderful world of writer-director-genius Charlie Kaufman with his adaptation of I’m Thinking of Ending Things. In true Kaufman style, what begins as a straightforward narrative in which an unnamed woman (Jessie Buckley) contemplates ending her relationship with partner, Jake (Jesse Plemons) soon turns into a winding labyrinth into the subconscious where reality and fiction and time and space become completely fluid to the point where nothing really makes sense. Eventually, the woman’s name is changed on a regularly basis and the tone shifts from drama and comedy to thriller and suspense. It’s a film that doesn’t allow you to glance away for a moment. Kaufman really is one of a kind but it is his mind and imagination that has drawn fans in again and again. His films are entirely up to interpretation so one person may take something from the film whereas the person next to them will take another. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a film you will either love or hate but the bottom line is you will feel strongly about it one way or other.
Just as we begun the top 5 with an animation, we’ll end it with an animation as well. Easily my top pick for this year is the incredible Wolfwalkers. Cartoon Saloon’s latest offering is beautiful beyond words and becomes even more magical on every rewatch. Available now on Apple TV, not only does it deserve to sweep the animation categories, it fully deserves to be a contender among the Best Picture nominees when the time comes. I go into more detail on my review which you can access by clicking the film title but be assured that Wolfwalkers is a film that will impact you long after viewing it. From the contrasting artistic styles to showcase the conflicts within the film to the spellbinding music, Wolfwalkers is a film that provides escapism while also incorporating important life lessons and folklore in a way that is engaging to audiences of all ages.
While this year has been one full of challenges and sadness, film can always be a portal to escape those troubles for an hour or two. Despite the closure of cinemas, this has been an extremely strong year for film and the upcoming awards season has proved to show huge competition, particularly in the acting, directing and writing categories. A year of diversity across all mediums has shown the desire and importance to create films from cast and crew from varying background. Not only does this give something different to what the usually white mainstream cinema is accustomed to but the differing perspective makes way for revolutionary discussion and helps to break those barriers.
What were your favourite films this year? Let me know in the comments below!