Tag Archives: 2020

Top 20 Best Films of 2020

Best of 2020

2020 was a very weird year for film. There was a pushback of plenty of movies, so a lot of the movies I was looking forward to that year was pushed back a year or even more. I also watched a lot less movies from 2020 year compared to past years, having only seen 55 movies from this year. Still, there were good films that came out in 2020 that are worth praising.

I should mention that films like The Father and Judas and the Black Messiah, which would otherwise be higher up on this list, are 2021 movies and so won’t be on this list.

Honourable Mentions:

The Nest

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The Nest was a smaller movie that didn’t seem to get a lot of attention from many people, but those who had seen it had very positive things to say about it. I’m glad I checked it out, it’s definitely worth seeing.

It’s a slow moving drama and it does take a while to figure out what it is about. However at its core, The Nest is a family drama portraying a slow but catastrophic disintegration of a marriage, and a deconstruction of the nuclear family, with themes about family, wealth, and what it means to be successful. It made for a slow descent into chaos that really creeps up on you. It was uneasy, uncomfortable and stressful to watch, with a sinister and moody atmosphere throughout, akin to a horror movie. The acting is also strong, with Jude Law being really good in his part and Carrie Coon being the outstanding stand out among the cast. It’s not for everyone and will be too slow for some, but I do think that it is worth checking out.

My review of The Nest

Weathering with You

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I had a feeling that I would really like Weathering with You from the moment I heard that it was from the filmmaker of Your Name, which is one of my favourite anime films of all time. While his latest movie doesn’t quite top his previous movie, I still think that it’s great.

Many of the great elements from Your Name are here. It blends multiple elements and genres including romance, drama, fantasy and coming of age together for its personal and smaller scaled story. The characters are well established and likable, and I liked following them. The direction from Makoto Shinkai as usual is outstanding, with his distinct and hyper-realistic animation style. The visuals are amazing, from the character movements, to the locations and settings. Empathetic and emotional, and under a beautiful direction throughout, I found Weathering with You to be enthralling.

My review of Weathering with You

20. One Night in Miami

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One Night in Miami was up there in the movie awards conversation, and for very good reason. It’s very strong on all fronts, acting, directing and writing, it’s a very powerful movie, and it’s a great film overall.

One Night in Miami does take a while to get going, but by the time the four main characters meet up, you’re invested in the characters and the plot. It’s a relatively simple movie, mostly taking place in one location. However it dives into many thought provoking and relevant conversations and keeps your attention all the way through. It is very well written, with some brilliant dialogue that’s incredibly well written and compelling (which it would need to be given that it’s dialogue focused and based off a play). The performances from the main four leads in Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr are excellent in their parts, and they play off each other very well. Regina King’s debut here as a filmmaker is fantastic, making the movie feel very cinematic despite it being based off a play. One Night in Miami is a very impressive movie that I was invested in from beginning to end.

My review of One Night in Miami

19. The Gentlemen

This was actually the first 2020 movie that I watched. Initially I liked it quite a lot, it was very entertaining and was for sure one of Guy Ritchie’s best movies. However, upon a rewatch it held up for me, and I liked it even more. I really wasn’t expecting it to still be in my top 20 of 2020 over a year later.

The Gentlemen is very entertaining, with some strong writing throughout. It’s sharp, memorable, and really funny. Like with Snatch, there are multiple characters and storylines crossing over and intertwining. It may be known as an action comedy, but really the great dialogue is the action of The Gentlemen. The cast are all fantastic on their parts, with Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, and Colin Farrell being my favourites of the performances. Guy Ritchie is at home directing in this genre. His style in this movie is his substance, it’s polished to perfection and it works to great effect. The Gentlemen is a return to form for Guy Ritchie, more so than RockNRolla, which was released over 10 years earlier. It’s darkly hilarious, constantly entertaining, and I really enjoyed watching it.

My review of The Gentlemen

18. Emma

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This is another movie that I wasn’t expecting to be in my top 20 by the end of the year. Until Emma, I hadn’t watched a single Jane Austen adaptation, but Emma proved to be a delightful experience of a movie that had me entertained from beginning to end.

Emma is great, hilarious, very witty, and snappy, with some rich characters and some great dialogue. Anya Taylor-Joy is pitch perfect in the title role, while the large supporting cast that consists of Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner and performed well on their parts. AAdditionally, Autumn de Wilde’s work as director is incredible. It is visually stunning and gorgeous, and all edited together incredibly well, along with having great production values. Much of the movie is very stylish, but it is done in a way that suits the material. I’ll admit that ultimately it took me a second viewing to understand and really ‘get’ this movie, but from that point, I found Emma to be such a fun and well made movie, and one of the movie highlights from 2020.

My review of Emma.

17. Black Bear

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Black Bear was quite an unexpected movie, one that definitely benefits from not knowing too much going into it. While it does make it a hard movie to describe or sell to people, I can assure you that it is well worth the watch.

I must emphasise that it’s a movie worth going into blind, especially with its significant turn some way into the movie. While it’s not perfect and does detach you from the narrative a bit, it does add something interesting to the film. What I can say is that it leaves a lot of room for interpretation and analysis. The writing itself is great, the dialogue is chaotic, sharp and very memorable. The acting work from everyone is great, with Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon being solid in major supporting roles. However it’s Aubrey Plaza who gets the most recognition from this movie and for very good reason, she’s fantastic here. Plaza is captivating and intense, some of the best acting work I’ve seen from her, and truly one of the highlight performances from the past year. It’s directed well too, beautiful to look at, and its intense camerawork gives the film a dynamic and real feeling. Sound design is great and sharp, and that paired with the bleakness of the cinematography and its haunting score helps creating a foreboding sense of dread. Black Bear is a mindbending, unexpected and well directed dramatic thriller, with effective tension throughout. To a degree it’s not for everyone, but I do think that it’s worth a watch.

My review of Black Bear

16. The Trial of the Chicago 7

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As a major awards season contender, The Trial of the Chicago 7 seems to have become firmly the least liked best picture nominee (which usually ends up happening to at least one nominee every year). I really do understand a lot of the criticisms, in fact some of my praise on this movie has decreased a little bit upon further thought even though I really liked it when I first saw it. But looking back on it, I still like it quite a lot.

The script was all the things you’d expect from Aaron Sorkin, with snappy and captivating dialogue, a fast pace, and some memorable moments. It locks you in with what’s happening from beginning to end. There’s also a massive ensemble cast for this movie, everyone is great including Sacha Baron Cohen, Yahya Abduel-Mateen II, Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne, John Caroll Lynch, Jeremy Strong, and Frank Langella. Unfortunately, it does have some notable aspects which do take away from the movie, even in retrospect. It definitely has some Sorkinisms with some of the dialogue choices, how he chose to represent certain events and people on screen, and especially the ending. I would’ve liked to have seen a darker and more accurate representation of the real life events for sure. With all that said, I still think it was a good movie and I do think that it’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it already.

My review of The Trial of the Chicago 7

15. Mangrove

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Mangrove is the first entry in the Small Axe anthology, all of which are directed by Steve McQueen. I haven’t seen all 5 movies yet, but at the moment in time, I don’t see the rest of them topping this one. It’s solid in every aspect, and I was engaged from beginning to end.

Steve McQueen gives a great examination of the themes and subject matters in the forefront as he sheds light on an incredible true story. It’s smaller scale, yet very compelling story of a community together, fighting for their human rights. It’s quite a powerful movie, and I was invested throughout. It takes a while to get to the trial, but the first half of the movie is necessary as we are introduced to the people and the Mangrove itself. Then when it gets to the courtroom drama, it is riveting and well written. The cast are all great, with the highlights being Shaun Parkes, Letitia Wright and Darcus Howe. McQueen’s direction here is strong, his work here is more subdued and restrained compared to his other work but it’s very effective here. All in all, it’s a well crafted and passionate historical drama. While I can’t speak for the quality of the entirety of Small Axe, I do think Mangrove is worth checking out at the very least.

My review of Small Axe: Mangrove

14. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

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Never Rarely Sometimes Always was one of the most surprising movies from 2020. It’s a very small indie movie that got a lot of traction, and then acclaim, and it definitely deserved all the attention it has been receiving.

What was immediately noticeable about Never Rarely Sometimes Always was its approach to storytelling. It’s not so focused on dialogue and it makes a lot of use out of silence, speaking volumes by saying a little. It tells a story through subtext and silence, from the character’s actions, the performances and the direction, making the movie feel all the more real. It resists going all in on unwelcome melodrama or larger ‘dramatic’ and overtly emotional moments, instead focusing the attention on being more natural. It’s empathetic and honest too, and by the end is very powerful. The acting is impressive from Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder in the lead roles, both performances are subtle, genuine and powerful and share great chemistry together. The whole movie feels authentic from the sets, to the sound, and to the cinematography and camerawork, especially with what they focus and linger on. I did want more character development, but it is the sort of movie where you aren’t given the full context of everything, or know why certain people do what they do, and I think that really works for the film. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a raw, nuanced and powerful movie, and one that you should definitely check out if you haven’t already.

My review of Never Rarely Sometimes Always

13. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

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Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things was definitely one of the most polarising movies of 2020. It’s really not for everyone, however I’m glad that I’m one of the people who liked this movie quite a lot.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things isn’t a horror movie in the conventional sense, but it is quite bleak, melancholic and depressing, yet very well written from Kaufman, with many layers and much to talk about. I was invested, even if much of the movie consisted of long conversations, I was fascinated with what was happening. The acting from everyone is great, with Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette and David Thewlis all performing greatly. However, it’s Jessie Buckley who’s the standout here, delivering one of the best performances from 2020. Kaufman’s direction shines a lot here too, from its stunning (and 4:3 ratio) cinematography, to the great and off kilter editing that indicates that something is really off throughout. There’s not much clear cut explanations about much of what the film is trying to say, and I admit that I don’t exactly understand everything. For me it’s quite possible that a rewatch could improve or break the movie for me. For now, I’ll just say that I had a really good experience watching it. It’s a strange and confusing film that will frustrate many, but I thought it was great.

My review of I’m Thinking of Ending Things

12. Saint Maud

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Saint Maud had been one of the most anticipated horror movies from 2020, and while some people were disappointed with the film after all the hype, I thought it was great. It’s a short and simple, yet effective and intimate psychological horror film.

Saint Maud is less intense horror and scares than creepy, disturbing and unsettling, with a creeping sense of dread throughout. It was a slow burn of a character study, that I was invested in throughout. This movie is a look at religious fanaticism, mental illness, loneliness and isolation. Morfydd Clark is amazing, mesmerising, and captivating in the lead role, one of the highlights of the film for sure. Rose Glass directs this movie incredibly well, I really want to see what she makes next. The movie is visually stunning with gloomy cinematography and memorable imagery, and features some great sound mixing and music, all of which combine together to build suspense and tension as well as a chilling atmosphere. It could’ve benefited by being a bit longer to flesh out its ideas and themes, but all in all, Saint Maud was a great horror film.

My review of Saint Maud

11. The Invisible Man

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The Invisible Man was one of the earlier movies from 2020 that still managed to get released before cinemas closed and movies started to be delayed. It still remained a very memorable movie even amongst all the other newer releases, and one that I’m still incredibly impressed by.

This is a modern adaptation of the original story, and that certainly seemed difficult to make, definitely hard to make an invisible man actually scary. However, director/writer Leigh Whannell and co. pulled it off, and the tweaks to modernise the story worked to great effect. The story is essentially about domestic abuse and gaslighting, and explores the traumas in an abusive relationship. That was more unsettling than the actual idea of a man being invisible. The movie is unnerving, and you feel as paranoid as the protagonist. While some of the concepts and ideas on paper might sound silly, it actually works here. As great as the rest of the movie around her is, Elisabeth Moss was key to making it succeed as well as it did, she gave an incredible performance on her part. Whannell directed this movie so well, this and Upgrade shows him as a great horror filmmaker and I’m looking forward to seeing what he makes next. The use of lingering camera shots and movements are so effective, making you unnerved at what you’re seeing, or not fully seeing. Combining that with the great visual effects and the powerful sound design and score, and it really escalates the already tense atmosphere. If you’re a fan of horror, I highly recommend checking out The Invisible Man.

My review of The Invisible Man

10. Possessor

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There have been some great horror movies from 2020, but Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor is my favourite of them all. A disturbing, unsettling and incredibly well-made psychological horror film, it made for a very memorable experience.

Possessor is a very creative, ambitious and unapologetic movie, packed with so many ideas. It doesn’t hold your hand, requiring you to put the pieces together of what’s happening in the story. It’s deliberately paced yet I was very intrigued throughout. The futuristic setting is bleak, and much of the movie is unsettling even before it gets to the brutality and shocking images. The cast are all great, especially Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott as the leads. Brandon Cronenberg directs this film incredibly well. It’s a visually and aesthetically stunning movie with a great colour pallet, and some outstanding hypnotic, surreal and nightmarish sequences. It’s an assault on the sense from the very first scene all the way to the end. Possessor is very much not for everyone, the gore at the very least will turn people off, and some might not be as into the story. But it was one of the most riveting and intense experiences I’ve had watching a horror movie recently.

My review of Possessor (2020)

9. Soul

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I went into Soul not being quite sure of what to expect. I just saw one of the trailers and knew that it was a Pixar movie from the people who made Inside Out. I didn’t expect it to be as great as it turned out to be.

If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend going into Soul without not knowing much about it. It was a lot deeper than expected, with it being a journey that really makes you think about life. It’s a beautifully told and very human story that’s full of sincerity, honesty and heart about what it means to be alive, as well as the purpose of life. It’s Pixar’s most mature movie by far, in fact I see older audiences getting much more out of the movie. At the same time, it is entertaining and there’s some good humour here too. The characters are great, even the brief characters who only have a few minutes of screentime are memorable, and they are voiced by a great cast including Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton and Rachel House. The movie is also directed well by Pete Doctor, beautifully and stylishly animated with its stylised photorealism approach to the locations and characters (at least when the movie takes place in the real world). It’s only enhanced further by the outstanding score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Soul is one of Pixar’s most clever, poignant and honest films, and one of their best.

My review of Soul

8. Minari

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There had been a lot of hype and anticipation for Minari based off the early reactions, and they were absolutely justified. It’s fantastically made on every level, and was all around an incredible experience.

Minari is a heartfelt and empathetic portrait of the immigrant experience from the perspective of a Korean-American family in the search of the American Dream, showing the hardships they go through. Their story is tender, genuine, funny and heartwarming. Director Lee Isaac Chung translates his own personal childhood story to the big screen in such a beautiful way. The cast all deliver truly great performances, especially Steven Yeun, Alan Kim and Youn Yuh-jung. Minari is a great and truly personal family drama. Watch this as soon as you can.

My review of Minari

7. Nomadland

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Nomadland is one of the most acclaimed movies from 2020 and it’s for very good reason. It’s a poetic, quiet and contemplative character study, and an intimate look at grief and loss. It’s great on pretty much every front.

Nomadland is plotless yet character driven as we follow the main character become a nomad over the course of the movie. It really is a story about real people and real stories, full of many memorable and heartfelt side characters who leave their mark on the film in an effective way. Despite it not really having a driving force throughout, we get lost and invested we follow the main character on her spiritual journey. The acting from everyone is great. Along with the performances from the real life nomads in the supporting cast, Frances McDormand here gives quite possible her best performance yet. Chloe Zhao’s direction is nothing short of extraordinary, and on a technical level the movie is pretty much perfect. The cinematography is natural, personal and gorgeous. Whether its be capturing beautiful landscapes or mundane areas, Zhao makes everything look beautiful. I do understand if people don’t like the movie, but I do think that it’s worth a watch at the very least.

My review of Nomadland

6. Another Round

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Released later in the year, Another Round quickly became one of my favourite movies of 2020. A dark comedy about drinking, life and more, it is energetic, hilarious yet heartbreaking and compelling.

The plot is about drinking but instead of just focusing on the negative effects, the film shows both the positives and negatives, while looking at serious subject matters including alcoholism, discontent lives, midlife crises, and marriage. It’s honest in a way that’s not sappy, it feels genuine. There’s a lighthearted tone throughout, so it’s easy to watch and is entertaining, but it also has emotional moments and darker aspects that stick with you. The cast are great especially the main 4 actors in Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe and Magnus Millang, with Mikkelsen giving one of his all-time best performances. Another Round is a humane, warm and cathartic dramedy that shows the benefits and drawbacks of alcohol, and is a very reflective and entertaining movie about life, friendship and day drinking. Check it out if you haven’t already.

My review of Another Round

5. Sound of Metal

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Sound of Metal really crept up on me, an impactful and genuine drama that’s incredibly thoughtful, powerful and well made. I’m so glad that it’s receiving all the acclaim and awards recognition, because it absolutely deserves them.

While Sound of Metal might be structured in a predictable way in that it’s about someone who has something happen to them that changes their life, and then they have to grow to accept their new circumstances, it doesn’t play out how you’d expect. It feels real and you are invested with what happens. It’s thoughtful, sensitive, and impactful, never once getting to the point where it feels heavy handed. It’s an insightful look into the experiences of people that we can only imagine ourselves. It focuses on quiet and powerful character interactions and moments over larger dramatic moments. This is only also helped further by the impressive direction from Darius Marder, especially with the incredible use of sound mixing. Then there’s the outstanding acting, Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci giving memorable supporting performances, and Riz Ahmed’s powerfully affecting performance is his career best. Definitely worth checking out as soon as possible if you haven’t already.

My review of Sound of Metal

4. Promising Young Woman

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Promising Young Woman was one of the most talked about movies from 2020, leaving quite an impact on critics and audiences. Stylish, provocative and excellently made, it was one of the past year’s most memorable movies.

The writing is strong, subversive and unpredictable. It is tonally all over the place, jumping between dark drama and thriller to comedy, it’s a movie that’s rather hard to categorise. It is a little more than what I expected it to be, while it is sort of a revenge movie as advertised, it’s also a character study, and the film was surprisingly nuanced. The performances from everyone are all great, but it’s the career best performance from Carey Mulligan that stands out most of all. At the very least, this movie is an excellent showcase for her excellent acting talents. Emerald Fennell’s directorial feature film debut is great, sporting an intoxicating visual style with the cinematography, costumes and production design. Unpredictable, well crafted, shocking and timely, Promising Young Woman is a movie where everyone is going to have a strong opinion on it. If you haven’t already, watch it for yourself.

My review of Promising Young Woman

3. Da 5 Bloods

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Da 5 Bloods showcases all of Spike Lee’s greatest talents and is amongst his best movies. Ambitious, urgent and impactful, it’s very well crafted and all around incredible.

Da 5 Bloods really is an epic war movie from Spike Lee. It’s very well written with a balanced tone, featuring dark comedy as well as emotional and character driven moments, with multi-dimensional and complex characters. It’s a truly emotional journey that works on so many levels, with so much depth here. There’s some hard-hitting commentary about race in America, PTSD, the ramifications of war and more, and it’s done in an intelligent and relevant way. It’s deeply empathetic, and through and through feels like a passion project. The acting is fantastic from everyone including Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, the late Chadwick Boseman, and especially Delroy Lindo. On a technical level it’s great, from the stunning cinematography to the well-tuned editing and more. Da 5 Bloods is one of the best films about the Vietnam War, and one of the most powerful war films I’ve seen. I feel like it’s been forgotten as more movies came out in 2020 but I really do think it’s one of that year’s best.

My review of Da 5 Bloods

2. Mank

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One of the more divisive awards movies, Mank definitely didn’t work for everyone really, it’s a rather niche movie. It’s not one of David Fincher’s more rewatchable movies by any means. However, I’m one of the few people who loved this film, and I do think it’s great for what it is.

While as it was pitched and seemingly marketed as a movie about the writing of the classic film Citizen Kane, it’s more about the main character of Mank, and the events and people which inspire him to write the movie. It’s a film about Hollywood during the 30s and 40s, the politics at that time and the flaws of the Hollywood system. While it took me a while to figure out what the movie is about, I thought it succeeded in just about every single way imaginable. The whole cast is great, with the likes of Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried and Lilly Collins delivering some great works, with Oldman particularly giving the best performance I’ve seen from him. It’s also perfect on a technical level, David Fincher directs this excellently. There’s a lot of attention to detail to recreate the look of film in the 40s with the black and white, film grain, and sound mixing, and there’s tributes to Citizen Kane as to be expected. While it could easily be seen as just another typical Hollywood biopic, Mank really does feel like there’s passion behind it. As I said earlier, it is one of the more divisive movies from 2020 and very much isn’t for everyone. But I do think that it is worth a watch.

My review of Mank

1. Tenet

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Tenet was one of my all time most anticipated movies of 2020, Christopher Nolan’s name already sold me on it and the film itself looked spectacular from the trailers. I managed to watch Tenet in cinemas twice, and I loved it. While I expected another 2020 movie to come along and take the top spot on this list, nothing really had come close to topping Tenet as my favourite movie of the past year.

Tenet is at its core is a large-scale espionage and spy movie, which just happens to have a sci-fi time aspect to it. There are plenty of twists and turns, and the story itself could be complex and challenging. While it’s confusing on a first viewing, on repeat viewings it makes so much more sense, and you can see how well put together it is. Even if you can find issues in the movie like how some of the characterisations aren’t as strong as they could be, it’s nonetheless one rollercoaster of a ride. It’s ambitious, thrilling and such a fantastic experience from beginning to end. The cast including John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kenenth Branagh all perform their parts greatly. However of course much of the film’s success comes down to the direction from Christopher Nolan, on a technical level it is pretty much perfect. It’s very well shot and has some incredible action sequences, in fact I’d say that this movie has some of the best action that Nolan has done. From the opening opera house sequence to the climactic action scene, it’s exhilarating and overwhelming. The practical effects and sound design are outstanding too, and that’s even before you get to Ludwig Goransson’s excellent score, which fits the rest of the movie perfectly. It’s one of my favourite Christopher Nolan movies, it’s among my very long list of favourite movies, and it’s my favourite film of 2020.

My review of Tenet

What are you favourite movies from 2020?

Small Axe: Lovers Rock (2020) Review

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Lovers Rock

Time: 70 Minutes
Cast:
Micheal Ward as Franklyn Cooper
Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn as Martha Trenton
Kedar Williams-Stirling as Clifton
Director: Steve McQueen

A single evening at a house party in 1980s West London sets the scene, developing intertwined relationships against a background of violence, romance and music.

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After watching Mangrove, I was interested in checking out the rest of the movies in director Steve McQueen’s film anthology Small Axe. While each of the films don’t tie into each other, I decided to watch the next movie which was released, that being Lovers Rock. I had heard some high praise for the movie, being called one of the best of the anthology. The best thing I can say about Lovers Rock is that it’s distinctly different from Mangrove, making the entry special within the anthology. It’s a reasonably decent movie and I’m glad that I watched it, however I just couldn’t get into it as much as other people did.

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The plot of Lovers Rock depicts the events of one night at a 1980s West London house party. Everything happens at this party from chaos, budding relationships, music, and everything in between. It really is such a different movie from what Steve McQueen has made, and I’m not just talking about Mangrove. It’s comparatively lighthearted for the most part and isn’t as intense. Unlike Mangrove, it focuses less on the plot and characters, instead mainly focusing on the atmosphere and setting. The movie is fairly plotless, and you spend most of the time among the small community and watch their little dramas, relationships and traumas that happen over this one night. Lovers Rock is what many people call a hangout or vibe movie, and unfortunately I’ve found that hangout movies aren’t really my thing, and this film is not really an exception. I do wish there was a little more happening character wise, the characters don’t have much depth outside of a few basic traits. Generally, I found the narrative to be quite confusing and didn’t know what was happening, especially during the party, which is most of the movie. One could say that this could potentially be done to get the vibe or headspace of being at a party, but I’m not sure I should be feeling exactly this confused. The actual party, which takes up the majority of the movie, gets repetitive and overstays its welcome. I liked the atmosphere but after a while I got over it and started wishing for more from the actual movie. But for many, the atmosphere might be enough. I do understand that I might be in a minority of people. Again, I’m not really big on ‘hangout’ or vibe movies generally. Nonetheless, I still think that it’s a good entry in this anthology and does feel like it actually fits in it. Like with Mangrove and other McQueen movies there are some strong themes on display. The topics of racial discrimination and sexual harassment are highlighted multiple times in the film. Lovers Rock has a lighter tone from Mangrove, but still feels real and honest, and the characters are still surrounded by dark forces outside and you are aware of them. The movie clocks in at about 70 minutes, and while I’m definitely not going to say I was invested throughout, that was an okay length for the type of movie it is.

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I don’t have a huge amount to say about the acting, but everyone played their parts well, the standouts being Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn, Micheal Ward and Daniel Francis-Swaby. While I don’t think the characterisation was great, I have no issue with the acting at all.

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Steve McQueen directs this movie, and his work here is the best part of Lovers Rock. The stylistic elements are on point here. Much of the movie is just the house party and there is some great filmmaking and editing on display. Mangrove was shot well, but visually wasn’t anything special. Lovers Rock on the other hand is gorgeously shot and top notch from beginning to end. The camerawork has a naturalistic feel to it which further emphasises the free-flowing nature of the party. The soundtrack is great, with classic R&B, jazz, blues, reggae and rock, and overall is very catchy and captivating. I’ve not really been to parties so I can’t say this for sure, but I imagine that it captures the energy of a night out.

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Lovers Rock is atmospheric, visually stunning, and excellently directed by Steve McQueen. However, this plotless hangout/vibe movie didn’t quite work for me. I wasn’t really that invested, and I couldn’t really connect with it despite its strengths. With that said, it’s still a great addition to the Small Axe anthology. This movie will work for some people more than others. As it is, I liked the movie and I do think that it’s worth watching for sure.

Small Axe: Mangrove (2020) Review

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Mangrove

Time: 126 Minutes
Cast:
Letitia Wright as Altheia Jones-LeCointe
Malachi Kirby as Darcus Howe
Shaun Parkes as Frank Crichlow
Rochenda Sandall as Barbara Beese
Alex Jennings as Judge Edward Clarke
Jack Lowden as Ian Macdonald
Director: Steve McQueen

Mangrove tells this true story of The Mangrove Nine, who clashed with London police in 1970. The trial that followed was the first judicial acknowledgment of behavior motivated by racial hatred within the Metropolitan Police.

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I heard a lot about Small Axe. It is an anthology of 5 movies focussing on different stories about the lives of West Indian immigrants in London from the 60s to the 80s. This anthology has been very well received very well by a lot of people. In addition to that, director Steve McQueen, whose past work consists of Widows, 12 Years a Slave, Shame and Hunger, helms all 5 movies. So natural, I was interested in watching them. The first movie in Small Axe is Mangrove, and after watching it, I want to check out what McQueen did with the other movies in the anthology because it was great.

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The movie is about a group of nine Black British protesters accused of inciting riot after demonstrating against police brutality and race-driven hatred committed by the Metropolitan police in the restaurant named Mangrove. The first half of the movie shows the build up, and the second half ends up being a courtroom drama. It is a smaller scale yet compelling story of a community together fighting for their human rights, and the bond established just from one neighbourhood restaurant. Steve McQueen wastes no time in showing how messy the 1970 trial was in a very thought provoking and cohesive manner, and we’ve come to expect that from him at this point. McQueen is such a talent and gives a great examination of the themes and subject matters he covers in all of his movies. It really sheds light on a true story about harassment by police and further illustrates that the struggle for justice in these matters is a global issue. It’s a very powerful movie, the raw power and emotion, as well as the rage inducing storyline that is portrayed throughout is fantastic and compelling to watch, and quickly draws you into this daunting time period. Mangrove is a testament to how relevant matters of racial prejudice, systemic disenfranchisement and institutional bullying and brutality really are, even today. The movie is over 2 hours long, and while I was invested throughout, I did feel like the script could’ve been a bit tighter, mainly with the first half. It does take a while to get to the trial, as we are introduced the people and the Mangrove itself. The buildup was a bit slow to me and probably could’ve been shortened a bit, but it’s an undeniably important section of the story that needed to be here.

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The cast are all great, with all the performances working in the film’s favour. Letitia Wright plays British Black Panther leader Altheia Jones-LeCointe, and gives arguably her best performance to date. Among the other best performances of the film for me were from Shaun Parkes (who plays the owner of the Mangrove, and Darcus Howe, who particularly gets to shine in the courtroom scenes.

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Steve McQueen once again has done some great work here. The cinematography, set pieces, production design, editing and the direction of actors are all on point here. I will say that it is way less flashy and is fairly subdued compared to Steve McQueen’s past work especially as it was more of a character study, but there’s some great shots and camerawork nonetheless.

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Mangrove is a well crafted and passionate historical drama. The cast are great and shine with their performances and Steve McQueen’s work as writer and director are strong, telling a true life story of people trying to fight for their rights. Definitely watch Mangrove as soon whenever you can, it was great and I’m looking forward to seeing what the other entries in the Small Axe anthology are like.

Weathering with You (2020) Review

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Weathering With You

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence & coarse language
Cast:
Kotaro Daigo as Hodaka Morishima
Nana Mori as Hina Amano
Director: Makoto Shinkai

Set during a period of exceptionally rainy weather, high-school boy Hodaka Morishima runs away from his troubled rural home to Tokyo and befriends an orphan girl who can manipulate the weather.

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When it came to catching up on 2020 movies, I heard of Weathering With You being particularly good, which is an anime film. What immediately got my attention and interest however was the fact that it was made by Makoto Shinkai, the director of Your Name. That was one of my all time favourite anime films, with its story, characters and visuals, it was spectacular and I highly recommend checking it out (and it works as an entry into anime if you haven’t watched any of it yet). So I went into this movie only knowing that, I hadn’t looked at the images or the plot beforehand, and Weathering With You didn’t disappoint.

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A lot of people are going into Weathering With You with the mindset of people who previously watched Your Name. To get it out of the way, there are some similarities between the two. It’s another highly ambitious and original film combining multiple elements including coming of age drama, romance, and fantasy. Both of them also has similar plot elements and the over-arching theme of love, with it being a personal story focusing on two youths, while feeling quite large in scope. There are also some differences. However, I do judge them as their own things, and I don’t take issues with how they are similar or different. They did a good job at setting you in this location, and the characters are well established. You are along for the ride with the main characters from beginning to end. Much of the plot and writing on paper looks like it should be melodramatic, cheesy and cliché, but these characters are actually developed, and these emotional stakes and conflicts are established so well and contains a lot of empathy that it works. Like with Your Name it has some emotional moments especially towards the second half, and while it’s not quite as strong as that movie, it was effective enough here that you actually cared about what happens by the end. This film is also a metaphor for climate change underneath the fantastical myths in the plot. In terms of flaws, I guess there are small sections where I wasn’t quite invested compared to some other parts, but those are minor and don’t border on being boring.

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Makoto Shinkai directs this, and you can immediately tell that this was directed by the person who made Your Name, with the visual style, the way the camera pans around, the hyper realistic approach to the worlds that makes you feel like you could live among the characters. etc. If you haven’t seen Your Name or any of his other movies, it’s pretty hard to put into words to explain how extraordinary they look. The visuals are in a league of their own, and the animation is breathtaking. The overall look of this movie overall isn’t as fantastical as Your Name, focusing on being more realistic, especially with all the locations and settings. At the same time, the fantastical elements in this movie looks great. I do think the music for the most part is great, however I do think that there’s a bit of an overuse of pop songs. Some of it was fine (indeed a lot of that was in Your Name) but by the last third of the movie it became a bit much. That’s really my only criticism with the movie on a technical level at least.

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Weathering With You is a fantastic film. The story is empathetic and emotional, the characters are great and well established, and its directed beautifully, with enthralling and spectacular animation. Treating them as their own separate movies, I do like Your Name more than Weathering With You, though the latter of them is still great. I definitely recommend checking it out as soon as you can, especially if you like anime.

Saint Maud (2020) Review

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Saint Maud

Time: 84 Minutes
Cast:
Morfydd Clark as Maud
Jennifer Ehle as Amanda Kohl
Director: Rose Glass

Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a reclusive young nurse whose impressionable demeanour causes her to pursue a pious path of Christian devotion after an obscure trauma. Now charged with the hospice care of Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a retired dancer ravaged by cancer, Maud’s fervent faith quickly inspires an obsessive conviction that she must save her ward’s soul from eternal damnation, whatever the cost.

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I heard about Saint Maud for a while now, I knew that it was some highly anticipated horror movie from 2020 that was well received from critics who got to watch it earlier that year. I went in only that and that the plot had something to do with religion. I finally watched it after waiting so long for the opportunity to do so, and I thought it was great.

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First thing you need to know about Saint Maud is that it is a psychological horror. It’s definitely in the horror genre, but there are like next to no jumpscares here. It is more creepy, disturbing and unsettling than actually scary. The horror (in the conventional sense at least) doesn’t come into the movie for some time, and there’s probably not as much as some genre fans would like. It’s very much not intense terror that you should be expecting, but rather a creeping sense of dread. It is also a slow burn and moves at quite a steady pace (especially for the first 40 minutes or so), but I was nonetheless invested throughout. I won’t spoil anything about the plot, it’s best going in not knowing too much. Saint Maud is a character study of the lead character Maud, and her arc is compelling. We mostly see the whole movie through her perspective, and over time we learn about her dark past and her devotion to her religion. The movie at its core is a look at religious fanaticism, mental illness, loneliness and isolation. Many have said that it’s like First Reformed meets The Exorcist, and I can see why. Throughout much of the movie, there’s narration from Maud as she’s praying to God. While narration from the lead character is often overused in movies and can be lazy or expositional, we get an insight into her thoughts. It also sort of adds a level of uneasiness as we learn the places that Maud are at mentally. There’s a lot of ambiguity and unpredictability and that makes the movie a bit unsettling. Without getting into it too much, the third act is insane, and some bold decisions are made. Saint Maud is short at under 90 minutes long but I think that was generally the right length. Again it’s slow moving but every scene is well used. With that said, I think that there was something missing for me. I think it could’ve afforded to been at least 10 minutes longer to expand a little further on its themes.

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The acting from everyone in the movie is great, including Jennifer Ehle in the most prominent supporting role as the retired dancer that Maud is caring for. However it’s Morfydd Clark as Maud who shines the most, in one of the best aspects of the movie. Her performance is amazing and mesmerising, and she is a captivating presence throughout. Something to note is the range that she has and how quickly she can shift from one thing to the other with ease. Something she does well is make us sympathise for her, while making us equally scared of her.

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Rose Glass directs Saint Maud, and her work here is outstanding. It’s a very strong, precise and confident debut from her, and I’m interested to see what she makes next. The movie is visually stunning with its gloomy and darkly lit cinematography, memorable imagery, and some effective production design. There’s also some excellent sound mixing and an effective soundtrack. The score from Adam Janota Bzowski is very atmospheric and chilling, ranging from being creepy and sinister to being booming and invasive. With all its technical elements, it builds suspense and tension effectively, and for the most part doesn’t rely on jumpscares.

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Saint Maud is a short and simple yet effective and intimate psychological horror film. I was invested throughout, Rose Glass’s direction is confident and bold, and the movie is led by a chilling and fantastic performance from Morfydd Clark. If you are a fan of horror I do think that it’s worth watching. I will say though that it’s best to manage your expectations before watching, because I have seen some people disappointed after going in with all the hype and I can get why. But I thought it was great.

The Vast of Night (2020) Review

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The Vast of Night

Time: 89 Minutes
Cast:
Sierra McCormick as Fay Crocker
Jake Horowitz as Everett Sloan
Director: Andrew Patterson

In the 1950s, two children (Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz) search for the source of a mysterious frequency that has descended on their town.

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I heard a little bit about The Vast of Night from some film people, it’s a smaller indie sci-fi movie that was getting some attention. I checked it out myself and I am glad I saw it, it definitely deserves more attention.

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The Vast of Night is a sci-fi movie for sure, but it’s not large scale, instead it is viewing something paranormal through the eyes of high schoolers in an emptied out town. The story was rather predictable (i.e. I knew generally which direction it was going in) and it’s a simple story that we’ve all seen before. However it is aware of its own overall simplicity, and instead of going large and focusing on large special effects, it aims at being smarter instead. It is for sure a slow burn throughout, but I was intrigued throughout. The movie has a snappy script, which has an engrossing story with clever ideas. It’s almost entirely told through dialogue, and it makes sense considering the budget, but also works narratively. There are some long monologues, but I found them quite intriguing. The movie is firmly set in the 50s, and is drenched in genre nostalgia. Although I haven’t watched the Twilight Zone, it is clearly paying homage to that, and you can tell that the filmmaker really has a love and passion for the genre. The Vast of Night is roughly 90 minutes long and that was a reasonably good length for the movie, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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There’s not a huge cast, but the actors involved in the movie did well. The two leads in Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz are quite good in their parts, and they carry this story effectively. Their confident, quickly paced performances are convincing and sell the entire premise of the film. Extra credit for the actors for being to deliver large amounts of dialogue, sometimes in very long takes.

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The direction is from Andrew Patterson, and it really was key to the movie’s success. It’s worth noting that the budget for this movie is $700,000, quite small. It’s pretty hard to fully realise your vision – especially with an ambitious sci-fi plot, but Patterson pulls it off. The Vast of Night is a confident debut and suggests that there are greater things to come from him. He really does capture things on a small budget and it really did work to the movie’s advantage. Instead of trying to be grand, the film builds its narrative upon itself impressively. The visual effects that are on screen are pretty good for what they were. The cinematography is great and really stands out quite a lot. I really like the look of the movie, there is added film grain, and a moody colour palette that both sets the mysterious tone as well as invoking the era of the 50s. The use of long takes are particularly impressive, especially when the camera moves from one place to another far away place. Large portions of the story are told through long, static takes where the camera sits and there’s very few cuts while the subject talks. There’s even one scene with Sierra McCormick’s character where she’s operating on a switchboard and transferring calls, and it sticks with that one ongoing shot for a very long time, and it’s riveting. There are aspects with the colour grading and lighting which could be improved, though I have a feeling that it comes as a result of the budget. The nostalgia is on full display here, the movie itself starts with a slow push into a television set, with a theme song reminiscent of the Twilight Zone theme, and pays homage to many of the great paranormal sci-fi films and TV.

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The Vast of Night is a really good movie and quite a pleasant surprise. It is simple and doesn’t break new ground but its nonetheless impressive. The acting is good, it’s intriguing throughout and the direction is solid and benefitted from its indie and low budget approach. I’m interested to see what Andrew Patterson does next. Definitely watch it when you get a chance to, it’s worth a look.

One Night in Miami (2020) Review

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One Night in Miami

Time: 114 Minutes
Cast:
Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X
Eli Goree as Cassius Clay
Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown
Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke
Director: Regina King

On the night of Feb. 25, 1964, in Miami, Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) joins Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), and they discuss the responsibility of being successful black men during the civil rights movement.

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One Night in Miami was one of the big awards movies recently, and it was receiving quite a lot of praise from those who have seen it. It was based off a play focussing on a fictionalised meeting between 4 major famous African American figures in the 1960s. Not only that, but it’s Regina King’s directorial debut, so with all of those factors, I was looking forward to this movie quite a lot. I have to say, it really had lived up to all the hype and is very deserving of all the acclaim.

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As I said, the movie is based off a play, and you can definitely that is a stage movie. With that being the case the dialogue would have to be great as it’s carrying much of the movie, and the dialogue is brilliant, incredibly well written and compelling. The structure of the story really worked for me because it showed each character living their separately lives at the beginning, and then coming together in Miami. It does take a while to get going, but by the time the four main characters meet up, you’re invested in the characters and the movie. It is a pretty simple movie, mostly taking place in one general area, but the screenplay dives into many conversations and holds your attention the whole way through. It becomes a heated debate of the Black experience between the 4 people. The topics range from Islam, to music, and especially about each of their influences on the civil rights movements. The most interesting conversations were the ones between Sam Cooke and Malcolm X, those two are particularly in conflict mainly because their approaches were very different. Much of the movie is powerful and thought provoking, as well as very relevant. From beginning to end I was invested.

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TOne of the highlights of the movie are that there are truly outstanding performances from the main 4 actors, that being Eli Goree as Cassius Clay (AKA Muhammad Ali), Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown, Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke, and Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X. The chemistry between these 4 were great, you really believe that they are friends and they play off each other very well (especially in their lengthy dialogue scenes). In fact it’s pretty hard to pick a best performance between them, all of them deserve a lot of praise.

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Regina King is a fantastic actress as we’ve seen with performances in Watchmen, If Beale Street Could Talk and more, and now she’s a director. This is her debut film, however the direction feels very assured, as if it wasn’t a debut. I definitely want to see what she makes next. On a technical level it’s great, it’s shot and edited very well. There are plenty of problems that directors face when having to adapt a play to a movie. The movies always end up feeling like plays, and can often end up just being people in a room talking with long monologues. While One Night in Miami does have those to a degree, King actually manages to make the movie feel somewhat cinematic. So while at first it might not appear to be anything special or flashy, her work here is great.

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With an excellent script and amazing performances from its leads, all under the confident direction from Regina King, One Night in Miami is a very impressive movie that I was invested in from beginning to end. Check it out as soon as you can, it is well worth your time.

Minari (2020) Review

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Minari

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Coarse language
Cast:
Steven Yeun as Jacob Yi
Han Ye-ri as Monica Yi
Alan Kim as David
Noel Kate Cho as Anne
Youn Yuh-jung as Soon-ja
Will Patton as Paul
Director: Lee Isaac Chung

A Korean American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of its own American dream. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home.

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I heard of Minari for some time, it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in 2020 to some high praise. I knew of it as a drama that follows a Korean American family and starred Steven Yeun. A year later, it still remains one of the leading movies in awards season, and having seen it I can say that it’s for very good reason. Minari is one of the past year’s best films, and it deserves all the acclaim.

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Minari is an empathetic portrait of the immigrant experience from the perspective of a Korean-American family in the search of the American Dream, as well as giving an engaging and emotional insight on the hardships they go through. The story is compassionately told, and very much an intimate story filled with moments of innocence, joy and sadness. The key word is ‘moments’, there’s a lot of little moments that aren’t necessarily critical to the plot, but are nonetheless things that would happen in real life. The movie is not really plot driven, we are just following a period of these characters’ lives and their struggles. Tender and genuine are two words that can definitely be applied to this movie. It is also quite funny at times, as well as being heartwarming. At the same time, it never shies away from the trials that the characters face. It really does well at painting a picture of the family. By the time you’ve reached the end of the movie. you cared about what happened to them and wanted them to succeed. With regards to pacing, it’s a bit slow at times but picks up considerably halfway through. If you’re invested enough in the characters, this shouldn’t be a problem for you. Something worth noting is that Minari is semi-autobiographical of the director’s early life, and so it’s a very personal story for him. Many of the scenes are memories he had compiled from his childhood growing up on a small farm in a double-wide trailer. That definitely makes sense because it always feels so genuine. He really translated his childhood into a movie that really allows the audience to experience it. It does feel like the film should’ve been a little longer, though I guess after following these characters, naturally you want to see what happens with them next. If there’s a flaw, the ending does feel a bit abrupt. It’s not just that I wanted to see more, it did actually feel like the ending could’ve been just a little bit longer. That’s it though.

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The acting from the ensemble cast are all great, pitch perfect in their roles. Everyone is a standout. Steven Yeun plays the father in the family, and while he’s great in every role he’s in, this might be his best performance yet. Ha Ye-ri also gives quite a solid emotional performance as the mother. The relationship between the son David played by Alan Kim, and the grandma played by Youn Yuh-jung is the most unique in the story, especially considering it starts off rocky as she’s not exactly what David expected from a grandmother. The relationship develops through the movie into one that’s heartwarming and tender to watch as they grow together and learn to love each other. Their chemistry is great, and I wish they had more screentime together.

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Minari is directed incredibly well by Lee Isaac Chung. It’s shot beautifully, and has some of the most gorgeous cinematography from movies released in 2020. Emile Mosseri’s score is great is also perfect here, his work on The Last Black Man in San Francisco was amazing and I’m glad to see him continuing to compose some more stunning scores for excellent movies.

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Minari is great and personal and family drama. Intimately and genuinely written and portrayed, with incredible performances, and some phenomenal direction, it is for sure one of the best movies of 2020, and is absolutely worth watching as soon as you get the chance to.

The Nest (2020) Review

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The Nest

Time: 117 Minutes
Cast:
Jude Law as Rory O’Hara
Carrie Coon as Allison O’Hara
Charlie Shotwell as Benjamin “Ben” O’Hara
Oona Roche as Samantha “Sam” O’Hara
Adeel Akhtar as Steve
Director: Sean Durkin

Rory (Jude Law) is an ambitious entrepreneur who brings his American wife (Carrie Coon) and kids to his native country, England, to explore new business opportunities. After abandoning the sanctuary of their safe American suburban surroundings, the family is plunged into the despair of an archaic ’80s Britain and their unaffordable new life in an English manor house threatens to destroy the family.

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With The Nest I didn’t really know what to expect from it. I just knew it as a drama starring Jude Law and Carrie Coon, and plenty of people have said that it’s really good. It turned out to be quite a good movie, it was a bit of a slow burn and took a while to really pick up, but was well made and intriguing nonetheless.

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One thing to note is that The Nest is definitely a slow moving drama. While I was interested in the movie from beginning to end, it does take a while for you to settle into it and figure out what it is about. I’d figure that it’s just after the first act that the movie really started to connect with me. This movie at its core is a family drama, portraying a slow but catastrophic disintegration of a marriage, and a downfall of a man due to his own greed which affects his family in the process. It really is the deconstruction of the nuclear family, with themes about family, wealth, and what it means to be successful. The Nest is a slow descent to chaos and it really creeps up on you. One of the things that you don’t expect is that it feels quite uneasy, uncomfortable and stressful to watch, and not even in an overt way. It has a sinister, moody and sombre atmosphere throughout. There are times where it even has a horror movie feel to it (even though it very much isn’t in the horror genre). It had me intrigued in which direction it was going in.

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The acting is a highlight of the movie for sure, particularly with the leads in Jude Law and Carrie Coon as a married couple. They are both great and they are particularly fantastic when on screen together. However between the two, it really is Carrie Coon who steals the show in a well controlled and emotionally charged performance. Definitely deserves some awards attention. Their kids are played by Oona Roche and Charlie Shotwell, they play their parts very well and fully portray their own characters.

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This movie is directed by Sean Durkin, and his work here is great. It makes me want to check out his previous movie, Martha Macy May Marlene, which was released 9 years earlier. I do hope his next movie will come a lot sooner. The direction is procedural in some ways, quite subtle, but yet so effective. I mentioned earlier how this movie has a horror movie feel to it, and a big part of that is the direction. The cinematography from was great, and it is purposely made to look like a horror film with its zooms and shadowy corners and long takes. There are even some typical horror moments that happen here, like doors mysteriously opening that gives creepiness to the true essence of the film. The editing keeps the film moving while giving scenes and reactions plenty of time to breathe. The dissolve transitions particularly add even more to the atmosphere, which draws you deeper into it. The lack of music in scenes keeps the suspense and tension at an all time high as well. The use of music from the 80s fitted the moments well, and the few uses of the score here was effective, and really adds to the atmosphere.

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The Nest is an atmospheric and slow building family drama, incredibly well shot and directed, and the performances are great, mainly Jude Law and Carrie Coon. It’s not really for everyone because of the pacing, but I do think it’s worth checking out.

Nomadland (2020) Review

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Nomadland

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Nudity
Cast:
Frances McDormand as Fern
David Strathairn as David
Linda May as Linda
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Director: Chloé Zhao

A woman (Frances McDormand) embarks on a journey through the American West after losing everything during the recession.

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I had been hearing a lot about Nomadland, with many declaring it as of the best movies of 2020, and a frontrunner for awards season. I heard about the premise and the type of movie it would be, I went into it preparing with the right mindset. Having seen it, I can say that it definitely deserves all the hype.

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One thing to note is that Nomadland is not quite for everyone. Specifically, is fairly plotless and more character driven. We are just watching the lead character Fern (Frances McDormand) going on her journey of being a nomad. The writing is phenomenal across the board. One of the highlights of the movie is that it shows us a lifestyle that we don’t really get to see often, that of being a Nomad. While I’m not an expert on the subject, it has an authenticity to how it was portrayed. Nomadland is a story about real people and real stories. I really liked the stories we hear about from the side characters about what drove them to this life: people who lost someone and were using this life (through nature) to heal themselves, people who were treated poorly by life itself, etc. At times it felt like some scenes were taken straight from a documentary about nomads rather than a film, the way they were written and performed seemed so organic. This screenplay is full of many side memorable and heartfelt characters who leave their mark on the story and, more importantly, Fern (despite some only appearing for a scene or two). At its core however, Nomadland is a character study focusing on Fern, revealing itself as a portrait of a woman in deep loss to the point where normal life doesn’t make sense. It’s very reflective too, you can connect with everything that’s happening, even if you don’t relate to it. It’s an intimate (albeit still grand), resonant, real look into the loneliness that follows loss and grief. As I said, the movie is fairly plotless and there isn’t much driving the story, but sort of fitting. Like Nomads, we don’t know where we’ll be or what we’ll be doing in ten minutes when watching the movie. You get lost in the beautiful American landscapes and joined Fern on her literal and spiritual journey. So often you’ll be seeing Fern doing rather mundane things, but you are nonetheless invested in her journey. It might take a while for you to get into the movie, but I was invested very early on.

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Frances McDormand is the main lead of the movie as Fern, the story of the movie is about her, and from beginning to end she gives a naturalistic performance. McDormand’s acting is very understated but flawless, being able to convey every emotion that Fern is thinking with just looks, and really captures this character well. It is a fantastic performance that most actors in this role would typically overplay, but McDormand plays this with subtlety. It is a strong contender for her best acting performance, and that’s saying a lot considering the work she’s delivered in the past. The supporting cast is great, consisting mostly of people playing nomads. David Strathairn is the most known actor of the supporting cast, but many of the other nomads are actually played by authentic nomads, and they perform their parts well too, especially opposite from McDormand.

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Arguably, the true star of Nomadland is Chloe Zhao, who wrote, directed, produced, and edited this film, her fingerprints are all over this movie. I haven’t seen her previous movie The Rider but now I really want to because her work here is incredible. The movie is clearly crafted with such love and care, her direction is genuinely masterful, and she is more than capable of telling a story with just the movement of the camera. Throughout, Nomadland feels natural and personal, almost like a documentary. The direction did remind me a bit of Terrence Malick, but Zhao makes this style her own in a movie that needs this approach to make it as effective as it is. The cinematography is outstanding and beautiful from start to finish, especially with the landscapes that the movie takes many opportunities to really show off, such as the long tracking shots of Fern’s van driving long distances. However, it even makes things that should be boring and mundane to look at, say Fern in a laundromat, look outstanding especially with how everything is composed and framed. The score is sparse but does consist of tracks from Ludovico Einaudi, and they are fitting and perfect and add so much to the scenes they were used in.

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Nomadland is a beautiful, quiet, heartfelt, and naturalistic character study. Frances McDormand gives a pitch perfect (and possibly career best) performance, and Chloe Zhao’s work here is nothing short of phenomenal. It’s definitely one of the best movies of the year and is worth going to watch, especially on the big screen if possible.