So, here we are, 2020 has finally died of natural causes; the infamous year is literally in hindsight – how poetic. I nearly said “here we *all* are” at the start, but that’s not quite true now, is it? Do you know how many people have been allowed to die from everyone’s new favourite virus? I suppose the number itself doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that human beings died, however many the final count will state; and that ridiculous sociopathic racist/rapist twat, who treated the highest office like a sex toy for the ego, blatantly let it happen. But at least Trump was consistent in his incompetence, the British Tories have been so incoherent that the only nasty thing I can say about them that makes sense is… cunt!
Our legacy as a species has really racked up the shame points this past year; world leaders giving less of a shit than a constipated anorexic. Unchecked climate change setting entire continents ablaze. Racism, homophobia and transphobia all wanking in our faces – trying to see which one can drown us in bigoted spunk first. And humanity, as a whole, proving that mother Earth really would be better off without our “you-can’t-make-me-wear-a-mask-I-have-rights” dumbasses!
We’re living in an awkward time, life appears green around the gills, and I was thinking, now that I must give my annual roundup of what cinema had to offer in the last 12 months (in 2020, it wasn’t a lot), how about I do away with all the negative malarky? Except for my first two paragraphs of course. Let’s not have a “worst films of the year” list, I haven’t the heart to do it this time – not with cinema being in such an unfortunate grey area. For the sake of sanity, let’s just focus on the positives this year, so here: my five favourite films of 2020, along with some other random appraisals just because.
It’s usually ten best films, but you know, this is not a usual time for most things, let alone the movies. I guess I’m lucky I got to see even these!
FIVE FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2020
David Fincher’s first film since 2014’s Gone Girl is so convincing in its appearance as an outing from the 1930’s – I dare say it’s almost funny. A furiously well acted character study that pushes itself hard for so much more than just nostalgia for old Hollywood, or to be a been-there-done-that biopic about a real life figure with demons as aggressive as his drinking problem; oh no, Mank seizes every opportunity available to it. A story of the world of art, as it is suffocated by political insecurity, it doesn’t rely on predetermined love for Citizen Kane, or knowledge of the movies of the time; it just happens to be about a particular man in a particular era, the inside of Hollywood being affected by the outside.
It’s a soothing performance piece that deserved to be made as much as it deserves to be seen; you see – I was skeptical at first. “Does Herman Mankiewicz’s life story really have the meat to pack a narrative feature film?” I thought to myself, previously not knowing much about that man. But I was wrong to be weary, it absolutely does, and you can feel the power of every one of its hundreds of takes during all of its most striking scenes.
Call me a blasphemer, but in my humble opinion, I think Brandon Cronenberg might be a better filmmaker than his father. No offence to David C. He’s certainly a very good and influential one, but I think Brandon has a much more colourful imagination for the visually stimulating. Possessor is a beautiful nightmare of a movie that follows the show-don’t-tell rule as if breaking it carries death by customer service, it doesn’t hold your hand for a second during its decent into mind bending psychosis.
Designed to baffle and flat out skull fuck, this insane tale of body-snatching, murder-suicide and the identity of one’s own self ticks all the boxes for me. It’s weird, gross, super stylish, couldn’t care less what anybody thinks, and boasts enough originality to make a wannabe filmmaker jealous. The cast are fantastic, the visuals are great, and Brandon’s next film, his third, is definitely going to be one to watch. I don’t want to get more specific than a sales pitch, I knew nothing when I watched it and the experience was better for it.
Why is it always the big anticipated releases that everyone shits on at the first opportunity? A director like Chris Nolan comes along with a love for the craft, unique ideas, and the clout for a budget big enough to see them all through without compromise. And what happens? A complicated plot is suddenly grounds for the “worst film of the year” award. Tenet may be complicated but it makes a helluva lot more sense than that so-called logic. If I were really egotistical I might even mouth off that maybe I’m the only one who actually cares about and appreciates this stuff, and everyone else is just a vindictive dick hole, proud of their density the same way one is proud for taking a shit on someone else’s bed – oops, I just said it. Well I’d rather be egotistical than an ego-testicle!
Nolan’s Tenet is a thinking man’s blockbuster that’s got everything it needs. One of the greatest musical scores ever, ambitious action scenes, large scale practicality, flawless cinematography, spot on editing that cannot go unsung in this instance (because it must’ve been an absolute brain bleed to put together), and a story that passionate cinema is all about. It’s intelligent, respects the audience’s capability (more than it deserves, I say), has spectacle that’s just plain awesome, and best of all, was made solely for the love of the art form – more movies need to be made like this.
4. THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
With a cast big enough to start a riot with, Aaron Sorkin proves, for the second time in a row, that he is every bit as good a director as he is a writer. Fact-based films about the more hands-on moments in political history are the most likely to get me riled up nowadays, and as soon as Trial of the Chicago 7 reached its conclusion and the credits rolled by, I myself began rolling through the internet like I was on fire, desperate to find out if some of the most outrageous things I had just seen on screen actually happened – they did. Everything about this film works, the cast and their performances are so good I can’t even describe them in a mere brief summary, and the narrative flows with the same electric energy and command as a Scorsese gangster flick.
There are moments that made me so angry I started to sweat, others had my jaw hanging wide open, and yet there were many that had me laughing like an idiot and the tone remained as solid as concrete from start to finish. It’s just as watchable as it is important, presenting haunting parallels from the 60’s that we’re now seeing in politics today, invaluable history and relevance conveyed with a dialogue-as-action style of filmmaking. It’s important, infuriating, funny, cast as perfectly as it is written and, for the record, released at exactly the right time.
5. LAST AND FIRST MEN
My favourite film of the year and one of the best films, I think, I have ever seen in my life. The late great Johann Johannson’s one and only masterpiece, a cinematic anomaly, not narrative cinema – not story telling – a different beast altogether. I have made attempts to give it a full review ever since my first viewing, but being the mouthy shit that I am I kept finding myself unable to keep things short and sweet due to the amount of ground I feel obligated to cover. Perhaps I will try again soon, I would like to, because Last and First Men is unlike anything seen before, a film that struck my soul with its beauty, not just of its appearance but of its sentiment.
Shot in black and white 16mm, the entire 70 minute piece is comprised entirely of dream-like shots of old former-Yugoslavia memorials and ruined architecture, while narration by Tilda Swinton talks to the audience directly about what has and what will become of the human race in the next two billion years. Accompanied by Johannson’s Earth shattering musical score, Swinton removes any notion of a fourth wall, almost like Last and First Men is the film equivalent to an RPG, presenting itself as a message in a bottle from our future selves.
Explaining exactly what this thing is to someone who hasn’t seen it feels as difficult as explaining to a lifelong blind person what a colour is. It’s existence is alien, it’s a strange, near-indecipherable trip into science fiction that changed me. A work of transcendent wonder that will stay with me for the rest of my life, during which time I will forever be curious as to what Johann would have done next.
YES GOD YES
DA FIVE BLOODS
Now, for the random goodies:
FAVOURITE MUSICAL SCORE
TIE – Ludwig Goransson: Tenet / Johann Johannson: Last and First Men
MOST JAW-DROPPING MOMENT
TIE – Tower reconstruction/destruction: Tenet / “NO HE DOESN’T!!!”: The Trial of the Chicago 7
BROMANCE OF THE YEAR
John David Washington and Robert Pattinson: Tenet
MOST VERSATILE ACTOR OF THE YEAR
Sacha Baron Cohen: Borat 2 & Trial of the Chicago 7
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME AWARD
Nicholas Pesce: The Grudge – like I said, keep things positive, so while I really did not like the new Grudge movie, I have enjoyed Nicholas Pesce’s previous movies, The Eyes of My Mother & Piercing, and I still have faith in him so, to be nice, I say to him – better luck next time.
MOST ANTICIPATED FOR 2021
NO TIME TO DIE
GODZILLA VS KONG
And that’s that. Happy new year – seems that statement comes with some tension this time. May theatres make a full recovery, may the industry survive, and may the human population stop needlessly dying because the so-called president of the United States refuses to believe a real world problem could be anything other than a “democratic conspiracy to steal the election” for literal months!
And because the British Tory government probably can’t even spell the word “consistency” – “go to work, but stay home, go out, but don’t really, don’t travel, but we can to test our eyesight”; blah blah – fuck the hungry children – blah! Is this all just a test to see how many times I say the C-word or what?