It won’t come as a surprise to anyone with a pulse to hear that 2020 was the worst year most people alive can remember (although some might disagree, citing 1968 and the first half of the 1940s).
As someone who has been reviewing movies for over 25 years, I can’t say 2020 has been the most miserable year for films, but it has been the worst year for the film industry ever.
For those who generally prefer commercial action fare and comedies, it has been especially hard, as most major studios have postponed their top-shelf mainstream product until 2021, which may or might not have been such a great idea.
On the upside, 2020 was a banner year for documentaries (particularly those of the political strain), think-pieces and efforts of all kinds from first-time directors.
These are my favorite movies and other accomplishments of 2020 and let’s hope 2021 turns out better.
Top 10 Movies:
1. "Mank" — In the works for over 20 years, this unofficial "prequel" to "Citizen Kane" from director David Fincher and his late father Jack examines the creative process of screenwriter Herman Mankowitz (Gary Oldman) and his dicey relationships with the studio brass, Orson Welles (Tom Burke), media magnate William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and Hearst’s concubine Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried).
2. "Promising Young Woman" — This blistering black comedy/revenge thriller from first-time filmmaker Emerald Fennell stars Carry Mulligan as a former medical school student who goes to bars and pretends to be drunk, duping otherwise "nice guys" into trying to take advantage of her. Fennell walks a tightrope by addressing rape culture — while never using the word "rape" — with ear-pinning and incendiary results.
3. "Uncle Tom" — Ignored by the left-leaning press, rookie director Justin Malone and producer Larry Elder’s stunning documentary examines the double standard applied to conservative black Americans by the Democratic Party. Interviews with Elder, Herman Cain, Candace Owens, Allen West, and others are presented alongside those with other lesser-known subjects in tandem with an eye-opening history lesson.
4. "Irresistible" — Writer/director Jon Stewart proves he views both the Right and the Left with equal disdain and suspicion in this biting, razor-sharp satire. When it is discovered that a former marine (Chris Cooper) is running for mayor as a Democrat in a deep-red Midwestern town, national operatives (Steve Carell and Rose Byrne) show up and pour ungodly amounts of cash into the increasingly weird election.
5. "The Hunt" — The 16th big screen adaptation of the cogent 1924 Richard Connell short story "The Most Dangerous Game" was originally slated for a September 2019 release but was shelved over worries of its politically divisive content. These concerns were thoroughly warranted due to a plot where liberal "elites" kidnap "deplorable" conservatives and proceed to hunt them for sport. It doesn’t end as you might think.
6. "The Climb" — Another impressive first directorial effort, this time from Michael Angelo Covino, who co-wrote the screenplay with his co-leading man Kyle Marvin. Consisting of a half-dozen or so short films strung together anthology style, each segment was photographed with uninterrupted single shots. Heavy on style but also on content, it chronicles the testy relationship of two friends over the course of a decade.
7. "The Invisible Man" — Arguably the most original of the many adaptations of the 1897 H.G. Wells novel, director Leigh Whannel (the "Saw" and "Insidious" franchises) presents the tale as a skin-crawling stalker thriller. Elisabeth Moss stars as Cecelia, the emotionally spent wife of the title character, a mad scientist of sorts who, after she leaves him in the dead of night, fakes his own death and terrorizes her without mercy.
8. "Sound of Metal" — Yet another stellar first film, this one from director Darius Marder (who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Abraham) stars Riz Ahmed as Ruben, a thrash-metal drummer losing his hearing. Some tough love from his girlfriend/band mate Lou (Olivia Cooke) and a caring deaf community councilor (Paul Raci) might not be enough to convince Ruben he’ll likely never return to his former life.
9. "Trump Card" – The title is something of a misnomer as the 45th U.S. president is barely mentioned. The sixth effort in a series which began with "2016: Obama’s America" (2012), producer/director Dinesh D’Souza methodically and without hyperbole lays out the history of socialism and communism, their collective burn-outs and the embracing of these failed forms of governing by the U.S. Democratic Party.
10. "I’m Your Woman" — Co-writer/director Julia Hart’s follow-up to her female-centric sci-fi drama "Fast Colors" (2018), is a spare crime thriller — set in and looking as if it were made in the 1970s – with the same offbeat air. Rachel Brosnahan stars as the wife of a gangster who, with an infant tow, takes it on the lam. Hart doesn’t spoon-feed the plot to the audience, and calls on them to come to their own conclusions.
Best Lead Actor: Riz Ahmed in "Sound of Metal"
Best Lead Actress: Carey Mulligan in "Promising Young Woman"
Best Supporting Actor: Arliss Howard in "Mank"
Best Supporting Actress: Amanda Seyfried in "Mank"
Best Ensemble Cast: "Mank"
Best Director: David Fincher for "Mank"
Best Animated Film: "Soul"
Best Cinematography: Erik Messerschmidt for "Mank"
Best Documentary: "Uncle Tom"
Best First Feature Film by a Director: Emerald Fennell for "Promising Young Woman"
Best International Film: "The Life Ahead" (Italy)
Best Original Score: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for "Mank"
Best Screenplay: Jack Fincher for "Mank"
Breakthrough Performance: Helena Zengel in "News of the World"
For a deeper, more in-depth analysis of the movie industry events in 2020 and a look into 2021, be sure to check out Michael Clark’s companion article in the January edition of Newsmax Magazine.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national film industry media outlets and is based in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace. He co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle in 2017 and is a regular contributor to the Shannon Burke Show on floridamanradio.com. Over the last 25 years, Mr. Clark has written over 4,000 movie reviews and film-related articles and is one of the scant few conservative U.S. movie critics. Read Michael Clark's Reports — More Here.
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