Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Top 10 best movies of 2020

2020 may have been a shitty year in a myriad number of ways, but when it comes to was pretty damn good. I've got two 5 star movies in this year's top 10, and there were so many surprising obscure discoveries this year. There's a chance you haven't heard of a lot of movies on my list and that's a good thing. I hope you discover some new shit. 

Best Short film of 2020: 

2020 (a parody of 1917)

Definitely the best covid movie there is. It's a bit of a parody of 1917, using the single long take style, but the mission...get toilet paper. Everything that was batshit crazy about 2020 all captured in this comedy adventure in a slim 18 minute runtime, while managing to brilliantly reference 1917. Just like 1917, it's extremely well shot on a tiny budget (though too bad they couldn't do the camera in the water shot, but I imagine they didn't have the budget for that).

This movie should be the calling card of these filmmakers. If they can make THIS with a tiny budget, imagine what they can do with a hundred thousand dollars. A million. I'll be looking out for these guys. For now, they made the best short film I saw in 2020. 

AND NOW...The top 10 best movies of 2020 Extravaganza list! 

Honorable mentions: Banana Split, #Alive, Soul, Freaks, Birds of Prey: The Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, The Social Dilemma, Let Them All Talk, Relic, South Park's Pandemic Special

Thought I'd use the word extravaganza, a nod to the writers group I'm in, we call: The Fuck Robert Mckee Writer's group Extravaganza. Though on a resume, I go with our alternate name: Do the Write Thing. 

10. Big Time Adolescence ****

I went into this movie with zero familiarity with Pete Davidson and was pleasantly surprised to say...when it comes to crass, raunchy comedy, played way over the top, Pete Davidson has fucking nailed it. I'd be happy to see him play this character in every movie he's in, the way that Danny McBride kinda plays the same character in everything, but fuck it, he's great at it. 

And for those of you that have seen KING OF STATEN ISLAND and not Big Time Adolescence, get this movie immediately. I was so excited for a Judd Apatow - Pete Davidson collaboration, and his comedy just felt...neutered in comparison to Big Time Adolescence. 


9. Kajillionaire ****

I agree with the person who said that KAJILLIONAIRE is like America's answer to PARASITE and SHOPLIFTERS. Though if I had to pick a favorite of those 3, my pick goes to Kajillionaire. It's Miranda July, so it's definitely odd, awkward as fuck, has a quirky sense of humor that doesn't always work and has some very uncomfortable moments. At times I was on board, and at times, I wasn't sure, but it was always interesting.
But...I thought back to Robert Mckee's secret advice he gave Charlie Kaufman in ADAPTATION, "I'll tell you a secret. The last act makes a film. Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you've got a hit."

That's the ending of Kajillionaire. When people ask what are the best feel good endings of all time, Kajillionaire just might be in that conversation, and the movie builds up to its ending so well. Kajillionaire lingered in my mind for a long time after I watched it, and the more I think about the movie, the more things I appreciate. 


8. Palm Springs ****

It's another movie that follows the groundhog day formula, and you know what?  It's one of the best attempts at it (Edge of Tomorrow still reigns supreme). It's a romcom mish mashed with a science fiction, with a few very creative tweaks, making it a bit of a jigsaw puzzle to solve. If someone was like, "You wanna watch that Andy Samberg movie?", I'll probably react with a, "Uhh...what else do you have?" But he is shockingly good and so charismatic. Then you have Cristin Milioti, who I've never heard of, but I'll definitely seek out more of her stuff after this. Their chemistry is electric as fuck. 

Romcoms often get a bad rap, but there's so much untapped potential if writers can just think outside the box, mix it with other genres, and find unique ways to have a love spawn out of a crazy necessity and yeah...two strangers who find each other due to being stuck in a time loop is pretty damn creative, and it's easily the best romcom of the year.


7. Love and Monsters ****

This movie gets my FUCK COVID FOR DEPRIVING US OF SEEING THIS MOVIE IN IMAX award. Come on Cinesphere! Once we're all vax'd by Moderna or those Viagra guys, bring this movie to the Cinesphere!

What a fun concept for a post-apocalyptical movie and when it comes to giant creature features, this is really fucking creative; a strange radiation that causes animals of all kinds to grow to gigantic sizes. The attack of the giant frog is one of the most fun set pieces of the year.

And the characters...they're really fucking good and same with the relationships between them. There's just something so likable about every friendship that happens out of necessity; survivors that happened to find each other, after all their loved ones were killed. This movie even has a scene where in the midst of all the madness, our protagonist goes into an empty house and encounters a super high tech robot, who's owners are long gone. The AI is happy to encounter a human being. Then they bond and have such a deep connection with each other and it is such a beautiful moment and I appreciate blockbusters that have scenes such as this one. It puts just as much focus on the humanity as it does the cool CGI.

It's my pick for the blockbuster of 2020. Try to watch it on a big screen. My friend watched it on her phone. I gave her shit for that. What the fuck?! 


6. Marona's Fantastic Tale ****1/2

I know that many people will pick SOUL as the best animated movie of 2020, but my pick goes to the very abstractly animated, existential dog movie from France. They're not trying to entertain kids; made obvious by starting the movie with a dog getting hit by a car and coming to the realization that he's going to die. His life then flashes before his eyes and we get to see his life story. They tell a grounded, realistic life story about an average dog, his birth and separation from his family, the joy and pain that he faced in life, his existential views on life, happiness, his relationships with humans, and his musings about humanity. Name another dog movie that goes this deep into a dog's psyche. 

"For a dog, happiness is different than it is for humans. We want things to stay exactly the same, where humans always want something new. You have a comfy bed, but humans always want what they don't have. They call it dreaming. I call it not knowing how to be happy." Quite profound.

To top it all off, the animations in this movie are so abstract and always beautiful to look at. In other words, it's the trippiest movie of the year and the best damn dog movie ever made. I think it'll stay that way for the rest of time. Trailer:

5. My Octopus Teacher ****1/2

What a great accidental discovery. I turn on Netflix, not being sure what to watch. The movie that they had advertised on the main screen was The Octopus Teacher. Without hesitating, I hit play, knowing nothing about the movie. So, I love getting stoned and watching nature documentaries. The Octopus Teacher is the most unique one I've ever seen.

For starters, the octopus is the trippiest, most alien like animal on the planet. It starts off like a pretty standard nature documentary. Besides my going, "Wooaaah" at the crazy ass shape shifting, color changing, adaptive abilities of the octopus, it also has some of the most intense chase scenes of the year, where the octopus is the prey, fleeing, shape shifting and constantly outsmarting a hungry shark.

But, the heart of the story is the friendship that forms between the octopus and the documentary filmmaker. It's the most unusual friendship I've seen in a movie and it sounds silly, but god damn, this movie really tugged at my heart strings.

4. Come to Daddy ****1/2 Why didn't I see this movie at the Toronto After Dark Film Fest? And why wasn't this the closing movie of the festival? This would have been so much fun in a huge crowd, but don't get me wrong...still an awesome movie to watch at home. I say, if you're going to make a horror/comedy, go all the way with it. The more fucked up it is, the darker its sense of humor, the better. This movie goes all the fucking way, with maybe the most absurdly sick sense of humor of any horror movie. "Who was that man?" "His name is Jethro. He's my best friend." "Then why's he stabbing you with poo pens and chaining you up in the basement?" That line will make sense if you've seen it. Another thing I want to get at...Elijah Wood is the most perfect actor for this role, as a protagonist who's found himself in this really strangely horrific situation and has to learn how to go from being a timid boy to a killer.

Here's why Elijah Wood is perfect. You see, he played Frodo in the LOTR trilogy, who's arguably the most useless, absolute pussy of a protagonist maybe in the history of cinema (Sam is the real fucking hero, carrying Frodo's deadweight everywhere), and he never fucking redeems himself ever in the movie. So it's fitting to see Elijah Wood in this movie, where he starts off as a bit of a Frodo, but when that moment where he turns...that may be the best character arc. I think I both laughed and screamed in pain. Trailer:
3. Why Don't you just Die ****1/2
This has been described as a Russian Tarantino which I suppose is quite accurate, except I think it's easily better than any Tarantino movie of the past decade. I can't say I was super excited to watch this, but then I hit play and it opened with quite possibly the best fight scene in the history of cinema. In fact, the fight scene is now on youtube; maybe this will sell you on the movie:

It's darkly funny at times, and a good story that unveils like a puzzle, piecing together everything that happened. Like Tarantino movies, this one jumps back and forth in time and gives every character their own backstory leading into the big climax. It makes no attempts at being overly convoluted which I appreciate. It's simple to follow the chronology of events that lead up to the big climax and there are some very interesting reveals along the way.

I was so absorbed in the movie that I almost didn't notice that 95% of the movie is all in one location. Just a friendly reminder that you often don't need a massive budget to make something great. Sometimes you just need creativity, outside the box thinking and fresh blood behind the camera. Why Don't you Just Die just may be the most aesthetically pleasing movie of the year, with such a unique, vibrant, energetic style of directing (I know it'll never happen, but if it were up to me, this would win the oscar for best cinematography). I think this movie may be more sadistically violent than what we've seen from Tarantino.

2. Spontaneous *****

2020 what a fucking year. SPONTANEOUS, a movie about a curse/virus in a highschool that randomly causes people's bodies to explode (or pop like a zit as the main character describes), is absolutely the perfect metaphor for the pandemic. I should preface this by saying that Spontaneous was shot before Covid, but it's hard not to think of Covid while watching this.

If I was given a premise like this, I would have written a very campy, gory, horror comedy catered to a midnight madness audience. Kudos to the filmmakers for thinking way more outside the box. Spontaneous really pulls off quite the balancing act of genres and tone. It's a bloody horror, a dark comedy, a romance with phenomenal chemistry between Katherine Langford and Charlie Plummer, and shockingly it manages to be the most tear jerking drama and coming of age story. To steal a quote from Addison Wylie's facebook, "it sports a really considerate alleGORY (eh?) about how teenagers try to comprehend sudden confusion and fear around inexplicable devastations and tragedies.

alleGORY. Sometimes the most obvious puns are the ones that escape us. It really is an accomplishment that Spontaneous just combines so many genres and yet the movie never suffers from tone whiplash. I can't think of a single drama this year that emotionally gutted me like Spontaneous...and it's a movie about exploding bodies. If I could pick only one movie to represent the year that was 2020, Spontaneous is it.


1. The Wave ***** When I saw this movie in January, there was no doubt in my mind it would be #1, and here we are today. I have seen The Wave 3 times this year, and I get a slightly different experience each time. So yeah, I picked a really trippy movie as my #1, and I suppose it seems typical of me, since I gave my #1 spot to Into the Spider-verse in 2018 and Doctor Strange in 2016. Well shit. Now I see a 2 year pattern of trippy movies topping my list. Well in that case, I better save some shrooms for whatever is my #1 pick for 2022. Moving on, look I didn't just pick it for being trippy as fuck. This is probably the funniest movie of the year, and it's not your typical drug humor. For the most part, saying that "tripping is fun" is an understatement. Probably 95% of my trips have been splendid, marvelously good times. But every once in a while you get that one bad trip, perhaps from the edible that had way too much weed and a bad trip is truly one of life's shittiest experiences. #firstworldproblems. Ask me to re-live my worst hangover vs. worst trip, I'll take my hangover any day. So with that said, I don't think any movie made me feel a protagonist's pain like this one as he trips on some unknown fictional which, great, they can be creative, make up their own hallucinations and their own rules, and maybe even throw time travel manipulation in there too. Yeah, our protagonist is a soulless prick for getting rich via finding loopholes to deny people their life insurance coverage, but that's part of the journey. He goes through a spiritual journey, like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol...on a shitload of LSD laced with salvia, because why the fuck not? It's a beautiful movie to look at. And as a thriller, it's such a visceral experience. As I mentioned, the movie is so good at making you feel everything the protagonist is feeling, and a huge reason for that is Justin Long's performance. I always thought he was a totally mediocre actor, until I saw this. This is the best performance ever in a drug comedy. Donald Faison...I kept saying to myself, "Is that the guy from Clueless? Where the fuck has he been?" He is fucking great too! The single best scene of the year...the big board room scene. Our protagonist is about to deliver a presentation to the board of directors, that'll make a shitload of money for his insurance firm (but screw over a grieving family), and this is the presentation that'll make or break his career. He thinks his trip is over, but holy fuck is he dead wrong. I was excited as the scene started, but nothing prepares you for the batshit insanity that ensues. It is one of the greatest scenes in the history of about tripping metaphors. The experience of sitting through this movie is so thrilling, energetic and had me at the edge of my seat more effectively than any thriller this year, with a small pinch of mind fuckery. We've seen many drug movies and stoner comedies, but none of them are like the The Wave. Fuck Tenet. The Wave is the mind bender of the year, and feels like it's 2 hours shorter than Tenet.



Trippiest movie: Marona's Fantastic Tale
(honorable mentions: The Wave, Soul)

Best cinematography: Why Don't You Just Die!

Best scene: The boardroom scene in The Wave

Best Ending: Kajillionaire

Honorable mention: 
Relic (truly the most haunting, fucked up ending images I can ever remember to a horror movie, but kind of beautiful when you think about it)

Best Villain: Jethro in Come to Daddy (gotta give it to the poo pen stabber)

Best Performance: I'll give this one a tie. Justin Long in The Wave, and Katherine Langford in Spontaneous

Best Documentary: My Octopus Teacher

Best Nothing happens, but still a captivating movie: Let Them All Talk

Best Foreign language film: Marona's Fantastic Tale