Friday, January 22, 2021

Top 10 Movies of 2020

10. The Personal History of David Copperfield
Whimsical, touching, and funny, with all the ups and downs expected from a Dickens adaptation. David Copperfield is never going to be one of my favorite Dickens stories (not when Ebenezer Scrooge, Miss Havisham, and Edwin Drood exist), but this cast and director work hard to change that.

9. The Burnt Orange Heresy
SuPERBly written neo-noir about an unscrupulous art critic who meets a mystery woman shortly before being offered an opportunity to revitalize his career. It's a great game of Who's Playing Whom and even the exposition is so imaginatively presented that I was riveted the entire time.

This was my second Claes Bang performance after the Dracula mini-series from earlier in the year and he seems born to play suave cads. Elizabeth Debicki is beautiful and I want so badly to trust her, but I don't. Mick Jagger is awesome as an obviously conniving art dealer (but how much does he KNOW?!) and Donald Sutherland is charmingly genteel as the reclusive painter that both Bang and Jagger long to exploit.

There's something that happens late in the film that keeps me from loving it wholeheartedly, but I need to get over that. It's one, damn fine movie.

8. Wolfwalkers
A beautifully animated, exciting celebration of wildness. I've been thinking about the benefits of wildness a lot lately, so this was nicely timed. The only reason it's this low is because as skilled as the animation is, the style is a tiny bit distracting. It's designed to look like medieval art, which is really cool, but it does keep a thin layer of distance between me and the story.

7. Enola Holmes
When I rated this for Letterboxd, I gave it four-and-a-half stars:

1 star for Millie Bobby Brown being hilarious and Ferris Buellery while also kickass.
1 star for Helena Bonham Carter and woman-power.
1 star for Victorian England.
1 star for the most handsome Sherlock Holmes of all time.
1 star for evil, bowler-wearing Burn Gorman trying to murder everyone.

Minus half-a-star for leaving some plot for potential sequels to resolve, but I'll likely give that back once those sequels happen.

6. The Half of It
A classic romantic comedy plot with a twist. It's basically Cyrano de Bergerac with Cyrano as a lesbian. There's one, tiny moment where I'm disappointed by a line of dialogue, but mostly The Half of It is lovely and gripping and unexpected in so many ways. With another viewing or two, that line won't bother me so much and I'll be completely in. I sort of want to re-watch it right now.

5. All Together Now
I don't want to insult All Together Now by comparing its plot to the TV Afternoon Specials I grew up with, because it's better than that. It's a message movie, but it delivers that message with a lot of heart and great performances. I was already a bit emotionally raw after just watching Goodbye, Christopher Robin before this, so I don't know how much that affected me, but All Together Now is a touching movie that never crosses over into sentimentality. And it stars Auli'i Cravalho, the voice of Moana, which is really cool.

4. Fatman
Goes really dark and serious with the Santa Claus mythology and then refuses to be either dark or serious about it. Exactly what I wanted. I'm gonna give it another year or two before I proclaim it a Christmas classic, but this could be an annual re-watch for me.

3. Tigertail
I'm all in for writer/director Alan Yang (thanks to his work on Parks and Recreation) as well as stories about Southeast Asia and stories about broken people finding connection with other humans. Tigertail is a beautiful film.

2. Spinster
Chelsea Peretti plays a woman hitting a milestone birthday, realizing that she may never get married, and becoming okay with that. Spinster is funny without being hilarious, but mostly it's just really freaking sweet.

1. Emma
Dee. Lightful.

I went in a little concerned that it would take too lighthearted an approach to the story, but while Autumn de Wilde's Emma is quite funny (Bill Nighy's hypochondria being especially hilarious), it also values the emotional pieces and themes that make this my favorite Austen story. I might have gotten a bit misty there a couple of times.

I'm glad I got to see it a couple of times on the big screen before lockdown. I mean, for Taylor-Joy's eyes alone, both in terms of sheer beauty and how she acts the hell out of them.

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