Matt’s Favourite Films & Performers of 2020

2020 Best of the Best

2020 has been a hell of a year. With theatres ending up being an unsafe place to be during an ongoing worldwide pandemic you’d think it would be a harder year for film, but looking back it’s clear that this year has been an as vibrant and diverse year for film as any other.

Of course, the difference is that without theatres, there have been far fewer blockbusters and far more indie and middle-tier films. The impact on my film diary for the year has been an interesting one, with bigger budget films losing the endorphin high of the theatrical experience –and thus losing some of the immediate forgiveness they earn if they aren’t great. Additionally, film festivals moved to an online experience either in whole or in part this year, which has meant that I have “attended” more of them.

As a result, I have seen more than 120 of 2020’s films, a steep increase from years past. Narrowing the list down to a group of favourites is as difficult as ever! Also this year, for the second time, I am going to highlight some of the performers that blew me away.

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Review: ‘Mank’ is a love letter to old Hollywood

Mank

The visual language of cinema has changed a lot since the first movies were produced, but one thing they retain is the ability to affect the people. Citizen Kane, widely regarded as one of –if not the– best films of all time, is a thinly veiled look at the life of William Randolph Hearst, and not a kind one.

The authorship of the screenplay of Citizen Kane has been a controversy for decades now. The story was initially conceived of by Welles and Herman Mankiewicz, but who wrote it? Welles? Mankiewicz? I don’t know the answer to this question but Mank, the latest film from David Fincher supposes that Mankiewicz wrote it nearly entirely, and tells the story of that man’s life during the time that he was writing it.

Is that accurate? I don’t know, but it makes for a hell of a story.

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‘Mank’ teaser: David Fincher’s new film takes a close look at one of the greatest films ever made

Gary Oldman / Mank

Citizen Kane is widely regarded as one of the best movies ever made, and the story behind that film is the subject of David Fincher’s latest project. Mank follows the life of Herman J. Mankiewicz, Orson Welles co-writer on Citizen Kane, as the project is being written and made.

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Ted 2 Red Band Trailer + Poster: Thunder Buddies For Life

Ted-2-Poster

Ted 2 is coming whether we like it or not. Here’s a thing new trailer for it that make it seem like it might be pretty funny, so there’s that. This is a red band trailer so be sure to use headphones or, you know, just don’t watch it at work.

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Review: A Million Ways To Die In The West

A Million Ways To Die In The West / Seth McFarlane

Seth McFarlane’s first feature film Ted was a great little film. Not perfect, but it latched onto a story trope we’d seen before (grown man needs to grow out of his immature ways, is held back by immature childhood best friend) and took its to its logical extreme (best friend is his childhood toy) and the result was both R-Rated hilarious and heartfelt but without getting too bogged down in “ugh, I’ve seen this before.” It didn’t hurt either that McFarlane’s voice performance as Ted was inspired as though he was getting every r-rated joke he’d been wanting to do on family Guy out all at once.

McFarlane’s second feature takes aim at the Wild West. It’s still R-rated and it’s still a comedy but where Ted managed to break the mold A Million Ways To Die In The West stays pretty firmly in its mold. That’s not to say it’s not funny. I laughed a bunch of times. Not enough times though, and the rest of the time I was bored.

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Character Posters for Seth McFarlane’s ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’

A Million Ways To Die In The West

Seth McFarlane is the undisputed king of television, or at least Fox Television, and his first big film Ted was a huge hit for good reason: it was great. His second effort, the western comedy “A Million Ways To Die In The West” is out this year and here are some character posters he released on twitter this morning.

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Quick Thoughts on Les Misérables, Argo and Silver Linings Playbook

I was meant to have seen a new movie this week but I’m on vacation and things got out of hand so I did not (yet).

Because I’m on vacation though I have seen a boat load of movies and thought I’d briefly talk about some of the ones I have seen, specifically the three I watched which are nominated for best picture at this years Oscars.

Les Misérables

Les Misérables

I can see why Les Misérables is nominated for all the awards. It’s a big budget production of one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Hugh Jackman is great and Anne Hathaway is amazing as Fantine and they are both deserving of their actings nominations. The entire cast is pretty great in point of fact, with the debatable exception of Russell Crowe who while he isn’t bad does appear a bit uncomfortable throughout. Maybe that makes sense for Javert but it didn’t sit right with me.

Where the film fails for me is the directing. Sure, the film looks pretty amazing and to be honest I really like the live singing aspect –if you hadn’t heard already, everyone sang their parts live on set rather than lip syncing pre-recorded performances– as it means they had more leeway to actually act out their performances rather than match what they did before. However, a great deal of the film is shot in closeup on the performers face.

I dreamed a dream, in particular, a song that would do well by some staging/movement, is filmed with Anne Hathaway just sitting there belting it out with the camera pointed at her face. Valjean’s Soliloquy is a little better in that he gets the move around but the camera is locked on his face and he’s looking right at the camera the entire time so you don’t really get to see any of what’s going on other than his lips moving.

I think I get what director Tom Hooper was going for, trying to make it intimate, however in the end it’s weird to think that a musical with such grandiose songs is filmed in such a small way and to be honest I don’t think it really works.

Conclusion: See it. It’s worth seeing just for the singing. Oscar is Anne Hathaway’s to lose at this point, and while I respect it’s nomination for best picture I don’t think it should win. Tom Hooper isn’t nominated for best director and I am fine with that.

Argo

Argo

I like stories about heroism, but what I love about Argo is that it’s such a quiet story about heroism. No epic gun fights, no explosions, no car chases, just the constant threat of being caught.

Ben Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez, the man who orchestrated the rescue of 6 diplomatic officers in hiding in 1979 revolutionary Iran. The idea is to get them out by claiming they are a film crew scouting exotic locations for a Star Wars rip off called Argo.

The story is brilliant from start to finish. It mixes just the right amount of humour into the dramatic script, mostly supplied by Alan Arkin as the hollywood producer recruited to help sell the idea of the fake movie to the public.

Arkin is gold here, it’s the type of role he excels at playing. He’s nominated for an Oscar and it’s well deserved.

Affleck himself is good too, playing Mendez very reservedly, reflecting a man under stress from being responsible for these peoples lives but also going through a separation and trying to maintain a relationship with his kid.

I happen to think that Affleck is a great director as well. Yes, he’s made a lot of better acting choices lately but this is his their feature film and the third time he’s hit it out of the park.

I love spy films, but in particular a spy film that’s executed in such a way to be entirely believable with real stress and peril for the characters (even when you know how it ends) is a difficult thing to pull off.

Conclusion: Must see. Irksome that Affleck, who already won a Golden Globe for directing this, isn’t nominated for the Oscar. Make no mistake, this is a much better film that the one I’m about to talk about.

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook is a good movie. Maybe even a great one, and i can see why so many people are connecting with it. It’s a fantasy story, that’s why.

This is a movie that for 2 whole acts shows us characters with real problems and then in the third act everyone lives happily ever after and everything s fine and all the problems seem to be gone.

Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing actress and I’m going to say right now that she deserves the Golden Golden Globe she won and the Oscar I think she will win, but this is a role tailor made to win Oscars, the slightly crazy receiving sex addict “bird with a broken wing who is just quirky enough to counteract the male leads crazy” character. Hell, it might be more tailor made than the “prostitute with a heart of gold struggling to support her child in a situation that grows ever more dire with each frame that passes” that Anne Hathaway gets to play as Fantine.

Well, maybe not, but she’s still amazing and Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro both stand out as well. Make no mistake, they all acted the shit out of this.

It’s just that the third act is both entirely predictable and doesn’t really jive with the rest of the movie for me. It devolves from something interesting into a series of movie cliches. There is literally a point in this movie where I could have turned it off because I knew everything else that was going to happen.

I can see why people connect with this movie, but I don’t see why it’s nominated for best picture of the year.

Conclusion: Definitely see it. Worth it for Jennifer Lawrence alone even if her character is unbelievable. Just maybe don’t expect it to be as good as everyone told you it is.

Wrapping up

I’ve seen almost all the best picture nominees now and am starting to have a better idea what I think should win. More on that closer to the date in question. In the mean time, what did you guys think of these three films? Are they worthy of the nomination? Did any performances stand out? Comment below!