2020 is FINALLY over and so is the extended awards schedule. I try to see most of the award contenders each year, and while I can’t ever see all of them (because I’m not an awards voter so I don’t get screeners and Birmingham is AWFUL when it comes to the number of films we have a realistic chance to see, especially this past year with no theaters at all), I like to see as many as possible and break down how I feel about them. Of course, I have no excuse for the one best picture nominee I haven’t seen yet (Mank) since it’s on Netflix, but I just can’t bring myself to watch it. I will at some point and will amend my list if necessary.

Each year, I typically have a few of the Best Picture contenders in my top 10 along with some unique options that really spoke to me. I will also give my most overrated, underrated, biggest disappointment and most pleasant surprise of the year as well as who I think deserves the major awards (whether they even got nominated or not).

I should also note that I obviously can’t see every single movie within the 2020 calendar year (+2 months this year), so I may get a chance to see movies after the fact and come back to change my top 10. Also, my top 10 isn’t necessarily just in how I rate films. In other words, I may have a movie I gave an 8 over a movie I gave a 9 to for various reasons. A movie may, for all intents and purposes, be perfect and get a 10/10, but it might not be my absolute favorite of the year.

First up, here is my top 10 for the year:

10. Palm Springs

In a normal year, I feel like this would not be in my top ten, but when it was all said and done, this ended up being one of the better movies I saw in 2020. A Hulu original film, Palm Springs was a funny twist on the whole “Groundhog Day” storyline where you get stuck in a time loop. Most movies are all about how the main character tries to get out of it, but while this movie has that, it’s also about how you can embrace it instead, even if it’s not what you want to do. It also looks at what it would be like if multiple people got trapped in the loop with you.

I think Andy Samberg is a pretty funny actor and Cristin Milioti did a great job as well. JK Simmons was solid in a supporting role, as he typically is.

9. Soul

I’ve seen some people that thought this was just a “meh” Pixar movie (in comparison to others) and some who think this is among their best ever. I am closer to the latter crowd, and overall it was a solid film. Maybe my love of New York sucked me in a bit more, but I do think the movie was well done, had a good overall story and message (as Pixar films do) and a great voice cast.

Overall, I’d probably put it in the top 10 of Pixar movies, maybe top 5 depending on my mood. This year, it’s the best animated film (although I did really like Onward too) and just inside my top 10.

8. The King of Staten Island

This is a movie that most people probably didn’t see as it came out right after the shutdown ended, but theaters weren’t even close to opening back up yet. I’m not sure how well it would have done if it did come out in theaters. Judd Apatow is kind of hit or miss for me, but this may be the best movie he’s done outside of The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Pete Davidson was great, basically playing himself. I think his style of humor is really funny on SNL and it worked well here too, especially since the story is partly based on his true life story. Bill Burr was great also, and has the chance to do a lot more acting if he wants to after The Mandalorian and this.

While it’s definitely got a lot of humor in it, it’s a touching movie that has plenty of “hit you in the feels” moments too.

7. Pieces of a Woman

This movie is on Netflix and features the single best female acting performance of the year in my opinion from Vanessa Kirby. The film centers on Kirby losing her baby during childbirth and the way her and her husband (Shia LeBeouf) handle it, as well as her mother and other family/friends as they sue the midwife responsible for delivering the baby.

The first 25 minutes or so (after a quick setup scene) is a one-shot scene that is among the best single scenes I have ever seen. If you watch anything, at least watch the birthing scene at the beginning.

6. The Trial of the Chicago 7

Another Netflix film, but this one is a big one with a huge ensemble cast, great writing and directing and a big story. However, while this movie could have been my #1, I feel like the movie was more about the trial and we didn’t get enough about the backstory, just some flashbacks here and there. Overall, a solid movie, and I recommend it – but I would have liked a series on this more than just this movie.

5. One Night in Miami

A great adaptation of a play into a movie, and the second time Kemp Powers appears on this list (he wrote Soul also). Phenomenally acted by the four lead actors, any of whom could have been nominated for an award and I wouldn’t have had a problem with it. I personally liked Eli Goree the best as Muhammad Ali. Also a great first job from Regina King as a director, fresh off a couple of my favorite shows from Damon Lindelof in the past few years (Watchmen, The Leftovers).

4. Little Fish

This is the best movie that no one heard of this year. I randomly stumbled upon this trailer one day and knew I just had to watch it. For a movie that was shot well before COVID happened, it nailed a modern-day pandemic perfectly.

The movie is about a virus that shows up and starts erasing people’s memories, some gradually and some instantly. The film follows a couple where the man has the virus and is slowly losing his memories of their relationship, so the woman tries to get him into a medical trial to help cure him. The story takes a few unusual turns and has an great twist ending.

While people will remember Olivia Cooke from Sound of Metal this year, people need to watch this film as well.

3. Judas and the Black Messiah

I’ve been a Daniel Kaluuya fan ever since 15 Million Merits (Black Mirror) and a Lakeith Stanfield fan since Atlanta. Mix that in with Jesse Plemons who I’ve been a big fan of since Breaking Bad and you have an interesting cast for what ended up being a phenomenal movie. This movie also coincided with the Trial of the Chicago 7 a bit, but was overall a much better movie. The way it was shot, stylized and promoted was what really won me over.

The only thing I don’t get is why Lakeith Stanfield isn’t nominated for Best Actor, he was clearly the lead actor in this film. I do think both deserve a nomination, but not in the same category…it makes no sense.

2. Minari

The most American film I’ve seen this year, despite being about Korean farmers with half of it in a foreign language. This movie not being eligible for Best Drama Film at the Golden Globes was a joke. I would have no problem with this film winning the Oscar for best picture even though it’s my #2.

This movie works best thanks to it’s youngest and oldest member. Alan Kim was great as David, a little boy with a heart condition and a slightly warped sense of the world. Youn Yuh-jung has a chance to win an Oscar as best supporting actress as Soon-ja, the no nonsense grandma who watches out for David while the parents work. Steven Yeun was great as well.

1. The Father

I’ve rarely been so captivated by a performance like I was Anthony Hopkins in this film. I mean…he’s one of the best of all time, but this may very well be his best yet.

Most people have had a family member or someone close to them suffer from dementia. Just from seeing the look in the eyes of my grandparents as their minds started slipping away, I could tell how painful dementia was, maybe not physically – but mentally and emotionally. Having watched my parents go through the caretaking process, and my in-laws go through it as well, I know what it’s like to have to care for someone with it – and on top of that, deal with people who are dealing with the people who have it (if that makes sense). This movie gave us a perfect glimpse into what it’s like for all accounts, with Anthony Hopkins showing what it really is like (or at least what we can best guess it’s like) to suffer from dementia, Olivia Colman caring for her ailing father in the best way possible, and how other people deal with her and her father in different ways.

I’ve never wanted to jump through the screen and console a fake character as much as I did in a scene where Anthony Hopkins is being attacked (or imagining being attacked) by Olivia Colman’s husband. I legitimately felt pain and sorrow for all of the characters in the movie where there was no antagonist, just an unknown force destroying everything they held dear.

I highly recommend you see this movie if at all possible. It’s easily the best picture of the year to me, and Anthony Hopkins is easily the best actor of the year.

To see my full ratings, check out the list here.

If I ranked the Best Picture nominees in order, here is my list:

1. The Father
2. Minari
3. Judas and the Black Messiah
4. The Trial of the Chicago 7
5. Nomadland
6. Promising Young Woman
7. Sound of Metal

Haven’t seen Mank yet.


Most Overrated

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

No disrespect to Chadwick Boseman in his final performance or Viola Davis who is always a great actress and one of the best in the profession, and both of whom were fairly good in this – but there is a reason this movie isn’t nominated for Best Picture despite those two being nominated as best actor/actress and likely to win one if not both. The only reason I don’t have a problem with Chadwick Boseman being nominated for Best Actor is because of his monologue where he told the story of his parents to help set up his character. I don’t think he’s the best actor this year, but he did knock it out of the park in that scene. Outside of that, this movie didn’t quite carry over the “play to the big screen” transition as well as a film like “One Night in Miami” did. The film as a whole just wasn’t put together as well as I think it could have been. When I think back on both of these actors and their careers in 10, 20 or 30 years – this film will not be one I mention.

Honorable Mention(s): First Cow

Most Underrated

The King of Staten Island

I didn’t think a movie with Pete Davidson as the lead would end up being one of the best of the year, but it was. A great acting job from everyone involved with the film and I definitely recommend it.

Honorable Mention(s): Irresistible

Biggest Disappointment

Mulan

What a dreadful adaptation of such a great animated Disney classic. Mulan went from having Eddie Murphy as a funny sidekick to having no sidekick at all. Mulan also ended up having the force for some reason. The story was changed and it was just an all around bad movie…especially having to pay $30 extra to Disney+ to watch it.

Honorable Mention(s): The Little Things

Most Welcomed Surprise

In and Of Itself

A film most people haven’t heard of, and I could have included it in my top 10 but I decided not to. This is a compilation of a bunch of different nights of a magic show on Broadway by a magician named Derek DelGaudio. The show is so much more than just magic. There are actually very few magic tricks, but instead it’s the way he tells a story around his magic tricks. By the end, I was in tears watching him go through the audience for his biggest and best trick to end the show. It’s on Hulu and I highly recommend it.

Honorable Mention(s): Borat Subsequent Moviefilm


Individual Categories

These aren’t necessarily who I think will win the Oscar, but rather my actual picks. There is a chance my best of the year wasn’t even nominated.

Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins (The Father)
Runner Up: Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)

Best Actress: Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)
Runner Up: Frances McDormand (Nomadland)

Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Runner Up: Sacha Baron Cohen (Trial of the Chicago 7)

Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari)
Runner Up: Olivia Colman (The Father)

Best Director: Regina King (One Night in Miami)
Runner Up: Aaron Sorkin (Trial of the Chicago 7)

Best Original Screenplay: Lee Isaac Chung (Minari)
Runner Up: Aaron Sorkin (Trial of the Chicago 7)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami)
Runner Up: Florian Zeller (The Father)