I decided it would probably be a good idea to not force folks to sit through an hour and forty-minute long podcast for me to break down my top 10 films. If you want to see more in-depth discussions of these films as well as my honorable mentions and disappointment of the year, by all means check out the video episode at our Facebook or YouTube pages.
I’m extremely thankful to have been able to virtually attend a couple film festivals this year, so I feel it’s appropriate to point out when a pick was seen at either the Mile High Horror Film Festival or the Denver Film Festival. They’ll be noted when appropriate below. With that out of the way, on to the best of 2020!
This wildly entertaining film from Elza Kephart takes on the hypocrisy that can exist behind “ethically sourced” products from brands that barely pay lip service to the idea while making an extraordinarily fun movie featuring jeans that consume would be consumers. By taking the monstrous origins out of the traditionally silly and planting it into a real world issue, Slaxx makes for a bloody good time with plenty of laughs that has something very serious to say. Do yourself a favor and check it out when it comes to Shudder in March of 2021.
In many ways, this shouldn’t work. There have been previous attempts to make the Holmes family more kid friendly and it’s fair to say the results have been mixed at best. It could also be seen as a cash grab on Millie Bobby Brown’s popularity on Stranger Things to get her cast in a big name property and leave it at that. Instead, we’re treated to the reality that Brown can absolutely anchor a movie with her performance and use arguably bigger names like Henry Cavill and Helena Bonham Carter as the supports they are obviously having such a fun time being. This is my pick for the best family movie of the year that can also appeal to parents.
Call me a sucker for a good high concept movie. Survival Skills takes the idea of boring 80’s training videos and imbues it with actual moral complications and the stickiness that life can bring while not leaving the comedy gold that comes out of those videos behind. Yes, it’s impressive the technical lengths that director Quinn Armstrong went to in order to create an authentic experience. However without a solid storyline and great acting, the joke would wear thin quickly. Fortunately Vayu O’Donnell proves more than up to the task, bringing nuance and complexity to what would otherwise be a cardboard cutout of a character
I think this is the lost movie of 2020. Coming out just as pandemic shutdowns happened and coming to Disney+ at warp speed, it’s possible many would have written Onward off as a throwaway movie that Disney didn’t have faith in. Those folks would have missed out one possibly one of the most tightknit families of the year. Yes, the film centers on two fantastic leads in Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, but the film’s choice to take the mother character (voiced by the relentless Julia Louis-Dreyfus) from being a sad sack sniveling on the sidelines and make her an active advocate for her boys was a beautiful decision. It checks all the boxes of a fantastic Pixar movie delivering on laughs, heart and adventure.
The fact that this movie is a documentary and not an insane action movie about two young women responsible for the death of Kim Jong Un’s cousin shows just how crazy this story is. By following what is an outlandish defense submitted by the lawyers for these women, director Ryan White takes on an insane journey about how even the most unlikely stories can sometimes be more plausible than first thought. Dealing with ideas of human trafficking and taking advantage of the good nature found in humanity, this is a story that literally has to be seen to be believed.
It was a gutsy move for Disney to not only push the release of this cinematic version of Hamilton up a year, but also drop it on Disney+. It turns out this was for good reason. By taking the opportunity to not just film the stage of this legendary production but make what feels like a true director’s cut, Lin-Manuel Miranda was able to truly bring his vision to life. You’ll see things in this production that you’d never catch even with front row seats. Yes, purists can make an argument that taking in the production in a theatre as opposed to a theater allows the audience to discover things on their terms, but it can’t be denied that Miranda made a compelling case for this version of the production.
This one shouldn’t have worked for me going by my past track record. I’m always open to the idea of a film remake as long as the bones and soul of the original are kept in tact. The fact that this remake places so high on my list is a tribute to the commitment Leigh Whannell and Blumhouse had to taking the central mcguffin in the original film and fashioning an entirely different story and message than the original Claude Rains romp. By making the film a story of an abusive relationship as well as taking budgetary limitations and making them an asset, The Invisible Man is an unforgettable story that’s gripping from the first to the last frame
Little Fish is a perfect example of why I love attending events like the Denver Film Festival. After having attended and covered it for so many years, I’ve learned to pretty much not pay any kind of attention to what films are garnering attention and seek out projects off the beaten path that have potential. This film about a pandemic sweeping the world and how it wrecks havoc on one couple in particular has obvious parallels to real life, but the sci-fi conceit allows to give enough distance see this as a film about who we are as humans and how we need to treasure every moment instead of being a dread filled slog that feels like homework. The film has one of the most heartbreaking and beautiful endings I’ve seen in years and it demands to be sought out.
If there’s one thing that will endear me to a movie, it’s taking my worst assumptions of how a trope will be used and doing it right. Alone is a sterling example of this. Not only is this thriller between two individuals in the same league as Hard Candy, it doesn’t take shots at low hanging fruit. It would have been beyond easy to take the trauma suffered by protagonist Jessica (Jules Wilcox) and make her a cowering victim. It would have been understandable and I would have hated it. The fact that Writer Mattias Olsson and director John Hyams mad Jessica a more complicated character actually working through her trauma and coming through it a stronger person makes this film undeniably compelling. This suspenseful thriller of a chase movie has one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve seen in my life that had me actually laughing in joy. It seems crazy that this movie is available on Hulu right now, but you owe it to yourself to take advantage and watch this film immediately
I’m not going to be mad at anyone who would disqualify the film based on Tina Fey’s involvement. I totally get it. It was probably a bad choice. If you can step away from her troublesome history around racial issues in creative pursuits, you’re left with a wonderful film that dives into the little things that matter in our human existance and the wonder that can be found in what appear to be meaningless parts of our lives. Jamie Foxx is phenomenal as Joe and the jazz by John Bastiste as well as the score turned in by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross make for an amazing film. What’s crazy to me is that I would be all in on a movie all about Joe’s life and might love it even more than this one. The existential explorations are fun and the movie has Pete Docter’s signature heart at its core.