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ILT’s Top 10 Films of 2020!

Weird year tbf.

As usual, here’s ILT’s 10 favourite reels…Follow ILT on twitter @iltfilm

10. On the Rocks

Dir: Sofia Coppola

A rare between-lockdown theatrical release, On the Rocks provided a much needed moment of escapism in the face of winter and the inevitable second wave. Sofia Coppola has, and no doubt will go on to make better films, but watching her charming father (Bill Murray)-daughter (Rashida Jones) detective tale unfold in a world that now seems like ancient history, all from the comfort of the tiny theatre across the road (bourbon, rocks included), made for a lovely hour and a half and a fond memory unique to 2020. It helps that Murray nails the witty yet prying parent suspicious of his son-in-law’s apparent extramarital activities, and while the finale doesn’t quite get there, On the Rocks makes for an ideal Sunday afternoon daydream.
Watch the trailer here…

9.You Cannot Kill David Arquette

Dir: David Darg & Price James

Sometimes, you simply want to believe that the story you’re being told is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In this case, it’s the story of a down and out 90s actor and former WCW World Heavyweight champion, who, having been dismissed as a joke by the wrestling world (*sensible chuckle*) for nearly two decades, decides it is time to embrace the industry that loathes him so. Enter the rather likeable David Arquette, his lovingly cooperative family, and a documentary team willing to help his dream come true. Blurring the line between kayfabe and (some admittedly hardcore) reality with ease, Arquette’s charismatic brand of backyard wrestling and backstage drama will make you a believer by way of sheer entertainment.
Watch the trailer here…

8. Sound of Metal

Dir: Darius Marder

Already one of the finest actors of his generation, Riz Ahmed went from strength to strength this year with his and Bassam Tariq’s personal project Mogul Mowgli (shot subsequently but released first), and Sound of Metal, both of which cast him as a musician suffering from a sudden, life-altering affliction. When punk-metal drummer Ruben is devastated by hearing loss while on tour with his girlfriend (Olivia Cooke), he is forced to weigh acceptance against a desperate attempt to reverse what he sees as a career-ending handicap. Supported by stark sound design and a well measured turn from Paul Raci – Ruben’s mentor in the deaf community – Sound of Metal is ultimately anchored by Ahmed, who drags us through Ruben’s fears and frustrations while maintaining the grounded performance the subject matter deserves.
Watch the trailer here…

7. Palm Springs

Dir: Max Barbakow

If ever a year needed a strong summer comedy to help while away the hours… Snapped up pre-pandemic at Sundance for a record fee, Palm Springs rapidly became a mini event release, partly because it could actually be viewed by human beings four months after the world shut down, but mainly because it’s smart, well-made, and, crucially for 2020, funny. Most folks will know this is not the OG time-loop romantic-comedy, and thankfully writer Andy Siara and director Max Barbakow provide their own distinct take on the Groundhog Day legacy by successfully modernizing the concept. Aiding them is a cast steeped in chemistry, with time-loop foes Andy Samberg and J.K. Simmons perfectly complimenting our wild-eyed guide Cristin Milioti, who out of nowhere becomes doomed to repeat her sister’s hellish wedding day for all eternity.
Watch the trailer here…

6. Da 5 Bloods

Dir: Spike Lee

Throughout his prolific career, Spike Lee’s palette of admirable traits has only grown more colourful, but three decades after after the monumental success of Do the Right Thing it is his unwillingness to compromise that continues to define to him as a filmmaker. Case in point: Da 5 Bloods, a chaotic, increasingly inward facing epic that spears an uncomfortably distorted present day through the lens of the Vietnam War and its reflective themes of race, class, and sociopolitical upheaval. Told from the perspective of four African-American veterans who return to the jungle to find their fallen comrade (and the prize they left behind), Da 5 Bloods gifts us a cracking ensemble cast, led by Delroy Lindo’s PTSD-riddled Trump supporter, and featuring a poignant turn from the late Chadwick Boseman in what we now know was one of his final roles. It drags a little during the second half, but Lee’s jarring visual and tonal execution coupled with the picture’s raw energy and honesty see you through to the end.
Watch the trailer here…

5. You Don’t Nomi

Dir: Jeffrey McHale

In an age of retrospective film criticism dominated by savage takes and a desire to go viral, You Don’t Nomi is not only welcome, but is startling brilliant. In one of the most thorough and effective cinematic breakdowns in recent memory, Jeffrey McHale asks why audiences continue to be drawn to Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 sexually-charged cult classic Showgirls, starring Elizabeth Berkley (and a host of 90s B movie mainstays); a critical and commercial bomb infamous upon release for its stiff(y) dialogue, accidental comedy, and performances dialled up so high that even Spinal Tap couldn’t put a number on them. Having experienced somewhat of a revival in recent years, Showgirls remains, for better or worse, a ridiculous yet fascinating property, illuminated here by McHale’s skillful collation of every gloriously filthy and surprisingly insightful angle developed by the film’s critics (including the excellent Adam Nayman), contemporaries, and enduring fanbase.
Watch the trailer here…

4. Small Axe

Dir: Steve McQueen

Selecting the complete Small Axe anthology instead of a single feature might seem like a copout, but really the only way to do justice to Steve McQueen’s passion project on West Indian life in London from 1968-1981 is to consume all five films. Mangrove (a courtroom drama focused on the Mangrove Nine) and Lovers Rock (a visceral love letter to the music that shaped a culture) are the flagship entries, while Red, White and Blue (following the struggles of Met police officer Leroy Logan) has the biggest star and a performance to match from John Boyega. Education (depicting the silently sinister removal of black children from the mainstream school system) is arguably the most emotionally distressing entry, as McQueen (utilizing his own childhood experience) carefully traces the fine line between perceived quiet dignity and outright anguish faced by the families in question. The standout film is Alex Wheatle, a tough but rewarding biopic of the aspiring artist whose life and career were reshaped by the 1981 Brixton uprising. The story of Wheatle – a fellow creative talent – feels personal to McQueen, who gets a truly heartbreaking performance from Sheyi Cole (pictured left).
Watch the trailer here…

3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Dir: Eliza Hittman

For many of us, the American abortion debate exists at a high level. The dark reality of a system needlessly tied up in ideological bickering and seemingly designed to actively hurt women is something we talk about, but will never have to face head on. Shedding light on the experiences of these women is Never Rarely Sometimes Always, writer-director Eliza Hittman’s bleak and moving portrayal of 17-year-old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), who is forced to travel from Pennsylvania to New York City to have an abortion without parental consent, aided only by her cousin (Talia Ryder). Operating firmly at ground level, Hittman draws superb performances from Flanigan and Ryder, and pulls no punches in her writing or delivery. The result is a powerful waking nightmare, gradually revealing both an unduly laborious system and the disturbing, oft-unseen journey that accompanies it, particularly for young and vulnerable women.
Watch the trailer here…

2. There Is No Evil

Dir: Mohammad Rasoulof

The notion of suffering for one’s art in modern Hollywood seems almost trivial when Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof enters the conversation. Long unpopular with the authoritarian regime regularly discussed in his films, Rasoulof has endured both filmmaking bans and threats of incarceration in his home country, making his latest project – a four-part anthology on the death penalty and the role of Iran’s executioners – all the more remarkable. Shot in secret due to his current two-year ban, There Is No Evil (taken from the literal translation: “Satan doesn’t exist”) is an extraordinary portrayal of a grim but necessary aspect of everyday life for many Iranian men, their loved ones, and, of course, their victims. Digging deep into the moral ambiguity and emotional consequences associated with such work, Rasoulof and his stellar ensemble cast go above and beyond to paint a human picture of their countrymen rarely seen by the outside world.
Read ILT’s full review and interview with Mohammad Rasoulof
Watch the trailer here…

1. Mank

Dir: David Fincher

In the month following the release of David Fincher’s much-hyped black-and-white biography of Herman J. Mankiewicz and his relationship to the screenplay for Orson Welles’ 1941 classic Citizen Kane, a lifetime’s worth of dramatic and pointedly side-taking discourse has been produced, both big picture and wonderfully petty in scale. On offer here is the mere opinion that Mank – a longtime personal project based on a screenplay by the late Jack Fincher (rewritten in part by his son and Eric Roth) – is an immensely satisfying experience and a technically astounding work of cinematic art, demonstrated by Fincher’s direction, the performances of Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, and Charles Dance, the rich monochrome cinematography of Mindhunter collaborator Erik Messerschmidt, and of course the gorgeous, wholly original periodic score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. There is too much to say about Mank for it to be said in full here, and clearly it is not for everyone, but if you admire the work of Fincher or Oldman, have an interest in Citizen Kane, classic cinema, or the brutal mechanics of Old Hollywood, or have ever tried to write anything creative in your life, then Mank is worth the altogether breezy 131 minutes it will take to make up your own mind.
Watch the trailer here…

The Long List

The scaled back nature of cinema in 2020 was reflected in both its content and delivery, but at least it managed to keep us entertained. Some of the following are moving, some are witty. Some are charged and some are aesthetically stirring. Others simply have something interesting to say…

Another Round  Dir: Thomas Vinterberg
Bill & Ted Face the Music  Dir: Dean Parisot
Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm  Dir: Jason Woliner
Boys State  Dir: Amanda McBaine & Jesse Moss
First Cow  Dir: Kelly Reichardt
Get Duked!  Dir: Ninian Doff
I’m Thinking of Ending Things  Dir: Charlie Kaufman
Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President  Dir: Mary Wharton
Shithouse  Dir: Cooper Raiff
Soul  Dir: Pete Docter
Special Actors  Dir: Shinichiro Ueda
Tenet  Dir: Christopher Nolan
Time  Dir: Garrett Bradley
The Gentlemen  Dir: Guy Ritchie (pictured)
The Invisible Man  Dir: Leigh Whannell
The King of Staten Island  Dir: Judd Apatow
The Trial of the Chicago 7  Dir: Aaron Sorkin
The Vast of Night  Dir: Andrew Patterson
The Wolf of Snow Hollow  Dir: Jim Cummings
Vitalina Varela  Dir: Pedro Costa

Looking for recommendations from the past decade? ILT can help…
ILT’s Top 10 Films of 2019!
ILT’s Top 10 Films of 2018!
ILT’s Top 10 Films of 2017!

ILT’s Top 10 Films of 2016!
ILT’s Top 10 Films of 2015!

Follow ILT on twitter @iltfilm

This post first appeared on In Layman's Terms... | 'cinematography Snob'. Silv, please read the originial post: here

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ILT’s Top 10 Films of 2020!


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