We decided to split our year-end roundup into individual posts this year, with each of the team providing their own personal take on the entertainment that helped us get through this crazy year. This time round, it’s the turn of Matt – let us know if you agree or disagree with any of his choices and be sure to keep an eye out for posts from the rest of the team.
While I haven’t had too many opportunities to watch new releases from 2020, I have had the luxury – perhaps for the first time ever – to dedicate time filling some of the gaping holes in my watchlist and re-watching some forgotten greats. Almost all these entries tie nicely into the topics covered this year on the CineChat Podcast, so make sure you check out those episodes too! Now, without further ado, here is my alternative Top 5 list for 2020:
Best 2020 Film – PARASITE (2019)
What is so fantastic about Parasite is that genuinely no one saw it coming. When it’s almost routine to sweep foreign-language films under the carpet (or at least into the ‘International Film’ category), who’d have thought that a South Korean film would become one of the most popular films of the year, this century, and perhaps all time – strutting away with six Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Editing, Production Design and, of course, International Feature. Parasite marks a major milestone in cinema, and director Bong Joon Ho’s speech about overcoming the “one-inch tall barrier of subtitles” has resonated ever since. While I loved its simplicity, it was the genius blend of genres and the perfect balance of story with subtext that made every moment unpredictable and unique.
Runners up: 1917 & Waves.
Best First-Time Watch – CARRIE (1976)
I was pleasantly surprised by how original Carrie was, then again maybe I should have anticipated this as Stephen King’s work consistently revises horror conventions and always seems to emanate a timeless quality; Carrie in particular does not feel like it was written or adapted in the 1970s! For the most part, the film actually assumes the guise of a coming-of-age drama and an early high school movie, reserving its horror for the iconic climax where all hell breaks loose (as does Brian de Palma’s masterful direction). But perhaps what I enjoyed most of all is the inversion of the classic horror ‘monster’ – Carrie herself is an extremely sympathetic character, and her involuntary telekinetic outbursts are a perfectly justified product of the abusesuffered at the hands of school bullies and her hyper-religious mother. I have to say it was nearly perfect.
Runners Up: The 39 Steps & V For Vendetta.
Best Recommended Film – ZULU (1964)
My mum has raved about Zulu pretty much all of my life, so naturally I assumed that I just wouldn’t like it! When asked why this was one of her favourite films, she would only ever cite a specific moment that gives her goosebumps: the sound of 4000 Zulu warriors as they slowly advance over the hills towards the underdefended Rorke’s Drift. Sowhen we let our mums choose the films reviewed in our Mother’s Day podcast, it was no surprise that Zulu was top of the list. And I bloody loved it. However there are far more things she could have said about the film to convince me much sooner, for instance: the performances of Stanley Baker and Michael Caine (in his first major film role), the exhilarating action sequences and special effects, the exquisite costuming, production design and location-shot cinematography in vibrant technicolour… But I suppose film-speak can’t be everyone’s second language!
Runners Up: Jeremiah Johnson & Train to Busan.
Best Re-Watch – ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE (2017)
It’s rare enough for me to re-watch any film ever. So the fact that I have spent 12 months dying to re-watch Anna and the Apocalypse, then to go and watch it twice in a row, is completely unheard of! I genuinely cannot get enough of it. As zombie-horror, comedy Christmas musical, it caters to all manner of occasions and moods, and will have you laughing, crying, singing and cringing (in the best way) throughout. It’s utterly fabulous and I cannot recommend it enough.
Runners Up: The Green Mile & Blade Runner.
Biggest Surprise – ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (2011)
If I’d have known how ‘British’ Arthur Christmas was, I definitelywould have watched it much sooner! Reframing the Santa Claus story as a royal family-esque line of succession and poking fun at sackfuls of festive customs including ugly Christmas jumpers, awful cracker jokes and Monopoly rage, the film also boasts a sublime cast led by James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton and Bill Nighy– so what’s not to love? And not only does it embody the humour of Aardman Animation (think Chicken Run!), it also has the stunning visuals of Sony Pictures Animation (dare I compare it to Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse?). You can absolutely tell that they’ve had a blast reimagining the logistics of Christmas Eve for the 21st century, and I absolutely loved it.
Runners Up: Corpus Christi & About a Boy.
A self-confessed cinephile; hopelessly devoted to film! My areas of expertise include film theory and analysis, twenty-first century ‘modern classics’ and Oscar winners post-1970. And who doesn’t love a good quiz? Proud holder of an MA in Film Studies and lifelong advocate of cinema etiquette.