The Year in Movies – 2020

Yes, 2020 was a weak slate of movies compared to prior years. For obvious reasons.  We didn’t get to see the new James Bond.  We didn’t get to see the new Top Gun.  And we didn’t get to see Ben Affleck and Ana De Armas sleep with each other (Deep Water pushed to 2021).  But you know what, I’m actually thankful for the set of movies we did get.  Can you imagine if we were confined to our homes for this long 20 years ago?  Without a thousand movies and tv shows on demand at our fingertips?  All things considered we were pretty lucky to be able to seemingly hang out with Andy Samberg in the summer (Palm Springs), Bill Murray in the fall (On The Rocks), and Taylor Swift twice (Miss Americana & Folklore).   

Before I get to the annual awards and report card, here are a couple quick hitters since I really slacked off on writing this year. 

Sound of Metal: Sound of Metal is jarring in the most wonderful way.  The aura of this drama about a heavy metal drummer who starts to go deaf reminded me of the Gosling Act of The Place Beyond The Pines.  Only after did I realize the two films share a writer, Derek Cianfrance.   It’s my second favorite movie of the year with an ending that is the perfect ying to Portrait of a Lady on Fire ending’s yang.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow:  Few movies have mixed action, comedy, and drama better than this film about a small town cop with a killer on the loose.  Achieving two of those characteristics to the extent that Snow Hollow does is impressive but pulling off all three is truly special. 

Folklore: The Long Pod Studio Sessions:  Secluded in a cabin in the woods with two collaborators (and no audience), Taylor Swift plays the folklore album front to back on Disney Plus.  I’m typically not one for “concert movies” but this brought me back to the Nirvana Unplugged special on MTV.  Just a soothing experience.  Throw this on while you’re making dinner or playing a board game. 

The Nest:  Jude Law and Carrie Coon are interlocked in a cold war of a marriage. Partially set in a big spooky house outside of London in the 80’s, it’s interesting that this relationship drama/thriller teases certain horror tropes even though it’s not a horror movie.  Unless you think marriage is scary, then it is a horror movie. 

Tenet:  Bottom tier Christopher Nolan.  I put my phone away to have a distraction free viewing of Tenet and still have NO IDEA what happens in this movie.  Like, there’s a big battle going on near the end and I couldn’t tell you what the good guys and bad guys are actually fighting over.  Hey Chris Nolan, dial it back there a bit buddy.     

The Hater: A Netflix thriller from Poland that chronicles a law school dropout who gets a job spreading disinformation on social media for morally bankrupt companies. I’m not sure why this didn’t have more of a moment in the zeitgeist, perhaps because it’s foreign language, but regardless it’s one of the most darkly relevant films to our news-skeptic brains of today.

The Trial of the Chicago 7: the most meh movie since argo.  doesn’t deserve any capital letters.

Extraction:  Fuck Yes

The Outpost: FUCK YESSSS

Mank: Fuck No

Kajillionaire: Fuck Off

That’s Year Five of Rated Greg in the books.  I posted far less in 2020 than in year’s past, not because my obsession with movies has waned, but quite the opposite. A newfound appreciation for “older” movies exponentially added to my watchlist, so much so that I would simply rather check out an older Bond, check out a Hitchcock classic, or check out one of the 63 best erotic thrillers from 1980-2005 than use that time to write about a rock solid movie like The Devil All The Time. Nonetheless, I still kept a copious amount of notes. Here are the Rated Greg superlatives on the year, along with a 2020 report card at the bottom.  

Best Lead Actor

  1. Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal
  2. Jim Cummings – The Wolf of Snow Hollow
  3. Ben Affleck – The Way Back
  4. Tom Holland – The Devil All The Time
  5. Tzi Ma – Tigertail

Best Lead Actress

  1. Carrie Coon – The Nest
  2. Julia Garner – The Assistant
  3. Noemie Merlant– Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  4. Sidney Flanigan – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
  5. Cristin Milioti – Palm Springs

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Jude Law – The Nest
  2. Bill Murray – On The Rocks
  3. Bill Burr – The King of Staten Island
  4. Yahya Abdul-Mateen – The Trial of the Chicago 7*
  5. Ben Mendelsohn – Babyteeth

*By far the best/only good part about Aaron Sorkin’s Chicago 7 is Yahya Abdul-Mateen as Bobby Seale, but unfortunately it’s less of a story about his character than the others.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Adele Haenel – Portrait of a Lady on Fire*
  2. Talia Ryder – Never Rarely Sometimes Always*
  3. Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm*
  4. Marisa Tomei – The King of Staten Island
  5. Sierra McCormick – The Vast of Night*

*If your reaction to this category is “….Who?” I don’t blame you. Besides our patron saint Marisa Tomei, I had never seen any of these people on a screen before, big or small, before these films. I think Adele Haenel is fairly famous in France, but for the remaining three actresses 2020 was their big break. Their recognition appears to be one of the ripple effects of minimal big studio movies coming out this year. Smaller movies with hungry, up and coming actors get more of a spotlight than they typically would. Nevertheless that shouldn’t diminish the view of these performances, all of which are AWESOME on their own. Also, let me be the first to tell you that Maria Bakalova will get an Oscar nomination for Borat 2. I’m serious.

Best Villain

  1. Rev. Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson) – The Devil All The Time
  2. Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) – Birds of Prey
  3. Sloane (Alison Brie) – Happiest Season
  4. Athena (Hilary Swank) – The Hunt
  5. J.K. Simmons (Palm Springs)

Best Physical Performance

  1. Betty Gilpin – The Hunt
  2. John David Washington – Tenet*
  3. Chris Hemsworth – Extraction
  4. Jacob Scipio – Bad Boys for Life
  5. Jurnee Smollett – Birds of Prey

*While Tenet is a pretty head scratching movie, one thing that is unquestionable is John David Washington (Denzel’s son) as an action star. If he wants it, the former college football player has the chops to be one of the biggest movie stars in the world in the vein of Wesley Snipes or Keanu Reeves.

Best Dickhead

  1. Jane (Mary Holland) – Happiest Season
  2. Robert Macdougall (as himself) – Boys State
  3. Coach (Colin Farrell) – The Gentlemen
  4. Sam (Logan Miller) – Shithouse
  5. Terry (Rachel House) – Soul

Best First Impression (award winners above ineligible)

  1. Cooper Raif (as director) – Shithouse*
  2. Vanessa Aleksander – The Hater
  3. Chino Braxton – Charm City Kings
  4. Iliza Shlesinger – Spenser Confidential
  5. Toby Wallace – Babyteeth

*Cooper Raif as an actor in his directorial debut Shithouse is …just fine. It’s kind of obvious that he’s not an actor by trade. But that’s ok, because what this TWENTY-TWO year old kid is is a fucking filmmaker! I wouldn’t be shocked if a major streaming service gives him a Lena Dunham type deal to create his own show.

Best Non-Human

  1. Olivia the cat – Miss Americana
  2. The stuffed animal – Shithouse
  3. Orwell the pig – The Hunt
  4. Richmond the horse – The Nest
  5. Jack the dog – The Devil All The Time

Worst Performance

  1. Evan Rachel Wood – Kajillionaire
  2. Pedro Pascal – Wonder Woman 1984
  3. The person in charge of the wigs – The Trial of the Chicago 7
  4. Kiki Layne – The Old Guard
  5. Every actor in the reenactments – The Social Dilemma

Most LOL’s

  1. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
  2. Happiest Season
  3. The Wolf of Snow Hollow
  4. The Gentlemen
  5. The Hunt

Most Feelings

  1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  2. Sound of Metal
  3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
  4. Miss Americana
  5. Shithouse

Most Unsettling

Typically here I would rank the best horror movies of 2020, however there’s a quartet of films this year exposing the mistreatment of women that are far more unsettling than any horror movie. Athlete A is a Netflix doc about the sexual abuse that is rampant within USA olympic gymnastics. On The Record is an HBO Max doc about commonplace sexual assault behind the scenes at Def Jam records. The Assistant is a film about a day in the life of the personal assistant for a Harvey Weinstein type (Amazon Prime). Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a film about two small town teenagers escaping to New York City so one can get an abortion (HBO). These are all incredibly well made and must watches.

Best Looking/Cinemetography

  1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  2. The Outpost
  3. Tenet
  4. The Vast of Night
  5. On The Rocks

Best Stunt/Action Sequence*

  1. The entire last hour – The Outpost
  2. The car chase – Extraction
  3. The firetruck heist – Tenet
  4. The cop car chase – Charm City Kings
  5. The motorbike chase – Bad Boys for Life

*Here’s your annual reminder that the there should be a Best Stunt category at The Oscars.

Best Fight

  1. The apartment henchmen – Extraction
  2. The kitchen – Tenet
  3. The jail warehouse – Birds of Prey
  4. Snowball vs Athena – The Hunt
  5. The hospital – The Invisible Man

Best Non-Action Scene

  1. The ending – Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  2. The questionnaire – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
  3. Activation – Sound of Metal
  4. The restaurant – The Nest
  5. The chicken liver – The Devil All The Time

Best Use of a Song

  1. One Headlight (The Wallflowers) – The King of Staten Island
  2. Bizarre Love Triangle (New Order) – The Nest
  3. You’re All I Need (Mary J. Blige & Method Mad) – On The Record
  4. Just Breathe (Pearl Jam) – The Way I See It
  5. Baby (Donnie & Joe Emerson) – Babyteeth

Five Random Quotes

  1. “I think he’s a fantastic politician. But I don’t think being a fantastic politician is a compliment either” – Boys State
  2. “Santa promised them the complete works of Sylvia Plath” – Happiest Season
  3. “I’d ask you to say a prayer with me… but I can’t because of the goddamn lawyers” – The Wolf of Snow Hollow
  4. “Lying is standard operating procedure” – Tenet
  5. “Little Joey is watering dogshit again” – Palm Springs

Fifteen Other Things That Made Me Feel Some Type of Way (in no particular order)

  1. The Grammy’s phone call in Miss Americana
  2. Everything Bel Powley is doing in The King of Staten Island
  3. Vince Vaughn playing a teenage girl in Vince Vaughn’s body in Freaky
  4. The restaurant scene in Invisible Man
  5. The River Phoenix excerpt in Showbiz Kids
  6. The part with the snake in Black is King
  7. Stephen’s first speech in Boys State
  8. The girl back home convo in The Outpost
  9. The funeral in Dick Johnson is Dead
  10. Every swallow in Swallow
  11. Russell Crowe explaining what a courtesy tap is in Unhinged
  12. The Dematha sequence in Basketball County
  13. The landmines in Da 5 Bloods
  14. The Robert Wagner interview in Natalie Wood
  15. The next door neighbor in American Murder

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