The 10 Best Movies of 2020
Let's be honest - it hasn't exactly been a banner year for movies.
Despite the pandemic decimating the cinema industry globally and forcing any number of movies into 2021 and beyond, this year saw some fascinating movies rise to the surface in the absence of blockbusters drowning out cinemas.
Cinemas here in Ireland may have opened and closed at least twice this year, but the likes of Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ and premium on-demand saw a number of excellent releases throughout 2020.
For our final ranking of the year that was, we've pulled our list together from all movies released in Ireland over the year - which includes the likes of 'Parasite', 'The Lighthouse', 'Uncut Gems' - though they may have seen releases in the US in 2019.
Here we go.
There is nothing more that screams 2020 than the best movie of the year about time-travel being 'Bill & Ted Face The Music' and not Christopher Nolan's much-hailed blockbuster 'Tenet'. It's everything that 'Tenet' isn't. It's cleanly made, it's full of joy and good humour, it's easy to follow, the performances feel more convincing, and you aren't struggling to understand 90% of the dialogue. Even without comparing it to 'Tenet', it's still just an out-and-out entertaining comedy and in a year that hasn't seen much to laugh about, this kind of easygoing fun is sorely needed.
After 2018's 'Blackkklansman', you'd imagine Spike Lee would give himself a break, yet this year saw a movie almost to the equal of it and with a searing performance to lift it out of itself. To be clear, Delroy Lindo should absolutely be considered a frontrunner for Best Actor in whatever form the Oscars takes this year. His monologue, straight down the barrel of the lens, speaks to a rage and vulnerability that plays out in every scene he's in, but also underlines so much of what makes this movie one of Lee's most effective dramas. Beyond all of this, however, is what Chadwick Boseman brings to the role as the leader of Da 5 Bloods, and how cruel it is that this role should be one of his final roles. It's telling that Spike Lee cast him in the role, acutely aware already of his mythic status and how that plays into the dynamic between the other characters.
'Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen' has been not only one of Netflix's best documentaries of the year, it's one of the best docs of the year - full stop. It offers a compelling deep dive into trans representation across film and television, looking at the topic from a number of angles, including the representation of trans people in early cinema; the experiences of trans people seeing themselves on screen; damaging stereotypes; and crossovers between racial and sexual identities. Everyone needs to see this.
Utilising the context of a sports drama to investigate alcoholism and grief may seem like a fairly obvious choice, but it's in Ben Affleck's brutally honest portrayal of both that elevates 'Finding The Way Back' out of the realm of cliché and into something truly special. Gavin O'Connor directs with a light touch, and though it may not have the same widespread appeal as Affleck's blockbusters, it deserves equal recognition of them.
After Irish zombie thriller 'The Cured', taking a sharp turn into queer teenage rom-com might seem like an odd choice for director David Freyne, but it paid off in spades as this has been garnering some excellent reviews, not just from us. Fionn O'Shea and Lola Petticrew spark off one another as their beards, and the comedy is finely edged with some sharp examinations of homosexuality in '90s Ireland.
The latest from Cartoon Saloon (who were also behind 'Song of the Sea' and 'Secret of Kells') has received incredible reviews all over and deservedly so, as it's absolutely stunning. 'Wolfwalkers' follows the daughter of a hunter (Sean Bean) as she meets and befriends a mysterious girl living among wolves in the forest. Together they fight to protect the last wolf pack from being wiped out.
Celine Sciamma's haunting period romance between two women in 18th century France might seem like it's all a bit stuffy and unrelatable, but give it a chance and you'll find a story that transcends all of that and goes to things much deeper. Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant's dynamic relationship and the romance that grow and flourishes between them is intense, carrying itself through the movie's heartbreaking conclusion.
Despite the fact that 2020 has been a uniquely stressful year for all, 'Uncut Gems' has managed to retain its allure and charms. Adam Sandler's jittery, sweaty portrayal of happy-go-lucky degenerate gambler Howard Ratner feels like it's pulled from the last twenty minutes of Scorsese's 'Goodfellas', all coked-up jabberjawing and frantic scheming. The movie doesn't even bother to give itself a breather, bursting through every scene and rattling its way through to a shocking climax, done with a flourish and commitment that is so rarely seen.
Leave aside the obvious comparisons to 2020's lockdown and 'The Lighthouse' for the moment. Even if this year hadn't been what it was, 'The Lighthouse' would still be bothering end-of-year lists with frightening regularity. Why? Because this kind of daring doesn't come around that often. Robert Eggers' command of tone, atmosphere, humour, and the long shadows over Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson's drawn features are mesmerising, but so much of 'The Lighthouse' demands it be seen in a cinema. You have to trapped with it in a dark room, with the droning soundtrack blasting at you from all sides.
If this year has done anything, it's proven that cinemas are the best way to watch a movie. Sure, you can pause a movie on a streaming service, you can bring whatever food you want with you when you watch it, it's cheaper, it's whatever - but you're only getting half the experience. Going to the cinema is shutting yourself out and devoting your attention to the screen. The environment is set up for that. Your sitting room, no matter how good your TV is or how loud your sound system can go, can't hope to replicate that experience.
What can be said about 'Parasite' that can already be said? It won Best Picture at the Oscars earlier this year, it's been hailed as a masterpiece by all and sundry, and yet, odds are you've probably skipped over it because it sounds too esoteric or weird. That's good. The best way to come at 'Parasite' is by knowing almost nothing about it. It's a movie that creeps on you, slyly at first, before it delivers the blow.
The performances by the ensemble cast are pitch-perfect, but it's in how Bong Joon-ho so exquisitely plays with your expectations that makes it so thrilling and so darkly funny in parts. Even if you think you know what's happening, 'Parasite' blends itself together to create something utterly unique. Give it a chance if you haven't yet watched it. You'll be glad you did.
With input from Deirdre Molumby