Posted in: by David Coursen, by Kathleen Murphy, by Richard T. Jameson, by Robert C. Cumbow, by Robert Horton, by Sean Axmaker, lists

Parallax View’s Best of 2020

A belated welcome to 2021 with one last look back at the best releases of 2020.

It goes without saying that this has been an unusual year in every way. It is no less true for the year in cinema, as theaters shuttered across the nation (in Seattle, they were shut down for more than half of 2020). Many films were delayed by studios, some independent films chose the Virtual Cinema route, other films went the more tradition video-on-demand, and an unprecedented number of major films debuted directly to streaming services. That leaves the question “What qualifies as a 2020 film?” more open to interpretation. It also disperses the releases across a more varied landscape, making it harder to see everything that one might have access to in more normal years. That’s one reason our annual accounting is delayed this year. We’re just trying to grapple with the changes and catch up with what we can.

With that noted, here are the lists of Parallax View contributors and friends.

Contributors listed in alphabetical orders. Films listed in preferential orders (unless otherwise noted)

Sean Axmaker

1. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)
2. Nomadland (Chloé Zhao)
3. Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov)
4. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman)
5. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen)
6. News of the World (Paul Greengrass)
7. The Assistant (Kitty Green)
8. Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell)
9. Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg)
10. The Invisible Man (Leigh Whannel)

Absolute joy in a hard year:
Bill and Ted Face the Music (Dean Parisot) and American Utopia (Spike Lee)

Great drama, dubious history:
Mank (David Fincher) and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Aaron Sorkin)

And a few more memorable films (in alphabetical order): Ammonite (Francis Lee), Bacurau (Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho), Corpus Christi (Jan Komasa), Da Five Bloods (Spike Lee), Emma. (Autumn de Wilde) (the last film I saw in a theater), One Night in Miami (Regina King), Palm Springs (Max Barbakow), Sound of Metal (Darius Marder), The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson), Wolfwalkers (Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart)

Vasilisa Perelygina and Viktoria Miroshnichenko in ‘Beanpole.’ Photo credit: Kino Lorber

David Coursen (Washington, D.C.)

1. Dead Souls (Wang Bing, China)
2. Small Axe: Red, White and Blue (Steve McQueen, UK)
3. Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee, U.S.)
4. Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov, Russia)
5. Small Axe: Alex Wheatle (Steve McQueen, UK)
6. Young Ahmed (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium)
7. The 40-Year-Old Version (Radha Blank, US) 
8. The Assistant (Kitty Green, U.S.)
9.  Atlantiques (Mati Diop, Senegal)
10. (Tie): Small Axe: Mangrove/Lovers Rock/Education (Steve McQueen, UK)

Honorable Mention: Uncut Gems (Josh and Benny Safdie, U.S.), Bacurau (Kleber Filho and Juliano Dornelles, Brazil)

And thanks to MUBI for, among much else, introducing me to the work of Yuzo Kawashima.

Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick in ‘The Vast of Night.’ Photo credit: Amazon Studios

Robert C. Cumbow

I watched about 230 movies during 2020 (and the few weeks since), but only 14 were 2020 films. Of those, seven make my Top 10. I’d call them the most interesting films of 2020 that I saw, rather than the best, because I saw so few 2020 releases. Lots of catch-up to do in 2021. Most looking forward to Tenet and Synchronic.

First Cow
When Forever Dies
Bacurau
Vast Of Night
The Invisible Man
Beanpole
A Muse

My best home movie-watching experiences of the year were:
Beau Travail on Criterion
The Grey Fox on Blu-ray at last
Mädchen In Uniform from Kino

I also loved catching up with:
Dragged Across Concrete
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

Micheal Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn in ‘Lovers Rock.’ Photo credit: Amazon Studios

Kathy Fennessy

1. House of Hummingbird (Kim Bora) 
2. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen) 
3. The Invisible Man (Leigh Whannell) 
4. Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg) 
5. Mangrove (Steve McQueen) 
6. Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles) 
7. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman)  
8. Zombi Child (Bertrand Bonello) 
9. Relic (Natalie Erika James) 
10. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)  

Frances McDormand in ‘Nomadland.’ Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures

Robert Horton

(as published at Scarecrow Blog)
1. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)
2. Nomadland (Chloé Zhao)
3. Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky)
4. Fourteen (Dan Sallitt)
5. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen)
6. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman)
7. Ammonite (Francis Lee)
8. (tie) Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov)
            Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell)
10. French Exit (Azazel Jacobs)

Very close to making the last spot: Major Arcana, And Then We Danced, The 40-Year-Old Version, Babyteeth, Bacurau, Sound of Metal, The Assistant, The Invisible Man, La Verite, Vast of Night, Collectiv, Sorry We Missed You

Carey Mulligan in ‘Promising Young Woman.’ Photo credit: Focus Features

Richard T. Jameson

First Cow
Nomadland
The Vast of Night
Lovers Rock
Beanpole
Mank
Promising Young Woman
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
The Assistant
A White, White Day
The Trial of the Chicago 7 / News of the World

Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder in ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always.’ Photo credit: Focus Features

Kathleen Murphy

First Cow
Beanpole
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Lovers Rock (Small Axe)
Ammonite
The Vast of Night
A White, White Day
The Assistant

The Seattle Film Critics Society will announce their 2020 awards in February.

Polls / Lists

The Village Voice Poll (Reconstructed) at Filmmaker

Sight and Sound / BFI

Slant

Roger Ebert.com

Indiewire Critic’s Poll

Other lists

2020 additions to the Library of Congress National Film Registry

Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell’s Ten Best Films of … 1930

Rotten Tomatoes Top-rated movies of 2020

Here’s the Parallax View list for 2019

Remembering those we lost in 2020

Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, streaming

What to stream: ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ on Netflix, ‘The Expanse’ returns on Amazon, ‘Tenet’ comes to VOD

Here’s what’s new and ready to stream now on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Now, video-on-demand, and other streaming services …  

Viola Davis plays Ma Rainey, the mother of the blues, and Chadwick Boseman (in his final screen performance) is the fiery trumpeter in her band in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (2020, R), a drama of music, power, ambition, and race in America set at Chicago recording studio in 1927. Tony Award-winning Broadway director George C. Wolfe helms the screen adaptation of the August Wilson play and Colman Domingo and Glynn Turman costar. Davis and Boseman are favored to get Oscar nominations. (Netflix)

Tenet” (2020, PG-13), Christopher Nolan’s high-concept thriller starring John David Washington as a nameless agent whose mission to save the world involves the unraveling of time, is a puzzle box of a mystery with spectacular set pieces. Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kenneth Branagh costar. Nolan insisted that it get a theatrical release when major theaters were closed during the Covid lockdown, where it made back a fraction of its cost. Months later, it now debuts at home. (VOD and Cable On Demand, also on DVD and Blu-ray and at Redbox)

Continue reading at Stream On Demand

Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, streaming

What to stream: ‘I’m Your Woman’ on Amazon, ‘The Prom’ and ‘Funny Boy’ on Netflix, ‘Let Them Talk on HBO Max

Here’s what’s new and ready to stream now on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Now, video-on-demand, and other streaming services …  

I’m Your Woman” (2020, R) stars Rachel Brosnahan as a housewife who goes on the run when gangsters come after her husband (Bill Heck), who has kept his criminal life hidden from her, and she’s forced to fend for herself when they come for her. Julia Hart directs this 1970s throwback crime thriller costarring Arinzé Kene and Marsha Stephanie Blake. (Amazon Prime Video, also available in HDR)

The Broadway musical comedy “The Prom” (2020, PG-13), about a group of stage actors who descend on a small Indiana town to support a lesbian couple barred from attending their high school prom, comes to the screen from director Ryan Murphy with Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells, and James Corden as the Broadway performers. (Netflix)

Meryl Streep also stars in “Let Them All Talk” (2020, R) as novelist with writer’s block on a sea cruise with old friends (Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest) she hasn’t seen in some time. Steven Soderbergh directs the film, which was partly improvised, and Lucas Hedges and Gemma Chan co-star. (HBO Max)

Continue reading at Stream On Demand

Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews, Science Fiction

2000 Eyes: Battlefield Earth

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

“Man is an endangered species,” alerts the introductory card to this adaptation of L. Ron Hubbard’s Star Wars inspired epic sci-fi novel. It should have warned us that logic was also hitting hard times.

The year is 3000 and the place is Earth. After a millennium of brutal subjugation by the Psychlos (seemingly an unholy mating of Star Trek’s Klingon and Ferengi races), humans live like cavemen in the irradiated wilds, foraging through a dying Earth. Rebellious young Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper, in flowing locks and an unchanging expression of determined sincerity) searches for a better land and discovers a race of intergalactic corporate pirates, eight foot alien slavers sucking the planet dry of resources in the name of profit.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews, Horror

2000 Eyes: Scary Movie

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

If the baddest of the Farrelly brothers bad taste gags has you in stitches, then this is the movie for you. For almost ninety minutes director Keenen Ivory Wayans tries to meld the pop-culture parodies of Airplane! and its ilk with jokes so crude and outrageously raunchy that even Jim Carrey would think twice. At a recent preview screening a pocket of college boys were not just laughing but actually hooting their appreciation.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The 6th Day

[Originally written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Arnold Schwarzenegger fans were perplexed by End of Days, the dreary, hysterical millennial thriller that marked his comeback from a two-year break. Hollywood’s favorite action hero was reduced to a cynical, burned-out husk of an alcoholic cop on a vaguely redemptive quest. Where was the wiseacre tough guy of few words and explosive action? Where was the beloved teddy bear of a Hollywood Hercules with a destructive streak? Where was Ah-nold?

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Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, streaming

What to stream: ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ on Netflix, ‘The Right Stuff’ on Disney+, final seasons of ‘Schitt’s Creek’ and ‘Mr. Robot’

Here’s what’s new and ready to stream now on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Now, video-on-demand, and other streaming services …  

The Haunting of Bly Manor” (TV-MA), from “The Haunting of Hill House” creator Mike Flanagan, adapts the Henry James classic “The Turn of the Screw,” updating it to 1980s England. “Hill House” actor Henry Thomas stars as the isolated man who hires an American nanny (Victoria Pedretti) for his orphaned niece and nephew in his vast mansion. (Netflix)

The Right Stuff: Season 1” (TV-14) retells the story of the American space program and the pilots who became America’s pioneering astronauts. Based on the book by Tom Wolfe (which was previously made into the 1983 movie), it stars Patrick J. Adams, James Lafferty, Jake McDorman, and Colin O’Donoghue. Two episodes available, new episodes each Friday. (Disney+)

Continue reading at Stream On Demand

Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Titanic Town

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

“We thought we’d left the Troubles behind,” voices 16-year-old Annie McPhelimy (Nuala O’Neill) in the opening moments. “They were just starting.” Her family moves into a modest brick home in Andersonstown, a Catholic district of West Belfast in 1972, to escape the violence of their previous neighborhood, but it isn’t long before an IRA guerrilla is poised on their porch firing into the streets. Bernie (Julie Walters) charges out like a mother bear, chasing him off more out of foolhardy temperament than actual courage.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Two Family House

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

There’s an engaging modesty to Raymond De Felitta’s Sundance Audience Winner Two Family House, a sweet little romantic drama set in the insular Italian and Irish neighborhoods of 1956 Staten Island and narrated with the conversational ease of a bar story.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker

2000 Eyes: But I’m A Cheerleader

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Natasha Lyonne (The Slums of Beverly Hills), the most sardonic young actress working today, puts on a cheery face and wears her pom-poms with pride as picture-perfect cheerleader Megan. But she’s got a problem: her boyfriend’s sloppy, slobbering kisses don’t get her all hot and bothered (“Maybe he just doesn’t do it right,” she ponders), she loves tofu, and she proudly hangs a Melissa Etheridge poster in her bedroom. In this cookie-cutter suburb of Anytown USA, those are the telltale signs of lesbianism.

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