It goes without saying that this has been one of the strangest years in human history. One of the many industries hit has been entertainment. Many big movies that were scheduled to release keep getting pushed back. Still, there have been some releases thanks for streaming networks. AIPT contributor Alex Curtis and Movie Editor Nathaniel Muir put together a list of the best movies of 2020 so far.
The King of Staten Island
Prior to this movie, I never considered myself a Judd Apatow fan. But this Pete Davidson vehicle accomplished its prime comedic goal: made me laugh. A lot. Apatow blends improv and his script so well, the cliches aren’t obnoxious and come across more as necessary.
Kantemir Balagov isn’t even thirty years old, but he’s already directed a near masterpiece with this Russian tragedy. Focusing on female Russian soldiers struggling to survive in post WWII slums, Beanpole is a truly harrowing drama. Although it brings up incredibly complex themes (like whether broken people can fix each other), Balagov refuses to give us easy answers. It helps that the cinematography is drop-dead stunning, revealing the decrepit surroundings with garish greens and glaring, menacing reds.
Sure, David Cronenberg hasn’t come out with a new movie in a few years–but his son, Brandon Cronenberg is picking up the slack. But that’s not to discount Brandon’s own unique voice with the likes of Possessor, a genuinely shocking horror riff on Inception. In the world of Possessor, a seemingly average housewife can psychically possess people and use them as assassins, even at the risk of sanity. I like to think I’m fairly desensitized to movie violence, but Brandon dropped my jaw in Possessor numerous times with gory excess. You’d be hard pressed to find a film as textured as this in its tactile, mesmeric visuals.
I first became aware of Pablo Larrain with his underrated 2016 biopic, Jackie. So it was great to see him return with this erotic thriller centered on a crumbling marriage between performance artists. Since the main characters are dancers, Larrain bakes rhythm and movement into the very DNA of this pulsating, neon film. Even I have to admit it took me a while to get into Ema’s aggressive theatricality, but once I gave into the hypnotic rhythm, I was enthralled by the twisty storytelling.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a harrowing film even in subject matter–especially for the likes of myself (a white dude). Case in point: it’s about a teenager who has to travel to NYC for a secret abortion. Like the amazing Sofia Coppola, Eliza Hittman (the director) reveals the wounded souls of women in the world of man. The best films help us empathize with the most vulnerable, and this neo-realist film is a masterclass of tender equality.
The best movies are the ones that surprise the audience. Horse Girl does not just shock the audience once. It is a series of twists and turns that keeps everyone watching guessing what is going to happen next. The movie is incredibly funny and anchored by strong performances.
Another movie that will completely surprise its audience. At first, it seems like it is going to be another rom com. Given its cast, that may have been good enough. It then adds a time loop premise that differentiates its from other rom coms. It is a surprisingly deep story that is about the nature of true love. It is also as funny as it is heartwarming.
The opening moments of this documentary give audiences an idea of what they are going to see. A young woman is left with essentially two choices: be raped or be killed. Welcome to Chechnya is an uncompromising look at the persecution of the gay community in this remote Russian state. Sad and brutal, the documentary also offers moments of hope as brave men and women try to smuggle people out of the country. It is especially poignant in a year when peoples intolerance of each other seems to be highlighted on a daily basis.
An unintentionally topical movie that would work no matter what the state of the world was. A woman is convinced that she is going to die tomorrow. Initially, her friend thinks she may be depressed and tries to calm her down. As the feeling spreads, She Dies Tomorrow becomes a dark comedy that is very relatable.
A light hearted story that is all about finding true love. The soundtrack is one of the best of the year. But what makes the musical moments so great is not the music itself, but watching it being created. There is also great chemistry between all the characters and an engaging. It is a feel good story that is sorely needed in these times.