(This article is part of our Best of 2020 series.)
There were a lot of movies I wanted to see in 2020. Unfortunately, shit happened and most films were delayed to 2021 or beyond. However, there was a silver lining to all of the delays. It made me look harder for new films to watch. I went smaller, and watched numerous indie or lower-budget films than I normally would. None of my five favorite films are huge, expensive blockbusters. That’s a first.
There are two films that have yet to hit streaming or PVOD that could easily make this list: Promising Young Woman and One Night in Miami. I cannot wait to see either. As for the top five I have selected below, they are not ranked numerically. These are just five films I happened to enjoy quite a bit. Enjoy.
We Summon the Darkness
The best part about writing for a film website is that your eyes are constantly scanning other sites looking for new castings and trailers to post. We Summon the Darkness would have never entered my radar had I not covered its trailer months back. Alexandra Daddario gives one of her best performances in this ’80s-set horror-thriller. The rest of the cast also does an amazing job with the material and trying to survive the wacky antics that ensue following a heavy metal show. If I had to nitpick, I would say that you can see the twists coming a mile away, but I once read that your audience correctly predicting a twist is better than an unexpected twist that ruins the plot. Every twist in We Summon the Darkness only enhances the viewing experience. If you have been waiting for Daddario to headline a new movie, this is your prayers being answered.
Yes, God, Yes
I am a huge fan of Stranger Things (my ’80s bias is beginning to show), and especially of actress Natalia Dyer. So yeah, I only watched this movie because I saw that Dyer was playing the lead. Otherwise, I probably would have passed right over this title while scanning the new PVOD offerings. Based on the short film of the same name also starring Dyer, Yes, God, Yes follows a sexually inexperienced junior at a strict co-ed Catholic high school. It is a charming coming-of-age dramedy that highlights Dyer’s ability to effortlessly portray naivety and innocence. It is definitely one to watch.
Happiest Season is a charming holiday romantic-comedy that is strengthened by the comedic talent involved. Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Alison Brie, and Mary Holland all shine in their respective roles. They help balance out Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis who, despite playing the on-screen couple, are not actually that funny on their own. The laughs definitely come from everyone around the duo, specifically Levy who I can see having a long and prosperous career like his father Eugene Levy. However, the actor who made me laugh the most was Steenburgen. She’s absolutely killer as the perfectionist mother, who is never really impressed nor happy with the results of her hard work. This film is for viewers who love to watch the main character suffer through uncomfortable (yet hilarious) situations.
Oh, Pixar, how I had missed you. From 1995 to 2010, Pixar had a run of animated hits that rival studios wished they could compete with. However, Cars 2 in 2011 marked a change in the Pixar strategy. They began to release more and more sequels and that impacted their original films (The Good Dinosaur is not good, y’all). There were some bright spots. Inside Out and Coco showed that Pixar hadn’t fallen completely out of touch with making original features that knew how to tug at our heart strings. But it has been a long time since I have watched a new Pixar film and thought, “Now this is Pixar.”
Soul is the type of film that makes you ponder if you are really living your life to its fullest. It’s beautifully animated and might be the most realistic film Pixar has ever animated. Seriously, pause the film anytime it’s just a shot of a building, room, or street with no humans on-screen. It looks like a live-action shot. The characters are the only thing that have exaggerated qualities. It is quite impressive. The film may retread similar plot beats from previous Pixar films, but I don’t necessarily mind that. It’s a major improvement over the most recent Pixar sequels and I cannot wait to see what Pixar has in store now that they’re dedicated to putting out more original features.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
I don’t usually write reviews (I’m looking to change that in 2021), so you know I must have been impressed with this DC Comics animated movie to have to write about it. Apokolips War is the final film in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies shared universe that began with Justice League: War. It is an Endgame-style finale featuring members of the Justice League, Teen Titans, Justice League Dark, Suicide Squad, and Bat Family. In a year that saw a number of superhero properties delayed, Apokolips War filled that void offering some of the best plot, story, and action from a DC film in years. If you like seeing what happens when your favorite superheroes lose everything and have to fight for their survival, then why haven’t you watched Apokolips War yet? It may just be the DC’s best animated film yet.
Those are my five favorite films of 2020. The runner-ups would be The Invisible Man, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Bad Education, Uncle Frank, and Da 5 Bloods.
What do you think of my favorite films from the past year? Anything you think should have made my top five?