Honourable Mentions: Tenet, Freaky, Kajillionaire, The Invisible Man, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend, The Midnight Sky, Onward, The Hunt, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn, Color Out of Space, Hamilton, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
10. Sound of Metal
Ruben (Riz Ahmed) is a drummer in a metal band with his girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cooke), and he is horrified to find that he is rapidly going deaf. He arrives at a home for the deaf to learn to live with his condition but instead he desperately wants to raise money for an experimental procedure that will potentially restore his hearing. There is innovative use of sound like overblown noise and deep space quiet to draw the viewer into Ruben’s rapidly changing world. This is about someone dealing with losing who they were and accepting who they are going to be.
9. Superman: Red Son
An animated, Elseworlds take on the DC comics iconic Superman mythos that is flipped on its head. Instead of Kansas, the baby Kryptonian lands in Communist Russia and is raised as the Superman (Jason Issacs) who works with Joseph Stalin to expand Communism across the globe while Superman’s USA counterpart, Lex Luthor (Diedrich Bader), tries to stop him. Red Son is an alternative history of the DC Superheroes that twists recognizable DC characters into Cold War versions. Superman retains his inherent desire to do good for the entire world, even if involves lowering an iron curtain.
8. The Trial of the Chicago 7
Writer and director Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) takes on the trial of political protestors who were unfairly prosecuted for inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic convention as Sorkin’s crackerjack script moves along with great dialogue. Sacha Baron Cohen as defendant Abbie Hoffman is both heartfelt and often hilarious and Frank Langella playing a vindictive judge is absolutely hateful. The parallels between the late ‘60s and modern times are still sadly relevant as the political system tries to grind a disenfranchised group down, but hope still remains.
Disney/Pixar’s version of the afterlife is visually lush, emotionally profound and consistently amusing. Joe (Jamie Foxx) unexpectedly ends up dying and looks after a soul to be, 22 (Tina Fey). Joe conspires to get back to his body but a mishap lands him in a cat and 22 lands in Joe. There is some deep thematic stuff here about trying to adjust ones dreams for the future, but it’s also very funny as flashbacks with 22 and previous mentors are gold. This is about a heartwarming, growing friendship between Joe and 22 as the soul to be learns to get a life.
Brandon Cronenberg crafts a horror experience that lives up to his father’s David’s horror sci-fi work. An assassin, Vos (Andrea Riseborough), jumps her into the body of victims and uses them to take out targets, all under the supervision of the chilly Girder (Jenifer Jason Leigh). But when she jumps into a target, Tate (Christopher Abbot), things get messy. With some extremely shocking yet artful images of violence as reality melts away, this is a dark, deep dive into one mind erasing another. The shocks are riveting with intense performances until a twisted, memorable end.
5. Da 5 Bloods
Decades after fighting in Vietnam, four soldiers, Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis) and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) return to find the remains of their fallen friend, Norman (Chadwick Boseman), and a stash of gold. Lindo is fantastic and Boseman as their departed friend resonates profoundly. Director Spike Lee has fantastic visuals as he flips between aspect ratios to show the difference between the decades, from confined frame in the flashbacks to wide scope in the jungle. Da 5 Bloods will turn on a dime from emotional to harrowing, like the war they lived through.
4. Bill and Ted Face the Music
In 30 years, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) haven’t made the song that saves the world and reality itself is starting to unravel. A most excellent return to form for the iconic duo, Winter and Reeves don’t miss a step as Bill and Ted are still the same dopey but kind guys. The dad’s daughters are off on a time hopping side quest with great scenes as Bill and Ted meet different and stranger versions of themselves. The finale is sweeping as humanity comes together which feels particularly necessary right now.
Director David Fincher (The Social Network) tells the story of Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) writing the script for Orson Welles opus, Citizen Kane, which is thinly based upon the life of Mank’s former friend and rich industrialist, William Randolf Hearst (Charles Dance). Mank uses flashback/flashforwards like the iconic Kane to make a companion piece for one the most famous movies ever. With black and white visuals that recall classic Hollywood filmmaking, Oldman’s Mank is a lush who hides a big heart behind a wall of cynicism. Mank is about telling truth through art even though it may be painful.
2. Palm Springs
Nyles (Andy Samberg) has been living the same wedding day over and over for an untold amount of time, until a guest, Sarah (Cristin Milioti) ends up in the same time loop. J.K. Simmons as Roy is also stuck in the loop and goes from hating the world to finding new beauty. Nyles is the cynical pro at navigating the time loop as Sarah comes up with new notions of what to do. There are lots of crazy, hilariously weird antics as in each time loop they find a different take on how to change an eternal day.
1. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Sacha Baron Cohen returns as Borat and tagging along is Borat’s daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova). Borat throws up a mirror on the dark side of the intensely angry US society, showing how stupid hateful ideology is. Also, Subsequent Moviefilm has some jaw-dropping asides, especially just how damn creepy Rudy Giuliani is in a most unfortunately brain burning memorable scene. But deep down, Borat on his journey learns to look at his daughter as more than property but as an actual person who can change. If anyone can put a stamp on the crazy, insane year that is 2020, that is Borat.