- Last Updated: Saturday, 02 January 2021 00:11
- Written by Lupe R Haas
It may have been a crappy year for movies on the big screen in 2020, but independent films were able to shine through with women at the helm. In my top 10 movies of 2020, six of them were directed by women. As award season approaches, female directors should be at the forefront.
Honorable mentions goes to THE INVISIBLE MAN. Leigh Whannell re-invented the genre in such a relevant way, and Elisabeth Moss brought a performance worthy of some accolades. That's two noteworthy performances from Moss this year. She's also in another movie that made our top ten. See below.
Elisabeth Moss delivers yet another riveting performance in her new movie, SHIRLEY, reminding us why she's the best actress this generation. Directed by Josephine Decker from a script by Sarah Gubbins, it is based on Susan Scarf Merrill's book, "Shirley: A Novel" about reclusive horror and mystery author Shirley Jackson. SHIRLEY is not so much a biography but a study into the mind of a writer. Actress Odessa Young, in a breakthrough performance, engages with Moss in a sort of cat and mouse game that's unique and intriguing. Logan Lerman stars as well.
While an interesting film, it's not for everyone but the performances between these two women is a reason to see it.
Andrea Riseborough, Jennifer Jason Lee and Christopher Abbott star in this violent sci-fi thriller directed by David Cronenberg's son Brandon Cronenberg. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree with similar themes but aesthetically unique.
It's one of the most original stories this year. A female assassin played by Riseborough inhabits other people's body through a brain-implant technology, but she begins to lose her humanity the more she undergoes this process. Riseborough gives one of the most memorable performances this year, and that ending will have your jaw on the floor.
Glen is Alive - The Walking Dead actor Steven Yeun stars in Minari by writer/director Lee Isaac Chung inspired by his own family story. A Korean-American family moves to Arkansas to start a farm. It beautifully captures the struggles of the American dream and the sacrifices you often have to make to succeed. It's a universal story anyone can relate to regardless of your background done with humor and heart. Steven shows a side we've never seen from the actor, and he deserves award accolades for that portrayal.
7. THE 40-YEAR-OLD-VERSION
Radha Blank, a New York playwright, actress, tv writer - stars, directs and wrote, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VERSION, now streaming on Netflix. The artist is going through an existential crisis as her career has stalled as she reaches the age of 40.
She changes course and starts rapping. She's also offered the chance to produce one of her plays but the executive producer wants to white-wash her story. Does she give up her artistic vision just to see her name in lights or does she stay true to herself and her community?
It's a hilarious look at a mid-life crisis rarely told from a woman's career perspective. There's no yearning for a family or partner - the semi-autobiographical story focuses on her art which is both original and refreshing.
6. HOW TO BUILD A GIRL
Leave it to the Brits to give us another gem of a movie. HOW TO BUILD A GIRL stars American actress Beanie Feldstein adopting a British accent to play a spunky 16-year-old.
Directed by British filmmaker Coky Giedroyc, HOW TO BUILD A GIRL is based on the best-selling novel by Caitlin Moran. HOW TO BUILD A GIRL follows Johana Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein), a brilliant and quirky wanna be writer who dreams of a bigger life filled with fantasy and adventure. Set in the 1990s, escapist fantasies include talking to her wall of heroes like Sylvia Plath, the Brontë sisters, Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Andrews, Sigmund Freud and a few other historical and literary figures.
After winning a writing contest, she scores a job as a music critic. The square teen reinvents herself into Dolly Wilde with fiery hair and attitude. She's a hit after she takes a different approach in writing toxic and negative music reviews.. With fame comes a new confidence that transforms her into a narcissist and a sex maniac which plunges her into an existential crisis.
Aside from the rock n' roll lifestyle, Feldstein's Johanna character in HOW TO BUILD A GIRL goes to show that you can make yourself into anything you want, but the moral of the story is that you don't do it while stepping on others.
5. JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE
Senator John Lewis' 60 plus years of social activism and legislative action in Congress is captured in a new documentary, JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE now available on Digital. The film directed by Dawn Porter chronicles his early life as a sharecroppers son, his fateful meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957, his training as a Freedom Rider fighting for equality and on the campaign trail supporting new incumbents.
The title JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE refers to his activism which got him jailed 45 times in his lifetime. He likes to stir up trouble, but the good kind he says. The documentary captures the 80-year old's fighting spirit up to his last days. He passed shortly after the documentary was released.
4. ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY
ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY traces voter suppression tactics throughout history up until today. Narrated and produced by activist Stacey Abrams, the documentary from Liz Garbus & Lisa Cortés is one of the best ones out there that gives viewers a complete picture of this ongoing problem. If you don't understand the Black Lives Matter movement, ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY - this film spells it out.
Stream the documentary on Amazon Prime.
NOMADLAND is a devastating look at one woman's life as a nomad living out of her van traveling from seasonal job to another to make ends meet. While McDormand's character is fictional, it's a tragedy told through McDormand's adventure while bringing to light real-life nomad's personal stories.
If Frances McDormand is in it - you know it must be good. Director/writer Chloe Zhao delivers one of the most striking films of 2020 with NOMADLAND, based on the book about real-life nomads who live in vans. She mixes documentary style of filmmaking with the cinematic approach. McDormand once again turns in another award-worthy performance. While she often plays witty characters with great one-liners, here she emotes more with her face than words.
Director Chloe Zhao and Frances McDormand who spearheaded the project, actually took to the road in vans to film NOMADLAND. They lived the life to tell of the failings of the American dream, and they captured it beautifully. NOMADLAND is not your feel good story, but a potent one.
2. SOUND OF METAL
Newcomer Darius Marder delivers one of the best films this year with SOUND OF METAL starring Riz Ahmed in an award-worthy performance along with Olivia Cooke. The sound design immerses the viewer into Ruben's journey as he looses his hearing. You feel what he's feeling. It's a beautifully-crafted movie. Aesthetically - it's my favorite of 2020.
1. PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Carey Mulligan is in revenge mode against men who prey on unconscious women. The whole film is a shocker, and that ending is just poetic justice. For women, it’s a cathartic experience and for men, it puts them on notice, and other woman who make excuses for the men.
Carey Mulligan deserves the best actress for 2020 in the film directed and scripted by Emerald Fennell. The actress plays the character as an empty shell of a once vibrant woman that shines through once in a while.
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN doesn't give you the whole story. Instead it piece meals it together as the movie progresses which leaves the viewer glued to the screen. Ironically, the filmmaker played Camilla Parker Bowles in Netflix's "The Crown" and she's a writer on "Killing Eve." She constructed a film that will stay with you much like FATAL ATTRACTION did back in its day.