My Top Ten Favorite Films of 2020
The dreadful Covid-19 pandemic has impacted release of films this year, but one bright light for fans of movie musicals like me is the number of musicals we had access to during these past 12 months, thanks mostly to streaming services like Netflix. Seven musicals – count ‘em – seven! That’s why the list below includes more offerings of my favorite genre than ever before. Because my criteria for selecting favorites involves wanting to see a film over and over again, six made it to my top ten.
In no particular order, my ten favorite films of 2020 are listed below.
THE PROM. Directed by Ryan Murphy, this movie adaptation of the original Broadway play does more than entertain. It increases our understanding of how difficult it is for gay teens to let their families and friends know who they really are. Meryl Streep and James Corden are fabulous together as two narcissistic Broadway actors trying to redeem themselves with the press after receiving bad reviews for their latest play. I agree with viewer Pamela Jaye Smith – author of Romantic Comedies -- who said, “THE PROM is soooo much fun. Sweet, timely, kind, well-balanced, and WOW! on the songs and dancing and costumes. I will be watching it again and again!”
THE LOVEBIRDS. As mystery comedies go, The Lovebirds ranks right up there with Knives Out to me. It boasts enough suspense to keep us interested from beginning to end. Surprisingly, the movie’s troubled and humorous romantic relationship between co-stars Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani’s characters ends up being just icing on a very tasty cake. My husband and I laughed out loud in almost every scene, which we haven’t done in a long, long time.
OVER THE MOON. This amazing movie combines music, animation, emotion, comedy and downright humanity into an entertaining film for the entire family. Directed by Glen Keane, this cinematic gem sometimes seems too frantic with all the colorful characters and fast action. But the movie’s lovely tender scenes make up for that. Kudos to the late great Audrey Wells for the imaginative story and to Steven Price for his diverse musical contributions.
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7. Perfectly cast plus perfectly written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, this dramatic presentation of events relating to the protests held at the 1968 Democratic Convention is downright riveting. The trial scenes are especially suspenseful. As film critic James Colt Harrison writes, “Despite what may have been a dry and unpalatable subject, Sorkin has made sure that the film is exciting and visually fluid throughout.”
JINGLE JANGLE: A CHRISTMAS JOURNEY. Written and directed by David E. Talbert with a musical score by John Debney (The Greatest Showman) and tracks by several people including John Legend, this wonderful live-action musical starring Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and young rising star Madalen Mills emphasizes the importance of family, kindness, and not giving up. That’s a perfect message for these difficult times. Adding to the fun are eye-popping special effects and the colorful costumes. It’s almost like watching a first-rate Broadway musical.
TROLLS WORLD TOUR. Here’s a quote from my film poem about this terrific musical: “Music styles of many kinds shine. Pop music is a fave of mine. Country, classic and so-smooth jazz receive their moments of pizzazz. Bursts of color explode in scenes Cute creatures dance joyful routines.” This sequel delighted me, probably because of its emphasis on music, music, music. What’s your favorite music genre? No matter what your answer, it probably gets a time to shine in this lively show -- even yodeling!
BLACKBIRD. This thought provoking drama written by Christian Torpe stars Susan Sarandon at the top of her game nd involves a decision about death. However, despite its somber tone, the film also contains lots of humor and compassion. Plus, love and family are emphasized throughout the movie. A stellar supporting cast including Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska and Sam Neill help make this movie seem like it’s happening to real people right before our eyes.
EUROVISION: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA. I’ll never forget how this special musical comedy worked wonders for my husband Larry, daughter Sue, son Kelly and me when we were down in the dumps a few days after my husband suffered a mild heart attack. Larry had just returned from the hospital and wasn’t feeling his best, of course. So we all decided to watch Eurovision Song Contest, a movie co-written and starring Will Ferrell. That turned out to be the medicine we needed. We were entertained from start to finish and forgot our troubles for a couple of hours.
DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA. This unique documentary concert can’t be explained. It has to be seen – and many times over. David Byrne and his crew of lively musicians take us through some of Byrne’s songs with an impressive energy and exciting stage movements. While watching, you’ll want to sing and dance right along with the dedicated performers.
THE LIFE AHEAD. Sophia Loren came out of retirement for this touching remake of MAMA ROSA. The poignant story tugged at my heartstrings more than any other movie this year. Splendid performances by all cast members add to the quality of this beautiful tearjerker from Italy. The illegal immigrant boy (Ibrahima Gueye) and the retired prostitute (Loren) trying to take care of him end up as the year’s most memorable twosome for me.
HONORABLE MENTION: Minari, All Together Now, Herself, Project Power, Wild Mountain Thyme, The Social Dilemma, Sound of Metal, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Lilly's Light: The Movie, Mr. Jones, Judy & Punch, Enola Holmes, Gunda, Dance Dreams, The Old Guard
FAVORITE MOVIE CHARACTER: Amber Appleton in ALL TOGETHER NOW. Amber is played beautifully by Auli”l Cravalho. This busy teenager and her mother are homeless and sleep in an old bus, but she remains positive. Amber tries to make the best of their situation while involved in a number of activities such as helping at a senior facility, working at a donut shop, taking care of her ailing little dog Bobby, assisting her friends, and being in charge of the school’s Variety Show.. Her energy seems unlimited – until she faces a personal tragedy. Then all of Amber’s friends band together to help her for a change. I found Amber Appleton a powerful and inspirational role model for everyone.
A tie between:
Riz Ahmed as a newly deaf metal band drummer teaching a group of deaf youngsters how to play the drums in SOUND OF METAL
Meryl Streep as a Broadway diva belting out “But It’s Not About Me” when everyone knows it’s really ALL about her in THE PROM.