The Class of 2020: My Favorite Movies

Class of 2020 1

Sawdust and Tinsel

The Distracted Boyfriend meme is nowhere more applicable than in the life of a cinephile. Whatever movie I plan on seeing next, the thought will always occur to me before I sit down to start it (and sometimes while it’s playing), “Oh, and I also need to see this, and this, and this!” Ironically enough, the fact that the coronavirus crisis has eliminated theatrical viewing as an option has only made the problem worse. Before, a typical weekend would see me heading to the theater to choose from a few (likely mediocre) new releases. Now, I can use that same time to consider the full range of home viewing options encompassing the entire history of world cinema. My odd tendency over the last few years of working mostly in reverse chronological order has meant that Golden Age and silent movies are the most frequent examples of the “offended girlfriend” part of the meme. On top of that, my main project throughout the year 2019 was to watch as many movies from the 2010s as I possibly could, with the production of this video in mind. But did I leave that decade behind when the calendar turned to 2020? No! My head was turned by several previously unreleased films, spurring me to make yet another videoNow am I done? For the moment, at least.

Over the past year, I’ve added more than a hundred movies to my all-time favorites list, crushing the previous year’s record of 87. I’ve also somehow found more time for watching movies during that span, so I don’t think I’m loosening my standards, though it’s possible I’m learning to appreciate more things. That would be the hope, wouldn’t it? Along with beefing up my experience with the cinema of the 2010s, I spent 2019 dipping my toe into Bollywood and the Romanian New Wave, so I can at least say that I’m not entirely unfamiliar with them. MUBI offered a series on the films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, putting me now in the embarrassingly normie position of only loving the Bach one. I also did a little picking at my DVD/Blu-ray collection, including seeing all of the Marlene Dietrich-Josef von Sternberg collaborations and several Theo Angelopoulos films.

Class of 2020 2

Dil Se..

Then came the new year and the new decade, both of which I rang in by unveiling my little video collage to a surprised and, inasmuch as anyone said anything, delighted world. Pretty much simultaneously, I started a chronological journey through all the cinematic adaptations of Hamlet I could get my hands on. Since then, the viewing schedule has been perhaps more scattershot than ever. I’ve marked the centenary of Fellini’s birth by watching one of his movies every week since February, and I will have seen his entire filmography about a month from now, at which time I will attempt to write about it. There were a few older Oscar movies in February, and a few Adam Sandler movies that can be found on Netflix (though not his “Netflix movies,” to be clear). Speaking of the Oscars, the triumph of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite was an ecstatic moment. It was like the home team winning a championship. Not since Return of the King had my favorite movie of the year taken Best Picture, and back then I hadn’t seen most of the movies in contention, so this was unique. (I hope it stays that way, too. You’re not cool if all your favorite movies are Oscar movies.) Finally, when the shutdowns started in March I opened my wallet to take in some “virtual cinema,” watching some stragglers from 2019 like Vitalina Varela and Zombi Child and supporting independent theaters at the same time. On the other hand, I did not open my wallet for 2020 movies released in the same way, so I haven’t seen Trolls World Tour and such. In fact, I’ve seen very little from this year; here’s hoping there will be more to see, sooner rather than later.

Class of 2020 3

Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach

Pre-1970s cinema awaits! It might be observed that the distinction between a movie buff and a cinephile is that movie buffs know all about the movies made in their home country between their childhood and the present day, whereas cinephiles love everything and are especially interested in the more remote frontiers of cinema, historically and globally. I want to be the latter, so I’ll keep on turning my head like the Distracted Boyfriend as I think about more kinds of movies that I need to see but haven’t yet. A reverse-chronological journey through the movies I own will probably be completed by this time next year, although I also still get two Netflix DVDs every month, and I’m still subscribed to MUBI, which just added a “Library” feature allowing me to see even more than the usual 30 movies they offer, and my hometown library has Kanopy now, and the Criterion Channel has a lot of cool stuff, so I might want to sign up for that, and…and…and…

Class of 2020 4

Secret Sunshine

Here’s the class of 2020: my favorite movies that I saw for the first time since last June.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days Cristian Mungiu 2007
Ad Astra James Gray 2019
American Factory Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert 2019
American Splendor Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini 2003
Another Year Mike Leigh 2010
Apollo 11 Todd Douglas Miller 2019
Aquarius Kleber Mendonça Filho 2016
Ash Is Purest White Jia Zhangke 2018
Bad Black Nabwana I.G.G. 2016
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Curt Geda 2000
The Beach Bum Harmony Korine 2019
The Beaches of Agnès Agnès Varda 2008
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Marielle Heller 2019
The Bling Ring Sofia Coppola 2013
Boiling Point Takeshi Kitano 1990
Booksmart Olivia Wilde 2019
Carlito’s Way Brian De Palma 1993
Casa de Lava Pedro Costa 1994
Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet 1968
Coco Lee Unkrich 2017
The Cow Dariush Mehrjui 1969
Crazy World Nabwana I.G.G. 2019
The Day He Arrives Hong Sang-soo 2011
Day Night Day Night Julia Loktev 2006
Dear White People Justin Simien 2014
Dil Dhadakne Do Zoya Akhtar 2015
Dil Se.. Mani Ratnam 1998
Dusty Stacks of Mom: The Poster Project Jodie Mack 2013
Elle Paul Verhoeven 2016
L’Enfer Claude Chabrol 1994
Eve’s Bayou Kasi Lemmons 1997
Femme Fatale Brian De Palma 2002
Film socialisme Jean-Luc Godard 2010
Fireworks Takeshi Kitano 1997
First Love Takashi Miike 2019
The Fits Anna Rose Holmer 2015
For Sama Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts 2019
Fourteen Dan Sallitt 2019
The Future Miranda July 2011
Girl Walk // All Day Jacob Krupnick 2011
The Grand Bizarre Jodie Mack 2018
The Green Fog Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson & Galen Johnson 2017
Haider Vishal Bhardwaj 2014
Hamlet Goes Business Aki Kaurismäki 1987
A Hidden Life Terrence Malick 2019
The Hole Tsai Ming-liang 1998
Homecoming Beyoncé Knowles-Carter 2019
House of Pleasures Bertrand Bonello 2011
The Hunters Theo Angelopoulos 1977
If Beale Street Could Talk Barry Jenkins 2018
Intikam Melegi – Kadin Hamlet Metin Erksan 1977
The Irishman: I Heard You Paint Houses Martin Scorsese 2019
John Wick: Chapter 2 Chad Stahelski 2017
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Chad Stahelski 2019
Juliet of the Spirits Federico Fellini 1965
Knives Out Rian Johnson 2019
Let the Bullets Fly Jiang Wen 2010
The Limey Steven Soderbergh 1999
Little Women Gillian Armstrong 1994
Little Women Greta Gerwig 2019
The Loneliest Planet Julia Loktev 2011
Los Angeles Plays Itself Thom Andersen 2003
Ludwig van Mauricio Kagel 1970
The Mill & the Cross Lech Majewski 2011
The Missing Picture Rithy Panh 2013
Mouchette Robert Bresson 1967
Mur Murs Agnès Varda 1981
Mutual Appreciation Andrew Bujalski 2005
The Odyssey Vincent Haycock 2016
Offside Jafar Panahi 2006
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood Quentin Tarantino 2019
Only Lovers Left Alive Jim Jarmusch 2013
Opera Dario Argento 1987
The Other Side of the Wind Orson Welles 2018
Parasite Bong Joon-ho 2019
Paris Is Us Elisabeth Vogler 2019
Police Story Jackie Chan 1985
Portrait of a Lady on Fire Céline Sciamma 2019
The Return Andrey Zvyagintsev 2003
The River Tsai Ming-liang 1997
Sawdust and Tinsel Ingmar Bergman 1953
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Edgar Wright 2010
Secret Sunshine Lee Chang-dong 2007
Sholay Ramesh Sippy 1975
Shutter Island Martin Scorsese 2010
The Spirit of the Beehive Víctor Erice 1973
The Suspended Step of the Stork Theo Angelopoulos 1991
Sword of Trust Lynn Shelton 2019
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse Fritz Lang 1933
Testament of Orpheus Jean Cocteau 1960
Through the Olive Trees Abbas Kiarostami 1994
Time Regained Raúl Ruiz 1999
Toy Story 4 Josh Cooley 2019
The Travelling Players Theo Angelopoulos 1975
Uncut Gems Josh Safdie & Benny Safdie 2019
Venus in Fur Roman Polanski 2013
Visage Tsai Ming-liang 2009
Vitalina Varela Pedro Costa 2019
We Need to Talk About Kevin Lynne Ramsay 2011
When Evening Falls on Bucharest, or: Metabolism Corneliu Porumboiu 2013
The World of Jacques Demy Agnès Varda 1995
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet Alain Resnais 2012
Young Ahmed Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne 2019
Zombi Child Bertrand Bonello 2019

And this is how my personal top ten shakes out:

10. Carlito’s Way
9. Dil Se..
8. The Limey
7. The Loneliest Planet
6. A Hidden Life
5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
4. Little Women (1994)
3. Parasite
2. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
1. The Hole

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