Film Rankings And Awards 2020

What a year it has been huh? Three months of normality, nine months of streaming. New films continued to come out at a steady pace regardless of the virus, and so my rankings and awards for the year that was.

10. True History Of The Kelly Gang

Ned Kelly the historical figure is someone that I have often perceived as being all things to all men, depending on what they want him to be: criminal, revolutionary, philosopher, genius. Justin Kurzel, more intimately familiar with the legacy of Kelly as an Australian, takes on Peter Carey’s novel, and Kelly himself, in the prism of that varied status and runs with it, opening with a very interesting foreword: “Nothing you are about to see is true”.

What is true is the power of George McKay’s performance in the title role, bringing us a multi-faceted character in Kelly, wrapped up in rage, injustice, Irish rebel heritage and Oedipal complexes. His life and times are brought to us in a truly eye-catching visual manner: drone footage of a the desolate badlands mixes with eerily intimate interior shots, creating what we can only call an otherworldy feeling. Kurzel brings Carey’s unique use of language and writing in the novel to life on the screen in the best way it possibly could have, with a cast who are firing on all cylinders.

True History Of The Kelly Gang is certainly the most unique take on Ned Kelly that I have seen cinematically, and there has been more than a few. It attempts to craft a three dimensional view of its chief subject that treats him more like a literal legend than an historical figure. Throw in some excellent portrayals of Kelly’s supporting cast of characters, backed up by fine performances from all involved, and then layer on Kurzel’s wonderful cinematography, and you have yourself a winner. Kurzel has added splendidly to the conversation on Kelly and his legacy, with an adaption that does credit both to the source material and to the director.

Ned Kelly (George McKay) in True History Of The Kelly Gang

9. Sea Fever

I must admit, Sea Fever caught me a bit unexpectedly. Even with all of the attractions in its cast and crew, I was honestly not contemplating seeing something this good or this polished. It’s a film that feels like it was very carefully put together and the execution is fantastic, meshing a very, by now, well-worn story of people being trapped in a confined space with a monster with some very thought-provoking material regards fear, contagion and the terrible outcome when the two are mixed. Thus, to say that Sea Fever is the perfect film for 2020 is understating the matter quite decisively.

Leaning more towards sci-fi unease than flat-out horror, director Neasa Hardiman does a good job at teasing things out without overplaying her hand or making Sea Fever too lengthy: we spend just enough time in every act to feel comfortable, from Siobhan’s stuttering efforts to integrate with the crew, the growing crisis of the middle section and the breakdown of the last. In what must be called a really key success of script all seven characters onboard the Niamh Cinn Oir stand-out in different ways, with their own quirks, personality flaws and clashes with others. Hermione Corfeld is excellent in the lead role, and the tension of the narrative is handled excellently.

The larger message of Sea Fever on infection and fear would appear to be that most people cannot be relied upon to toe the line and insure the larger safety of the community, which will result in their own destruction and the destruction of others: If this film had been made later, I would have said that Hardiman perfectly captures the COVID experience in a well-thought out allegorical production, and I suppose that it is to her credit. Sea Fever certainly carries some resonance, and is the best Irish film of the year.

Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) in Sea Fever

8. The Boys In The Band

The Boys In The Band is a really great movie: it was one where I was enthralled from beginning to end, for a lot of different reasons. It’s brilliant on a lot of different narrative and production levels. But perhaps its greatest accomplishment is the way that it rolls back the curtain and allows us a look into a sub-culture that, for me, a straight white male from a middle class background, is decidedly alien, in its culture, in its language, in its demonour and does so in a manner that allows for it to become very understandable, relatable and sympathetic by the time that the credits come up.

There isn’t a cast member out of step here, with obvious spotlight to be put on Jim Parsons as the bitter self-hating host of the film’s reveries, Zachary Quinto as the cool-as-ice birthday boy and Brian Hutchison as the probably-gay-but-repressing friend who wanders into proceedings. The resultant verbal war between all of these characters and more goes to some strange and some very dark places: debates on monogamy, commentaries on living in the closet, and heaploads of insecurity from all and sundry.

The Boys In The Band can only be described as a mesmerising experience. It’s truthful, heartfelt, real, in so many different ways. Its script sparkles with every neat touch, flourish, insult or tear-jerking moment. At times it may struggle a bit with what it is trying to get across, and a modern-day audience may need to put a little work into it to make it past the outward use of f-bombs, to get to the meaning behind the words, or the idea that these men could tolerate each other’s presence for two hours believable. But if they do, they will find a film adaptation that is a really meaningful effort to bring what was era-defining on the stage to the big-screen once more. I do think that the world could do with a few more features of this subject and about this era. The Boys In The Band is as good a place as any to start the education.

Michael (Jim Parsons), Alan (Brian Hutchison) and Hank (Tuc Watkins) in The Boys In The Band

7. Tenet

The most important comment that I can make about Tenet, the one that must surely come before all others, is that it is one of the most genuinely confusing films I have ever seen. Tenet left me bewildered at times, with its science, with its structure and with its many unanswered questions. It is indeed a passion project gone a little bit mad, where the premise cannot be explained properly and where it cannot thus be married to the plot properly. This really should be a disaster of a film. And yet. It is instead a film whose ambition, sense of scale, cinematography, music, performances and gusto simply has to be admired. I liked Tenet, despite not really understanding its inherent nature. Only Nolan could pull that off.

Everything about Tenet lifts it up from what could have been a dense morass of hard-to-fathom sci-fi. Its cast is, to a man, doing wonderful work, with John David Washington commanding in the lead and Robert Pattinson continuing his post-Twilight transformation alongside him. On a character level, the film works beautifully, between the suitably named Protagonist, Neil, Kenneth Branagh’s interesting villain and Elizabeth Debecki’s turn as a female character in a Nolan film actually worth a damn. It looks spectacular, a true mind-melter of cinematography, and even when the visuals become married to the complexity of the premise, the aspirational nature of them excuses their other drawbacks. The soundtrack is one of the best of the year, just for its sheer ingenuity.

Yes, the complexity of what it is portraying is so dense that I doubt I will ever truly understand Tenet. In some ways, this strikes me as a film where Nolan just could not pull back from some of his worse impulses, perhaps finally a bit too caught up in his own press. But the strength of the man’s vision, his words and his drive is obvious, and the end result is a movie that may be slotted into the lower end of the Nolan filmography, but which will comfortably settle into the role of one of 2020’s best films, an epic that is undercut only by its own Icarus-like leap for the heavens.

Neil (Robert Pattinson) and the Protagonist (John David Washington) in Tenet

6. Enola Holmes

Enola Holmes is a rip-roaring triumph, at once a unique ode to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s crime-solving vision, and a stunning effort to introduce modern feminist themes to the entire idea. This is proper Holmesian fiction, whatever the first name of the main Holmes character, and I loved nearly every minute of it, its look, its sound, its script. And right at the heart of it is that lead performance.

I might have said it a few times about different people over the years, but it is worth bringing the old descriptor out of retirement: Millie Bobby Brown has the potential to be huge. Brown jumps into the role of Enola Holmes and makes it her own from minute one: Shakespeare-like, she breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience like we are her imaginary friend along for the adventure, with a deviousness in her eye that like something out of Richard III. She brings effervescent joy at moments, the pits of despair at others. She can pull off a good fight scene, she can play the bashful teenage girl caught up in an unexpected quasi-romance, and she can sell us on the idea that she is a young woman with all of the same gifts as Sherlock Holmes, with just the needed polish missing.

With the help of a great supporting cast, Enola Holmes proceeds with a succession of really engaging mysteries, in every code deciphered, in every chemical composition identified, in every aside direct to the audience and in every overheard conversation in the past that becomes very relevant to the future. It’s a tonne of fun watching Enola’s trip into the world, and her interactions with her brothers. It’s a family film, an adaptation of a young adult novel, but it never dares to talk down to or underestimate the audience. Instead, it exhibits an intelligence and a creativity that I was honestly not entirely expecting, leaning in hard to its premise and the potential that it has. And right at the core is a really great-to-see feminist theme. Enola’s entire journey, from her past training with her forward-minded mother to her final triumph over the boorish Mycroft, encapsulates a phrase, in her physical strength, in her moral choice to be a protector of others and in her ability to stand apart and succeed doing it. “The future is up to us” says Enola, and I could stand to see more of this in the future.

Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) in Enola Holmes

5. 1917

I went into Sam Mendes’ World War 1 epic thinking about a lot of different films that the promotional material for 1917 had reminded me off, but this was a disservice to what the director was trying to do. In 1917, he has crafted something that we can call unique, though it makes one think of Spectre, Dunkirk, Birdman and every third person video game you have ever had chance to play. From the first time that Dean-Charles Chapman and George McKay’s characters wake up behind the lines all the way through to the moment that sleep beckons again, Mendes rigidly follows them through an adventure of horror, death, mud and salvation. Traditional story-telling beats are largely out the window here, in favour of a brutally intimate look at an exceptional day in the life of two British rankers.

The leads are good enough, but the way that Mendes gets the supporting cast to stick in the mind is impressive. Colin Firth’s manipulative General, Andrew Scott’s jaded lieutenant, Mark Strong’s wandering Captain, Claire Duburcq’s young French woman and Benedict Cumberbatch’s disillusioned Colonel are all characters that make an impression despite having individual screen-time of little more than a few minutes apiece. The script, from Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, has much to be credited for in this, as does Mendes’ sublime direction of his actors.

1917 is an intimate affair, one where the viewer comes almost to inhabit Blake and Schofield, seeing the world of the Western Front directly through their eyeline and immediate surrounds, hitting checkpoints between encounters. The dichotomy between the static nature of the warfare being depicted and the fluid camerawork is not lost on the viewer either. Some of the sequences created here are breathtaking: One, “The Night Window”, is a haunting display of ruined French streets illuminated in the motion of falling flares and burning buildings. The effect is a delirious mix of the beautiful and the terrifying, added to when the bullets start flying and the soldiers start running. It’s a trip to the underworld, a terrible trial to be endured, and looks simply stunning.

1917 is full of such moments, and never fails to grab a full hold of your attention. It is a daring thing, and the end result is a polished nugget of cinematic gold. With it, Sam Mendes has etched his own mark into the war genre, and laid down a marker to many other directors who pretensions of doing the same.

Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Will Schofield (George McKay) in 1917

4. Da 5 Bloods

Obviously it wasn’t planned, but this film could not have picked a better year to be released. The movement for greater recognition of the rights for minorities has never been as relevant, as notable or as dominating in its impression on the international news cycle than it is right now, making it the perfect time for Spike Lee’s latest “joint” to become part of that same conversation. Certainly, BlacKkKlansman did much the same in the aftermath of Charlottesville. But, in many ways, that may be a disservice to Da 5 Bloods, which is a plenty interesting film all on its own.

It’s a war movie, and a war movie about a conflict that still rages in many ways, especially on a cultural level. Between modern remembrances and a series of flashbacks, we see the experience of the “Bloods” this small unit that got caught up in a gun battle over a pile of gold in the middle of the jungle. Not all of them made it back, and now, decades later, the veterans of yesteryear return looking for understanding and catharsis. The resulting journey is a heart-rending one, where each man has his own complexes and grief to work through, all in the shadow of Chadwick Boseman’s “Stormin” Norman.

In the middle of a brilliant cast, it is Delroy Lindo who stands out the most, especially in a late monologue delivered straight to camera,that is a passionate exhortation on military camaraderie, PTSD, the black liberation movement and a refusal to any longer be a victim of society. But that’s just one moment in a film that is overflowing with big moments: the use of the modern-day cast in flashbacks to emphasise how stuck they are in the war, a breakdown scene at a river market, an incredibly tense encounter with a landmine. A cavalcade of characters represent the various strands of the Vietnam conflict: while it is on a smaller scale, it is much the same battle that was waged nearly 50 years ago.

Da 5 Bloods is a searing reminder of past crimes against minorities in America, and a uncomfortable reminder that such crimes remain ongoing in present day society. It challenges the audience at every turn, and the solutions that it seemingly advocates will be unpalatable for some. But it’s so captivating, stemming from a place of genuine anger and frustration, that bleeds into every line of dialogue and every frame. The film overflows with enough ideas, and strands of ideas, that it undoubtedly becomes a bit unwieldy and messy at times, but such flaws can be forgiven. It’s a film you can’t take your eyes off of, for its whole 150 minute running time.  Oh, and in case it wasn’t clear: Black Lives Matter.

Paul (Delroy Lindo) in Da 5 Bloods

3. Parasite

Regardless of what your overall opinion of Parasite is, it is simply undeniable that it is one of the most fascinating movies of recent times. The critical praise it has received could be called off-putting, but it is apt. It is, all at once, a family drama, a caper movie, a black comedy, a psychological thriller, and a social commentary, somehow managing to carry all five of those aspects off pretty much flawlessly, with Bong Joon-ho jumping between them all in terms of tone and pitch, sometimes mid-scene. It’s easy to see why Parasite has garnered the laurels that it has, and in many other years it would have been considered untouchable.

The central narrative is of the Kim’s inserting themselves bit-by-bit into the world of the Park’s, and Parasite could have been a good enough film if it just focused on that, such is the quality of the back-and-forth between the criminally minded Kim’s, and the vapidity that marks so much of the interactions with and between the Park’s. But it’s also a crime film where the director dodges the pitfall of having the central characters be unlikable through the ingenuity of their caper and the thrill of seeing it all come together, then become a hideous inversion. It goes from a first half comedic sense of maudlin mirth, to turn suddenly into a tension-filled expose of inequalities in Korean society in the second half: there are so many layers here that I am still somewhat in awe of how Bong was able to pull it all of. Parasite is a film that will be talked about for years to come, every inch of it worthy of extrapolation. The cast is great, the locations used for filming, most especially that upper-class Seoul apartment wherein we see either side of the divide be parasitic, are entrancing and even in translation the script is a very engrossing thing,

My opinion of Bong had been well and truly reversed with this. The man who smashed his audience with a metaphorical plot hammer in Snowpiercer has grown up a bit in my estimation, and is now much more worthy of the praise that he has received. Bong’s Parasite lives up to the constant descriptor of it being his masterpiece: a film that perfectly balances many different aspects, is entertaining in its own right, thought-provoking in its engaging narrative and a showcase for its director, writers and wonderful cast. More than anything else, I came back to the most accurate adjective that I can think of: that this is a fascinating movie, more than anything else, something that must be seen to be truly understood and appreciated. I suspect we will all be watching and discussing Parasite for some time to come.

Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) in Parasite

2. Soul

The latest in a series of theatrical write-offs now getting their chance as a Disney+ release, Soul has a hell of a lot going for it: the first Pete Docter directing/writing project since Inside Out; a great cast of acting and comedy luminaries; a musical emphasis that Pixar has done well with in the past; and yet another attempt at tackling the great topic of death, with the studio having a pretty good track record when it comes to weighty themes. I was ready to be wowed, but wary of the mediocre, which is the 50:50 call many of Pixar’s offerings come out as nowadays.

There’s a lot worth discussing in Soul, a film that goes from covering what appears to be the very mundane to the cosmically meaningful. Like so many of their offerings before now, the Pixar team that brought us Up, WALL-E, Toy Story 3 and Inside Out attempts to tie a line between those two distant polls, while making the material from either end of that line as good as it can be. And, once again, they have succeeded. It suffices to say that this vision is one that grabs your attention in the world that is created: the eerie look at what constitutes the film’s version of the “Great Beyond”; the strange, wonderful yet also oddly creepy version of what happens before we are born in the “Great Before”; and a vibrant, living version of New York City.

Just about every level of Soul is a success: the voice cast, especially Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey, are great. It sounds wonderful, this really entrancing mix of jazz and unnerving electronic beats. It looks simply stupendous, but I’m saying nothing you haven’t heard before about Pixar there. It is in its messages that Soul really soars though: that one should find the pleasure of living in the little things as much, or more, than with the big things; that obsessing on your dreams can be a very bad idea; and that, well, get busy living or get busy dying (that’s god damn right). There’s a maturity in Soul that really grabs you: it’s existentialism for kids, but has a hell of a lot to say to the grown-ups as well.

Soul deserves its place on their top tier, it really does. It’s a film that manages to show us something very imaginative about what the world beyond our own, and before our own, might look like. It says something extremely profound about the nature of living in our world, and does so against the traditional grain. It does all of this with some incredible visuals, brilliant music, an excellent cast and an occasional sense of fun that is merged with the drama seamlessly. The best Pixar films have always been able to tick all those boxes, and lodge themselves very firmly in the mind, now and forever: Soul does that. It’s a contemplative experience, one likely to make you ask questions of yourself, and wonder about what your best life is: better figure it out, because the Great Beyond waits for no-one (just ask Terry).

22 (Tina Fey) and Joe (Jamie Foxx) in Soul.

1. Hamilton

When it was announced that Disney+ had found the means/inclination to accelerate their release of the only legitimate filmed adaptation of Hamilton, it’s probably the most excited I’ve been about a production in a few years. I adore Hamilton, and have done from the very first time that I got the soundtrack up on my Spotify account after seeing the name mentioned a few times. A filmed adaptation of Hamilton was absolutely inevitable, but it was far from guaranteed to be a success. This is a recording of the stage show with much of the original cast, not a production made exclusively for the medium of film: it is not a certain thing that such a recording will facilitate a working bridge between the stage and the screen. The theatre experience is not the streaming experience, to put it another way. Hamilton is already a piece of art that has well-earned the moniker of being a cultural phenomenon: but this project set the bar high in terms of artistic challenge.

Well, bar seen, met, vaulted. Disney+’s Hamilton captures everything about the stage-show that makes it so great, and lets it breath on-screen: the amazing, concise, introduction to the title character; the list of defining statements as lyrical motifs; the dichotomy of the Hamilton/Burr character journeys; the black comedy masterclass of King George; the use of dual roles for actors to contrast Hamilton’s rise surrounded by friends with Hamilton’s fall surrounded by enemies; the way that Hamilton himself is given a three-dimensional portrait as a genuinely flawed human being; the raw emotional power of “Tomorrow They’ll Be More Of Us, “Say No To This” or “Burn” to name but a few.

I could go on, but will limit myself to saying that Hamilton, on stage or on-screen, is an experience that cannot be missed. It grabs a hold of you very quickly, and has you thinking about it literally months after you first experienced it. This came out on Disney+ and I had watched three times in a week, which is Lord Of The Rings level for me. Every lyric, ever turn of music, every look in the eye advances what Hamilton wants to be, and does it with an understanding of character, narrative and theme that is, very much so, genius-level.

Since I first heard that booming intro to “Alexander Hamilton”, and all the way to Eliza’s final gasp in “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”, this was a film that I loved. Seeing the production in this format only makes me like it more, with so many additional aspects to consider and savour, whether it is the ability of expression on the casts’ face, the seamless choreography of the larger ensemble or the idiosyncrasies that can only occur with a live performance. And that is before you consider the larger majesty of Hamilton itself: its brilliantly skewed POC take on a critical figure and critical period in American history, the depth it displays at every turn and the music that so powerfully drills into your soul and lodges itself there. I was unsure how I should rank a film as unique as this, but there can only be one spot. Raise a glass to freedom, and to the best film of the year.

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Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manual Miranda) and Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr) in Hamilton

Honorable mentions this year include A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood, which was a really thoughtful portrait of a very special man; Togo, which went far, far beyond low expectations and convinced me Disney+ had a future with original movies; Uncorked, a really unexpectedly affecting film making the best use of a minority cast; Code 8, an interesting low-budget take on the superhero genre; Time To Hunt, a Korean crime/horror film that finely balanced varying tones and themes; And We Go Green, a great exploration of Formula E; Black Is King, which takes the idea of movie album to exciting new places; Emma., a heart-warming adaptation of a well-worn story, with a very strong central performance; You Cannot Kill David Arquette, a fascinating story about a very niche topic; and Mank, a wonderfully scripted look at the life of a notable Hollywood screenwriter.

As is now my yearly custom, a brief word on dishonourable mentions. A Fall From Grace had bizarre production choices and was the very definition of “rushed”. Lady And The Tramp was a spectacular mis-fire of CGI mediocrity. Artemis Fowl had grand aspirations, and fulfilled none of them. Bronx was an ill-pitched mess. But the winner for the worst film I have seen this year must go to the hideously mis-judged The Last Thing He Wanted, which was a largely incomprehensible feature I actively regretted seeing, that to this day I am still confused about.

And so, to the awards.

Best Actor

Awarded to the actor who has impressed the most throughout the year in leading roles.

George McKay (1917, True History Of The Kelly Gang)

Two top-notch leading roles seal it for McKay over others, in the intense focus of 1917, and the manic, radiating energy of True History Of The Kelly Gang.

Honourable mentions: Lin-Manual Miranda (Hamilton), John David Washington (Tenet), Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods), Jim Parsons (The Boys In The Band), Song Kang-ho (Parasite)

Best Supporting Actor

Awarded to the actor who has impressed the most throughout the year in roles other than the lead.

Leslie Odom Jr (Hamilton)

From the beginning to end of Hamilton, Odom Jr provides a rock-solid narration, some great acting when required, and then ascends magnificently with his own lyrical contributions.

Honourable Mentions: Zachary Quinto (The Boys In The Band), Robert Pattinson (Tenet), 1917 (Dean-Charles Chapman), Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood), Chadwick Boseman (Da 5 Bloods)

Best Actress

Awarded to the actress who has impressed the most throughout the year in leading roles.

Millie Bobby Brown (Enola Holmes)

Brown throws herself into the title role of Enola Holmes, and stands out as best in a fantastic cast. Themes of feminism, investigation, action, romance and familial strife are all things she tackles with a supreme confidence, in a performance that should pave the way for her to become a true luminary.

Honourable Mentions: Beyonce (Black Is King), Anya Raylor-Joy (Emma.), Hermione Corfield (Sea Fever), Issa Rae (The Lovebirds), Dilan Çiçek Deniz (One-Way To Tomorrow)

Best Supporting Actress

Awarded to the actress who has most impressed throughout the year in roles other than the lead.

Essie Davis (True History Of The Kelly Gang)

The role of the Kelly matriarch, and its relationship to Ned, is a complex one that most certainly touches on an Oedipal theme, and Davis did a fantastic job with it, the warped moral centre of Ned Kelly’s life.

Honourable Mentions: Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Jang Hye-jin (Parasite), Elizabeth Debicki (Tenet), Niamh Algar (Calm With Horses), Phillipa Soo (Hamilton)

Best Ensemble

Awarded to the best cast, generally, of any film during the year.

The Boys In The Band

A tough one, very tough, this year, with any number of likely winners. Perhaps it was just how complex the job was with each of the characters in The Boys In The Band, and how each cast member succeeded so admirably.

Honourable Mentions: Enola Holmes, Parasite, 1917, Da 5 Bloods, The Boys In The Band, Hamilton

Best Director

Awarded to the best director of the year.

Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)

In my eyes, Bong has finally made good on a career of inflated critical praise, directing one of the stand-out movie masterpieces of recent times. His use of buildings, space and angles is at its height in Parasite.

Honourable Mentions: Neasa Hardiman (Sea Fever), Sam Mendes (1917), Christopher Nolan (Tenet), Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods), Justin Kurzel (True History Of The Kelly Gang)

Best Production

Awarded to the film that has the best production values of the year, in terms of sets, props and other associated elements.

1917

I don’t know if any film or piece of media before 1917 has managed to place a viewer so firmly in the world of the western front, in every construction of a trench, in every fully realised weapon and in every uniform.

Honourable Mentions: Da 5 Bloods, Parasite, 1917, Black Is King, Tenet, True History Of The Kelly Gang

Best CGI

Awarded to the film with the best use of computer-generated imagery and graphics.

Soul

In a year that saw major movie releases severely curtailed, Pixar was able to break the Star Wars hegemony of this category with its excellently created pro and after life world.

Honourable Mentions: 1917, Sonic The Hedgehog, Togo, Onward, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge On The Run

Best Score

Awarded to the composer/ film with the best instrumental (non-lyrical) music of the year.

Hamilton (Lin-Manual Miranda)

This will come as little surprise I suppose, but I do find that the actual score of Hamilton is one of its lesser-noted aspects, behind the wonderful lyrics from the same man. It’s a brilliant medley of styles, and is the perfect accompaniment to the story being sung.

Honourable Mentions: Soul (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), 1917 (Thomas Newman), Enola Holmes (Daniel Pemberton), Tenet (Ludwig Goransson), True History Of The Kelly Gang (Jed Kurzel)

Best Soundtrack

Awarded to the film with the best songs, generally, of the year.

Hamilton

I mean, it really couldn’t be anything else this year. Every single one of Hamilton’s tunes is expertly crafted and memorable in its own way.

Honourable Mentions: Black Is King, Da 5 Bloods, Soul, Phineas & Ferb The Movie: Candace Against The Universe, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga

Best Original Song

Awarded to the best song created for a film of the year.

“The Plan” – Travis Scott (Tenet)

Some good choices this year, but I did feel that Scott’s tonally appropriate conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending epic was the best option.

Honourable Mentions: “Great Unknown” – X Ambassadors (The Call Of The Wild), “The Universe Is Against Me” – Ashley Tidsdale, Olivia Olson and Laura Dickenson (Phineas & Ferb The Movie: Candace Against The Universe), “Parting Ways” – Cody ChestnuTT (Soul), “Volcano Man” – Will Ferrell and Molly Sanden (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga), “Only The Young” – Taylor Swift (Miss Americana)

Best Adapted Script

Awarded to the best script adapted from another source of the year.

Hamilton (Lin-Manual Miranda)

There isn’t an individual lyric of any song in Hamilton that isn’t heavy with meaning, and is one of the most inventive adaptations of a historical biography that has ever made it to the screen.

Honourable Mentions: The Boys In The Band (Mart Crowley and Ned Martel), Enola Holmes (Jack Thorne), One-Way To Tomorrow (Faruk Ozerten), True History Of The Kelly Gang (Shaun Grant), Emma. (Eleanor Catton)

Best Original Script

Awarded to the best original script of the year.

Da 5 Bloods (Danny Belson, Paul De Meo, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee)

From unloved spec script to one of the stand-out offerings of this year, Da 5 Bloods is a film that overflows with wonderful dialogue and scintillating monologues.

Honourable Mentions: Soul (Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers), Uncorked (Prentice Penny), 1917 (Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns), Parasite (Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won), Sea Fever (Neasa Hardiman)

Best Cinematography

Awarded to the best camerawork of any film of the year.

Tenet (Hoyte van Hoytema)

I’m close to just naming this award after van Hoytema, this being the fourth time he has won it in nine years. Tenet, whatever about anything else, is a visual spectacle of unparalleled scope, and the master of the craft is at the heart of why it is so.

Honourable Mentions: Da 5 Bloods (Newton Thomas Sigel), Parasite (Hong Kyung-pyo), 1917 (Roger Deakins), Time To Hunt (Lim Won-geun), True History Of The Kelly Gang (Ari Wegner)

Best Make-Up/Hairstyling/Costuming

Awarded to the film with the best combined make-up, hairstyling and costuming work of the year.

Black Is King

While it may not have got much love from me in other categories, one can’t help but marvel on the depths of colour, variety and inventiveness that was on display in Black Is King, in terms of how its principals were arrayed, styled and otherwise presented.

Honourable Mentions: Mulan, Hamilton, 1917, True History Of The Kelly Gang, Enola Holmes

The Ashling Award

Awarded to my girlfriend’s favourite film of the year.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Best Comedy

Awarded to the best comedic film of the year.

The Lovebirds

Best Animation

Awarded to the best animated film of the year.

Soul

Best Romance

Awarded to the best romantic film of the year.

Emma.

Best Sci-Fi

Awarded to the best science fiction film of the year.

Tenet

Best Comic Book

Awarded to the best film based on a comic book/graphic novel of the year.

Birds Of Prey

Best Documentary

Awarded to the best non-fiction film with a documentarian focus.

You Cannot Kill David Arquette

Best Historical

Awarded to the best historical film of the year.

Hamilton

Best Irish

Awarded to the best Irish film of the year.

Sea Fever

Best Scene

Awarded to the best, non-action, scene of the year.

Taking a moment (A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood)

Best Action Scene

Awarded to the best action/fight scene of the year.

The Night Window (1917)

Best Battle Scene

Awarded to the best large-scale battle scene of the year.

Finale (1917)

Best Delivered Line

Awarded to the best written and delivered line(s) of the year.

“I don’t care what dat damn VA say…VA don’t know shit from Shinola! Worst fucking doctors in da world! Malignancy, shit… I was born malignant! Dis fuckin’ place bathed me in dat Agent Orange lymphoma herbicidal stew. Army bastards scorched da Earth wit’ it! Sprayed dat poisonous shit in da water, da air, my blood stream, my cells, my DNA, in my muthafuckin’ soul! I ain’t dying from dat shit! Hear me! Hear me! You will not kill Paul! The US government will not take me out! I will choose how I die! Got it?! Couldn’t kill me then, ya’ll sho’ in da fuck won’t kill me now! Right on! Right on!” – Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods)

Best Set-Piece

Awarded to the best single set-piece sequence of the year.

The Party Game (The Boys In The Band)

Best Hero

Awarded to the year’s best presented protagonist character.

Alexander Hamilton (Hamilton)

Best Villain

Awarded to the year’s best presented antagonist character.

Aaron Burr (Hamilton)

“Diamond In The Rough” Award

Awarded to the actor/actress who gives the best performance of an otherwise bad movie.

Lara McDonnell (Artemis Fowl)

“Bang For Your Buck” Award

Awarded to the best film in the shortest running time.

Sea Fever (97 minutes)

“Inception” Award

Awarded to a film that is still good despite its plot holes.

Tenet

“Walter Mitty” Award

Awarded to a film that is still good despite its clichéd elements.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

“Lonely Planet Guide To…” Award

Awarded to the best world/universe building within a film.

Soul

“On The Shoulders Of Giants” Award

Awarded to the best sequel, reboot or remake of the year.

Birds Of Prey

“Equality Now” Award

Awarded to the film that features the best use of female characters.

Enola Holmes

“Surprisingly Tolerable” Award

Awarded to the worst movie idea that turned good.

Code 8

“Why Is No One Applauding?” Award

Awarded to the film that has been rated too lowly by the critical community.

Time To Hunt

“We’re Going To That” Award

Awarded to the film with the best trailer(s) of the year.

1917

“You Can’t Take The Sky From Me” Award

Awarded to the best thing of the year.

“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore
And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot
In the Caribbean by providence impoverished
In squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?” (Hamilton)

That will do it for 2020. In 2021 I’m looking forward to The Dig, Raya And The Last Dragon, No Time To Die, Black Widow, In The Heights, Shang Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, Uncharted, The Tomorrow War, The Suicide Squad, Dune, The Last Duel, Eternals, Elvis, West Side Story, Spider-Man 3, The French Dispatch and The Matrix 4. It’s been a hell of year, but film will never die.

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5 Responses to Film Rankings And Awards 2020

  1. WorldbyStorm says:

    Thanks for this! To say it is handy as a guide is an understatement.

  2. WorldbyStorm says:

    BTW, one interesting thing which you allude to is how Covid-19 disrupted but didn’t destroy the delivery of films to people. I was wondering if next year we’ll see a smaller crop of films due to productions being delayed this year, or will it be largely business as usual. Another question is whether the streaming approach will see some films WW84 for example only available on certain platforms which could impact on their distribution.

    • NFB says:

      It is a very interesting thing to contemplate. In a way I think the genie is out of the bottle when it comes to digital distribution: if studios can get a large enough return that way then cinemas could be in big trouble. I’d be fascinated to see how much money Mulan was able to make on Disney+ for example.

      The God’s honest truth is that while I absolutely value the cinema experience, especially for the kind of film that is enhanced by a big screen, if you were to tell me I can pay, say, 20e to watch it at home the day it is released, the temptation to stay where I was would be quite large.

      • WorldbyStorm says:

        Me too. I really enjoy the experience of cinema, well bar the ridiculous oversized popcorn/drinks, but to have film streamed direct, kind of comfortable. I think once TVs went over a certain size that made a real difference. I notice films I liked in the 90s and only saw on DVD and/or VHS seem much more expansive second or third time around. It’s definitely a more pleasant viewing experience at home than it used to be.

        Agreed re Mulan etc.

  3. Pingback: Film Awards Archive | Never Felt Better

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