January 03, 2021 | Category: Films

Film Fight 2020: Finale

Film Fight, for the first time in years, ran roughly to schedule. Most of the monthly posts went up on time! Hurrah!

The downside is that the entire film release business was pretty hampered by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with cinemas being shut for most of the year. Given this meant my attention was elsewhere and timeliness was less of an issue, I made a change to the rules: rather than only reviewing films I saw within roughly a month of their release, I’d review anything that came out in 2020, whenever I finally saw it.

As we go into 2021, I’ll start ageing out films from eligibility in some way or another, but it’s not like any of this particularly matters. The good films will still be good.

As per the caveat every year, Film Fight is done in a (non particularly serious) knock-out style: it can pick my favourite film of the year, but nothing else. (Also the very idea of a single favourite film is a bit silly.)

First up, the honourable mentions: films that were good but didn’t win their month:

  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Little Women
  • The Lighthouse
  • The Personal History of David Copperfield
  • Horse Girl
  • Freaks
  • The Platform
  • Vivarium
  • Lost Girls
  • Sweetheart
  • Extraction
  • Swallow
  • Sea Fever
  • The Lovebirds
  • Ultras
  • Da 5 Bloods
  • The Banker
  • Family Romance, LLC
  • Palm Springs
  • Nobody Knows I’m Here
  • 7500
  • Days of the Bagnold Summer
  • Tenet
  • The King of Staten Island
  • Greyhound
  • Mank

All of those are worth seeing, but worth pointing out Palm Springs and Tenet as the only two films from this year I’ve seen twice; and I’d happily watch either again immediately.

Now, the monthly winners:

  • January: Parasite
  • February: Uncut Gems
  • March: The Invisible Man
  • April: System Crasher
  • May: Uncorked
  • June: The Orphanage
  • July: The Assistant
  • August: Never Rarely Sometimes Always
  • September: Get Duked
  • October: The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • November: His House
  • December: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

As always, the year was front heavy, but wasn’t followed up by many Summer blockbusters or late-year prestige dramas.

I remember how difficult System Crasher was to watch, but it’s incredibly powerful too. A system failing a young girl with serious issues. Seek it out.

Likewise, The Assistant is important but much quieter, showing how quietly and complacently people become part of a system that exists to harm others, backed up by an excellent lead.

Uncut Gems is anxiety-ridden, tense, aggrevating, and absolutely gripping. It’s great to see Sandler back in a decent role, and the rest of the cast back him up. A stressful watch.

Finally, to a winner: it feels like a long time ago that I saw it, and definitely not like within the last year. I had wanted to rewatch Parasite before making a decision here but, honestly, it’s not much of a contest. There have been some incredible films over the last 12 months, despite the obvious challenges, but Parasite gets everything right. It’s beautiful, well-paced, surprising, and with a lot of depth. It seems like that rare film that almost everyone will get something from.

The first half of the year produced some solid winners, then some more questionable choices up until December (which was overstuffed).

I was surprised and impressed by Prospect. It’s indie sci-fi done right: understated, well-realised, with an interesting story that leaves you wanting to more.

Eighth Grade is an exceptional directorial debut. There are scenes where the combination of performances, shot composition, lighting, and editing are all perfectly brought together to ratchet up the tension, releasing it just at the right moment.

At times almost dream-like and dizzying, and at others painfully real, If Beale Street Could Talk… is an incredibly well-done film about a romance doomed to fail, due to an unaccepting world.

However, I’m really struggling to pick a winner between the next two.

Early in the year, we had The Favourite, for which Olivia Colman rightly picked up an Oscar. Either of the other two leads (Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz) could have picked it up too. Strong performances, offbeat comedy, and a great story. This worked well on every level. It had been my choice for winner for almost the entire year until…

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story delivered a masterclass in performance, direction, and staging. I can’t say it better than my original review: “beautiful, bittersweet, infuriating, delightful, difficult; a rollercoaster, evoking the ups and downs of a real breakdown.”

I might kick myself after watching The Favourite again, but I think the winner is Marriage Story for its rawness; it made me cry because I was both sad and happy, and that’s a hell of a thing for a film to do.