This… was a weird year. We had a global pandemic, brought on by a government that ignored it and abandoned people in need and we all ended up stuck inside for most of the year. I believe it’s been in the papers. All of this, of course, had a trickle-down effect on movies. Theaters were closed for the majority of the year, which forced most studio releases onto streaming platforms if not into 2021 entirely (especially awards-level films, which usually make up a good portion of this list). And so, while I was still left with some quality choices, I did feel like this year was a lot thinner at the top and more populated with stuff I’d consider ‘just okay’ rather than truly noteworthy. So I guess what I’m saying is — a government abandoning people during a crisis, trickle-down effects and a spate of mediocre movies — I’m just gonna go ahead and blame 2020 on Ronald Reagan.
I know it’s a tradition for me to say that the year felt pretty underwhelming and that I had a hard time coming up with this list, but that is legitimately how I felt this year. And since it’s funny to me to go back and read myself say that same thing every single year, I’m gonna leave it in. Because one of the most underrated things you can do is something that will make your future self laugh.
It also brings me to another point (which is something I always stress when I make these lists): the only thing that makes a year good or bad and really lets you know what movies you like the best… is time. That’s all it is. You can say you love something now, but wait a year. Wait five years. Wait and see what you end up going back to watch the most. Is it that one critically-acclaimed movie that everyone had on their list that you felt had to be on yours too or is it the rom com that makes you feel happy every time you watch it that you left off because it didn’t feel as ‘important’ as the other one? Time levels all playing fields. I said last year felt underwhelming at the time and now I think it’s one of strongest years of the decade. I like all my choices even more now than I did at the time.
So, as always, what I’m trying to do when I make up this list (which is always done on the fly, under pressure and after seeing most of the films once, maybe twice. The second usually very quickly, especially if it came out late) is try to find the ones that I know in my heart are the ones I like the best. The ones I’ll keep getting excited about as time passes. And that requires looking past the trappings of the present. So, if it seems like things are ranked on this list differently than my ratings might suggest, that’s because the only proper way to make a list like this is to ignore ratings and ignore reviews and ignore hype and just go with what your instincts tell you. And so, despite a pandemic, despite the decimation of the year’s film calendar and despite what feels like a crop of films that, in the moment, feels every bit as uninspiring as all the other crops of films did in all the other years that worked out just fine, I’m gonna throw that paper airplane into the future one more time and hope it stays as in tact as possible. (more…)