The year 2020 has thus far been one of the most unusual years ever for cinema, if not the most. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak around the world, many releases are postponed, many film festivals are canceled, and most film shootings are shut down. Some finished films also faced problems in post-production. But still in the first few months, we got some good films to watch. Universal even did something unexpected and released three of their theatrical releases on VOD earlier than ever with a very high price.
All of this makes us wonder what changes will there be in the movie world when things will be back to normal. Until that time, stay safe, wash your hands often, stay at home as much as possible, and watch those movies. And before we start the list, I have to note that only those that got a theatrical release in at least one country in 2020 have appeared on the list.
10. The Lodge
Riley Keough just doesn’t stop delivering. She’s once again great in Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz ‘s follow-up to their creepy “Goodnight Mommy.” The slow burn horror/thriller will appeal to those who love their winter atmosphere in movies. The movie is set in a winter cabin where the father of the family is not around for his work. His children now stay with his new girlfriend Grace, portrayed by Keough in an effective and strong performance. But terrifying events start to happen and we’ll get to know that some of these may have to do with Grace’s dark past.
It’s not a movie with answers and may frustrate some viewers, especially in the ending, but those who will get into the atmosphere and appreciate the claustrophobic setting will feel like they’re on a good trip. The movie has a dark look and a kind of unsettling tone that gets you in it. It’s a bit like “Hereditary,” even if it is not as good. But those questions that keep your mind busy through the film is what makes the film actually work. And all of those questions film arise; as well as those storylines that have to do with our main character’s psychology and the religious symbolism that may lead to a good discussion after the film. The use of music is very fine as well and there are some fine odes to several popular horror films.
9. Come to Daddy
If it starts slow, don’t worry. This will get mad, like truly mad in the second half. And even those slow parts are full of witty dialogues. Elijah Wood continues to take those weird, strange indie movies and “Come to Daddy” is his latest offering. Here he plays a privileged musician who receives a letter from his estranged father. He hasn’t seen him since he was five and this visit will go to totally different and unexpected places.
Definitely not for mainstream audiences, the movie is a joy for genre movie fans as it’s violent, but at the same time, a very fun ride and is never dull. The script is full of wit and just very funny; the direction the story takes is delightfully wicked and twisted. It’s also surprising that the father-son relationship is not just a plot point to give us a violent show, but it actually has some kind of depth, at least more than films of this kind.
The movie is one of the more original genre films in recent times. It’s influenced by several other films but those influences come from such wildly different movies that one can’t help but enjoy this strange mix. Wood is also very good in the lead role; he creates a very empathetic character and is fully committed to the film’s weirdness. In the end, it’s a totally unpredictable fever dream that is an absolute blast to watch. Something genre fans shouldn’t miss.
“I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” That’s what Jane Austen wrote before she began her novel and this movie will probably please most of her fans. It’s not something that will turn into a classic like, let’s say, “Sense and Sensibility” or “Pride and Prejudice,” but still Autumn de Wilde has done a very lovely job at capturing the spirit of the source material. No, it’s not too different from the 1996 film, but still it’s very harmless, lovely, unchallenging, but still a sweet way to spend your time and further proof that some stories probably just never get old.
The directing or script doesn’t necessarily bring anything too new to the table unlike what Greta Gerwig did with “Little Women” recently, but while staying loyal to the novel, “Emma” still feels fresh. Maybe it’s the cinematography, maybe it’s the tone, maybe it’s the narrative. It works as a character piece, and Anya Taylor-Joy is a surprisingly lovely choice for the lead role. She’s funny, charismatic, and elegant and since Emma is probably the best-written and most complete character of the film, she benefits from having rich material to work with.
Those who love costume dramas will especially appreciate the production design and the costumes. The movie has a charming tone in general that just becomes hard to dislike. Also, it’s genuinely funny, probably funnier than most Austen adaptations. But still, if you’re not too fond of costume dramas, then it’s just better to re-watch “Clueless” instead.
Director Carlo Mirabella-Davis’s film debut had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019 but didn’t get a theatrical release until March 2020. Not an easy watch, definitely unsettling, but at the same time, strangely hypnotic. It’s sad but also empowering. When you read the plot that it’s about “a woman who seems to have it all,” you can expect the possible messages in the movie, but that’s not only about what it is about – more like how it’s all handled.
And it’s handled impressively; the Hitchockian set design is pretty cool, and the story is provocative enough. The aesthetics and story complete each other perfectly. It’s a very colorful film but Mirabella-Davis uses those colors for creating a mostly depressing and almost disturbing atmosphere.
Haley Bennett is an actress who just can’t seem to catch a break ever since her breakout in “Music and Lyrics” (2007) and a promising but ultimately disappointing year in 2016 with promising-on-paper but failure projects. Here she finds another great role; not only is she an effective performer but her presence feels as if she’s a movie star from the ‘50s and that alone makes her a perfect choice for the leading role. The movie is gorgeous, impressively executed and very provocative. It’s one of the most intriguing and unsettling films of recent times – and perhaps a very rare portrayal of pica? Maybe. The ending is remarkably great as well.
6. The Invisible Man
Is this the most definitive movie of the year? First it starts as a domestic violence drama, which makes it a perfect film for a discussion in the #MeToo era, since it’s essentially a story about a woman escaping domestic abuse. Then it turns out to be a fight against an invisible enemy, which also makes it a perfect film for our COVID-19 days. Now that it’s one of the films Universal decided to release on VOD way earlier with a high price, it also puts it in the center of a possible game-changing decision in the movie industry.
Now this is not a totally original film; not only because there had been previous films based on the H.G. Wells novel we all know, but it also borrows a lot from many films, from “Scream” to “Candyman” to “Sleeping with the Enemy” to “Peeping Tom” to even, yes “Hollow Man,” but all of them feel in good company here. They could even go with little more ambiguity,, especially early on when she was not sure if she’s just paranoid or there was something really awful going on.
But obviously the movie is called “The Invisible Man” and we know why we’re here. The movie has some memorable sequences (that restaurant scene was something), and nice twists and turns. It keeps you engaged and interested and it’s yet another case for Elisabeth Moss to show her amazing skills as an actress. Just like last year in “Her Smell,” Moss once again gets a film to appear in nearly all the scenes of the film and she just nails the part in every way possible.