Life Of Navin

Random Musings, Random Bullshit.


Movies of 2020

2020 has been a crazy year in more ways than one. Who would have thought that most of the world world would be forced to stay at home for a majority of the year, making Dalgona coffee (remember that?), baking sourdough bread, and basically calling the bluff on every company that said "We don't allow remote work since it allows people to slack off". 

Despite the crazy number of movie releases that got pushed out to 2021 (since not everyone has the confidence of Chris "I-shot-in-imax-toh-dekho-theater-mein-bc" Nolan), 2020 ended up being a good year at the movies. Personally, thanks to big budget movies getting moved out, it made space for me to discover so many smaller studio houses and directors, who would have gotten overshadowed otherwise. 

Anyway without much further ado, here's my list of mt fave movies from 2020 

13. Cargo (trailer)

Something I absolutely hate about both horror and sci-fi films made in India is how we try so hard to retrofit unfamiliar western concepts into our movies. This is why movies like Tumbbad are such a breath of fresh air. Cargo falls within the same realm. It's a sci-fi movie made on a small budget, but so uniquely Indian in it's storytelling that you can't help but want to tag along on the journey. Shweta Tripathi and Vikrant Massey are great protagonists, but the questions this movie poses sticks with you long after the end credits have rolled.

12. Happiest Season (trailer)

Almost every year, in the crowd of predictable, "timepass", rom-com movies, there will be a few movies that stay with you. Last year, it was Always Be My Maybe, and this year it is Happiest Season. This movie is a cheesy, formulaic, fun, heartfelt rom-com, but still manages to stand out from the pack nonetheless.

Other similar genre movies that you may enjoy from this year is Palm Springs and the Netflix Series Dash & Lily. Also, if you are an Aubrey Plaza fanboy like me, then you should also check out her other release this year, Black Bear, which falls well within Aubrey territory.

11. Swallow (trailer)

This was a movie I was really looking forward to since the trailer first dropped last year, and while it had very mixed reactions overall, I personally loved it. Swallow follows a woman who has a growing urge to swallow household objects (Pica), and the list of objects becomes more and more dangerous. Haley Bennett is brilliant in the lead role here, and watching her give in more and more to her urges is weird. In many ways, this movie reminded me of Raw, which follows a similar storytelling format. Embrace the queasiness that this is bound to induce! 

10. Android Kunjappan Version 5.25 (trailer)

Yes, I know this movie technically came out very late last year, but I caught this in January, and knew right then that this would be making the list. A grumpy old man living in rural Kerala is gifted a humanoid robot by his son who's working abroad. Again, this was a movie which manages to circumvent expectations quite a bit and tell a heartwarming tale of friendship, love and companionship. The budget for the humanoid bot in this movie is likely less than what Marvel spends on coloring the Hulk green, but that doesn't stop this from being a great watch! And as a bonus, you get to see an Android wearing a Malayali mundu for a good part of the movie :D

9. Vir Das: Outside In (trailer)

Vir Das has always been among the smarter comedians in India, and he seems to have cracked this unique ability to connect with both an Indian as well as a global audience. Outside In is his latest special, which follows a very simple format: Through shows done completely via Zoom, he asks participants from around the world one question: "Once the pandemic is over, what is the first thing you would do?". This is interspersed with what Vir himself was going through behind the scenes during the course of these shows. For me, this was very cathartic for two reasons: First, it really underlines how the entire world are all fighting the same thing, and second, how our human experiences are so varied yet fundamentally similar.

8. Papa, sdokhni (trailer)

Anyone who knows me knows how I'm a sucker for dark comedies, and the Russian film Papa, sdokhni ("Why Don't You Just Die" in English) was such a crazy ride! Shot almost entirely in one apartment, there's a certain playfulness that the director uses throughout. The movie's quite violent and gory, but cartoonishly so. Most Russian movies I've watched in the past have been of a similar genre/tone, but in the last few years, it's been great to see Russian filmmakers make great strides in different genres (in fact one of my all time fave hacker movies is Khottabych from 2006). 

I found out a few weeks after watching the movie that the director, Kirill Sokolov, was 29 years old when he made this movie! *insert existential-crisis here*

7. Guns Akimbo (trailer)

Since getting done with Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe could easily have retired and lived a comfy life in a mansion on some island. But I love that instead, he's constantly been experimenting with the most bizarre storylines, be it in Swiss Army Man, Horns and now Guns Akimbo. Ever since the meme-worthy images that leaked out 2 years back, this movie has been on my radar! Summary: Gamer dude wakes up with 2 guns bolted to his hands and has to fight against the craziest, most psychotic killer (the oh-so-gorgeous Samara Weaving) in a livestreamed fight to the death. 

This movie gave me strong vibes of The Tournament, so catch that as well if you enjoy this genre!

6. Bacurau (trailer)

It's hard to really explain what Bacurau is really about. It's partially a uniquely Brazilian take on the classic western, it's partially a statement against the political class, it's partially an anti-colonialist movie, and it has components of sci-fi as well! How the directors manage to create a story from these elements, I really don't know, but Bacurau is proof that you can. A village in Brazil rallying against forces that want to wipe off it's very existence makes for an excellent watch, especially since it will surely push you down the path of understanding more about the socio-political climate the movie explores.

Another excellent film that explores similar themes of political apathy and corruption is the highly rated Romanian documentary Colectiv, also from this year.  

5. Dick Johnson is Dead (trailer)

"Sucker-punch right in the feels" is what the friend who recommended this movie to me had said, but boy, was I unprepared for this. Dick Johnson is Dead is a documentary in which filmmaker Kirsten Johnson helps her father, Dick, prepare for his worsening dementia and eventual death, by staging different ways in which he could die. The whole concept is dark, and very honestly, I initially felt super uncomfortable feeling that Kirsten was using her father as a prop. However, as the movie goes on it really does grow on you, and culminates in a final 20 minutes which truly left me in tears.

4. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (trailer)

Aaron Sorkin is pretty much the best when it comes to crafting stories that keep you glued to your seat, and The Trial of the Chicago 7 is no different. However, the reason I really connected with this movie was also because of the parallels that exist between this story, which is based in the aftermath of the DNC convention in 1968, and the current political climate in India. Dehumanization of anyone whose political ideologies are not in line with those in power, lumping together everyone against the government as one homogenous blob even if they are radically different ideologies, moral corruption at the highest levels and more. It was ridiculous to learn that some of the movie's most disturbing actions were actually fairly watered-down compared to what actually transpired. 

Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne are standout performances in this. And it feels so weird to say this, but you should also catch Sacha Baron Cohen's other great performance this year in Borat 2, which explores the same political disconnect, through a vastly different lens.

3. Soul (trailer)

It's funny that Jazz lies at the core of Soul, because the movie feels quite a bit like a jazz composition, with a mishmash of ideas, concepts, and motifs that really need to be molded together well in order to work. And after a string of movies that were very hit or miss since Up (arguably the best animated movie of this century, unarguably containing the best 2 minutes of animated storytelling), it felt that with Soul, they've hit it out of the park! The intersection of purpose, talent, and passion is such a fundamental question to tackle, and Soul manages this so well. I personally loved how they show how thin the line between being "in-the-zone" and "soul-sucking obsession" can be, and that resonated very strongly with me (sadly, you see that line only in retrospect). I was overcome with emotions through this entire movie.

2. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (trailer)

There's nothing in Never Rarely Sometimes Always that I can connect with directly, and yet I feel so strongly moved by this film. It tells the story of a seventeen year old who finds out she is unintentionally pregnant, and wants to have an abortion. The USA is truly ridiculous in terms of abortion rights (any topic + uninformed politicization = 💩), and this movie brings out the gut wrenching journey she needs to take from orthodox Pennsylvania to New York, accompanied by her cousin. I think it's the circle I surround myself with, but I've never understood the logic behind denying someone control of their own body, and this movie, through a fly-on-the-wall perspective cemented that all the more for me. Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder truly deserve all the praise for their performances in this. As Sucharita says: "Women telling women stories" is unfortunately still a rare but powerful genre so more power to movies like this which not only focus on women, but are also produced and directed by them.

If you are looking for a more fun-take on the same core story, then check out Unpregnant, which also came out this year. Another movie tackling similar viewpoints is The Assistant, which is an underrated gem of 2020.

1.The Platform (trailer)

Wow! Just wow. There's really nothing to say about The Platform (El Hoyo), which hasn't been said already. Like Parasite last year, The Platform manages to be a compelling critique of modern society, while being a kickass movie in itself. Even at a conceptual level, I'm in awe of how this movie might have come about. Such a simple but clever concept combined with great storytelling and performances. "Edge of your seat" is an understatement for this movie. The Platform is one of the finest exposes into human nature and psychology. This movie somehow manages to walk the balancing rope showing the worst of both capitalist and socialist ideologies, while having enough subtle allegories, to keep you thinking for weeks after you are done watching this. Not for the faint-hearted, but truly a masterpiece!

Honorable mentions:

Ludo (I already said I like dark comedies), The Whistlers (Thriller with a new form of communication), Bill & Ted Face the Music (Leave your brains at home, stoner fun), Freaky (Leave your brains at home, freaky friday fun), Beanpole (Fine example of the genre of movies I usually associated with Russia), Another Round (Can alcohol really be the cure for productivity?), Babyteeth (coming-of-age for a terminally ill teen without the cheesiness), Bad Education (What if the face of the organization was embezzling them internally), Kadakh (Your friends are at your home but you have a secret to hide), AK vs AK (Just for the sheer audacity... Kudos to both AKs), Dia (A twisted Kannada romantic movie), Welcome Home/His House (Both great horror movies centered around houses), The Hunt (Supremely divisive, extremely fun), The Call (Sci-fi timetravel thriller), Lootcase (What would you do if you found a suitcase full of money?), Chintu Ka Birthday (Heartwarming movie about a family in war-torn Iraq), Blow The Man Down (When everyone knows everyone, are secrets really secret?)

All in all, 2020 is a year I'm sure most people want to forget for a whole tonne of reasons, but at the same time, it's also given us a lot of time to introspect and think about what really matters (I have a whole other post about this, hopefully will publish that soon as well). Looking over the list, I felt that a lot of movies that resonated with me this year, especially in the second half of the year, tended to be more grounded, human stories. Either way, irrespective of if 2020 has been the best year of your life or your worst, I hope that 2021 brings with it more growth, be it personal, professional, or otherwise and of course more stories that capture those emotions. :D


Deciphyre said...

flush off for suggesting platform to me -_-
but on other hand quite good.

Sanyam Jain said...

Dude how many movies do you have to watch to come up with a curated list of(still) so many good movies?
I have watched only a handful out of these & not even heard about most!

Anyway thanks for writing this.
I watched The platform - it was interesting.
Watched Another Round - found it slow. (slept 2 times, still not finished :P)


Finally after all these years, here's to the beginning of what was there, what is there and hopefully what will remain!! So here are my thoughts & words -Online!!

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