Yes, I am going to cheat now and then this time. Some of these films arrived in Sweden late 2019. However, I didn’t get to see them before I provided last year’s compilation. And if there is one year in recent history where it could be allowed to – yes – cheat a little, 2020 could be it, right? Surprisingly you might say, quite a few films actually opened though not always in cinemas, but you knew that already. 2020 was the already infamous year when I got to watch exactly one (1) film in a venue we used to call a movie theater. Intermittently it was possible. Though like for most other people, the rest came down to streaming platforms and a few rentals like physically rented DVD or Blu-ray copies. Nevertheless, aware of the fact that there are still a few contenders available that I should watch as soon as possible, this is where I’m at right now, February 2021:
1. Parasite (Directed by Joon-Ho Bong). Yes, that one. the South Korean Oscar winner that simply manages to combine an alarming amount of different genres in one package. And is almost without interruption thoroughly engaging, surprising and thought-provoking.
2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma). Like my Number One above, it reached Sweden late 2019 but it’s part of the cheating aspect here. A beautifully realized and intimate drama about friendship, love and art.
3. Tenet (Christopher Nolan). The one I actually saw in a theatre, for which I’m thankful. Maybe it’s true what they say: it needs rewatching. And maybe I will. But it is one heck of a ride whatever else you might say about it. Always intelligible and easy to follow? Perhaps not. Then again, not as confusing as some people would have you believe. At the very least, I was entertained. Very much so.
4. Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi). Can you make fun of Adolf Hitler anymore? When I was younger there were certainly ways to make fun of Nazis. Some people have pointed out that it gets increasingly difficult, hitting too close to home to be comfortable. This film performs a delicate balancing act and I genuinely liked most of it, not so much for the scenes involving Hitler himself – but basically all the rest.
5. Bad Education (Cory Finley). One of these made-for-TV movies that could easily be overlooked, starring Hugh Jackman as a charming though (as it turns out) a little bit manipulative head of a successful school. When irregularities in their practices become exposed one by one, his life starts crumbling until there is no salvation to be found.
6. The Two Popes (Fernando Meirelles). Two popes… Well, obviously they can’t both be on that job at the same time, but one of them actually resigns voluntarily which is a bit of a deviation from tradition. The story of how to of these powerful patriarchs formed an unlikely friendship though they were different in so many ways. How much of it is actually true? Not exactly clear, but it’s a showcase for two of the greatest actors of our time if nothing else.
7. Mank (David Fincher). Perfectionist Auteur Fincher in black-and-white, telling the story of how one of the supposedly greatest films ever made came to be. ”Citizen Kane” is a film which I never personally enjoyed as much as I know I’m supposed to, even though it’s easy to see its greatness in many respects. This? The story of an ageing, troubled scriptwriter in Old Hollywood losing friends and alienating people while still coming up with a script that changed film history, is mostly quite brilliant. And beautiful.
8. Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach). It hurts. And there were times when I wanted to get off this train. Divorces are seldom peaceful and friendly negotiations. Separations can be painful. But it is so well told – and acted – that it overshadows its few lulls and weak spots.
9. The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson). Where did this come from? Yes, I noticed it was available on one of my streaming services but wasn’t sure exactly what it was, until I heard it recommended by more than one reviewer (on different podcasts mostly). A low budget, not exactly star-studded science fiction epic. Well, not really an epic. It’s fairly brief and efficient and it moves, very seldom stops, basically following two young people caught up in something they never experienced before in 1950’s New Mexico.
10. Death to 2020 (Al Campbell, Alice Mathias). Just before the end of the year it portrays, it was released by Netflix. Sort of a fake documentary commenting on all the weird stuff that went on and which you might rather choose to forget. But I do appreciate the dark sense of humour that they virtually wallow in here.
Uncut Gems. Of course I see it. The energy. I feel it. The restlessness and impressive camerawork. And of course, Adam Sandler is better here then he almost always is. He can be this good. It should also be pointed out that his character, this particular protagonist, is a rather annoying figure. You just have to follow him making worse and worse decisions until… well. Worth seeing, though hardly compulsory for everyone.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. So it is a bit weird and corny and overblown and silly. That’s kind of the point. If you are a European grown up watching the Eurovision song contest, it’s not that difficult to appreciate all the things they get right in this comedy and ignore the things that don’t really make sense. The subject matter actually doesn’t make much sense in itself. And that’s also the point.
The Old Guard. Not a perfect movie. Not even a perfect action movie, but a pretty good one with an added twist of almost immortal soldiers fighting on through the ages.
Sergio. A good man. He really seems like that, the Brazilian diplomat who made a career out of trying to solve conflicts around the world and ended up taking on one too many in Iraq. The road up to his last mission is told in a moving way. Maybe a somewhat preachy film and a flawed script – but still very likeable and respectable.
365 days. Sort of a Netflix phenomenon, they say. In what basically could be summed up as a stupidly annoying movie with attempts at being erotic, about a bunch of stupid and annoying people that you really wouldn’t want to spend time with in real life.