How does one sum up a movie year unlike any other? We could tally the shuttered theaters, lost jobs and delayed blockbusters, or we could evaluate the existential panic that has given Hollywood — an industry already prone to existential panic — no clear path forward. Things will be normal again, or normal-ish, one day, but when we look back at 2020, it will be easy to think of it as The Year With No Movies.
Of course, that’s hardly accurate. No, people didn’t congregate in multiplexes for their routine summer popcorn, and the ongoing awards season looks a lot quieter than usual. But during the past several months, we’ve been treated to a number of first-rate films, most of which debuted via streaming services, video-on-demand platforms and drive-in venues. This list alone contains two Spike Lee joints, five accomplished debuts from first-time directors, a Frances McDormand performance that rivals all the other impeccable Frances McDormand performances, a beguiling documentary about dogs, a genre-defying Brazilian oddity and more must-sees. Even from our living rooms, they made 2020 a little easier.
“Boys State” (directed by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss)
“Lovers Rock” (directed by Steve McQueen)
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (directed by Eliza Hittman)
“Relic” (directed by Natalie Erika James)
“Saint Frances” (directed by Alex Thompson)
“Save Yourselves!” (directed by Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson)
“The Vast of Night” (directed by Andrew Patterson)
Plus, a handful of must-see performances:
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
Jasmine Batchelor, “The Surrogate”
Carrie Coon, “The Nest”
Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Lucas Hedges, “Let Them All Talk”
Mary Holland, “Happiest Season”
Mads Mikkelsen, “Another Round”
Aubrey Plaza, “Black Bear”
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