By Roger Costa
Movies were the best companionship we had during this crazy, anxious and uncertain year of 2020. From the comfort of our homes, we fell in love, discovered new worlds and cultures, created fantasies and dreams, risked inside unknown mysteries of the beyond, flirted with new stars and reflected on current issues involving our society, politics, behavior, relationships, our pleasures and wounds. Everything seen, learned and experienced through the magical lenses of cinema, the beloved mirror of our dreams and realities.
After breaking my record (I saw 510 new films in 2020, more than in any other year), here is my Top 10 selection 🎥:
- THE MOLE AGENT + THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS
A widower is hired to work as a spy in a nursing home; hunters and their dogs defy age and climate to find the rare fruit; These two extraordinary documentaries follow the integrity and determination of these fascinating elderly men, as they celebrate the joy of existence through experiences that remind us the importance of being here, doing what truly makes you happy and living the most of it. Precious lessons of accepting life as it is.
- THE TRUTH
Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda’s first production outside his native country is a fabulous reunion between arrogant mother Catherine Deneuve and unfulfilled daughter Juliette Binoche, as they gather for the release of a scandalous book. Sensitive, humane and observational, Koreeda continues to investigate the family condition, proving he is a master of storytelling in any language.
Chloe Zhao’s third feature film puts her as the most accomplished female filmmaker of her generation. In another tour-de-force performance, Frances McDormand plays a woman who abandons everything after her husband dies and she’s affected by the Recession, crossing the American Mid-West living inside her van and meeting up real people with incredible stories of surviving and resilience. The result is a poetic, and amazingly shot analysis on human values, compassion and economic despair.
In this electrifying political allegory, ultra-violent modern Western, a small Brazilian community fights back the invasion of some foreign terrorists and those corrupt politicians backing them up. Directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ Cannes-winning film is a fun wild ride that brilliantly addresses current Brazilian social/political/economic issues and claims power back to the people.
- YOUNG AHMED
Masters of Neo-realism, the Dardenne Brothers won the coveted Cannes’ Best Director Award for this suspenseful depiction of dysfunctional teenhood and terrorism inclinations. Following the routine of a fanatic Islam boy, as he attempts to “cleanse” his teacher, the pair created a triumphant character study, a masterly crafted thriller about precocious violence and fanaticism, but mostly, (and thankfully) a celebration of compassion and forgiveness.
- NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS + THE SURROGATE + STRAIGHT UP
Three accomplished and mesmerizing American indie productions revolving around issues and conflicts of Millennials. A girl goes on a journey trying to perform an abortion; A gay couple hires a Black woman as the surrogate for their child; A sexually-confused, identity crisis intellectual young man seeks for his soulmate as he tries to “convert” his gay condition. All three films are timely, urgent, absorbing and empathetic.
- SILVYE’S LOVE
Gorgeous, magical, inspiring and uplifting, Eugene Ashe’s lush romantic saga takes us back to the world of Douglas Sirk and those golden melodramas made in the 50’s with rare purity. Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha share a romance like no other, an impossible and forbidden connection set to the rhythms of jazz and the heat of New York City’s streets, impossible not to fall for them. This is serious, entertaining and high-quality filmmaking, beautifully crafted as an unforgettable, passionate classic.
Sometimes cinema brings a sense of getting us closer to God through the experience of the screen. This is one rare case, where the presence of the Creator fulfills the scenario, as a Pastor serves as a mentor for transformation of a young murderous KKK member. Heart-breaking, intense and utterly relevant in the themes depicted such as racial conflicts, prejudice, violence and redemption, director Andrew Heckler’s based-on-a-true-story drama is this year’s most affecting and accomplished look on faith, perseverance and compassion, convincingly embodying the condition of “all things can be transformed through the power of Christ”.
- FATHER, SOLDIER, SON + THE PAINTER & THE THIEF
Two mesmerizing documentaries, about the human condition and the ability to overcome tragedies. Through personal journeys, involving art, the process of creating it and struggling to succeed, friendship, vices, and patriotism, manhood and fatherhood, these two alarming films are powerful humanitarian statements that will touch you profoundly with its characters’ wounds. Two strong lessons of comradeship and solidarity.
- SORRY WE MISSED YOU
A father arrives home, exhausted, drained after a 16-hour shift work, humiliated by his boss, pressured by his competitors, and smitten by unjust policies, just to find more tempest under his own roof. A master of storytelling with focus on the struggles of the British struggling communities, 84-year-old director Ken Loach’s new drama observes the stirred emotions of a family dealing with economic despair and miscommunication. Heartbreaking, naturally absorbing and perfectly convincing, Loach continues to be one of our greatest filmmakers with this powerful meditation on the strength of family resilience. 🎬
⭐ANOTHER MEMORABLE TOP 10:
- The neon-infused Gangster-on-bikes Chinese tale THE WILD GOOSE LAKE.
- The bisexual coming of age Korean film HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD.
- The middle-age male gay crisis depicted in 15 YEARS.
- Family reunion after long 17 years apart ends up in cultural clash in FAREWELL AMOR.
- Russian powerful post War art-house drama BEANPOLE.
- Spectacular Mafia epic saga THE TRAITOR.
- The energy, rhythms, moves and flirts of I’M NO LONGER HERE.
- The contagious joy, cosmovision and optimism of kids-tale H IS FOR HAPPINESS.
- The luxury, intrigue, and ravishing performances of THE NEST.
- The importance and urgency of recording the Pandemic in 76 DAYS and the inventive, humanitarian and faith-affirming DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD. 🎬
💥AND THE WORSE FILMS ARE….
I had no patience for the boring MANK, or the blasphemies of MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM. Tyler Perry doesn’t make any sense at all with A FALL FROM GRACE. Nothing can rescue UNDERWATER from sinking. The same happens in THE ROADS NOT TAKEN, a waste of talents. Following the same trend, WASP NETWORK, a confusing misfire. THE OLD GUARD is just plain, ridiculous trash. Adult entertainment? Please! THE JESUS ROLLS is disgusting as much as THE WRONG MISSY. And THE LODGE is creepily empty and full of itself.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 🙏