While 2020 may have been an unusual year for movies, it was no short of fantastic content. As we look forward to 2021, Sofia revisits 2020 and ranks the top 5 best films of the year.
Mank, directed by David Fincher, is an autobiography of Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), Citizen Kane’s screenwriter. The film follows his journey of writing Citizen Kane, illustrating his inspiration for the story and the process of writing the masterpiece while battling alcoholism.
The movie pays homage to Citizen Kane and old Hollywood. Shot in black and white, Mank has breathtaking cinematography and incredible sound design that mimics the muffled dialogue in 1940s movies. Many of the characters even talk in the transatlantic accent, the accent used in many 40s movies. The film has structures like Citizen Kane in a non-linear fashion and scenes that echo iconic scenes from Citizen Kane.
The script is filled with rich dialogue, demonstrating the witty and intellectually stimulating exchanges between Mank and his colleagues, most notably William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). Hearst was the inspiration of Charles Foster Kane. Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), also starred in the film.
Its complex, genius script and breathtaking performances make this another incredible David Fincher must-watch.
You can check out Mank on Netflix.
Pixar’s new movie Soul is breathtaking. The movie is about a school music teacher named Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) who dreams of becoming a professional jazz pianist. He finally gets his big break after performing with a famous jazz musician named Dorothea (Angela Bassett), who offers him his first big gig. However, right after, he has a near-death experience. As a result, his spirit is trapped in the soul world. There, Joe meets an unruly “unborn” soul named 22 and embarks on a journey to get back to Earth.
The movie is wildly creative and original, especially in its world-building. The soul world is so intriguing with its pastel blues and purples. Its ethereal characters are drawn with engaging linework and had so much personality. The soul world beautifully contracts the scenes in New York, which is very much grounded in reality. The crowded streets and the hectic environment felt very authentic to the real world.
The movie tackles such a profound topic in such an innovative way. We see the characters in the film obsess over their purposes. Joe feels that his passion for jazz is his sole purpose in life. The movie teaches us that our goals do not define our successes. Living and relishing life are what ultimately matters. Soul expertly narratives a mature but crucial topic in a humorous and family-friendly fashion. Watching this movie is fun, my favorite scene being the interactions between 22 and her previous mentors. Most importantly, Soul teaches us important lessons that we can carry to 2021.
You can check out Soul on Disney+.
Charlie Kauffman’s new psychological thriller I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a mind-blowing movie that I need to re-watch a couple more times to understand. Let me try to explain. The film surrounds a young woman contemplating whether to “end things” with her boyfriend Jake while on her way to his hometown so she can finally meet his parents. From there, it gets crazier.
The movie is wildly imaginative. It has several twists and turns and tackles several existentialist themes dealing with the concept of time and aging. It shows these themes in creative ways like over the top aging makeup, innovative dialogue, and even a dance number.
As expected, Kauffman’s screenplay is the highlight of the film. It has dense and thought-provoking dialogue that gets more and more deranged as the movie progresses. The movie’s cinematography is also incredible. The movie is shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio to give it a more claustrophobic sensation that mirrors the protagonists’ journey in a cramped car on a snowy day.
The performances are fantastic, the most memorable being the dinner scene with the couple and the parents. Toni Collete and David Thewlis, who played the parents, gave electrifying and brilliant performances. The performances enhanced the mystery surrounding the encounter and highlighted the claustrophobic and inescapable setting of the movie.
You can check out I’m Thinking of Ending Things on Netflix.
2. The Sound of Metal
Released on Amazon Prime late last year, The Sound of Metal follows Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a punk rock drummer who begins to experience hearing loss. When he learns that his condition will only worsen, he looks for any way to recover his hearing, believing that his music career and life would be over without it. Eventually, his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) encourages him to join a deaf community to help him learn how to live his life deaf.
Riz Ahmed gives an incredible performance, demonstrating Ruben’s frustration and struggles with his condition. The beginning of the film rests on his anger and aggravation towards his hearing loss. The film then transitions into a more quiet tame performance, focused entirely on Ahmed’s glances and facial expressions as he learns to live in silence.
The film has incredible sound design, illustrating Ruben’s hearing loss with ringing echoing and muffled sounds. As his hearing worsens, the film remarkably shows the beauty of silence that Ruben and the audience learn to appreciate.
It’s an inspiring, emotional film that will leave you with an important message to not fixate on solving a problem but learning how to live with it and eventually appreciate it.
You can check out The Sound of Metal on Amazon Prime Video.
1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
My favorite movie of the year, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, tells the story of quiet seventeen-year-old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), who travels to New York with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) to get an abortion. The movie is an intimate character study of Autumn as we see her struggles: finding out that she was pregnant, realizing that, in her state, she cannot receive the procedure without her parents’ legal permission, and traveling to another state where she can legally get an abortion.
The movie is emotional, quiet, and gentle. Many scenes have no dialogue, focusing on the characters’ expressions and their environment. Because, in the end, the film aims to illustrate the perils of being a teenage girl in the U.S. You see the girls being objectified in their daily life, but worst of all, you see how used they are to it. The movie feels so genuine and vulnerable. Autumn never gives a lengthy monologue about what she’s feeling, her past, or why she wants to terminate her pregnancy. Instead, the film offers us an authentic glimpse into this moment in Autumn’s life.
Sidney Flanigan’s performance is outstanding. It still shocks me that this was her first role. She brought so much vulnerability to her character, allowing us to empathize with her at every turn. Director Eliza Hittman beautifully executes a film with a premise that could feel so theatrical but instead feels so close to life.
You can check out Never Rarely Sometimes Always on HBO Max.