I guess it goes without saying that 2020 was a weird year at and for the movies. I believe it is the first year that I did not step foot in a theater since my infancy, and I know I am not alone on that front. The boundaries between television and theatrical experiences, and what works qualify for what awards based on how and when they were released, had already gotten fuzzy before this our Anno Virum. Now, they just seem meaningless. My entire 2020 film-watching experience took place in front of a television at home, so when I think about the best of what I’ve seen this year, I’ve just gone with a “Hey, it’s a standalone 90+ minute thing on a screen, and that makes it a movie” approach. I normally have a sense in December of what movies I want or need to see before Oscar season winds down, but I have nothing in mind or on my radar screen at this point. If something great drops in the next few weeks and I watch it on television, I’ll add it to my list. If not, not. It is what it is.
All of those qualifiers aside, I did watch a lot of movies this year, including several sublime works of art, and a lot of well-done piffle. Plus some clunkers, of course. My crap filter is pretty good at protecting me from wasting time in front of garbage, but occasionally it lets me down. Were I in charge of Best Picture nominations for The Viral Season Oscars, these eight films would be my picks; a couple of them were released in their native countries in late 2019, but I’m counting them for this year as they saw their initial American releases in 2020.
It was also a very good year for documentaries. Which are films, of course, but I do mentally categorize them as something else when it comes to my expectations and experiences in watching them. These are the best five new “real world” movies I caught in 2020:
And then there’s the “Best of the Rest,” films that entertained or moved me, or both, but weren’t quite top-of-the-pile fare. Here’s the other 2020 films I would commend for your consideration, should you like to spend a couple of hours having a positive media experience in front of the screen of your choosing, hopefully safely. Any of these will beat watching the news, I promise.