Best of 2020- Chris

Prior to the official kick off of 2020, I couldn’t think of a single film on the release slate for the year that I was genuinely looking forward to watching. All things considered, 2020 did turn out to be a better year for movies than it had any right to, what with the film industry on a COVID-induced ventilator desperately clinging to life, but it is far more notable for what I didn’t watch than what I did. With this in mind, I present my top 5 2020 releases I did not watch this year (in no particular order).

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things

(Charlie Kaufman, US)

I’ve read Iain Reid’s book. It was good! I also read Kaufman’s Antkind. It was great! I am fully prepared to dive into the conversation between the two novels and the film itself, I just haven’t pulled the trigger yet. It’s not that I don’t want to. The prospect of playing fourth fiddle to a three-way meta-textual dialogue is enticing, but it’s not yet far enough removed from the many competing (and repeating) conversations currently taking place. One day I shall find a corner to retreat to, away from the doll drone of dimmer discussions (Nolan hates women and children!), and myself and I Am Thinking of Ending Things (the film) can finally engage in the deep-and-meaningful we (and the myriad works of various mediums informing us) were always meant to have.

Mank

(David Fincher, US)

If I was to plot David Fincher’s career onto a line graph, the trend would show a slow but steady decline from what many argue as his peak (Zodiac*). Whilst the substance of his last decade’s output doesn’t interest me (the man hasn’t read a book he doesn’t want to adapt), his disdain for the acting profession does. Not since Kubrick have we seen a director so blatant in his intent to deconstruct the members of his cast, submitting them to a tortuous regime of retake after retake, and subjecting them to his exacting (and unreasonable) demands. With Mank, this cold disregard is also finally extended to the audience–and I don’t have to have seen the film to tell you this! It’s all there in black and white (literally) before a single frame need be watched: just try and read the premise without falling asleep. You simply can not. Fincher has centred this film on characters and circumstances so maliciously boring, Mank should be declared a hate crime. So why in blazes is this film in my 2020 top 5 not watched then? It’s hard not to respect a director who hates me more than I hate myself. Kudos.

*For my money, Zodiac rests not on the peak, but ranks somewhere in the middle of his filmography (no more than a day’s journey from base camp, huddled alongside Panic Room in a make-shift shelter against the side of the mountain, whilst Se7en triumphantly sets its frost-bitten foot on the conquered summit, with Fight Club and The Game approaching).

Promising Young Woman

(Emerald Fennell, US)

I know that, even without seeing it, Promising Young Woman is a movie that I (a man), for my own good, need to see. Knowing this, I wonder whether I do, in fact, actually need to see it, or whether this knowledge is enough. I do know that men (of which I am one), on a baseline level, are all shit (I consider myself a Not Not All Men!), and reactions to the film seem to indicate that Promising Young Woman does indeed bear this criticism out. So will I miss anything if I do not see it? Ha! What a typically arrogant male response (the ally in me is scolding the internalised misogyny it co-exists with)! I know that I want to see it, but I wonder whether I should actually not want to see it (as a man, expecting to ‘enjoy’ the film may be problematic). Perhaps I should be forced (consensually) to see it by a female acquaintance (preferably accompanied by commentary alluding to my ignorant privilege–“shut up, man, and take your damn medicine!”). This is what I need. I know this. The film knows this. I’m just not sure on how to make the first move.

Tenet

(Christopher Nolan, US/UK)

Although I watched Tenet on the 22nd August 2020, I am yet to watch it in my inverted timeline. If you have (and/or have not yet) seen the film, you’d understand (and/or come to understand) the brilliance of this entry into my top 5 2020 releases I did not watch this year, although this cleverness is undermined by the fact that, in the inversion, I will have eventually watched it before the year is out (in?), so I should stop short of the self-congratulatory pat on my own back I had planned/already given.

She Dies Tomorrow

(Amy Seimetz, US)

Having obviously not seen the film, I can’t tell you whether it is any good, but I can tell you that I hope that it is! Even more than hope, I have a quiet confidence that it will be. I just don’t have the benefit of experience under my belt. Here’s what I might say about it if it was good: “She Dies Tomorrow is simply sublime.” “A tremendous artistic achievement.” “Amy Seimitz has done it again!”. Feel free to pull those quotes for a poster. If the film, however, is not good, then the praise I have potentially lavished will need to be reigned in. I would instead offer some constructive criticism, highlighting the appropriate areas of deficiency. To be fair, even if it is good, there may still be some room for improvement. I just don’t know. I haven’t seen it. I do hope that it’s good, though, and I feel it will be. Maybe.

Best of 2020

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