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).
(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.
(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).
(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.
(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.
(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 amy seimetz charlie kaufman christopher nolan david fincher emerald fennell fight club im thinking of ending things mank panic room promising young woman se7en she dies tomorrow tenet the game zodiac