THE LAST WORD ON 2020: Anthony Francis names the Julian Temple-directed “Crock of Gold” as the year’s best

Last Updated: January 1, 2021By

2020, what a strange year it was. While movie theaters closed in late March, streaming platforms and On-Demand services made many films available to audiences. This allowed titles that should have been released in theaters to find their way to viewers without them having to wait. The plus being that, many low-budget films could compete with the bigger studio fare on a more even ground. Little films that could were given a bigger chance, perhaps the only silver lining from theaters being closed.

The quality of films suffered a bit this year, though of course this had nothing to do with the pandemic. Great films are few and far between these days, as studios busy themselves with remakes, reboots, and the latest comic book adaptation.

 

That said, the year did hold gems, to be sure: Guy Ritchie made a big return to the London mobster cliché genre, Spike Lee saw two great films roll out, Pixar scored another instant classic and some excellent titles dominated the documentary genre.

Here are my twenty favorite films of the year :

TOP FILM OF 2020:

“Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan” (directed by Julian Temple)
The best film of 2020 is a soulful examination of Shane MacGowan, front man of The Pogues and fodder for tabloids. The film goes beyond his reputation to find a tough but warm poet’s soul and a man with heart. It is an honest and eye-opening examination done with style and poetry that moved me to tears more than once.

READ: Anthony Francis’s review of “Crock of Gold”

THE REST OF THE BEST:

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (Charlie Kaufman)
A philosophical and profoundly moving film that is Charlie Kaufman at his best. A Kafkaesque take on the mystery of identity (“An intellectual tonic filled with pleasurable mysteries”; 09/07/2020 review)

“Tommaso” (Abel Ferrara)
The power and soul of an artist as seen through the eyes of a powerful and soulful artist. One of Willem Dafoe’s best performances and one of Abel Ferrara’s finest.

“The Devil All the Time”

“Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist” (Alexandre O. Philippe)
A fascinating conversation in which the director wisely lets Friedkin do all the talking. An astonishingly intimate and in-depth look at a true artist making cinematic art.

“The Devil All the Time” (Antonio Campos; read the full review)
A vicious Southern-Pulp film with superb performances. A dark examination of rural America and the wages of sin.

[a double-whammy-of-greatness joint) (both of the following films were directed by Spike Lee)

“Da 5 Bloods”
Spike Lee’s allegorical piece that speaks to today’s times by revisiting the past. Striking, powerful, and profound (full review)

“David Byrne’s American Utopia”  
Spike Lee’s striking visualization of David Byrne’s Broadway performance piece. An interpretation of humanity and the current political and social climates of America through music and movement. Stunning.

“The Gentlemen” (Guy Ritchie)
A witty and smart return to the genre director Ritchie knows best. Full of great performances and sharp dialogue, this is one of the year’s most entertaining films and the best of Ritchie’s career.

“The Soul Collector” (Harold Hölscher)
An atmospheric horror tale influenced by African folklore. Unique and completely original in every moment (read the complete review here)

“Let Them All Talk” (Steven Soderbergh)
A literate and incredibly well-acted character piece that relies on great writing and improvisation by some of our finest working actresses.

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” ( George C. Wolfe)
A thunderous celebration of the importance of the black artist and an emotional examination of black life in America, then and now. A career-best and sadly the final performance from Chadwick Boseman who left us last summer at age 44.

“Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band” (Daniel Roher)
An emotional look at the inner workings at what made The Band a legendary group. A film of wistful memory and celebration.

“Let Him Go” ( Thomas Bezucha)
A beautifully-directed Western Noir, an old-fashioned character tale soaked in blood and regret.

“The Big Ugly” (Scott Wiper)
A sharp thriller with surprising depth in its screenplay and great performances all around. The year’s biggest surprise.

SEE ALSO: “The Big Ugly,” (full review)

“Soul”

“Soul” (Pete Doctor and Kemp Powers)
Another sweet and heartfelt treasure from Pixar, a meditation on the soul of music.

“Zappa” (Alex Winter)
An incredibly personal and moving portrait of one of the most unique artists of them all. One of the best documentaries about a musician in decades (full review)

“VFW” (Joe Begos)
A massively-entertaining ode to the genre films of the early eighties, a strong John Carpenter vibe that is far from mere nod. Tight, well cast and exciting.

“Possessor” (Brandon Cronenberg)
A disturbing and visceral horror film that is steeped in contemporary social issues. A loving homage to David Cronenberg from his own son.

“I Am Lisa” (Patrick Rea)
A film that shakes up horror tropes about werewolves. A good find.

“Shirley” (Josephine Decker)
Elizabeth Moss gives the performance of her career in this surreal character study that finds the essence of author Shirley Jackson (FULL REVIEW)

“The Droving” (George Popov)
A gripping and character-driven thriller that immerses its audience in folklore and tension (read the original article)

Anthony Francis is Screen Comment’s film critic. Read all his reviews here (@anthonyscreenC1)

Shane MacGowan in “Crock of Gold”

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