For a list of all eligible films, please click here: https://majorfilmreviews.com/2020/12/31/films-of-2020/ (password: filmlist)
It’s that time of year again! After their strong debut year last time out, the world decided to pull a fast one and make it hard for me to pick this year’s best and worst movies; because they’re all now coming out in 2021.
Never fear though, my dedication to bringing you top-tier film content doesn’t stop because there have been no films come out for six months, no siree. This year, I have opened the parameters to any film I reviewed in the calendar year of 2020, no matter how old they are, they’re eligible if I’ve written about them this year. (The full list of films I’ve reviewed is at the top of this page.)
I’ve tried to pick at least one 2020 film for each category so the results aren’t too skewed towards the classics, and I’ve also added two ‘Lifetime Achievement categories, one for the very best the medium has to offer, and one for the very worst, and they’ll be the final two categories listed here, a bit like the BAFTA Fellowship, but written by a guy writing this alone in his flat instead of a panel of experts.
Like last year, I’ll be awarding gongs to the very worst and very best films, working my way up in terms of importance, so I’m going to get the stinkers out of the way first.
With all that in mind, let’s look back on what 2020 brought us, and hand out some arbitrary awards!
Worst Actress in a Supporting Role:
Rebel Wilson (as Jennyanydots in Cats)
Frances Fisher (as Ruth DeWitt Bukater in Titanic)
Taylor Swift (as Bombalurina in Cats)
Anna Taylor-Joy (as Illyana Rasputin/Magik in The New Mutants)
Holly Hunter (as June Finch in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
WINNER: Rebel Wilson (Cats)
I have a ‘feline’ this won’t be the only time this film wins. Shut up, that was an actual joke.
An absolute failure in every possible sense of the word, I’m just glad I uploaded this review on January 1st, 2020 so I have another chance to remind everyone how much of a massive hairball this film was.
There were many memorable performances in Cats, all of them memorable for the wrong reasons, but Rebel Wilson might just have been the worst of the bunch… okay, second worst, but we’ll get to him later.
Worst Actor in a Supporting Role:
Jason Derulo (as Rum Tum Tugger in Cats)
Idris Elba (as Macavity in Cats)
Jesse Eisenberg (as Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition)
Billy Zane (as Cal Hockley in Titanic)
Corey Feldman (as Edgar Frog in The Lost Boys)
WINNER: Jesse Eisenberg – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition
Listen, I love DC as much as the next man, and I don’t actually hate this movie (as my fairly in-depth review of it will attest) but I don’t think they could have missed the mark with Lex Luthor any more if they’d been aiming in the wrong direction.
Maybe Eisenberg got the wrong character notes and assumed he was playing The Riddler instead of the ruthless, cold, and measured (but most certainly not wacky) Luthor, or maybe Zack Snyder is just a bit of a hack.
I feel bad giving this film an award for worst anything, as there’s a lot of good there, but Eisenberg’s performance is just terrible. Terrible enough to beat out two actors from Cats, what does that tell you?
Worst Actress in a Leading Role:
Judi Dench (as Old Deuteronomy in Cats)
Eliza Scanlen (as Milla Finlay in Babyteeth)
Melody Anderson (as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon)
Kate Winslet (as Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic)
Eileen Brennan (as Mrs Peacock in Clue)
WINNER: Eileen Brennan (Clue)
Blimey, my review of this film certainly annoyed a lot of people. One commenter wondered how I could possibly compare Clue to pantomime, and in hindsight he’s right, pantomime is actually fun.
Safe to say I don’t share the safe nostalgia goggles everyone else seems to when it comes to this film, I honestly don’t understand the tribalism. It’s just a poorly-executed B-movie guys, not the Second Coming of Christ, chill out.
Out of all the performances, this is probably the worst. Annoying, shrill, and about as funny as drowning in a pool of treacle, Mrs Peacock takes the soiled cake and wears it like a ridiculous hat (which might explain her hair) and is my pick for the worst Leading Actress I’ve watched this year.
Worst Actor in a Leading Role:
James Corden (as Bustopher Jones in Cats)
Robert Downey Jr (as Dr John Dolittle in Dolittle)
Sam Jones (as Flash Gordon in Flash Gordon)
Michael Jordan (as himself in Space Jam)
WINNER: James Corden (Cats)
Can somebody please explain to me the appeal of James Corden? Why is he cast in so many films when he has all the acting ability of a dying blobfish?
Even in this film, where there were more bad decisions than there are fleas on a regular street cat, Corden manages to comfortably be the worst thing on-screen whenever he’s around; managing to make his character the most grotesque in the film, and given the CGI work in this film, that’s quite an achievement.
Despite this, Corden continues to find work between shifts fawning over every celebrity that comes on his talk show. The cynical side of me says that he keeps getting cast because he’s a good little shill, but maybe that’s unfair. He must just have some kind of appeal that I’m missing.
Tom Hooper (Cats)
Stephen Gaghan (Dolittle)
James Cameron (Titanic)
Troy Duffy (The Boondock Saints)
Jonathan Lynn (Clue)
WINNER: Tom Hooper (Cats)
Oh, Tom. What went wrong? Your future looked so promising after the one-two punch of The King’s Speech and Les Misérables, but you had to stretch just a bit too far didn’t you?
It took every fibre of my being to not give this award to Cameron, but despite my hatred of that bloody film about that bloody boat, at least Titanic was functional. At least they didn’t need to recall the original reels because of glaring visual faults. Titanic was actually technically sound, Cats was a cavalcade of poor decisions coming home to roost.
Ultimately, it saddens me to give Tom this award, as he has proved that he’s very capable as a filmmaker, but what was he thinking when it came to this? How could he look at that finished cut and be satisfied? The mind boggles.
Of course it is. I’m pretty sure you’re all sick of hearing about it by now. It might well be the worst film I’ve ever reviewed, full stop; and I reviewed The Happytime Murders.
If we’re thinking of the root of all the bad ideas that eventually became this monumental cat turd, we should maybe consider that making a film version at all was a bad idea. It’s hardly a story for the ages to begin with, is it?
I’ve been awfully cruel about this film over the past few entries, but I genuinely can’t think of a single positive thing about it. So it’s an obvious choice.
John Williams (The Empire Strikes Back, Schindler’s List)
Nino Rota (The Godfather)
Ludwig Goransson (Tenet)
Hans Zimmer (Inception & Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)
Alan Menken & Howard Ashman (Little Shop of Horrors)
WINNER: John Williams (The Empire Strikes Back & Schindler’s List)
I mean, that is one loaded category, but there is only ever one winner in any music-based conversation that includes John Williams.
Perhaps the secret behind several classic movies, especially those made by a certain Mr Spielberg, John Williams is in an unassailable position in Hollywood, breathing rarefied air as a genuine legend of Hollywood, he helped build cherished movie memories with a wave of his baton.
Any of his classic scores would be enough to win, but even in this tough category (Speak Softly, Love is one of my favourite pieces of music also) any score that includes ‘The Imperial March’ just has to win, sorry, that’s the rules.
Roger Deakins (1917)
Hong Kyung-pyo (Parasite)
Hoyte van Hoytema (Tenet)
Janusz Kaminski (Schindler’s List)
Gordon Willis (The Godfather)
WINNER: Roger Deakins (1917)
Roger Deakins might look like an affable scientist, but he is a wizard with a camera.
This film could have fallen flat if it didn’t have an absolute master behind the camera guiding it, and for all the praise directors get, it’s your cinematographer you rely on for killer camera work, and you couldn’t find a more reliable pair of hands than Roger Deakins.
The recipient of a staggering fifteen Academy Award nominations, Deakins past work includes such greats as The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Skyfall, and Blade Runner 2047 (for which he won his first Oscar) he remains in demand, and as sharp as ever, judging by the mammoth task that faced him in 1917.
Special mention should also be given to Hoyte van Hoytema for his stellar work, both going forwards and backwards, in Tenet.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Kathy Bates (Barbara Jewell in Richard Jewell)
Park So-dam (Kim Ki-jung in Parasite)
Laurie Metcalf (Marion McPherson in Lady Bird)
Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton in Hamilton)
Margot Robbie (Kayla Pospisil in Bombshell)
WINNER: Margot Robbie (Kayla Pospisil in Bombshell)
To stand out in a film as strong as Bombshell, you really have to bring your A-Game.
Sharing the billing with Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman, Robbie somehow still manages to be the stand-out performance of the film; making her composite character of Kayla an emotional lynch-pin, whose experiences are as affecting as they are traumatic.
Bombshell may seem like it was released three years ago after everything that has happened in between, but the experience still sticks with me even now, and the parts I most remember are Robbie’s, her characters experiences are probably just a tenth of some experiences, and their presentation and performance are what makesBombshell so timely and important.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Ralph Fiennes (Amon Goth in Schindler’s List)
Robin Williams (Dr Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting & Parry in The Fisher King)
Al Pacino (Michael Corleone in The Godfather)
Robert Carlyle (Begbie in Trainspotting)
Choi Woo-shik (Kim Ki-woo in Parasite)
WINNER: Robin Williams (Dr Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting & Parry in The Fisher King)
It was only ever going to be Robin.
Not only because Good Will Hunting is my second favourite film, but because of the tremendous difference between these two parts, the range and scope of his genius know no bounds, and I miss him every single day. Occasionally I’ll watch a film, see a character and think: ‘that would have been perfect for Robin Williams’ no-one since has managed to match his presence.
A traditionalist might have given this to Ralph Fiennes, and as much as I understand, these are my awards and put simply, I was touched more personally by these two characters, as much as Goth was a great portrayal of a terrible man, for me, Robin wins every time.
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Scarlett Johansson (Nicole Barber in Marriage Story)
Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Ripley in Alien)
Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins Returns)
Kim Hye-ja (Mother in Mother)
Aisling Franciosi (Clare Carroll in The Nightingale)
WINNER: Scarlett Johansson (Nicole Barber in Marriage Story)
She could have quite easily been nominated twice if I’d seen Jojo Rabbit just a month later, but she wins for this devastatingly real depiction of an eroding marriage, and the effect a divorce has on the people in its orbit.
Opposite an equally fantastic Adam Driver (who we’ll get to soon) ScarJo is perfect as a mother and wife on the brink, showing just how much these experiences take a toll on your mental health, it’s a gripping performance in an incredible film, one that definitely deserves re-visiting again.
Special mention also to Kim Hye-ja for her role in Mother the 2009 Bong Joon-ho film which I covered in the wake of Parasite’s release, and for Aisling Franciosi whose performance in The Nightingale might seem like a lifetime ago, but still sticks in my mind as brutally harrowing, and above all, memorable.
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Adam Driver (Charlie Barber in Marriage Story)
Liam Neeson (Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List)
Marlon Brando (Don Corleone in The Godfather)
Tom Hanks (Fred Rogers in It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood)
James Stewart (George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life)
WINNER: Marlon Brando (Don Corleone in The Godfather)
Oh god, I don’t half give myself the tough jobs don’t I? Having to pick between three of the greatest on-screen performances ever? Yeah, no biggie.
I eventually narrowed this down to James Stewart and Marlon Brando, and it was essentially a coin toss. Choosing between them felt like choosing which leg I felt was least necessary, but after much deliberation, Brando won out.
The Godfather is still my nomination for the greatest film of all-time, and there are many reasons why, Brando’s performance is particularly high on this list, as his powerhouse performance dominates the film, demonstrating his quite considerable range across the run-time and reminding us definitively why he is one of cinema’s greatest performers. When he wanted to be, of course.
James Stewart and Liam Neeson should feel hard done-to to lose out, and the other two are just unlucky that I’ve considered all the films I’ve reviewed this year.
Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)
Sam Mendes (1917)
Christopher Nolan (Tenet & Inception)
Stephen Spielberg (Schindler’s List)
Francis Ford Coppolla (The Godfather)
Frank Capra (It’s A Wonderful Life)
WINNER: Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)
Director Bon burst into the mainstream this year following Parasite’s sweep of this year’s Oscars. He quickly became the toast of the town, and left many Korean film fans saying: ‘yeah, we’ve been trying to tell you for years he’s something special.’ Thankfully, we are now listening.
One of the many tragedies of the pandemic is that we never got to see the full effect of Parasite’s win. What could have brought a new wave of mainstream foreign filmmakers was instead left to die down as cinemas closed, sad, but I hope this can still be the case in the future.
After further exploring Bong Joon-ho’s back catalogue, I can now say with confidence that he’s one of the most exciting filmmakers around, and I can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve next.
Major Film Reviews Hall of Shame Inductee: Michael Bay
The inaugural inductee into the MFR Hall of Shame is perhaps a predictable one, but no less deserved.
If I had a nemesis, it would probably be this man. No director has ever made so many films that have made me despair for the condition of modern Hollywood as Michael Bay, his films are lifeless, emotionless, jingoistic, simplistic and general just awful, not just quality-wise, but also morally.
James Cameron may have made me least favourite film of all time, and be more visual-effects supervisor than director, but at least he made the first two Terminator films, as well as Aliens before he decided that films should look nice but have nothing behind the eyes. Bay’s films have always been brain-dead.
Major Film Reviews Hall of Fame Inductee: Martin Scorsese
On the far, far, FAR other end of the directorial spectrum, we have this man. Someone who has been making cutting-edge, high-quality films for over fifty years, and even after all this time, he still has an eye for a killer movie, as evidenced last year in The Irishman.
Each of the decades he has worked in has their own definitive Scorsese movie. The 70s has Taxi Driver, the 80s has Raging Bull, the 90s, of course, has Goodfellas, and so on. His influence on modern filmmakers is massive, just watch the reception he got at this years Oscars. He’s a cherished director who can still surprise us with his work, he’s an absolutely worthy first inductee into my own personal Hall of Fame.
Thanks once again for joining me for this self-indulgent display of award-giving. I hope you enjoyed it, and wish you all a much better 2021.