Saturday, March 26, 2022

Oscar Forecast: The Power of the Dog with a Chance of CODA

Another year of covid and another year of no clear frontrunner for several categories. It’s gonna be a squeaker.

BEST PICTURE - The Power of the Dog

So it’s CODA vs The Power of the Dog. CODA has impressed with a surge of industry-backed awards like SAG ensemble and the PGA win for Best Picture. But you know what movie also won those awards and lost the Oscar for Best Picture? Little Miss Sunshine. I just can’t imagine a film with only THREE nominations winning all three. But at the same time, I don’t necessarily see The Power of the Dog running to a win either. It has the nominations on its side and has enough industry support to give it a win. But is it too weird or divisive? Normally I’d say yes, but offbeat films like Parasite and Nomadland have one recently so Power of the Dog doesn’t feel like that far of a stretch for a win. At this point I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if neither of them won and something like Belfast (the early frontrunner) ends up Spotlight-ing the hell outta of it. I’m staying with Power of the Dog because I don’t feel confident splitting up Best Pic and Best director...

DIRECTING - Jane Campion The Power of the Dog

She won the DGA and even a gaffe at the Critics Choice Awards shouldn’t derail a woman from taking home this award for an unprecedented second year in a row.

BEST ACTOR - Will Smith, King Richard

The “it’s his time” narrative is strong with this one. And he’s very good in a well-liked Best Picture nominee.


If Troy doesn’t win here there’s no way it’s winning Best Picture, end of story. And he’s great!

BEST ACTRESS - Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

There’s apparently been a surge of support for Penelope Cruz so I guess it could happen. But just because so many of those “brutally honest Oscar ballots” claim they’re voting for Cruz doesn’t mean she’s gonna win. Chastain has won the GG, Critics Choice, and SAG and so she’s the frontrunner. But honestly? Anything can happen here.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Ariana DeBose,West Side Story

She’s the heart and soul of Spielberg's new take of West Side Story and there’s a reason Rita Moreno won this award for the same exactly role over 60 years ago. It’s a great character and bother actresses have knocked it outta the park. The one practically guaranteed win for WSS (unfortunately).


We don’t talk about Encanto not winning Best Animated Feature.

CINEMATOGRAPHY - The Power of the Dog

A win for The Power of the Dog here would mean the first win for a woman in this category. I think the Academy knows that. And I think it deserves a win here. Though the flashier, effects driven look of Dune may likely prevail.


This movie was about costume design and it’s the most flashy and deserving nominee.



It’s Friday Night Lights meets CODA.


This one is driving me crazy. Sound driving movies have won steadily here recently, ie, Whiplash, Sound of Metal, Ford v Ferrari, so since I’m going with Dune for Best Sound I’m also picking it here.


No real contest when a film here is also up for Best Picture. Right Parasite?


I’d honestly be surprised if anything else won, unless Dune practically sweeps of course...

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE) - The Power of the Dog, Jonny Greenwood

Another category giving me indigestion. Most pundits have Hans Zimmer taking this for Dune. He hasn’t won since 1994’s The Lion King. Which is crazy. But the academy loves awarding fresh talent here so I think Radio Head guitarist Jonny Greenwood could take it.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG) - “No Time to Die” from No Time to Die; Music and Lyric by Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell

A fairly snoozy category this year (like almost every year as of late) I’m sure anything could happen here. A win for Encanto would mean Lin Manuel finally completes his EGOT. But it wouldn’t be for We Don’t Talk About Bruno since it wasn’t even submitted by Disney for consideration.


I’d be genuinely surprised if something else won here but something like Nightmare Alley or The Tragedy of MacBeth wouldn't be out of question.


It’s apparently the least traumatic of the animated shorts this year.


A win for The Long Goodbye would make actor Riz Ahmed an Oscar winner! Some are predicting Please Hold

SOUND - Dune

The loudest movie usually wins. Unless of course there is a flashy musical…. But I still think Dune will take this.


It’s difficult for a non-best picture nominee to triumph here when it’s up against a Best Pic nominee. Which is why I’m going with Dune. The year Ex Machina surprised was a weird fluke because there were 3 Best Pics nominated that year.


If CODA wins here I think it definitely could win Best Picture. But remember, Little Miss Sunshine won for Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor and still lost the big prize. I think a win for The Power of the Dog or even The Lost Daughter isn’t out of question. I’m excited for this one!

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY) - Belfast, Kenneth Branagh

Easily one of the toughest calls of the night to make. I HAVE NO FRIGGIN IDEA. Months ago I would of said Paul Thomas Anderson would win this in a walk but now I’m not so sure. The fact that he’s getting lots of flack about a particularly racist character certainly isn’t help his case. I also think a lot of Academy members don’t see this as a particularly cohesively written film. Don’t Look Up won at the Writers Guild but they’re writers and the whole Academy votes here. Which is why I’m going with early frontrunner Kenneth Branagh for Belfast because it seems like the easiest place to reward it, otherwise I have no real idea what’s gonna win.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Jets and Nuns, and Culottes, Oh My! The Best Films of 2021

It’s March. The Oscars are one week away. I think it’s about time I finally revealed my favorite films from 2021. Generally I think because of the pandemic, last year was one of the “weaker” years for movies. But at least there were movies even if they didn’t come as frequently as in years past. There were plenty of really solid and wonderful films you just have to look harder for them. Let’s do this!

West Side Story (dir. Steven Spielberg)

It’s about time the great Steven Spielberg topped my list of the best movies of the year (The last time was way back in 2005 with “Munich”). His updated take on the 1961 musical West Side Story is so utterly brilliant and gorgeous. Every change subtle or big works in the film’s favor and improves upon the classic but problematic 60s version. I can’t stop watching this film and it’s currently on Disney+ and HBO Max where it deserves to be watched over and over. (Technically it deserves to be watched on a big movie theater screen but not many of you showed up).

2) Malignant (dir. James Wan)

Horror master James Wan does it again this time with an utterly ridiculous and original premise about a woman who is haunted by some kind of ghostly apparition that happens to be going around murdering people. You can’t really say much unless you want things spoiled but this thing is just ridiculous and crazy and admire it for the direction that it goes in. Those expecting another classically told, straightforward horror film will be severely disappointed. Malignant is a campy and gory hoot that is not to be missed as long as you know what you’re getting into.

3) CODA (dir. Sian Heder)

CODA is an acronym for “child of deaf adults” and I’m not sure that’s ever actually mentioned in the film. It follows a hearing teenage girl whose mother, father, and older brother are all deaf. She joins the choir and has aspirations to study music in college which causes tension between her and her working class fisherman family. The film will tug at your heartstrings and is a wonderful, authentic look at a deaf family and the complications that come with having their daughter sort of default to being their interpreter. If the ending doesn’t make you smile or cry you’re not a human.

4) Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (dir. Josh Greenbaum)

Oh lord I’m so glad this ridiculous movie exists. Sort of a weird mix of Romy & Michelle, the Muppets, Austin Powers, and SNL, Barb and Star follow two middle aged women who decide to get wild and take a trip to Vista Del Mar, Florida. Bridesmaids writers Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo star as the weirdo, culotte-wearing best friends and are super funny. This is a truly bizarre comedy that is certainly not for everyone but it certainly is for me.

5) Spider-Man: No Way Home (dir. Jon Watts)

The Spider-Man film to end all Spider-Man films. Frankly I’m not sure how they could possible get any better.

6) Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (dir. Destin Daniel Cretton)

Another winning entry in the MCU film. Newcomer Simu Liu and the hilarious Akwafina are simply wonderful together in this superhero origin tale. So many wonderful set pieces; this a kung fu movie for people who don’t really like kung fu movies and I really dug it.

7) The Worst Person in the World (dir. Joachim Trier)

Sort of a Norwegian Annie Hall, this romantic comedy is a wonderful delight. The film follows a young woman over the course of a few years as she navigates life and love and tries to figure out what the hell she wants to do with her life. The film is told in an interesting way and Renate Reinsve gives a charming performance. The film is funny but also goes to some darker places and is ultimately extremely relatable and moving.

8) Candyman (dir. Nia DaCosta)

Not quite a remake, not quote a sequel. Ok actually it is technically a sequel. A wonderfully creepy take on the Candyman legacy that adds a lot to this genre and like the best horror films, it has a lot of say about society.

9) tick tick… BOOM! (Lin-Manuel Miranda)

I’m pretty sure 2021 will go down as the year of the musical that people didn’t see or watch. Tick Tick Boom! premiered on Netflix and is wonderfully inventive and offers lots of fun, catchy music. Andrew Garfield gives a wonderful performance as Jonathan Larson, the guy who would go on to create the musical RENT. This is a very autobiographical musical. As someone who is faily unfamiliar with RENT (I’ve only ever seen the film adaptation, I know I know) I really dug this and found it to be highly entertaining. Lin-Manuel makes an auspicious directorial debut!

10) Benedetta (dir. Paul Verhoeven)

Showgirls director Paul Verhoeven is no stranger to controversy. And he’s probably made his most controversial movie yet! After the critical failure of Hollow Man in 2000 (hey I liked it) he went back to Europe to make movies there. This time he brings us the true story of Benedetta Carlini a novice nun in Tuscany who is able to perform miracles and causes quite a stir in the convent when she beings a relationship with one of the other nuns. It’s Showgirls meets Sister Act meets Stigmata. What else do you need to know? It’s completely bonkers in that perfect Paul Verhoeven way.

11) The Mitchells vs. the Machines (dir. Michael Rianda)

A wonderful animated tale of an ordinary family who has to deal with a sudden robot apocalypse while on vacation. Gorgeous animation, clever humor, terrific voice work, and a fun story and its from the guys who made The LEGO Movie and Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse so there you go.

12) King Richard (dir. Reinaldo Marcus Green)

If you told me that a movie about the father of two tennis stars was one of the best movies of the year I’d think you were crazy. But King Richard is great! A fairly straightforward “based on true events” tale of Richard Williams the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena as he helps coach them and mold them into the amazing athletes they became. It doesn’t really break the mold but Will Smith is really good as is the whole cast and I really found this story somewhat intoxicating.

13) Licorice Pizza (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

I have a love-hate relationship with PT Anderson; I love sprawling ensemble quality of Boogie Nights and Magnolia but then he got really annoyingly pretentious with things like There Will Be Blood and The Master, etc. Licorice Pizza sort of falls somewhere in between but is a fun throwback 70s set dramedy about coming of age in the San Fernando Valley. I enjoyed the sort of vignette like quality to the story and the cast is fairly strong with the scenes with Bradley Cooper being among the best.

14) The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (dir. Ian Samuels)

A sort of angsty teen version of Groundhog Day follows a teen boy and girl as they relive the same day over and over again and fall in love in the process. Not unlike the other romantic Groundhog Day comedy Palm Springs, but I found this to be much more enjoyable.

15) No Time to Die (dir. Cary Joji Fukunaga)

The Daniel Craig James Bond era comes to a smashingly good close with another enjoyable adventure made with ridiculous cinematography and crazy stunt work.

16) In the Heights (dir. John M. Chu)

Yes another musical. This is a real delight. And yes Lin-Manuel is involved yet again. Is there anything this guy can’t do?

17) House of Gucci (dir. Ridley Scott)

Yes I liked it. Yes I think it’s campy and silly. And yes I don’t hate Jared Leto in this. It's also transfixing.

18) The Lost Daughter (dir. Maggie Gyllenhaal)

Oliva Colman gives another wonderful performance as a British woman whose vacationing by herself on a Greek island and the layers slowly begin to peel back showing why she’s so melancholy. Maggie makes a particularly impressive directorial debut in a film that features some truly wonderful performances and somewhat of an intriguing mystery.

19) Don’t Look Up (dir. Adam McKay)

Another movie that Twitter hates. But I laughed a lot. This dark comedy from Adam McKay is easily my favorite of his recent string of “serious awardsy comedies” and follows scientists as they try to warn the world of impeding doom in the form of a comet that is about to strike earth. But no one seems to care. As someone who is a big fan of disaster movies I thought it was a hoot and had something to say. Oh and that cast!

20) Mass (dir. Fran Kranz)

Two couples talking in a room. That is Mass. And it’s fairly riveting. I love movies where you don’t know what is going on until you slowly begin to understand based on the talky dialogue. Nothing remotely flashy here but some searing performances. I’ll probably never watch this again since it’s so heavy but it’s worth a watch if you know what you’re getting into.

Monday, February 07, 2022

Oscar Nomination Predictions 2022



Being the Ricardos



Don't Look Up


King Richard

Licorice Pizza

The Power of the Dog

tick, tick... Boom!

West Side Story

alternates – Drive My Car; The Tragedy of Macbeth


Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza

Kenneth Branagh, Belfast

Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

Denis Villeneuve, Dune

alternates - Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car; Adam McKay, Don’t Look Up


Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter

Lady Gaga, House of Gucci

Alana Haim, Licorice Pizza

Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos

alternates – Kristen Stewart, Spencer; Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers


Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

Andrew Garfield, tick, tick... Boom!

Will Smith, King Richard

Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

alternates – Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up; Peter Dinklage, Cyrano


Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog

Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard

Marlee Matlin, CODA

Ruth Negga, Passing

alternates - Caitriona Balfe, Belfast; Ann Dowd, Mass


Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza

Ciaran Hinds, Belfast

Troy Kotsur, CODA

Jared Leto, House of Gucci

Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

alternates – Jamie Dornan, Belfast; Mike Faist, West Side Story



Drive My Car


The Power of the Dog

The Lost Daughter

alternate – West Side Story



Don't Look Up

King Richard

Licorice Pizza

Parallel Mothers

alternate – Being the Ricardos




The Power of the Dog

The Tragedy of Macbeth

West Side Story

alternate – Nightmare Alley




House of Gucci

Nightmare Alley

West Side Story

alternate – Spencer



Don't Look Up


The Power of the Dog

West Side Story

alternate – Licorice Pizza




The Eyes of Tammy Faye

House of Gucci

West Side Story

alternate – Coming 2 America



The French Dispatch

Nightmare Alley

The Tragedy of Macbeth

West Side Story

alternate – Belfast


Don't Look Up


The French Dispatch

The Power of the Dog


alternate – Parallel Mothers


No Time to Die, “No Time to Die”

King Richard, “Be Alive”

Encanto, “Dos Oruguitas”

Don't Look Up, “Just Look Up”

Belfast, “Down to Joy”

alternate – Respect, “Here I Am Singing My Way Home”




No Time to Die

A Quiet Place Part II

West Side Story

alternate – tick, tick… Boom!



Godzilla vs Kong

The Matrix Resurrections

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Spider-Man: No Way Home

alternate – No Time to Die





The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Raya and the Last Dragon

alternate – Belle





The Rescue

Summer of Soul

alternate – Attica


Drive My Car

The Hand of God

A Hero


The Worst Person in the World

alternate - Compartment No. 6


Only a Child

Robin Robin

Step Into the River

Us Again

The Windshield Wiper


Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker

The Queen of Basketball

Terror Contagion

Three Songs for Benazir

When We Were Bullies


Censor of Dreams


The Long Goodbye


When the Sun Sets

Friday, April 23, 2021

Oscar Forecast 2021: “Nomadland” with a Chance Dorothy Zbornak’s Pick “Chicago 7”


And here we are. It’s finally Oscar weekend. And I still don’t even know who’s gonna win half these awards. It’s been a weird so I expect a lot of unpredictability. As is usually the case the frontrunner is not necessarily the film I enjoy the most. But I am willing Promising Young Woman, a film I’ve watched 6 times since it got released on demand earlier this year, to win everything it’s nominated for. It would sound so nice to say “Winner of Five Academy Awards, Promising Young Woman!” I really just want something utterly crazy and unprecedented to happen. But I also want to be right. Here is what I think will happen in each category. Let’s do this…


Who Will Win: Nomadland.

Should Win: Promising Young Woman.

Should of Been Nominated: Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom.

Ok definitely not one of the definite locks of the night but the most likely winner is Nomadland especially since Chloé Zhao is the frontrunner in Best Director. It still feels weird as the frontrunner considering it feels like a one woman show with many non-actors throughout. Films with small casts or focus on one or two characters rarely win Best Picture. Just look at things like Gravity, La La Land, and even last year’s 1917. Which is why The Trial of the Chicago 7 actually feels like the consensus choice; a big cast, important and historical message, and oddly enough a film dominated by male characters. Even if Aaron Sorkin got snubbed in Director Chicago 7 feels like a film made to win this award. Promising Young Woman meanwhile is a sight possibility and feels like the most buzzy nominee. Every person I know who has seen it loves it. It has such a twisted script, feels timely, and feels extremely original and balances art and entertainment expertly. At the end of the day Nomadland feels like the safe choice but anyting can happen and I’ve gotten this category wrong for the past few years so there ya go. PYW is my favorite of the year which is why I'm rooting for it and means it probably won't win.


Will Win: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland.

Should Win: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman.

Should of Been Nominated: Darius Marder, Sound of Metal.

Zhao winning here feels like one of the sure things of the night since she’s won everything else including the predictive DGA… but didn’t Sam Mendes win everything last year and then lose to Parasite’s Bong Joon Ho? I can’t imagine another upset so soon.


Will Win: Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Should Win: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman.

Should of Been Nominated: Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man.

Whoa what a race this year! It’s enough to give the biggest Oscar fan some serious heartburn. At the beginning of the season it seemed like Carey Mulligan’s to lose. But then she actually kept losing, except for the Critics Choice. Each actress has won a different precursor award. Viola and Frances have already won (the latter having already won twice) so it feels like Carey should be the frontrunner. But I’m going with SAG winner Davis who feels like a performer who should already have a dozen Oscars.


Will Win: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Should Win: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Should of Been Nominated: Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods.

The late Chadwick Boseman has been winning everything in sight except the BAFTA. But I think he’s got this thing locked down. If anyone can give him a run for the money it’s probably Anthony Hopkins.


Will Win: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari.

Should Win: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari.

Should of Been Nominated: Oliva Cooke, Sound of Metal.

So many questions. Will Glenn finally win? For THAT? Highly unlikely. Could the actress who scandalized Rudy Giuliani actually win? It’s possibly. Anything can happen in this category, right Marcia Gay Harden? But I think Minari’s cute grandma, the film’s heart and source of humor, is most likely to be that film’s major win.


Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah.

Should Win: Paul Raci, Sound of Metal.

Should of Been Nominated: Bo Burnham, Promising Young Woman.

Daniel has been steamrolling all season. But now his co-star LaKeith is also nominated. Will it split his vote? Probably not, but you never know. I love Daniel, but Paul Raci in Sound of Metal truly moved me. But I think his nomination is his reward unfortunately. But I'd be fine with any of these guys winning. 


Will Win: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland.

Should Win: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.

As the Best Picture frontrunner, this will be one of several awards Zhao is expected to take home. Since I'm not a huge fan of Nomadland I'd give to Borat because I want to see a dozen screenwriters try to give a speech. 


Will Win: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman.

Should Win: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman.

It’s Trial vs PYW. Woman is the more daring, original script. Trial feels like standard Aaron Sorkin stuff. If Trial has a hope in the world of winning Best Pic it will probably also win here. And if PYW wants a chance to win BP it will probably have to win here as well. I think PYW will take this one in a squeaker. It 's no secret that's what I'm rooting for and of all the nominees it deserves it. 


Will Win: Soul.

I bet against Pixar last year. That was a mistake.


Will Win: Nomadland.

The pretty little film that could seems like a lock here.


Will Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.


Will Win: My Octopus Teacher.

All of my favorite documentaries from this year weren’t even nominated. Ehh.


Will Win: Sound of Metal.

This is an important category. If Trial wins, I think it has a good shot at Best Pic. If Sound of Metal wins I think things will play out as I predicted. It used to be rare for a film to win Best Pic and only one other award but Spotlight pulled it off not too long ago. So Trial sort of needs this but doesn’t really. Heck, even The Father could win here.


Will Win: Another Round.

When the director gets into Best Director, that’s a good sign.


Will Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

It feels like I’m picking Ma Rainey to win so many awards, but does the Academy really like it that much? It didn’t even get into Best Picture. So who knows really. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Hillbilly Elegy or Pinocchio win.


Will Win: Soul.

I think Minari could win but Soul’s score is really inventive and it’s about time Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor won again.


Will Win: “Speak Now” One Night in Miami.

Not the greatest category this year so I think they will vote for the one that has won previous awards. It would be cool if “Husavik” won even though I wasn’t a huge fan of that movie.


Will Win: Mank.

The tribute to Hollywood of the past won last year so it makes sense that the equally in love with Hollywood Mank would win this year.


Will Win: Sound of Metal.

Yup there is only one Sound category this year. So no more worrying about these categories splitting. And for this inaugural year I’m betting on the film with “sound” in the title.


Will Win: Tenet.

What a weird category this year. In what is usually filled with blockbusters you’ve actually heard of, this category is filled with stuff you probably haven’t. Which is why I think Tenet will prevail here because its probably the one people have either seen or at least heard of the most. PSA: Love & Monsters is great!


Will Win: "If Anything Happens I Love You"


Will Win: "A Love Song for Latasha"


Will Win: "Two Distant Strangers"

Friday, March 19, 2021

Exploding Teens, Promising Young Women, and Borat, Oh My! The Best Films of 2020

2020 was certainly an anomaly when it came to movies. Films got releases throughout the year but you had to sort of look extra hard to find the good stuff. But it was also easier than ever to gain access to a world of great movies from the comfort of your own home. I literally only got to see THREE movies in the theater last year. That is an all-time low for me. It’s bizarre to think that most of the films that got released this year were of the smaller, indie variety. There weren’t many big blockbusters and Tenet was really the only major studio film to get a full theatrical release in the midst of the pandemic. While overall I would consider 2020 to be a “weak” year there was an eclectic mix of fun stuff. So here’s my list of the best movies of 2020. Better late than never!

1) Promising Young Woman

A delightfully savage, dark comedy about a woman seeking vengeance. It’s probably not quite what you’re expecting going into it. It’s not a violent exploitation flick. But is sort of has the aspirations to be one. It’s a lot of different movies rolled into one and really wowed me when I saw it. The film’s twisted script always kept me guessing and the outstanding cast of familiar faces is simply wonderful. Care Mulligan is magnificent and charming as is her onscreen chemistry with co-star Bo Burnham. Writer/director Emerald Fennell has crafted a simply exquisite piece of cinema that is feminist, dark, funny, tragic, and mind-blowing. I’ve watched this over and over again and I just wanna watch it again.

2) The Invisible Man

This was my favorite movie of the year until Promising Young Woman came along. Another feminist masterpiece this time the genre is flat-out horror. Another dip into Universal Monster well seemed like a bad idea at the time but this is unconnected to the disastrous Tom Cruise Mummy movie and instead is a wildly different take on the material. Elisabeth Moss gives a stunning performance as a gaslit woman who tries to escape an abusive relationship with a brilliant scientist who is able to turn himself invisible and drive her crazy. Frightening, with stunning special effects, sound design, and music score, The Invisible Man from Saw co-creator Leigh Whannell is another instant classic horror flick from the almost always reliable Blumhouse.

3) Sound of Metal

Watching this was a wonderful experience. I thought I wouldn’t relate to a story about a heavy metal drummer but I found this story to be extremely moving. Riz Ahmed gives a terrific performance as a heavy metal drummer who begins to experience serious hearing loss. The way director Darius Marder throws you into the situation with the main character is truly amazing. The sound design is terrific. The supporting cast is wonderful. This is a surprisingly emotional and kinetic watch.

4) Freaky

Blumhouse does it again! Yet another body swap movie but this time with a horror bend. What a freaking delight this was. Director Christopher Landon who made the equally enjoyable Happy Death Day is firing on all cylinders here. Blockers’ Kathryn Newton is a high school girl who swaps bodies with a serial killer played by Vince Vaughn. Hilarity and gory deaths ensue! A wonderful script, characterizations, and a flat-out wonderful ode to the slasher genre highlight this silly romp and it’s pretty darn graphic. I think if we were in the “normal times” this would have been a HUGE box office hit.

5) Tenet

Watching Tenet on the big screen was awesome. Christopher Nolan rarely fails to creative a wonderfully immersive cinematic experience. Another time-bending story with good guys and bad guys and the threat of World War III. Kinda sounds like 2020 in a nutshell.

6) Love & Monsters

I’m so happy to call this an Oscar nominated film. Dylan O’Brien stars in this sci-fi adventure about a post-apocalyptic world in which giant monsters have taken over the planet. Yeah is basically Zombieland with big bugs but it has a lot heart and humor to spare and one of the best onscreen duos of the year: O’Brien and his dog Boy.

7) Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

I love the Borat movies. I love how progressive and political they are even though on the surface they seem like silly frat house comedies. Sure a lot of the humor is gross and juvenile but it works. Sacha Baron Cohen is freaking brilliant and his young new co-star (and Oscar nominee!) Maria Bakalova is just as hilarious. The fact that they were able to make this during the pandemic and weave that into the storyline is absolutely bonkers and genius. I sat on my couch laughing hysterically at this and I’m not ashamed.

8) Minari

What a lovely film. The ultimate story of the American dream. A Korean family move to Arkansas in the 80s and dad Steven Yeun wants to start a vegetable farm must to the dismay of his wife. Meanwhile there is this delightful buddy comedy subplot going on between grandma (Youn Yuh-jung) and grandson (Alan Kim). Moving, gorgeous, simple, emotional.

9) Spontaneous

A teen rom-com with exploding teens. It’s moving and horrifying. Think The Fault in Our Stars except instead of teens dying of cancer, they randomly explode without warning. This is actually a disturbingly relevant, covid-appropriate flick that is about fear of the unknown. There is even a whole sequence in which the teens are quarantined. Love Simon’s Katherine Langford and Charlie Plummer make wonderful, charismatic leads. This movie is a punch to the gut.

10) Birds of Prey

If you told me that I’d have a DC movie on this list and no Marvel movies I’d call you crazy. But here we are. Birds of Prey, featuring a wonderful cast of great female actors kicks ass and is a candy-colored feast for the eyes. Margot Robbie is fantastic as Harley Quinn and she will make you want a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich like NOW. This is definitely one the most flat-out fun DC movies.

11) Judas and the Black Messiah

A great and powerful movie about Black Panther party chairman Fred Hampton and his friend who is actually an FBI informant. Sort of Malcolm X meets The Departed. This movie has two fantastic central performances from LaKeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya who were both deservedly Oscar nominated.

12) Soul

Another winning, existential Pixar gem about an aspiring jazz musician who learns a life lesson after dying.

13) Happiest Season

A delightful lesbian Christmas rom-com with characters who always don’t make the right decision. In other words, it’s relatable.

14) Dating Amber

A cute Irish import about two outcast teens who fake a straight relationship to ward off the bullies.

15) The Trial of the Chicago 7

I enjoyed this entry in the “based on a true story” political docudrama entry.

16) I Care A Lot

Horrible people, doing horrible things and yet so enjoyable to watch. Rosamund Pike is wonderful.

17) Pieces of a Woman

A breathtaking, panic-inducing (and ultimately tragic) long take opens this heartbreaking and hard-to-watch flick about the pain of grief. I never want to watch it again.

18) Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Electric performances from a nearly unrecognizable Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman. There’s a reason Boseman is the Best Actor frontrunner: he’s incredible.

19) Nomadland

Melodic tale of a woman embracing the nomad lifestyle; filled with local, non-professional actors. Beautiful and meditative, but as someone who loves technology and my possessions, hard to relate to.

20) The Prom

Say what you want about Ryan Murphy and his garish production this was an absolute blast to watch.

Great Docs Spotlight:

Circus of Books (on Netflix!)

Disclosure (on Netflix!)

All In: The Fight for Democracy (on Prime Video!)

Totally Under Control (on Hulu!)

Class Action Park (on HBO Max!)

You Don’t Nomi (digital purchase/rental)