Due to a lack of time or a lack of motivation, I have neglected to write full reviews for many of the 2020 films I have seen in the first half of the year. Instead of relying solely on Letterboxd to get my thoughts out (but if you like movies at all, I’d strongly urge you to download that app), I thought I would offer some quick thoughts on some of the new movies I have not yet reviewed on this blog.
This thriller about a cult-like apartment complex needed to be more exciting. What we get is fairly tepid, and its attempts to thrill the audience are met mostly with yawns or eye rolls.
With a title like “Military Wives,” I hope you won’t be surprised when I tell you this is the schmaltziest movie of the year.
And We Go Green
A documentary about Formula E racing (which uses fuel-efficient electric cars) sounds like it could be very boring, but in reality a lot of the racing scenes and interviews with the eccentric and competitive racers made me wish their races were shown on television so I could follow along with their season.
How to Build a Girl
Actress Beanie Feldstein (“Booksmart,” “Lady Bird”) is unsurprisingly brilliant, but this quirky coming-of-age story didn’t do enough to set it apart from other similar stories (like “Almost Famous”).
The Painter and the Thief
Still my favorite movie of the year, “The Painter and the Thief” is a documentary that feels like a too-good-to-be-true narrative. After her most prized painting is stolen and then lost, a Czech artist decides not to sue the thief, but to paint him.
In the same vein as his “Tire” from a decade ago, director Quentin Depeux’s “Deerskin” is way too dry to be genuinely funny. Still, you almost admire the way actor Jean Dujardin commits to his crazy character.
Disappearance at Clifton Hill
Too often, I finish a noir movie and think, “Wait, did that ending actually make sense?” In this case, maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention because I didn’t really care about the character or her story.
AKA Jane Roe
This Hulu original documentary about the woman at the center of Roe v. Wade and her late-life conversion to Evangelical Christianity will teach you a lot about how evangelical churches manipulate you into joining their cause.
“Babyteeth” is a notable first feature film from its Australian director, but it never rises to the heights of fellow sick-kid dramedy “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Some critics are calling this abortion drama the best movie of the year, but I felt it was too low-key. At times, it felt like a low-budget movie your health teacher would show you right after teaching you about birth control. I actually preferred another 2020 drama about abortion, “The Surrogate” (below).
A documentary has never been nominated for Best Picture, but so far this year, almost half of my Top 10 list is made up of documentaries. “Spaceship Earth” is among them. It tells the story of a group of hippie scientists who quarantine themselves in a large, self-contained ecosystem to see if they can spend the year apart from the world and its resources.
This documentary came out of nowhere. Had I not seen it listed among the participants in a small documentary film festival and then found it available to rent for 99 cents, I wonder how long it would have taken me to find “Tread.” The less you know going into it, the better, but Google it if you want to know what it’s about. It’s worth it.
This drama asks some big questions and relies on you to continue the conversation and come up with your own answers. It’s an ethical puzzle, but it’s worth the time it takes to put together.
Spelling the Dream
Like “Science Fair,” the National Geographic documentary from a few years back, Netflix’s “Spelling the Dream” spends too much time simply showing how smart children prepare for a contest instead of really examining anything too deeply. It’s worth watching, but I feel like it knew showing cute kids excel at things would be enough to satisfy most viewers.
Da 5 Bloods
While Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” was my top movie for 2018, I am aware that he often makes movies for himself, without caring whether everyone who sees it will love it. His best movies are so good, he’s allowed to make whatever weird projects he wants. It’s commendable. “Da 5 Bloods” (also a Netflix original) is definitely not one of those duds. It falls pretty squarely in the “mass consumption” camp. But maybe too much. I disagreed with many of the choices Lee makes. Still, in an off year like 2020, “Da 5 Bloods” is a remarkable and epic adventure story. And with (presumably) Spike Lee’s biggest budget yet and some great performances, it is one of the year’s best.