Zach’s Zany FINAL Top 20 Films Of 2020

Hello again so soon! You probably saw this longer post coming though, as I had posted little mini blurbs for my final shittiest films of 2020 list last week. If you are a long time follower of my reviews, best of/worst of lists, what not, you’ll know that my final picks, on both lists, are very rare right before the start of the new year. Usually I will post my worst of list a week or two into January, and then my best of list the last week of January. This is because some 2020 films that qualify for the Oscars are only released in New York and LA right before the end of the year and aren’t available to the little people like me until mid January. As as we all know, this year has been quite strange because of the virus that shall not be named. There are a lot of “Best of 2020” films on mainstream critics list that you won’t see on here and you wouldn’t have seen me review the past couple of months either…mainly because they don’t release to the general public until late next month, or fuck, even late February because of the minor delay in not only the Golden Globes telecast, but the Academy Awards extending 2020 eligibility until late February this oh so special shitty year. I made the decision early on that you won’t see films like Pieces of a Woman, Nomadland, One Night In Miami, and French Exit on my lists because I don’t want to give you a best of 2020 list in late February. Because of the virus that shall not be named, you can’t even see the once blurry line separating one year’s films to the next anymore.

So from now on, even after this whole bullshit virus that shall not be named situation has went away, I will be counting films that I see that are released each year between January 1st 12:01 am and December 31st 11:59 pm central standard time on my lists. If I see a movie that was released between that ‘EXACTLY A YEAR’ period AFTER THAT PERIOD, I will still review them, but not put them on any lists because I don’t feel like pulling my hair out changing them. There are some movies that I don’t want to push off my lists even for other that are better or worse at that point. For example, I plan to see Monster Hunter with my good friend Josh on January 1st. It came out December 18th. So even if it is a giant piece of shit, the shittiest shit I have ever seen, it will not be on my 2020 or 2021 worst list. It’s just a shitty movie I’ve seen stuck in between the blur of all the other shitty movies I’ve seen in my life time that is one giant blur in itself. Another example for a potential great movie, when Nomadland eventually releases in February, and if I actually love the film, it will now be counted on my 2021 best of list. Not 2020. Because of this stupid fucking release schedule. Because these movies MUST be shown in theaters apparently and not just released on streaming for shitty, selfish, and greedy reasons. Everyone has had to adapt this year, and so am I, but on MY TERMS. Anyway, what am I doing still yapping about my rules? You’ve come to read my stupid little blurbs on movies that I’ve done reviews on already earlier in the year. Little blurbs explaining why these films are in my FINAL Top 20 of 2020 list. I promise you that I will not overstay my welcome on most of my small explanations. This is just backing up the list that you saw published a day or so ago on Facebook and Instagram with paperwork.

BLACKJACK 21: BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIE FILM and THE WRETCHED

So instead of a giant, long honorable mentions list, each year I do a “BLACKJACK 21” where, just like a Blackjack perfect 2 card hand, I pick 2 movies that I felt horrible for kicking off my Top 20 list that I would still like to give praise to.

When I first watched BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIE FILM, I laughed my fucking ass off and wanted to sing the praises of the performance that Maria Bokolova made as Borat’s daughter. And it was on my top 20 list for the last two months. Unfortunately for it, and other comedies of its kind, in subsequent viewings, the movie doesn’t quite hold up as well as it did on that first hilarious outing. You start to see the cracks in the film, such as Borat doesn’t really trick that many real people into saying really horrible shit this time around. And finding out that some sequences were staged more than you thought they were doesn’t help either. But, Maria Bokolova’s performance and the character arc of Borat accepting and loving his daughter even though she is a woman, worked better as a story than it did in the original, even though the original’s pranks and laughs still hold up and are much stronger than this sequel’s is. But I still wanted to give Sascha Baron Cohen some praise for making me laugh really hard initially in this shitty shitty year.

And now THE WRETCHED or “The little low budget horror film that could that made a boat load of money in drive-in theaters when regular theaters were closed due to the virus that shall not be named.” It’s actually a decent film and the reason why I mainly wanted to sing it’s praises even though it’s not on my top twenty list, is because after subsequent viewings, the movie is still scary and creepy as fuck, and THAT TWIST ENDING. The twist at the end makes the whole movie, as I hadn’t ever seen a twist like that before and the little tiny clues hinting at it throughout are wonderful to catch after multiple viewings. Quite brilliant. If my list were to extend, The Wretched would probably be #21 and Borat 2 would be #22. I think though they make a perfect movie Blackjack hand for a year where it seemed like the house always won. In this case, the house is the virus that shall not be named.

20. THE HUNT

Let’s call this film the little political commentary that could, shall we? This film has somehow managed to survive my list, even though it came out all the way back in March (then again there are 5 others that have as well, a couple even before March). It also was one of the last couple of films to hit theaters right before the virus that shall not be named shut them all down. When I first saw it, in a theater thankfully, I thought it was good, but not great. But after 3 or 4 subsequent viewings, viewing it each time with a new audience by my side, and getting all the little tidbits and jokes that I somehow didn’t catch before, it turned into a great 90 minute thrill ride.

19. BAD EDUCATION

The only movie on my list that probably should be considered a made for television movie (it was nominated for Emmy’s and not Oscar’s after all). It premiered on HBO exclusively, but you know what? Fuck it, it’s THAT type of year, and I decided that I enjoyed it so, so much (Hugh Jackman gives one of the best performances of his career), and the fact that it was once initially supposed to go to theaters but I think was bought by HBO even before the pandemic, that I’m including it on my list here. It’s a very enjoyable dramedy that is better watched if you don’t know anything about the real life event it is depicting.

18. BIRDS OF PREY: HARLEY QUINN

Yeah, I could spell out the whole title, but 2020 has made me lazy, so fuck it, you know what movie I’m talking about. This movie is one of those to hit theaters a little bit before the shut down that managed to survive my list (this pick used to be Bad Boys For Life, but after subsequent viewings of both, Birds of Prey easily holds up better). Margot Robbie IS HARLEY QUINN. And the more realistic and smaller, more down to Earth, story/vibe that takes place in the bigger DCEU is a delight to behold. And the plot revolving around the catalyst and need for the perfect breakfast egg sandwich? Brilliant.

17. THE LODGE

I’ll put this simply, if you love or hate mostly psychological horror movies like Hereditary and/or Midsommar, you will love or hate The Lodge. If Ari Aster had made this, it would’ve been a perfect horror seasonal trilogy. For right now it is a spiritual horror seasonal trilogy until Ari Aster’s third film comes out. A dark and brooding horror in the winter time with an insane twist.

16. FATMAN

Mel Gibson plays Santa Claus in a realistic down to Earth dark world where a little shit spoiled rich child hires a hitman, played by Walton Goggins, to bring him Santa’s head because he’s pissed he got a lump of coal in his stocking for Christmas. THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR WHY THIS MOVIE IS ON MY LIST.

15. FREAKY

A entertaining as fuck new spin on the body switch movie by turning it into a Friday the 13th like horror film. It also holds a fantastic performance by Vince Vaughn, and one of the few movies to be released in theaters after they re opened up after shut down. Easy-peasy why this film is on my list.

14. LOVE AND MONSTERS

This was supposed to release Feb 2021, but Paramount upped the date and put it on streaming so they could cash in on people being bored at home. They made the right decision. The movie is entertaining as hell and probably got more eyes on it than if it would have premiered in theaters this next uncertain 2021. I loved every minute of it. Fantastic creature effects.

13. LET HIM GO

Close in its release date to Freaky, Let Him Go also managed to push past the storm and release in theaters after they reopened after the shut down. A modern day Western drama and part thriller that tells a simple story of a couple of grandparents loving their grandson so much that they want to get him away from the dangerous family he’s currently living with ( their son died and his wife married an abusive asshole). This filmed touched my soul because of my parents everlasting love to my son, their grandson, Grayson. The whole movie reminded me of them. It also had some stand up and cheer kill moments in the third act that made me emotional as well.

12. THE GENTLEMEN

The earliest released film of 2020 that is on this list, Guy Ritchie has easily made his best gangster film and general film since Snatch and made up for the very shitty Disney Aladdin remake he had his hand in in 2019. ‘Nuff said.

11. PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

The first of three very recently released movies on this list, Promising Young Woman also braved the theaters during these hard times and managed to turn the comedic revenge drama on its head with not only a powerful performance by Carey Mulligan but a gut punch of a twist ending that you won’t see coming. It will make you or break you, and since it is on this list, it obviously made me.

10. THE INVISIBLE MAN

Another film that hit theaters a little bit before everything shut down. Leigh Whannell managed to give us his best combo written and directed film yet with some expert camera shots, a slap in the face twist scene in the middle of the film that you won’t see coming, and an expertly written ending. Oh, and another wonderful performance by Elizabeth Moss.

9. THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME

This film is either really great for some people, or really meh to the rest. I’m in the great category. This film reminded me of some fantastic dramas of the 90s like Sleepers and The Shawhsank Redemption. One of Netflix’s best original films ever released for sure.

8. SYNCHRONIC

A film that not only braved the storm and released in theaters after reopening, but doubled down by not simultaneously releasing on streaming, in fact, as of this writing, there is no place to watch it (it comes out to buy, rent and stream finally January 12th). But please do watch it eventually, and don’t let anyone ruin the story for you, even though as a hint of what it’s about, it has a tiny tiny….VERY VERY TINY bit in common with my #1 pick on this list. They both do different things with their similar concepts is all I will say.

7. SPONTANEOUS

The best romantic drama of 2020 that has all along tried to be labeled as a romantic comedy, even though it’s story is about a group of students in the same year class at a high school that spontaneously combust into bloody explosions for no reason. A very well written and smart film that I guess you could also label as the best film of 2020 that has a pandemic like plot structure, even though it was made WAYYYYYY before the pandemic in 2019. Excellent performance by 13 Reasons Why’s Katherine Langford as well.

6. WONDER WOMAN 1984

Fuck the haters, I love this film. If you are one of the ones bashing it to death, then you ARE A FUCKING SIMPLETON. I don’t care, I said it. You want to be one of those little assholes that only like your superhero films with clear cut good guys and bad guys in an all out brawl at the end of the film? Be my God damn guest. I want something different, and this “Monkey’s Paw/Wish Upon A Wonder Woman” story fit that bill for me. I’m tired of the same ol’ same ol’ action sequence upon action sequence trying to save the world from a giant baddie story. It’s been done to death. Fuck some of you simpletons. Seriously.

5. THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

An Aaron Sorkin written and directed fantastic dialogue court room drama about a startling event in our nation’s history. You can ALWAYS sign me up for that stuff.

4. SOUL

If there is a clear cut winner this year of film releases, it really isn’t the writer and director of my #1 pick, it’s Disney/Pixar. That’s because, spoiler alert for my list: my #3 pick is also Disney/Pixar. They managed to release two soulful (pun intended) animated films that hit me in the feels with every single frame and made me choke up and bawl with happiness in their climaxes (not to mention Disney basically won my heart already with the 2nd near perfect season of The Mandalorian). One movie asks the question: what is our purpose in life? The other is about family and brotherly love. The latter wins because it made me think of my brothers and my son Grayson and I haven’t cried like that during a film since the end of E.T. I cried just a little at the end of this one though. They are really tied with how well made and thought provoking they are.

3. ONWARD

This came out right before theaters shut down as well. And it didn’t make that much money it’s opening weekend because of the giant fear the virus that will not be named was starting to invoke with people. Fuck that shit, I still saw it in theaters and if you want to know the reason why it is #3 on my list, read my description of #4 again. I love you Disney/Pixar. Always have, always will.

2. PALM SPRINGS

Who fucking knew that a ANDY SAMBERG starring film, one that was also released as a HULU AND NOT NETFLIX ORIGINAL would be #2 on my best of list? Seriously, not even I could’ve predicted that. This films plays with the Groundhog Day formula the best I’ve seen since that original Bill Murray film. It’s funny, touching, smart, funny, well acted, emotional, funny, hilarious, hilarious, hilarious, fun, and did I already mention funny? It’s everything that one needs in a comedy. And it holds up perfectly on multiple repeating viewings.

  1. TENET

Which brings us to my #1 pick, the most non-shocking pick of them all if you even know me well at all…Christopher Nolan’s new time concept thriller. The man loves to play with time. Memento, Interstellar, my favorite film of all time; Inception. He’s a master of the ‘What If Time Were Like This’ concepts. Here is no different. Just like my #6 pick, fuck the haters on this one too. You fucking simpletons either didn’t like it and gave it a bad review for one of several stupid reasons:

a. you were pissed that Christopher Nolan said fuck the pandemic, didn’t have his film release delayed any more and just put it out into theaters even though they were still shut down in New York and California (FUCK YOU CUOMO AND NEWSOM, I HOPE YOU CONTRACT THE VIRUS AND DIE). EVEN THOUGH NOT ONE OUTBREAK OF THE VIRUS HAS BEEN LINKED TO A REOPENED THEATER AND THEIR SAFETY PROTOCOLS AND CLEANLINESS HAVE BEEN TOP NOTCH EVER SINCE THEY REOPENED IN LATE JUNE. AGAIN, FUCK YOU ALL.

b. you didn’t understand the film, because you are a stupid motherfucking dumb ass simpleton. Yeah, again, I said it. Fuck you.

c. again, you are just that stupid and petty

Granted the sound editing and mixing could’ve been better in theaters, but this movie is still a masterpiece in my mind. I’ve seen it multiple times now and I still don’t get bored with any second of it. The regular editing of this film is perfect, the fact that there are less than 300 special effect shots in this is astonishing, almost all practical effects…just wow. That’s all I have left to say: WOW.

If you aren’t one of the simpletons mentioned above, thanks for reading. I’m just going to end it there. Saying anything about how 2021 should be is a jinx in itself. Just keep watching those movies, no matter how they are released…as long as they are released! NO. MORE. DELAYS!

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: TENET (Spoiler Free!)

WARNING: If you like to leave your brain at the door before you watch a theatrical movie…I can guarantee you that you probably will not like TENET. You will have to use all of your brain and then some to decipher the many layers of puzzles and enigma’s that this movie has in store for you, so if you are not up to the task, I wouldn’t even bother seeing it if I were you. While I understood most (if not all) of the movie, it is definitely going to require several more viewings before I can put the last pieces of the puzzle in place and enjoy this for the masterpiece of a film that it is. I love deciphering intricate movies and love it when they don’t spoon feed any of it to its audience. It challenges you, which is what some films SHOULD do. Another WARNING: the sound mixing in my IMAX theater in Dallas was terrible, but I’ve heard this isn’t a one off problem. I’ve also been told to see a digital print of it at a NEWER theater to be able to hear ALL of the dialogue that isn’t drowned out by the bass and Ludwig Goransson’s masterful (and future Oscar winning) score. Nolan has had sound mixing issues before, with Interstellar, Dunkirk, and The Dark Knight Rises, so like those, it will probably be fixed once it comes to disc, and even if fixed, will probably watch it once with subtitles on. If you think you can handle those warnings, well then, boy are you in for a treat. I’ll just be blunt now if that’s okay with you: Tenet is my absolute favorite film of 2020, it’s the best film (IMO) of 2020, and I hope it wins most of the technical awards (not sound mixing though) at next year’s Oscars. Is it in my top ten favorite films of all time, did it dethrone Inception at #1? More viewings will have to be required to determine the first question (but probably not even though I still think it’s a masterpiece), and definitely no to the second, but really, are you surprised by any of this?

I’ve been hyping this film for months, even a year, since a cryptic teaser for it was played in front of Hobbs & Shaw, and writer/director Christopher Nolan had barely begun filming the damn movie. I’ve been wanting to see this movie so badly you are probably sick and tired of me talking about it. But to be honest, now that I’ve seen the film and this review will be one of my final written words on the matter, I don’t want to reveal any of the surprises that this has in store for you. I can now only hope that this review won’t be too long (I always say that but you never know), and you won’t get bored by it. I can for sure say that on a visual and technical level, there is no better film making. This film, confirmed by Nolan himself, has less than 300 visual effects shots. That’s lower than the average romantic comedy. That’s insane. And the more practical effects any film has, the better it is going to be, because it is going to look and feel realistic. The score by Ludwig Goransson, who is stepping in for Hans Zimmer because he couldn’t due to Dune obligations, is amazing and I want to own it and listen to it by itself right now. It’s right up there alongside Inception, Interstellar, and Dark Knight (all fucking directed by Nolan) for me as one of the best cinematic scores of all time. The acting is also incredible. John David Washington, son of Denzel, completely sets himself apart from his father in his roles, whether it be this or BlackKklansman. Here, he is charismatic, funny, and almost brought a tear to my eye in the second to last scene. Robert Pattinson, who I was fine with even during Twilight, is fantastic here too. He steals all of his scenes with his accent, dialogue and charisma. and with this and Good Time, I cannot wait to see his eventual portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman and his scene chewing role in this month’s Netflix original film, The Devil All The Time. Kenneth Branagh shows why his film Artemis Fowl sucked so much ass (his concentration must’ve been in this role) as he is a fantastic villain in this, one that combines several James Bond bad guys into something totally unique, hateful, and frightening. But the emotional core of the movie belongs to the great Elizabeth Debicki, who’s soulful performance completes the few details we actually get about her character’s background.

If you were looking for a plot summary in my review, look elsewhere, as I have said this review is spoiler free, but for something quite vague, just look at IMDB’s perfect log line: “Armed with only one word, Tenet, and fighting for the survival of the entire world, a Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.” If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know that there is something up with inverted like time travel in this movie…but you should really just watch the movie instead of trying to solve things during my review. Speaking of espionage, this is basically Christopher Nolan’s James Bond film he’s always wanted to make, but on time and science fiction steroids. I loved every minute of it…except for the sound mixing of course. Let me change course really quickly here; I want to address some critic’s people’s problems they are having with this movie. Those that are saying its humorless? Get the fuck out of here. This movie has quite a bit of humor, as my friend and I laughed at all the stress reducing one-liners this film constantly had every five minutes. You must be out of your fucking mind if you didn’t think it had humor. “But Zach, the character’s didn’t have any back stories!” Yes, yes they absolutely did, you just weren’t paying attention and/or didn’t get why some of them didn’t seem to. One character is a CIA agent, he probably doesn’t have any family and being recruited into a top secret organization during the movie cements that, he don’t need much back story or family problems with him. Another character’s backstory, if explained to anyone that hasn’t seen this movie, would ruin the entire fucking thing. This character’s backstory is slowly revealed during the movie, which made things really interesting. The main girl protagonist had a tiny but powerful backstory motivation, and so did the fucking villain, so I don’t know what the fuck critics are talking about. They must’ve been too busy trying to follow the “convoluted” plot. Convoluted, by the way, is a word that 75% of film critics use when they can’t figure out the narrative on their own and wish they were spoon fed the plot. I’ve seen reviews for this film use that word way too often, which means that those critics probably need to watch the film several more times in order to understand that they are using the wrong adjective. Also, I think this movie had less expository dialogue and explained much less than Inception did, so why are those that loved Inception but didn’t like this even complaining? In fact, I am inclined to only agree with only one of their harsh critiques…which I don’t need to repeat what that is, as I’ve already mentioned it two to three times.

No matter if you see this film in theaters or eventually watch it when it comes out on home media, if you like intricate puzzles, fantastic visuals, a booming masterful score, pitch perfect direction, excellent performances, and you want to feel like you are on an adventure that you can just escape into (but still not turn your brain off) completely, look no further than Tenet. I loved every single solitary second and backwards second (you’ll see) of it and will definitely be making a couple of trips to the theater to put all of its pieces in place, and then several more times when it hits home media just to enjoy it by myself or with loved ones that are up to the challenge. My wife thought this movie was better than Inception…which was weird for me to hear, but whatever. My friend Josh, who I also saw this with, loved it as much as I did. I would definitely see this in the biggest yet NEWEST theater out there that there is, not necessarily in IMAX as Nolan intended it. If the sound mixing was perfect I would be recommending that format 100%. The visuals are something else, because they feel real and there is not one second of CGI that makes you cringe with how fake it looks, because there is hardly any it in general, and I honestly couldn’t tell where it was implemented. The movie is so much fun, it will take your breath away, and it will make you think about its implications long after the end title card comes up. But if you are one of those that thought Inception was hard to keep up with…uh, that’s like a walk in the park compared to this movie. Christopher Nolan has once again taken us to school, and has shown us there are still lessons to be learned in narrative storytelling, visuals, and almost all other technical film making aspects. Tenet may not be his grand opus (that still belongs to Inception in my mind), but he has made a perfect giant encore, one that you will be talking about more and more for years to come. Tenet is one of the reasons why I love going to the movies.

My ranking of Christopher Nolan films:

  1. Inception
  2. The Dark Knight
  3. The Prestige
  4. Tenet
  5. Batman Begins
  6. Interstellar
  7. Dunkirk
  8. Memento
  9. The Dark Knight Rises
  10. Insomnia
  11. Following