Blake Crane’s Top 25 Films of 2020

As we near the end of our yearly wrap-up and 2020 is about to be put behind us forever, we have Blake‘s top 25.

Check out all of our lists over here.

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10. Palm Springs (Max Barbakow)

A delightful spin on the time loop/Groundhog Day conundrum, with a creative script from Andy Siara that freshens up the scenario and tremendous chemistry between Andy Samberg and standout Cristin Milioti that makes reliving the same day with them a blast. J.K. Simmons is also perfect as the wrench in the plot’s machine.

minari
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9. Minari (Lee Isaac Chung)

Performances are uniformly terrific in Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical film about a Korean family that moves from California to rural Arkansas acreage so the patriarch can chase his dream of working a farm to provide. While beautiful landscapes and a sweet score underline the tenderness, perspective is provided for all three generations living together in a small trailer – from day-to-day dealings, to hopes and dreams and profound and practical fears. 

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8. Nomadland (Chloé Zhao)

Much like her previous film The Rider, Chloé Zhao’s latest is a compelling character study that feels completely genuine, aided by filming in beautiful locations in several states with locals and members of the nomadic community. Frances McDormand disappears into the central role, the focus left on the characters and their traveling lifestyle. Gorgeous in its simplicity and sincerity.

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7. News of the World (Paul Greengrass)

Known for his frenetic naturalism, Paul Greengrass switches gears with great effect in directing a Western odyssey about connecting with people and finding your true home. Tom Hanks’s everyman hero charm is also recalibrated a bit to include the scars of war and loss (and capitalism). It all works, and Helena Zengel is equally as fantastic as the girl being shepherded to her family against her will. 

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6. Small Axe: Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen)

Steve McQueen’s series of five films is fantastic, Lover’s Rock standing out as a pure expression of freedom. The quarters in that London home may be cramped, but the spirit within feels boundless as young people mingle at a pop-up blues party. The verite style offers a communal experience, all while providing cultural context to a specific time and place.

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5. Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg)

Extremely uncomfortable techno-body horror that makes no compromises with its shocks, of both the corporal and mental variety. Possessor is upper-tier genre filmmaking that communicates its complicated constructs without getting bogged down in unwieldy plot mechanics, instead assaulting the senses unrelentingly and so, so satisfyingly.

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4. Underwater (William Eubank)

A fast-paced disaster film/creature feature that tosses you into the fray immediately and keeps the tension and thrills steady throughout. The cast is great, all believable in whatever their duties are in this ocean-floor engineering marvel turned nightmare deathtrap, especially Kristen Stewart as the smart, brave, yet not always entirely confident, engineer. In how it generates suspense and parses out relevant story details enriching its overburdened characters, this thing is remarkably tight, and supremely entertaining.

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3. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman)

From the quiet desperation of its early scenes to THE scene (from which the title is derived), Never Rarely Sometimes Always is unflinching in its emotional journey and the exploration of a world where a minefield of neglect, abuse, and constant roadblocks is being navigated by pregnant 17-year-old Autumn and her cousin Skylar. Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder give two of the best performances of the year in the roles; the understanding they convey helps makes a closeup of their hands touching absolutely wrecking.

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2. Spontaneous (Brian Duffield)

Showcasing an absolute mastery of tone, writer/director’s Brian Duffield’s adaptation of Aaron Starmer’s novel manages to be a hilarious, heartfelt, charming, and poignant coming-of-age romance/satire… in which high school seniors begin exploding. What could be incredibly twee or annoyingly over-the-top remains grounded in its own, however ridiculous, reality. Underdiscussed this year, Spontaneous is destined for cult midnight movie immortality.

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1. Sound of Metal (Darius Marder)

One may expect sound design to be crucial in a film in which a drummer loses his hearing, and Sound of Metal’s is superb, delivering an auditory – and lack of auditory – experience that’s unrivaled in how it generates empathy. Even more effective are a trio of extraordinary performances from Riz Ahmed, Paul Raci, and Olivia Cooke, that fill the film with a sense of authenticity. Far from one-note, the film is endlessly thoughtful and multi-layered in its examination of disability, addiction, recovery, and the need to create and connect. A remarkable debut for director/co-writer Darius Marder.

25. Dick Johnson is Dead (Kirsten Johnson)

24. Color Out of Space (Richard Stanley)

23. Spree (Eugene Kotlyarenko)

22. The Beach House (Jeffrey A. Brown)

21. Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee)

20. The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson)

19. Host (Rob Savage)

18. Zombi Child (Bertrand Bonello)

17. Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles)

16. Deerskin (Quentin Dupieux)

15. David Byrne’s American Utopia (Spike Lee)

14. Blow the Man Down (Danielle Krudy, Bridget Savage Cole)

13. The Dark and the Wicked (Bryan Bertino)

12. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)

11. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman)