Because I usually watch new movies at the cinema, and of course these were mostly shut in 2020, I’ve had to improvise a little bit with this list of the 10 best films from last year. A few weren’t actually new, but just new to me – the first time I’d seen them. That said, despite a few major releases being delayed, there was some rather decent viewing to be had. Please note: this spiel does not include references to “pivoting”, “unprecedented” nor, “We’re all in this together”.
Calamity Jane (1953)
Not normally drawn to musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood, this delightfully diverting bonbon starring Doris Day was thoroughly entertaining. Whip crack-away!
AFP detective Aaron Falk (Eric Bana) returns to his Mallee home to attend the funeral of an old school mate, Luke, accused of the murder-suicide of his young family. When he’s asked by Luke’s parents to look into the crime, the trail of clues lead to an unlikely source, and helps solve an older, equally troubling death from Aaron’s past.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Eurovision is so hammy and camp that it basically sends itself up. Yet Will Ferell and Rachel McAdams take things a step further as unlikely Icelandic contestants, Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdóttir. Elves are involved, and the film contains the song “JaJa Dingdong”.
Set in 1919 in Arnhem Land, High Ground explores relations between the Indigenous community and the unwelcome police presence, and how misunderstandings and entrenched prejudices have devastating consequences. A nuanced script is buoyed by wonderful performances, led by old hand Simon Baker.
Made in Italy
It has been many years since the death of Natalia, mother to Jack (Micheál Richardson) and wife to renowned artist Robert (Liam Neeson). Perhaps repairing their dilapidated house in Tuscany can also help mend the fissures in their relationship in this picturesque drama/comedy made more nuanced by the film’s connection to real life. (Neeson is actually father to Richardson, whose actress mother Natasha died in a skiing accident in 2009 when he was 13).
The Old Guard
In this kinetic and nifty actioner, Charlize Theron plays the head of a cadre of immortal super soldiers who have battled throughout time to keep evil at bay. Could Big Pharma be the foe that brings them undone?
OK, I had already seen the original cut of this Tony Scott masterpiece (as described by Quentin Tarantino) before, but not the Director’s Cut, which is much tighter and propulsive than the original edit, focusing more on the doomed lovers (Kevin Costner and Madeline Stowe) and less on the ruthless husband they cross (Anthony Quinn). Sumptuous and sultry.
Some Like it Hot (1959)
After two male musicians (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) witness a mob hit, they disguise themselves in drag and flee. Laughter and confusion ensue in this clever and subtly subversive diversion. The dialogue sparkles, and the cast too shines. And if you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss about Marilyn Monroe is about, this is a good place to start.
Although I really didn’t like this time-travelling mind-bender from Christopher Nolan that much on first encounter, I subsequently relaxed into it. It’s possible to enjoy this slick, visually splendid (but silly) film if you just let your mind go. Your body will follow.
In this tricky off-kilter French suspense film, it always feels like we’re a little behind the action. But that’s the deftness of the script on display in this formidable cross-cultural outing, whose storyline centres around the translation of a major new thriller as orchestrated by its unscrupulous publisher.