Top Ten Films:

  1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)
  2. Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg, 2020)
  3. The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson, 2019)
  4. For Sama (Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts, 2019)
  5. Sound of Metal (Darius Marder, 2019)
  6. Uncut Gems (Benny and Josh Safdie, 2019)
  7. Nuestras madres (Our Mothers, Cesar Diaz, 2019)
  8. Boys State (Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, 2020)
  9. The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019)
  10. Wolfwalkers (Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, 2020)

Honourable mentions (listed alphabetically):
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Marielle Heller, 2019)
A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick, 2019)
Babyteeth (Shannon Murphy, 2019)
David Byrne’s American Utopia (Spike Lee, 2020)
Dick Johnson Is Dead (Kirsten Johnson, 2020)
Emma. (Autumn de Wilde, 2020)
Feels Good Man (Arthur Jones, 2020)
Honey Boy (Alma Har’el, 2019)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)
Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)
Mank (David Fincher, 2020)
Mignonnes (Cuties, Maïmouna Doucouré, 2020)
Morgana (Josie Hess and Isabel Peppard, 2019)
Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)
Palm Springs (Max Barbakow, 2020)
Relic (Natalie Erika James, 2020)
Soul (Pete Docter, 2020)
The Climb (Michael Angelo Covino, 2019)
The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)
The Personal History of David Copperfield (Armando Iannucci, 2019)

Favourite films screened in Australia at (virtual) festivals:
Black Bear (Lawrence Michael Levine, 2020)
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross, 2020)
Charter (Amanda Kernell, 2020)
First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2019)
Lara (Jan-Ole Gerster, 2019)
Metri Shesh Va Nim (Just 6.5, Saeed Roustayi, 2019)
Some Kind of Heaven (Lance Oppenheim, 2020)
Suk Suk (Twilight’s Kiss, Ray Yeung, 2019)
Welcome to Chechnya (David France, 2020)
Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema (Mark Cousins, 2018)

nicolás carrasco


Ne croyez surtout pas que je hurle (Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream, Frank Beauvais, 2019)
Uncut Gems (Benny and Josh Safdie, 2019)
Fourteen (Dan Sallitt, 2019)
Ficción privada (Private Fiction, Andrés Di Tella, 2019)
Journal de septembre (September Diary, Eric Pauwels, 2019)
Om det oändliga (About Endlessness, Roy Andersson, 2019)
Thorax (Siegfried A. Fruhauf, 2019)
Diari d’un confinement (Octavi Brühl, 2020)
The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)
Atenas (César González, 2019)
La deuda (Gustavo Fontán, 2019)
Atlantis (Valentyn Vasyanovych, 2019)
Tlamess (Ala Eddine Slim, 2019)
My Mexican Bretzel (Nuria Giménez, 2019)
Enquanto estamos aqui (While We Are Here, Clarissa Campolina, Luiz Pretti, 2019)
Las mil y una (One in a Thousand, Clarisa Navas, 2020)
VFW (Joe Begos, 2019)
Stump the Guesser (Guy Maddin, 2020)
Richard Jewell (Clint Eastwood, 2019)
A febre (The Fever, Maya Da-Rin, 2019)
Un película hecha de (Malena Solarz, Nicolás Zukerfeld, 2019)
Caterina (Dan Sallitt, 2019)
Playback. Ensayo de una despedida (Playback, Agustina Comedi, 2019)
Noite perpétua (Perpetual Night, Pedro Peralta, 2020)
Krabi, 2562 (Ben Rivers and Anocha Suwichakornpong, 2019)
Bliss (Joe Begos, 2019)
Correspondencia (Correspondence, Carla Simón, Dominga Sotomayor, 2020)
Karote (Spoon, Laila Pakalnina, 2019)
Bajo mi piel morena (Under My Dark Skin, José Celestino Campusano, 2019)
Demonic (Pia Borg, 2019)
Lonely Rivers (Mauro Herce, 2019)
Her Name Was Europa (Anja Dornieden, Juan David González Monroy, 2020)
Las razones del lobo (Marta Hincapié Uribe, 2020)
Cairo Affaire (Mauro Andrizzi, 2019)
Family Romance, LLC (Werner Herzog, 2019)
Aquí y allá (Here and There, Melisa Liebenthal, 2020)
Padre no nuestro (María Cañas, 2019)
Plata o plomo (Natalia Granados, 2019)
Para todas as moças (Castiel Vitorino Brasileiro, 2019)
1982 (Lucas Gallo, 2020)
Médium (Edgardo Cozarinsky, 2020)

Older films encountered for the first time in 2020 (in no particular order):
Xiao Bi de gu shi (Growing Up, Chen Kun-hou, 1983)
Runaway Train (Andrei Konchalovsky, 1985)
The Raid (Hugo Fregonese, 1954)
Flammes (Adolfo Arrieta, 1978)
The Scenic Route (Mark Rappaport, 1978)
La Cecilia (Jean-Louis Comolli, 1975)
3 Bad Men (John Ford, 1926)
Il bell’Antonio (Handsome Antonio, Mauro Bolognini, 1960)
My Name is Julia Ross (Joseph H. Lewis, 1945)
Merrily We Go to Hell (Dorothy Arzner, 1932)
Blonde Crazy (Roy Del Ruth, 1931)
Prisioneros de la tierra (Prisoners of the Earth, Mario Soffici, 1939)
Ať žije republika (Long Live the Republic!, Karel Kachyna, 1965)
Warlock (Edward Dmytryk, 1959)
Fukujusô (A Pheasant’s Eye, Jiro Kawate, 1935)
Decision Before Dawn (Anatole Litvak, 1951)
Woman on the Run (Norman Foster, 1950)
Working Girls (Lizzie Borden, 1986)
Tentatives de se décrire (Trying to Describe Oneself, Boris Lehman, 2005)
Variety (Bette Gordon, 1983)
Parapalos (Ana Poliak, 2004)
Dance, Girl, Dance (Dorothy Arzner, 1940)
Povest plamennykh let (The Story of the Flaming Years, Yuliya Solntseva, 1961)
Les autres (The Others, Hugo Santiago, 1975)
Rock Hudson’s Home Movies (Mark Rappaport, 1992)
From the Journals of Jean Seberg (Mark Rappaport, 1995)
Shuang ma lian huan (The Mystery of Chess Boxing, Joseph Kuo, 1979)
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Preston Sturges, 1943)
Lundi matin (Monday Morning, Otar Iosseliani, 2002)
La fiancée du pirate (A Very Curious Girl, Nelly Kaplan, 1969)
Broken Arrow (Delmer Daves, 1950)
The Bravados (Henry King, 1958)
Séance on a Wet Afternoon (Bryan Forbes, 1964)
Milano odia (Almost Human, Umberto Lenzi, 1974)
Roma a mano armata (The Tough Ones, Umberto Lenzi, 1976)
Sambizanga (Sarah Maldoror, 1972)
Peter Ibbetson (Henry Hathaway, 1935)
Whistle Down the Wind (Bryan Forbes, 1961)
Giorgobistve (Falling Leaves, Otar Iosseliani, 1966)
Kairat (Darezhan Omirbayev, 1992)
Shang Hai she hui dang an (On the Society File of Shanghai, Wang Chu-Chin, 1981)

My favourite festivals of the year were Frontera Sur (Chile), Lima Alterna (Peru) and Bazofi (Argentina), which had two online editions this year.

I was also a big fan of the online screenings at Malba and Hasta Trilce, programmed by Fernando Martin Peña, of The Cinemadness Movie, programmed by Jim Branscome, and of the online “film clubs”: La Quimera, The Cinephobe and Cathode Cinema.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

michael j. casey

CRITIC AND ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER FOR boulder weekly, after image & michaeljcinema.com

2020 was the year I watched more but understood less. With a rotating series of crises to consider, rare were the instances where I found myself lost in someone else’s story for two hours. And yet, the movies persisted. A few brought joy, while the rest confronted the darkness head-on. But all provided illumination in their way. Only one of the below releases did I have the pleasure of seeing on a big screen (First Cow). The rest I wait with anticipation to revisit on a screen so large I will once again feel small.

  • Dick Johnson is Dead (Kirsten Johnson, 2020). A father is dying, so his daughter decides to kill him: Again and again and again. Along the way, they conquer the future by immortalising the past. And it has an all-timer of a closing shot.
  • David Byrne’s American Utopia (Spike Lee, 2020). Backed by 12 musicians and dancers, Byrne leads the audience through personal histories, international and philosophical musical styling, a delightful rendition of “This Must Be The Place,” a rousing performance of Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout,” and the joy of making music and telling stories. It’s like a breath of fresh air in a musty room.
  • Soul (Pete Docter and Kemp Powers, 2020). Of all the ideas buzzing around writer/director Pete Docter’s brain, the reasons for living — pizza, lollipops, trees in autumn — might be the most convincing. It’ll make you want to take a walk, inhale deeply and live.
  • First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2020). A rich man loves oily cakes but can’t cook. A poor man can cook, but he doesn’t have the milk to make the cakes. The rich man has a cow, and the cow has milk. So, the poor man steals the milk from the rich man’s cow, cooks the cakes, and sells them to the rich man, who pays good money for the heavenly treat. And while the rich man devours those delectable oily cakes, he wonders: Why doesn’t that cow make any milk? Oh, what poetry Kelly Reichardt finds in the weird roots of American capitalism.
  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020). Sometimes the most intimate portraits are also the most profound.
  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020). Spending any amount of time in Charlie Kaufman’s brain can be a dicey proposition. It can also be a lot of fun.
  • City Hall (Frederick Wiseman, 2020). The trash-collecting scene might be one of the best things I’ve seen all year.
  • Nomadland (Chloè Zhao, 2020). Fern isn’t homeless; she’s houseless. There’s a difference, and when Frances McDormand says it, you believe it.
  • Martin Eden (Pietro Marcello, 2019). Marcello takes Jack London’s 1909 novel and sets it adrift in 20th century Italy, and gives us a leading man through and through with Luca Marinelli.
  • The Climb (Michael Angelo Covino, 2019). One of the funniest things I’ve seen all year. Ingenious in its use of long takes.

But that only tells half the story: 2020 marks the most time I’ve spent catching up on repertory picks since college. From a Pixar marathon with my wife to the wide-open spaces promised in westerns. From the endless array of wonders on streaming services to the galaxy of films discovered during TCM’s 14-week Women Make Film series. When I think back on 2020, chances are these are the films that will stick in my mind:

3:10 to Yuma (Delmer Daves, 1957)
7 Men From Now (Budd Boetticher, 1956)
Born in Flames (Lizzie Borden, 1993)
But I’m a Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit, 1999)
El Paso (Lewis R. Foster, 1949)
Girlfriends (Claudia Weill, 1978)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)
Jazz on a Summer’s Day (Bert Stern, 1958)
Je, Tu, Il, Elle (Chantal Akerman, 1974)
Le Bonheur (Happiness, Agnès Varda, 1965)
Losing Ground (Kathleen Collins, 1982)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July, 2005)
Merrily We Go to Hell (Dorothy Arzner, 1932)
The Ox-Bow Incident (William A. Wellman, 1943)
Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)
Sleepwalking Land (Teresa Prata, 2007)
Soleil Ô (Oh, Sun, Med Hondo, 1967)
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (William Greaves, 1968)
Wanda (Barbara Loden, 1970)
The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, 1996)

kevin cassidy


Top 10 Films seen this year:

  1. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)
  2. The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019)
  3. Les Traducteurs (The Translators, Regis Roinsard, 2019)
  4. The Hunt (Craig Zobel, 2020)
  5. Schwesterlein (My Little Sister, Stephanie Chaut and Veronique Reymond, 2020)
  6. David Byrne’s American Utopia (Spike Lee, 2020)
  7. A Rainy Day In New York (Woody Allen, 2019)
  8. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2019)
  9. Seules Les Betes (Only The Animals, Dominik Moll, 2019)
  10. Rewind (Sasha Neulinger, 2019)

The Worst:
365 dni (365 Days, Barbara Bialowas and Tomasz Mandes, 2020)

The Overrated:
Tenet (Christopher Nolan, 2020)
Mank (David Fincher, 2020)

Films watched during retrospectives:
The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice (Yasujiro Ozu,1952)
Penrod and Sam (William Beaudine, 1923)
The Exiles (Kent MacKenzie, 1961)
Safe In Hell (William A Wellman, 1931)
The Verdict (Don’t Siegel, 1946)
The Grissom Gang (Robert Aldrich, 1971)

Let’s hope that film festivals continue to offer an online component regardless of what happens next year.

Jeremy Chamberlin


Home viewing has its merits, but having to watch most of these films at home because cinemas shut down in February – after I had seen only three of these films – limited my enjoyment of most of them at least a bit for want of the focus a theatre can engender.

The Cream of the Crop:
Sayeha-ye bikhorshid (Sunless Shadows, Mehrdad Oskouei 2019). This is extraordinary. Filmed with understanding and respect (and rich colour), this film documents the lives of women and girls who have been imprisoned in Tehran because they killed male family members. It particularly focusses upon a group of girls, and it creates a sense of the space they inhabit through their experiences and testimonies. Their prison is a feminine space that exists both within and without the patriarchy that drove the girls to kill their respective family members. Mixing interviews, self-recorded statements, and observed scenes, the film captures the ambiguous ways the diverse psyches and pasts the girls bring with them melds with how they live their lives in a quasi-Utopian space. Tearful testimonies and solemn interviews that concern matters such as depression and suicide attempts coexist with scenes of laughter, camaraderie, therapy, and heated debates on the morality of their killings. We see a person’s traumatic past detailed, and then them not betraying it at all in the present, looking “normal.”

World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime (Don Hertzfeldt, 2020). This is something of a shift in the World of Tomorrow series, with more of a focus on relatively grounded personal drama with some time-travelling assassination intrigue. While it is less concerned with the evocation of grand arcs of a universe, it is still definitely a work with Hertzfeldt’s sui generis mordant vision of a fantastically sublime and absurd universe and our existentially fragile, yet precious-to-us place within it. The film is also markedly digital, more than its predecessors, but while I prefer the visuals of Hertzfeldt’s earlier analogue films, his aesthetic integrity is wholly intact.

Shakedown (Leilah Weinraub, 2018). Another film, like Sunless Shadows, that creates an incredible sense of a space, this condenses the energy and aesthetics of the strip club it documents and shoots it into about 45 minutes of film, followed by a dénouement. In addition to the film’s form embodying this energy, there is little sense of chronology, which would make the film feel less immediate, until the first police raid ruptures the club’s obscurity. The film also considers how to record this space and the people within it in the most ethical way possible, which is partially achieved through its cinematographical naturalism and intimacy; in this film, nudity is not something to be leered at.

First Tier Films:
The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019)
Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma 2019)
Shirley (Josephine Decker, 2020)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)
Rizi (Days, Tsai Ming-liang, 2020) – Filmed surfaces can be enthralling, and while this is a film that is a quintessential example of those that are best viewed when locked in a theatre, its rigorous purity of precise form – aside from a couple of unfortunate shaky shots of urban bustle (though they make sense within the film’s urban alienation theme) – allows it, at home, to be somewhat as enthralling as it would be in a theatre. Its purity of observation over long shots, almost entirely without dialogue, and its aestheticisation thereof with crisp, lush colour and precise framings, is an invitation to just be, and enjoy that simplicity of that existence while watching the film.
Bergmál (Echo, Rúnar Rúnarsson, 2019)
First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2019)
Wittgenstein Plays Chess with Marcel Duchamp, or How Not to Do Philosophy (Amit Dutta, 2020)

Second Tier Films:
Dylda (Beanpole, Kantemir Balagov, 2019)
Umibe no eigakan kinema no tamatebako (Labyrinth of Cinema, Ōbayashi Nobuhiko, 2019). The film hopes that cinema can change the world, especially towards pacifistic ends, which is something I do not expect. Fortunately, it is filled with a passionate cinephilia, conveyed with style and invention that is exuberant in both its complex diegesis and varied, blatant, and playful artifice. The film is quite sincere, especially when it embodies joy, but its style lends itself to irony, which makes its naïve hope go down better. One of our heroes, scurrying away from combat in a movie he’s in while he is in the audience of the movie, cries out “Help me, cinema!”
Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, 2019)
Happy Ending (Ara Choi, 2018)
Counterfeit Kunkoo (Reema Sengupta, 2018)
NutagHomeland (Alisi Telengut, 2016)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (George C. Wolfe, 2020)
La Cupola (Volker Sattel, 2016)
8th Continent (Yorgos Zois, 2017)
Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, 2019)
Peripheria (David Coquard-Dassault, 2015)
Black Snot & Golden Squares (Irina Rubina, 2020)
Quebramar (Breakwater, Cris Lyra, 2019)
No Objects (Moïa Jobin-Paré, 2019)
Clebs (Mutts, Halima Ouardiri, 2019)

Third Tier Films:
Beol-sae (House of Hummingbird, Bora Kim, 2018)
The Wolf House (La casa lobo, Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León, 2018)
Crip Camp: A Disability Rights Revolution (Nicole Newnham and James LeBrecht, 2020)
Çîroka Bajarên Wêrankirî: Şhengal (Stories of Destroyed Cities: Şhengal, Şêro Hindê 2020)
Dick Johnson is Dead (Kirsten Johnson, 2020)
L’extraordinaire voyage de Marona (Marona’s Fantastic Tale, Anca Damian, 2019)
Der Schornsteinsegler (The Chimney Swift, Frédéric Schuld, 2020)

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

allison chhorn


Memorable Features & Mid-lengths:
Cenote (Kaori Oda, 2019)
Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, 2019)
Beginning (Dea Kulumbegashvili, 2020)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)
Time (Garrett Bradley, 2020)
Static After Summer (Eli Hayes, 2019)
First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2019)
This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019)
Nhà Cây (The Tree House, Minh Quý Trương, 2019)
Aswang (Alyx Ayn Arumpac, 2019)
The Calm After The Storm (Mercedes Gaviria, 2020)
Pyrale (Roxanne Gaucherand, 2020)
An Unusual Summer (Kamal Aljafari, 2020)
Zero (Kazuhiro Soda, 2020)
Ariadne (Jacky Connolly, 2019)
Minari (Lee Isaac Chung, 2020)
Babyteeth (Shannon Murphy, 2019)
Daydreams (Jim Muntisov, 2020)

The Flow (Chahat Mansingka, 2020)
Apiyemiyekî? (Ana Vaz, 2020)
Gone Home (Pegah Moemen Attare, 2020)
Figure Minus Fact (Mary Helena Clark, 2020)
The Unseen River (Pham Ngoc Lan, 2020)
Audio Guide (Chris Elena, 2019)
Tâm (Nora Niasari, 2020)
Tarun (Tiyan Baker, 2020)
朝の夢 (See You In My Dreams, Shun Ikezoe, 2020)
Outside the Oranges Are Blooming (Nevena Desivojević, 2019)
Grevillea (Jordan Giusti, 2020)

Small Axe: Mangrove

ian christie


2020 Online
How to sum up this year of restricted viewing? And how to navigate the categories suggested, in a year when almost everything was ‘online’ from a host of providers? Let’s start with ‘new releases’. No question that the most impressive and timely were all from black filmmakers. Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (2020) was a sprawling, often self-parodying yet bitter reflection on the largely untold story of America’s disproportionate use of black troops in Vietnam, told through a return visit that culminates in a dangerously Tarantino-style caper. From Britain, there was an extraordinary bending and blending of genre in Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You (2020), recalling the shock of the BBC’s Gangsters series of the 1970s. More sober, indeed austere, was Steve McQueen’s five-part Small Axe (2020) series, chronicling episodes of racial injustice in Britain during the ‘70s and ‘80s. While two of these stand out, Mangrove for its powerful re-staging of a landmark trial of London’s West Indians, and Lovers Rock as a lyrical evocation of Afro-Caribbean alternative culture, it was the final episode, Education, that proved most moving, laying bare the institutional roots of discrimination against Britain’s invited black immigrants.

Of the few films I saw on cinema screens, in the interval between Britain’s lockdowns, two were especially impressive. Alejandro Amenábar’s Mientras dure la Guerra (While At War, 2019) shows the beginning of fascist rule in Spain through events in Salamanca during 1936, where the poet and university rector Miguel de Unamuno, magnificently portrayed by Karra Elejalde, gradually realises he must resist Franco’s regime. In a very different register, Rocks features a multicultural cast of young East Londoners in a heartrending story of a schoolgirl becoming responsible for her young brother when her single mother abandons the pair. A superb new entry from Sarah Gavron in the tradition of British social realism.

Lists like this generally focus on features, but two of the best shorts I saw this year connected with themes on show elsewhere. Tal Amiran’s Dafa Metti (Difficult, 2020) is set in Paris, where undocumented Senegalese migrants lead precarious lives selling souvenirs of the Eiffel Tower that looms over them. Elsewhere, Karen Pearlman’s I Want to Make a Film About Women (2019) boldly dramatised the struggle of Soviet pioneer Esfir Shub to tackle the ‘woman question’, while Shub’s achievements in documentary formed a strand of the 2020 Bologna Cinema Ritrovato programme.

Online festivals were of course a major feature of 2020, with many working hard to maintain a presence for their audiences. Bologna’s major coup was premiering a restoration of the Iranian Shatranj-e-baad (Chess of the Wind, 1976) made shortly before the Islamic revolution by Mohammad Reza Aslani. This Gothic tale of a house haunted by simmering tensions after the death of its presiding matriarch, long thought lost after being banned, has been sumptuously restored from discarded material. But apart from such discoveries, Bologna’s raison d’etre has long been to reveal treasures hiding in plain sight through its retrospectives. Having never seen Sidney Lumet’s 1946 Fail Safe, shown online as part of Bologna’s ‘Henry Fonda for President’ retrospective, I was greatly impressed by this unexpected counterbalance to the guignol of Dr Strangelove. Also from Bologna came a chance to revisit Houston’s legendary The Misfits (1961), in which both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable made their last appearances. However, this elegiac experience was enlivened by an on-stage reminiscence of the fraught production by Angela Allen, the indomitable script supervisor.

Among other online festivals, Pordenone’s ‘Giornate del cinema muto’ went to some lengths to make viewers feel ‘in Fruili’, with introductions from the director Jay Weissberg filmed around the city, and discussions among those who would have been involved in introducing and accompanying the films. Three of Pordenone’s presentations made a strong impression. Oi apahides ton Athinon (The Apaches of Athens, 1930) was Greece’s first sound film, essentially a high-life/low-life romantic operetta, with its lost recordings now well accompanied by an orchestral score and period songs, it features some stunning sequences filmed in the historic streets of the old Plaka district of Athens, beneath the Acropolis. A rare film from Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Abwege (The Devious Path, 1928) gave Birgitte Helm a fine modern role as a neglected wife in upper-class Weimar Berlin; although Helm is nearly upstaged by the flamboyant temptress Hertha von Walther, a regular in Lang’s early films.

Finally from Pordenone, revisiting one of its greatest retrospectives, a beautifully restored 1917 Western from Cecil B. DeMille, Romance of the Redwoods. Mary Pickford stars as a genteel Easterner who travels to the goldfields of California, and is menaced by a sinister ‘road agent’ impersonating her uncle. Plotting and acting are broad, but carry the conviction of DeMille’s early melodramas, with an increasing use of close-ups. And in this handsome version, the contributions of DeMille’s regular cameraman Alvin Wyckoff and designer Wilfred Buckland, as well as the use of California’s forest landscape for the goldrush setting can be appreciated. Pordenone’s great 1991 DeMille retrospective laid the basis for his modern reassessment, revealing the extraordinary evolution of his craft over a few crowded years, and for anyone lucky enough to have been there, Romance of the Redwoods, superbly accompanied by Donald Sosin and Joanna Seaton, added another satisfying stone to the edifice. Of all the online festivals I ‘attended’ during 2020, Pordenone came closest to compensating for home viewing, not least thanks to the contribution of its wonderful musicians.

emily collins


Feature films (listed alphabetically):
Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, 2019)
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)
Mignonnes (Cuties, Maïmouna Doucouré, 2020)
Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee, 2020)
David Byrne’s American Utopia (Spike Lee, 2020)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)
Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)
Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019)
Shirley (Josephine Decker, 2020)
Sorry We Missed You (Ken Loach, 2019)

Honourable mention of short films:
Jiíbie (Laura Huertas Millán, 2019)
Lichen (Lisa Jackson, 2019)
No Crying at the Dinner Table (Carol Nguyen, 2019)
O Órfão (The Orphan, Carolina Markowicz, 2018)
Reassemblage (Trinh T-Minh-ha, 1982)
Sea in the Blood (Richard Fung, 2000)

Jordan cronk


 À labordage! (All Hands on Deck, Guillaume Brac, 2020)
El año del descubrimiento (The Year of the Discovery, Luis López Carrasco, 2020)
Antoinette dans les Cévennes (My Donkey, My Lover & I, Caroline Vignal, 2020)
Apertures (a brighter darkness) (Karissa Hahn, 2020)
Atarrabi et Mikelats (Atarrabi and Mikelats, Eugène Green, 2020)
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross, 2020)
Les choses qu’on dit, les choses qu’on fait (Love Affair(s), Emmanuel Mouret, 2020)
Chun Jiang Shui Nuan (Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, Gu Xiaogang, 2019)
Circumstantial Pleasures (Lewis Klahr, 2020)
City Hall (Frederick Wiseman, 2020)
Dasatskisi (Beginning, Dea Kulumbegashvili, 2020)
DAU. Degeneratsiya (DAU. Degeneration, Ilya Khrzhanovskiy, Ilya Permyakov, 2020)
I diari di Angela Noi due cineasti. Capitolo secondo (Angelas Diaries: Two Filmmakers. Chapter Two (Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi, 2019)
Domangchin yeoja (The Woman Who Ran, Sang-soo Hong, 2020)
En la frontera (In the Border, José Celestino Campusano, 2020)
Expedition Content (Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati, 2020)
Fauna (Nicolás Pereda, 2020)
Figure Minus Fact (Mary Helena Clark, 2020)
La France contre les robots (France Against the Robots, Jean-Marie Straub, 2020)
Une fille facile (An Easy Girl, Rebecca Zlotowski, 2019)
Happy Valley (Simon Liu, 2020)
Her Socialist Smile (John Gianvito, 2020)
The History of the Seattle Mariners (Jon Bois, 2020)
Hopper/Welles (Orson Welles, 2020)
The Inheritance (Ephraim Asili, 2020)
Isabella (Matías Piñeiro, 2020)
Jaccuse (An Officer and a Spy, Roman Polanski, 2019)
The Killing of Two Lovers (Robert Machoian, 2020)
Z = |Z/Z•Z-1 mod 2|-1: Lavender Town Syndrome / In the Air Tonight (Andrew Norman Wilson, 2020)
Die letzte Stadt (The Last City, Heinz Emigholz, 2020)
Malmkrog (Manor House, Cristi Puiu, 2020)
A Metamorfose dos Pássaros (The Metamorphosis of Birds, Catarina Vasconcelos, 2020)
My Mexican Bretzel (Nuria Giménez, 2019)
La Nature (Nature, Artavazd Pelechian, 2020)
Non c’è nessuna Dark Side (atto uno 2007-2019) (Erik Negro, 2019)
Notturno (Gianfranco Rosi, 2020)
Paris Calligrammes (Ulrike Ottinger, 2020)
Una película en color (A Film in Color, Bruno Delgado Ramo, 2020)
Point and Line to Plane (Sofia Bohdanowicz, 2020)
Rizi (Days, Tsai Ming-liang, 2020)
Seize printemps (Spring Blossom, Suzanne Lindon, 2020)
Le sel des larmes (The Salt of Tears, Philippe Garrel, 2020)
Siberia (Abel Ferrara, 2020)
Tesla (Michael Almereyda, 2020)
Things to Come and Movie That Invites Pausing (Ken Jacobs, 2019 and 2020)
Tsonot (Cenote, Kaori Oda, 2020)
Umibe no eigakan Kinema no tamatebako (Labyrinth of Cinema, Nobuhiko Ôbayashi, 2020)
Undine (Christian Petzold, 2020)
La virgen de agosto (The August Virgin, Jonás Trueba, 2020)
The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) (C.W. Winter & Anders Edström, 2020)

Il traditore

adrian danks


For Tom & Amree

Top 10 Favourite New Films Screening Somehow in Melbourne:

  1. L’année dernier à Dachau (Last Year in Dachau, Mark Rappaport, 2020)
  2. Small Axe: Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen, 2020)
  3. Il traditore (The Traitor, Marco Bellocchio, 2019)
  4. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2019)
  5. Twice (John Smith, 2020)
  6. I Want to Make a Film About Women (Karen Pearlman, 2019)
  7. Small Axe: Red, White and Blue (Steve McQueen, 2020)
  8. Women of Steel (Robynne Murphy, 2020)
  9. Totally Under Control (Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, 2020)
  10. Apiyemiyekî? (Ana Vaz, 2020)


  1. Country Music (Ken Burns, 2019)
  2. The Plot Against America (Ed Burns and David Simon, 2020)
  3. The Queen’s Gambit (Scott Frank and Allan Scott, 2020)
  4. The Beach (Warwick Thornton, 2020)
  5. Berlin Babylon (Henk Handloegten, Tom Tykwer and Achim von Borries, 2017-2020)

10 Favourite Older Films Seen for the First Time in 2020:

  1. Gueule d’amour (Lady Killer, Jean Grémillon, 1937)
  2. Dogfight (Nancy Savoca, 1991)
  3. The Criminal (Joseph Losey, 1960)
  4. Opfergang (The Great Sacrifice, Veit Harlan, 1944)
  5. Un coeur en hiver (Claude Sautet, 1992)
  6. Penrod and Sam (William Beaudine, 1923)
  7. Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, 2015)
  8. The Spook Who Sat by the Door (Ivan Dixon, 1973)
  9. The Tall Men (Raoul Walsh, 1955)
  10. Robbery (Peter Yates, 1967)

2020 will be remembered for many things, including as the year many people stopped going to the cinema. In Melbourne, for large stretches of the last nine months, you simply had no choice. But I also want to remember the first few months before lockdown and, in particular, the stellar opening of the Melbourne Cinémathèque’s second and, unexpectedly, last season of 2020: “Light and Shadow: The Mercurial Stardom of Marlene Dietrich”. This season played to very large audiences in the week’s leading up to the first lockdown in Melbourne, the attendances a barometer of the hunger for film screenings in this city (let’s hope it returns on the other side of the pandemic). Audiences of over 400 watched imported 35mm prints of three films that had their premiere screenings in Melbourne and Australia at the same cinema – the Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin-designed Capitol in Swanston Street; decreased in size in the 1960s but refitted by RMIT University – over 80 years ago. This was a wonderful and truly serendipitous occurrence – as the co-curator of the Cinémathèque, I hadn’t realised that the Capitol was the first-release cinema for Paramount, Dietrich’s home studio – that underlines the occasional continuity of cinephilia over vast tracts of time. Screening prints of Sternberg’s Dishonored almost 90 years after its first showing on the 27th of May 1931, and Lubitsch’s extraordinary Angel 83 years after its initial release were my absolute highlights of 2020. Those rare screenings – and by then we knew we would need to close down in the coming weeks – now seem almost as far away as those Dietrich premieres of the 1930s.

Despite the thousands of choices I have at my fingertips, I haven’t found lockdown particularly conducive to film viewing. I’ve spent much of the last nine months reading and listening to music. This has been a somewhat surprising development, but it has revealed that my film viewing is closely related to a broader sense of mobility, even if this is merely a matter of just travelling to a local cinema. But this could also be a matter of the choices I’ve made along the way. The beginning of lockdown in late March was marked by my ill-considered decision to watch The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019) and the Val Lewton-produced Isle of the Dead (Mark Robson, 1945) back-to-back over two nights. Isle of the Dead, which starts with Boris Karloff’s character vigorously washing his hands (a model of it, really) before warning of an approaching plague (which catches up with him, inevitably, on the Isle of the Dead), is one of the most intriguing and melancholy of the extraordinary run of “horror” films Lewton produced at RKO in the 1940s. It is a strange and poetic film, which features many images of characters in white masks, copious discussions of the insidious disease, and moments that pinpoint social and physical isolation. Although it was a bit too close to the bone, it certainly had much to recommend it at this particular moment in time, even a Karloff-calm way of facing encroaching calamity. But I’m not sure how wise it was to follow this up with The Lighthouse, an isolationist nightmare and surreal dream that presents the utter madness of two characters “quarantined” together in the freezing cold “hothouse” atmosphere of its titular lighthouse. For some reason, over the next month or so I placed myself on a strict diet of Jean Grémillon and Joseph Losey movies – gaining a new appreciation for Stanley Baker and Madeleine Renaud, and realising that Losey is also a master of spatial isolation and claustrophobia (a predilection I was starting to see everywhere) – though I never quite got over the clammy, fetid, ghostly calm and nightmarish anxiety of Isle of the Dead and The Lighthouse. Along with the Dietrich movies above, this was my favourite double-bill of 2020.

As the year went on and I got used to “COVID normal” during Melbourne’s 100-day or so second lockdown, I started to return more productively and extensively to movies and television. Film festivals started to offer more substantial programs online, often at very reasonable prices (not so true of the Melbourne and Sydney International Film Festivals, though). The pick of these was the Pordenone Silent Film Festival. It offered a couple of programs a day for the extremely cheap price of 10 euros for the lot. First up, was a lovely restoration of Penrod and Sam (William Beaudine, 1923), based on Booth Tarkington’s light-hearted novel. I wouldn’t want to claim it as any kind of masterpiece, but it has exquisite observational detail and refreshing presentations of its African-American characters. Overall, this was a fantastic and thought-provoking online event – with often stellar restorations – though I think it made me realise that I like my silent movies leavened with some sound ones. Watching one to two programs each day while working full-time was a bit of challenge – though it did allow me to make it the full festival experience by dozing through a few of the less enticing titles. My picks, aside from Penrod and Sam, were Dimitris Gaziadis’ Oi apahides ton Athinon (Apaches of Athens, 1930; particularly in its more observational, neorealist moments), Cecil B. De Mille’s A Romance of the Redwoods, and G. W. Pabst’s Abwege (1928) – I’m generally less keen on Brigitte Helm but this had several startling moments including an extraordinary bedroom scene between the husband and wife (isolating spaces, again) as well as characteristically stunning production design. Although I only watched a few of the discussions around the films, they were also expertly done (and you can’t always say that). I hope I can get to the festival one day, but this sure made a worthwhile replacement and suggests some rich possibilities for the future of hybrid events that fuse the local with the global, physical presence with the virtual.

In the general blur, it is easy to forget that many key figures of world cinema died in 2020: Ennio Morricone; Bruce Baillie; Ivan Passer; Lucia Bosè; Nelly Kaplan; Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg (always and again joined together by their iconic roles in TV’s The Avengers); Jirí Menzel; the extraordinary Linda Manz; Max von Sydow; Michel Piccoli (quietly accumulating one of the great filmographies over almost 70 years); Fernando E. Solanas; the last two surviving major stars of classical Hollywood: Olivia de Havilland and Kirk Douglas; and many others. But 2020 also marked the passing of two major and much-loved figures of Australian screen culture: Tom O’Regan and Amree Hewitt. Both Tom and Amree were models of collegiality and I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about either of them. Tom, of course, is one of the defining figures of screen studies in Australia, and his outstanding and seminal work on Australian cinema is something that anyone working in the field has to contend with. Amree was one of Australia’s great film curators – her extensive Ida Lupino season at the Melbourne Film Festival in 1996 one of the defining moments for many local cinephiles. Both are irreplaceable and leave a large hole in the fabric of screen culture in Australia. We won’t see their like again.

Dustin Dasig


2019 ended (in my home country, specifically during New Year’s Eve) with monsoon rains while 2020 started with a dormant volcano wreaking havoc in the Philippines’ northwest region. To amplify the already-disastrous year, we have the pandemic that absolutely changed our way of life (filmmaking included).

Interestingly enough, my 13th iteration as Senses of Cinema “World Poll” contributor has an unusual line-up of “best films” ranging from horror movies, a Danish picture that philosophises and humanises (not romanticises) “liquor drinking,” a dramatically urgent Italian rendition of Carlo Collodi’s 1883 classic, and Taiwan’s 2020 Oscar for Best International Film entry which, in realistic and unsentimental ways, provides a ray of light to families and societies damaged by societal fissures – a topical and optimistic message to the world that this pandemic will end.

  1. A Sun (Chung Mong-hong, 2019)
  2. Druk (Another Round, Thomas Vinterberg, 2020)
  3. Impetigore (Joko Anwar, 2020)
  4. American Factory (Julia Reichert & Steven Bognar, 2019)
  5. Corpus Christi (Jan Komasa, 2019)
  6. Pinocchio (Matteo Garrone, 2019)
  7. And When He Danced (Levan Akin, 2019) and In Fabric (Peter Strickland, 2018) (tied)
  8. Nanfang chezhan de juhui (The Wild Goose Lake, 2019, Yi’nan Diao)
  9. La Belle Epoque (Nicolas Bedos, 2019)

Honourable mentions (in alphabetical order):
The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019)
Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu, 2019)
Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)
Mank (David Fincher, 2020)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)
The Personal History of David Copperfield (Armando Iannucci, 2019)
Relic (Natalie Erika James, 2020)
Uncut Gems (Benny and Josh Safdie, 2019)
Undine (Christian Petzold, 2020)
Was wir wollten (What We Wanted, Ulrike Kofler, 2020)

Best actor: Bartosz Bielenia, Corpus Christi
Best actress: Angie Ferro, Lola Igna (Grandmother Igna, Eduardo Roy, Jr., 2019)
Best direction: David Fincher, Mank
Best screenplay: Chung Mong-hong and Chang Yao-sheng, A Sun


Henri de Corinth

  1. Jeanne (Joan of Arc, Bruno Dumont, 2019)
  2. Dissociative Amnesia/His Her/Oscillation (Shun Ikezoe, 2019/2020)
  3. Shirley (Josephine Decker, 2020)
  4. Jasper Mall (Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb, 2020)
  5. Polka-Dot (Aleksandra Niemczyk, 2019)
  6. Point and Line to Plane (Sofia Bohdanowicz, 2020)
  7. Dau: Natasha (Ilya Khrzhanovsky and Jekaterina Oertel, 2020)
  8. Last and First Men (Jóhann Jóhannsson, 2020)
  9. Cold Meridian (Peter Strickland, 2020)
  10. Sapphire Crystal (Virgil Vernier, 2019)
  11. Alfred (Esther Urlus, 2020)
  12. Locus Suspectus (J.M. Martinez, 2020)
  13. Wittgenstein Plays Chess with Marcel Duchamp, or How Not to Do Philosophy (Amit Dutta, 2020)
  14. Junkerhaus (Karen Russo, 2019)
  15. Memby (Rafael Castanheira Parrode, 2020)

monica delgado


Films released for the first time in 2020:
Malmkrog (Manor House, Cristi Puiu, 2020)
Luz nos trópicos (Light in the Tropics, Paula Gaitán, 2020)
La France contre les robots (France Against the Robots, Jean-Marie Straub, 2020)
Mes chers espions (My Dear Spies, Vladimir Léon, 2020)
Thorax (Siegfried A. Fruhauf, 2020)
Apiyemiyekî? (Ana Vaz, 2020)
Domovine (Homelands, Jelena Maksimovic, 2020)
Chaco (Diego Mondaca, 2020)
Lúa vermella (Red Moon Tide, Lois Patiño, 2020)
Her Name Was Europa (Anja Dornieden, Juan David González Monroy, 2020)
Rizi (Days, Tsai Ming-liang, 2020)
O que há em ti (Brazil is thee haiti is (t)here, Carlos Adriano, 2020)
Como el cielo después de llover (The Calm after the Storm, Mercedes Gaviria, 2020)
Domangchin yeoja (The Woman Who Ran, Sang-soo Hong, 2020)
El año del descubrimiento (The Year of the Discovery, Luis López Carrasco, 2020)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020, USA)
Lulu Faustine (Stephen Broomer, 2020)
Tipografic majuscul (Uppercase Print, Radu Jude, 2020)
Avant L’effondrement du Mont Blanc (Before the collapse of Mont Blanc, Jacques Percornte, 2020)
Intimate Distances (Phillip Warnell, 2020)

Older films encountered for the first time in 2020:
Szép lányok, ne sírjatok! (Don’t Cry, Pretty Girls!, Marta Mészaros, 1970)
Scala Milan AC (Sarah Maldoror, 2003)
Las furias (The Furies, Vlasta Lah, 1960)
Variety (Bette Gordon, 1983)
The Strange but Unknown Star (Heni Plaat, 1969)

Online festivals attended and that presented both a good program and experience:
The impeccable curatorship adapted to pandemic context from Berwick Film Festival (articles, video essays, reviews, Q & A about every film). The program and showcases with filmmakers at Mar de Plata Film Festival (Q & A with Walter Hill). The dialogues with Lucrecia Martel and Adrian Martin at Valdivia Film Festival.

kriti dhanania


Films directed by women (in alphabetical order):

  1. Aniara (Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja, 2018, Sweden)
  2. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (Christina Hodson, 2020, USA)
  3. Bulbbul (Anvita Dutt, 2020)
  4. Bulbul Can Sing (Rima Das, 2018)
  5. Emma. (Autumn de Wilde, 2020)
  6. Happiest Season (Clea DuVall, 2020)
  7. Honey Boy (Alma Har’el, 2019)
  8. Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, 2019)
  9. How to Build a Girl (Coky Giedroyc, 2019)
  10. Kajillionaire (Miranda July, 2020)
  11. Liar’s Dice (Geetu Mohandas, 2013)
  12. Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)
  13. Manto (Nandita Das, 2018)
  14. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)
  15. Qarib Qarib Singlle (Tanuja Chandra, 2017)
  16. Queen & Slim (Melina Matsoukas, 2019)
  17. Salaam Bombay! (Mira Nair, 1988)
  18. Shirley (Josephine Decker, 2020)
  19. Talvar (Meghna Gulzar, 2015)
  20. The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019)
  21. The Half of It (Alice Wu, 2020)
  22. The Namesake (Mira Nair, 2006)
  23. Wadjda (Haifaa al-Mansour, 2012)
  24. What are the Odds? (Megha Ramaswamy, 2019)

Films from India (not including the ones mentioned above, in alphabetical order):

  1. Ankhon Dekhi (Rajat Kapoor, 2014)
  2. Eeb Allay Ooo! (Prateek Vats, 2019)
  3. Gamak Ghar (Achal Mishra, 2019)
  4. Gangs of Wasseypur (Anurag Kashyap, 2012)
  5. Hamid (Aijaz Khan, 2018)
  6. Kaamyaab (Hardik Mehta, 2019)
  7. Killa (The Fort, Avinash Arun, 2014)
  8. Kumbalangi Nights (Madhu C. Narayanan, 2019)
  9. Nasir (Arun Karthick, 2020)
  10. Raat Akeli Hai (Honey Trehan, 2020)
  11. Super Deluxe (Thiagarajan Kumararaja, 2019)
  12. The Blue Umbrella (Vishal Bhardwaj, 2005)
  13. The Lunchbox (Ritesh Batra, 2013)
  14. Tumbbad (Rahi Anil Barve, 2018)
  15. Visaranai (Interrogation, Vetrimaaran, 2015)

marko djurdjić


Top 20 “first-time watch” films (in alphabetical order):
All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955)
Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)
Bull Durham (Ron Shelton, 1988)
Columbus (Kogonada, 2017)
The Decline of Western Civilization (Penelope Spheeris, 1981)
Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977)
The French Dispatch [Trailer] (Wes Anderson, 2020/2021…sigh)
The Go-Go’s (Alison Ellwood, 2020)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)
L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad, Alain Resnais, 1961)
Linda Linda Linda (Nobuhiro Yamashita, 2005)
The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman, 1973)
Lost in America (Albert Brooks, 1985)
Malcolm X (Spike Lee, 1992)
Madeo (Mother, Bong Joon-ho, 2009)
Ōdishon (Audition, Takashi Miike, 1999)
Palm Springs (Max Barbakow, 2020)
Revenge (Coralie Fargeat, 2017)
Secretary (Steven Shainberg, 2002)
Sholay (Ramesh Sippy, 1975)

wheeler winston dixon


Favourite films of 2020 (in no order):
The Pine Barrens (David Scott Kessler, 2020)
The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson, 2020)
Synchronic (Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, 2020)
She Dies Tomorrow (Amy Seimetz, 2020)
Madre (Mother, Rodrigo Sorogoyen, 2019)
The Nest (Sean Durkin, 2020)
Bad Education (Cory Finley, 2019)
Bacurau (Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2019)
First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2020)
Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)
The Quarry (Scott Teems, 2020)
The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019)
Run (Aneesh Chaganty, 2020)
Relic (Natalie Erika James, 2020)

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