Here are my top five lists for best and worst films I watched for the first time in 2020! If there’s a review for a movie, it’s linked in the title.
- The wicker man (UK, 1973)
I’d avoided watching this for many years because I’d seen too many male writers describe the naked dancing scene as sexy (spoiler alert: it is not, in fact, sexy), but the Switchblade Sisters episode finally convinced me to watch it. I am so happy I did. It is so well made and original. Where else are you going to find a movie that can use its low budget to its advantage and revive a medieval European narrative tradition (martyr’s lives) at the same time?
2. Amrapali (India, 1966)
A perfect movie and I live in hope of one day seeing the full version. Everyone is beautiful and half-naked, I love the ship, all the songs are sung by a woman, the dancing is truly excellent, and after 54 years, it’s more feminist than any Indian movie from 2020 I watched.
3. Dragonwyck (USA, 1946)
Another perfect movie, insane and beautiful and campy but also genuinely creepy.
4. Malaal (India, 2019)
Almost a perfect movie, elevated from good to great by an amazing, amazing ending that sent it soaring up into the highest tier of camp.
5. The Wedding Guest (UK/USA, 2018)
A movie for when you want to watch Dev Patel be beautiful and trapped and doomed for an hour and a half. Also, a wonderful and complex performance from Radhika Apte.
- Shimla Mirchi (India, 2020)
I could only stand 20 minutes of this, but it deserves its place here anyway. Lures you in with Rajkummar Rao/Hema Malini and a great opening number, but the actual movie is like being beaten over the head with a placard that reads WOMEN AREN’T REAL PEOPLE! WE WOULD NEVER TREAT AMITABH THIS WAY 🙂
2. Ginny weds Sunny (India, 2020)
I did finish this, basically because I could not believe it would not somehow redeem itself by the end (it didn’t). This one’s lure is a Vikrant Massey rom-com, but instead it’s the same effect as Shimla Mirchi, except Vikrant Massey also has bad hair.
3. Horror Express (UK/Spain, 1972)
Another trap, this time baited with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing sharing a bunk, and then they are basically never on screen at the same time again. However, Telly Savalas is in it for about ten hilarious minutes.
4. Aankhen (India, 1993)
Why is it like this? Why? (the answer is: David Dhawan)
5. The personal history of David Copperfield (UK/USA, 2019)
Another one I couldn’t finish. Cuts up the story in little 2 minute snippets where every character basically gets a cameo, nobody has enough lines to have character development or even an emotional arc, and the result is a bunch of actors trying to out-ham each other. David Copperfield is not even a character, he is just the straight man in a movie-length improv scene. This is what happens when you want to hire the maximum amount of big names, but don’t have the money to keep them in the movie for more than one scene and you don’t rein them in (see also: Cats, which was a more coherent movie). Shame about the fantastic costumes and the only acceptable version of Clara I’ve ever seen (book included).