My Favourite Films of 2020

As per tradition after the Oscars, I will give out imaginary awards to the films that I love most or hold in high regard from the preceding year.

Golden Snoopy – Jasmila Zbanic for QUO VADIS, AIDA?

For a very accessible piece of history-based filmmaking through the eyes of a UN translator, in this case about the events at Srebrenica during the ‘90s Bosnian War. This is a tense, powerful and clear-eyed work about the unshakeable bonds of family as a harrowing humanitarian crisis unfolds with a devastating sense of inevitability. Arguably the best film of the year.

Silver Snoopy – Catarina Vasconcelos for THE METAMORPHOSIS OF BIRDS

For the most personal and deeply reflective film of 2020. This refreshing self-reflexive docu-fictive experiment is best described as Malick meets Parajanov, where natural realism comes to terms with performative artifice, and where time, memory, and collective histories conflate. It is also a transcendental portrait of what it means to navigate the personal, the familial and the ancestral as a lineage of lived experiences. An extraordinary work of art by a filmmaker making her feature debut.

Silver Snoopy (Special Mention) – Florian Zeller for THE FATHER

For the most emotionally wrecking film of 2020. A tour de force of screenwriting, acting and editing, all based on a deceptively straightforward premise—a woman and her old father who is suffering from memory loss. A complex, heartbreaking work that tore me apart and hit me in ways that I never thought was possible. This is hands down the Oscar Best Picture for me.

  • Best Director – Tomm Moore & Ross Stewart (WOLFWALKERS) for the best animated film of 2020. This enthralling work is a masterful folkloric take on heroes and villains, humans and beasts, and the courage to change perceptions. It asks of us to be brave and to do everything we can to be free of the psychological—or political—obstacles that hold us back. Truly inspiring and emotional.
    • Special Mention: Chloe Zhao (NOMADLAND) for her continuing ability to depict outsiders in society in their natural states with dignity, empathy and poetry.
  • Best Lead Actor – Anthony Hopkins (THE FATHER) for the finest and most emotionally devastating performance of the year. No contest.
    • Special Mention: Daniel Kaluuya & LaKeith Stanfield (JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH) for their energy, intensity and vulnerability playing real-life characters.
  • Best Lead Actress – Jasna Djuricic (QUO VADIS, AIDA?) for her extraordinary performance that pits the weight of an entire country’s historical trauma on her shoulders.
    • Special Mention: Carey Mulligan (PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN) for playing against type in one of her boldest roles to date.
  • Best Supporting Actor – Paul Raci (SOUND OF METAL) for his sharp and intuitive performance of gestures that understatedly but effectively communicate more than words could ever do.
  • Best Supporting Actress – Dominique Fishback (JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH) for her underrated performance playing opposite Daniel Kaluuya that deserved more attention.
  • Best Ensemble Cast – MINARI for the wonderful, collective performances from Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan Kim, Noel Cho and Youn Yuh-jung.
  • Best Original Screenplay – FAREWELL AMOR for portraying the African immigrant experience in the US via an unconventional triptych structure that explores with uncommon nuance the subjectivity of personal truths and experiences.  
    • Special Mention: NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS for its tender and introspective take on the abortion drama from the perspective of two teenage girls.
  • Best Adapted Screenplay – THE FATHER for a nimble and fluid screenplay adapted from the filmmaker’s own stage work that goes deep into the psychological anxieties of dementia and how it affects loved ones.
  • Best Cinematography – NOMADLAND for its calming naturalism.
  • Best Film Editing – QUO VADIS, AIDA? for its sheer storytelling clarity and incredible suspense.
    • Special Mention: SOFTIE for making Kenya’s volatile politics and history compelling and accessible from the point-of-view of a family man running for election.
  • Best Production Design – TIONG BAHRU SOCIAL CLUB for the vibrant and aesthetically-pleasing sets and how they visually serve its premise.
    • Special Mention: TENET for immersing us into a sleek future-is-now world of unraveling tech and time.
  • Best Costume Design – AMMONITE for the period costumes that align with the film’s sombre mood without attracting unnecessary attention.
  • Best Hair & Makeup – BIRDS OF PREY for giving us zany characters marked by their striking looks
  • Best Original Score – Emile Mosseri (MINARI) for his ethereal score and being the film music artist discovery of the year.
    • Special Mention: Ludwig Goransson (TENET) for continuing to experiment with electronic sounds and rhythms in another breathtaking pulsating score.
  • Best Original Song – “Hear My Voice” (THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7) for a modern classic in the making.
    • Special Mention: “Howls the Wolf” (WOLFWALKERS) for a stirring song that concludes one of the best films of the year.
  • Best Use of Source Music – WOLFWALKERS for the use of Aurora’s ‘Running with the Wolves’ in the film’s most emotionally liberating sequence.
    • Special Mention: SUMMER OF 85 for using Rod Stewart’s ‘Sailing’ because any blossoming screen romance is worth feeling for.
  • Best Sound – GUNDA for a dialogue/narration-free work that employs natural sound to sensorial, sometimes ASMR effect.
    • Special Mention: NOTTURNO for its immersive mix and diversity of sounds—and silences—that portray the aftermath of living with the consequences of war and violence in the Middle East.
  • Best Sound Design – SOUND OF METAL for creatively and empathetically manipulating different sound types and qualities throughout the film, from airy muffled sounds to extreme silences to high-pitched distorted noises that reflect the psychological state of its protagonist.
  • Best Visual Effects – TENET for pushing the boundaries of VFX work in a film with numerous complicated technical challenges.
  • Discovery Award (Filmmaking) – Benjamin Ree (THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF) for his beguiling documentary where art, crime and the human condition deftly intersect.
  • Discovery Award (Acting) – Liu Haocun (ONE SECOND) for her immense talent and the heights she will reach as a Chinese acting superstar in the next 5-10 years.

Top 10 Films of 2020:

  1. QUO VADIS, AIDA? – Jasmila Zbanic (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
  2. THE METAMORPHOSIS OF BIRDS – Catarina Vasconcelos (Portugal)
  3. THE FATHER – Florian Zeller (UK/France)
  4. WOLFWALKERS – Tomm Moore & Ross Stewart (Ireland)
  5. NOMADLAND – Chloe Zhao (USA)
  6. THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF – Benjamin Ree (Norway)
  7. FAREWELL AMOR – Ekwa Msangi (USA)
  8. TENET – Christopher Nolan (USA/UK)
  9. A THOUSAND CUTS – Ramona S. Diaz (USA/Philippines)
  10. MINARI – Lee Issac Chung (USA)

Special Mention (in alphabetical order):

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