My Top 7 films of 2020

My viewing of new cinema was somewhat stymied by the events of 2020 so, in creating this list, I’ve gone with a heavenly Top 7 of all-killer-no-filler. Here they are in alphabetical order:

THE ASSISTANT (dir. Kitty Green)
Utterly transfixing in its depiction of the mundanity of junior office positions, THE ASSISTANT is also terrifying real in its representation of systematic workplace abuse and neglect – subtle, insidious and that little bit too close to what many women have experienced ‘in real life’ (me included).

DISCLOSURE (documentary, dir. Sam Feder)
In fleshing out Hollywood’s representation of transgender people, this documentary is notable for its no-frills approach of talking heads combined with clip & tell. But this approach only serves to accentuate the brilliance of its interviewees. No platitudes here – insights of the highest calibre.

HOST (dir. Rob Savage)
I had to be prodded to see this one, and there’s no one more surprised than myself that one of the better horror movies of the year could be about the COVID pandemic. At a tight 57 minutes, HOST serves as an example of why horror is such an important, relevant genre. Now, no more pandemic films, please.

THE LIGHTHOUSE (dir. Robert Eggers)
Simultaneously hilarious and a fever dream of the grimiest forms, Robert Eggers proves he’s one of the gnarliest wordsmiths currently in the film biz. Claustrophobic, sweaty, insane. THE LIGHTHOUSE also ticked off another item on my cinematic bucket list: to see Willem Dafoe as a grizzled seaman.

MORGANA (documentary, dirs. Josie Hess & Isabel Peppard)
Remarkably intimate and delicately revealing documentary about a middle-aged, Australian woman who overcomes her stultifying suburban existence by creating pornography. A film that has you grabbing at your heart in unexpected ways.

POSSESSOR (dir. Brandon Cronenberg)
If there was any wonder whether Brandon Cronenberg was his father’s son, this film definitively demonstrates that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Yet, Brandon has come up with his own stamp of ‘Cronenburgundian’ mindfuckery. For that, he must be applauded.

THE STYLIST (dir. Jill Gevargizian)
This film is everything I wanted from Peter Strickland’s IN FABRIC but, sadly, was not served. A horror film steeped in style, as its name would suggest, and one that holds its form from first through to third act. It makes me excited to see what Jill Gevargizian will do next.

From the Drain (David Cronenberg, 1967)

This piece was written at the beginning of 2017 but, inexplicably, I failed to post it to my website. Me bad.

But I’m proud to say this is, likely, one of the most substantial/lengthy articles written about David Cronenberg’s second short film, From the Drain, to appear online at the very least. I am willing to be proven wrong and would, in fact, be very interested in reading someone else’s take on this surreal mind-fuck.

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, one of the editors at Senses of Cinema, asked me to undertake this challenge as part of the journal’s tribute section of the March 2017. Titled ‘Love Letters: 1967’, this section included articles about filmmakers who would later become big players on the cinematic landscape but were only just emerging in short form in that particular year.

The likes of David Lynch, Seijun Suzuki, Joseph Losey and Norman Jewison also had ‘love letters’ written to them by a variety of talented folk. It’s well worth perusing them all. But, first, help me make sense of David Cronenberg’s enigmatic mind.

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