With theaters closed for much of the year, most major movie releases were pushed back to 2021 and uneven distribution of the films that did get released made 2020 a movie year like no other.
So many of the year’s best movies played on streaming services rather than on the big screen. And other pictures likely to win awards, such as “The First Cow,” have not yet made their way to Lincoln.
What follows then isn’t a true “best of" or “top 10” accounting of 2020 films — I haven’t seen several that are making most lists, including “Nomadland.”
Rather it’s an accounting of the 10 most memorable movies I watched in the last year.
* “Mank.” Director David Fincher’s passion project brought the story of Herman Mankiewicz, who wrote the first draft of “Citizen Kane,” to vibrant black-and-white life, with Gary Oldman fully inhabiting the drunken, witty writer and Amanda Seyfried nearly stealing the show as William Randolph Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies.
* “Da 5 Bloods.” Spike Lee’s picture about four African American veterans who return to Vietnam to retrieve the body of a squad leader and dig up gold they’d buried in the jungle was the movie of the moment in 2020, filled with ‘60s-rooted rage that resonated amid anti-racist, anti-police violence, Black Lives Matter demonstrations and the American political divide.
* “Babyteeth.” First-time director Shannon Murphy, talented young star Eliza Scanlen and screenwriter Rita Kalnejais turn this Australian film into the cinematic rarity of 2020 that combines two tired tropes — dying young and the teen girl who falls for the wrong boy — and makes them fearlessly fresh and moving.
* “Possessor: Uncut.” A disturbing, visceral slice of sci-fi/horror that looks at the possession of a person’s body and mind by another, via bloody murders and mental meltdowns. “Possessor: Uncut” comes from writer/director Brandon Cronenberg, who with his second film proves to be a master of the unsettling, just like his father David.
* “Borat: Subsequent Movie Film.” Sasha Baron Cohen brought back his fictional Kazakhstani journalist, Borat Sagdiyev, for this picture, which was filmed during the pandemic. It's a satire that finds him bringing his daughter, played by Maria Bakalova, to the U.S. to be offered as a bribe to Vice President Mike Pence.
* “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” The latest from Charlie Kaufman, this “what’s really going on here?” psychological baffler starts out with Jesse Plemons driving new girlfriend Jessie Buckley to an isolated farmhouse to meet his parents in the middle of a blizzard. Then things get strange.
* “Let Him Go.” This contemporary western rises above its genre, as director Thomas Bezucha pushes the thriller plot, while taking advantage of fine performances from Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, who play a ranch couple trying to get their grandson back from his stepfather’s family.
* “Ammonite.” Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan star in director Francis Lee’s exquisite 19th-century period piece, a slow-moving, art house picture that looks at withdrawn fossil collector Mary Anning and her relationship with the wife of a rich man who travels from London to the seaside village of Lyme.
* “Clemency.” Alfre Woodard delivers an extraordinarily powerful performance as a prison warden who is falling apart because she is overseeing the implementation of the death penalty in this anti-capital punishment drama.
* “Corpus Christi.” This Oscar-nominated Polish drama about a convict impersonating a priest examines faith and fakery, small-town tragedy and hypocrisy while introducing its extremely talented star, Bartosz Bielenia.
And five documentaries for good measure: “CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine,” “ZAPPA,” “Desert One,” “The Fight” and "John Lewis: Good Trouble."
FIVE VIEWS OF 2020 FROM THE JOURNAL STAR'S ENTERTAINMENT DESK
Views from the entertainment desk: Destruction on Lincoln Mall
I usually write about arts and entertainment, but I was on duty after the demonstration and destruction on Lincoln Mall. This is what I found walking around that Sunday morning.
Views from the entertainment desk: Songs about police brutality
The death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that followed prompted this look at how we’ve failed to listen to the musical voices of protest for decades.
Views from the entertainment desk: Finally, a live show
In August, Lincoln was one of the only cities to host a major concert when the Beach Boys played Pinewood Bowl. The show was much needed -- and there hasn’t been one since.
Views from the entertainment desk: When will concerts return?
Speaking of concerts, I rounded up some “experts” -- from Zoo Bar owner Pete Watters to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band guitarist Little Steven -- to talk about when shows might return.
Views from the entertainment desk: Creem changed my life
This one’s personal. Creem, America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, changed my life. So I jumped at the chance to write about the documentary.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @KentWolgamott