Staff Picks: Best Films of 2020

We all know that 2020 has been a year of change and one of those changes has been the way we see movies. Instead of going to the theaters, we streamed the biggest films from the comfort of our homes on our laptops and tv’s. Despite this major movie industry shift, there were some incredible films that we were blessed to have been able to see. Here are the TV Tea staff picks for best film of 2020.

1. Charm City Kings

HBO Max

As a Baltimore native and resident, it was great to see my hometown appear in a new movie. Charm City serves as the perfect backdrop for a story about youth and identity as the protagonist, Mouse (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), is forced to choose between life as a veterinarian or life as a criminal. Rapper Meek Mill also delivers a better than expected performance as Mouse’s mentor Blax. 

The film takes elements from other iconic black films such as “Menace to Society” and “Boyz n The Hood” in order to craft a cautionary tale of the dangers of street violence. I appreciate the movie’s dedication to authenticity as many movies don’t manage to do this while remaining realistic and authentic. It was hard not to point at the TV and smile whenever a scene took place on Edmondson Avenue or whenever a character asked for a chicken box, a Baltimore delicacy. With the great reviews this received, I hope this leads to more films about black characters in Baltimore.

Picked by: Brendan Bell

2. Black Bear

I went into this film with zero prior knowledge which is the way everyone should watch this film. Audrey Plaza stars in the film in two separate stories (“acts” as the film calls them) that will bend the audience’s mind as they try to form a connection between the two. The first act follows an awkward and tension filled night between couple Blair and Gabe (Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gordon) and an artistic stranger Allison (Plaza). The film takes place at the cabin that almost acts as a modern take on Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf as the tension in the room grows thick enough for the audience to cut. 

The second act follows the same actors, but as different characters in the cabin shooting a film vaguely based on the first act of the film that mirrors the behind the scenes nightmares of the abuse women actresses face to get good performances such as Shelly DeValle in The Shining and Tippi Hiedren in The Birds. Not only were both acts emotionally complex and claustrophobic, but all the actors delverivered the performances of their careers, especially Plaza, who’s breakdown in one scene reads so scarily real that my jaw dropped. Is the film a thriller? A drama? A dark comedy? It is all these things plus an experience of existential claustrophobia that will sit with you for a long time? Probably.

Picked by: Brianna Benozich

3. Soul

Disney

Soul is an utterly beautiful, real and captivating parable about life, death, purpose and everything in between. Breathtaking animation, enchanting and unique score, superb voice acting combined with a great and witty dose of comedy and hard-hitting emotional moments that is the staple of Pixar. My only grievance is that we couldn’t experience the film in theatres. The sheer visual spectacle is among the best the company has ever done, and its message about the meaning of life and the beauty of the most mundane things particularly hits very close to home and feels especially relevant in 2020.

Picked by: Carly Pearce

4. The King of Staten Island

With the perfect mixture of comedy, drama and real life issues The King of Staten Island is surely the film that sticks out when I think of all of the films I have watched this year. The film was written by and loosely based on the life of Pete Davidson himself who lost his father back in 2001 on Sept. 11. In the film, Davidson plays Scott, a lost millennial amateur tattoo artist who is still traumatized by losing his father many years ago and is tired of always being second best to his younger sister Claire (Maude Apatow). Not only is Scott struggling to figure out his future career-wise but he also has trouble navigating romantic relationships as well and is severely afraid of opening up. The film ends on a high-note as Scott begins mending his many complicated relationships and for the first time has a clear vision of his future. 

Picked by: Blair Krassen

5. Kajillionare

Kajillionaire, directed by Miranda July, is a refreshingly bizarre and otherworldly take on dysfunctional families and toxic parents. The film follows the Dyne family (Evan Rachel Wood, Richard Jenkins, and Debra Winger), a group of con artists who avoid paying for anything, as they soon meet a young woman, Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), who has eyes for the sullen daughter of the family.

The film not only has a top notch performance from Evan Rachel Wood, who becomes so lost in the awkwardness and introvertness of her character that she becomes unrecognizable, but the film also offers an interesting look at toxic families. Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger shine as the parents of the con artist clan whose manipulation and guilt treatments will read too real with anyone who has ever lived in a toxic household. Without spoiling too much, the most moving scene in the film that adds to the theme of toxic households follows the family pretending to be normal in front of a dying man they are attempting to steal from (and yes it is just as dark and weird as it sounds). While many audiences can see Kajillionaire as being weird and bizarre just for the sake of it, it really is a moving portrayal of a toxic family and a woman’s struggles to make her own life apart from her roots. 

Picked by: Brianna Benozich

By The TV Tea Staff

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