Friday, January 01, 2021

My Ten Favorite New-to-Me Movies of 2020

Well, this list is verrrrrrrry different from the last few years, isn't it?  Not a single movie here that was released in 2020.  I watched more than 80 movies this year, and only 9 of them were in the theater.  And, of those 9, only 2 were new releases.  Because 2020 was a really weird year.

Now, the main reason I watched about 20 fewer movies than last year is actually because I got super obsessed with The Mandalorian and watched all 8 of the first season's episodes three times.  And I've watched all of season two once, but most of them twice.  So, yeah... a great deal of my watching-stuff time this year was taken up with that, rather than movies.  

(Plus, obviously, the theaters were closed for a long time, and a lot of movies I wanted to see got pushed back or released to streaming platforms I don't subscribe to.  2020, yeesh.)

Anyway!  Here's my list of my ten favorite movies I watched for the first time in 2020.  Enjoy!

1. Ophelia (2018).  Gorgeous retelling of Hamlet from Ophelia's perspective, with some new twists on the story.  Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) falls in love with the dead king's son Hamlet (George McKay), though her brother Laertes (Tom Felton) is skeptical of the match.  Meanwhile, the queen (Naomi Watts) and new king (Clive Owen) have doubts about Hamlet's sanity.  It's based on the book by Lisa Klein, which I want to reread now.

2. A Song is Born (1948).  A musical remake of Ball of Fire (1941) in which a lot of professors (including Danny Kaye) making a history of music encounter a night club singer (Virginia Mayo) who's on the run from her mobster boyfriend.  Lots of amazing musicians like Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, and Tommy Dorsey have small roles, which adds to the fun.

3. The High and the Mighty (1954).  A trans-Pacific airliner develops engine trouble, and the pilots (John Wayne and Robert Stack) have to not only keep the plane in the air, but keep the various passengers (including Paul Fix, Claire Trevor, and Phil Harris) calm.

4. I Love You Again (1940).  A dull businessman (William Powell) whose wife (Myrna Loy) is about to divorce him gets hit on the head and has reverse amnesia, waking up to discover that he used to be a very smooth and interesting con artist.  Guess which version of him Loy likes best?

5. Santiago (1956).  A gun-runner (Alan Ladd) and a riverboat captain (Chill Wills) get caught up in Cuba's War of Independence from Spain in the 1890s.

6. Mamma Mia! (2008).  A girl (Amanda Seyfried) about to get married tries to figure out which of her Mom's (Meryl Streep's) long-ago flings (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgaard) is her dad.  I liked it so much more than I expected to!

7. The Court Jester (1955).  A wandering minstrel (Danny Kaye) gets mistaken for the new court jester and ends up helping overthrow a dictatorial usurper and restore the rightful king to the throne.  With many funny jokes and pratfalls and lots of singing, too.

8. The Reluctant Dragon (1941).  A man (Robert Benchley) tries to pitch a story idea to Walt Disney, and ends up getting a tour of the Disney Animation Studio in the process.  Includes a young and eager Alan Ladd in a tiny role as a storyboard artist named Al.

9. The Brothers Karamazov (1958).  Three brothers (Yul Brynner, William Shatner, Richard Basehart) try to make their own way in life, but their father (Lee J. Cobb) keeps messing everything up for them.  Well, some of them mess things up pretty well for themselves, too.

10. 1917 (2019).  Two WWI soldiers (George McKay, Daniel Mays) have to take an important message to troops far away to stop thousands of men from walking into a trap and getting massacred.  The continuous-shot filming is cool, but it's McKay's haunting performance that stuck with me long after the film had ended.


What were your favorite watches of the year?  Have you seen any of these?

If you want to read my lists from past years, you can find them at the bottom of this page.

Happy New Year!

26 comments:

  1. Mamma Mia was a lot of fun, I agree! I love ABBA's music and it meshes perfectly with the silly, heartfelt story.

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    1. Katie, definitely! They did a great job of blending the songs into the story. I even bought the soundtrack.

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  2. Oh well (*slightly blushing*) I found a way to comment, after all... Even managed to comment now not as "Unknown" (sounds a bit spooky, like "Jane Doe" or so...), but hopefully as Andrea. I especially like The Court Jester ("The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon; the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true" – marvelous...). I have a friend who collects movies of the 1940s – so I watched 2 RenĂ© Clair movies: "I Married a Witch" with Alan Ladd's frequent film partner Veronica Lake and "It Happened Tomorrow", a 1944 fantasy film with Dick Powell and Linda Darnell. Well, both are fantasy films, quite entertaining! And of course that was my "I found out that Alan Ladd made a lot of movies, not just Shane" summer, so I saw "The Proud Rebel", "China", "Calcutta", "Botany Bay", "Two Years Before the Mast" and "Paratroopers". Got to get more, which is not easy in Switzerland. Will definitely try.

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    1. Andrea, hooray! I'm glad you figured out a way to make it work :-)

      I have been wanting to see I Married a Witch for a long time because it would be nifty to see Veronica Lake in more things! Did you like it?

      As for our dear Alan Ladd, I just watched Calcutta last night for the first time, and quite liked it! Threw a couple surprises at me, actually. I like that. I haven't seen Botany Bay or Paratrooper yet, but I got the latter in a Ladd collection for Christmas, so soon! Well, one of these days, anyway.

      I became a Ladd fan at just the right time, as a whole lot of his movies were released using burn-on-demand technology right about then and made available on Amazon and such. But at the same time, I have had to rely on copies of old recorded-off-tv copies to see quite a few of his films. Every year, though, I'm able to replace more of those with real copies.

      I know such things as "region-free" or "all-region" players exist, to let people see more things. Maybe that would be an option for you, if all else fails?

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    2. Thanks Rachel, yep, thank goodness I'm not such a digital moron as I thought I was ;-) Glad to post under my own name!
      "I Married a Witch" is an entertaining little movie, funny at times, with a very good Veronica Lake as the witch and a very young Susan Hayward as the grumpy bride of Fredric March. The "wedding scene" is hilarious.
      And our dear Alan. I watched a number of his movies on Youtube before Christmas, and now, whoosh, they're gone... Glad I saw them while I could. Yeah, "Calcutta"; with the beautiful but doomed Gail Russell. And yet another shirtless scene (when Alan Ladd unloads the plane with other men, he is shirtless in the moonlight while Bendix wears shirt and all and isn't even sweating ;-)
      In "Paratrooper" Alan wears some strange protective headgear while learning to jump, took me a while to get accustomed to that. Interesting to see him paired with some very good thespians of British cinema at the time, Leo Genn, whom I like very much as an actor, and Stanley Baker.
      Yes, definitely, a "region-free" DVD player would be an option to get more Ladd (and other) US movies. Perhaps a late Christmas present to myself? (Have almost finished "the other Christmas present", Schaefer's "Shane". Lovely book!)

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    3. Andrea, oh, that's how it is with YouTube movies, isn't it? Glad you were able to see them! Same thing happens on Amazon Prime -- I watch a movie of his there and then, bam, it's gone a few weeks later.

      The shirtless scene in Calcutta was very useful because my hubby had just remarked a couple days earlier on the cover of Two Years Before the Mast asking me if the illustration of Alan Ladd was accurate because if so, he was really impressed by his "lats," or those triangular muscles on the sides. I was like, yeah, pretty accurate... and then was able to pause Calcutta at just the right moment and call him over to show him that yes, Alan really was in that kind of shape. My husband says it takes a terrifying number of pull-ups to develop those muscles, and he was duly impressed. Hee!

      Anyway, I'm SO GLAD that you are enjoying the book of Shane!!! I love it.

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  3. As soon as I heard about Ophelia I'd been wondering if you'd like it. I'm glad that my intuition was correct. ;-)

    Ah, you're making me want to see Danny Kaye movies! The Court Jester is a hoot. Your numbers 8, 9, and 10 all interest me greatly. I need to check them out!

    I watched more TV shows than ever before, too, so I understand that. My sister and I are only two episodes into The Mandalorian, but we're hoping for more time to watch this year.

    Happy New Year!!

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    1. MC, I'm just sad it took me so long to see it! It didn't come to any of my theaters here, and then I had to wait to find time to see it on DVD. But it was really good.

      I hope you can find some of the movies on this list that you're wanting to see! Both Danny Kaye movies were ones I watched on Amazon Prime. And The Reluctant Dragon is on Disney+.

      As you probably noticed when I did extremely detailed reviews of every single episode of season one earlier this year, I am ardently devoted to The Mandalorian. Once I've seen all of season two twice, I will undoubtedly do the same for those 8 eps :-)

      Happy New Year!

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  4. You make me want to watch (and read) "Ophelia" – sounds great. Strange that my last year's movie favourites seem to be mostly 1940s films. I could add two more modern ones with another of my favourite actors, Viggo Mortensen, who was not only adorable as Aragorn but is just a really good thespian. Saw the Oscar winning "The Green Book" for the first time, and also "The Two Faces of January", based on a thriller by Patricia Highsmith (the coming 19th of January will be the 100th birth anniversary of that gifted thriller writer, by the way).

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    1. Andrea, Ophelia is very, very good. A fresh take on the story that still remains faithful to its essence.

      I've been wanting to see The Green Book! I'm not a huge Viggo Mortensen fan, despite being rabid about LOTR, but that one did catch my eye.

      I tend to watch a pretty even mix of classic and modern movies, though some years it leans more one way than the other. This year, it was way more to the classic side due to the lack of new releases.

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    2. Rachel, I bought the book "Ophelia" but have only read a few pages. Nevertheless, I'd like to pick this book for my summer Reading Group. I have to announce it – how would you describe "Ophelia" to convince my group (or any group...) that it's a book worth reading? If possible (everything still so precarious...) I'd also like to watch the movie with my group.

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    3. Andrea, I read Ophelia several years ago, before I started my book review blog. I would describe it as taking the story of Hamlet and showing it from a fresh perspective, but also tweaking a few things here and there, and adding a few plot twists pulled from other Shakespeare plays, mostly Romeo and Juliet. I really enjoyed it. And you don't have to be familiar with Hamlet to enjoy it, I don't think. If you like stories of court intrigue, young love, and high-stakes vengeance, it's a good one.

      I bought a copy after the movie came out so I could reread it, because my library got rid of their copy (boooo!), but I haven't gotten to it yet.

      The movie does have some adult content, PG-13 level, but still there. Just FYI! I would rate the book the same. I hope you enjoy it, and your book group too!

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  5. The Court Jester and The High and the Mighty are old pals around here.

    Ophelia sounds fascinating.

    Our special needs son used to watch The Reluctant Dragon on a loop. I never thought I'd miss it, but I do!

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    1. Caftan Woman, they're the sorts of movies that will become old pals here too. I'm waiting for just the right time to show The Court Jester to my kids. They already like Danny Kaye from White Christmas :-)

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  6. 1917 is on my list of favourites watched this year as well! I think I actually watched more newer films this year then I usually do, since a lot of cable movie channels were offered for free to subscribers here this year, and that brought me more 'newish' fare without effort. Happy New Year to you!

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    1. VT, that's interesting! Since I don't have cable, and I only have Amazon Prime and Disney+ for streaming, my watching went the other way and was mostly older things. That's cool that it worked the opposite for you, though!

      Happy New Year!

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  7. Ooh, these all look so good. I've been meaning to see Mamma Mia! It looks like fun, and I love musicals. I also want to see 1917. It looks good, but for completely different reasons (I have diverse taste). Happy New Year! Hope you can watch a lot of great movies in 2021.

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    1. McKayla, Mamma Mia! was really fun, although it had slightly more adulty content than I am a fan of. 1917 was amazing, but very hard to watch because everything was so grim and horrible.

      Happy New Year to you too!

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  8. Most of the movies I watched didn't come out in 2020 either, but they were still 2000's I want to watch more from different eras.
    I completely understand rewatching the Mandalorian three times.
    The season two finale broke me though.

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    1. Skye, what we need is like a week where we just sit on my couch and watch all the old movies on my shelves that you could ever want to see. Maybe two weeks. It would be awesome.

      Today, someone asked me what I got for Christmas, and I said that my best friend gave me a year's subscription to Disney+, which she also gave me last year. They then rattled off all these Disney movie titles, wanting to know if I'd seen them yet. And I had to admit that, actually, I kind of just watched The Mandalorian over and over and over because... one must.

      That finale, though. OOOOOF. I was mostly just stunned. I think I will cry a ton over it the second time through.

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  9. Ophelia is one of my favorite films of the last few years. I adore it.

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  10. I'm starting to realize how much I dislike the changes blogger made. I never saw this post in my feed! I've noticed I have to scroll through my feed, as things change order constantly. I found this post by going to your main page and scrolling down. This annoys me no end, because now I don't know what else I've missed.

    Anyway, this was good timing because I was actually writing up my own list. I had forgotten that Ophelia was last year. Last year just feels so weirdly stretched or compacted or something. I've seen six of these, and am very pleased we got to share some of these together!

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    1. DKoren, I'm not sure if it started with the update, or if it's just been weirdly glitchy the past week or two. It seems like it's better now, actually, but at the beginning of the month it was definitely putting things in a weird order and not showing everything.

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  11. Yay for Mamma Mia!! I liked it way more than I thought I would, too. Have you seen the second one? That one was just as fun, in my opinion. I don't even love ABBA music, haha, but I just enjoyed thoaw silly, light-hearted musicals. ;)

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    1. Gabby, I can't believe it took me this long to see it. I plan to see the sequel soon too! Next time I need a bubbly, cheery pick-me-up :-)

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