Gosh, isn’t 2020 over yet?! Wait, we’re only just over halfway through? *Sighs heavily and inhales deeply* Okay, okay…at least there’s only 178 days left of 2020. Anyway, picking our top 15 films of the year (so far) has been tough especially seeing how release dates of certain films have been delayed and how we’ve been trapped inside for months. However, the ITOL have come together to create our top 15 films from the last 6 months. Please let us know which films make your top 15 list and what films are you looking forward to catching later this year!
Number 15: Miss Americana
By Rosa Parra
You’ve heard her music, and I’m sure you know her name too, Taylor Swift. “Miss Americana” follows Swift from her early years to her current days as a musician. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this movie; nonetheless, feel empowered as soon as it finished. The celebrity mantel is taken off from Taylor, and the audience gets the opportunity to know her struggles as a woman & artist. It’s always been difficult for women to be successful in areas/careers predominately dominated by men. The music industry isn’t an exception. What I initially thought was going to be a glittery bubbly film aimed towards Swift fans quickly, and unexpectedly, became a movie about female empowerment.
Everything you’d be interested in about her career would most likely be addressed (yes, the Kanye incident too). Still, we also see Taylor’s real humanizing side that social media, news, and magazines so often dismiss. We see a young woman who’s eager to become a celebrity and is talented enough to write and compose her songs. Throughout the film, we witness how two of her most recent songs were produced and how effortlessly she writes her lyrics. She also opens up about a sexual harassment incident she experienced, and bravely confessed how it changed her mentality, which would also lead to becoming vocal about politics. This is a significant turning point in Taylor’s personal life. We witness conversations she has with her team and how they’re advising her to not speak about politics, but her past experiences persuade her otherwise.
“Miss Americana” highlights the misconception that fame and success are synonymous with complete happiness.”
This documentary’s message for young fans is a necessary one. Whether you’re a fan of her music or not, her story is worth knowing because it brings light to a much-needed topic many women (in any profession) so often face. “Miss Americana” highlights the misconception that fame and success are synonymous with complete happiness.
“Miss Americana” is a documentary about one of the most influential and talented artists in the music industry. It’s a lens to the double standards a female musician experiences, and ultimately it’s a sneak peek to the challenges sexism and ageism brings to artists. This film took me by surprise, and for the reasons mentioned above and as a woman who’s the mother of four young ladies, I would highly recommend seeking out this documentary.
Number 14: Onward
By Dominic Corr
In a world where magic died out but maintained its appearance, cyclopes, centaurs, and elves subvert the role of people. Young brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot struggle to connect with the outside world, Barley a fan of the old ways – fascinated sorcery and myth, and Ian, a kind-hearted boy who never had the chance to meet his father. That is, until a single spark of magic erupts from the boy, allowing them the opportunity to see their father for one day.
Dan Scanlon’s original tale buries itself in such an immense richness of ‘nerd’ culture, blending the Dungeons & Dragons call-backs with folklore. From restaurant owning Manticores to truck stop Pixies and feral Unicorns, Scalon’s designs are as brilliant in concept as they are hilarious in execution.
Creative, many for the creature designs and landscapes are some of Pixar’s finest, with a tremendous sense of scale. With Octavia Spencer drawing out her finest Manticore, and the fabulous Julia Louis-Dreyfus enchanting as Laurel, Ian & Barley’s mother, the voice work is stellar as usual. The chemistry between Marvel co-stars Tom Holland and Chris Pratt has a drawback at the beginning, but quickly the innocence and enthusiasm from the pair.
High octane, the finale leaps out as an explosive combination of fantastical myth with contemporary architecture, transforming the rubble and stone of buildings into a ferocious dragon of old, cascading fire and brimstone onto the unwitting fables below, intense, we get an action sequence unseen in much of Pixar’s repertoire.
“Scalon’s designs are as brilliant in concept as they are hilarious in execution.”
The studio of dressing the road film into various guises, “Onward” (2020) follows in a line of epic journeys – but principally focuses on siblings, with the closest similar relationship Violent and Dash from ‘The Incredibles’ (2004). The dynamic of the two brothers, particularly with Barley as the male role model in Ian’s life is an interesting dynamic placing the struggles a young man has without a father figure.
The finality of Ian’s journey, where his sense of closure is directed into an off shooting branch is one of Pixar’s more adult, complex decisions which ultimately divides audiences, but conclusively is heartfelt in its judgment, a smart step which reinforces the character’s growth and selflessness. ‘Onward’ shares much of its follies with Pixar’s other almost masterpiece; ‘Brave’ (2012). The pair trip as they aim for perfection, a sublime balance of heart, narrative and family dynamics – “Onward” stumbles as it worries about being ‘too’ unattached from contemporary culture, throwing in unneeded jokes.
Number 13: Buffaloed
By Bianca Garner
After reading Morgan’s review of “Buffaloed” earlier this year (which you can check out here), I felt compelled to seek it out. How does one describe this film? A cross-between “Wolf of Wall Street” meets “The Big Short” meets “Birds of Prey”, and if that sounds right up your street then “Buffaloed” is the film for you.
Directed by Tanya Wexler, “Buffaloed” tells the story of hustler Peg Dahl (played by the wonderfuly entertaining Zoey Deutch) who wants nothing more in than life to be successful. How does one measure success, you may ask? Well, it’s all about having a big fat wad of cash. Peg is stuck in Buffalo, New York, ( in her own words “A city hopelessly dedicated to a staple of disappointment”) trapped within the structure of the class system. To get into an Ivy League college, she needs money. But how does one get that money by legal means…well, you just can’t?
“How does one describe this film? A cross-between “Wolf of Wall Street” meets “The Big Short” meets “Birds of Prey”
After getting caught scamming people out of their money for sports tickets, Peg is sent to jail which dashes any hope of going to college. After serving her time, she comes out of jail, wiser than ever before. Soon she finds herself entering the world of debt collection, calling up people chasing for payments on any loans they’ve taken out. Its a macho world, led by the likes of Wizz (Jai Courtney). Not an easy place to work, that’s for sure, but Peg takes zero amount of bullsh*t from anyone.
Soon Peg wants more. She wants to set up her own debt collection agency, and to become the big dog around town. Of course, things are going to go wrong…Featuring a great performance from Deutch as well as a strong supporting cast made up of Courtney, Judy Greer, Jermaine Fowler, Noah Reid and Lusia Strus, “Buffaloed” is a fun, energetic watch that is full of quotable lines and will leave you with a smile plastered on your face.
Number 12: A Secret Love
By Jenni Holtz
“A Secret Love” is a documentary about Pat Henshel and Terry Donahue, a lesbian couple that were together for over sixty-five years. The film tells the story of their relationship in its entirety while showing Pat and Terry navigating moving to an apartment building for seniors due to Terry’s deteriorating health. Sadly, Terry passed away in 2019, but the Netflix original documentary keeps their story alive. Pat and Terry started dating in their twenties but kept their relationship hidden from family, fearing rejection. Over the years, they told their families they had boyfriends and only lived together because Chicago’s rent was so expensive. With this, Pat and Terry were able to keep their romantic relationship hidden, offering them safety in a time when it was dangerous to be a lesbian publicly.
““A Secret Love” is especially powerful for the LGBTQ+ community…there are probably many stories like Pat and Terry’s. Older LGBTQ+ folks are rarely given platforms such as this.”
During their relationship, Terry was a pro-baseball player and eventually acted as a consultant on the film “A League of Their Own,” based on the baseball league Terry played in. “A Secret Love” looks back on Pat and Terry’s lives and captures the sweetest moment: when, after over sixty years together, they finally got married in a small ceremony with friends and family.
Pat and Terry’s constant love and support for each other will bring tears to anyone’s eyes, but “A Secret Love” is especially powerful for the LGBTQ+ community. Because it has only been acceptable to be openly LGBTQ+ in recent years — and homophobia and transphobia are still pressing issues — there are probably many stories like Pat and Terry’s. Older LGBTQ+ folks are rarely given platforms such as this, in part because much of the older LGBTQ+ generation died during the AIDs epidemic or never felt comfortable coming out, especially if they ended up in a heterosexual marriage. “A Secret Love” puts into perspective the pre
Number 11: The Half of It
By Nicole Ackman
While Netflix has become known for their teen rom-coms, “The Half of It” is more of a coming-of-age film. It’s the story of a smart, introverted girl named Ellie (Leah Lewis) whose classmates hire her to write their essays. But when sweet but not-very-eloquent football player Paul (Daniel Diemer) hires Ellie to help him craft messages to win over the popular and beautiful Aster (Alexxis Lemire), things get complicated. It’s a sort of modern-day Cyrano de Bergerac, but with a twist: Ellie has feelings for the same girl.
One of my favorite things about the film is its depiction of Ellie and Paul’s friendship. It’s rare in teen films to see a close bond between male and female characters unless at least one of them is already in a relationship. As someone who grew up with lots of guy friends, it was really special to see that kind of friendship reflected onscreen. In fact, the film is at its best when it’s showcasing Ellie and Paul as a pair.
“The Half of It” benefits from not just diverse casting, but diverse characters. The film is written and directed by Alice Wu, who is Chinese-American like her main character, Ellie. Some of the most poignant scenes in the film deal with how Ellie’s father has struggled because of his Asian accent, particularly after the death of her mother. Chinese-American actress Lewis does a fantastic job with the role of Ellie, making her very likable to the audience despite her somewhat prickly nature.
“The Half of It” benefits from not just diverse casting, but diverse characters. The film is written and directed by Alice Wu, who is Chinese-American like her main character, Ellie.”
In addition to being ethnically diverse, the film also features a teenage lesbian character. While LGBT+ characters are becoming more prominent in the film industry, it’s still rare to see a young lesbian woman on film and particularly a lesbian person of color. While the message of the film is more geared to the platonic love that we see, it’s still notable for its open portrayal of a young woman who is learning to articulate her sexuality and having her first strong crush on a girl.
It’s an ambitious movie, even tackling religion and how it affects life in a small town, and at times it may suffer for how much it attempts to speak to. But, it’s still the best teen film of 2020 by far for its originality, the way it deals with identity and immigration, and its beautiful depiction of friendship. “The Half of It” is well worth catching up on if you missed it when it came out and is available on Netflix.