We’re back with the next five films of our top 15 list. Enjoy!
10. Yes, God, Yes
By Morgan Roberts
In Karen Maine’s “Yes, God, Yes” (2020), one young woman’s journey with sexuality and exploring her body autonomy, Alice (Natalia Dyer) could be any young woman who pays close attention to a certain car scene in “Titanic.” While attempting to understand her sexual desires, Alice gets mixed messages from her Catholic upbringing and the World Wide Web and everything in between.
“Yes, God, Yes” is a special film. It is earnest and thoughtful as it examines the complicated manner of understanding your sexual identity, especially as a young woman and especially in a more religious area of the United States. We rarely allow women on screen to be exploring and owning their sexual identity and desires. It’s refreshing to see. To me, “Yes, God, Yes” is the film that tells your younger self that there was nothing weird or wrong about you, despite the mixed and demonizing messages you’ve received. With it now being on Netflix in the United States, I cannot implore you enough to check it out.
9. Miss Juneteenth
By Rosa Parra
2020 wasn’t only a strong year for female directors, but it was also a highlight for directorial debuts. Channing Godfrey Peoples‘ “Miss Juneteenth”(2020) is the perfect example of both. Following Turquoise (Nicole Beharie), a single mother willing to face any adversities as she attempts to prepare her teenage daughter for the “Miss Juneteenth” beauty pageant, this film dives into the socio economical challenges Black communities endure on a daily basis (and have done so for decades). Turquoise works several jobs to make ends meet while showcasing a significant amount of strength since she can’t rely on anyone else but herself. Beharie delivers an incredible performance as a strong, hardworking and at times disappointed mother, reminding me many times about my own parenting. Overall, Miss Juneteenth is a strong directorial debut by Peoples that deserves to be watched for its inspirational story and superb acting. It’s no wonder this was my #1 film of 2020.
8. First Cow
By Tom Moore
One of the biggest shocks this awards season is that early longtime favorite “First Cow”(2020) has been totally absent lately and it’s a shame because it is one of the best films to come out last year. Kelly Reichardt’s trip into early 1800’s Western America showcased a story of friendship and building your own path as two men forge a bond in starting their own bakery utilizing the milk they steal from a man who’s bought the first and only cow in the area. The film easily has some of the most breathtaking cinematography that draws you into the thick Oregon woods and establishes an area where ingenuity and ambition are required to make more than a decent living. Not to mention, it showcases likely the most beautiful looking cow to ever grace the screen.
The friendship and hard-working mentality of quiet cook Cookie (John Magaro) and quick-thinker King-Lu (Orion Lee) is what really drives the film and makes it latch onto your heart. Their efforts to simply pave their own way together is incredibly admirable and a true underdog story that anyone can get behind. Magaro and Lee have an absolutely perfect chemistry and deliver two incredibly heartfelt performances that show their respective character’s views of life. Lee’s speeches about living and Cookie’s talks with the film’s central cow genuinely create this connection that warms your heart and, under Reichardt’s direction, make for a compelling story of friendship and simple living. “First Cow” is a film that NEEDS to make a late awards season comeback because it’s truly one of last year’s best.
7. The Assistant
By Tom Moore
There were plenty of amazing directorial debuts last year, but none were as impactful and unforgettable at Kitty Green’s debut film “The Assistant”. The film eases viewers into the chilling day of an assistant at a film company whose position is threatened when she discovers the abuse and toxic behavior of her high-powered boss. Simply from the film’s premise, there’s a clear reminiscence to hearing about the toxicity and abuse instilled by high-powered industry types like Harvey Weinstein and Roger Ailes. Green perfectly brings viewers into assistant Jane’s (Julia Garner) world through not only seeing everything she has to do before anyone even gets into the office but seeing the position her boss’ abusive actions put her in with her having to be his mediator for him and his frustrated wife.
Nothing compares to how the film showcases how this toxicity and masculine dominance persists within the workplace though as it’s one of more powerful and genuinely heart stopping aspects of the film. The moments of Jane being coached through an apology for her boss and a conversation with an HR rep that represents a horrifying reality really stick with you and unapologetically show why abuse like this can persist for years. All of this is elevated through an unbelievably stellar performance from Garner that evokes the silent pain and terror within Jane that stems from her boss’ abuse of power. With “The Assistant”, Green gives viewers a glimpse into the horrors of a toxic work environment that hits a relevancy and gut-wrenching realism that makes it one of the most memorable and striking debuts in recent time.
By Alexandra Petrache
When one thinks of “Nomadland”(2020), the words that come to mind are “peace” and “grit”. An apparent oxymoron, the film weaves together the lives of people who had been through trauma of different kinds and who aim to find peace and relaxation. Director, writer AND editor, Chloé Zhao, stars Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), who plays Fern- a woman who travels across the US in her van after the loss of her job and her husband. She takes on work at an Amazon warehouse and joins a desert nomad gathering of people who support each other and embrace the nomadic lifestyle, its freedom and self-sufficiency. Some of the actors in the film were actually real-life nomads, which brought a spirit of authenticity to it. Slightly disappointingly, though, “Nomadland” felt a bit too much like a light desert wind, it is rather mellow and quiet- qualities which make it a very enjoyable and worthy of praise film, but not a memorable one.