As a self-proclaimed true-crime junkie, I have seen and heard many stories about missing women, whether it be from a documentary, podcast, or headline on the evening news. The assumption that the answer is obvious: the husband or boyfriend did it—duh! This is so NOT the case with “Finding Yingying” 2020. Yingying is a 26-year old Chinese woman who went missing shortly after she moved from China to Champaign, Illinois to pursue her PhD at The University of Illinois. This story is raw and real, heartbreakingly told through many voices: news stories, authorities, the family, boyfriend, friends and colleagues. Through Yingying’s diary entries, we are able to learn more about her, creating a backstory of her first 6-weeks in the United States. The words of her diary entries appear mostly in her native language—revealed over images of her; while a voiceover in English tells us her inner thoughts. She is independent, kind, caring, and incredibly smart.
What do you do with a child so out of control that they are a danger to themselves and others? What if they are too young to be housed in a secure facility and no group homes will take them? In Nora Fingscheidt’s first scripted feature “System Crasher” (2019) we see innocence meet with blind violent rage in a story that is both infuriating and incredibly sad. This film was Germany's official submission to the International Feature Film category at the 2020 Oscars.
I have quite a high bar for emotional reactions to film, whether that be laughing or crying. “Alice” had me crying in my seat all through the credits. The two key elements to Alice's story are commonplace and not particularly remarkable in themselves. A husband squanders the family money, has affairs and leaves his wife. On the other side a woman is so backed into a financial corner that she turns to sex work. Nothing especially unique about either of those elements.
The greatest achievement of Netflix is giving creators a place to put their work. From Martin Scorsese to Ava DeVernay, Netflix has become a creative landing for directors and writers to display their work without the hassle of going through the tired Hollywood process. Dee Rees got to do just that with her second feature "Mudbound" as a Netflix original movie. After her debut "Pariah", which also earned a spot on our Top 50 List, Rees proved her worth and had a much larger market to sell her idea in. It premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was released in November of 2017, which put it squarely in the Oscars award season. Not that it needed help being premiered at the end of the year, but it helped to gain it four nominations, including two for Mary J. Blige who created an original song for the film.
Visual albums have only recently become a major feature in the entertainment world, and regardless of how one feels about their existence, it would be difficult to make the argument that they aren’t intriguing. “K-12,” a film which accompanies the identically named album by Melanie Martinez, is an unexpected breakthrough for this genre. Whereas sometimes a visual album can be dominated by either its visuals or its music, “K-12” hits just the right notes and almost seamlessly combines the two.