As it was for many, 2020 was a disaster for cinemas. Doors were closed for much of the year and even when they opened, the major studios’ reluctance to release their big properties into a compromised theatrical market left them light on product. Depsite this, it has actually been a pretty good year for movies. The space created by the near total absence of mega-blockbusters allowed those small and mid-level films which had found a home on streaming services to enjoy more of the spotlight than they might have initially expected.
While the demands of reworking curriculum on the fly for online delivery meant that I didn’t get to write as many reviews this year as I might have liked, I still got to see plenty of films. Here are my top ten for 2020…
Director: Marielle Heller
Starring: Matthew Rhys, Tom Hanks, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper, Maryann Plunkett, Enrico Colantoni
Growing up in Australia, we didn’t get Mr. Rogers. We got Sesame Street and a plethora of other American children’s television shows, but any awareness of Mr. Rogers was picked up secondhand, through mentions and references in other things we saw. In America, however, Mr. Rogers was an institution. For 912 episodes from 1968 to 2001, Fred Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, would don one of his iconic cardigans and host the children’s television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Looking straight down the barrel of the camera, in a gentle but never condescending voice, he would speak directly to the millions of children who tuned in everyday in a manner that made it feel like a one on one conversation. Never shying away from life’s difficult topics, his aim was to provide children with positive ways of dealing with their emotions. Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, based on Ton Junod’s 1998 magazine feature “Can you say ‘Hero’?”, examines the power of Rogers’ worldview even on a hardened adult. Skilfully constructed around a brilliant performance from Tom Hanks, even those with no pre-existing investment in Mr. Rogers will find this tale uplifting. Continue reading