November 2020 Film Round-Up

While November didn’t have the never-ending quality of October, I also managed to watch a lot more movies.

As we reach the end of the year, it’s time for the prestige movies to finally roll themselves out in time for the yearly awards circuit. As you might’ve gleaned from some of my posts, this is my favourite time of year. Well, I could do without the national lockdown and global pandemic, but in terms of movies this is my time. People making lists, awards predictions, and seeing the best of what the year in film has to offer, it’s all just very very good to me.

I watched a few brilliant movies this month, as well as some…questionable movies.

Without further ado, here is everything I watched in November.

First Time Watches – November 2020

  1. Ray (2004) dir. Taylor Hackford

The thing about diving into the history of the Oscars is finding a plethora of biopics that all sort of read the same. Ray is no different to the slew of biopics and has several narrative similarities to Walk The Line amongst others of its ilk, but Jamie Foxx’s groundbreaking central performance helps to anchor this one, as well as great supporting turns from Regina King and Kerry Washington. Hackford’s direction isn’t the best, but it’s always pretty entertaining to watch.

2. The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020) dir. Natalie Krinsky

Oh my goodness what a great time. Capitalising on the strength of its cast and writing, The Broken Hearts Gallery is the best romcom of the year. Geraldine Viswanathan proves why she’s a star and Dacre Montgomery expands his range past Stranger Things and shows audiences his softer side. The two play off each other perfectly, surrounded by their notable supporting cast. Molly Gordon is particularly hilarious, but Bernadette Peters has some really good scenes too. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the premise or the characters and it’ll leave you feeling very very happy by the end of it.

3. Vera Drake (2004) dir. Mike Leigh

A Mike Leigh feature often means watching a renowned British actress being either depressed (Lesley Manville) or outrageously happy (Sally Hawkins) for 90 minutes. Vera Drake is no different, though an elongated runtime meant it had to work harder to sustain interest. The first half concerned me a little, but the second half flexed Imelda Staunton’s insane talent levels and showed off why she’s one of the best. The writing is so honest that it’s hard to swallow sometimes but that’s the beauty of Leigh’s script. He just presents these situations so earnestly that you almost have to be endeared by them. A recommended watch for Leigh fans, but mostly for any Staunton fans who want to see her as more than the deliciously vicious Dolores Umbridge.

4. The High Note (2020) dir. Nisha Ganatra

I really liked The High Note. Anyone who’s still saying that Dakota Johnson has no talent needs to reconsider. She’s great here, and her chemistry with the also amazing Kelvin Harrison Jr. is everything you need for this sort of film. Towering over both of them with her dominating screen presence is Tracee Ellis Ross, who deserves one of the most compelling performances of the year. It’s equally comedic and dramatic, both hero and villain, its more complex than the film lets it be with its steady formulas. The songs are good, performances more so, and the film is a nice watch for a rainy day.

5. Hotel Rwanda (2004) dir. Terry George

A total surprise for me I have to say, I wasn’t expecting to love this half as much as I did. Don Cheadle is beyond excellent in the lead role and he carries the movie through its occasional narrative slumps. A very powerful film that boasts great performances and some lovely character work. Definitely recommend this one.

6. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966) dir. Sergio Leone

Finally saw this and wow the reviews really weren’t kidding. Beautifully directed, brilliantly made, and featuring an ending for all time, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly loses points for crimes against the Oxford comma, but gains so many points for how much of the genre it influenced. The drawn out runtime may lag at points, but the story is pretty compelling and allows it to truly earn its terrific ending. A true classic that I’m glad I’ve finally seen.

7. Far From Heaven (2002) dir. Todd Haynes

Another film, another Julianne Moore performance that makes me question whether she’s actually human. Her honesty in her performances is awe-inspiring and this is no different. Todd Haynes obviously directs this impeccably, but the performances stand out the most. Moore is predictably perfect, but Dennis Quaid and Patricia Clarkson also deliver the goods too. Quaid is particularly excellent. Yet again, Todd Hayes knows what I enjoy.

8. Snowpiercer (2013) dir. Bong Joon-ho

I remember watching this when it came out, but I barely remembered anything from it, so I’m counting it as a first watch. This whole cast is superb from the gritty rebellion of Chris Evans and Jamie Bell to the evil whimsy of Tilda Swinton and Alison Pill. The whole concept is great and the production design is peerless. Bong Joon-ho yet again shows why he’s an absolute genius.

9. Minari (2020) dir. Lee Isaac Chung

I might embarrass myself later by being so bold, but if I see a better film this year, I don’t know what I’ll do with myself. Minari has everything I wanted it to have and more. The cast is terrific. Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri do some fantastic work as the parents trying to make the best for their family. Alan Kim is a Tremblay-level discovery. Youn Yuh-jung threatens to steal the entire thing as the loving grandmother. Chung’s direction is top-notch and he fully earns the ending he sets out to achieve. A must-see film that I cannot say enough good things about. Oh…and Emile Mosseri’s score is everything.

10. Cars 2 (2011) dir. John Lasseter

I’m not even going to comment, this is just easily Pixar’s worst film and the Cars franchise is creepy to me. I wish I could unsee this.

11. Badlands (1973) dir. Terrence Malick

I won’t go into too much depth on these upcoming Malick movies because they’re in my Director’s Series post about him, but yeah I loved this as I do all Malick movies. Sissy Spacek was born to act, what else is new?

12. Days of Heaven (1978) dir. Terrence Malick

Some of the best cinematography around. One of those films that’s beautifully written, but you could also watch it on mute and have a great time with the visuals alone.

13. The Thin Red Line (1998) dir. Terrence Malick

I love a war film and this is god-tier Malick. Some old deal really, beautiful visuals, poetic dialogue, and great performances. It’s honestly boring how good Malick is.

14. Possessor (2020) dir. Brandon Cronenberg

Refreshingly original and deftly performed by its leads, Possessor is one of those films I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. The exciting visuals and intriguing concept keep this going, but Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott elevate this even higher with their terrific performances. I won’t say more, but seek this one out if you can!!

15. Holidate (2020) dir. John Whitesell

Fun enough to justify watching, Holidate is massively helped by Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey who have enough seasonal chemistry to keep this thing alive despite the strange subplots and forced narrative developments. Yes it follows a very strict formula but has enough nice moments to make it not completely rote and awful. Jessica Capshaw in more things please.

16. Fantasy Island (2020) dir. Jeff Wadlow

How does Jeff Wadlow keep doing this to me? The less about this one, the better. I loathe the plot ‘twist’, the cast is wasted (seriously someone needs to get Lucy Hale out of Blumhouse’s address book), and the ending just falls apart. It starts off well enough but just gets worse and worse as the time goes on.

17. Being Julia (2004) dir. István Szabó

I feel similarly about this as I did about Mrs Henderson Presents. It’s just not the one for me at all. I also can’t really tell whether Annette Bening is giving a good performance or not. The one good scene in this film is really great, but everything else rings false and lacks heart, depth, and sincerity.

18. Maria Full of Grace (2004) dir. Joshua Marston

This is one of those films where the central performance is so great, but it can’t sustain the movie. Catalina Sandino Moreno is truly excellent, some the narrative around her can’t get on her level. It has some really interesting moments but also has some that don’t really work. I loved the ending, though.

19. Collateral (2004) dir. Michael Mann

I actually didn’t think much of this one after watching it but the more I thought about it the more I liked it. Cruise feels miscast, Foxx is pretty good, but this isn’t about the performances. The script and the editing do a lot of the heavy lifting. I also feel biased because I have a thing for films that take place either in one location or in one day/night. It just allows the story to develop the characters more, which is admittedly something that feels missing from Collateral which is a wasted opportunity. Nice ending though!

20. The New World (2005) dir. Terrence Malick

Yes, Malick is back. No, I won’t be elaborating. This is basically me telling you to go read my Malick post. Q’orianka Kilcher needed more love for this.

21. To the Wonder (2012) dir. Terrence Malick

As always, Rachel McAdams needed more screentime. But Affleck and Kurylenko are good enough that it doesn’t matter too much.

22. Knight of Cups (2015) dir. Terrence Malick

Go read my Terrence Malick ranking.

23. Song to Song (2017) dir. Terrence Malick

I would say that Malick knows exactly what films to make so I’d enjoy them, but Gosling and Fassbender weren’t gay together in this, so an opportunity missed really.

24. Closer (2004) dir. Mike Nichols

My favourite film genre is ‘Mike Nichols directs a movie based on a play with some powerhouse performances and biting dialogue between couples’. Seriously, I could watch these films all day, everyday. Particularly when I’m seeing Jude Law and Clive Owen flirt over web chat and Natalie Portman giving one of her best performances. I’m all in for exploring the thin line between love and hate.

25. Kinsey (2004) dir. Bill Condon

Feels nowhere near as daring as it should considering the controversial nature of the subject matter, but Kinsey is a solid biopic with some great performances. Starts spinning off the rails a little by the end, but the first hour in particular is really good.

26. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) dir. Walter Salles

Not much to say about this honestly, one of those films that’s just this side of average without me really knowing why. Well written for sure and the acting is great, just not sure about how I felt overall. Might have to revisit this one soon to find out for sure.

27. Shithouse (2020) dir. Cooper Raiff

Cooper Raiff is the same age as me. Cooper Raiff directed, wrote, produced, and starred in this film. It’s also really, really good. I’m mad as hell and seething with jealousy. To be this talented in all these different areas…he’s going to go far and I’m going to watch Shithouse a lot because I really really loved it and connected to it.

28. Nocturama (2016) dir. Bertrand Bonello

Solidly directed and acted, yet wastes a terrific premise with a borderline boring second hour while should maintain the tension from the first half but fails to do so. Watch it if you’re interested, but I’m not sure I’d recommend.

29. The Nest (2020) dir. Sean Durkin

If there’s ever a vacancy for ‘Queen of the World’, Carrie Coon would be a major contender. The things she does in this movie will satisfy me for a very long time. The coats, the biting dialogue between her and an also brilliant Jude Law, it’s all just very very good. Came for Carrie, stayed for Carrie (and the really really good movie she’s in).

30. All The President’s Men (1976) dir. Alan J. Pakula

This movie could not have been more up my alley. Spotlight for the 70’s era, All The President’s Men is end-to-end political journalism with a rapidly moving script and some lovely accompanying visuals. Redford and Hoffman are so good. A classic!

31. Master and Commander: Far Side of the World (2003) dir. Peter Weir

It ruins my whole life when a film title goes onto the second line and there’s no excuse for it. Master and Commander would’ve been a fine title for a fine film. Ocean epics just not my thing and that’s fine. I can’t deny the visuals though, they’re truly excellent.

32. Mystic River (2003) dir. Clint Eastwood

Expected to love this more if I’m honest. The whole premise and concept worked for me initially, but started to lose me as it went on. It stopped being about grief and started being about morality and crime which is a take I loved a lot less. Expected more from Penn’s Oscar-winning performance if I’m honest, but Robbins, Bacon, and Linney are on excellent form. Eastwood’s 21st century efforts haven’t been my favourites, I have to say.

33. Seabiscuit (2003) dir. Gary Ross

I’m not gonna lie I cannot remember a single thing about this movie. Take that how you will.

34. Run (2020) dir. Aneesh Chaganty

A solid follow-up to 2018’s Searching which I loved, featuring terrific performances from both Sarah Paulson and especially breakout star Keira Allen, who dominates the film. Full of tension, great character work, and some lovely visual moments, Run is definitely one I would recommend.

35. Kajillionaire (2020) dir. Miranda July

Deeply idiosyncratic, earnestly written and performed, Kajillionaire is one of my biggest surprises of the year. Evan Rachel Wood is great as are the whole cast, but it’s the originality of the plot progression that really captured me. I truly did not know where the story was going or what the characters would do next which made it engaging and exciting!

36. The Princess Switch (2018) dir. Mike Rohl

Imagine not immediately falling in love with both of the men in this film…couldn’t be me!! *insert Prince Edward fancam here*

37. Hillbilly Elegy (2020) dir. Ron Howard

I…yeah, this was not it. Going on, I had hope for the performances but they weren’t as convincing as I thought they would be. Adams and Close have their small moments of brilliance here and there due to their superlative technique, but this isn’t the Oscar-worthy moment I expected when first hearing about it. Maybe next time, gals.

38. Happiest Season (2020) dir. Clea DuVall

If you’re a regular reader, you know how I feel about this. Read my review if you aren’t! To sum it up: let’s go lesbians!! Also Mary Holland MVP.

39. City of God (2002) dir. Fernando Mereilles & Katia Lund

It felt like a crime to have not watched this fully when I’ve seen the opening a handful of times. More than worth the watch too, fantastic direction and some really really great visual moments that I know I’ll never forget.

40. House of Sand and Fog (2003) dir. Vadim Perelman

The fact that Jennifer Connelly was not Oscar-nominated for this is a crime. She’s excellent as is Ben Kingsley. The film deals in piling on the ennui but not in a draining way. It’s fascinating how it even achieves it, but I really loved it.

41. Taylor Swift – Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions (2020) dir. Taylor Swift

What is there to say? Folklore is a masterpiece and this was cute as hell.

42. Whale Rider (2003) dir. Niki Caro

Caro has a good mind for visuals but her narratives often lack the substance to support them. Keisha Castle-Hughes gives a delightful performance, but I’m not sure I cared for this that much.

43. The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020) dir. Mike Rohl

Just like the first one, but with another annoying Vanessa Hudgens with a bad accent. Aforementioned cute prince gets less screen time.

44. Atomic Blonde (2017) dir. David Leitch

Sure the storytelling is a little lacking, but the performances are great and you know I have to talk about the stairwell scene…wow.

45. Grave of the Fireflies (1988) dir. Isao Takahata

Oh my god this was SO depressing but so beautiful? I’m so glad I finally watched it but I’m going to need time to stitch myself back together. I cried a lot.

46. Melancholia (2011) dir. Lars von Trier

It’s just like Dancer in the Dark. I love the concept and performances, but the actual filmmaking is not very good. The handheld just doesn’t work. With a new style to this film, it could really be a masterpiece. The mental health representation was phenomenally realistic. Kirsten Dunst supremacy!!!!

Favourite First-Time Watch: Minari

Films I Rewatched This Month:

  • Disobedience (2018) dir. Sebastián Lelio
  • A Ghost Story (2017) dir. David Lowery
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) dir. Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
  • Coco (2017) dir. Lee Unkrich
  • The Invisible Man (2020) dir. Leigh Whannell
  • The Goldfinch (2019) dir. John Crowley
  • Knives Out (2019) dir. Rian Johnson
  • Marriage Story (2019) dir. Noah Baumbach
  • Song to Song (2017) dir. Terrence Malick
  • Ready or Not (2019) dir. Tyler Gillett & Matt Bettinelli-Olpin
  • Midsommar (2019) dir. Ari Aster
  • Rocketman (2019) dir. Dexter Fletcher
  • Brave (2014) dir. Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman
  • The Good Dinosaur (2015) dir. Peter Sohn
  • The Martian (2015) dir. Ridley Scott
  • Happy Death Day (2017) dir. Christopher Landon
  • Happy Death Day 2U (2019) dir. Christopher Landon
  • The Last Man in San Francisco (2019) dir. Joe Talbot
  • Mary Queen of Scots (2018) dir. Josie Rourke
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) dir. Barry Jenkins

66 films! I believe that ties with another month of film-watching! I’m pretty pleased with my watching this month, saw a lot of good stuff and made a further dent in my Oscars watching, which is good!

December rolls further into awards season and I expect many more great films will be watched!

Did you watch anything you loved this month? Did you love/hate any of the films I watched? Let me know as always in the comments!!

Stay safe until next time, everyone!!

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