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CinemaScopes: January 2021

| December 31, 2020 | 0 Comments

John Boyega in Small Axe: Lovers Rock

2020 has changed our lives forever, and it has altered the way we now view and regard cinematic excellence. While we may not be watching films on the big screen, we devour them at home via streaming and VOD. Ironically, none of the films on this list would be considered big blockbusters or similarly noted for outstanding special effects. These are all films that don’t need a big screen to tell their stories because their messages are so powerful, so human. Except for Nomadland, all are currently available to view via streaming or VOD now. Here are five of the best films in 2020.

Nomadland
Directed by Chloé Zhao
Starring Francis McDormand
Theatrical Release: February 19, 2021

Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van. She sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. The third feature film from director Chloé Zhao, Nomadland, features real nomads Linda May, Swankie, and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West. Winner: Venice Film Festival Best Film 2020 and Best Director (Chloé Zhao); Toronto International Film Festival – Best Director, Chloé Zhao.

First Cow
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Starring John Magaro, Orion Lee, Toby Jones, Ewen Bremner
Streaming on Amazon Prime, I-Tunes, Google

A taciturn loner and skilled cook (John Magaro) has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in the Oregon Territory. However, he only finds a true connection with a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee), seeking his fortune. Soon the two collaborate on a successful business, although its longevity is reliant upon the clandestine participation of a nearby wealthy landowner’s prized milking cow. New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film 2020.

Small Axe: Lovers Rock
Directed by Sir Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Ward, Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn, Kedar Williams-Stirling
Streaming on Amazon Prime

The first in the film anthology series created by Steve McQueen, Lovers Rock, tells a fictional story of young love at a reggae/blue party in 1980. The film is an ode to the romantic reggae genre called lovers rock and to the black youth who found freedom and love in its sound at London house parties at a time when they were unwelcome in white nightclubs. Winner – Sight & Sound Film of the Year 2020.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Directed by Eliza Hittman
Starring: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten
Streaming on Amazon Prime, HBO Max

The film is written and directed by Eliza Hittman, an intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) embark across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery, and compassion. Nominee British Independent Film Awards 2021 – Best International Film; Winner Berlin International Film Festival Silver Berlin Bear Jury Prize – Liza Hittman (director).

Da 5 Bloods
Directed by Spike Lee
Starring Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Johnny Trí Nguyn, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Chadwick Boseman
Streaming on Netflix

Four African American veterans return to Viet Nam decades after the war to find their squad leader’s remains – and a stash of buried gold. New York Film Critics Circle Best Actor 2020 to Delroy Lindo, and Best Supporting Actor to Chadwick Boseman.

– Lori Vernon

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Category: CinemaScopes, Columns, Monthly

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