19 January 2021

The 2020 Jim Ridley Memorial Film Poll: The Apocrypha



First and foremost, here's the official published text of the experience. Be sure and take a look before you continue on. The initial assembly of this film poll ran more than sixteen thousand words, so I am glad to offer everything that didn't make it into the version published in the Nashville Scene. I'm in awe of all of these thinkers, and I hope you enjoy all that awaits.

Participants: Jason Adams, Siddhant Adlakha, Sadaf Ahsan, Sean Burns, BJ Colangelo, Jacob Davison, A.A. Dowd, Alonso Duralde, Steve Erickson, Dr. Gangrene, Odie Henderson, Anthony Hudson, Elric Kane, Brennan Klein, John Lichman, Craig D. Lindsey, Brian Lonano, William Mahaffey, Thashana McQuiston, Richie Millennium, EJ Moreno, David Ninh, Brian Owens, Matt Prigge, D. Patrick Rodgers, Witney Seibold, Jason Shawhan, Michael Sicinski, Nathan Smith, Sam Smith, James Spence, Scout Tafoya, Kyle Turner, Lisa Williams, Cory Woodroof, Ron Wynn

Of all the filmmakers who could make a movie about the pandemic, which one do you want to see most?

I think Paul Thomas Anderson would make a really fascinating and humane film about the last year. BO

I’m going to go with Takashi Miike, because I have no clue what it would exactly be like, but it’d be something. JSpence

That I don’t know but they’ll do it with Timur Bekmambetov‘s money  ST

In lieu of singling out one filmmaker, I think they’re all in a bind: making art about this period which isn’t at least metaphorically about the pandemic might be impossible, but we’ve already seen examples of distasteful COVIDsploitation. On a better note,  Sophy Romvari and Mike Thorn’s short SOME OTHER CONNECTION has captured the uncanny way that isolation has altered our sense of time, while the collectively made documentary 76 DAYS showed the disease’s devastating impact on a hospital in Wuhan as it first affected humans.    SE

I think Mike White could make something perfectly, hilarious dreadful about all this mess. AH

Errol Morris. DPR

Spike Lee. He’s already done it with his brilliant New York, New York short film, but I think he can bring a lot of humanity to front-line workers and the disproportionate way the Rona affected minorities and the poor. Plus, he’d rip maskless fools a new one. OH

Claire Denis. The essential aspect of the pandemic is touch, and no one can represent that sense visually better. JS

John Wilson and Joel Potrykus’ collaboration merging Wilson’s How To Cook the Perfect Risotto with Potrykus’ short Joel Calls Indie Film Type Dudes into a new form of media content that is at least 25 minutes long but at most 11 grueling minutes of trolling indie film dudes with the most hollow questions that we could ask each other back in March 2020. JL

William Friedkin. In films like “Bug” and “Killer Joe,” Friedkin brought a level of sweaty, claustrophobic mania that would most certainly reflect a certain kind of lonesome panic experienced by many during this horrendously unusual time. WS

Werner Herzog. WM

David Lynch  EJM

I'll suggest the Dardennes. COVID-19 has certainly tested our infrastructure, but it has also examined very closely our capacity for hospitality and neighborliness. One of the most uncomfortable experiences I've ever had in a movie theater was during Two Days, One Night, and that film is still today one of the most carefully constructed submergences into what happens when the chips are on the table and we have to make decisions to benefit ourselves over others, or vice versa. It'd be easy to suggest any one banner independent filmmaker to examine the perils and humors of self-confinement, or maybe like an Adam McKay or Steven Soderbergh-type to break down how this all went wrong with the government response. How our empathy is stretched in a time of turmoil, to me, is the riper ground for exploration. If not the Dardennes, maybe Kelly Reichardt or Tom McCarthy?  CW

Edgar Wright. If anyone can capture apocalyptic idiocy in a dry, comical fashion, it'd be him. And you just know he could assemble an all-star cast to portray the madness. JD

After the coincidentally relatable scenes in Spontaneous that perfectly captured the constantly contradicting feelings we all experience while quarantined, I trust that Brian Duffield would perfectly bring nuance to a pandemic film as well as a lot of heart. BJC

I would love to see a comedy by Jim Abrahms, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker. BL  

I wouldn’t mind Steven Soderbergh remaking Contagionbut as a comedy this time. And you know the Coens are probably gonna turn this whole thing into another Burn After Reading-style satire. CDL

I have no desire at this point in time to watch a serious dramatic rendering of this cultural trauma we’re all still experiencing, so maybe Paul Verhoeven could add sex and super-bugs and really trash up our moment in the way our moment deeply deserves

Do you have access to drive-ins, and if so, have you attended any screenings at them?

I was fortunate to catch The Birds at Belcourt, and it was dreamy. I’m looking forward to attending more screenings at the Stardust Drive-In this spring. LW

Yes. The American Cinematheque with Beyond Fest and Cinematic Void established a number of repertory and festival screenings at Montclair's Mission Tiki Drive-In and it's been one of the few things keeping me sane. Which only furthers my point  that there is still a substantial desire to see movies in a group/theatrical setting. JD

Nope. JA

Oh yes, we make a point to visit drive-ins in numerous states every year, including 2020 - we hit drive-ins in TN, KY and IN this year. I love going to the drive-in, and am very happy that they have been able to stay open in the pandemic. I hope more folks will be encouraged to seek them out. DG

I live within driving distance of several notable drive-ins, and I have always savored the drive-in experience. Should more drive-ins open as a result of the pandemic, no one will be more eager to support the form than I. WS

Kind of. 90 minute drive but I went a couple times and really dug it. EK

Technically yes, but I did not go to any. JSpence

Yes and I loved every single minute of it. TM

 I owe a lot of love to the Aut-O-Rama Drive-In in North Ridgeville, OH for the screening of new releases and old favorites in a safe environment. Despite it being January in Ohio (see: SUPER COLD) the Aut-O-Rama is still staying strong and allowing audiences the chance to capture some familiar movie magic.  BJC

There were some here and now that I don’t have a car, no, I didn’t go. BO

I was lucky enough to hitch rides to see some amazing New York Film Festival & Rooftop Film Screenings, including the new Janus Films' 4K restoration of Joyce Chopra's Smooth Talk & Chloe Zhao's Nomadland.  DN

There are a couple of drive-in theaters in New York, but I do not have a car, and I don’t drive, not because I’m Asian, but because I’m gay. I do love the drive-in though! In September, a couple of friends and I went to the drive-in theater in Wellfleet, MA that I grew up going to and we saw Grease, which is the perfect drive-in movie. All summertime melancholy, nostalgia, thrill. KT

I do, but I have not attended.  EJM

I went to see Jurassic Park in Ithaca, NY. It was my first time at the drive-in as an adult. I acted a fool in my car. I wore a Jurassic Park t-shirt, ate popcorn and blasted the T-Rex attack on my radio. OH

I do have access to drive-ins and I went once on my own and then we held the Knoxville Horror Film Fest there and it was one of our best years ever. WM

No. The drive-ins in Houston were strictly family fare (Elf, Ghostbusters, Harry Potter) that I felt no need to see again. MS

I technically have access but no car, so no. ST

Yes, and often (23 double features, so 46 drive-in movies). It kept me sane, and moreso it allowed me to finally see the 1984 Footloose, which taught me a valuable lesson that had been waiting since I was nine years old. JS

I did! The Hollywood Theatre put on a drive-in this year at Portland's Expo Center. My ongoing series Queer Horror - the only LGBTQ+ horror film screening series in the country - presented DEATH BECOMES HER. It was a perfect summer night with a perfect crowd watching perfect undead Hollywood bombshells fight each other with shovels. AH

Technically, yes, The Museum of the Moving Image had a great series in Queens over the summer and a little bit into the fall. There's also the great Mahoning Drive-In in Northeastern-ish Pennsylvania — a mere four or five hour drive away. But I haven't been to either of them because I don't have a car, and most people I know in NYC don't have one either. Because it's NYC. If the Queens drive-in becomes bicycle-friendly, I will be a regular customer. MP

The Belcourt successfully seduced me into attending a drive-in movie by screening Miranda July's KAJILLIONAIRE at the Belcourt Drive-In. It was a wonderful experience, even though I find it very difficult to pay close attention to a drive-in movie. In fact I had to go back to watch it a second time just to catch all the things I missed the first time around. I find the whole drive-in experience very distracting, but seeing the Belcourt folks was overwhelmingly delightful. RM

I went to the Plaza Atlanta's make shift drive-in for a couple of screenings over the summer.  BL

I got invited to a new drive-in that opened up in Houston. Since I was press, I was sent to the press row in front. When a white woman rolled up to my car wanting to know who I was and who I wrote for, I thought she was a Karen telling me I shouldn’t be there because I’m a Black man. I aggressively told her I was press and she should accept that. It turns out she was the PR person making sure the press was in the front row. She later told me if I told her who she was, I would’ve gotten free candy & popcorn. My gotdamn Blackness prevented me from getting free snacks! CDL

Which is the cutest animal in any film you saw this year?


 I will die for "Boy" in Love & Monsters. The goodest boy. BJC

I’m not really an animal person, but the animal I most loved in media this year was on a TV show. On the Real Housewives of Potomac, one of the housewives got an African Grey parrot called T’Challa, who even embroiled himself in some of the drama! It was incredible and really affirmed my love of birds. KT

Bruce the Hyena from Birds of Prey JD

The cow in First Cow and that animated cat in Soul (I am always a sucker for cats) TM

The octopus teacher.   SE

Lockheed in The New Mutants. JS

The only animal I remember was the cute comfort cat in SOUL. It was treated as shabbily as the Black guy who inhabited it at one point. OH

The only toy I want from 2020 is a stuffed animal of the animated pig dripping blood and maggots in Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things
. JA

The piglets in “Gunda.” WS

Bubo the owl from the original Clash of the Titans. JSpence

Gunda- as described by Manohla Dargis as a "prodigious sow of uncertain age" in her New York Times review DN

The hyena in Birds of Prey  EJM

Eve the cow in Kelly Reichardt’s FIRST COW was the best animal casting of the year. BO

Does Grogu/Baby Yoda count? If not I would say the dog in Synchronic or the Puff alien in Save Yourselves. WM

Hong Sang-soo's The Woman Who Ran had an amazing cat. He just watched while the humans argued about him. MS

The Pig in GodMothered ST

Harley's hyena Bruce in BIRDS OF PREY stole my heart and I spent the entire last half of the movie very, very concerned for his well-being - which certainly impressed me as he was one of the few CGI components in the film. AH

Of all the 2020 releases that happened during the pandemic, which is the film you most want to see in a theatrical environment?

GUNDA, a Tarkovsky-esque, slow-cinema portrait of Norwegian farm animals, and FIRST COW, Particularly due to the low-light cinematography and the full-frame aspect ratio, which can be BIGGER than widescreen, the closer you sit. SS

Those vistas of Nomadland are really screaming out for the big screen experience (same goes for its gorgeous score)
. JA

I was lucky enough to catch a few of my favorites in the theater, but I guess I would say Relic would have been nice on the big screen. WM

This may seem like a cheat answer, but literally any of them. If a film is worth seeing, it’s worth seeing on a big screen. But because that answer is also undoubtedly unsatisfactory, I will say “Blood Machines,” a colorful sci-fi sex-soaked freakout that debuted on Shudder. WS

Black Bear  EJM

I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of the films I loved this year theatrically, whether by timing or tenacity. But Lovers Rock, The Yellow Night, Beginning, and Siberia are all part of a journey I want to take on as big a screen as possible. JS

Monster Hunter. NS

My mind says Tenet; my heart says Crazy World with a good crowd. JSpence

WOLFWALKERS astonishing visuals deserve to be seen on a big screen. BO

All of these beautiful Wong Kar Wai restorations from Criterion Collection. I really regret not seeing Pedro Costa's stunning Vitalina Varela in the theater right before the pandemic. I really wish I could've been immersed in these a lot more than from my couch. DN

Bad Trip ST

Would have enjoyed seeing Possessor for sure. For both the potential audience reaction and the use of sound.  TM

I wish I saw Tenet at an IMAX theater, just to hear how batshit-loud Christopher Nolan got with the sound mixing. CDL

Martin Eden. A classic "big" film. MS

Possessor. LW

LOVERS ROCK, much more for its use of music than its visuals.   SE

PG: PSYCHO GOREMAN. Saw it at the Beyond Fest drive-in and I would love to have been in a theatrical environment to hear everyone's reactions to that cinemadness. JD

Lovers Rock. Seeing that by myself, in my stupid apartment, even on above-average speakers, was not ideal. And yet maybe the imperfection made me mourn social movie viewing (and social gatherings in general) even more. MP

I think Kajillionaire has an all-encompassing compassion and love that would be exciting to see in theaters, but I am probably more compelled to see the things I didn’t care for that much on the big screen. I’m curious as to whether the viewing conditions would change my opinion; for instance, I thought Da 5 Bloods was fine, but it was watched on a hot day with a glare on the TV screen, and my focus during this time has been dented severely by garden variety anxiety. So seeing that film would probably make me engage with it on a more attentive level. KT

I thought it would be WONDER WOMAN 1984 but then I saw it. At least I didn’t have to sit through it captive in a movie theater. AH

Both were in the 2020 New York Film Festival’s Shorts Program 8: A Sudden Darkness and Wild Bill Horsecock. The former because it has a scene depicting a walk through the 2003 New York blackout that would’ve been incredible to process in a theater. The latter short because a day after the online premiere it was removed by the festival programmers once multiple sexual assault charges about the doc subject were disclosed to them and these same charges go undefined in the short but are played for sympathy by the director in a scene where bar staff refuse to let him in for a performance. JL

Possessor. EK

Da 5 Bloods, if only because Delroy Lindo's performance was bigger and more audacious than any practical or computer-generated Hollywood special effect. It's a space-eating piece of acting, one that dominates every scene, every camera angle, every exchange of dialogue. Lindo cuts through every moment with a chainsaw, hampered by uncontrollable guilt and attacking with unbridled rage. That performance was not served well by my television, as badly as I hoped it would be. Lindo deserves the biggest screen possible for this one. Mank and Soul would be close seconds.  CW

Tenet was the film I wanted to see the most in a theatrical environment.  Thankfully I was able to see it.  And I was very fortunate to see it on 35mm. BL

Has the pandemic affected your ability to focus when viewing a film?

Of course! Watching movies at home blows! Even if you turn off your phone and shut the drapes and pretend you're watching a movie in a theater, it's not the same. There are always distractions. MP

No. But it has influenced my desire to watch new vs old. I found a lot of comfort this year in dusting off movies I hadn't seen in a long time or tried and true favorites. I also found myself watching a lot of YouTube commercial compilations from the 70's and 80's. I am quite certain this is due to the anxiety around what is going to happen from day to day. And watching the known offers a real comfort. And revisiting/escaping for a few moments a time when we weren't in all of *gestures wildly around* this. TM

I was already spending an insane amount of time viewing movies and screeners at home on my couch or in bed. 
But yes, I do find myself texting sometimes when I probably should be focusing on certain films that I view at home vs. absorbing it in a theatrical setting. DN

No, but it has made me more choosy about what I spend my time watching. A lot more choosy. I’m not watching anything that doesn’t interest me unless I’m getting paid for it. OH

Not at all. Always been a digital viewer due to not liking mainstream films.  EJM

Yes, absolutely. At first, I thought this was a product of increasing Internet dependency, but then I read that stress produces a chemical that damages the brain’s ability to focus. Also, I can only watch films on my laptop right now, while I needed eye surgery for more than half of the year, both of which harmed my ability to appreciate subtitled films and “slow cinema.”     SE

It has changed my idea of the space I need to be in to properly take in movies. I prefer my own home, but have had to watch films under other circumstances as well. WS

Yes. And this is something that worries me deeply. JS

I'd say it has, if only because I'm too magnetized to my iPhone as it is. If a film didn't completely grab me this year, I struggled with not making occasional glances at a text here or a Tweet there. Theaters require discipline - they're a healthy way to engage with media because they demand one screen be silenced for the other. You have to do that yourself at home, and it's a feat, particularly when the world is so organically distracting these days. CW

No, but it has affected my ability to focus on reading a book. I use to plow through 300-pagers in a weekend. Now, I’m lucky if I finish a book in a month. CDL

Nah. I was always absolutely riddled with anxiety. ST

Not in any shape or form. Only in this calendar year could I have watched Out 1 in almost one stretch. What it did create was a complete rejection of the present, film-wise, until the past couple of months. JSpence

Oh yes. I've started and stopped a number of films, had to watch movies in pieces over several days, and generally had no alone-time. But my family and I have remained healthy, so I don't feel like I have much to complain about, all in all. MS

A little bit. I suppose that's to be expected when you're watching mostly at home. JD

To a degree. It’s hard not to doom-scroll if a movie isn’t 100% holding your attention. BO

I wasn't having a great time of it back in March and April, but in case you haven't noticed we humans are remarkably adaptable to despair and being surrounded by constant death. A lot of the time I'll kill the lights and charge my phone in the other room, trying to eliminate distractions. One of the things I miss most about the theatrical experience is how it forces you to focus. Like Greta Gerwig says, going to the movies is one of the only things you can do where you can't also be doing something else. SB

Yes, initially. It's gotten easier now, but at the onset I couldn't watch any movies or TV where people go to parties or out to eat or on a date or to the store or anywhere in public that doesn't require masks, face shields, viral testing, and a cacophony of terror and uncertainty. So I spent most of my early pandemic days watching existential dread pieces where everyone dies or is dead to begin with. AH

The pandemic has made me a much more focused film viewer, in large part because more than ever I want to really get into the entire sense of escape, immersion into a setting or time frame, either support for or revulsion towards characters, and delving into a story just to be removed for a time from the constant pain, losses and devastating impact of the pandemic. It also could provide some solace and relief as well as distance from the ridiculousness of folks thinking that it is an infringement on their constitutional rights to wear a mask and not be possible spreaders of a deadly disease. That type of lunacy, which is part and parcel of a general idiocy plaguing this nation's politics, has made me far more focused on film, the arts and sports than ever before. RW

Thankfully no. BL

At the beginning of the pandemic, when for a moment all of life’s responsibilities faded into a constant noisy panic, I was honestly more engaged by serious movie-watching than I had been in a long time. I found it much easier to invest myself in masterpieces because I had quite literally nothing to distract me. But as this has become the new normal, my attention has faded once again, and I find myself thirsting for the comforts of smooth-brained motion pictures. NS

Yes, more films than I would like to admit were ¾ watched. Several, which were probably not very good to begin with, lost me early. While I am cognizant of the complex politics of accessibility and whatnot, the thing I miss most about seeing things in the movie theater is the social agreement that I won’t be on my phone. That I’m there with myself and the film and we are communing with one another. I will say that the biggest difference in my viewing habits this year is that I barely watched any 2020 films for the first seven or eight months, and then I tried doing a speed catch up around September and October. But I realized I wasn’t especially enjoying the process, so late October, I threw in the towel, called the year a fluke, and decided to focus on watching the things that genuinely intrigued me, regardless of when they were released. I would rather watch and pay attention to the movies I want to watch than have to feel like everything I’m watching is out of obligation. KT

What’s the angriest a film has made you this year?

James Corden's pinkface impersonation of queerness in The Prom will fuel me with enough anger to break a cinder block in half with my bare, manicured hands for years to come. BJC

By far, the most self-indulgent film of the year was I'm Thinking of Ending Things. So proud of its own heavy-handed narrative, I found myself frustrated well before the credits rolled. It left me marvelling – as I often do – at the length of rope some studios will give white male directors to hang themselves. A fan of both Charlie Kaufman and the novel, I found the adaptation to be remarkably contrived. This is a director I don't like to see trying too hard and doing too much, but here we are. SA

Fantasy Island was one of the last films I saw in a theater. I’m angry that one of those precious final experiences was spent on that movie. LW

 It's not a film, but I was pretty angry after watching Tiger King. BL

The Turning had no ending. Outrageous! EK

Michel Franco's New Order (out in 2021). A cruel, stupid movie that thinks it's smart and radical. MS

Probably MLK/FBI. Or The Monopoly of Violence, about police corruption, especially re: peaceful protests. MP

Tenets incoherent nonsense plot made me nearly as mad as Christopher Nolan’s insistence that the film go to theaters during a pandemic. But I also felt very angry on Roald Dahl’s behalf when the new adaptation of his The Witches ended with CGI mice dancing to “We Are Family”—an admittedly harmless offense in a year of harmful ones, but also the kind of shit I would expect from an Alvin & The Chipmunks movie, not the director of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? AAD

I saw that an anti-Hillary doc called Hillary's America was playing at a local theater and anytime I see that a film like that gets a theatrical release I get pretty pissed off. WM

Wonder Woman 1984 was really bad! I spent most of the film texting and at one point maybe started paying bills online while watching it. Working at an arthouse distribution company, I sometimes get upset when I start thinking of budgets given to make films on that scale and the marketing dollars for releasing. But then I realize, it's just part of being in our entertainment ecosystem and I try to remember how I work in a specific part of the industry that truly champions very special films. I think people would be shocked to see how modest we spend marketing the movies we release, yet are able to accomplish so much to bring attention to them with the limited resources we have - with very few people.  DN

Both “Collective” and “Totally Under Control” made me furious at the horror of corruption, incompetence, and institutionalized idiocy that leads to a bureaucracy so utterly bungled that it can lead to the ends of human lives. WS

I was originally going to answer Bloodsucking Freaks, but the more I think about it, it has to be Rebecca 2020. A waste of decent actors that pushes going through the motions to the limit. I know it’s a hard hill to climb when the previous adaptation is as lofty a one as Rebecca (1940) is, but this Rebecca doesn’t so much change as not do anything. Even the 1978 version of The Big Sleep (the closest film in comparison I can think to make) did something with the changes it made. The most distinguished characteristic Rebecca 2020 has to offer is color. I have not seen any of Ben Wheatley’s other work - so I don’t want to judge him based on this alone. This is a case of a film not being bad, but so competently frustrating. . JSpence

A three-headed beast: 1)THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 turning the Black Panthers, Yippies and other 60s radicals into fodder for Aaron Sorkin’s DNC centrism, complete with a courtroom ending so corny it’d embarrass Ron Howard.  2)For all I know, ANTEBELLUM may have been made with the best intentions, but it plays as masturbation material for the local KKK chapter while also trying to hook progressive audiences who care about racism. Janelle Monae must’ve read a script that came off much better than the finished film!  3)The anonymously made MURDER DEATH KOREATOWN plays out sub-UNDER THE SILVER LAKE conspiratorial thinking with a  troubled homeless man who doesn’t seem aware what he’s doing or saying as one of its key actors and exploits a real murder case as the launching pad for its plot.  If I used the genuine problems of a troubled neighborhood so blithely in my fiction about a white guy going crazy, I wouldn’t put my name on the film either.  SE

Fantasy Island’s message that queer people would be better off ceding their lives to their more respectable straight siblings made me so fucking furious that I wanted to throw things. Also, fuck Impractical Jokers: The Movie for indirectly being responsible for the end of Talk Show The Game Show. JS

Trial of the Chicago 7 - the Bobby Seale gagging scene. Aaron Sorkin should be bound and gagged.  ST

Brahms: The Boy II had no reason to undermine and contradict the super fun ending of The Boy, especially when it was in service of such a bland, nothing narrative. BK

Sam Pollard’s MLK/FBI (I wanted to punch J. Edgar Hoover in the face) and Antebellum (I wanted to punch the filmmakers in the face.) OH

Nomadland annoyed me so much.  EJM

Without naming it, that 'documentary' claiming the pandemic was a hoax.  JD

I went back and forth between scoffing at and getting angry at Ron Howard’s HILLBILLY ELEGY. For a movie that thinks it’s an attempt to “understand” the people of Appalachia, it really treats them like zoo animals to be looked at and pitied. BO

I hated THE LODGE. I hated her - SO. MUCH. Flames - FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE. I went in thinking, "Hey, GOODNIGHT MOMMY was terrible, but at least this one looks thoughtful and it touches on Heaven's Gate and Alicia Silverstone is in it," and then two minutes in she was dead and I realized all the filmmakers were doing was remaking GOODNIGHT MOMMY in English. I'm so tired of watching hard-working women get tormented and murdered by unfeeling children because nihilist filmmakers think it's metal and says so much about society, or something. AH

Some of the encounters in "Da 5 Bloods," recognizing that some of that dialogue and bad decisions I've seen and heard too often in my lifetime.  RW

I watched a Brazillian film called Dry Wind, which was two hours of brooding and explicit gay sex, and it felt like if Beau Travail were porny but sucked. It’s a gay movie more than it is a queer movie, predicated on a kind of cis graphic sexuality as just there without much to actually say about sexuality or gender (at least, what it says has been said before, better by others). It’s drenched in gorgeous gels but drags out its kink, but I don’t think its obliteration of its eroticism or sexiness is intentional so much as as it reveals a lack of imagination of gay cinematic art. And at this point, arty porny movies aren’t especially transgressive in and of themselves. It also reminded me a little of one of my favorite films O Fantasma, as far as a kind of angst that sidles up next to issues of labor and class; but Dry Wind doesn’t really bother thematizing those ideas like Rodrigues’ film. It just expects you to buy into a sexy angsty fantasy when it really has little to account for in terms of why we should. KT

Watching Small Axe: Mangrove, and how systemic racism and just plain nastiness clipped at the heels of the free, loving spirit of Black men and women in London's West Indies neighborhood, and the hellacious experiences these innocent people had in order to fully own their strained freedoms.  CW

Charm City Kings. I know there are people who dig that movie. But if you’ve seen 12 O’Clock Boys, the documentary it’s based on, you know that movie could’ve been done a lot better. CDL

Not so much "angry" as just terribly annoyed by MANK. SB

David Dufresne’s doc The Monopoly of Violence, on Macron’s obscene police crackdowns on the protests in Paris, really got my blood boiling, especially since I was watching it while trapped in my apartment because of the pandemic as the George Floyd protests were rightly raging here in the US. JA

What’s the musical moment that has stuck with you from this year’s cinematic offerings?

 I really enjoyed the ballet scene in I'm Thinking of Ending Things.  BL

A lot of people are going to say this but the "Silly Games" sequence from Lovers Rock. Obviously. MP

Margo Robbie as Harley Quinn's rendition of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" set to machine guns. AH

A double A-side answer: in Lovers Rock, as The Investigators’ “Turn Out the Light” flows over the scene, we are witness to any dance party under a microscope – those who have found somebody and those who have found a groove of their own. It and the completely contrasted high-energy crowd dynamics in response to “Kunta Kinte Dub” by The Revolutionaries, lead my mind back to many a college party, although in Lovers Rock the room seems bigger and has nice wallpaper. Also, The delightful and surprising use of Genesis’ “The Brazilian” in Palm Springs. JSpence

I was quite fond of the slick and sleek use of “Sway with Me” by Saweetie and GALXARA in Birds of Prey, featuring a spritely Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) pickpocketing like she’s skipping down the street. Is as good as any scene of the film, bursting with energy and wit. KT

CATS was technically last year, but I tried to watch that atrocity this year and the terrifying imagery from that movie still lingers in my brain. WM

All of Lover’s Rock ST

It delighted my heart and soul to see that dance scene set to Patrick Cowley's Megatron Man in Palm Springs. TM

Stars Are Blind scene in Promising Young Woman  EJM

All the music from HBO's documentary on the Apollo as it celebrated one of America's cultural monuments, and sadly one I've never had the chance to experience, even when I worked on the East Coast for 10 years. RW

David Byrne's American Utopia. Just, everything about it, really. JD

Nicola Tesla Wants to Rule the World. MS

I’d return to LOVERS ROCK for both “Silly Games” & “Kunta Kinte” – among many other brilliant needle-drops in SMALL AXE, the ironic use of “Uptown Girl” in RED, WHITE & BLUE is particularly potent -  but I’d also cite Mads Mikkelsen’s dance to Scarlet Pleasure’s “What a Life” in ANOTHER ROUND and the “Road to Nowhere” and “Everybody’s Coming to My House” one-two punch that closes DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA.   SE

It’s a tie between “Silly Games”  in Lovers Rock, and “Kunta Kinte Dub” also in Lovers Rock — spiritual harmony followed by spiritual frenzy, a scene that makes you levitate, followed by one that makes you bounce with passion and excitement.  SAdlakha

I keep going back to Jesse Plemons singing Oklahoma's "Lonely Room" to a crowd of, well, that'd be a spoiler. It's hard to discuss this moment without unspooling the 4D labyrinth of sorrow that is I'm Thinking of Ending Things. It's the perfect coda for what Kaufman's trying to say through the character, and proves, yes, Plemons is the closest actor we have to the immaculate charm of Philip Seymour Hoffman. That's the only other actor that I think could've played this part just like Kaufman needed it to be, save for maybe Jack Black.  CW

The one everyone else said. SB

Mads Mikkelsen’s dance at the end of Another Round is ecstasy. 

Does Taylor Swift’s Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions count? Thanks, T-Swift! LW

Pretty much every number from DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA. I’ve watched it five times and keep going back to it. A close second would be the audition scene in SOUL. The way the animators captured the movement of the fingers on the piano and the saxophone was remarkable. Also, the score from Reznor, Ross and Batiste was a real achievement. BO

Joe Gardener going into the zone while at a NYC basement jazz club audition in SOUL. SS


I have always stood in solidarity with Nolan’s passion for the big-screen (and IMAX) experience. At the same time, it was kind of a relief to let this one pass by and then hear that I didn’t miss much. To say that this experience marked a post-pandemic shift in not only the industry at large but in my personal approach towards cinema would not be an overstatement. SS

I have not seen. It’s hard to believe that I’m in a place in my life where I don’t have anything other than an incredible sense of indifference towards Christopher Nolan, when Memento holds such a special place in my heart (I wrote a research paper on the film in high school). Maybe I’ll watch it! KT

Some cool time travel business, a cool car thing, a lackluster and nonsensical third act. It wasn't not fun just rolling with it, and seeing Christopher Nolan devise a scenario so complicated that it defeated even him. Plus Robert Pattinson was clearly having fun as a smirking know-it-all who delights in watching an underling (that is, John David Washington) he knows will one day be better at his job and more powerful than even him. He's very proud of what Washington will one day become, and Pattinson was as close that lumbering behemoth had to a center of gravity. MP

Despite it not being in my top 10 I saw it and actually liked it. I by no means think it was perfect. But I will always applaud someone trying to show me something I have not seen before. I also enjoyed the reveal of what was at the heart of the conflict - and without spoiling it: Broken hearts and the human ego. TM

I am still waiting for the right time to see it...it feels like homework to me somehow lol! There's so much more I'd rather catch up on at the moment. DN

A bunch of friends and I rented a theater opening weekend and watched and that experience was great but I really didn't like the movie during that viewing. I watched it again recently and enjoyed it way more. It's deeply flawed but the filmmaking is pretty great when you abandon logic. WM

I’d be more excited by a chance to safely see DUNKIRK again in IMAX.   SE

My greatest temptation of the year. Now finally having seeing it three months after the fact, I never would have expected it, Trolls World Tour, and Wonder Woman 1984 would be the greatest barometers of the industry. It had its cool moments: the opening scene, the backwards car chase, Robert Pattinson’s performance. Although I realize I’m not under the spell of Nolan as much as I was in the past, I’m glad there’s someone like him out there in the film world. I’m also very curious to see, in light of everything, what will become of his nearly twenty year relationship with Warner Bros. JSpence

A ridiculously expensive remake of the Lumieres' "Destruction of a Wall." I liked it. MS

Saw it via screener in December. It’s not good. It was never going to be the film to “save theaters.” WS

Cons: A completely unnecessary final action sequence, Nolan’s difficulty with women’s characters, a genuinely terrible Kenneth Branagh performance. Pros: A lot of imagination in the effects and fight choreography, Elizabeth Debicki in heels, Robert Pattinson (who really should play David Bowie). JS

Even my love of Pattinson couldn’t get me to like this one.  EJM

Don’t mind me, just sitting back and marveling at the fact that John David Washington had to learn to perform both parts in a fight, each one backwards and forwards, and filming this sequence four different ways was the first thing they shot.  SAdlakha

The movie itself? Christopher Nolan naming his protagonist "The Protagonist" in this one almost felt like a knowing shrug toward the very concept of character development — it's just not something he seems to care about. But if you can suspend disbelief to the absolute max and accept Tenet's wildly dubious logic as a means of getting us from one very impressive set piece to the next, it's a fun, masterfully made action film. DPR

Lol, love to die to watch a movie rewind.  ST

I say “yes, yes, oh GOD YES!” to Kenneth Branagh’s hammy Russian tribute to late-career “anything for money’ Laurence Olivier. Other than that, eff this movie. OH

It's not one of Christopher Nolan's best films; it's probably too convoluted for its own good at times; you won't fully get it unless you're willing to keep spinning it until it clicks. It's still an exhilarating spectacle and such a deliriously fun concept, and no matter how you feel about the guy, Nolan makes movies the right way. It's also got an emotional coda that really ties it all together. I've got a lot attached to this movie: It's been the only film I've seen inside a theater during the pandemic so far; Nolan's one of my favorite filmmakers; it came out right before my birthday. I have very few complaints and possess great eagerness to dive into this one again ASAP.  CW

Eh...Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it. Wished I could have heard it. BO

Basically, entertaining gobbledygook. CDL

Saw it at the drive-in. To quote Homer Simpson: "Brilliant! I have absolutely no idea what's going on." JD

Fuck Christopher Nolan. I'm so goddamn tired of Christopher Nolan. Remember when the tattoo dude killed his wife in MEMENTO? Remember when Nolan exploded Maggie Gyllenhaal in THE DARK KNIGHT, and then exploded Marion Cotillard in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS? Remember when Marion Cotillard was the evil dream demon in INCEPTION (a film which made absolutely no sense, much like TENET)? Women only exist in his films to be evil and/or explode - there was ONE woman in all of DUNKIRK, a nurse, and she exploded. Nolan is a film bro with access to good technicians and IMAX and that's about it. AH

Just further confirmation that Christopher Nolan has been the most wildly overpraised filmmaker of this age — it’s really no worse than anything else he’s coughed up over the past decade, but that just means you should lower your opinions of all his other work, not in any way raise this mess up.

Unfortunately I was really disappointed with Tenet.  But there were some impressive sequences that were great to watch on a big screen. BL

Hard no. BJC

Big silly fun. Wish it was a Bond film in a way but saving Cinemas was too much pressure for any film. EK

Overall, good but not quite the innovative, ground-breaking phenomenon as advertised, but then that was to be expected. I really want to see it in a theater because it's possible there are some elements that might be more dazzling and/or more memorable when viewed on a much larger screen and in that setting. RW

I’m generally a fan of Christopher Nolan’s conceptually ambitious quasi-cerebral blockbusters, even when they get a little convoluted. But Tenet pushes his love of complicated plotting—and the manipulation of chronology—past its acceptable limits and straight into the realm of damn-near incomprehensibility. Congrats to those who can enjoy the film as pure IMAX spectacle. I just can’t roll with something that makes so damn little sense, proudly and at great length. AAD

If only for the Blu-Ray “special feature,” which is really a 75-minute making-of film on a separate disc (!) that begins with what can only be described as Christopher Nolan and his producers justifying their lavish location scouting trips and IMAX usage.  In one chapter a crew member comes as close as one can in a studio-supported featurette to calling Nolan out for his eccentric expectations. JL

Big dumb fun! As soon as BlackKklansman got all dressed up in a fancy suit and fucked up the kitchen assassins with a cheese grater I was grinning ear-to-ear and settled in for the ride. Hope this gets a re-release when the IMAX theaters near me finally re-open because I feel like this kind of loud, endearing stupidity is best seen on the largest screen known to man. SB

We live in a twilight world. A misunderstood labyrinth of a thriller, as much a Borges story as a Bond thriller, and the first Nolan movie I have ever liked without reservations. It’s very interesting to me that it is quite literally a movie about the future getting revenge on the past for not preventing climate change and no one is reckoning or even talking about that aspect of the film. NS

The mere thought of Tenet feels like a full-body sigh. (Of disappointment, for the record.) SA

Have you attended any virtual film festivals? Thoughts?

I attended a few NYFF screenings and mostly just found myself missing the distinct experience of waiting in line outside Lincoln Center on a chilly October morning. NS

I attended the Houston Cinema Arts Festival virtually. It was a’ight. And does Belcourt’s 12 Hours of Terror count? CDL

At least ten so I now have very strong opinions about the streaming platforms that have asserted dominance like Shift72 and Eventive. Having watched more than a few beleaguered programmers give intros or Q&As from their desk I can tell the online experience is a beast to pull off. But they’ve been great experiences, even if I’ve occasionally forgotten the expiration date for titles I rented. Heed my only warning though: Shift72 (i.e. the system Sundance 2021 will use) is absolute on their expiration window down to the minute. JL

I went to a couple and the live events and online community were really fun and unique but the screenings themselves didn’t hold a candle to the theatrical festival experience. EK

 I think it's a new dawn and the exclusive nature of festivals can be problematic. I love that many festivals are figuring out that they need to think outside the box and try different and unique ways to connect to wider audiences outside of physical spaces.  DN

I attended AND hosted the first-ever Indigenous horror film festival, Vision Maker Media's Nightmare Vision, this year and it was a blast. I have to say - I love digital film festivals. Accessibility, it turns out, is key - and not having to be in a specific city makes these festivals feel so much more inclusive. I hope this trend continues even when / if we get to gather in theaters again. AH

Four so far, though all were festivals I normally attended in person. It’s amazing how the tech stepped up and helped make things run as smoothly as it did. Access and variety is amazing. But the in-person experience is such an important part. JS

I did several. If I think of it as a supplement of "live" film festivals, instead of a replacement, then I think it's fantastic. More access, more flexibility. But I still miss the real thing. MS

I have not. Although seeing a series of new films in rapid succession via online screeners seems to be indistinguishable from any particularly busy week in a film critic’s life in 2020. WS

I attended TIFF and CANNES virtually and aside from obviously missing the big screen and the in-person networking, I thought both did the best they could given the circumstances - although I know a lot of journalist friends who were locked out of TIFF and were not happy about it. BO

I attended Chattanooga Film Fest virtually and a few friends purchased passes as well and we got together at my theater Central CInema one day and watched 4 or 5 movies. That experience was great, but overall I'm not a fan. It kind of just feels like you have access to a bunch of screeners and it's just hard for me to get into it. I was extremely impressed with how quickly distributors and festivals embraced this type of screening and banded together to try and help each other out. So, while I'm not a fan, I think it's a great alternative.  WM

I did one, and it was okay. A little disjointed but I am curious to see what next year is like  EJM

My thoughts are mixed. I miss being able to discuss films in person after screenings, but virtual fests also offer more access to people who wouldn’t normally have it.  SAdlakha

I attended the NYFF virtually. I missed seeing my colleagues at the Walter Reade, and that electricity of seeing the movie first. I got used to the screener format without much fuss. I’d like to see festivals continue the virtual thing for patrons long after things return to normal. OH

 There were three standout festivals for me this year: Chattanooga Film Festival, Salem Horror Fest, and Nightstream. All three brought unique and groundbreaking events to their digital festivals, and as someone who doesn't live near most festivals, the ability to host Q&As, retrospectives, and participate in festival events without having to pay for a flight or lodging was greatly appreciated. It opened opportunities that were previously inaccessible due to cost or geography, and every digital festival should be extremely proud for keeping the celebration of film alive. BJC

It’s not the same, and I kind of wish they made programmers more willing to take chances. ST

I attended a few on some one-off tickets; it's fun, but it just isn't the same without a crowd of people around you to discuss what you watched afterward.  CW

The time limitations, especially for press availability, made them a really underwhelming experience, although in theory it was great that I could now watch films from Udine and Chicago’s film festivals without leaving my bedroom.   SE

Yes, a number of them. From Chattanooga film Fest to Nightstream to Nightmares Film Festivals, I think virtual festivals have been a positive and I hope the trend continues through and after the pandemic. It allows accessibility for those who either do not live near or are unable to afford festival rates. More people seeing more festival films and spreading the word on them is nothing but a positive.  JD

As a filmmaker, I attended a number of virtual festivals.  Though I don't like viewing the films all by myself on my laptop, I really enjoyed being a part of so many Q&As and zoom meetings where filmmakers could meet one another.  Ironically, I was able to attend more festivals that take place out of state this year than previous years. BL

I did not. Generally, the virtual experience is not one I enjoy, despite having been in a lot of Zoom meetings and events. RW

NYFF. It's not perfect — and I was doing it from the press end, so I could mostly go at my own pace — but I don't think any of us have any idea what an ideal virtual film fest looks like anyway. I had fun. MP

I jumped at the opportunity of having my first New York Film Festival experience by streaming some of their virtual screenings, which included NOMADLAND - a personal highlight. And then I spent a whole week watching lots of offerings from this year's Nashville Film Festival. I was so impressed with the great job our festival did with figuring out how to do a virtual film festival in their first try. Especially surprising was how many of the films had post-screening filmmaker Q&A's attached to the ends of the streams - I just had no idea that they would be able to include those this year, and it was a very special treat. I have to say, I did not hate spending some beautiful October afternoons lounging outside in my comfy deck chair, watching festival movies on my IPad. In fact, I think film festivals in the future should consider blending the traditional in-person way of screening movies with an online streaming component. It's clear to me that there are some very savvy and creative folks working behind the scenes of these festivals, and it seems possible that the secret of future ongoing success could involve exploring the possibilities of a hybrid model.   RM

The Chattanooga Film Festival deserves recognition for their hard work and successful virtual festival. At the beginning of the pandemic, they swiftly and smoothly managed to shift screenings online and provide clear instructions for navigating the festival, and the highlight was a great interview with Joe Dante (my favorite!). LW

Several, and I do better with focusing on festival films at home when they’re actually playing in front of me than I do with normal fare, but I also weirdly find myself watching fewer films than I would in an in-person festival experience — it seems I need a strict and regimented screening schedule or else the whole “this film is available to view for two full weeks” thing seems to throw me off. JA

I watched a couple of films from NewFest and New Directors/New Films. I appreciate that these films are now available to a wider audience and I hope that this model continues to function in the future. KT

What are you most looking forward to seeing in 2021, hopefully in theatres?

I look forward most to being able to regularly attend films in theaters, maybe see two or three in a day, and just enjoy being out. of the house, sharing. a viewing experience with folks I otherwise probably would never meet, even swapping stories upon departing the theater, and also even buying overpriced snacks.  The total deal has been sorely missed, and I truly hope that it can be revisited once more at some point by at least the middle or end of 2021. RW

Godzilla vs. Kong EJM

Dune. It’ll suck but where else am I gonna hear actors intone “Shai Hulud” with Shakespearean gravitas? ST

Numerous delayed 2020 films from Leos Carax, Mia Hansen-Love, Apichatpong Werasethakul, Wes Anderson. Plus Celine Sciamma’s PETITE MAMAN, Joel Coen’s THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH, Robert Eggers’ THE NORTHMAN, Koganada’s AFTER YANG, Ruben Ostlund’s TRIANGLE OF SADNESS with Woody Harrelson, George Miller’s THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING, and particularly Oliver Assayas’ IRMA VEP remake with Alicia Vikander. And DUNE, I guess. SS

I don't know, man, I'm still bummed out that there won't be a new Frederick Wiseman for awhile. He's stuck in Paris, reading classic novels and not busy making movies for the first time in over 50 years! I worry about him. I'm sure there's some auteur with some cool art film coming out this year, but all I want is to return to NYC's many great rep houses and watch a beat-up print of some random '30s movie where the median age is 77. Couldn't tell you when that will be a reality, though. MP

GODZILLA VS KONG. That's the true IMAX experience I am eagerly waiting for. JD

I can’t get excited about a film until after I’ve seen it, but I admit a very strong curiosity about a new take on “Dune,” a book and a film I am quite fond of. WS

Godzilla vs Kong, Candyman.  TM

Finally catching up with NOMADLAND. Hong Sang-soo’s THE WOMAN WHO RAN, Sky Hopinka’s MAINI-TOWARDS THE OCEAN, TOWARDS THE SHORE, the Eric Andr√© Netflix road movie BAD TRIP.   SE

Despite the awful Warner Bros. announcement about their 2021 line-up, I still really want to see DUNE in a theatre. BO

I miss the experience of going to a big movie opening night in Imax with a full house of excited movie fans. That is probably wishful thinking for 2021, but I hope that we can get somewhat close to that by the end of the year. WM

I’m hopeful Saint Maud will get a U.S. theatrical release in 2021. LW

Dune, Last Night in Soho, Benedetta, Prisoners of the Ghostland, Mona Lisa & The Blood Moon, No Time to Die, F9, The Beatles: Get Back. JSpence

After Yang, Annette, Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar, Benedetta, Candyman, Dune, The Green Knight, Halloween Kills, In The Heights, Last Night in Soho, Memoria, The Northman, Saint Maud. JS

In last year’s poll I said the things I was looking forward to most about 2020 were seeing Furious 9 and voting for Bernie Sanders, and neither of those things happened needless to say, so I don’t want to jinx anything in 2021. Mostly I just hope they re-release Monster Hunter when theaters are open again. NS

See you in 2022 at the DisneyPlusPlex and Searchlight Theater! JL

Raya and the Last Dragon/Encanto, that Nicolas Cage movie where he's playing himself, the Bob's Burgers movie, two Edgar Wright films, Chris Rock doing Saw, the new Matrix, Fast and the Furious, Mission: Impossible and Bond films, LucaIn the Heights, James Gunn's Suicide Squad, the new CandymanJackass 4Dune, two new Ridley Scott films, Spielberg's West Side Story, Babylon, if that crazy live-action Spider-Man crossover event film stays in December '21 (and the rest of Marvel's slate, featuring Destin Daniel Cretton and Chlo√© Zhao), and the new Space Jam, of course.  CW

The new films by Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson.  And hopefully Psycho Goreman. BL

I have a strong feeling Wes Anderson will be the one to shake me out of my pandemic blues with The French Dispatch and his love of pastels. The basic premise of George Miller's Three Thousand Years of Longing, too, has been stuck in my head for some time; inject Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba into my veins. I'm also eager for Candyman, Last Night in Soho, Nightmare Alley, Zola, French Exit, The Green Knight, The Many Saints of Newark, Judas and the Black Messiah, Cruella and, lest I forget, Dune. SA

This isn’t the hippest answer, but I really have to go with Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake. Number to number, the show is probably my all-time favorite Broadway musical, and though we didn’t need a new version (the Oscar-winning 1961 take remains great in all but its questionable casting), I’m extremely eager to see Spielberg tackle his first bona fide musical. AAD

Other people. MS