2020… the year of watching films.

And so it comes to an end. This wretched miserable year. All the plans we made for 2020 at exactly this time one year ago were rudely shoved aside by something so small and nevertheless unimaginably, incredibly bigger than our worst fears. And yet, despite the scary realization that we don’t seemed to have bothered learning much from it at all… we remain hopeful, perhaps foolishly and perhaps arrogantly, that things will turn around. They must… “Picture abhi baaki hai”, and all that. And so anyone, especially someone that loves and breathes cinema, must hold on to that crassly commercial and yet most emotionally optimistic of catchphrases. Because, one would be lying if one didn’t also acknowledge that in the darkness that was 2020, an opportunity was presented by the lockdown and isolation to view as many films as you could… Not as the communal experience that movies definitely should be (which ironically also take place in total dark), but as your own year-long private film-festival. No excuses for not having seen that film that you always meant to see for the first time or revisit, or that release from last year which you missed during its theatrical run- good or bad. This here then is a list of all the films that this year was also kind enough to give me the space and time to see… even if that did feel like Tony Stark floating away in space all by himself with audio-visuals from times past being beamed at him.

Mumbai, alongwith a few other cities of Maharashtra, went into lockdown a whole week before the country did, eight days prior actually. Little did I know when I attended the preview screening of Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan in late February that it would be my last cinema hall experience of 2020. And even more so, did I remotely fathom when I sat down to see the 2019 Charlie’s Angels reboot on that first day of lockdown that this is how I’d be seeing films for the remainder of the year? I personally didn’t mind the reboot and liked it in fact… so couldn’t understand all the hate. But I would’ve chosen a far more important film for sure now that I know in retrospect the momentousness of that casual watch. I spent the rest of March watching random films from Kanoon (1960) to Lawrence Of Arabia (1962), Game Over (2019) to Mardaani 2 (2019) and A Year Of The Quiet Sun (1984) to Thambi (2019) among others. It wasn’t until April that I put together a proper plan and ordered my viewings so that I could cover recent releases, Oscar season hopefuls, past film festival darlings and award winners from the regional to national and international. The months of June and November pleasantly added to the roster the online We Are One Global Film Festival and European Film Festival respectively.

I’ve seen a total of 240 films during this lockdown starting from mid-March… and that includes a marathon viewing of all the Star Wars films in just over a week in the order of their release!

Of these, there was thankfully only one outright BAD film which was the Kannada Udgharsha (2019).

In the NOT-BAD category, there were Bloodshot (2020), Judgementall Hai Kya (2019), Shadaa (2019) and Thaandavam (2012).

11 films I found BELOW-AVERAGE. They are AB Aani CD (2020), Ghawre Bairey Aaj (2019), Good Newwz (2019), Iruttu (2019), The Lift Boy (2019), Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil (2019), Nasir (2020), Saand Ki Aankh (2019), Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) and Thambi (2019).

21 films were AVERAGEAlidu Ulidavaru (2019), Bhai- Vyakti Ki Valli (2019), Breakthrough (2019), Bunuel In The Labyrinth Of Turtles (2018), Chhoti Bahen (1959), Daaka (2019), Don’t Breathe (2016), Forensic (2020), Kala Shah Kala (2019), Kalki (2019), Kalsandhya (1997), Majili (2019), Milan Talkies (2019), Over The Moon (2020), Pari (2020), Rocketman (2019), Sathru (2019), Soorarai Pottru (2020), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), Thappad (2020) and Toy Story 4 (2019).

ABOVE-AVERAGE films were 51- Aaron (2018), Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya (2019), Angrezi Medium (2020), Ankhen (1968), Bacurau (2019), Bhaai- Uttarardha (2019), Blood Brother (2013), Bonus (2020), Brahmachari (1968), The Cannonball Run (1981), Chorus (1974), Cleopatra (1963), Da 5 Bloods (2020), Dumbo (2019), Fatal Attraction (1987), Gaman (1978), Game Over (2019), The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (2018), Gulabo Sitabo (2020), Hush (2016), I Am Kalam (2010), I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore (2017), Ittefaq (1969), Kaabil (2017), Kaamyaab (2020), Layer Cake (2004), The Lion King (2019), Mallesham (2019), Mank (2020), Mansala Pankh Astat (1961), Mathu Vadalara (2019), Mystery Road (2013), Notebook (2019), On The Rocks (2020), Onward (2020), Out Of Africa (1985), Pathinettam Padi (2019), Pauline At The Beach (1983), Prati Roju Pandage (2019), The Princess And The Warrior (2000), Rangalya Ratri Asha (1962), Roti (1974), Sanshodhan (1996), Shubharathri (2019), Sonchiriya (2019), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008), Star Wars: Episode II- Attack Of The Clones (2002), The Stoning Of Soraya M. (2008), Upkar (1967), Vaanam Kottatum (2020) and Vazhakku Enn 18/9 (2012).

Getting now to the ones that made watching the above films worth the while.

A total of 60 GOOD films- Ad Astra (2019), Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974), Ankhon Dekhi (2014), Ankur (1974), Avane Srimannarayana (2019), Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017), Blind (2011), The Body Of My Enemy (1976), Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020), Charlie’s Angels (2019), Chori Chori (1956), Cold Case Hammarskjold (2019), Dhunki (2019), Drag Me To Hell (2009), Driving Licence (2019), The Edge Of Democracy (2019), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Endless Trench (2019), Extra Ordinary. (2019), Family Diary (1962), Frozen II (2019), Gali Guleiyan (2017), Gone Kesh (2019), Hamid (2019), Hero (2019), The House I Live In (2012), If… (1968), Instinct (2019), Javai Maza Bhala (1962), Jojo Rabbit (2019), June (2019), Kaithi (2019), Kamla Ki Maut (1989), Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal (2020), Kuttram Kadithal (2015), Listen (2020), The Little Comrade (2018), Madha (2020), Manorama Six Feet Under (2007), Mardaani 2 (2019), Mehrban (1967), Namak Haraam (1973), Neel Kamal (1968), Noblemen (2018), Oh! Baby (2019), Orpheus (1950), Panipat (2019), Precious (2009), Return Of The Jedi (1983), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Sandra (1965), Santa Claus Is A Stinker (1982), Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (2019), Sye Raa Narsimha Reddy (2019), The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (2020), Village Rockstars (2017), Visaranai (2015) and The Way Back (2020).

61 VERY GOOD films- All That Jazz (1979), American Factory (2019), Anupama (1966), Anuradha (1960), The Aviator’s Wife (1981), Body Of War (2007), Brochevarevaru Ra (2019), Coraline (2009), Corpus Christi (2019), Crazy World (2014), Eeb Allay Ooo! (2019), Exile (2020), Forman Vs. Forman (2019), Fruitvale Station (2013), Herbert (2006), Hotel Mumbai (2018), The Hurt Locker (2008), Ilo Ilo (2013), I’m Thinking Of Ending Things (2020), The Invisible Man (2020), Jallikattu (2019), Kannathil Muthamittal (2002), Kanoon (1960), Klaus (2019), Kohraa (1964), La Dolce Vita (1960), Lal Patthar (1971), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Legend Of The Holy Drinker (1988), The Life Ahead (2020), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020), Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (2018), Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy (2013), Mellow Mud (2016), Milan (1967), Mr. Klein (1976), Murder By Contract (1958), The Old Man & The Gun (2018), One Step Behind The Seraphim (2017), Our Daily Bread (1934), Persona (1966), Photograph (2019), Ponette (1996), Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989), Sawaal Majha Aika (1964), Sicario (2015), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), The Small Back Room (1949), Smile Please (2019), Soul (2020), Sound Of Metal (2019), Star Wars (1977), Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace (1999), The Swimmer (1968), Ticket Of No Return (1979), Tremble All You Want (2017), The Two Popes (2019), Watchmen (2009), Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? (1970), A Year Of The Quiet Sun (1984) and Yuge Yuge Mi Vat Pahili (1965).

Very little separating these 24 GREAT films from absolute perfection- And Then We Danced (2019), Awaara (1951), Capernaum (2018), Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), Cleo From 5 To 7 (1962), Earth (1930), The Exterminating Angel (1962), Fail Safe (1964), Hands Over The City (1963), Intruder In The Dust (1949), Kanchivaram (2008), Late Marriage (2001), Masoom (1983), My American Uncle (1980), Nagarkirtan (2017), Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (2019), Rounds (2019), A Separation (2011), Ship Of Theseus (2012), Shiraz: A Romance Of India (1928), Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge Of The Sith (2005), What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962), The Working Class Goes To Heaven (1971) and Wrath Of Silence (2017).

And finally these 7 PERFECT films, which through their cinematic nourishment lent this past year of lockdown much needed emotional health-

ANDHA NAAL (1954)

Dir– S. Balachander; Cast– Sivaji Ganesan and Pandari Bai.

A genuine film noir, way ahead of its time. Set against the backdrop of World War II, the film posits a brave what-if even by today’s standards as it debates patriotism and individualism while unravelling a Rashomon like mystery.

I LOST MY BODY (2019)

Dir– Jeremy Clapin

A uniquely macabre animated film that is also a poetic treatise on loss. Oh the visuals and the score!

LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)

Dir– David Lean; Cast– Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn and Alec Guinness

Even after all these years, still the greatest epic. Amazing how the large canvas doesn’t end up trivializing Lawrence’s emotional struggles as you would think, but instead it only enhances to an overwhelming level.

MARTIN EDEN (2019)

Dir– Pietro Marcello; Cast– Luca Marinelli and Jessica Cressy

What a gloriously mounted film. Pure cinema… romance and individual pursuit nurtured by and struggling against socialism and communism. Very very Ratnam-esque in its narrative grammar.

PEEPING TOM (1960)

Dir– Michael Powell; Cast– Carl Boehm

Misunderstood in its time, revaluated as a bonafide masterpiece. A psychological thriller that is as much an exploration of the central character’s voyeurism as it is a commentary about the voyeuristic nature of the cinematic medium itself.

THE SERVANT (1963)

Dir– Joseph Losey; Cast– Dirk Bogarde and James Fox

Undoubtedly the film that influenced Parasite majorly, this is an examination of class and servitude that goes even boldly zanier than Bong Joon-Ho’s widely hailed modern masterpiece. And that Bogarde performance is one for the ages.

Z (1969)

Dir– Costa Gavras

Just as relevant today, in fact far more angrier in retrospect and a kinetic rush that feels like a push for the present state of societal inertia. A stellar cast, a score that kicks serious ass even today and an all-round fine example of sociopolitical drama with the urgency of a thriller and the wit of a satire.

It was fitting that the year ended with Soul, Pixar’s Christmas 2020 offering, which would have in any other year been their tentpole release. And yet, the film strangely thrives all the more because of the circumstances which have caused its release on OTT. At the core of Soul, the soul of the film beyond the lovely animation and inspired design, is a call to embrace every minute of life, every waking moment. Life literally happens while we’re busy doing other things… while we’re finding purpose that we feel defines us. In a year where we all felt unhinged and unmoored, Soul is a reminder that even this is life. Living is the spark. Rest all are only best laid plans. Wretched and miserable year… only by your expectations and what you deem as purpose.

Here’s to a 2021 that lifts us up, surprises us and rewards us.

9 Responses to “2020… the year of watching films.”

  1. Amazing….just amazing year you had.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you thank you – though I majorly disagree with your gradations; this is a great compilation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. The gradations are completely personal. And I know how some of them may seem outright wrong. Revenge Of The Sith for example… I’ve seen the film earlier, had issues with its clunky dialogue, acting , every other thing that people had issues with. But somehow seeing it now, in a marathon of 12 films, it seemed the one most assured to not having to please or explain or seduce… we know the world and characters, we know the starting points they have to arrive at, so why bother with more building when you can choose to deliver on that which you’re seeing it for. There’s a certain liberation in its perfunctoriness that is not accidental. Like latter day Ratnam whose film grammar has evolved out of his own signatures and doesn’t feel the need to teach anymore but just show, trusting you’ll catch on.

      TL;DR- Save the technical aspects, gradations are reflective only of current evaluation based on content against context, personal and otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Abzee, you were supremely busy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You could say that. It was a way to kill time first, then a plan and then a discipline once unlock began and actual work began alongside.

      Like

  4. tonymontana Says:

    Pretty awesome. This was such a treat to go through.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks so much Abzee..This post is a gem!! .Great recommendations..(Will catch up with the final 7 listed above)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a post Abzee, has to be from someone who is so passionate about Cinema,
    The fact that you actually were able to complete / liked Mard ko dard is very brave of you . LOL

    Liked by 1 person

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