I always look forward to winter break, and not just because it’s nice to finally have some time to breathe. It also gives me a chance to catch up on all the movies that came out over the past few months, along with the many released during the holidays.
This break was a productive one for me, assuming you consider sitting around staring at a TV productive. I knocked out a bunch of releases from 2020, and you know what? The overwhelming majority of them were really good.
Of course there were some stinkers. “The Prom” and “Wonder Woman 1984” had me begging for mercy halfway through — but I don’t want to talk about them. I want to talk about the best of the best.
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is a drama about a tense recording session in the Jim Crow south during the 1920s, as the white management clashes with Ma Rainey, a famous black performer, and a young horn player named Levee.
Full disclosure, there’s a lot about “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” that wasn’t particularly good. It’s fairly repetitive and kind of a slog despite being only 94 minutes long. But it’s still worth watching because of the ensemble cast, which includes great performances from Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo and Viola Davis.
But most importantly, it’s the final performance Chadwick Boseman gave before his untimely death that ties the film together.
Boseman is brilliant as Levee, the trumpeter with a big ego and even bigger dreams, and he gives the kind of performance that makes a film worth watching. He is fantastic during both the intense monologues and his character’s quieter scenes. He has many opportunities to showcase his talent as a performer, and he even made me tear up at parts. It’s a fitting conclusion to a wonderful career, and he will certainly be a contender for Best Actor when the Oscars roll around. Check it out on Netflix.
“Promising Young Woman”
“Promising Young Woman” is a darkly comic thriller about Cassandra, a young woman who seeks revenge against those who wronged her following a traumatic event in medical school.
I was really pumped to see “Promising Young Woman,” and it did not disappoint. It’s one of those movies where everything works. The film is anchored by Carey Mulligan, who gives one of her best performances ever. The tone changes a lot throughout, and she absolutely nails every single scene.
It’s a thrilling revenge tale that had me on the edge of my seat right up until the very end. I know a lot of people hated the ending, but I was a huge fan. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it.
Going into this movie without knowing too much of the plot is the best way to go. “Promising Young Woman” may not be for everyone, but if it sounds like something you might enjoy, I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s available to rent on YouTube, Amazon and Google Play.
As 2020 was coming to a close, I realized there weren’t any movies from the year I really loved. Yeah, there were some impressive ones I admired from a technical standpoint, but there hadn’t been anything that affected me on a personal level. Then I watched “Soul.”
“Soul” is an animated drama about Joe, a musician who starts to reevaluate his life as his soul tries to return to his body.
I loved “Soul,” and I can say comfortably that no movie from the past year moved me nearly as much. Everything about it was fantastic, from the musical score to the character design to the performances. After I watched it the first time, I knew I had to rewatch it soon. I told everyone I knew to see it as soon as possible so I could talk about it with them. It was that special.
While I was looking forward to “Soul,” I had no idea I would be watching something so beautiful and touching. There may have been other movies that were more interesting and inventive in terms of filmmaking, but none of them made me evaluate where I was in my life like “Soul” did.
“Soul” asks its audience to look at themselves and really think about the direction of their lives. It’s a message that resonated with me, and I imagine it will resonate with a lot of others as well. You can stream it on Disney+.