The Gold Sally Awards recognizes the crucial role screenwriting plays in the filmmaking process. Among the best movies I saw in 2020, you can choose which film contained the best story! Even though you can only vote once per person, you are able to vote for more than one nominee. As I’ve said before, the link to the poll is featured under the list of nominees. This poll starts today, March 15th, and ends on March 21st.
To celebrate the anniversary of 18 Cinema Lane’s beginning, I host a movie awards to highlight the best films I saw in the previous year. As I had several projects on my plate in February, the Gold Sally Awards were pushed back. However, the Gold Sally Awards are still happening, starting with the Best Movie category! In this division, all of the films that were featured on my Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2020 list will compete for the title of Gold Sally Awards’ Best Movie. Like in years past, you are allowed to vote for more than one nominee. But you can only vote once per person. This poll starts today and ends on March 14th. On the bottom of the poll, there is a link where you can submit your vote. If you’re having technical difficulties, please don’t hesitate to speak up in the comment section.
2020 was a year that threw a huge wrench into a lot of movie-goers’ plans. As theaters shut their doors and new releases continuously changed dates, there were movie related content creators that had to either adapt as best they could or completely change their formula. Fortunately for 18 Cinema Lane, the impact of this year’s Coronavirus didn’t change the type of content published on the site. As with the previous two years, I saw more good movies than bad. This is honestly the first year where I had difficulty creating my top ten best movies list because of the quantity of enjoyable films that left a memorable impression on me. Since I published my worst movies of the year list first last year, I’ll post my best movies of the year list first this time around. As usual, I will begin the list with my honorable mentions and then move on to the official top ten list. Now let’s get this list started!
Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver, Where There’s a Will, Generation Gap, A Beautiful Place to Die: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Sweet Surrender, Picture Perfect Mysteries: Dead Over Diamonds, Riddled with Deceit: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ruby Herring Mysteries: Prediction Murder, House of the Long Shadows, Up in the Air, The Crow, Mystery Woman: Game Time, Fashionably Yours, Finding Forrester, Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), Expecting a Miracle, Time Share, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), The Wife of Monte Cristo, Cry Wolf, Mystery Woman: Mystery Weekend, Perry Mason Returns, Perry Mason and the Notorious Nun, Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, The Terry Fox Story, Follow Your Heart, House of Wax, Funny Face, and The Christmas Bow
10. Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
Looking back on the four film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ work I’ve reviewed, I realize how lucky I am to come across those I enjoyed. Despite having never read Nicholas Nickleby, this production was both understandable and engaging! With the 2002 version of this story, its balance of joy and despair is a staple of the world-famous author’s I recognize from his other stories like Oliver Twist. As I said in my review of Nicholas Nickleby, it can be easy to forget the beauty this world can offer, especially during a year like 2020. I don’t often come across a movie that is so good, it makes me want to seek out its original source material. For this film, however, I just found an exception!
This is an interesting entry from the Breen Code era. It’s a darker musical that is dark in nature for the sake of providing thought-provoking commentary. Like I said in my review, The Unfinished Dance does a good job exploring what happens when truth disappears from the world. All of the musical numbers in this film have a strong reason for being in the story, as opposed to typical musicals where the numbers feel more spontaneous than planned. Even though dance is emphasized more than the story, the quality of the routines themselves make this film worth a watch! The movie is a hidden gem that I wish more people knew about.
I’m glad I was given an opportunity to re-watch this film, as it was just as enjoyable as when I first saw it! The story moves away from the aesthetic that most Christmas movies adopt. Instead, it relies on the messages and themes associated with the Christmas holiday. This creative decision is a breath of fresh air, bringing a different kind of narrative that isn’t often found during that time of year. If You Believe is a film that does what it sets out to do. It also helps that it has stood the test of time.
This is the kind of Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I wish was made more often, one where unique concepts are explored and celebrated. Instead of following a plot, the story revolves around a debate. The subject matter was not only handled with reverence, but each perspective was shown in a respectful light. I’m not a fan of this film’s ending, but I respect Hallmark’s decision to include it in the script, as it respects the audience’s intelligence. Sweet Nothing in My Ear is a title from this collection that can be used as an introduction to Hallmark Hall of Fame!
6. From Up on Poppy Hill
Studio Ghibli has a reputation for giving it their all when it comes to making movies. Besides their signature animation style, they also take the time to create fantastic worlds and memorable characters. While From Up on Poppy Hill doesn’t contain any of the magical elements that can sometimes be found in Studio Ghibli’s stories, the project doesn’t feel out of place in their collection. The plot is a simple one, but the inclusion of interesting characters and world-building is what makes it work. It also contains a great message about history that fits into the script very well.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is more than just a story about Batman. It’s a chance for audience members to see a side of this superhero that doesn’t often get presented in the world of film. The movie is a good example of how impressive 2-D animation can be. Even though the world has moved on to the wonders of 3-D and computer graphics, there will always be a place for older styles of animation. Despite having seen only a handful of Batman films, I can honestly say Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is one of the better options! The story itself is just as interesting as the world of Gotham City.
Grace & Glorie contains Hallmark’s favorite cliché of featuring a woman from a big city moving to a small town. But what sets this story apart is how that cliché is not the main focus of the film. Instead, the plot revolves around the friendship of Grace and Gloria. Because the titular characters were portrayed by two strong actresses, it made the dynamic between Grace and Gloria interesting to watch. Similar to From Up on Poppy Hill, this Hallmark Hall of Fame title has a simpler plot that works in its favor. Grace & Glorie is a type of story that is rarely seen on Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. The movie is also an underrated gem that I wish more Hallmark fans were aware of.
With the way the theatrical landscape was affected in 2020, it kind of feels weird that a film like Matinee would appear on a best movies of the year list for 2020. But instead of making me miss the cinema or feel jealous of the characters as they get to see a movie in a theater, this particular 1993 title reminded me of what I love about film. Because I have a special place in my heart for Phantom of the Megaplex, Matinee showed me that there is more than one story that could show people how movies can be fun. One of the messages of this narrative is that film can provide a much-needed break from the troubles of the real world. With the way 2020 turned out, Matinee seemed to come at the right place and time.
Every year, there is that one movie that catches me by surprise because of how good it is. The Boy Who Could Fly was definitely that film in 2020! I was pleasantly surprised by how well the overall story has aged. Given the subject material and the time it was released in, I can certainly say that my expectations were subverted. While The Boy Who Could Fly would be considered a “teen movie”, it doesn’t follow a lot of the patterns that most of these types of stories would contain. The themes of showing compassion for others, dealing with grief, and understanding people’s differences are given center stage.
Who knew a Frank Sinatra movie would become the best one I saw in 2020? When I look back on this film, I remember how much fun I had watching it! As I said in my review, I spent most of my time smiling and laughing, which shows how the film’s joyful nature can certainly help anyone improve their mood. Anchors Aweigh is a strong movie on so many different levels. The acting, story, and musical numbers alone showcase how much thought and effort went into the overall production. If I were to introduce someone to the Breen Code era or musicals in general, this is the film I’d show them. Anchors Aweigh was certainly a bright spot in a year like 2020.
For February’s Genre Grandeur, the selected theme was “Animated Comic Book/Strip Movies”. Chosen by Bubbawheat from Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights, this theme required some thought. To search for a possible title, I headed to Bubbawheat’s blog and discovered the list of “every superhero and comic book movie in chronological order”. While scrolling through the list, I came across one movie that I had heard of, but had never seen: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. This cinematic Batman entry has acquired a great amount of praise over its twenty plus year existence. However, it also has a reputation of not performing well at the box office. Any movie fan knows that box office performance does not always equal quality. But what is the quality of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm? Is it truly as good as other people say it is? Has it become overrated through the power of nostalgia? These are the questions I’ll answer in this review!
Things I liked about the film:
The voice acting: When it comes to animated films, the audience’s attention is so focused on what’s happening on screen, that they don’t think twice about the voice acting. Even though it seems like a small piece of the overall project, it actually can make or break the characters’ and their memorability. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm had an exceptional cast! Each actor brought more than enough emotion to match the facial expressions presented in the movie. These two components felt they were paired perfectly, with the voices themselves feeling like they belonged to that character! The casting itself couldn’t have been better! All of the actors effortlessly embodied their character through their voice talents. They were able to successfully gave life to their roles and enhance their memorability!
The animation: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is filled with great animation! Its 2-D style still holds up twenty-seven years later! What works in this movie’s favor is the color palette found throughout the project. Most Batman stories adopt a dark color scheme, to showcase the destruction and dismay that has overcome Gotham City. While Batman: Mask of the Phantasm does feature darker colors, the way lighter colors are paired with them is visually interesting. A great example is when a criminal named Buzz Bronski visits the cemetery. The entire scene is filled with the hues of black, gray, and dark blue. The red roses on a wreath are one of the few light colors that can be found in that scene. This makes the wreath pop with color and forces the audience’s attention toward the flowers. It also gives the film a style similar to movies with a “film noir” label.
The music: Another element in animated films that sometimes gets overlooked is the music. For Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a piece of music that really stood out was the official score. Composed by Shirley Walker, this score was powerful and helped the overall production gain its own identity. An orchestral composition and an operatic choir make this piece of music, as well as the overall film, feel grand in scale. This score was used during the opening credits, with similar tunes featured in two climatic moments of the film. Batman movies have historically incorporated orchestral scores into their projects. The score from The Dark Knight is one of the most iconic pieces of music in film history. Shirley Walker’s musical contributions to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm help keep that tradition alive.
The writing: I was really impressed by the writing in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, as it was clever and well thought-out! The film’s overarching mystery is a perfect example of this. It’s the kind of mystery that allows the audience to take a journey alongside Bruce/Batman. They get to experience events and situations when Bruce/Batman does. At times when a surprise comes, it catches the audience off-guard, as they are so invested in Batman winning over evil that they don’t see a surprise coming. Despite the movie’s darker tone, there was room in the script for humor to be included. One great example is when a party guest believes that the word “engagement” starts with the letter i. Because of how the joke was written and the delivery of the voice actor’s performance, the joke itself was executed flawlessly!
What I didn’t like about the film:
An unclear timeline: Throughout Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, it was difficult to determine when this film took place. In a flashback scene, Bruce and Andrea visit the Gotham World’s Fair, mirroring World’s Fairs that have taken place in decades past (for a point of reference, a World’s Fair was featured in Captain America: The First Avenger). That same flashback scene showed Andrea using a car-phone, an invention known for its popularity in the ‘80s. At two separate moments in the movie, Bruce uses a computer to solve the film’s overarching mystery. Batman stories, more often than not, make a conscious effort to ground themselves in reality. Since this film was released in 1993, the story should have taken place in the early ‘90s, in order to reflect its “current” setting.
Too many flashbacks: Flashback scenes are meant to provide additional context to the film’s plot. They are placed at certain points in the story, so they can present their full impact on the audience. In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, several flashback scenes were shown, explaining the nature of certain relationships and giving clues to the film’s mystery. However, I feel there were too many of them. More than three flashback scenes existed in this narrative. At times, it seemed like every other scene in the movie was a flashback. It also didn’t help that some of them were a little too long. One example is when Bruce meets Andrea’s father for the first time. I liked the scenes themselves, but they made the flow of the film a little clunky.
My overall impression:
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is not just a solid Batman film. It’s also a solid animated film in general! For my first time watching an animated movie starring the world’s favorite ‘Caped Crusader’, I really enjoyed what I saw! It contained a lot of elements I look for in good animated projects, such as the quality in animation and the story itself. What’s great about this film is how Bruce/Batman was allowed to be a detective within the story. This aspect of the character is not often seen in cinema, as Warner Bros. has usually placed more emphasis on making Batman an action-hero. In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, it was nice to see Bruce/Batman use multiple talents to save the day. This is definitely one of the better of the Batman cinematic entries! It has stood the test of time and is an enjoyable picture! I want to thank Bubbawheat and MovieRob for giving me a chance to finally see this film! Looking back on it, I have to wonder, where has Batman: Mask of the Phantasm been all my life?
Overall score: 8.4 out of 10
Do you have a favorite Batman film? Is there an animated movie you’d like me to talk about? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Before my hiatus last week, I shared that I had finally reached my 10-follower milestone! Like I did with my Saving Mr. Banks review, I chose to, once again, review a movie that correlated with the follower milestone. Now, it’s time for me to talk about a film that was released 10 years ago (in 2008). Since July 18 marks the 10th anniversary of The Dark Knight and with San Diego Comic Con also starting on July 18th, I figured this particular Batman movie would be the appropriate film to discuss while celebrating these two occasions. The Dark Knight is the only Batman film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy that I have never seen in its entirety. For years, both film and Batman fans have sung the praises of this movie and applauded certain performances, Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker being the most notable. But in a cinematic world where the Marvel superheroes have become the kings and queens of the theatrical coliseum, does The Dark Knight still have what it takes to stand the test of time? I’m glad you flew in, because that’s exactly what we’re about to find out.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I think the whole cast in this movie was great! Every single actor and actress stepped up their A-game to bring the best that their acting abilities had to offer. In The Dark Knight, the villains were definitely the highlights of this film! For 10 years now, Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker has been well-liked by many movie-goers. I agree with those movie-goers, as Heath’s performance was one of the best parts of this film. The Joker reminded me a lot of Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War, a man who not only felt and came across as unstoppable, but also a man who thought that his actions and way of thinking was justifiable. Heath’s performance itself was very chilling and, at times, made the Joker appear really disturbing. Aaron Eckhart also shined in The Dark Knight with his portrayal of Harvey Dent. Aaron effortlessly brought the versatility and the right amount of emotions to his role, effectively bringing those ingredients to a multi-dimensional character like Harvey Dent.
The pace: The Dark Knight is a two-and-a-half-hour film, but it never feels like it drags on for too long or ends too quickly. There are enough stories within this movie to satisfy the film’s time limit, with these stories being drawn out at just the right length.
The right amount of exposition: Because The Dark Knight was released three years after Batman Begins, exposition was going to be a necessary component. However, there was enough exposition in this film to give audience members the ability to follow the story with little to no confusion. Also, the exposition was dispersed throughout the movie instead of just clumped into the first few minutes.
What I didn’t like about the film:
An imbalance between dialogue and action: In The Dark Knight, I felt that there were more scenes devoted to dialogue and less scenes with action in them. While the dialogue-based scenes were well-written, the time gap between moments of dialogue and action was greater than I had wanted. Most of the action scenes took place toward the end of the movie, making the majority of the dialogue-based scenes seem like steady, but long, build-up.
Lack of lighting in the action scenes: While the action scenes in The Dark Knight were exciting to watch, I had difficulty seeing what was going on. This is because most of these scenes took place during the night. Even when there was light in some of these action scenes, it wasn’t enough to fix the problem.
The editing: There were some scenes in The Dark Knight that, I felt, ended too quickly. The editing of these scenes was choppy, making the flow between scenes feel interrupted. A number of quick-cuts were used in this movie, especially during action scenes. This sometimes made it difficult to see what was happening on the screen.
My overall impression:
Since the release of The Dark Knight, we’ve seen the rise and reign of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), the struggle of the DCEU (D.C. Entertainment Universe), and the cinematic playing field drastically shift. Despite all of those changes, Christopher Nolan’s second Batman film has, indeed, stood the test of time. The Dark Knight is still a topic of cinematic conversation, even to this day. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker has been considered, for good reason, one of the most memorable movie villains of all time for 10 years and counting. The Dark Knight has certainly won over the hearts of many, no matter who your favorite superhero is. There was something that Harvey Dent said in this movie that really got my attention. During a dinner scene, toward the beginning of the film, Harvey mentioned that Batman probably doesn’t want to be Batman forever. This made me think about how we’ve gotten another Batman after Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy ended (Ben Affleck in the DCEU) and the potential for a new Batman in Matt Reeves’ future Batman film. As Warner Brothers prepares to enter the halls of San Diego Comic Con, they will also be celebrating the birthday of one of their beloved films. Thank you to all of my blog followers! This review, as well as this blog, would not have been possible without you!
Overall score: 8.3 out of 10
What did you think of my review? How are you celebrating The Dark Knight’s 10th anniversary? Share your thoughts in the comment section!