The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2020

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!

Sparkly and starry 2020 image created by Kjpargeter at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by kjpargeter – http://www.freepik.com</a&gt; Image found at freepik.com.
Honorable Mentions

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!

Take 3: Nicholas Nickleby (2002) Review

9. The Unfinished Dance

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.

Take 3: The Unfinished Dance Review + 190 Follower Thank You

8. If You Believe

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.

Take 3: If You Believe Review

7. Sweet Nothing in My Ear

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.

Take 3: From Up on Poppy Hill Review + 200 Follower Thank You

Howl’s Moving Castle poster created by Studio Ghibli, Toho, and The Walt Disney Company. © Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1798188/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0.
5. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

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.

Take 3: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Review

4. Grace & Glorie

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.

3. Matinee

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.

Take 3: Matinee Review + 220 Follower Thank You

2. The Boy Who Could Fly

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.

Take 3: The Boy Who Could Fly Review (PB & J Double Feature Part 2)

1. Anchors Aweigh

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.

Take 3: Anchors Aweigh Review

Anchors Aweigh poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, M-G-M Cartoons, and Loew’s Inc. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anchors_aweigh.jpg

Have fun in 2021!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Unfinished Dance Review + 190 Follower Thank You

For this blog follower dedication review, I was originally going to pick a movie to recognize Earth Day. However, after watching the true crime video titled ‘Holly Maddux and the Unicorn Killer | #TrueCrime’, I’ve gained a new perspective of the April 22nd date. Instead, I will use this review to not only thank my 190 followers, but to also commemorate the memory of Holly Maddux. This is the reason why I have chosen a 1947 release for this post, as that was the year Holly was born. In the aforementioned video, Alanda, the creator of that video as well as her Youtube channel, The Recovering Hunbot, indicated Holly was a dancer. So, I thought a musical would be an appropriate choice. While searching through titles, I discovered one called The Unfinished Dance. I had never heard of this film prior to this review. But I have seen the 1949 version of The Secret Garden and Meet Me in St. Louis, so I figured I’d see another good performance from Margaret O’Brien.

The Unfinished Dance poster
The Unfinished Dance poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s, Inc. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Unfinished_Dance.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in my review, I’ve seen Margaret’s performances in the 1949 version of The Secret Garden and Meet Me in St. Louis. Her portrayal of Meg in The Unfinished Dance was different from her other aforementioned roles. This is because there was more dancing involved and it was much darker. However, Margaret executed her performance very well! Before watching The Unfinished Dance, I was familiar with who Cyd Charisse is as a person. But this was the first time I had ever seen one of her film performances. This movie highlights how wonderful of an actress and dancer she is! Whether she was dancing onstage or performing in a scene without dancing, she was so captivating to watch! Another first performance I saw came from Danny Thomas. To me, Danny will always be known for his philanthropic work, especially when it comes to the creation of St. Jude Children’s Hospital. I enjoyed watching his portrayal of Mr. Paneros, as it showed how great of an actor and singer Danny is!

 

The dance scenes: All of the scenes involving dance were one of the best parts of this movie! The dancing itself was well-choreographed, allowing dancers of all ages to showcase their talents. The set design surrounding the dance numbers was also great to look at, as the space was effectively used. On-stage sets that are sometimes shown during performances were colorful and appealing to the eye. Music also helped elevate the dance numbers, as they added emotion to the performances. These dance scenes were mesmerizing and there was always something interesting to watch!

 

The use of mirrors: In two scenes from The Unfinished Dance, mirrors were used in creative ways. The first scene revolves around Karin Booth’s character, La Darina, practicing for her upcoming performance. At certain moments in this scene, Karin’s performance was captured through the view of nearby mirrors. The second scene shows mirrors covering the floor of the stage. These mirrors were used to create a “lake” and give the audience the impression swans are gliding across it. I have never seen some of these techniques before, so, for me, it brought visual interest to the film.

Getting ready
Image of ballerina preparing to dance created by Pressfoto at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People photo created by pressfoto – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Dance emphasized more than story: Like I previously mentioned, I really liked the dance scenes in this movie. However, there were times when it felt like these scenes were emphasized more than the story. This is the case in the first half of the movie, where the build-up to Meg’s act is kind of glossed over. While I did think the story itself was interesting, it seems like the dance numbers sometimes overshadowed the narrative.

 

Karin’s limited appearance: In The Unfinished Dance, Karin Booth’s character, La Darina, is in select scenes due to a particular circumstance. Because of this, Karin was given few opportunities to perform. She is a very talented actress and dancer! But, compared to Cyd, Karin only received three dance numbers. She, unfortunately, did not have much material to work with.

 

A mysterious red tint: There were some scenes in The Unfinished Dance where it looks like the camera captured them using red film. This causes the characters to look red-ish pink. It also causes locations to give off a red hue. In my opinion, these scenes appeared very strange because of how unnatural they looked. It was jarring, as this wasn’t a consistent occurrence.

Note_lines_horizontal1
String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The Unfinished Dance does a good job exploring what happens when truth disappears from the world. It also shows how the ideas of ambition and dreams can easily get in the way of what’s really important. While this film had flaws that prevented it from being great, I still think it is a good, solid picture! Besides the intriguing story, the movie offers several dance scenes that are captivating and entertaining! The acting performances also help maintain the audience’s attention, as a wide range of emotions were used in a variety of situations. Once again, I found a hidden gem that I want to share with my followers. The same followers that helped me achieve this recent milestone. Thank you to everyone who continue to support my blog! Your interest in 18 Cinema Lane really means a lot to me!

 

Overall score: 8.2 out of 10

 

Have you seen any of Margaret O’Brien’s films? Which movie featuring dance is your favorite? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

 

If you would like to learn more about the Holly Maddux case, you can visit Alanda’s Youtube channel, The Recovering Hunbot. If you watch it, there are sensitive topics that are brought up in the videos.