Due to studios having until late February to release their Oscar contenders, I finally caught up on all the major films of 2020. Here is a list of the best films I saw from January 2020 until March 2021. Only a handful of films made it into the theaters. This is based on a mixture of films I saw in theaters, streaming, and on demand. So the pricing and screen and sound were drastically different, which I’m fully aware may make me biased. With that said, 2020 had a lot a real gems. With no big blockbusters outside of Tenet, this year the independent film reigned supreme with a lot of wonderful stories dealing with issues like sexuality, poverty, race, political ambition, and other topics that deserve to be addressed. Below are the top ten I saw.
1. Trial of the Chicago 7
Aaron Sorkin’s true story of the protestors in front of the DNC convention of 1968 is a powerful and wildly entertaining drama that challenges our ideas of freedom of speech and justice. Filled with great performances, Sasha Baron Cohen stands out as hippie Abbie Hoffman, the pot smoking freethinker who leads this eclectic band of liberal misfits against a conflicted prosecutor and strict judge.
2. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
August Wilson’s play about a famous black female singer named Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and the rebellious trumpet player played by Chadwick Boseman is another four star masterpiece after Fences. The film takes place during one day in a 1920’s recording studio, following a multitude of characters, including the band, the music producers, and Ma’s secret lover and nephew tag alongs. Dealing with hard systemic racism as well as musical integrity, the film is a glorious showcase for two of the finest performances of the year.
3. Promising Young Woman
Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut is a sharp, dark, perspective look at rape cultural across the campus and corporate world. Carey Mulligan’s performance is a literal tour de force, as she caries out a variety of methods in making “nice guys” reveal their more sexually depraved nature by pretending to be drunk, being driven by men to their place, and her turning the tables of power on them. With sharp writing and an excellent supporting turn by Bo Burnham, the film looks at the female revenge thriller from a psychological point of view more than a violence dominated point of view.
Leave it to Pixar to be the film dealing with existential meaning through jazz music in a year where we all asked questions about who we are. When Joe, a frustrated substitute teacher, slips and falls into a pot hole, he ends up in the after life heading toward the light. But with his big break as a musician finally coming through on earth, he fights his own death to return home to give himself the shot he never had. But to complicate the story, soul 22 needs a mentor to figure out her place in the universe. With a rich and beautiful score, Soul tackles the issues of life and death most great films never would or could, but also reminds us that life is what we make of it.
5. The Father
A heartbreaking and deeply moving film about Anthony Hopkins’ Alzheimer’s induced father, battling the figments of his imagination and places of his mind, as they begin to blur, causing much confusion and desperation. Olivia Coleman plays his daughter trying to take care of him, but we grow weary with her as Hopkins goes deeper and deeper into his unawareness of the world around him. The film is a Masterclass in acting, editing, set design and score.
The beautiful story of a Korean family moving to the deep South to pursue the American Dream, this film took the festivals and critics by storm, becoming the winner in multiple foreign language categories, and earning Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, and Screenplay. With a beautiful score and intimate cinematography, director Lee Isaac Chung looks at his own life through the eyes of a five year old Alan Kim and the father played by Steve Yuen, to find the joy of family and cruelness of nature.
7. Sound of Metal
This hard hitting slice of life film looks deeply into the deaf community through the eyes of Riz Ahmed’s newly deaf drummer about to lose everything unless he can get an operation he believes will save his career and relationship. Paul Racci gives the performance of his life as the rough but loving leader of a deaf commune, and the film uses silence in a way unused in film before. A rare film not afraid to tell a difficult story without trying to tie a happy Hollywood ending to its tail.
8. News of the World
Paul Greengrass’s brilliant episodic western staring national treasure Tom Hanks as a man who goes from town to town reading the news in a post Civil War Texas. Along the way he finds an abandoned girl (Helena Zengel) raised by Native Americans and speaks no English. The film abandons cliches and becomes a showcase, showing a world not too different from our own with mass sickness, political opportunists, and child traffickers. But at the heart of this methodical western are two lonely people who build a family and life together.
9. Judas and the Black Messiah
The true story of how Black Panther Fred Thompson was brought down by the CIA and a black informant played by LaKeith Stanfield, in an amazing performance highlighting his shame and guilt. Daniel Kaluuya gives the performance of his career as Thompson. The film takes a real intimate look at how America wrongly tried to paint the freedom fighter as a terrorist and fills the screen with many fascinating and complex characters.
Chloe Zhao directs, produces, writes, and edits this quiet poetic film staring Francis McDormand as a nomad who states, “I’m not homeless, I’m houseless” to define her new minimalist lifestyle. Beautifully acted, the film uses real life nomads inspired by the book of the same name. The film challenges the way we think capitalism and materialism will make us happy by showing another world beyond our rat race mentality.
I like to consider myself the most famous least accomplished wrestler of all time. For a guy with no real wrestling accomplishments to have the influence I did in the California wrestling scene from 1999-2016 is quite something.
My career started in 1995 at Valley View Middle School. Thinking this was the first step to professional wrestling, I tried out for the junior high wrestling team.
In 1995-96 I went 4-5 in the Simi Valley Middle School season, taking second in the league, only because my semi-finals my opponent had an asthma attack and I pinned him while he couldn't breathe. I was majored in the finals. My only other accomplishment that year was I lost 15 pounds.
The next year at Simi Valley high school, I lost my pigtail at the 1996 Thousand Oaks novice tournament and then pinned the other loser. But I did take third at the Rio Mesa Frosh/Soph that year. I still thank Rio Mesa’s coach Todd Stoke when I see him for having that tournament. And I still mention it when I run the seeding meeting at Newbury Park Invitational.
Got promoted to Varsity at the end of my sophomore year because we needed the carpool drivers. That is not a joke. The regular varsity wrestler was a sophomore who went JV to win the league title. He pinned a kid in the finals I beat three days earlier. So I made myself a certificate as the “unofficial” JV Champ at school on Monday. I threw it away on Tuesday.
My two year varsity career was more uneventful than a Biden press conference. I went 0-6 at Marmonte Varsity League Finals over three years at Simi High. I won two actual matches. I beat a kid from Santa Monica who pinned himself, and I pinned a kid from Agoura who went o-7 in league. I went a much more impressive 1-5 that year in league, and 2-11 overall, losing in the first round of most carry tournaments.
I was injured most of my senior year, but filled out brackets better than any stat girl in the country. Humble brag - I was in honors English. I finished my illustrious career with a 13-15 JV record and 2-18 varsity record. Lettered twice. Didn’t get any awards at the banquet. So the team gave my an honorary Team Spirit Award for not missing a practice in two years, even when injured. I was Rudy.
My college career was even less impressive. I wrestled one day at Moorpark College in the summer of 1997 as a junior in high school, thinking it would be good to get beat up by college kids. My carpool partner quit after a day, so I wasn't able to go back. Still got a B in the class because Head Coach Paul Keysaw had no idea who I was, as I was on the roster for the summer class but never went. Easiest B I ever earned.
My coaching career started at Simi High (1999-2006) and then Royal (2006-2008) where I helped Royal win two league championships. I won one league title at Simi Valley in 2001 with a group of wrestlers in which half became ineligible after league finals.
At Royal I helped them reach new heights, even though one of dads turned assistant coach made my life hell. Eventually we had to kick him off the staff. His kid was the only CIF State qualifier. That was awkward. I was fired after leading the team to a league title and top three finish in CIF, because the coach who brought me on said “I don’t want people thinking you’re the reason for the success of the team.”
I ended up coaching at Moorpark College in 2008 and after that they canceled the program. So I went to El Camino Real, where I was part of three LA City Titles.
During 2004-2010 I was one of the head coaches for the TCWA All-Star teams. Mostly because the President and Treasurer knew I wouldn't take the petty cash to a strip club or buy alcohol, which I guess had happened in the past. Adults, am I right?
As the Team Leader we placed top 5 in Freestyle Duals every year and in 2010 took 2nd in the state in both Greco and Freestyle. With the coaching assistance of Buck Blakeman, Terry Fischer, Anthony Califano, Paul Clemente, Scott Yvarra, and many more, we overcame crappy seeding and hours of travel to succeed.
From 2009-2016 I was part of a few CIF committees because of the committee seeding data I collected when they switched from an all coaches meeting to a league rep seeding meeting. And a few times I was brought in to run CIF seeding meetings. But that was only because I was the SS Ranking dude for the TCW. And a lot of dads would send me nasty emails about how their son should be ranked in the SS because he took 4th at a 5-Way. Dads ruin sports. Never forget that.
In 2016 I won a LA City Title with my good friend Terry Fischer. As we left the Roybal High School gym, he looked at me and said, “We won the championship tonight, and no one in China cares.”
That might be the best way to define my career.
The decade was filled with great action films, epic dramas, and lots and lots of comic book movies. I’ve broken down my list based on films on previous top ten lists and how I fell in love with them over the years. So, here are the fifty best films of the past ten years.
1. Boyhood (2014)
2. Django Unchained (2012)
3. The Florida Project (2017)
4. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
5. Moonlight (2016)
6. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
7. The Martian (2015)
8. Whiplash (2014)
9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
10. Last Flag Flying (2017)
40 Great Films Broken Down By Categories.
The Way Way Back
If Beale Street Could Talk
Not Just For Kids
Toy Story 3
Alice in Wonderland
The Jungle Book
A Monster Calls
Boys Will Be Boys
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Nice Guys
The Two Popes
Cabin in the Woods
Based on a True Story
Dolemite is My Name
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Bridge of Spies
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Saving Mr. Banks
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Infinity Wars
OJ: Made in America
Fyre Festival Films (Netflix & Hulu)
Waiting For Superman
Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'
Life has thrown a lot changes at me lately. And there has been a lot of ups and downs and unanswered thoughts. Faith is believing in the unseen. Having faith is hard. But not having faith is harder.
There are a few exceptional years in movie history. 1939 and 1941 are two amazing years, and 1993 had a series of important films, but if there is one year in cinema that changed everything, it was 1994.
1994 is responsible for Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, The Lion King and Clerks.
1994 solidified Disney again as the animation kings, brought Jim Carry’s career to its peak (Dumb & Dumber, Ace Ventura, The Mask), created the modern independent filmmaker (Clerks, Pulp Fiction) and produced arguably three of the greatest films ever made in Shawshank, Pulp Fiction, and Gump.
If anything, the films of 1994 were the most influential since the golden era of the late 30’s and early 40’s (Gone with the Wind, Pinocchio, Citizen Kane).
Kevin Smith taught a whole generation that a film didn’t have to look great to be great. Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction defined the way filmmakers would create pop culture references and stylized violence, and The Lion King was an epic in ways previous Disney films weren’t. Plus, Pulp Fiction has the greatest ending in movie history.
Box Office Changes
Before 1994, Jurassic Park (1993) was the gold standard in $300+ million box office, but 1994 had a record number of $100+ million hits. And Jim Carry is in 3 of the top 20 films. He redefined what a comedy movie star was.
Look at that list...which doesn’t even include The Shawshank Redemption, which would go on in 1995 to become the video rental king. Plus, only 3 sequels are in the top 25 films (Clear and Present Danger, Star Trek, and Naked Gun), reminding us when Hollywood was pumping out original content more often.
The Oscars Influence
1994 was also a year the Oscars helped build the myths of films. Whether it was nominating Shawshank for 7 awards, giving Tom Hanks his second Oscar in a row (1993 he won for Philadelphia), and giving Elton John three nominations for The Lion King and the win for Can You Feel the Love Tonight. The Academy also gave British films For Weddings and a Funneral and The Madness of King George a slew of nominations.
Looking back, 1994 was a great year in cinema, and arguably the greatest of all time. Four certifiable classics and the lasting influence on a whole future generation of filmmakers.
2018 was not a great year in cinema. But there were a lot of solid films. Here are my Top 10 and a few others worth your time.
My Top 10 Films
1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
This is the film I’ll never forget. This documentary wasn’t in 3D. But the emotional response was a 3D experience. Mr. Fred Rogers is a national treasure, and this film reminds us that being kind is not as hard as we might think. This film is a reminder that there is good in the world, and we can be a part of it.
2. The Mule
Clint Eastwood gives us the performance of his life as a drug smuggler for the Mexican cartel. Here is a film that is both a tragedy of character and a metaphor for the career of Eastwood. The film is funny, fast, a full of life. I smiled from cheek to cheek watching the old man have the time of his life. It’s the sequel to Gran Torino we never thought we’d get.
3. If Beale Street Could Talk
Barry Jenkins makes his second masterpiece in this James Baldwin adaptation about being black in America. After winning the Oscar for Moonlight, he creates another masterpiece about a wrongly convicted young black man and the woman who loves him while carrying his child. The film is a visual feast as well as the best acted ensemble of the year.
4. Black Panther & Avengers: Infinity Wars
I’m putting both these films in a tie because neither film would have been as great without each other. Don’t get me wrong, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is a stand alone masterpiece of action and ideas on race and fatherhood, but without that Avenger universe out there, then this film would not have the added weight of higher stakes. Both films also had standout supporting roles. Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger and Josh Brolin as Thanos. Watching Killmonger’s rise and fall was both an acting tour de force and a beautiful social commentary, whereas Brolin’s Thanos is a pragmatic monster. His last scene, looking over his creation and being pleased by his annihilation of half the universe was as chilling as anything I ever saw in cinema.
I’ve been a Spike Lee fan for years. Malcolm X. Get on the Bus. Do the Right Thing. Bamboozled. All classics. But here he makes his most mainstream social justice crusade, and in that, he creates a funny, thrilling, complex commentary. The true story about how a black police officer and a Jewish police officer infiltrated the KKK is so wild and yet feels so plausible in Lee’s gifted hands.
6. Green Book
In 1989, Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was the film that looked honestly at the current issues of race in America, whereas the best picture winner Driving Miss Daisy looked at race from an older perspective. Both were great films, but with very different objectives. Now 30 years later, and Green Book comes out being compared to Daisy, the same year of Blackkklansman. Yet what Green Book does so beautifully is see the humanity of both men in how they learn from each other in the unexpected ways. Both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali give award worthy performances in Peter “Dumb & Dumber” Farrelly’s sweet film about good people.
7. The Old Man and the Gun
Robert Redford is a national treasure, and this based on a true story movie about an old man who robbed banks without having to use his gun showcases all of his charms. Like Eastwood in The Mule, here is another great sending off performance. In many ways this film feels like a sequel to the life and times of The Sundance Kid.
8. Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Melissa McCarthy is becoming the most inconsistent and interesting actress today. She’ll make a broad comedy that doesn’t click one day and then blow up everything she’s ever done with the next picture, being the genius we know her to be. In this brilliant dramady about the counterfeit collectibles Lee Israel created to pay her rent and feed her cat is so sharp and biting, you can feel the condensation on the film reel.
9. Creed II
In 2016 I named Creed the best film of the year. Creed II is an equal film, but lacked that initial rush of excitement that the first film delivered. But how could this film match the idea of Rocky Balboa training Apollo Creed’s son? This film takes the emphasis off the fight between Adonis and Vicktor Drago, and instead, places it on the multiple father/son relationships. The humanity of the characters created by Sly Stallone is what is carrying this exceptional series through its new saga.
10. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Coen Brother’s sprawling western yarns delivered the biggest laugh of the year. When the happy go lucky Buster Scruggs defends himself in the opening story by kicking a table so it see-saws up, forcing his hostile gun toting opponent to shoot himself in the head repeatedly, I lost it. In six beautiful, violent, poignant stories the Coens mix in a lot of their trademarks and tricks for an ambitious western worth returning too.
There is usually an award given in film festivals to a film that didn’t make the cut for a top prize but was beloved by the judges. Roger Ebert used to give this out in his top film lists too. This year my pick is HBO’s beautiful and funny documentary Andre the Giant. Watching the great men of professional wrestling share stories and cry about the most famous wrestler of all time is touching and poignant. It’s a must see. Here’s a clip:
Best of the Rest by Category.
The best film not to make my top ten was Bumblebee, a Transformers prequel that is a cross between Stranger Things and E.T....While I wasn’t a fan of Deadpool, I found Deadpool 2 to be a brilliant comedy and gentler film, allowing for more characterization and more gut busting laughs...I’ll admit I wasn’t excited at first about A Quiet Place, but this family-centered horror film about aliens that can hear you and swipe you up before you can scream again is the Get Out of this year.
4 Star Performances/3 Star Films
Many films are anchored by great performances, whereas the plot might be too formulaic. Some such films were Bradley Cooper’s efficient and uncynical music filled A Star is Born, with Lady Gaga and Sam Elliot giving great turns...William Defoe as Vincent Van Gough is pure bliss in At Eternity’s Gate...Ryan Gosling plays the stoic part of Neil Armstrong perfectly in the often cold film First Man, whereas Rami Malek gives a warm and welcome performance with his all in the not too factual Bohemian Rapisdy...But maybe the best acted/thinly plotted film of the year is The Favourite, gives Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Coleman the thickest roles of the year.
Movies that Understand Faith
Christian themed and Christian based movies are very hit and miss, with mostly missed outcomes. But I Can Only Imagine, about the popular song, and Boy Erased, about the evils of gay conversion camp, show people of faith coming to grips with the complexity of life, while also being smart, entertaining films, filled with memorable characters.
I’m Right, Everyone Else is Wrong
Every year there’s a film I love that everyone else seems to hate. This year’s film is Welcome to Marwen, directed by Robert Zemeckis and staring Steve Carrell as a victim of a brutal beating who uses his art to channel his lostness. It’s a messy, ambitious film. But with so fillms taking risks, I have to admire the beautiful message.
I feel that naming a few worst films is not productive. But there were a lot of “disappointments” — starting with Solo in May about a young Han Solo. It was a mess, forcing the Disney studio to re-evaluate its entire prequel model.
Vice is a film that means well, is fantastically acted, but is a broken compass. Christian Bale is a revelation as Vice President Dick Cheney, but director Adam McKay’s script feels disjointed and reads a tad too much like a friend who reads an article on a subject and won’t shut up about it.
Bruce Willis’ remake of Death Wish is just a mess from start to finish. At no point does this film say anything interesting about gun violence, nor does it have any fun with over the top violent set pieces.
From 10/29-11/02 I stayed at a beautiful monastery in Arizona. It was a wonderful way to relax, worship, and live in community amongst the monks, deacons, nuns, and volunteers. Here are some beautiful pictures.
I also was able to have a blast in Tombstone where the Battle of the OK Carrel happened.
Then I visited my best friend and his wife and he and I went to the Tucson Comic Con. I even got to meet Jake the Snake Roberts. And I reconnected with the Hooters twins I use for promotional materials. It was a wonderful weekend.
When I got home I had a box waiting for me on my front door. I figured someone bought me a birthday gift. I opened it up and found a waffle maker. There was only one problem.
The case of the mistaken waffle maker
After being disappointed that I didn’t own a waffle maker, I went the next morning to the apartment manager and found out the name Stacie was the girl who used to live in my apartment. I told the manager I’d take care of it. And that was the plan on Wednesday. Until...
My hometown community was destroyed by fire and firepower. Bullets slained 12 victims at Borderline Bar & Grill, including a former student’s father, a former student from a past school of mine, and other lovely members of my community. Plus many of my friends and family were evacuated or preparing to be. I was broken all day and night. Tears. Non stop tears of having no power.
But then there was Stacie’s waffle maker. UPS and the waffle maker company were no help. Neither would forward to the new address. I was told if I sent it back to the company, it would take weeks to get it back to Stacie. That was unacceptable.
In a world that went from pure joy, in which I felt in control to a nightmare outside of my control, the only thing I could do is make sure Stacie got her waffle maker.
So I repackaged it, took it to UPS, and forwarded it myself. Everyone told me I should have just dropped off at UPS and let them worry about it.
But I couldn’t. I needed to feel the ability to be in control, and somehow, this meaningless act of sending a waffle maker gave me the feeling that I can still help someone in some way.
What started as a dissapointed inconvenience became a THE very act that kept me sane.
2019 is just weeks away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning next year’s amazing vacation destinations! While cliché places like Hawaii or Cuba are always an option, these 5 destinations will provide you real adventure, romance, and family bonding.
Arby’s Pembroke Pines, Florida
If you love fine dining, the Arby’s in Pembroke Pines, FL will be an amusement park for your taste buds. This restaurant has repeatedly earned Yelp reviews ranging from 0 to 1 stars. Just look at the delicious food made from scratch.
The floor staff is known to be on break most of the time, allowing for the family to spend a lot of time complaining and bonding over the dining experience. Don’t forget your mace! Crime runs rampant!
Flint River Boat Tour
Paul Douglas Moomjean Blog's About What's on His Mind
Blogging allows for me to rant when there is no stage in the moment to talk about what's important and/or funny to me.