2020: The Listing Begins

Shelby Dash, Tyler Dryden, and Tyler Cornack in Butt Boy (2019)

For many of us, listing season, the annual ritual of selecting and ranking the best films of the year, has an official opening day. Year in and year out, that day is December 1, the day that Artforum posts John Waters’s top ten. Waters’s #1 movie of 2020 is Tyler Cornack’s Butt Boy, a “jaw-dropping, deadpan, bowel-bonkers thriller about a heterosexual dad who after a routine visit to his proctologist becomes a serial killer and inhales his victims up his ass, I kid you not.” With the possible exceptions of Pedro Almodóvar’s The Human Voice with Tilda Swinton (#7) and Ina Weisse’s The Audition with Nina Hoss (#5), depending on how they strike you, Waters’s list is fairly violent this year, littered with the likes of Craig Zobel’s civil war fantasia The Hunt (#3) and Kirill Sokolov’s “blood-drenched, seat-ripping” Why Don’t You Just Die! (#4).

Throughout the front half of the new Artforum, contributors write about their favorite books and art of the year, and a total of five lists are devoted to film. Contributing editor Amy Taubin packs her top ten with thirteen titles but reserves the top spot for the “handy, affordable-to-everyone, moving-image camera,” arguing that “this year’s most powerful footage was not mediated by artists but was transmitted raw from the cell phones of citizens like Darnella Frazier, who, by turning their lens on acts of injustice, have mobilized us against state power in numbers never before seen.”

Cassie da Costa, a staff writer for Vanity Fair and a commissioning editor for Another Gaze, goes for Leilah Weinraub’s Shakedown, which was completed two years ago but made available just this year, first on Pornhub and now on the Criterion Channel. “Weinraub’s film develops a new theory of entertainment and economics in its portrait of the eponymous Los Angeles lesbian strip club,” writes da Costa. Only subscribers get to see the full lists from TIFF Cinematheque programmer James Quandt and scholar Erika Balsom, but you can take a peek at the titles without the notes at Year-End Lists.

We’re going to be seeing a lot of lists opening with preambles that stress just how severely strange this year has been. “It’s not just that we watched movies, for the most part, on a small screen at home,” writes Time’s Stephanie Zacharek. “We also watched them with anxiety roiling within us, and sometimes with tragedy unfolding just outside our door.” Zacharek, who also writes about the year’s best performances, seems to have found comfort in her favorite film of 2020: “Both tranquil and dazzling, Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow is a song of this weird, rough-edged stretch of stolen land we call America, a place where tenderness is still the most precious commodity.” At IndieWire, First Cow is Eric Kohn’s #1 as well. “If American cinema had a poet laureate,” he writes, “Kelly Reichardt would hold the crown.”

Jonathan Rosenbaum is showing us the ballot he’s sent into Sight & Sound, an alphabetical list that includes work from Mark Rappaport, Chloé Galibert-Laîné, and Jean-Marie Straub as well as First Cow. While we wait for the results of Sight & Sound’s poll, the magazine has posted a series of lists derived from another. Forty “critics and specialist curators” have voted up lists of the best Blu-rays and DVDs of 2020. Meanwhile, the New York Times has rolled out lists of the year’s best television shows and theatrical productions.

Finally for now, the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts has already presented its AACTA Awards, and the big winner is Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth, starring Eliza Scanlen as a terminally ill high school student who falls for a drug dealer played by Toby Wallace. Babyteeth, which premiered last year in Venice, where Wallace won the Marcello Mastroianni Award presented for the best performance by a young actor, has scored AACTAs for best film, direction, screenplay (Rita Kalnejais), actor (Wallace), actress (Scanlen), supporting actor (Ben Mendelsohn), and supporting actress (Essie Davis).

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