Favourite Films of 2020
by the members of the U of C Film Society
Feels Good Man (Arthur Jones)
I will admit that I was somewhat predisposed to like Feels Good Man because it combines two of my favorite things: documentaries, and weird internet phenomena. But luckily this documentary goes beyond those two aspects to create something I would recommend to anyone. The directorial debut of director Arthur Jones, Feels Good Man documents the rise of the infamous ‘Pepe the frog’ meme against the backdrop of the 2016 US election. While it mostly focuses on cartoon artist Matt Furie’s personal struggle with being unintentional creator of a symbol for the alt-right, it also explores a larger discussion of intellectual property, authorial intent, and the intersection of politics and the hellscape that the internet. With some great animated sequences, and Furies charming and genuine personality as he tells his story, this is easily up there as one of my favorite documentaries.
Emma. (Autumn de Wilde)
I had not seen very many films in 2020—besides a handful of delightfully awful Hallmark movies— and I was not eager to seek out new films either, but when I had the chance to see Autumn de Wilde’s Emma. (2020) I was more than ready to jump into its pastel world. Jane Austen’s Emma has been adapted countless times, from BBC miniseries to Clueless (Heckerling, 1995). In de Wilde’s adaptation she manages to capture the youthful vibrancy of Clueless while setting the story within its original time period. The performances in the film highlight the wit and complexities of the source material. My favourite performance within the film is Miranda Hart as Miss Bates, a chatty spinster. Hart takes a character that could easily be one note and develops her into someone who is sympathetic and even relatable at times. Emma. is a perfect film to escape into during the end times we are living in. Within the world of Emma. the collars are high, manners are of the utmost importance, and the drama is frivolous. Doesn’t that sound nice right about now?
Soul (Pete Docter & Kemp Powers)
It has been a weird year for movies to say the least, but oddly enough we were blessed with dozens of great films from Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods to Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland. Perhaps the most impactful films I saw was Pixar’s Soul. Soul tells the story of Joe Gardner, a Jazz Musician waiting for his big break so his life can finally start. He finally gets this big break when he auditions for Dorothea Williams (a famous Jazz legend in the film) and is offered a chance to play piano in her act later that night. Elated, Joe goes to prepare for the show, but almost immediately falls down a manhole and dies. In the afterlife, he is mistakenly assigned to train an unborn soul called 22. Joe obviously wants to return to his life, so 22 offers him their ticket to earth. The only catch is that their ticket is missing 22’s “spark”, therefore the two must find 22's reason to live. Soul achieves something quite moving in its deconstruction of traditional narrative. The principal idea of the film is that life does not start and stop, it is happening all the time. I cannot think of a more profound lesson in life then something magical happening in your life, and for that life to quickly move on. I think it takes on another level of significance looking at the last year which has taken so much, and yet we are learning that there’s still so much beauty to experience in just the day-to-day grind of it all.
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