The end of 2020 can’t come soon enough. And so it’s that time of year again, the halfway mark. No matter what’s happening in the world, there are still movies, even if we no longer can enjoy them in the comfort of a 400-seat movie theater. Subscription streaming and VOD have stepped up to the plate, with everyone from Netflix to HBO offering up cinematic helpings for those of us in need. Many have faltered, a few have risen.
THE HONORABLE MENTIONS
Plenty of funny sight gags and Pixar’s requisite charm and warmth go a long way towards making Onward more than yet another fantasy adventure satire. Chris Pratt and Tom Holland make a good team as elf brothers at odds on a trip to bring back dear old Dad from the dead for one day of quality father-son time. An emotional twist is typical Pixar but no less powerful, and it’s second only to Zootopia when it comes to animated world-building over the last five years. I wish for more adventures in the studio’s modern fantasy metropolis.
Emma is a feast for the eyes, with production design full of scrumptious pastel colors and ornate interiors, and costume design that puts other costume dramas to shame. Exuding confidence and contempt for those who don’t measure up to her, Anya Taylor-Joy continues a string of indelible performances as clever, rich, and handsome Emma, proving once and for all a bright career path is certain. A bright yellow dress adorning her through a greener pasture than I’ve seen on screen in some time is the stuff of beauty. Even the men are afforded luxurious threads, with an irascible Bill Nighy donning a silky house suit as Emma’s father, or Callum Turner strutting around in caramel brown gentlemen’s pants as Frank Churchill on his way to town. Musician Johnny Flynn is a mildly charming if unremarkable presence as Emma’s main squeeze. No matter, as the men are never the center piece in a period piece. That honors goes to the ladies, and Joy and Mia Goth make for a likable pair.
EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA
Eurovision is possibly Will Ferrell’s best effort since Step Brothers, a successful return to big, broad studio comedy by Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin, and exactly what we need in these trying times: a funny, absurdist, even moving satire featuring inspired comic performances by Dan Stevens and Rachel McAdams. And it’s a musical too! An assortment of previous Eurovision winners and contestants, all European stars of course, are corralled for an epic, invigorating “song-along” sequence in a cavernous mansion. The set piece is expertly staged, shot, and choreographed, and really lets you know that Dobkin and co. are attempting more here than mere easy laughs and eccentric buffoonery.