There is no need to reiterate what kind of a year 2020 was. Needless to say, it was one that had me searching for comfort, familiarity and security. As usual, I often found escape in entertainment which is why I watched over 300 titles this year. And that is also why I found myself re-watching over seventy old film favorites, which is much more than the normal number. These included old Disney features like That Darn Cat, Pollyanna, Snowball Express and The Apple Dumpling Gang, I also decided to tackle a few Shakespeare adaptations such as As You Like It, Henry V, Hamlet, and Love’s Labour Lost, before needing a break from the grandiose language of the Bard.
NEW CLASSIC FILMS – 114 Total
In 2020 I didn’t intentionally seek out films by any specific actor as I have in years past. Also, my viewing of new to me classic films is significantly down from last year, possibly because of the aforementioned tendency to re-visit old favorites. That said, I did manage to make an effort to watch some more modern classics such as Chariots of Fire, My Brilliant Career, (which I loved) My Favorite Year, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (a film I surprised myself by enjoying), The Black Stallion and Moonstruck (which I would have liked more sans a young Nicholas Cage).
As for the older classics, I finally got around to viewing the beautifully made, but also depressing Bridge on the River Kwai, Lubitsch’ charming One Hour With You, the candy coated French musical The Young Girls of Rochefort, John Ford’s popular Western My Darling Clementine, and the well regarded Noir Night in the City which wasn’t my cup of tea despite impressive performances by villainous characters. Tony Curtis impressed me quite a bit in The Defiant Ones, and I was most surprised by how much I enjoyed I Wake Up Screaming and High Sierra which are outside my favorite genres. Other popular classics I watched included The Sand Pebbles (well made, but depressing), the fun and entertaining Royal Wedding, Orson Welles weird and gritty Touch of Evil, Lady in the Lake, and Niagara.
SILENTS – 5 Total
This was not a successful year for me when it came to silent films. I didn’t watch as many as I normally do. Of the five I did see, I enjoyed Bardelys the Magnificent thanks to John Gilbert. I’ve come to the conclusion that John Gilbert was a born entertainer. And I finally watched the famous Wings. I can see why it’s so well-regarded as it is still compelling almost 100 years later.
FOREIGN FILMS/SERIES – 36 total
As I’ve gotten more comfortable with foreign films and series, my viewing of them has exploded. I now actively seek out international films. This year I saw a total of thirty six foreign films and series. I generally like South Korean dramas and French comedies. But I’ve about given up on foreign classics (I’m looking at you Le Samourai and Rules of the Game), despite my well-known love for classic films in general. The one exception to that this year was That Man from Rio, a fun adventure film with French cinema stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Françoise Dorléac.
I watched a few foreign fairy tale adaptations; two French versions of Beauty and the Beast as well as an updated Italian version of Cinderella set in post-war Rome. Though I didn’t love any of them, they each had their merits that held my interest. I also watched films from Peru (How to Get Over a Breakup), The Philippines (The Hows of Us), Norway and Saudi Arabia (Barakah Meets Barakah) for the first time.
I tried the Swedish series The Seaside Hotel, which was marketed as similar to Downton Abbey, before giving up a couple of seasons in. I was also disappointed by new seasons of prior favorite series, Ekaterina and Netflix Girls from Ipanema.
In addition to the previously mentioned That Man from Rio, my favorite foreign discoveries this year were the French comedies Return of the Hero and Cyrano, My Love, both of which I watched more than once. I binge-watched the K-dramas Crash Landing on You, The K2 and also loved Korean films Masquerade (an adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper) and The Royal Tailor.
DOCUMENTARIES – 14 total
This year’s documentary count is up four from last year. Most of the ones I watched were about people from the classic film era. The most interesting of these were Scandal: The Trial of Mary Astor, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache (who is an unsung film pioneer), Martha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity and Sinatra in Palm Springs which was just as much about the town as the man. I also watched a few series on the life and history of British Estates as well as a brief documentary on the home of Louisa May Alcott which I found both educational and interesting. The Gilded Age showed the dark side of a time in history when American wealth grew exponentially, thanks to our own Industrial Revolution. The most memorable of all the documentaries I watched though was The Rape of Europa which delved into the Nazi’s seizure and theft of world class art during WWII.
- Scandal: The Trial of Mary Astor,
- What the Durrells Did Next
- Orchard House: Home of LIttle Women
- Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache
- Rape of Europa,
- Mae West: Dirty Blonde
- The Gilded Age
- Million Dollar American Princesses
- Secrets of Iconic British Estates
- Sinatra in Palm Springs
- Jack Lemmon; America’s Everyman
- Slim Aarons: The High Life
- Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace
- Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity
SERIES – 58 Total
I more than doubled the number of series I watched from last year. I do love a good series, particularly those that are British based. PBS, Britbox and Acorn are my usual choice of streaming platforms, but Netflix really improved their offerings this year. (Not included in this count are the foreign series already mentioned above). I was thrilled to see Julian Fellowes two new series. Although Belgravia was good, I enjoyed the characters, plot and the history of soccer in The English Game more.
I was stunned speechless by the story and character arcs in Wolf Hall and also shocked by how addicted I became to the western Godless. I appreciated the unique Dead Still which is set in Ireland and features a photographer of the dead. I thought Dash & Lily was adorable and got hooked on Sweet Magnolias like the rest of the country this year. I was also happily surprised by the crowd-funded Chosen about the life of Jesus. And finally I couldn’t resist binge-watching Bridgerton at the end of the year. Aside from a few too many graphic bedroom scenes, I loved it.
FEATURE FILMS – 10 total
Obviously, this was not a good year for feature films, thanks to a little thing called a pandemic. I’ve always loved the full theater experience, so I hope that things are able to go back to normal soon. I would especially love more opportunities to see the classics on screen as I have in years past. I did manage to catch two films in the theater before they closed. The rest of the feature films I watched were those released this year, but streamed on my television. I have to say though, that as a whole, I wasn’t overly impressed with the new releases. Enola Holmes was my favorite of the bunch. I was highly disappointed with the new Miss Fisher after such a long wait and HATED the new Emma (though I seem to be alone in my opinion).
- The Last Full Measure
- Dr. Doolittle
- Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears
- The Gentleman
- Just Mercy
- The Lost Husband
- Enola Holmes
FAVORITE FILM DISCOVERIES
- The Affairs of Martha – A lesser known classic comedy with a great cast that had me in giggles.
- Cyrano My Love – This French comedy about the creation of the famous story Cyrano de Bergerac, is probably my favorite film of the entire year.
- I Wake up Screaming – I didn’t expect to like this early film noir, but it was great to see Betty Grable in a serious role.
- Crash Landing on You – I love K-dramas, but try to avoid them because they are so addicting. My best friend and I binge watched this engaging story of a South Korean woman who is rescued by North Korean soldier. It was sooooo good!
- Return of the Hero – Another French comedy that I really loved about two adversaries who keep each other’s secrets and end up falling in love.
- Mr. Right – I didn’t expect to enjoy this dark, violent comedy as much as I did. But I should have known anything with Sam Rockwell in the lead would win me over.
- Magnificent Seven – I know everyone says the original film is better, but I loved the casting and production of the re-make.
- A Stranger in Town – Frank Morgan won me over in a rare starring role as a vacationing judge who works to expose corruption in the small town he is visiting. I love films that highlight ordinary citizens acting as patriots.
- Chef – I loved the father-son relationship that developed in this film about a disgraced chef who goes on the road with a food track. Of course all the food shots were beautiful and made me hungry.
- That Man From Rio – I wasn’t expecting this classic French film to be so full of adventure. The fact that most of the action happens in Brazil, a place we rarely see on screen really put this one over the top for me.
- Swallows and Amazons – I was completely charmed by this family film perfect for both children and adults.
- It’s a Date – This is definitely my favorite Deanna Durbin film. Kay Francis presence only increased my enjoyment of this picture that has a mother and daughter vying for the attentions of the same man.
- It Happened in Flatbush – Lloyd Nolan shocked my socks off as a disgraced player who takes on the management of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Carole Landis was great in a more subdued role than usual.
- 42 – This biopic of Jackie Robinson was inspiring and well done. The courage he displays to pursue his dream of baseball is amazing.
- Enola Holmes – I watched this one twice this year. I love everything about it. The casting is great and I love some of the quirkier aspects of the production. The relationship between Enola and her brother Sherlock was a highlight for me.
- Devotion – I’ve always found Leslie Howard and Ann Harding dull, but they were both very charming in this early thirties comedy of mistaken identity.
- The Peanut Butter Falcon – Such a sweet tale about friendship between two societal outcasts. I love that this featured a main character with Down’s Syndrome in a positive way.
- The Sapphires – Such a fun film about a white man who manages a female aboriginal singing group touring Vietnam during the war. It was an unexpected surprise.
- Godless – This western series just left me feeling…wow! I loved that it showcased strong women. The story line of them standing up to a band of outlaws to defend their town was unusual.
- We’re No Angels – I finally gave this darker Christmas comedy a shot and loved it, mainly thanks to Peter Ustinov.