2020 eh? If this wasn’t the most punishing year for all of us…
As the year draws to a close we’re returning to our annual celebration of all things cinema – The Truffles: The HeyUGuys Alternative Movie Awards. Since 2009 we’ve been championing the films and performances that remind us why we dedicate ourselves to the seventh art.
Now more than ever we need to rally around cinemas, and shout as loud as possible about our shared love of the cinematic experience. In this spirit, as we look back on our favourite moments in film from 2020 we’ll be focusing fully on the positive.
Here at HeyUGuys we want to wish you a very happy Christmas, a peaceful holiday season and a far, far better New Year.
The ‘John Malkovich in Rounders’ Award for Most Bewildering Accent of The Year.
Robert Downey Jr in Dolittle.
Having twice diced with the English accent whilst playing Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chaplin, Robert Downey Jr decided to expand his range of British accents by playing the latest incarnation of Dr. John Dolittle as a Welshman. Specifically, Downey Jr based his interpretation on a noted 19th Century Welsh doctor and druidic expert, William Price.
Famously, Dr. Price was known to sound like a bewildered bargain-basement Windsor Davies impersonator in the throes of an acute hangover, something the Iron Man star managed to capture with miraculous precision.
The ‘Punch’ Award aka The ‘That’s The Way To Do It’ Prize for Getting Something Spectacularly Right.
The Invisible Man
There can’t be too many bold promises that have proved to be so humiliatingly undelivered as the proposed Dark Universe franchise. Universal were so confident about their roll-out of new versions of their legendary monster back-catalogue that they even gave it its own logo. There it was at the beginning of The Mummy, a film so staggeringly inept that the entire franchise was destroyed like a burning windmill after the first attempt.
The intended big-budget remake of The Invisible Man starring Johnny Depp was scrapped there and then. Instead the rights were given to Blumhouse, which has a history of marrying tight budgets and innovative direction and doing terribly well at the box office.
The result was a superb, chilling, thrilling and relevant horror movie. Unshackled to Universal’s horror legacy, instead it revitalised the film as a modern tale of coercive control and toxic masculinity, with Elizabeth Moss giving an exceptional performance. It also wins the ‘Norman Bates’ Award for most effectively unexpected slaying of the year.
Universal’s own handling of its horror heritage gave us Dracula Untold, Van Helsing, The Wolf Man (2010) and Tom Cruise in The Mummy. A little suggestion: don’t waste any more of your time: just sign the rights over to Jason Blum and put Elizabeth Moss on standby.
The ‘All Is Forgiven’ Award
I have tried to like Adam Sandler. God knows, I gave it a go. You know, Funny People was pretty good and you have to give him Punch Drunk Love. But just when I think, “maybe it’s just me”, up pops Little Nicky or That’s My Boy, or Jack and Jill and suddenly I’m back in that cinema in 1998 watching The Waterboy with my friends, sat in complete silence, all of us getting angrier by the minute.
Well, friends, it’s time to make peace. Not only was he truly great as the compellingly loathsome lead in quite possibly the best film of the year, Uncut Gems, but with his fantastic acceptance speech after winning Best Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards, he won me over forever. Watch it here. Plus, Hotel Transylvania 3 wasn’t that bad. We’re good.
The Most Obscene Misuse of a Household Item of the Year
Cinema has a long tradition of depicting the gross misuse of household items.
The average person will use a hammer to hang a picture frame or assemble some furniture, yet Neil Maskell’s character in Kill List uses one to break a man’s hand and cave his head in. Worse than Maskell is Joe Pesci – a serial offender. In Casino, he misuses not one but two household items, stabbing a stranger half to death with a pen for insulting Robert De Niro and then crushing a man’s skull with a vice during a thorough interrogation.
But what about fire pokers? Dustin Hoffman used one in Straw Dogs to protect himself against Cornish invaders, but any right-thinking person would agree that he was justified in his actions. However, Christopher Abbott’s behaviour in Possessor is a very different matter. Abbott beats his victim well over ten times with the instrument before ramming the tool down the man’s throat and then plunging it in the eye, prizing the organ out in full view of the camera. Kudos, I suppose.
Most Important Film of the Year
My favourite film of LFF 2020 is also the most important one. Set in a small village on the Czech-Austrian border, Shadow Country chronicles a small community’s experience of totalitarianism from 1938 to the early 1950s. Their village has always been a no man’s land, stolen from by both Austrian and Czech officials. So when Hitler annexes Austria and the Sudetenland (a Czech border area with a high German population), the villagers’ split loyalties are sent in a terrible direction.
What emerges is a microcosm of tyranny. There are those who act with decency and pragmatism, but there are also those who are venal, self-serving and cruel. One woman, Marta (Barbora Polakova), becomes half a brown shirt by 1939; emblazoned with a Nazi lapel pin and a smug look on her face. Even more hateful is Otto, a nasty little man who uses the shifting attitudes of the time to his petty advantage. Like The Hunt from 2012, Shadow Country is a vital warning about group think, mob justice,and the importance of free, independent thought.
Best British Film of the Year
After cutting his teeth by beating, shooting and especially swearing through the Rise of the Footsoldier series, Craig Fairbrass has distilled his bristling intensity for Muscle, the third film from Gerard Johnson. Fairbrass plays Terry, a gruff personal trainer who imposes himself on Simon (Cavan Clerkin), a new face in the gym. Simon is in a rut, with a job that’s killing him and a wife who resents him. Soon, after coercing Simon into a 6-month training plan, Terry encroaches on every part of his life, in what is a chilling and darkly mysterious portrayal of manipulation and psychopathy.
The ‘I Can’t Believe it Was This Year’ Award
This has been the longest year of all time, and looking back to life pre-Covid, back in the glorious, blissful months of January and February, feels as though we’ve opened a history book and are looking back generations ago.
Naturally films from that period feel as though they came out in a different lifetime, and of all the films that we can’t believe came out this calendar year, the one that surprises us most is 1917. I still can’t believe that came out this year.
The ‘Best Farting on Film’ Award
This prestigious award, that is not given out lightly, has been awarded to The Lighthouse, for a tremendous and unforgiving commitment to farting in film. Many farts, many laughs. 10/10.
The ‘Who Needs Men, Anyway’ Award
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
We just get in the way. Portrait of a Lady on Fire proves this. A film that doesn’t need us, and is all the better for it.
The ‘Thank God this Came Out During a Pandemic’ Award
This film is thankful is didn’t come out during another year, because it’s bloody rubbish. And had it been screened up and down the country, and was part of our usual weekly round-ups and in the public domain in a more intrusive way, it’s rubbishness would’ve been far more prominent.
Alas, we were all emotionally preoccupied with the killer virus and subsequently, nobody really seemed to care, nor even bother to watch this movie. You got away with this one, Branagh.
The ‘Best Dad’ of the Year Award
Ben Mendelsohn, Babyteeth
In an award sponsored by Stanley Tucci in Easy A, this year our favourite on-screen dad was Ben Mendelsohn in Babyteeth. Well done Ben – great dadding!
Employee of the Year Truffle goes to…
…for her performance in Nomadland. So good was she at performing her tasks while filming that Target apparently offered her a position. And let’s face it, this won’t be the only award being foisted upon the marvellous Ms McDormand. Her portrayal of Fern, the nomad travelling from one zero-hour contract to the next while living in her van, is truly magnificent.
As fact and fiction intertwine, it is hard to see where McDormand ends and Fern begins for the actor is so much at home in her character’s skin. One of the highlights of 2020 for me and possibly a career-best performance by her.
‘We’re All in This Together’ High School Musical Truffle goes to…
Alberto Barbera and his fellow European festival directors
…who came together in Venice to show each other their mutual support and to offer a united front as cinema and festivals suffered due to the pandemic. In the past, festival directors have not shown a lot of love for each other, yet they put egos aside as they gathered together to attest to the importance of festivals in promoting cinema from around the globe. A rare and much-appreciated show of solidarity.
Valour in the Face of the Enemy Truffle goes to…
…for watching a host of scary films. Normally eschewing the gory, terrifying and unnerving on the screen, this year has been so scary and weird on its own terms that having a horror of horror just seems silly. Possessor? A walk in the park! Well, I may have had to turn away a couple of times, but I saw most of it (and what I didn’t see, I could still hear). The Invisible Man with the superlative Elisabeth Moss? Barely had to hide behind a cushion once! Host? Would love to Zoom with those guys anytime! Horror, sci-fi and thrillers are the new rom-coms of 2020 in my book.
The Famous Five Best Director Truffle goes to…
…for his five Small Axe films, which individually are nuggets of beauty and together are an incredible feat of filmmaking. It’s too hard to pick out just one winner (though I have been singing – badly – Janet Kay’s Silly Games pretty much on a daily basis since seeing the gorgeous, teal-tinted Lovers Rock in October). McQueen has depicted important people and significant moments for Blacks in Britain, many of which have completely bypassed most Britons.
The fact that they are all available on BBC iPlayer means those stories can reach – and maybe educate – a vast audience about the realities of racism in the UK. Five Truffles, and a sincere thank you, to the best British director of 2020.
Best Film Seen at the Cinema in 2020
The Invisible Man
Like many of us, my list for 2020 is pretty short, as we’ve all had to make do with drastically reduced cinema visits.
Tenet might seem like the most obvious choice and it was undeniably superb, but my vote this year goes to The Invisible Man, a phenomenally tense and clever film, with Elizabeth Moss on top form and Leigh Whannell making good on the considerable promise of Upgrade.
Best Streaming Debut
There are so many films that I missed at cinemas that I finally got around to catching on a streaming service, but this is limited to streaming debuts instead. I suppose The Irishman qualifies as it only had a limited theatrical release, but my vote goes to Uncut Gems in any event. Now, it may seem like sacrilege to choose an Adam Sandler Netflix original over a Martin Scorsese crime epic, especially one reuniting Pacino, De Niro and Pesci, but we can’t be sentimental about these things.
Yes, The Irishman was a towering achievement and one of the greatest films of recent years, but Uncut Gems was just, ahem, a cut above. Bravo Safdie bros. You even beat The Trial of the Chicago Seven and I really loved that film.
Honourable Mention – Rim of the World – Goodness knows when it was actually released, but I saw it this year and I loved it. A brilliant, funny, clever film with an excellent child cast.
Most Stressful Film Watching Experience
Again, Tenet is in the running here, so extraordinary and confusing was its central conceit. But this is a double award for Uncut Gems. Goodness me. The ramping up of the pressure on Adam Sandler’s Howard Ratner, his desperation to prevail, his attempts to wriggle out of every increasingly fraught situation. And that soundtrack.
My wife and son each watched a bit of it as I was working through it. My son quickly complained of a headache and my wife found herself experiencing a racing heartbeat, so immediate and powerful was the physical effect of the atonal, dissonant soundtrack. This film really was something else.
Most Disappointing Postponement
No Time to Die
So great and manifold have been the various shifting release dates that this will probably be out of date by the time it is published, but at the moment the biggest frustration has been No Time To Die. Not because I think it will be greater than everything else that is still queuing up, but because a little bit more boldness in getting it out on the big screen might have helped other studios and films follow suit and kept cinema chains from suffering such grave and potentially devastating financial losses.
The Annual Dave Roper Self-Pity Award for Best Film He Didn’t Get To See
Bad Boys For Life
This is always a speculative one, as of course I don’t know how good the films are that I haven’t seen. So many films have either gone directly to streaming platforms, or have been fast-tracked in that direction, so there are actually relatively few films that got a cinema release and which also haven’t arrived on streaming platforms for me to catch up on. So let’s go with Bad Boys For Life, which seems to have gone down the trail first blazed by Bumblebee of moving a franchise away from Michael Bay and massively improving in the process. It looks like a load of fun.
What The F#ck Did I Just Watch Award?
So one thing is for sure, whatever Christopher Nolan makes it gets us all talking for better or for worse.
And with Tenet there is no different.
As the story unfolds, are we really moving forward in the story or back? Or BackForward?
It is a thrilling watch where you really don’t know what may happen from one moment to the next and as the end credits roll you are left feeling utterly bewildered.
Benefits big time from two viewings.
Unexpected Dick Joke of the Year Award
James vs His Future Self
This charming indie film from Canadian duo, Jeremy LaLonde and Jonas Chernick, sees Daniel Stern make a rare and well-overdue return to screen.
And also features the great Frances Conroy.
But one of its stand-out scenes features Jonas Chernick confronted with his future self, Daniel Stern with the following hilarious line:
“Future James (Daniel Stern): We have the same dick. Hooks to the left, three freckles on the tip, like the Big Dipper!”
Movie Community Outrage Award
Sonic the Hedgehog
There are rare times where the sheer might of film lovers across the globe force studios to change.
Step up Sonic the Hedgehog…
The publicity shots released of everyone’s favourite blue scamp went viral but for all the wrong reasons including weird looking teeth.
Justice prevailed and Sonic was redesigned. That was a massive win for lovers of Sonic and it is even better that the film turned out to be one of the best of 2020.
The Award for the Biggest Let Down
I was really looking forward to enjoying this film but alas, I did not. I was really disappointed. I ended up just scrolling through Instagram halfway which I NEVER do when I’m watching any film or TV show. I really enjoyed Millie Bobby Brown in Stranger Things, but in this she just annoyed me senseless. I was annoyed that the film had revolved itself around a male character: The Young Duke (just when I thought it was going to be driven by this new empowering female relative of the famous Holmes brothers). Such a let down. However I did enjoy the performances by Helena Bonham Carter, Henry Cavill and Sam Clafin. I would say it’s worth watching at least once maybe, if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan but other than that, I wouldn’t bother.
The Award For The Most Replayed Soundtrack
The Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Everyone was obsessing over this film, including a few members from the HUG team. But after I saw it, I completely understood why. I absolutely loved, adored and admired this film in every way possible. But for me (and probably everyone else too) the soundtrack was what stood out. I just checked my Spotify and it is my most played album of 2020… The music is so catchy and adorable. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as someone who actually cannot stand the real life Eurovision, I can promise you now… it’s not what it seems. It’s even better. I might even put it on now… You’re welcome.
The Award For The Most Beautiful Yet Absolutely Confusing As F*(k Film
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things
I don’t even know where to start with this. And I think those were the exact words I wrote for the film’s review as well. I’m Thinking Of Ending Ending Things is indeed utterly brilliant and beautiful, however… just what the fuck does it all mean? Can something be clever and completely confusing at the same time? Because that would sum up this film 100%.
The acting is brilliant and the setting wonderfully enchanting… but the storyline? As the film moves on, the more and more you get confused. I definitely recommend watching the film… and then again, and again, just to make sure you got the gist.
The Award For The Most Goosebumps and Spine Chilling Moments
The Trial of the Chicago 7
If you have to see one more film for the rest of the year (or what’s left of it), please please please see this. Going in I didn’t know much, if anything, about the Chicago 7. Afterwards I got on to Google and spent ages researching and looking up information that went beyond the film. There are some scenes in this film that honestly had me shouting at my screen and gripping the seat tightly.
In some cases, I actually held my breath. The cast are incredible but for these particular spine chilling scenes, keep your eyes out for Frank Langella’s character…
Aaron Sorkin, the writer of the film, is a genius to say the least.