This was a good year for films. Our team has gotten distracted a number of times talking over storylines and characters in movies this year. (It’s a miracle we got anything done at all in December with Rise of Skywalker coming out!)
This year’s Oscars will elevate some stories and actors and directors to the historical record, but we all know they won’t get it all correct. That’s the beauty of the awards season — it’s a great opportunity to disagree and make an argument for what you love.
Here are the movies the Grotto team loved this year — tell us what we missed!
I had the chance to watch this stunning film at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival where it picked up the Grand Jury Prize. The film looks at the staggering effects of capital punishment on prison staff who have to carry out executions. Alfre Woodard’s portrayal of a prison warden is absolutely haunting. Everyone in the theater sat in silence when the credits rolled — it’s an incredible piece of art.
A wonderful story of friendship and adventure — felt like a modern-day Huckleberry Finn.
Mariah: The Two Popes
My husband and I don’t have time to see many movies these days, so my “movies seen in 2019” stats are dismal. But I’m so glad we saw this biographical drama. With its ups and downs and flashbacks, this movie tugged at our hearts and provides emotional depth to a historic Catholic moment. I definitely think Jonathan Pryce should take home Best Actor!
Josh Noem: 1917
I saw some really good movies this year, but 1917 was totally engrossing. The movie unfolds as one long shot, so you journey through the trenches and no-man’s land and ruined cities of the Western Front of WWI with the two main characters — you never leave their side. It was an incredibly effective mode of storytelling — and the story itself is worthy of the technique.
Becky: Avengers: Endgame
2019 was a year of tying loose ends and closing doors in the cinematic world. One of my favorite movies of the year was Avengers: Endgame. I had so much built-up anticipation before watching this movie for the first time, mainly due to the emotionally distraught state I was left in at the end of Infinity War. All I can say is that it was an incredibly entertaining and satisfying close to this chapter of the MCU — and yes, the 3-hour-long screen time was worth it.
Tara: Little Women
I absolutely loved this film. Greta Gerwig and the talented cast brought this story to life so beautifully.
I have always had a fascination with true crime stories, but I wondered if I could handle this documentary when I selected it on Netflix. Chills are sent throughout your entire body once you hear Bundy’s voice. And seeing the archival footage of his trial was one thing, but it baffled me to hear women say that the infamous serial killer was innocent just because of his physical appearance. But be warned: the last 30 minutes is not for the faint of heart.
Jessie: The Lion King
I’ve always been a BIG Disney fan, especially when it comes to the classics. Though remakes tend to make me a little nervous (why mess with perfection?), I can’t deny that the chance to see my favorite scenes played out in live-action on the big screen was pretty enticing. And with insane talent like Donald Glover, Beyonce, and the OG James Earl Jones, I was more than impressed with this remake.
Liz: The Farewell
Like Mariah, my stats are not great, but I did take the time to rent The Farewell from the local library (special shoutout to the St. Joseph County Public Library — love you guys). “Based on an actual lie”, the film unpacks the tensions between Billie and her Chinese family choosing to keep her grandmother NaiNai in the dark about her terminal cancer diagnosis. Awkwafina won a Golden Globe for best actress for her performance, which is truly lovely.
Josh Long: Frozen 2
This wasn’t the best film that I saw of 2020, but I’ll never forget the memory of our 6-year-old chatting with us about the ethics (good choices vs. poor choices) within the movie on the way home. Also, our 4-year-old jumping out of her seat and into mine when Elsa had her fake-out death will also go down as a family classic!
What. A. Movie. The emotion that this storyline was able to evoke in me is unbelievable. I couldn’t help but follow Joker through his waves of despair, emptiness, loneliness, and revelation. (Joaquin’s performance was unforgettable.) Joker was living a dark life that is imaginable and unfortunately realistic. His narrative is a reflection of all of societies darkest sins and most disheartening reactions. The complexity of the story’s layers allow for countless different perspectives to be unpacked and analyzed – politically, psychologically, sociologically. A truly dynamic film.