It’s that time of year again. How to decide what’s “best” out of the six-hundred-plus movies I watched in 2020? It’s an impossible task, so here’s a fairly random selection of things which may not be best, but certainly appealed to me and stuck in my memory.
A new three-disk Blu-ray from Criterion showcases three fantasies by the great Czech animator Karel Zeman, whose unique, inventive style creates a child-like sense of wonder in even the most jaded viewer. The superb restorations provided by the Karel Zeman Museum in Prague are supplemented with some terrific extras, including an excellent feature-length documentary about Zeman’s career and four of his early short films.
Ashley Thorpe’s Borley Rectory (2017) is an eccentric, hand-crafted “animated documentary” about the notorious “most haunted house in England”, using a small cast shot against green screen who are embedded in richly layered images reconstructed from old photographs. Calling up memories of silent film and spirit photography, Borley Rectory is a uniquely immersive spectral experience.
Imagination, if followed honestly, can easily trump coherence and plausibility; what matters is how sincerely a filmmaker follows the narrative ideas out of which a movie arises. Three relatively recent movies offer a great deal of pleasure as they disappear enthusiastically down their own respective rabbit holes.
Recent viewing has included three pairs of movies – two Anime features from 2016 (In This Corner of the World and Your Name), two thrillers from 1967 and 1972 by English directors (Point Blank and Pulp), and a pair of gritty horror-tinged thrillers from 1979 and 1981 which transcend their exploitation roots (The Driller Killer and Ms. 45).