By Mark Saldana

Under normal circumstances, in a non-pandemic world, I would have already written and posted this end-of-year review and would have already moved on and focused on the films this year has to offer. Most of the major film awards would’ve already taken place, but just like everything else in 2020, accolades and award shows honoring the year’s best were put on hold and ultimately postponed for later. Thanks to COVID-19, things drastically changed for cinema, its audiences, and for the critics and reviewers who cover film.

In January 2020, the year started off fairly normally. I began attending regular theatrical screenings and reviewed films accordingly. As the coronavirus began to rapidly spread in the United States, film studios began to hold back and redetermine stategies in a time of uncertainty. As the year quickly entered March, everything came to an unnerving and frightening screeching halt.

Film studios decided to either completely hold back film releases or postpone the original release dates to either later in the year, next year, or indefinitely. As a result, movie theaters closed, and at a time when so many people were stuck at home, we began to experience what initially felt like a drought when it came to films. As the studios desperately attempted to salvage what was beginning to feel like a disaster, they began to pursue at-home options for releasing their shelved offerings. As spring concluded and slowly moved into summer, streaming and video-on-demand began to provide audiences what theaters could no longer do. A lot of the 2020 movies were being released through these options and screened in the homes of people worldwide.

As this was occurring, I started to receive more and more options to review movies at home. Though I dearly missed and continue to miss theatrical screenings, I found some comfort in the fact that I could resume reviewing films in a safer environment. It was an option that was and still is better than nothing at all. As the year proceeded into the time that is known as “awards season,” it was mostly business as usual for me. Though I used to screen some of these films in theaters, the rest normally get screened via either physical or online screeners that I watch at home.

I suppose, for some of my readers, the question remains as to why I am so late in posting this 2020 review. The reason mainly has to do with the decision of my film critics group, the Austin Film Critics Association, to postpone our normal screening and voting schedule until March. This is a decision for which I was in favor. I felt that this would give us more time to properly screen and asseess the great achievements in film that 2020 had to offer.

So, as we approach the weekend when the Golden Globes will “officially” kick off the major movie awards shows, I decided to follow suit and reveal my choices for the best of 2020. Even though the year was scary, bizarre, surreal, and sometimes depressing, cinema had lots of gems to entertain, intrigue, and make people critically ponder the state of our world. So, without any further ado, here are my choices for the top ten movies of 2020, along with my selections for accolades in more specific film categories.

Mark’s Top Ten Films of 2020:

  1. Nomadland
  2. Minari
  3. Promising Young Woman
  4. One Night in Miami
  5. Da 5 Bloods
  6. Miss Juneteenth
  7. La Llorona
  8. Our Time Machine
  9. American Utopia
  10. Wolfwalkers

Honorable Mentions: Judas and the Black Messiah, The Forty Year-Old Version, The Father, Soul, All In: The Fight For Democracy

Best Director: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Best Original Screenplay: Lee Isaac Chung, Minari

Best Adapted Screenplay: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland

Best Female Actor: Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Best Male Actor: Riz Ahmed, The Sound of Metal

Best Supporting Female Actor: Olivia Colman, The Father

Best Supporting Male Actor: Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami

Best Score: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross & Jon Batiste, Soul

Best Animated Film: Wolfwalkers

Best International Film: La Llorona

Best Documentary Feature Film: Our Time Machine

Best Cinematography: Joshua James Richards, Nomadland

Best Editing: Yorgos Lamprinos, The Father

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