List

2020 Staff Picks: Movies

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

Our expert staff members look back at the year and share their favorite titles.

  • And Then We Danced

    2020

    Set in Tbilisi, Georgia, the dancing is exciting and culminates in a strong statement about inclusion and freedom. I was very impressed with first-time actor Levan Gelbakhiani’s beautiful and open performance. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Bacurau

    2020

    A political satire from Brazil (with a fair amount of violence by the end) that mixes western and sci-fi for one the strangest movies of the year. It’s clever, daring, and thought-provoking. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Banana Split

    2020

    Focusing on the intense period between high school graduation and departing for college, this movie surprised me with the direction it took. April and Clara, ex-girlfriend and current girlfriend of the same guy, become fast friends, secret friends. The acting is good, and even though I'm sure I'm not the target audience for this, I completely enjoyed it. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Beanpole

    2020

    This is only the second film by Russian director Kantemir Balagov. I was deeply impressed with this film's preternatural design and framing and how it folded this attention to detail into a ravaged exploration of the trauma war leaves in its long, troubled wake. It’s a story of friendship and love navigating a minefield of unresolved shock and pain. Recommended by Chris.

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  • The Booksellers

    2020

    You're looking at a best-of list from a library, so it goes without saying that you need to see this film. Recommended by Adam.

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  • Driveways

    2019

    This is a small film with layers. I appreciate the way it focuses on transitions and intergenerational friendships with sensitivity. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Emma

    2020

    I love Jane Austen and have seen all the films available to date. I didn't know if I would like Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma Woodhouse, but half way through, I found her interpretation subtle, honest, and very nuanced. Bill Nighy is hilarious as her father and the sound track is delightful. This has all the features of Austen that we love: a ball (of course), wonderful costumes and makeup from Regency England, and misguided matches and romantic missteps. Recommended by Mary S.

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  • First Cow

    2020

    Writer/Director Kelly Reichardt is cinema’s poet of the Pacific Northwest, attentive to the wind blowing through its leaves, the sound of leaf underfoot, the gentle snap of wild edible mushrooms being plucked by dirt-caked hands. It’s been a joy to watch her evolve as a filmmaker, and this gentle anti-Western/buddy flick, was one of the most delicious movies I watched this year. Recommended by Chris.

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  • Harriet

    2020

    I’ve been waiting years for a Harriet Tubman biopic. Like many biographical movies, it’s not 100% historically accurate, but it will motivate viewers to learn more about the heroic abolitionist. Cynthia Erivo’s Oscar-nominated performance captured the many emotions of Harriet’s brave Underground Railroad missions. Recommended by Mandy.

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  • House of Hummingbird

    2020

    This lovely, understated film is set in Seoul circa 1994 and quietly, delicately observes the life of 14-year-old Eunhee (Ji-hu Park, in one of my favorite performances of this year), a teenager trying desperately to make sense of her tumultuous world. It’s a coming-of-age film, sure, though one told with attentiveness to nuance and a deep respect for what can be gained through acts of kindness. Recommended by Chris.

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  • John Lewis: Good Trouble

    2020

    This documentary is an excellent account of the Civil Rights leader who died in July 2020. Expertly told with great and vivid archival footage and lots of interviews of both Lewis himself as well as his friends and colleagues, this is a must see. It makes one contemplate anew Lewis’s call to make good, necessary trouble in order to create a more perfect union. Recommended by Cecilia and Chris.

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  • Knives Out

    2020

    I watched this with my parents and I cannot overstate how much it means that my notoriously movie-snoozing father stayed awake to watch this film in its entirety. We loved the all-star cast, the Agatha Christie-esque mystery, and wit. We're all hoping to see more of Daniel Craig's Detective Benoit Blanc. Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Miss Juneteenth

    2020

    I can’t stop thinking about this touching mother-daughter story. Nicole Beharie stars and she is fantastic. Kudos to writer/director Channing Godfrey Peoples. On a tiny budget, she delivers an outstanding first film. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • The Mole Agent

    2020

    The premise of this doc by filmmaker Maite Alberdi immediately caught my interest: a man in his 80s goes undercover to spy in a retirement home. But the story takes an unexpected path. Seeing Sergio navigate his adventure and forge new friendships seems to resonate for this time. I was happy to learn that this film is Chile’s submission for Best International Feature Film for the 93rd Academy Awards. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always

    2020

    I was initially skeptical of this film, and an opening scene where one of its two teenage protagonists awkwardly sings at a high school talent show didn’t help. But this decidedly pro-choice film turned out to be one of the most devastating, naturalistic, and poised films I saw this past year. Similar to Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu’s devastating 2007 film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, the moral outrage never preaches, and its story unfolds with increasing power and authority. Recommended by Chris.

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  • Pain and Glory: Dolor y Gloria

    2020

    This is one of the last films I saw in the theater before the pandemic hit, and I am so glad that I did. Directed by Pedro Almodóvar and starring Antonio Banderas, this somewhat autobiographical film is glorious to view. I found it extremely moving. Recommended by Terry.

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  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire

    2020

    Filmmaker Céline Sciamma beautifully captures the tension and romance of a subversive creative collaboration between two women in late-18th-century France. The cinematography is gorgeously lush; the look of the film is almost as passionate and surreal as its subject. The two lead actors compliment one another perfectly. Also, the music is incredible. Recommended by Mary S. and Cecilia.

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  • Ride Your Wave

    2020

    This anime managed to break my heart and make me smile. The artistry is so stunning and interesting. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Saint Frances

    2020

    I got a kick out of seeing some familiar places in this film, which was filmed in Evanston and other Chicagoland neighborhoods, including a little bit at Skokie Public Library. I fully appreciate that this movie covers some heavy and sensitive topics with compassion, truthfulness, and humor. Plus, I was utterly charmed by the young actor who played Franny. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Slay the Dragon

    2020

    I thought that I knew about gerrymandering, but now I know a lot more! This doc is alarming, yet hopeful. The filmmakers did a fantastic job explaining the practice, its far-reaching effects, and also following grassroots campaigns to stop partisan gerrymandering. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Straight Up

    2020

    Get ready for some extremely fast paced, witty dialogue in this sweet movie about two unconventional twentysomethings. I loved the themes—confused sexuality, OCD, loneliness, being true to yourself (if you can figure out who you are)—all done with humor and sympathetic characters. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Summerland

    2020

    A directorial debut from Jessica Swale, this movie shows love, loss, kindness, and hope. Though a period piece set in England during WWII, perhaps it is just right for this moment. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Superman, Red Son

    2020

    This DC Comics film grabbed me the moment I read its synopsis. It centers around the question of nature vs. nurture. It's unexpected, heart-wrenching, and yet quite hopeful. I enjoyed every minute of it. Recommended by Penny.

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  • Tenet

    2020

    Christopher Nolan always finds a way to both engage and challenge the view in his films. I loved this film for this very reason: Tenet challenges you to think. What just happened? How did this film do what it just did? Brilliant. Recommended by Paul.

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  • The Trip to Greece

    2020

    Over the last decade, English actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have been playing fictitious versions of themselves in a series of “Trip” films. Each “Trip” involves them traveling to some picturesque country, sampling local cuisines, and hilariously riffing with each other. This fourth, and perhaps the last, installment does not disappoint. The relationship between Coogan and Brydon lives on through food and humor. Recommended by Chris and Cecilia.

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  • The Truth

    2020

    For his first film made outside of Japan, the great writer-director Hirokazu Koreedu traveled to France to tell this warm, complex, slyly powerful story starring two of the most iconic living French actors, Catherine Denuve and Juliet Binoche. In a year of extremes, this beautifully crafted film was like a glass of cool water and I adored every second of it. Recommended by Chris.

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  • Vitalina Varela

    2020

    It’s best to watch Pedro Costa’s latest, an elegiac film that takes place in an old, now-gone Lisbon neighborhood (Fontainhas), in the dark. The better to enjoy the film’s highly sculpted dance with shadow and light, stone and metal. I think Costa is a filmmaker entirely distinct. His aesthetic is austere, composed, regal, and both haunted and enamored by decay. Recommended by Chris.

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  • Women Make Film

    2020

    Profound on a massive scale, this documentary really brings home how unknown and unsung most female filmmakers are in the cinematic world. I consider myself a filmie, but I knew only a few of these directors. An excellent documentary on subject and scope. Recommended by Cecilia.

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