Matt writes: For our final Ebert Club newsletter of 2020, we are sharing our writers’ picks for the ten best films of the year. You can read the combined Top 10 list here and the individual lists submitted by each writer, including yours truly, here. I was delighted to see that my own choice for the #1 spot matched that on the combined list: “Lovers Rock,” the second installment of Steve McQueen‘s brilliant “Small Axe” film series now streaming on Prime Video.
We wish you all a safe and happy holiday season filled with great moviegoing experiences, and we look forward to seeing you in 2021!
Small Axe: Education (2020). Directed by Steve McQueen. Written by Steve McQueen and Alastair Siddons. Starring Kenyah Sandy, Sharlene Whyte, Tamara Lawrance. Synopsis: The coming-of-age story of 12-year-old Kingsley, who has a fascination for astronauts and rockets. When Kingsley is pulled to the headmaster’s office for being disruptive in class, he discovers he’s being sent to a school for those with “special needs.” Now available on Prime Video.
Nomadland (2021). Written and directed by Chloé Zhao (based on the book by Jessica Bruder). Starring Frances McDormand, Gay DeForest, Patricia Grier. Synopsis: After losing everything in the Great Recession, an old woman embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. Debuts in the US on February 19th, 2021.
American Skin (2020). Written and directed by Nate Parker. Starring Omari Hardwick, Theo Rossi, Beau Knapp. Synopsis: A Marine veteran working as a school janitor tries to mend his relationship with his son after a divorce. When his son is killed by a police officer found innocent without standing trial, he takes matters into his own hands. US release date is TBA.
Palmer (2021). Directed by Fisher Stevens. Written by Cheryl Guerriero. Starring Juno Temple, June Squibb, Justin Timberlake. Synopsis: An ex-convict strikes up a friendship with a boy from a troubled home. Debuts on Apple TV+ on January 29th, 2021.
Falling (2021). Written and directed by Viggo Mortensen. Starring Viggo Mortensen, Lance Henriksen, Sverrir Gudnason. Synopsis: John Peterson lives with his partner Eric and their adopted daughter in Southern California. When he is visited by his aging father Willis from Los Angeles who is searching for a place to retire, their two very different worlds collide. Debuts in the US on February 5th, 2021.
The Ultimate Playlist of Noise (2021). Directed by Bennett Lasseter. Written by Mitchell Winkie. Starring Madeline Brewer, Oliver Cooper, Keean Johnson. Synopsis: Marcus, an audio-obsessed high school senior, learns he must undergo brain surgery that will render him deaf, and decides to seize control of his fate by recording the Ultimate Playlist of Noise. Debuts on Hulu on January 15th, 2021.
Shadow in the Cloud (2021). Directed by Roseanne Liang. Written by Max Landis and Roseanne Liang. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Beulah Koale. Synopsis: A female WWII pilot traveling with top secret documents on a B-17 Flying Fortress encounters an evil presence on board the flight. Debuts in the US on January 1st, 2021.
French Exit (2021). Directed by Azazel Jacobs. Written by Patrick DeWitt. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts. Synopsis: An aging Manhattan socialite living on what’s barely left of her inheritance moves to a small apartment in Paris with her son and cat. US release date is TBA.
No Man’s Land (2021). Directed by Conor Allyn. Written by Jake Allyn and David Barraza. Starring Frank Grillo, Andie MacDowell, George Lopez. Synopsis: After a one-night stand, a successful married man finds himself entangled in a cunning police detective’s latest investigation. Debuts in the US on January 22nd, 2021.
Nobody (2021). Directed by Ilya Naishuller. Written by Derek Kolstad. Starring Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, Christopher Lloyd. Synopsis: A bystander who intervenes to help a woman being harassed by a group of men becomes the target of a vengeful drug lord. Debuts in the US on February 26th, 2021.
Outside the Wire (2021). Directed by Mikael Håfström. Written by Rowan Athale and Rob Yescombe. Starring Anthony Mackie, Pilou Asbæk, Emily Beecham. Synopsis: In the near future, a drone pilot sent into a war zone finds himself paired with a top-secret android officer on a mission to stop a nuclear attack. Debuts on Netflix on January 15th, 2021.
The Right One (2021). Written and directed by Ken Mok. Starring Iliza Shlesinger, Cleopatra Coleman, Nick Thune. Synopsis: Godfrey is the story of man so traumatized and guilt ridden by a personal tragedy that he’s dealt with it in a profound way: he’s decided to be anyone but himself. Debuts in the US on February 5th, 2021.
Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy (2021). Directed by Stanley Nelson. Synopsis: A documentary about, as the title suggests, cocaine, corruption and conspiracy. Debuts on Netflix on January 11th, 2021.
Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry (2021). Directed by R.J. Cutler. Synopsis: An intimate look at the singer-songwriter’s journey, navigating life on the road, on stage, and at home, while creating her debut album. Debuts on Apple TV+ on February 26th, 2021.
The Midnight Sky (2020). Directed by George Clooney. Written by Mark L. Smith (based on the book by Lily Brooks-Dalton). Starring George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo. Synopsis: This post-apocalyptic tale follows Augustine, a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe. Debuts on Netflix on December 23rd, 2020.
Pinocchio (2020). Directed by Matteo Garrone. Written by Matteo Garrone and Massimo Ceccherini (based on the novel by Carlo Collodi). Starring Federico Ielapi, Roberto Benigni, Rocco Papaleo. Synopsis: Old woodcarver Geppetto’s puppet creation, Pinocchio, magically comes to life with dreams of becoming a real boy. Easily led astray, Pinocchio tumbles from one misadventure to another as he is tricked, kidnapped and chased by bandits. Debuts in the US on December 25th, 2020.
History of Swear Words (2021). Directed by Christopher D’Elia. Written by Bellamie Blackstone. Starring Nicolas Cage, Joel Kim Booster, DeRay Davis. Synopsis: A new series in which Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage teaches viewers the history of various swear words. Debuts on Netflix on January 5th, 2021.
Death to 2020 (2020). Directed by Charlie Brooker, Al Campbell and Alice Mathias. Written by Charlie Brooker. Starring Hugh Grant, Samuel L. Jackson, Cristin Milioti. Synopsis: A holiday special commemorating the unmitigated awfulness of 2020. Debuts on Netflix on December 27th, 2020.
Melora Walters on “Magnolia“
Matt writes: On the day before Thanksgiving, I had the great honor of Zooming with the remarkable actor/filmmaker Melora Walters, who spoke with me about her recent directorial efforts, “Waterlily Jaguar” and “Drowning,” as well as her unforgettable collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson in 1999’s “Magnolia.” You can read our full conversation here.
JaNeika & JaSheika James
Matt writes: Authors JaNeika & JaSheika James recently spoke with Chaz Ebert about their illuminating new book, “Living Double: How Identical Twins Unlocked the Door to Success in Hollywood.” You can read their conversation, and watch terrific video interviews with the sisters, here.
Game Over (1989). Written and directed by René Manzor. Starring Brigitte Fossey, Louis Ducreux, Patrick Floersheim. Synopsis: On Christmas Eve, a resourceful young boy has to defend himself and his grandfather from a killer dressed as Santa Claus.
Nadja (1994). Written and directed by Michael Almereyda. Starring Elina Löwensohn, Peter Fonda, Nic Ratner. Synopsis: This ultra-hip, post-modern vampire tale is set in contemporary New York City. Members of a dysfunctional family of vampires are trying to come to terms with each other, in the wake of their father’s death. Meanwhile, they are being hunted by Dr. Van Helsing and his hapless nephew.
Witch Hunt (1994). Directed by Paul Schrader. Written by Joseph Dougherty. Starring Dennis Hopper, Penelope Ann Miller, Eric Bogosian. Synopsis: In a twisted 1950’s where everyone does magic, a private detective investigates a murder case without it.