It’s been a weird year for movies. We had to watch them on couches or in bed instead of in the transportive silence of a movie theater. The screens we saw them on were smaller, the popcorn we ate with them didn’t taste quite the same, and we often watched and processed them alone instead of being surrounded by cheering, gasping, and crying fans and talking about them with friends as we made our way through a darkened parking lot, forever changed by what we experienced inside that movie theater.
It’s been a weird year—but that doesn’t mean it was a lost one.
It was different—but different doesn’t always have to be bad.
Even though I missed movie theaters more than most places during the last year, I still got to watch a lot of great movies. I still managed to watch all of this year’s Best Picture contenders, and I’m still excited for tonight’s Oscars ceremony.
The date may be different. The experience might not be the same. But the joy’s still there.
Today is still a day to celebrate movies. And movies still gave me a whole lot to celebrate in a long, hard, lonely year.
As I went through my Oscar ballot (with plenty of help from the wonderful folks at Collider FYC), I was struck by just how much movies—and a lot of these movies in particular—helped me work through the emotions that came along with this year. Whether it was the way Promising Young Woman helped me process my anger, the way Nomadland gave me language to talk about grief, the way Judas and the Black Messiah gave me the space to cry about injustice, the way Minari gave me a moment of peace and beauty while still acknowledging that life is hard, or the way Sound of Metal made me feel okay about grieving experiences and parts of myself, so many of these movies spoke to the common human experience of grief and how we work through it. And that was exactly what I needed to see this year—stories of heartbreak but also, in so many of these movies, stories of hope, of lights at the ends of long tunnels that we sometimes have to light ourselves.
So even though I picked my favorites below, I want this post to serve as a celebration of all the movies that made us feel exactly what we needed to feel in a year when we all needed catharsis perhaps more than ever.
Today is a good day. And no matter who wins any of these awards, tonight is going to be a good night.
It’s been a weird year—for movies and for everything else.
But there’s still joy to be found. There are still things to celebrate.
And today, I’m choosing joy.
My Pick: Nomadland
My Thoughts: Some years, the Best Picture race is tight up until the very end. This is not one of those years. With critics’ groups wins, film festival accolades, and plenty of other precursors all lined up, it seems Nomadland is a pretty sure thing to take home the biggest award of the night. And I can’t think of a more deserving frontrunner. This film is beautiful—what could have been a gritty look at a difficult lifestyle is instead a tribute to the beauty of the open road and the possibility and freedom it symbolizes. But it’s also a tribute to the power of community. From the outside, this looks like a film about one woman, but it’s actually about the fact that this one woman is part of a family she has found and made for herself—and how no one could survive a nomadic life without the support, love, and care their community provides for them. It’s a film about contrasts—the splendor of America’s landscape versus the brutality of America’s economic system; the darkness of grief versus the soft light of hope; isolation versus community; families you’re born into versus families you choose. And the way this movie weaves seamlessly between all those contrasts with empathy and a uniquely gentle touch made it unlike anything else I watched this year—in the best possible way.