Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 26, 2021

A Cineaste’s Picks for the Best Films of 2020

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 3:26 pm


This film made $0 in North America and $27,136 worldwide. It is my pick for best narrative film of 2021

The pandemic has turned the yearly ritual of film awards ceremonies a molehill out of the mountain they once were. With major Hollywood studios shelving multi-million dollar prestige movies, except for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” that was largely dismissed as a flop, it has been left to less costly and nominally “indie” films such as “Nomadland” and “Minari” to fill the gap. Both had full-page ads in the N.Y. Times usually reserved for films made by Stephen Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, et al, with fawning articles over their stars Frances McDormand and Steven Yeun. Instead of A-listers like Scarlett Johansson or Brad Pitt chatting it up with late-night TV show hosts, we see McDormand and Yeun on the guest sofa.

Having seen these films and others in the same vein (“The White Tiger”, “First Cow”, “The Nest”), my reaction has been lukewarm at best. At our yearly New York Film Critics Online virtual awards meeting, not a single one of these overrated works got my vote. Alongside my arch-contrarian colleague Armond White, my votes went for the far more obscure but groundbreaking films that would have never been the beneficiary of a full-page ad in the N.Y. Times. While Armond tilts rightward, my preference is for films that challenge political or dramatic conventions. My picks below reflect my tastes as well as my critical judgement. If you have found my reviews useful in the past, then I would urge you to check them out. All are available as VOD on Amazon Prime and all the other usual sites.

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  1. Thank you, Louis, for these critiques.

    Comment by William Boyd — February 27, 2021 @ 10:48 am

  2. ‘ I was struck by the things I heard from teens who had a better grasp of American politics than 90 percent of the idiots living in this country.’
    And I’m struck by the young people getting involved today in BLM, environment and other social issues in the US. So I wouldn’t write off this 90% of ‘idiots’
    I remember a story (I’m not sure whether it’s true- but it makes a point) of when Lenin was taken to talk to a group of peasants in a field by a party worker, Afterwards when they were walking away Lenin says to the party worker, ‘Have I got to make a revolution out of this?’ The party workers says, ‘Yes.’
    So, that’s what we have to work with and we have a lot of convincing to do, hopefully some of the films you mention will help

    Comment by splodgen — February 27, 2021 @ 8:48 pm

  3. Hi Louis.

    I would be interested in knowing why as someone on the left you had a “lukewarm” response to Nomadland and The White Tiger. Not that I necessarily disagree with you, and I list these two films specifically, as they are the only ones you mention I have seen.

    I found both films compelling enough to recommend them but flawed. Flawed in a way I can’t quite pin down let alone describe coherently. Your take may assist me in coming to a better understanding. Perhaps that is one of the more important reasons film criticism matters?

    Comment by Tony D'Ambra — March 14, 2021 @ 5:36 am

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