'Nomandland'

Frances McDormand in “Nomadland.”

The following are the REEL REVIEWS choices for the Top Ten Best Movies of 2020 selected for the Dallas-Ft. Worth Film Critics annual film awards.

1. NOMADLAND

Two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand gives another incredible performance in filmmaker Chloe Zhan’s brilliant screen adaptation of the nonfiction book, “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.” The documentary-like film focuses on still grieving widow Fern (McDormand) who abandons her longtime home after the closing of the local gypsum plant and the death of her husband. She takes what she can in her van and hits the road. In the earthy and hard-edged movie, most of the actors are actual transient folks portraying themselves. Fern joins the many itinerant travelers, not out of choice but necessity.

2. MANK  Oscar winner Gary Oldman gives tour de force performance as whipsmart alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewisz who agrees to collaborate with director and star Orson Welles (Tom Burke) to write “Citizen Kane.” In flashbacks to the 1930s, the stunning black and white feature reimagines Old Hollywood and the incomparable Hearst mansion San Simeon, where Mankiewisz and his wife Sara (Tuppence Middleton) were frequent guests. Charles Dance portrays William Randolph Hearst, and Amanda Seyfried is sensational as actress Marion Davies.

3. NEWS OF THE WORLD

Pauline Jiles’ novel comes to the screen with Tom Hanks as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, who travels to various Texas towns reading the news to audience members who pay 10 cents each. While on his journey, Kidd encounters a child, a girl named Johanna (Helena Zengel) who only speaks Kiowa. After trying to find a place for her, Kidd agrees to deliver her to family members. Paul Greengrass directs this poignant and involving feature.

4  PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

Writer and director Emerald Fennell’s brilliantly twisted jet black comedy stars Carey Mulligan as former medical student Cassie Thomas. By day, Cassie works in a coffee shop and seems like an ordinary young woman. By evening, she morphs into a sexy babe who frequents bars. Bo Burnham portrays Dr. Ryan Cooper, Cassie’s medical school acquaintance who becomes her boyfriend. Fennell’s screenplay ends in a cryptic, shocking manner.

5. JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Charismatic leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) serves as the chairman of the Chicago Black Panther Party in 1968. FBI Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) convinces William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) to infiltrate the Panthers to gather information about Hampton. Shaka King directs the stunning recreation of the racial inequities of the period with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Martin Sheen) calling for the end of Hampton and his colleagues. Kaluuya gives a powerful performance as the talented orator who attempts to win justice for Black people.

6. THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed the fascinating legal drama of the actual  court case against a group of protesters known as the “Chicago 7.”  SDS leader Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Yippie Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Yippie Jerry Rubin (Alex Sharp) and MOBE leader David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch) were all present during the riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. At times hilarious and tragic, the film cleverly takes the viewer back to a period of civil rights uprisings, antiwar protests and this infamous federal trial.

7.  THE MAURITANIAN

The film is the jaw-dropping true story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim), a Muslim engineer who was captured and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba after 9/11. His American lawyer Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) and her assistant Teri Duncan (Shailene Woodley) attempt to defend Slahi, while Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch (Benedict Cumberbatch) serves as the prosecutor. The torture sequences are difficult to watch.

8.. MINARI

In an acclaimed and heartwarming feature set during the 1980s, the Korean-American Yi family moves to Arkansas where the mother and father work at a hatchery. Eventually, the father attempts to raise Asian produce to sell in Dallas. The Yi children, Anne (Noel Kate Choi), and the irresistible David (Alan Kim), and their grandmother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) live with the parents in a trailer. Although the film takes place in America, most of the dialogue is in Korean with subtitles.  Lee Isaac Chung writes and directs the reminiscence from his own childhood.

9. THE FATHER

Veteran actor and Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins is amazing as Anthony, an aging man who is losing his memory in a drama cowritten and directed by Florian Zeller. Another Oscar winner, Olivia Colman, plays Anne, Anthony’s daughter who struggles to cope with her father’s increasing dementia. The film shows a remarkably realistic portrait of the caregiver’s heartbreak along with the elderly man’s shifting world.

10. MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM

Set during 1927, the edgy tragicomic feature is based on August Wilson’s 1982  stage play and is directed by George C. Wolfe. The unrecognizable Viola Davis portrays cranky blues singer Ma Rainey at a Chicago recording studio. The late Chadwick Boseman’s performance is spectacular as brash trumpeter Levee Green, who tries to convince Ma Rainey to revise her musical style.

Alice Reese is a member of the Dallas Fort Worth Film Critics Association. She reviews movies, arts and  entertainment for the Herald-Banner and for KETR.

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