Stephan’s Top 10 Movies of 2020

Obviously, 2020 sucked ass- especially for moviegoers.

The theatre is one of my favourite places to be and the optimal setting to experience a film. In 2019 I was spoiled, I saw over 40 movies on the big screen (all with my amazing girlfriend), and thought the good times would roll on. But this year, despite our own movie fan prime minister winning reelection at the end of 2019 and the correct rapist winning the election south of the border in 2020, we were still only able to see a few films in theatres at the start of the year and a brief window in the summer when Nova Scotia had zero cases for several weeks… but it didn’t last.

Our very nice Prime Minister in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020).

So I, like many film fans and film studios, turned to streaming services to salvage the year. While I’d never pay $30 to see another bastardized live action remake of an animated Disney classic (with all the great songs taken out) I did subscribe to Disney+ and shared it with my mom to start paying back the decade of Netflix I’ve mooched. Between Disney+, Netflix and Prime Video I still managed to watch a lot of 2020 movies, and I’m bending my rules a little to include a few films from the very end of 2019 I only got around to this year because they’re just so goddamn good.

So here are my top 10 films from the hellish year we’ve had, and fingers crossed for another unprofitable year for the morally bankrupt, monopolistic Disney corporation in 2021.

Oh, and if you don’t like reading then here’s a video I spent way too much time on.

Enjoy reading, nerd!

Like most filmgoers of taste, I enjoy British culture at an arm’s length, ideally through the lens of a self-absorbed British director and definitely not set during the nation’s weird hat era (sorry, Emma). That made The Gentlemen, a crime thriller about a druglord’s attempt at retirement, the perfect big blockbuster British film for me. The action slaps, the lads are chads and it’s all retold through the silky voice of Charlie Hunnam. Well, that right there’s a good time.

The Gentlemen has some style, and some cringe which I’ve been informed isn’t so much cringe as mainstream British hip-hop culture but uh, be warned. I really dug the action in this movie, it’s dumb it’s fun and I’m also partial to Matthew McConaughey ever since Interstellar so that might be clouding my judgement a little but hey, it’s on Netflix, give it a watch.

This is essentially the 2-hour version of that vine of the football coach asking what’s better than this? Filmed right here on the East Coast, The Lighthouse is a mind-warping dive into isolation and insanity that hit a little close to home being viewed during the self-isolating year many of us had. Don’t let the arthouse, black and white and 4:3 aspect ratio turn you off, there’s so much depth (get it) to this perilous tale of two men trapped in their own little hell under the ever-watching eye of the Lighthouse.

William Dafoe wins my unofficial award for most amazing facial expressions in a movie (most likely ever) and I loved how easily and jarringly he could transition from endearing and funny to terrifying and bone-chilling in a single scene. Robert Pattinson is cool too, a young foil to Dafoe’s old madman vibes. I don’t know how it ended, I don’t think I fully understood everything that happened, but I definitely know I loved it.

Chadwick Boseman’s last two performances of his career were released in 2020. The first is as Stormin’ Norman in Spike Lee’s meandering Da 5 Bloods, a movie I struggled to get through but that’s no fault of Boseman. The second is as aspiring blues band composer and trumpeter Levee in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which released posthumously this December and in so many ways adds a bittersweet tone to Boseman’s final performance.

Directed by playwright George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom really feels like a play in how its scenes are set and its many monologues delivered. Across just a few sets Boseman puts everything into each word, each movement. He slides across the room and pushes through every scene with such charisma and captivating delivery I cannot believe he filmed this whole movie while he had stage four colon cancer.

Carried by Boseman and an amazing cast in Viola Davis, Colman Domingo and the hilarious and heartbreaking Glynn Turman as Toledo, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is in no way an easy watch and nor should it be. I also can’t help thinking how fitting that Boseman was able to get his acting career started at the Oxford Summer Program in 1998 because of donations from Denzel Washington, and then ended his career in a film Denzel produced. It’s almost poetic.

It took Pixar twenty-five years but they seem to have finally realized black characters can exist outside of a side character for comic relief. With Soul, the prolific animation studio has finally delivered a story not only about a black character and his lifelong dreams of becoming a famous jazz pianist, but a story about the black community that surrounds him. While they still won’t let this black character be himself for the majority of the movie, presumably because black men aren’t as marketable as cute blueish blobs or adorable cats named Mr Mittens, and they only let audiences experience blackness through the lens of a white-coded perspective, they still delivered a visually stunning film exploring the dreams we set for ourselves and the challenging yet worthwhile process of reexamining who we want to be at all parts of life.

Soul resonated with my girlfriend and I, touching on conversations we’d had many times about why we’re doing what we do, what we want out of life and whether or not it matters if we know the answer to either. I’ve always loved Pixar’s standalone films more than their watered-down sequels, and Soul further cemented my belief this studio is at their best when they’re pushing new ground, exploring new perspectives and giving the mic to new voices.

Okay well not new voices, it stars Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey… but new characters, rather than cashing out on nostalgia.

I’d recommend further reading Charles Pulliam-Moore’s piece Soul Feels Like Pixar’s First Black Movie Made With White People in Mind for a better critique about the way this film treats its black characters than I could ever make.

Pitched as a loose retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, The Half of It is another cheesy, heartfelt teen rom-com that I’ve found myself enjoying more and more the further I get from my own high school years. For those who’ve followed my Top 10 Movie lists in recent years you’ll remember the dumb fun I had watching Netflix’s To All the Boys I Loved Before, and while that film had a sequel this year I found myself drawn to this highschool drama instead.

Starring Leah Lewis as Ellie Chu, a highschooler picking up the slack for her widower immigrant father, Ellie helps her dad pay the bills by writing papers for her peers, filling in for his job at the train station and cooking small pies she can reheat in the evenings. She has a crush on a girl Aster in her class but lacks the confidence to do anything about it, so when another classmate Paul asks Ellie to write love letters for him to give to Aster she initially refuses until Paul offers to pay just like his peers pay for papers. The tangle of love, lies and growth that follow warmed the cockles of my cold, cynical heart- and maybe it’ll do the same for you.

Lindsey Ellis argued in one of her last essays of the year that Borat as a character works even better in 2020 than he did in 2006. Truth be told I didn’t even see the first Borat until earlier this year when my friend Chris found out neither my girlfriend or I had and I got to see where all those memes and quotes I’d been seeing my whole life originated.

There’s some truth to Ellis’ argument. After the election of Trump and the complete breaking down of any legitimacy our political and cultural “leaders” (including Borat) actually have there’s no way to satirize a world like ours anymore, really. So with Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Cohen and his new companion rip across the US of A reminding us all these are just people. We’re all just people and how we treat one another that matters.

I kept thinking of this quote I heard on a podcast earlier this year:

“The great unasked question in our public life is, ‘Given my role here, how should I behave. Given that I’m a journalist, politician or a parent, what should I do in this situation.’

That’s the question I bet that the people that you most respect seem to ask that question, in moments of decision. And the people who most drive you crazy seem like they never ask that question, and everything they do makes it clear they didn’t asked that question first.”

Everyone in this film either asks, or doesn’t ask, this question. These contrasts expose the division more than who voted for who. I think the lesson of this film is that we should all try to ask this question a lot more.

Oh, and the holocaust definitely did happen.

As I’ve seen Jeremy Kaplowitz say time and time again when Christoper Nolan comes up, “he just makes big fun goofy blockbusters,” and I couldn’t agree more. The common theme throughout Nolan’s work is time, from Momentos to Tenet I’m amazed he finds new ways to play with this theme in bigger and bigger budget ways. And while most of the shots in Tenet that I thought were dope was basically normal footage played in -1x, I still hung on every shot like my cat when a bird is on the TV.

There are so many stupid lines in this movie that have been pointed out on Twitter ad nauseam by now and I won’t pretend this script isn’t dumb as balls at times. To the point I can say lines before the character on screen does, a habit I think pisses off my girlfriend more than anything else I do at the theatre. But I simply don’t care. This blockbuster is big, goofy and fun and coincidentally stars another Robert Pattinson foil character I really loved, he’s just killing it lately.

I relentlessly mock the anime fans in my life for their poor choice in entertainment. It’s not fair and needlessly cruel but they understand. After all, anime was a mistake. But where underage girls in school skirts turn many like me away from anime shows, I’ve watched a few anime movies that managed to really hit me in a way a real movie would (just teasing). One such film was CoMix Wave’s 2017 bombshell Your Name. So when I learned the studio’s next film was releasing and actually showing in my local theatre, I hopped on it without even seeing a trailer.

Weathering with You didn’t hit me nearly as hard as Your Name., but it still sported an endearing and funny script (enjoyed best with subtitles, of course) and magical animation that played with wet and water in some really beautiful ways. I’m out of my element in anime and I think that might contribute to my enjoyment of the few I do watch, but even the anime aficionados in my life spoke highly of this film so I’d encourage you to check it out if you’re an anime sceptic like myself or weeb trash like my friends.

Bending the rules cause it’s my list and I dunno, I’ll do whatever I want, I want to give a huge shoutout to all the Pixar shorts released this year for being some of the most gorgeous, heartwarming bits of animation I had the pleasure of watching this year.

Loop captures the frustration of trying to communicate to those who are different than us, and how it can be immensely rewarding to find common ground.

Out is a rollicking look at the struggle of being yourself with those you love most, and the fear they won’t accept us.

And Burrow, especially after the year we’ve endured, showed me that only through working together with those around us can we all thrive.

They’re all on Disney+, and I hope you’ll cuddle up to someone you love and give them a watch.

It might not mean much for some when I say this, but gambling addict Howard Ratner is unequivocally Adam Sandler’s best performance in his entire career. I think Sandler’s been coasting on his few early hits and pumping out abysmal Netflix movies in recent years, but he fucking nails it in this nerve-wracking, incredibly compelling roller coaster of stressful, tense standoffs and devilish cons.

I did experience Uncut Gems incredibly high which may or may not have impacted my enjoyment of it, who’s to say. I will never watch this film ever again in order to preserve my one, perfect viewing experience but I have it on good authority the film still owns sober so check it out if you like risky wagers and/or want to understand all the Sandler memes you may have seen and not understood this year.

Oh, and that ending, come on!


Thank you so much for reading! I’d love to know what you think of my list, if there’s a movie you’re going to check out now or one you think I missed that I should try and watch. I really appreciate every person who takes the time to read my work and I’d love to know what you think in the comments below!

Stephan’s Top 10 Movies of 2019

Over 80% of the 2019 box office revenue went to The Walt Disney Company. The Big Mouse’s Movie Monopoly is proving to be a pretty huge detriment to the film industry, as they churn out so many “live-action” (which I guess means soulless, hyper-realistic animation) remakes of their animated classics to cash in on our collective nostalgia. Or banking on the decade long money-extraction project that has become the Marvel Cinematic Universe, stooping to have Thor sit down for a round of Fortnite©, have Iron Man roll up in his new Audi E-Tron GT Sportscar (available for pre-order now at your local Audi dealership) and have Ant-Man notice Tony’s AXE™ Body Spray for Men.

Even Star Wars wasn’t spared from Disney’s greedy mitts. There was an exclusive setup for Episode IX you could only see in a limited time Fortnite in-game event. Fuck you if you think I’m going to hop into a lobby with a bunch of 12 year-olds to hear Palpatine set up Rey and Finn’s next adventure. I’d have been more pissed if the movie was actually good and I missed out, but…

It’s just a little hard not to get cynical about the state of the movie industry under Disney’s chokehold, you know?

Monopoly: Entertainment Edition

But in that other 20% of the box office this year, in the care of a few bold production companies and innovative filmmakers, there were some fantastic movies released. Some films came from creators whose work I’ve followed and adored for years. But other films I hadn’t heard about before showing up at the theatre that day looking for something to see, and they blew me away.

In total, I saw 40 movies released in 2019, ate probably 2,000 metric tonnes of movie theatre popcorn and many smuggled cheeseburgers. And I did all this to find for you, dear reader, the best films released this year. There’s no need to thank me, for this is my cross to bear. I merely hope you appreciate the immense sacrifice I’ve undertaken to deliver you this definitive list… otherwise known as Stephan’s Top 10 Movies of 2019.

Also I tried making a video this year to accompany, and ended up spending way too much time on it.

Anyways, enjoy reading, nerd!

~ 10 ~

Breaking Bad ended in 2013. I was just entering grade 11, and having binged the shows first 4 glorious seasons to catch up I eagerly anticipated every episode of its final season- including what remains one of my favourite show finale to this day. But in that last scene with Jesse Pinkman speeding away from his life as a meth-making slave I wanted to know: what would he do next? While Better Call Saul filled some of those in-between years with the same high-quality, beautiful television I’d come to love from Breaking Bad– it was missing risk. Prequels never land as hard because you know who lives, who dies, where this all lands. El Camino, retaining all the quality of the show, recaptured that tension with Jesse’s story in the days after Walt’s daring rescue.

I never suspected we’d get a Breaking Bad movie, I thought the show ended with a purposefully ambiguous conclusion to Jesse’s story. And to be honest I was sceptical the film would be as good as the show’s glorious last episode. To be honest, it wasn’t. But it also wasn’t the obvious cash-in I suspected. With flashbacks touching moments all throughout the series and return performances that made me pump my fist like a fan seeing their favourite athlete knock one out of the park, El Camino puts to rest one of my favourite storylines ever to grace the television.

~ 9 ~

Stop-motion animation will never cease to amaze me. Ever since Coraline scared the hell out of an 11-year old Stephan back in 2009 I’ve been amazed by Laika’s ability to create hand-crafted (quite literally) worlds and characters that carry an emotional weight traditional animation can never quite achieve. With Missing Link, Laika and director Chris Butler handed us a delightful little expedition across the globe that, while it wasn’t as tight or memorable a story as Coraline, still delighted. I also can’t stress enough how much I loved Hugh Jackman and Zack Galifianakis bouncing off each other in this film, a severely underused duo in Hollywood.

~ 8 ~

I feel like Booksmart is the movie Good Boys wishes it was. Both coming of age stories, both released in 2019 and both making as much use of their R-rating as possible. But one featuring a witty, insightful perspective on growing up and the other having, well, just weed and dick jokes. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I enjoy both. But why not have weed, dick jokes and a witty, inclusive story featuring a cast of characters that are more than the two-dimensional tropes of fat kid, nerdy kid and main kid?

Booksmart sets itself apart from the raunchy teen party movies I’ve seen dozens of times over by riffing on those films it knows have been done to death. Booksmart opts to celebrate this upcoming generation’s progressive attitudes and mindfulness that has started to define it. Booksmart also marks Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut and if this is what she can whip up on her first go I sincerely hope she gets another shot because I’m sure her filmmaking will continue to be refined and improved.

~ 7 ~

Pain and Glory, or Dolor y gloria in its native language of Español, tells the story of a director looking back on his life and career, contemplating how he wants his story to end. Does he become a drug-addicted tragic artist who dies in an overdose? Does he reconcile with his long lost lover? Does he pick himself up and get back into filmmaking like those closest to him so dearly wish? And does any of it matter anyway? I think these questions, and the introspective story within which they’re explored, hold a lot of value and taught me a great deal about what some struggle with near the end of their life. I (probably) will never be a famous director, nor a beloved actor, but their struggles and pain in pursuit of meaning and purpose are things I struggle with as well. Pain and Glory made me think. I admire movies that make me think.

~ 6 ~

An hour and a half into The Irishman my girlfriend asked “How much time is left?” to which I replied, “2 hours” at which point she groaned and rolled over, pulling out her phone. The Irishman is very, very long. But where other movies this year used their 3-hour runtimes to cram in fanservice and fabulously expensive CGI setpieces, The Irishman used its 3 and a half hour runtime and also fabulously expensive CGI to tell a story of one man de-aged through the power of modern animation, spanning decades of American history and illegitimate dealings. The Irishman makes me wonder what the difference is between the self-serving dealings of the mob, the unions or the government, aside from which side of the law they take place on?

I truly adored this movie. It made me feel like I was back in my living room in 2014, thinking I was so smart and cool for watching The Godfather trilogy. In a way, I think a lot of the discourse this year around Scorcese vs Marvel was really just about people wanting to think they’re smarter than they actually are. Marvel fanboys assigning all this deeper meaning to the superhero films they adore and Scorcese diehards feeling morally superior because the star of The Irishman is a geriatric ex-mobster coping with the loneliness his life of crime has left him in and that’s pretty deep if you think about it.

Pouty Robert DeNiro 😦

But Scorcese was wrong when he said Marvel movies aren’t “cinema,” mainly because, well, they’re released in cinemas. He’s right in his wariness of the Marvel behemoth, something I share and explained at the top of this post. The MCU is low-stakes, tried and true stories regurgitated every couple months to fill seats and sell plastic collector’s cups. Scorcese explained in a New York Tiems Op-Ed that, “If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing.” So I’m glad he’s out here making different things, things he admits wouldn’t get greenlit without Netflix support, another production behemoth except they don’t challenge Disney at the box office.

I’m not sure Scorcese has that much of a claim to being bolder or riskier than Disney when The Irishman stars two veteran, award-winning actors and is based on a successful book… but no one pulled up in a sportscar wearing Axe to play Fortnite and tease the next 10 years of “The Irishmen” cinematic universe, so, there is that. Based on my own personal bias I liked The Irishman more because of all the mobsters. I fucking love mobsters.

~ 5 ~

Midsommar wins the award for movie of 2019 that made me say “what the fuck” the most. Anyone who’s seen director Ari Aster’s previous film Hereditary (2018) shouldn’t be surprised. When you think back to Hereditary, to “the car” scene and all the creepy fuckery that transpired you get an idea what you’re in for with Midsommar. There are scenes from this film permanently seared into my brain like a hand pressed onto a hot stove… But any movie can make these moments, the Final Destination franchise is infamous for them and I wouldn’t consider them “good” movies. Where Midsommar stands apart is channelling these moments into an allegory for relationships, and how devastating it can be when they all fall apart.

According to Aster, Midsommar is a movie about a breakup. Breakups are often horrific events, and I think this genre provides a space for dissecting the range of emotions that happen during a breakup better than any other. Midsommar is a teeth-gritting, stomach-turning film with that doesn’t rely upon cheap jump scares or gore for the sake of it. Instead, Aster uses the steady building horrors to slowly unravel the human cost of dishonesty, of selfishness and emotional abuse.

There was a joke going around during the time Midsommar was in theatres that you could tell how a couple’s relationship was doing by looking at each of their reactions to how the protagonist was being treated… and I’m sure there are several relationships ended in the days and weeks after this film released because of what it revealed. That’s some powerful cinema.

Another horror director I admire a great deal, Jordan Peele, said in an interview that “The reason [horror films] work, why they get primal, audible reactions from us is because they allow us to purge our own fears and discomforts in a safe environment. It’s like therapy. You deal with deep issues that are uncomfortable with the hope that there is a release.” Midsommar builds to the most grandiose, fantastical moment of release I saw on the big screen this year.

~ 4 ~

I’m 22 years old. But in my short time in this life I’ve sat by the bedside of several dying members of my family. I’ve held their hands and looked into their eyes. Some couldn’t speak to me, they just stared as tears rolled down their cheeks. Others commented on how quick the time goes, how I should treasure every second I have left. It was devastating, and also created some of the most vivid memories of my life so far.

Movies… are bad at death. Or rather, they make death seem way cooler then it actually is. No one gets to say something quippy first, no one gets to clutch their loved one’s hand while they whisper their final words of wisdom. People just die, unceremoniously and without most people noticing.

Paddleton is about death, and it understands death better than any film I’ve ever seen. The film opens with best friends (and neighbours) Michael and Andy living their totally average lives. Eating oven-cooked pizzas while watching their favourite Samurai movies, arguing over films and music, solving puzzles and walking to the abandoned lot where they play their favourite made-up game: Paddleton. But Michael has cancer and it’s terminal. So he decides to get a prescription, a prescription for some drugs he’ll take at home to end his life. The only pharmacy that’ll provide the drugs is a few days away, so he asks Andy to go with him.

The premise is simple, and it’s heartbreaking. What ensues is a painfully ordinary road trip to a pharmacy, with two grown men struggling to come to terms with what’s coming. For Michael, his death. For Andy, the loss of his best and only friend. The film balances this painful tone against the sarcasm and at times resentful discussions the men have. And when the time comes it isn’t a grand moment with a grand speech or a profound statement. It’s a human moment, one of the best in film and makes Ray Romano as Andy my pick for most underrated performance of 2019.

~ 3 ~

I saw Knives Out twice in theatres and it’s the only movie this year I appreciated even more upon a second viewing. From the very first screen, themes are being foreshadowed. Pitched to audiences as a “whodunnit” wherein a quirky detective reminiscent of Poirot without a moustache or Holmes if he wasn’t an asshole, the film stars Daniel Craig as the delightful detective Benoit Blanc. Every moment of Blanc onscreen put a huge smile on my face, it’s probably my favourite performance in a film this year. 

But his stellar performance isn’t the reason I enjoyed this movie so much, even more so the second time around. Director, producer, writer and general movie magician Rian Johnson put so much care into every line in this film, every set and scene is deliberate, trying to tell you something more about the characters on screen and their motives. The way he telegraphs events to come through what seems like a throwaway line or simple prop makes me feel like there’s still more I missed.

And on top of all that Johnson manages to sneak in a scathing critique of our culture’s elites. The family at the heart of this whodunnit, the Thrombey’s, skewers every type of wealthy, privileged jerk at the heart of our world’s problems. The liberally educated self-pity feminist, the selfish playboy, the dreaded “I just think they should come here legally” middle-aged uncle… they’re all here. And they all come apart, in a cathartic, delicious romp through Blanc’s brilliant and bumbling process.

~ 2 ~

I’ve seen every single Key & Peele sketch ever aired. I went to see Keanu day one with all my friends right before we graduated highschool. I eagerly awaited Jordan Peele’s directorial debut with 2016’s Get Out. After seeing that film, I thought to myself, “Ah, this is the calibre of cinema he’s been waiting to create.” So I sat down to watch Us expecting more Get Out. More terrifying cinematography, tense and humourous moments of shock and gore, littered with thought-provoking subtext (and not-so-subtext). And all that was there. Yet somehow Us still felt… different.

I don’t want to just compare Us to Get Out, but I know I wasn’t alone in having my expectations subverted. And I know this because walking out of the theatre with all my friends we all just looked around saying “I don’t think I get it” to one another. We know what we saw was rad- we just weren’t sure why. We sat in the parking lot Googling explainers and theories, trying to make sense of what we’d just witnessed. For me, this continued for several weeks. I scoured written and video essays as the collective internet poured over every tiny detail of this movie trying to suck the meaning from Peele’s sophomore horror film like a toddler given a juicy orange slice. This collective, obsessive dissection is the hallmark of a brilliant film.

Uh oh…

On its surface, Us seems like a bizarre horror story about a family vacation gone awry. But if you look deeper, this is a film about so much more. Us is at its core about privilege- and the consequences of ignoring it. That’s not some genius interpretation I came up with, Peele says in the film’s director’s commentary that “For us to have our privilege, someone suffers. That’s where the Tethered connection resonates the most- those who suffer and those who prosper are two sides of the same coin.” Us is about class privilege. It’s about white privilege. Us is about those who got left behind by a string of racist policies going back to Reaganomics and beyond. Us is about, well, it’s about us. Or maybe it’s about the U.S.?

Nah that’s dumb… If you take anything from this, know that Us is scary, Us is thought-provoking and Us is really fucking funny- sometimes all at once. Go watch it.

~ 1 ~

Tom Quinn said in an interview with Variety when discussing Parasite that, “You may live in Korea, I might live in the U.S., but we live in the country of capitalism.” After walking out of the theatre muttering “holy shit” over and over while my girlfriend echoed a simple “right?!” I see the truth in that. Parasite is set in South Korea and stars Korean actors I’ve never seen before, depicts a culture I’m unfamiliar with and a country I’m very uneducated about. And yet, the story told with these characters, this setting and this city across 182 minutes of captivating cinema felt so familiar. These characters and I, we all live in the country of capitalism.

Audiences could just as easily see themselves as either family in this film: the well-off Parks’s or the struggling working-class Ki-taek’s. I’ve met both families before. From the McMansion-dwelling colleague who I met in university, living a lifestyle afforded to them from inherited family wealth to one of my childhood friends who lived in a basement apartment, their parents delivering papers and walking dogs on top of their 9-5 to get by. The two families in Parasite are real, they exist just as much here in Canada as they do in South Korea. Director Bong Joon Ho gives a simple answer when asked why the film connects so well: “The story is very universal. It’s a story about rich and poor.”


As for why I loved this film more than any other I’ve seen this year, quite simply it surprised me. This dark comedy-thriller features twists no one, and I mean absolutely no one, could see coming. As YouTuber Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Yang put it, “Bong Joon Ho has a knack for creating genre films and making them feel like art pieces.” Parasite delicately rides whole wave of human emotion with moments where I laughed out loud- and others so tense I shuffled to the edge of my seat. But through it all, Joon Ho weaves a poignant narrative of class struggle, of what the need to survive under the cruel heel of capitalism can push people to do. It’s a story whose twists shock, whose shifting tone mesmerizes and whose story I’ll remember for a very long time.


Thank you so much for reading! I’d love to know what you think of my list, if there’s a movie you’re going to check out now or one you think I missed that I should try and watch. I really appreciate every person who takes the time to read my work and I’d love to know what you think in the comments below!

Stephan’s Top 10 Movies of 2017


While 2017 was a year of big losses for minorities and underrepresented groups in the real world, the opposite is true for movies in 2017. I was delighted to see the big winners of 2017 be films starring underrepresented groups. From Jordan Peele’s Get Out becoming the highest-grossing original debut ever to Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman becoming the highest grossing superhero origin film at the domestic box office, this year was full of record-breaking moments for non-white, male directors, actors and actresses. Continue reading →

The Last Jedi Review (Spoiler Free!)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an epic space opera released in Canada on December 15th, 2017. The film was written and directed by Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) and stars Carrie Fischer (@carrieffisher), Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself), Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) and Oscar Issac.

I’ve waited almost two years since Rey and Finn reignited my love of Star Wars in 2015’s The Force Awakens to continue their adventure across the galaxy. In those two years, I’ve poured over theories, critiques and speculations about the state of the galaxy to the point where I was so eager to see what’s next that there’s no way anything could’ve met my excitement. The Last Jedi didn’t answer all my questions, it didn’t fill all the Star Wars-sized holes in my heart but it was a satisfying, jaw-dropping and gut-wrenching chapter in the Star Wars Saga that begs another two years of anticipation for the conclusion. Continue reading →

Justice League Review

Justice League is a superhero film released in North America on November 17, 2017. It was directed Zack Snyder (@ZackSnyder), written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon (@jossand stars Ben Affleck (@BenAffleck), Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot (@GalGadot), Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa (@PrideofGypsies) and Ray Fisher (@rehsifyar).

There’s a whole lot of conversation online about how the DC Extended Universe is in a state of disrepair. Despite Wonder Woman being the most successful movie of 2017, every other DC film has been quite a disappointment. From 2016’s laughable Batman V Superman to the somehow Oscar award-winning Suicide Squad, the falters and fumbles of DC to present a compelling cast of characters sadly continues with Justice League. Continue reading →

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a superhero comedy film released in North America on May 5th, 2017. It was directed and written by James Gunn (@JamesGunn) and stars Chris Pratt (@prattprattpratt), Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) and Kurt Russell.

I’m a huge fan of the first Guardians of the Galaxy. It breathed fresh air into the superhero genre and was a great Hollywood debut for the Parks and Rec beloved Chris Pratt. The soundtrack was in my head for months and I adored the intro scene in the cavern set to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love,” which set the fun tone that carried all the way throughout the comedy space romp. But the same cannot be said for the sequel. The first film was so special and perfect in its own way, much like how awesome the first Avengers was, that there’s absolutely no way the sequel could live up. And just like how Avengers: Age of Ultron failed to recapture that original magic, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a lacklustre sequel that feels messy, forced and, like the film’s five post credit scenes, entirely unnecessary. Continue reading →

Logan Review

Logan is a superhero drama film released in North America on March 3rd, 2017. It was directed by James Mangold (@mang0ld) and stars Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman), Dafne Keen (@DafneKeen) and Patrick Stewart (@SirPatStew).

I grew up on the X-Men movies. My mom would rent each one as it came out and we’d watch it and nerd out over all the cool characters. Eventually, I was old enough to see them in theatres. They became events, my parents and I would see them on release and geek out afterwards the whole way home. I eagerly awaited each one, albeit a little less each time. And after 2016’s disappointing X-Men Apocalypse, I wondered if my love of this series was fading. These were the characters of my childhood- Professor X, Magneto, Storm and of course: Wolverine. These characters were so cool to my 10-year-old brain, so awesome and powerful. But as I grew up, the series didn’t really grow up with me. It floated in the mediocre middle ground of superhero storytelling that relied on flashy characters and drawn out action scenes to carry them rather than meaningful plots and dialogue. So I went into Logan with tempered expectations, but after the first scene these expectations were as shattered as the bones of several unfortunate thugs… Continue reading →

Top 5 Movies of 2016

We typically write about games, but Jen and I saw so many movies this year we wanted to share our favourites. There were so many great films this year and so many awesome performances. It was another great year for strong female leads, from Star Wars to Moana to Ghostbusters– the next generation of young girls and boys will grow up with the best cast of diverse and empowered female characters ever. So here’s our favourite films from the year that was 2016. Enjoy! Continue reading →

The Purge: Election Year Review

The Purge: Election Year is a horror film released in North America on July 1st, 2016. It was directed by James DeMonaco and stars Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell and Mykelti Williamson (@mykeltiwmson).

Calling the third instalment in the Purge franchise “Election Year”, releasing it on the July 4th weekend and making the tagline “keep America great” was a brilliant marketing move that capitalised on the current drama surrounding the bid for the American presidency. It especially calls out the republican nominee Donald Trump. But Election Year is so much more than just a marketing move. Underneath, it is a politically charged movie both in its presentation of a tumultuous, dystopian future America but also as a commentary on the current presidential race. In fact, Election Year is so blatant in its connections to the rise of racist and elitist politics in the United States, I would say that the movie is attempting to suggest that a future America where Trump is president would not look too different from the America presented in the Election Year. And that poignant, terrifying suggestion is what takes The Purge: Election Year from a typical trope-laden action flick to a thought-provoking commentary on the current state of America. Continue reading →