This Sunday December 13, the BSFC gathered for a meeting like no other: 7 HOURS on zoom where we applied 2020 hindsight to the hundreds of movies we were able to screen online this past year. We discussed, and kibitzed, and argued and discussed some more as we VOTED our year-end winners in 15 categories. The awards were generously spread among a variety of films and performances, large and small, obvious and hidden gems, mainstream and indie. The results are a testament to increasingly diverse output and recognition of that work in front of and behind the camera.

Topping the list is the transcendent NOMADLAND which earned 3 awards including BEST FILM, BEST DIRECTOR/Chloe Zhao, and BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY/Joshua James Richards. The film stars Oscar Winner Frances McDormand as a widow who has lost everything in the recession and takes to the open road out west alone, living out of her van, getting seasonal work, and meeting like-minded souls along the way. The film unfolds like a serene meditation on the essential loneliness of life, as each of us navigates love, connection and meaning against a landscape of promise and mystery. Zhao, who also edited and co-wrote the screenplay based on co-writer Jessica Bruder’s book, has given us an elegiac road trip that resonates profoundly with the precarious times in which we currently find ourselves. The instability and the fragility of existence has perhaps never been more apparent on a personal and global scale.  McDormand channels an abiding stillness and the self-reliance of the pioneering spirit, and eventually the freedom of what it means to be at “home” in oneself. The final scenes delivered as sacred an experience as I’ve ever had at the movies. Theatrical release February 19, 2021.

THE FATHER earned two awards including BEST NEW FILMMAKER/Florian Zeller in his debut effort based on his play of the same name, in which he directs our BEST ACTOR Anthony Hopkins to a sublime performance as a brilliant, elegant man in the throes of dementia.

If you thought you had seen all that Anthony Hopkins over his long and acclaimed career could do onscreen, stand back and prepare to be astonished when you see what he does here. Hopkins’ character, 80 year-old Anthony, is living at home with his daughter Anne played by the wondrous Olivia Colman. From the first frame Anthony is unraveling before our eyes. Through seamless sleight-of-hand editing and direction, the film conveys Anthony’s world fragmenting; he and we don’t know exactly where we are in space and time. Not only does the film juggle Anthony’s reality, but it renders multiple perspectives putting us in everyone else’s shoes and in this way, is deeply humane. We empathize with both the father’s and the daughter’s confusion, frustration, rage, and sadness as the two navigate the map of Anthony’s dwindling days as his mind disintegrates.  THE FATHER is fearless, dignified, and poignant, and left me with a deep respect for the process of letting go, and those who help us do it. THE FATHER opens in theaters DEC. 18.

At the opposite end of her acting career is 21 year-old Sidney Flanigan who earned the award for BEST ACTRESS in NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS– her screen debut! Flanigan plays Autumn a 17 year-old whose unintended pregnancy prompts her to make her way from her  rural Pennsylvania hometown to NYC for an abortion. The film is an intimate, step by step examination of her painful journey, the camera up close on her subtly expressive face and dark eyes. There we see tidal waves of emotion that finally wash over her in one unforgettable scene, and the title suddenly becomes heartbreaking. Now streaming.

The critically acclaimed Sundance hit MINARI about a Korean family who comes to Arkansas in the 1980’s to start a farm won 2 awards– BEST SCORE, and BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS for Youn Yuh-jung. Youn plays the grandmother, Soonya, who arrives after the family has settled in. Youn is unforgettable as an offbeat, card-playing grandma whose childlike enthusiasms, unpretentious demeanor, warm heart and grassroots wisdom plants the seeds that will carry her family through tough times. Excellent performances from the entire ensemble, including Will Patton as a cross-carrying farmhand. This tragi-comic family saga will renew your spirit. Theatrical release February 12, 2021.

For a complete list of 2020 BSFC Awards & commendations, click here: BSFC 2020 AWARDS