SENSES OF CINEMA: World Cinema Poll

Every year, the Australian-based online quarterly, Senses of Cinema, invites writers from all over the globe to submit their selections for the best movies of the year. This year, over a hundred writers sent in their picks, giving a pretty comprehensive snapshot of 2020 in cinema. A few titles stand out: Never Rarely Sometimes AlwaysDa 5 BloodsThe AssistantUndineDaysAbout EndlessnessThe Woman Who Ran, but the majority of the list reflects idiosyncratic picks, exacerbated by the pandemic which forced cinephiles out of the theaters and on to the couch. There, 2020 releases were seen side-by-side with restorations and repertory picks from streaming services, virtual theaters, virtual film festivals, home video releases, etc. In any other year, where you watch a movie adds to your experience of the movie—world premiere at a film festival, an IMAX screen on opening night, tablet or phone while you commute on the bus—but 2020 flattened those experiences. In one day, you could watch the latest Netflix releases, fill in a blindspot on Kanopy, and watch a world premiere, all from the same spot on your couch.

And for this, Senses of Cinema asked writers to consider the movies not new to 2020 that also left a mark. I chose to break my submissions into two lists: one for 2020 releases, the other for repertory picks. Since I’ve posted my 2020 top 10 in both written and audio form here and here, I’ll skip that list and jump right to classics I caught up with. If you’d like to read my full Senses of Cinema write-up, you can find it here (along with the other 100+ writers’ lists).

2020 marks the most time I’ve spent catching up on repertory picks since college. From a Pixar marathon with my wife to the wide-open spaces promised in westerns. From the endless array of wonders on streaming services to the galaxy of films discovered during TCM’s 14-week Women Make Film series. When I think back on 2020, chances are these are the films that will stick in my mind:

3:10 to Yuma (Delmer Daves, 1957)
7 Men From Now (Budd Boetticher, 1956)
Born in Flames (Lizzie Borden, 1993)
But I’m a Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit, 1999)
El Paso (Lewis R. Foster, 1949)
Girlfriends (Claudia Weill, 1978)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)
Jazz on a Summer’s Day (Bert Stern, 1958)
Je, Tu, Il, Elle (Chantal Akerman, 1974)
Le Bonheur (Happiness, Agnès Varda, 1965)
Losing Ground (Kathleen Collins, 1982)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July, 2005)
Merrily We Go to Hell (Dorothy Arzner, 1932)
The Ox-Bow Incident (William A. Wellman, 1943)
Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994)
Sleepwalking Land (Teresa Prata, 2007)
Soleil Ô (Oh, Sun, Med Hondo, 1967)
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (William Greaves, 1968)
Wanda (Barbara Loden, 1970)
The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, 1996)