First, I’ll list the movies that were available to us only as DVDs on our Netflix subscription. I was surprised to see that almost all of our favorite DVDs were documentaries, docudramas, biopics, or otherwise based on real people and events. So that is what I have listed. As we have learned this year, truth is indeed stranger and more compelling than fiction. In no particular order:
Cave of Forgotten Dreams 2010. Werner Herzog is given special access to film a cave in France that contains the oldest human paintings ever discovered. The cave is not open to the public.
The Eagle Huntress 2016. How do they film things like this? A documentary follows a Mongolian teenage girl who, with the warm support of her family, breaks into the all-male domain of hunting with eagles.
Maiden 2019. The first all-female crew makes its mark on deep-water yacht racing.
Kusama: Infinity 2018. The astonishing work of a Japanese avant garde artist who moved to New York in the 1950s.
Dark Waters 2019. A docudrama about a story I know something about from my environmental work. Remember Teflon?
Harriet 2019. The extraordinary biopic based on the extraordinary exploits of Harriet Tubman.
Pina 2011. A spellbinding tribute to the German choreographer Pina Bausch. I don’t recall any dialog. It’s all in the dance.
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World 2017. American Indians, that is, and their unrecognized influence on rock and roll.
Official Secrets 2019. How Britain was pressured to invade Iraq, fictionalized but based on actual events.
A Private War 2018. Biopic about Marie Colvin, celebrated war correspondent whose mission was to document the true costs of war. She was killed in the line of duty.
On the Basis of Sex 2018. Biopic about the young Ruth Bader Ginsberg and her landmark work on gender equality. A good complement to the better-known documentary RBG, which we watched in 2019.
Never Look Away 2018. Based loosely on the life of German artist Gerhard Richter, who tried to get beyond the trauma of growing up in Nazi Germany—but fell in love with the daughter of an ex-Nazi.
At Eternity’s Gate 2018. Van Gogh’s last days. Who but Willem DaFoe could play the tortured artist?
And finally, for broader entertainment, true and fictional, and available instantly via Netflix streaming, here are the feature films we enjoyed. (For streaming series, see yesterday’s post.)
The Professor and the Madman 2019. Sean Penn and Mel Gibson are remarkable in this story about the making of the greatest dictionary of all time. Really. The OED.
The Midnight Sky 2020. I was ready to give up on this post-apocalyptic saga but George Clooney (who also directed? Produced?) keeps you guessing and I liked it in the end.
Wadjda 2012. I have a feeling I listed this film before but Vic claimed he never saw it. In any case we both enjoyed (re)watching this story of a plucky Saudi girl.
My Happy Family 2017. In this Georgian (former Soviet Union) film the plucky one is a middle-aged housewife who leaves her wimp of a husband and demanding family.
On Body and Soul 2017. If you have patience and can get beyond the early slaughterhouse scenes, this Hungarian story of a probably autistic woman and a coworker may charm you and bend your mind
My Octopus Teacher 2020. Another how’d-they-do-that documentary. Including how the diver holds his breath that long. My favorite movie of the year.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 2020. Based on events we half-remember. Sacha Baron Cohen is perfectly cast as Abby Hoffman.
The Social Dilemma 2020. Everybody should watch this but you will probably go back to your social networking, like I did, just a little more aware and feeling guilty.
East Side Sushi 2015. Plucky young Mexican American mom is bent on becoming a world-class sushi chef.
Adú 2020. Haunting Spanish film about plucky African kid and other plot involving immigration.
Kappela 2020. Charming Indian movie about a naïve and, yes, plucky young woman who falls in love over the phone with a rickshaw driver.
Uncorked 2020. Plucky young African American man dreams of becoming a sommelier instead of taking over his dad’s barbecue joint.
The Two Popes 2019. Did you know that conservative Pope Benedict XVI and the future Pope Francis became friends? Yes, they did. Much pluck required.
What movies did you enjoy this last, long year?