Thursday, January 7, 2021

Anthony's Top 10 Discoveries of 2020

by Anthony King
It was a strange and sad year. But we had movies.

I've been doing my own film discoveries lists for the past several years (first-time watches of films released before 2000), but when Patrick asked if anyone wanted to contribute an end-of-year list two things went through my head: 1. “I'm part of the family!” 2. “Somebody might actually read this!”

10. A Face in the Crowd (1957, Elia Kazan)

This was first put on my radar when it received the Criterion treatment last year. It'd been mentioned on a few podcasts and I (thought) I knew this was just a silly comedy. I was wrong! It's more of a horror movie than a comedy. Watching it in October, with less than a month to go before the election, was a real stress test. The less you know, the better if you've never seen it. But see it. It's Andy Griffith as you've never seen him.
9. Talk Radio (1988, Oliver Stone)

This could make a good double with A Face in the Crowd (although it'd reap hell on your blood pressure). I picked this up during Twilight Time's closeout sale on the recommendation from an early episode of Just the Discs. Loosely based on outspoken lawyer and radio host Alan Berg, starring and written by Eric Bogosian (based on his play), it follows the last few days in the life of shock jock Barry Champlain. You will love this or you will hate this.

8. The Big Fix (1978, Jeremy Kagan)

Twilight Time comes through (again) with one of my top discoveries. Richard Dreyfuss plays Moses Wine, a private detective hired by an old friend to help squash rumors surrounding a political campaign. I know this was one of Patrick's favorite discoveries of the past couple years, and now you can include me in the praise-giving. Hysterical, exciting, and at times meandering. His name is MOSES WINE. How can you go wrong?

7. A Matter of Life and Death (1946, Emeric Pressburger & Michael Powell)

The only Powell and Pressburger I've seen. Shame. Keep in mind, this is 1946. You will see some extremely forward thinking in this film. Boundaries are pushed. Choices are made. It goes OFF. THE. RAILS. And comes together perfectly. David Niven is a pilot who sends out a Mayday as his plane is going down in WWII to radio operator Kim Hunter. Having never met her, and facing his imminent demise, he tells her he loves her. After escaping death, he has to stand trial in heaven. It's bananas.
6. Come and See (1985, Elem Klimov)

While I loved Come and See, I'm in no hurry to watch it again any time soon. It's the story of the extermination of villages in Belarus during WWII, all seen through the eyes of a child soldier. Absolutely devastating, it should be required viewing in high schools around the world. The performances are hauntingly real, the tone and setting is bleak and transportive, and the sheer scope of the film knocked me on my ass. It will stick with me forever.

5. Freebie and the Bean (1974, Richard Rush)

Buddy cop movies are somewhat of a specialty for me, and it's hard to top Alan Arkin and James Caan as bickering partners tearing up San Francisco. As much as we love Chicago around these parts, San Francisco ranks at the top with New York and Los Angeles as the basis for a movie's playground. Richard Rush does everything he can to play hard in Frisco. If you like fun, crass, and exciting cop movies, this is one of the best.
4. F.M. (1978, John A Alonzo)

The first time I'd heard about this movie that was basically impossible to see was courtesy of Steely Dan's theme song for the movie. Arrow Video put out a wonderful Blu-ray last year, and while it's region-locked, it's well worth the excuse to upgrade to region-free. A group of radio disc jockeys take over their station in a “Damn the Man!” type of situation. It's incredibly fun, and the soundtrack is incredible.

3. The Shop Around the Corner (1940, Ernst Lubitsch)

You've Got Mail is one of my all-time favorite movies, and thanks to TCM (and now Warner Archive) I was able to finally see the original film (based on a Hungarian play) on which Nora Ephron based her movie. I'm a sucker for any Jimmy Stewart performance, and I'm in love with Margaret Sullavan here. You'll want to live in the little neighborhood in Budapest and befriend all of these characters.

2. All About Eve (1950, Joseph L. Mankiewicz)

“One of the greatest movies ever.” It's in Danny Peary's Cult Movies, a book on which I based an entire podcast! Had I taken the time to watch it? Of course not! Had the bar been set too high? Was I interested in a story of an ingenue trying to replace an aging star? I did watch it, though, and it surpassed that bar, and the story wasn't at all what I expected. It's a classic for a reason. I'm going to watch it again right now.
1. Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979, Jan Micklin Silver)

Twilight Time comes in with the top spot in the year of streaming and physical media! There is a line of dialogue here that is, understandably, very hard to hear for most people. It turns people away from the movie. That's fine. For me, though, it's one sentence in an entire movie that is one of the most honestly-written stories I'd ever seen. It ended and I just sat, feeling a mix of shame and awe, because of how brutally honest this woman was able to create a male character. While the performances by John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt are pitch-perfect, it all comes down to Joan Micklin Silver's screenplay and direction. Rest in Peace to one of the greats.


  1. Love your list, Anthony! Some on here I still need to see, and happy to see some of my own faves highlighted including All About Eve, Talk Radio, and my beloved Shop Around the Corner!

  2. My wife hadn't seen Uncut Gems and made me watch it with her last night, even though I told her when I saw it in the theater it nearly gave me a panic attack. Still Evil Bogosian anchored me. It's funny to see him so young here. I need to watch Talk Radio again.

  3. A Face in the Crowd is one of those films that does not seem like it comes from the 1950s. The level of cynicism in that film is hard to find in anything coming out of Hollywood then. Kazan was one of the most innovative American directors of that time.

    I keep waiting for Chilly Scenes of Winter to show up on Turner Classic Movies. So far it has not, but Silver's Crossing Delancey is getting some regular airings now. More and more 1980s movies are creeping into the schedule, in fact.

  4. Very nice! I almost picked up The Big Fix in the last sale TT had before they closed up. Wished I had!

  5. Great list! I wouldn't expect less. There are so many movies I need to put to the top of the pile. Like Chilly Scenes. Tbough loved that you had a good time with All About Eve!