2020: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve, everybody, and it’s time to take a look back at the year 2020. First, I’ll take a look at some changes with the blog itself that have been going on. One of the big ones was me joining the Classic Movie Blog Association back in August, which has been a thrill for me. I also, early on in the year, debuted a new feature on various theatrical shorts (Coming Up Shorts!), with me adding my comments on individual shorts on every review. Over the last few months, I’ve also been changing up my review format a little, as I’ve tinkered with it to get things around to where I’d like them. It’s not something I’m doing for every post, but I’m having some fun doing it (and, I hope, entertaining all my readers in the process). After finally getting around to working on it, I debuted my new logo design a month ago, while simultaneously announcing my attempt at hosting various blogathons with my Stars Of The Month being planned throughout 2021 (starting off with Doris Day, Clark Gable and Gene Kelly, in that order).

Obviously, one big thing going on for the entirety of 2020 has been the pandemic, which, particularly for a lot of us movie fans, has resulted in us going back to our “comfort cinema.” For me, that has long been the various classic musicals I like, along with a lot of the comedies (not so much the dramas). But, I would say my plans, particularly with regard to movies I’ve been reviewing for the year, didn’t really change that much, as that was mostly determined between the movies I was given for Christmas last year, and my birthday this year. What did change a little was the movies I was willing to purchase on disc (but, then again, I already covered that in my Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2020 post last month). I started out the year by finishing up my run through of actress Ginger Rogers’ filmography (from among the films I own on disc, anyway). After that, I switched to the films featuring comedy team Bud Abbott and Lou Costello (and threw in a post on them as a screen team). I also went through a handful of the silent movies featuring Harold Lloyd, my usual noirs for November, and a few Christmas films to finish out the year. Throw in my special 200th post on the Top 10 Years At The Movies and my 250th on Top 5 Dance Routines I Would Love To Learn, and that should cover most of what I had to do this year!

And with all that said, here’s my list of the top 10 movies that I watched/reviewed for the year 2020, culled from the list of 2020 reviews, plus 2019 releases reviewed after January 1, 2020 and 2020 releases reviewed before December 31, 2020 (also a few films released on disc in 2018, but obviously they’re included in the 2020 reviews).  While I was able to enjoy watching a great many movies, some new and some I’ve seen before, the movies on this list are those I enjoyed the most, and would recommend to anybody that is interested!  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to go to Amazon and support this site!

  1. An American In Paris (1951) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Obviously, for the top spot for this year, I would choose the classic film musical starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. With great tunes from George and Ira Gershwin, including “‘S Wonderful,” “I Got Rhythm” and “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” plus a number of others, it’s worth seeing just to have that fantastic music stuck in your head! And that’s not even covering the dancing, which is great, and one of the best reasons to see this movie, especially on the big screen (which I was fortunate enough to do this year, before the pandemic hit)! Seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and watch it first chance you get! Full review here.
  2. The Music Man (1962) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Following close behind for the second spot would be the classic 1962 film musical The Music Man! This is another film with a memorable score, that’s sure to leave me with a number of fun songs stuck in my head! With a great cast including Robert Preston as the conman Harold Hill, plus Shirley Jones as “Marian The Librarian,” it’s hard not to have fun with this one! So be sure to give this one a chance, too! Full review here.
  3. Sergeant York (1941) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Gary Cooper stars as real-life WWI hero Alvin York in this film. Through his journey from a man prone to drinking and fighting to a man of faith, especially as he goes off to war, this is one of Gary Cooper’s best performances (and his first Best Acting Oscar). After years of not looking too great because of the available film elements, this movie has been carefully restored, which allows this wonderful film to shine again! Full review here.
  4. Show Boat (1936) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Currently occupying the fourth spot for one of the best movies I watched in 2020 would be the 1936 Show Boat. Featuring Irene Dunne as Magnolia Hawks and Allen Jones as Gaylord Ravenal, the story follows their romance through its ups and downs. Based on the Broadway show (and with a few new songs added for this movie by composers Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein), this is the best known version of the tale, and rightly so! Even better, this black-and-white film has been restored, and now looks magnificent! Full review here.
  5. In Person (1935) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Ginger Rogers stars as an actress in hiding after being mobbed by her fans, but she slowly gets past her fear of mobs. This romantic comedy is a bit of fun, and throws in a few musical numbers featuring Ginger herself. The film has long been “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind,” but it’s a bit more available now, and well worth seeing (in my opinion)! Full review here.
  6. Love Me Tonight (1932) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • This early pre-Code musical is the third of four pairings for Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. He plays a tailor, and she a princess, and through some mistaken identity shenanigans, they fall in love. One of the first (if not the first) integrated film musicals, with music provided by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. In spite of its age, this movie still works quite well, and, with a new 4K remaster, it looks stunning to boot! Be sure to give it a shot if you can! Full review here.
  7. The Naughty Nineties (1945) (Shout Factory, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • It’s Bud Abbott and Lou Costello doing their complete “Who’s On First?” routine. In any normal year, that alone is good enough for it to make the list, never mind in a year with a pandemic that left me wanting good comedy more than ever! Sure, the plot of them facing off against a group of river gamblers who took over a showboat is nothing to write home about, but Bud and Lou make this movie well worth it! Full review here.
  8. In The Navy (1941) (Shout Factory, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Another Abbott and Costello film. This time, they’re In The Navy, and joined again by the Andrews Sisters, with an assist from Dick Powell! In this film, the boys help a famous singer stay out of the spotlight (although one female photographer is bound and determined to put an end to that)! The songs here are some of the more memorable ones (particularly the title tune), and with a plethora of comedy routines from Bud and Lou, it’s a fun film I enjoy watching every now and then! Full review here.
  9. Girl Crazy (1943) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland team up again for the last film in their “let’s put on a show” series. He is a girl crazy college student sent to a boys only western college, where he finds her as the only girl. Based on the original Broadway show, and making use of a number of big Gershwin hit tunes, this one is about as much fun as one could hope for! Throw in the newly restored picture, and this movie is well worth seeing! Full review here.
  10. Lost In A Harem (1944) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Hey Abbott! We’ve got another film featuring Bud and Lou, the second of three that they made for MGM. This one features them as a pair of magicians in the Mideast who help a prince overthrow his corrupt uncle. Bud and Lou work with Murray Leonard to pull off such fun comedy routines as “Slowly I Turned” (I’m still not mentioning the place!) and “Invisible Friend,” which for me are among some of their most memorable! Yep, Abbott and Costello continue to provide the laughs! Full review here.

Honorable mentions: Roxie Hart (1942) (20th Century Fox/Disney, DVD), The Freshman (1925) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray), Pat And Mike (1952) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray)

So thank you all for sticking with me in 2020, and I wish you a Happy New Year as we head into 2021! And please let me know what movies you’ve enjoyed this year as well (whether those you’ve seen or whatever movies I’ve reviewed, whatever works for you)!

Also, if you are interested in joining in on my month-long “Star Of The Month” blogathons for 2021, whether for next month, which starts tomorrow (Doris Day), February (Clark Gable) or beyond, please be sure to check out my Coming Soon In 2021: “Star/Genre Of The Month” Blogathons post to sign up!

Previous Years

2019

2018

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… An American In Paris (1951)

“It’s very clear our love is here to stay.” In case you haven’t guessed already, the next movie I want to talk about is that classic 1951 Gene Kelly musical, An American In Paris, also starring Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant and Georges Guetary.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Service With A Guile (1946)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 6 minutes, 29 seconds)

Popeye and Bluto help Olive repair an admirals car. Another fun outing as Popeye and Bluto try to one-up each other in fixing the car, resulting in even more trouble. And a fun ending I didn’t quite see coming after Popeye eats his spinach and repairs the car. While still voiced by Harry Welch instead of regular Jack Mercer, I didn’t notice it as strongly this time, which made things better. While some of the gags may not be new, they worked well enough I had a good time watching this one! Certainly another fun short that continues to make this set (and seeing some of these old Popeye shorts) well worth it!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Ex-G.I. Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) is living in Paris as a painter, alongside his pianist buddy Adam Cook (Oscar Levant). One morning when displaying his paintings, Jerry ends up selling two of them to Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), who decides to help support him as an artist. They go out to a club that night, where Jerry runs into Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron). He is instantly infatuated with her, although she is less than thrilled with his attentions (and the same could be said for Milo as well). The next day, Jerry tries to ask Lise out again, and with a little persistence, she says yes. What Jerry doesn’t know is that she is engaged to Adam’s friend Henri “Hank” Baurel (Georges Guetary), who had raised her after her parents were killed in the war. Hank is given an offer to go to America, and he hopes that he and Lise can get married before they have to leave. Meanwhile, Milo is doing all she can to help Jerry towards giving an exhibition of his paintings, by providing a new place for him to work from and helping make contacts. When Jerry is given advice to tell Lise that he loves her, he does, only to find out she is engaged to another man (and to Hank, who had given him that advice without knowing who Jerry was in love with). In frustration, Jerry takes Milo to a party, where they run into Hank and Lise before they prepare to leave.

The idea for the movie famously came to producer Arthur Freed after he attended a concert for George Gershwin’s song An American In Paris. He liked the title for a movie, and went about getting the rights to the song (along with a number of other George Gershwin tunes). With Gene Kelly quickly cast, they ended up giving the role of his romantic interest to newcomer Leslie Caron, after Gene saw her performing in a French ballet and lobbied for her to get the part. Of course, the final ballet, set to the title tune, would prove a controversial addition, as previous attempts at lengthy ballets (especially in the 1945 Fred Astaire musical Yolanda And The Thief, also directed by Vincente Minelli) had failed to connect with audiences. But Arthur Freed and company stuck to their guns, and it became a high point of the movie (and the beginning of a trend whereby many musicals in the fifties would make use of dream ballets).

I can’t deny that a lot of the fun here is indeed the music and dancing! Gene Kelly gets a lot of the fun, especially with the likes of his tap solo to “I Got Rhythm,” where he gets to work with a bunch of French children as he teaches them a little English. Of course, he also has his romantic duet with Leslie Caron to “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” which is a thing of beauty in and of itself. But that ballet to the title tune is definitely a highlight, especially since some of the music should solidly be stuck in your head by that point, after having been used as background music for most of the movie. But the variety in dance styles and sets during that ballet is just so much fun to watch!

And this movie works so well as a comedy, too! From the character introductions for Jerry Mulligan, Adam Cook and Hank Baurel, we get the camera “mistakenly” showing somebody else before showing us the actual characters (especially a hoot with Oscar Levant’s Adam, if you know how much of a sourpuss Oscar’s characters tend to be and then we are shown a guy that is “too happy” before moving on to Adam)! And then the comic interactions between them on songs like “By Strauss” and “Tra-La-La (This Time It’s Really Love).” Of course, it’s hard not to laugh at Adam after Jerry tells him he is in love with Lise (especially since Hank had told Adam about Lise at the beginning of the movie) and then, when Hank comes in, Adam is nervously re-lighting his cigarette and drinking all the tea while he waits for Jerry or Hank to say just the wrong thing. Just priceless to watch! Honestly, this movie sells itself, it is just so wonderful, I can’t even begin to recommend it enough! “‘S Wonderful!”

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Summer Stock (1950)Gene KellySingin’ In The Rain (1952)

Leslie Caron – Father Goose (1964)

Oscar Levant – The Band Wagon (1953)