Critics’ Year-End Lists Are Out: Watch the Best 2020 Films with Us

In what has been perhaps the strangest and most disruptive year for movies ever, there have still been a great many excellent films. Even before the pandemic hit, more and more titles were going direct to the streaming television services and the bells seemed to be tolling for mainstream movie theaters as viewers chose the sofa over the multiplex. Naturally, the COVID quarantine accelerated that process considerably and it should not surprise anyone that a lot of the year’s best went directly to Netflix or other streaming services.

For many arthouse cinemas, however, a new innovation emerged: virtual cinema. Arthouses have been able to offer slates of films via streaming platforms and a significant portion of that revenue goes to help that theater or organization. In this fashion, AFS has been able to offer many of the best films of the year. Our philosophy on virtual cinema has been similar to our in-cinema philosophy. On our virtual cinema platform, AFS@home, we only offer a small number of films, but they are all films that we like and think you will like as well. As theaters reopen in 2021, we plan to continue innovating and offering new solutions in addition to our world class AFS Cinema.

Speaking of the Best Films of the Year, the 2020 Critics Lists are hitting now, and we are seeing a lot of familiar titles. Some have gone directly to Netflix and other streamers, but a great deal have played in the AFS Virtual Cinema. Many of these are no longer available in the Virtual realm and have moved on to other platforms (BACURAU, MISS JUNETEENTH, DRIVEWAYS, and others) but a good number are still available on AFS’ Virtual Cinema channel for those folks who may care to catch up on some of the year’s best.

Here, arranged in order of the year-end hype they have received, are some of the 2020 critics’ darlings now available in the AFS Virtual Cinema:

COLLECTIVE (stream here)

Believe it or not, a doc about corruption in the Romanian healthcare system is one of the most compelling movies of the year. As a bunch of small-time journalists from a soccer newspaper close in on the facts behind a national tragedy, the stakes grow higher and the gangster-ish thugs who profit from human misery begin to fight back. Completely riveting from beginning to end.

COLLECTIVE appears on the following lists: Indiewire, Barack Obama, New York Times, Vulture (Bilge Ebiri), Sight & Sound, Vanity Fair, Film Stage Best Docs, ScreenCrush (Matt SInger), Vox Media, Screen Slate, Slate (Dana Stevens), LA Times (Justin Chang), Time (Stephanie Zacharek), Artforum (Amy Taubin), also 99% on Rotten Tomatoes

CITY HALL (stream here)

If COLLECTIVE is a nail-biter, the doc CITY HALL is an oddly reassuring reset as we watch four and a half hours of the incomparable Frederick Wiseman’s observational impressions of the workings of the Boston City government. From the mayor’s feel-good speeches to veterans and seniors, to a building inspector’s rigorous examination of a renovated home, it shows how a bunch of competent, committed people can make a big government work for the people.

CITY HALL appears on the following lists: New Yorker (Richard Brody), Indiewire, New York Times, FilmStage Best Docs, Vox Media, Screen Slate, LA Times (Justin Chang), Cahiers du Cinéma, also 100% on Rotten Tomatoes

MARTIN EDEN (stream here)

Jack London’s novel about a young sailor coming of age, and social consciousness has survived the transition to a Mediterranean locale and has perhaps even become richer for it. This is classical arthouse cinema, and deserves to stand with the greats in the field.

MARTIN EDEN appears on the following lists: Indiewire, Barack Obama, New York Times, Vulture (Alison Willmore), Vulture (Bilge Ebiri), Sight & Sound, AV Club, LA Times (Justin Chang)

FOURTEEN (stream here)

In Dan Sallitt’s closely observed, novelistic drama, two young women, friends since childhood, stay connected while also diverging in their personal and professional lives.

FOURTEEN appears on the following lists: New Yorker (Richard Brody), Indiewire, AV Club, Artforum (Cassie da Costa), also 98% on Rotten Tomatoes

These titles are only the beginning. Click here to see all the films available on AFS@home, and enjoy.

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