2020 Calvin Awards: Best Overlooked Film

By David Mumpower

February 15, 2020

Battle Without Honor or Humanity

An all-out war broke out at the top of Best Overlooked Film this year. Two movies earned half of the overall first-place votes, a staggering outcome in a category that’s historically quite competitive. Meanwhile, the difference between ninth place and 20th (!) place came down to a single ballot. The margins were razor-thin at the top and bottom of the list. But the top two films left the other contenders in their dust.

Our staff’s choice for the Best Overlooked Film of the year is The Farewell, and I want to state this emphatically. It should be the next movie that you rent online. You will never regret the purchase, as this film delivers one of the most satisfying storytelling experiences in age.

Based on a true story, The Farewell is so realistic that the subject of the film didn't learn what it was about until the production was nearly complete. This factoid is vital because the story involves a family that discovers that their matriarch is dying of terminal lung cancer.

In many Eastern cultures, family members choose not to tell the diagnosed person about the fatal illness. They harbor the secret instead, which means that the person who inspired the film only learned about her status because her granddaughter made a movie about it…five years after it happened! Truth isn't merely stranger than fiction; it's better, too.

Ordinarily, I spend the last few weeks of voting for The Calvins by begging staff members to watch specific titles. In this instance, I'm proud to say that they led me, as I hadn't planned to watch the movie. I only did so once it became clear that the film might win in a couple of categories. And then I became one of several staff members to confirm that The Farewell is the Best Overlooked Film of the Year.

Still, the outcome wasn’t finalized until voting closed. Our second-place finisher, Booksmart, remained competitive right down to the final ballot, where it could have won. Instead, that person chose The Farewell and thereby flipped the outcome. In addition to finishing in the penultimate spot, Booksmart also garnered the second-largest total of first-place votes.


Our staff adored the zany chaos of this high school party movie, one that finally tells the story from the point-of-view of female protagonists. Often compared to 2007’s Superbad, Booksmart outdoes that film in every way. It’s a marvelously energetic celebration of youth with two dynamic leads and an absolutely star-making turn by Billie Lourd, the daughter of Carrie Fisher. Friends, teen comedies don’t get any better than this.

Our third selection falls about…oh, 60 percent of the points behind the top two. That’s not to say that we didn’t love Fighting with My Family. It’s more of a demonstration of how dominant the top two films are in this category.

With this wrestling movie, Florence Pugh began her breakout 2019 campaign. She starred as WWE superstar, Paige, whose life as the youngest member of a wrestling family turned into a gripping biographical comedy. Fighting with My Family details how Paige earned a chance with the WWE, while another member of the Fighting Knights wasn’t quite so successful. Amazingly, Paige had already been forced to retire from wrestling by the time the movie came out…when she was only 26 years old.

Rounding out our top five in Best Overlooked Film are The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Apollo 11. The former film utilized a successful Kickstarter to tell a gripping story of gentrification, one so good that multiple voters gave it first-place votes. On the other hand, Apollo 11 received unprecedented access to file footage from the moon landing and displays the events reverently. Oh, and the video quality is pristine, especially in UHD!

Our sixth and seventh selections share an odd similarity. BOP has lauded Pedro Almodóvar films several times before, but Pain and Glory feels more personal. It evaluates human growth over time as an artist tries to overcome a creative dry spell.

The Two Popes similarly fractures time by showing the life histories of two seemingly disparate men, both of whom harbor secrets unbecoming of the clergy. Between these two films, you may experience an existential crisis of sorts, but you’ll come out on the other side better for the introspection.

Our final nominees this year are two films you may not know much about and one that you probably missed. Honey Boy tells the story of an alcoholic celebrity still dealing with trauma from his youth, …and it fittingly stars Shia LaBeouf, although not in the role that you'd expect.

Weathering with You is a hypnotic Japanese romance about what happens when someone falls in love with a weather witch. And the animation in this rivals anything from Hayao Miyazaki. Finally, Missing Link became a shocking box office disappointment, almost accidentally earning a spot on this list. Then again, its quality suggests that the marketing team should update their resumes.

As always, Best Overlooked Film as a category is about exploration inasmuch as any individual movie. Our staff heartily recommends any of the following: Late Night, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, The Peanut Butter Falcon, The Art of Self-Defense, Honeyland, Brittany Runs a Marathon, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Plus One, Okko’s Inn, American Factory, and Always Be My Maybe.

2020 Calvin Awards
Calvins Intro
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Cast
Best Character
Best Director
Best Overlooked Film
Best Picture
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Breakthrough Performance
Worst Performance
Worst Picture

Top 10
Position Film Total Points
1 Farewell, The 92
2 Booksmart 87
3 Fighting With My Family 40
4 Last Black Man in San Francisco, The 38
5 Apollo 11 36
6 Pain and Glory 30
7 The Two Popes 28
8 Honey Boy 26
9 Weathering With You 23
10 Missing Link 22



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