With 2020 behind us, our team discusses the movies and TV shows that helped us get through the year.
This year has been particularly tough on everyone, and to make matters worse one of our biggest escapes from reality, movie theaters, were largely inaccessible. While we still had plenty of great films launch, it’s been undeniably different. To reflect that strangeness, we’re changing up our annual year-end list.
This time around, we’ve tasked our team to share the FIVE pieces of media (across movies and television) that helped them get through quarantine and all the other hardships of the year. Here are their picks:
Palm Springs – I went into this film (which debuted on Hulu) knowing absolutely nothing about it. Something rare these days with all the news reporting I tend to do. I was blown away. Everything about it is just pure delight, managing to be hilarious while delivering a poignant–and emotional–story. It entertains on every level and makes me smile when I think about it.
Love and Monsters – I’m always down for a good monster/disaster flick and based off the trailers, Love and Monsters looked to be a lot of fun. I wasn’t expecting it to bring the goods in terms of monster action AND be filled with a ridiculous amount of heart. Featuring genuinely loveable characters and touching moments, the film is one big delight through and through.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow – While I’ve never been big on horror films, Jim Cummings’ brilliant blend of horror, comedy, and drama hits all the right notes. There’s a lot to love about this movie and it took me completely by surprise when it dropped this Fall. Impressive performances anchor a story that veers between the surreal and dramatic in a way that still manages to feel coherent. I loved it and it feels like an instant classic to be watched around the Halloween/holiday season.
Unsolved Mysteries – The original Unsolved Mysteries show, with the iconic Robert Stack, was such a massive part of my childhood viewing. From the criminal to the paranormal each episode brought intriguing stories, many of which continue to linger in my memory even decades later. I was thrilled to dive into Netflix’s revival. While I had my issues with the new season, overall, it brought more tales of intrigue that engrossed me completely.
Lovecraft Country – While I’m not sold on the season’s finale, overall, there’s no denying how enamored I was with this series. My girlfriend and I always struggle to find stuff to watch that appeals to both our interests, and this show fit the bill perfectly. Each week we discussed what certain things could mean and looked forward to seeing how certain threads wrapped up. Equal parts thought-provoking and entertaining, I’d love to see where it could go next.
Honorable Mentions: The Mandalorian, Tiger King, The Old Guard, Greenland, The Invisible Man, Underwater, Alive.
The Boys – Words cannot describe the on-the-edge-of-my-seat feeling I got with every new episode of The Boys as the second season premiered this fall. With a gritty look at how a world where supers exist can be complicated. By the very nature of supers and their powers existing, the normal rules of society crumble and chaos ensues.
Letterkenny – I somehow managed to miss this show until this year, which is around the time when the ninth season was added to Hulu. I quickly binged watched it and then proceeded to watch it two more times in the early days of quarantine. The writing and acting of the show is equally top notch and hilarious and we were given the ultimate gift on Boxing Day this year: the next season of the show added to Hulu.
Midnight Gospel – I have been a fan of Duncan Trussell for years thanks to his fantastic podcast Duncan Trussell Family Hour. The show is written by Trussell and is animated by Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time). The show uses interviews from the podcast where Trussell explores existential topics with a variety of individuals to explore the universe and simulated multiverses through the exploits of Clancy.
Dave – Lil Dicky plays himself as a suburban man who is convinced that he is destined to be one of the best rappers of all time. The show is silly and meant to illicit laughs from those who enjoy some lowbrow humor and silly freestyles. I am in that demographic and there were parts of this year where I just needed an absurd laugh. Dave provided many.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)– This film was everything I wanted a Harley Quinn story to be and more. I’ve loved Margot Robbie’s take on Harley Quinn since Suicide Squad in 2016, and this film just confirmed that she was born to play this role. Seeing Harley slowly become her own woman was a thrilling experience to watch, and I pray to God we get the chance to see a sequel, because this film was brilliant.
Sonic the Hedgehog– It finally happened, after ducking and dodging a number of video game films because of how stupid they looked, I was finally convinced to give Sonic the Hedgehog a try. I went in convinced that the odds were good I would hate it (I’ve never played a Sonic game in my life), but I came out loving it! Not only was this film hysterically funny, it also easily laid the foundations for a larger cinematic universe that is not only believable, it is now demanded by audiences who managed to see this film before the theaters closed. I’m so glad I took the time to see Sonic the Hedgehog.
Onward– This film has the sad distinction of being the final film I saw in theaters in 2020, but what a film to see! I knew from the first teasers that this would be a funny story, and I was proven correct. Think about it, a fantasy world that has modernized and forgotten its roots, a fractured fairy tale if ever I saw one. I still have issues with one part of the ending, but by and large Onward is a great story and it definitely got me through the first part of the pandemic (I may have binged it several times at the start when we were all locked down).
The Wolf of Snow Hollow– Okay, technically I haven’t seen this one yet, but I HAVE listened to the film’s soundtrack and spoken with the film’s composer, and based on that, I know this will be a film I will enjoy. Listening to the music alone got me through the latter part of this year.
The Mandalorian (season 2)– I’m technically cheating since this is television and not a movie, but dang it all the story plays out like a movie so I say it counts. Looking forward to season 2 of The Mandalorian has gotten me through the last several months, without question. This season alone has given me moments I never dreamed I would get to see play out and is unquestionably one of the best entries in the Disney Star Wars collection.
What a strange year this has been! Usually I’m at the movies every week, but this year I have only seen 4 films in theaters, and only one since March! Similarly, I’ve been so busy with other things I haven’t had the chance to watch many new movies via streaming services either. As a result, I feel like my film intake is incomplete to be able to adequately choose the best movies of the year. But, here’s what I’ve enjoyed the best from 2020!
Sound of Metal – It seems like there is always one movie a year which blows away my expectations. This year it was Sound of Metal. Not only does it have a very intense and impactful story, but it is technically impressive, and very well acted. Most importantly, the film’s message transcends its subject matter. This is a film that everyone can appreciate.
The Invisible Man – Leigh Whannell is one of my favorite up-and-coming filmmakers right now. He makes films which are not only very smart, but incredibly fun to watch and meaningful. The Invisible Man demonstrates exactly how to make a remake that isn’t a retread and has purpose beyond just being a remake. I love his almost campy John Carpenter-esque take on horror, it makes for a film which is fun but tackles serious issues at the same time. That is proper movie making.
The Gentlemen – So technically this is a 2019 movie, but I’m going to count it since it hit wide release in 2020. This is a film that proves Guy Ritchie didn’t lose his magic doing Disney remakes and trying to resurrect King Arthur for the 21st Century. This one takes us back to his British crime drama/comedy roots (Snatch or Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels), with a very witty script and lots of entertaining hijinx. Did I mention the cast is incredible?
Avenue 5 – I didn’t like this show at first. All of the characters are terrible people, everyone is selfish and screaming at each other, problems are never resolved – they just tend to stack up on top of each other. It seemed utterly absurd. But half way through I realized how brilliant it actually was. Avenue 5 is the perfect representation of 2020. It is shockingly accurate at portraying all of the problems of our society today, and the reasons why they keep getting worse. Once I realized this, it worked as an incredibly poignant satire. It works if you can laugh at your own misfortune.
Raised by Wolves – Ridley Scott doing science fiction will never NOT appeal to me. This one has the aesthetic and sophisticated texture of his latest Alien prequels, but with an interesting thematic crossover with something out of The Crusades. It is entertaining dystopia, at times a bit ridiculous, at times a bit too bleak, but full of interesting twists and turns. This is heady and ambitious science fiction. It doesn’t draw you in with emotion or curiosity, but instead with its grand ideas and their potential. That’s what appealed to me the most.
Pixar’s Onward – One of my favorite Pixar films, Onward was probably the most thoughtful film to come out of the Studio. Every moment had some greater meaning beyond what you were simply seeing on the screen before you, and it was perfectly paced from both a story and character standpoint. Although it will likely unfortunately remain underrated for quite some time, I will be happy to return to this film often, even if it does mean I go through a whole box of tissues each time.
Hamilton – While I was not as wild a Hamilton fan as, I guess, the rest of the world, I have to admit that the music has stuck with me and I have enjoyed many a dance party to almost all the songs featured since its July 3 Disney+ debut. As a big Jonathan Groff fan, my favorite song is and always will be “You’ll Be Back” despite so many other hits that you probably know by heart, or at least better than I do.
Schitt’s Creek (season 6) – This television series by comedy geniuses and father-and-son team Eugene and Dan Levy made me so happy this year. Although the series has been running since 2015, this year was particularly special because it saw season 6 – the show’s final season – come to Netflix just when we needed it. Although we were sad to see the show end, the ending struck the critical balance between laughs and feels. I will be recommending this show to folks for years to come.
Mulan – Despite most friends I know not being particularly enthused about Disney’s live-action Mulan, I maintain that I enjoyed it more than I thought I would such that it remains my favorite Disney live-action remake to date. Adopting the right elements from the animated hit while introducing different overtones as appropriate, director Niko Caro and her team did a beautiful job with this film.
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made – Based on the NYT bestselling book series by the fabulously talented Stephan Pastis, this Disney+ feature is such a great family film. While I will always be partial to the books, my hope is that kids who see the film are interested enough to give the books a shot. Wonderfully funny and a welcome anecdote for those of us who have always felt a little different but who bask in it nonetheless, the whimsy of Timmy Failure is worth getting to know.
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising – The movie released last year, but didn’t come to my local theaters until February, and yet it was literally the only time I went to the movies this year. Right after seeing this is when COVID started to creep in and there just wasn’t any movies released that made it worthwhile to risk it. Though it did show me that anime is a viable route for local theaters to go, I’d probably risk it again to watch this movie again. It’s one of the best Anime’s, and probably the current best for me, and this movie did pretty much everything I wanted in one go.
The Queen’s Gambit – Who knew watching a show about Chess would be so fascinating? The show totally caught me off guard and had me invested from beginning to end. Easily one of the most dynamic and well rounded shows that Netflix has produced.
The Boys – While not as impactful as the first season, it still had many moments that had my jaw drop…. Even if it was for a split second during dream like sequences. Of course the creepy nature of the main characters escalated for several, but overall a lot of character driven moments led to a great time.
Ju-On: Origins – The series is supposed to be the origin of The Grudge and yet it was so fascinating watching it play out over a series rather than a 2 hour film. The depth in characters and build to horror moments really intensified everything quite a bit, and the production was extremely well done. This is one series that comes to mind when I think of top quality Netflix shows.
The Mandalorian – I mean really expect to come to Cinelinx and not see this? It’s not only the absolute best show released all year, it’s honestly better than the new movies at this point. This show brought so many people together and posting on social media than any major release. The only thing to come remotely close was the recently released Wonder Woman in terms of social appeal.
AJ and The Queen – I absolutely love this show. The entire cast is amazing, the show has serious and funny moments, and RuPaul is absolutely entertaining in every way. The show even provided some good ups and downs to the story to really keep things moving, and you never really know what to expect. The positive and upbeat attitude in every episode is really needed in a time like 2020.
STAR TREK: I consider myself more of a Star Trek fan than a Star Wars fan (calm down I still like SW), but there were quite a few shows I never fully watched or I had forgotten most of it so when they told me I’d be working from home I figured now was as good as any to catch up.
So from April thru August, a close friend and I binged watched every episode and movie there was to the Trek universe. So just listing the gaps in my Trek viewing history we have:
Star Trek: The Animated Series ( I saw one episode when I was a lil kid, 40+ years later I finally get to watch all of it)
Star Trek Enterprise (I’d only watched 3 episodes till then)
Star Trek DS9 (I’d only watched part of the first season and an episode here and there)
Star Trek Voyager (Didn’t watch past season 4)
While the year itself was strange, and horrible, these films/shows helped us through the craziness. Which are your picks for the best of last year?