This year, we needed a lot more distractions, a lot more laughs, and a lot more cries. We lost theaters, audience fellowship, and stale-yet-delicious popcorn- but we did get some excellent comfort from our couches and witnessed some absolute flexing from streaming services! Not all of it was garbage, but there were definitely some glaring culprits. Here’s our list of things that we leaned on in 2020!
Streaming Service of the Year- because it seems appropriate for 2020.
John: Clearly, the prize should go to the service that has gotten the name-dropped the most on our Podcast! HBO Max is the gift that keeps on giving! Not to mention we have theatrical releases at home in 2021! We love you HBO! #notsponsored
An honorary mention goes out to Quibi! Not only for making my day every time it pops up in the headlines but also for making Jeffrey Katzenberg look like a total jackass! As someone who’s read up on Jeff’s escapades throughout the animation industry in particular, it was quite gratifying to see something blow up in his jerky face. Especially something that seemed like such a bad idea from its inception! Here’s to you, Jeffrey!
Kelly: Apparently I listened to 47,000 minutes of music this year, so I guess Spotify held it together. I’m in the top .5% of Florence and the Machine listeners, by the way. I also have to shout out to the WWE Network for getting me through 6 months with nonstop wrestling and the fun I had revisiting (and questioning) my childhood and the things I was presented with. I watched TWO YEARS worth of wrestling in 6 MONTHS. I regret nothing. Wrestling aside, my main source of streaming has been HBO- it’s a nice looking interface with an abundance of cinematic shows that were perfect for quarantine, as well as a great selection of classic and new movies. I usually go to HBO before checking out any other streaming service- and that’s without Game of Thrones (never going back) and before WW84 and their crazy-ass plans for 2021 releases.
Best Movies We Watched- because we like movies!
John: Ah 2020, the year where liking movies was especially difficult. You know, with the closing of theaters and all. We can thank Trolls World Tour for hammering the nails into that particular coffin! Regardless! Movies can still be enjoyed! The movie that stuck out to me most this year was Pixar’s Soul. While at first I was a tad underwhelmed with certain design choices, the film stuck with me in a big way. It happens once in a blue moon that you watch a movie at the exact moment in your life when you need it. Aside from its poignant message and unforgettable characters, it is just fantastic filmmaking across the board.
Kelly: HAMILT- ok, enough. I actually liked not being oversaturated with big franchises or blockbusters this year. My new scoring rubric for the past few weeks is “Would I rather watch this or The Last of the Mohicans?” Because as slow and mediocre as that movie is in some parts, it keeps me engaged from beginning to end. Also, I can now watch it multiple times on Amazon Prime for no extra cost for the time being so this will absolutely be used. Movies that make me want to keep going back are the best.
As far as 2020 releases go, I’m slapping the big old FAVORITE sticker across The Trial of the Chicago 7 for keeping me firmly invested. I have a full review coming later this week. Extremely relevant and topical to today’s world, it sent me through a roller coaster of emotions and landed me in a bittersweet, optimistic mood when looking to the future. Good art should get you thinking and moving- and the film did just that.
Our Favorite Things We Watched- because we like other stuff too!
John: The first is a nice little cartoon that was very charming and great fluff. The Disney series The Owl House, an animated fantasy-comedy that stars Disney’s first bisexual lead. The show has some of the most unique art directions I’ve seen in a children’s show. It revels in playing with fantasy tropes and just getting weird with them. The story and the characters themselves are very lovable and hilarious. It’s a great time for all ages!
Speaking of weird! Lovecraft Country is spectacular. I describe it to people as August Wilson’s writing meets Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. Before the show even introduces any sort of fantastical elements, it introduces you to truly compelling characters that you instantly fall in love with. The true genius of the show is how they expertly blend the fantastical horror with the very real terror that was brought upon Black Americans in the 20th Century. I can’t wait to see what they end up doing in season 2!
On the polar opposite of the cartoon spectrum is the HBO Max series Infinity Train. So uh. . . .This cartoon doesn’t mess around. I would describe this show as a Sci-fi/Horror/drama series with some jokey jokes sprinkled in. The show takes place on a mysterious cosmic train, where each car is a unique dimension. Each season we follow a cast of characters traverse the train and go through a journey of self-discovery and growth. This is one of the most sophisticated and mature animated series I have ever seen. I would dare say it deserves a place in the all-time greats. It certainly is the best thing I’ve watched in 2020.
Kelly: With the exception of The Good Place and Community and some really dark comedy (like morbid morbid stuff), I don’t normally laugh out loud during television. I barely crack a smile at slapstick, unless it’s really creative. I’m not a sitcom person- BUT I needed laughs this year and Schitt’s Creek delivered. It kind of reminds me of What We Do In The Shadows but with rich people instead of vampires in normal society. They know how to reel in their characters juuust enough before they get too annoying. And on the dark comedy side- I don’t think I’ve ever related more with a television show than Fleabag. It really nails all the chaos/excitement of a normal woman in her early 20s- and the mismanagement or mistakes one is supposed to make at those ages. It’s the first time I’ve felt wholly understood not only on various women’s issues, but in thought process and knee jerk reactions. I. Love. This. Show.
Speaking of ladies, I also want to shout out those who came forward in Netflix’s Epstein: Filthy Rich, for their bravery and for bringing justice and redemption to their lives and many others.
There’s also no other real category for this so I’ll just dump it here- Red Dead Redemption 2 was the best game I could have played in 2020. I’m pretty sure I logged over 250 hours to Arthur Morgan, mostly you know, hunting and trying to do dry dashes to Saint-Denis. It made me feel like I was traveling and seeing sights that weren’t within my walls. My second play all the way through, my first time to 100% on a Rockstar game, and well worth every minute of my time.
Worst Things We Watched- because we do, indeed, like and indulge in the TRASH.
John: Mulan was an infuriating experience. I mean, my spirit has already been broken by the Beauty and the Beast remake, but this latest entry was just so exhaustingly mediocre. That’s two and a half hours. I will never get back, and I will never forgive them for that. Also, there’s the whole propaganda aspect of it but. . . .eh. . . It seems like the movie will fade into the ether and never be mentioned again. . . . . unless Disney wants to adapt the straight to video sequel. . . . Gaaaaaahhhh.
*** Ye be some spoilers for The Mandolorian! ***
Here’s another crime from Disney. So you can all come at me, but I hated that Luke showed up at the end of The Mandolorian. The fact that some swings of a glow stick are enough to make grown men cry is just so… silly? Like in terms of action it wasn’t even that cool. All this showed me is that Star Wars is going the way of the Disney Live-Action remakes. Repackaging the same characters over and over again, unwilling to take any actual creative risks, and completely tethered to the demands of an aging fan base. I was hoping the series would have Mando and Grogu go their own way. Grey Jedi style! Instead, I guess Grogu will just be cannon fodder for when Kylo Ren and his boy band wrecks Luke’s Jedi daycare. You can like what you like, but this franchise can be so much more.
Kelly: I’d like to just say, after 2019’s franchise fatigue, I made active decisions to not sit through certain things and The Mandolorian was absolutely a casualty even though Sasha Banks and Deadwood alum show up. I can see this was the right decision. Thanks, John! HOWEVER, I WILL STILL SIT THROUGH MOST THINGS.
You can read my recent review of WW84 for full thoughts, but what a freakin’ disappointment. Straight Trash means something else for me though, as in movies or shows I know won’t be very good, but I’ll go out of my way to watch it because I’ll find something entertaining about it. I did this to myself: Broken Arrow and the Sons of Anarchy spinoff, Mayans. I love 90s action movies because they’re the right amount of campy (Con Air is a legit masterpiece, people), but Christian Slater in Broken Arrow and John Travolta just being John Travolta was a bit much. I can take one of those, but not both. Not to mention, Chernobyl explained nuclear reactions well enough so it’s taken away all the fun of this genre! What a crime! With Mayans… I am otherwise a committed viewer and will watch a lot of so-so shows to the end. Like Blackstone‘s camerawork in Season 1 gave me worse nausea than all Bourne movies combined but I watched all five seasons, DAMNIT, because it’s good and also because Canada. (You know, gifting us Y2J and Gail Kim among others, handling COVID much better than us, universal health care, plus their currency is more fun- they use coins for single dollars and round up their pennies!) I’ve even watched all episodes of that Magnificent 7 series from the 90s FFS, but I could not get past 4 episodes of Mayans– and there were only two seasons available at the time. And I love Sons. Present tense.