2020: The Skinny

Welcome to the TENTH Annual Skinny!

Hello to all 4 of my readers!

It is time to take a look at 2020, henceforth known as “The Year That shall not be named”!

The purpose of this annual post is to review the films and TV of 2020. I do this in list format. As is standard for this site, I give “Skinnys”, short blurbs, on each subject.

Before we get started, I have provided links to all 518 films I have seen in theaters.  I will repeat; these links are the list of EVERY MOVIE I have seen in a theater. As a film lover, that means a lot to me. The act of sitting in a darkened theater is almost religious. It is a sacred space where artists transport us to different worlds, hopefully free of distraction. It took quite a while to compile this list. It represents 33 years of film-going, and I am honored to share it with you.

Disclaimer: This is the place where I mention that I have not seen everything. I am not a professional reviewer and am only able to see a very small fraction of the major releases, never mind every indie movie that is the darling of film festivals, when those still existed. This is also not a list of the BEST films of the year. This is a subjective list of my personal favorites. My biases will influence my choices. Judge me accordingly.

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I had high hopes for 2020. I think we all did. The start of a new decade and the return of the “twenties”, what a thing that seemed to be. My 2018 was a banner year for filmgoing. I saw 35 films that year. 2019 was the year I almost died and spent month in recuperation. I only saw 11, the lowest tally of my adult life. I swore that 2020 would be a return to form. lol.

2020 was the year everything shut down. COVID-19 has ravaged the planet, killing hundreds of thousands, making millions more sick. World economies are teetering on the brink of disaster. Millions are out of work, many about to be evicted from their homes. Racial injustice rocked the cities while fascist tendencies emerged from governments. The 2020 election is still unfolding as Trump seeks ways to hold on to power despite losing to Joe Biden. And my dog died.

Goodbye Holly, you were my angel. 2005-2020

Shit is fucked up, to say the least.

As documented, I nearly died last year. The lingering after-effects of that illness, and my fat ass, make me one of those incredibly lucky people whom COVID seems to kill instantly. Luckily I have a job that can be done remotely, and understanding management. While I have certainly gone a little stir crazy at times, I played it safe and have remained healthy. The Movie business cannot claim the same.

January and February are typically slow times for cinema. We have the awards shows and then in March/April things heat up and the big releases happen. To round out my viewing for this year’s Oscars I caught two 2019 movies at the theater that I had missed at initial release: Knives Out and Jojo Rabbit, both excellent movies. Then March came, and the virus with it. Theaters closed down for months. They tried to reopen in the summer but people did not go out as they didn’t want to die, myself among them. This became the summer of the Drive-In theater, but I saw a lot of non social distancing going on there and stayed home. We in the USA ignored the recommendations of the doctors and we lost the fall/holiday movie season. We face the real prospect of the cinemas ceasing to exist as we know them.

As this is primarily a Movie Theater centric page, I went radio silent for most of the year. This does not mean I wasn’t watching something. Rising to assume the throne vacated by the cinema are the streaming services. Netflix dominated as Disney+, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and others, literally had a captive audience. The world has been forever changed, and continues to change with every passing day. With all that said, let’s look at the dumpster fire that was 2020.



So, what did I watch?

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Star Trek – In 2016 I began re-watching Star Trek, at a leisurely pace, to celebrate the 50th anniversary. 4 years later I have finished TOS, TAS, Films 1-9, TNG, DS9, and am midway through Voyager. I expect to finish that up in 2021.

Picard – As expected, CBS All Access delivered another great season of Star Trek. The first season of Picard was excellent. It honored TNG’s legacy and ushered in a new era of storytelling.

Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3 kicks off 900 or so years after season two. The Federation has essentially collapsed and Captain Saru leads his crew as they restore hope to the galaxy. All modern Trek series don’t really hit their stride until around the 3rd season. TNG got collars on the suits, DS9 got Sisko’s bald head and beard. Voyager got 7 of 9, and Enterprise got new writers and a season long story. Discovery has a soft reboot, and it is marvelous.

High Seas Alta Mar Season 1 Netflix Poster Key Art

Alta Mar (High Seas) – I am sad to see this series end. They at least gave it some sort of ending, but the death of Nicolas and the sinking of the Barbara de Braganza was sad. They will be missed.

The Crown – This cast wraps up their seasons with the addition of Emma Corrin as Diana Spencer and Gillian Anderson (trying to get an Emmy) as Margaret Thatcher. Anderson was the standout of the season. This was a great year for the show and while I will miss the cast, I look forward to the final two seasons.

Hunters – Al Pacino led a crew of Nazi Hunters in the new Amazon show, “Hunters”. The show was well made and had an insane final scene. I’ll check out S2 if and when it comes.

The Plot against America – HBO made a great adaptation of Phillip Roth’s novel about an alternate history of 1940 where fascist Charles Lindbergh becomes President of the United States and turns against the Jews. Fantastic performances by Winona Ryder and John Turturro lift the show even higher. A show that has tremendous analogies to the rise of Trumpism over the last 4 years.

The Office – time to come clean: I’d never watched this show. My shame was finally exorcised this summer. This show is pure magic, even the weaker seasons.

Space Force – Many were expecting a retread of “The Office”. It is not that, but it’s still pretty good. Carell and Malkovich lead another great cast. This show has all the right ingredients to grow into a classic, time will tell.

Neon Genesis Evangelion – My anime exposure it woefully inadequate. I’ve seen some things (Pokemon, Cowboy Bebop, Dragonball, early Robotech) but not most of it. This is routinely listed as one of the best and godamn if they weren’t right. This show is remarkable. I need to see the movie retellings of this for another alternate ending.

Knightfall – Preposterously inaccurate, I still enjoyed this retelling of the fall of the Knights Templar. Mark Hamill is always welcome. I can see why it was cancelled.

Perry Mason – HBO rebooted Perry Mason this year, and I dig it. Matthew Rhys made a great Mason and as a fan of “Chinatown”, I liked the depression era conspiracy angle. Season 2 has been greenlit. My wife grew up in a home that constantly played the Raymond Burr original, therefore she HATED that this came back. lol.

Great British Bake Off (Baking Show) – In a year that was pure crap, the return of GBBO was more than welcome. Every week there was another delightful and fun episode. Fielding and Lucas make for an excellent comedy team.

Narcos Mexico – Season 2 brought the downfall of Miguel Felix and the set up the Mexican drug wars. This show, all 5 seasons, have been excellent.

Lego Star Wars Holiday Special – It takes a lot of balls to make a new SW Holiday Special. When I, and everyone else, heard about this our reaction was horror, pure horror; and I am someone that enjoys the terribleness of the original. Luckily, this is LEGO. They poked fun at the original and Star Wars in general, making an excellent show. Incredibly, it even pushed forward the story as we learn that Rey has begun training Finn to use the force – something never expressly revealed in Episode 9. This actually makes me think that while Episodes 1-9 is the end of the Skywalker saga, episodes 10-12 could be the start of another.

Tiger King – It is March, 2020. The lockdown is beginning. All over Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, EVERYWHERE was the above photo. I had no idea who he was, or why he was…he just was. A friend said two words “Tiger King”. At a time when the entire nation was just becoming stuck at home this beast was unleashed on us. It is both amazing, terrible, shocking, funny, insane, and sad. Even as I type this, someone on twitch said “Carol Baskin”. I argue that this was THE pop culture moment of the quarantine.

Clone Wars – The final season of Clone Wars was EXCELLENT. We got to see how the war ended for Ahsoka. That final story arc was perfection. The lightsaber battle between Maul and Ahsoka might be the best in the entire Star Wars saga. The final scenes were heartbreaking.

Cobra Kai – This premiered a couple years ago on YouTube Red. No one subscribed to YouTube Red. lol. This year, Netflix bought the show and renewed it for a couple more seasons. Everyone has Netflix and binged this show. I decided to dive in this October. I blew through everything over 2 days. Karate Kid is one of those movies that holds a special place in the hearts of people my age. This was the perfect mix of fan service, comedy and drama. I am beyond excited for season 3 and the return to Okinawa.

The Mandalorian – Chapters 9-16 of this show completed the main story and were heads and tails the best Star Wars content made since Disney took over. Dave Filoni, Jon Favreau, and crew have made something very special. The seeds planted by Lucas and Filoni over the last 12 years in the various animated series pay off as several elements become live action. We get the Darksaber, Bo Katan, Ahsoka Tano, Grogu’s name, and of course Boba Fett. The final episode is one of the best pieces of Star Wars content, period. Luke fucking Skywalker.


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The 2 films I saw in a theater in 2020, both from 2019. lol

Jojo Rabbit – Taika Waititi makes a truly amazing movie. So funny, and so damn moving. Check this out if you haven’t yet. (Review)

Knives Out – It feels like a cheat, as this was a 2019 movie, but Knives Out was my favorite film of the year. I am a big fan of Rian Johnson, and this entire cast. This is a great example of why I love movies. By default this is the best film I saw in a theater in 2020. (Review)

So, yeah. lol. I saw 2 movies in the theater before the world ended. Both were Oscar nominees so there is actually NO worst film seen in a theater this year. However, when factoring in streaming things get more interesting.

Although I rarely include streamed offerings as a possible “Best Picture”, I will make an exception this year and include 2020 stream releases in this section. I saw a bunch of movies at home this year. Not as many as you’d think (maybe) and a lot were films I’d already seen. I also watched them in numerous different places and formats! Here they are, all of them. Organized by streaming service. Bold titles are 2020 films.

My one pay per view purchase was Bill and Ted Face the Music.

I actually only watched 6 movies on Netflix this year! I KNOW! I would have thought it would be WAY more, but it wasn’t. I mainly went here for series and documentaries.

The Two Popes
Dolemite is my Name
The Laundromat
Marriage Story
Mank
The Midnight Sky
Ma Rainey’s black bottom
Da 5 Bloods

Yeah, I only watched 8 movies on Prime this year. I KNOW! I would have thought it would be WAY more, but it wasn’t. I watched the Comic-Con movie and Clue as part of San Diego Comic-Con’s virtual convention back in July. Bad Times at the El Royale was my favorite of this bunch, long regretting not seeing it in a theater (a recurring theme with Jeff Bridges films).

Clue
Borat 2
Bad Times at the El Royale
Saturn 3
Raise the Titanic
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope
House on Haunted Hill
Saturday the 13th

Discord? The gaming chat app? Yes, lol.

ConfusedDevil – I’ve been following a Twitch user called “ConfusedDevil”. He has been my nightly entertainment for the last couple months of this year. He RPs (roleplays) GTAV and has recently embraced Phasmaphobia, the ghost hunting game. He’s a solid guy and I recommend him if you want an evening of entertainment. He’s one of the few streamers I subscribe to. Almost every Friday night he holds “Movie Night”, and streams films on Discord, classic films, mostly from the 80’s. He does this because they are awesome and he wants to expose his followers to some great movies. As you can see, they are all winners.

Friday the 13th Part 6
Goonies
Weekend at Bernie’s
The Thing
Gremlins
The Princess Bride
Beetlejuice
The Shining
The Last Starfighter

Ah yes, the new kid on the block. I only subscribed to this on Christmas, to watch one movie in particular: Wonder Woman 1984. More on that below…

So where the hell have I been watching movies all year? SHUDDER of course! This is a reasonably priced horror film service that my friends Joe and Jeff turned me on to. It rekindled my love for horror movies, long dormant. It was a bit like rediscovering your tribe as I entered the online community of horror fans. I even resubbed to the new fangled Fangoria magazine! Besides my pals, one other person drew me back into the fold. This glorious bastard:

Joe Bob Briggs (John Bloom) was someone I was aware of, but never really gave a chance. Back in the 80’s and 90’s I was a big fan of genre films. Every weekend I would watch the various movie shows that were on TV. Saturday morning cartoons made way for the Saturday afternoon movies, typically classic horror and scifi movies. Later at night hosts like Joe Bob and Rhonda Shear came on. Joe Bob was a cowboy and Rhonda was a hot blonde. Which show do you think teenage Superponte preferred? It was the wrong choice, and it took me 25 years to realize it.

When Jeff and Joe explained to me what Shudder was, and told me of Joe Bob, I decided to “check it out”, as Joe Bob would say. I immediately went “Hey, it’s that cowboy guy!”. The wife went “Whoa! That guy is still on TV?”. I then dived into the latest season of his show “The Last Drive-In” and was hooked. He and his co-host “Darcy the Mail Girl” (Diana Prince) are the ones that brought me back to my old love – Horror. Long forgotten movie trivia popped back into my ageing mind as I re-watched old favorites and discovered new ones. I threw myself into the Joe Bob backlog (a 2018 movie marathon, season one, and about 7 holiday specials). The latest just aired this month and they raised thousands of dollars for charity during the show. Check out this movie list:

Joe Bob (57 movies):

Tourist TrapTroma’s War
Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O- RamaOne cut of the dead
Blood FeastExorcist III
Re-AnimatorDeadbeat at Dawn
DemonsDead Heat
PiecesCannibal Holocaust
The Texas Chainsaw MassacreMayhem
The Hills have EyesTetsuo
Blood RageScare Package
PhantasmHogzilla
Phantasm IIIBlack Christmas
Phantasm IIIJack Frost
Phantasm IVSilent Night Deadly Night part 2
Phantasm VHalloween
Castle FreakHalloween 4
Q: The winged serpentHalloween 5
SocietyA Girl walks home at night
The ChangelingStreet Trash
MadmanBlood Harvest
House of the DevilHello Mary Lou: Prom Night II
Wolf CopHellraiser 2
Henry: Portrait of a serial killerHell comes to Frogtown
ContaminationSlumber Party Massacre II
Chopping MallVictor Crowley
Bloodsucking FreaksHack-O-Lantern
ManiacHaunt
HeathersDial Code Santa Claus
Brain DamageChristmas Evil
Deep Red 

Non Joe-Bob Shudder Movies:

Scare Me
Better Watch Out
All the Creatures were stirring
Scream Queen: My nightmare on Elm Street
The Fall of the House of Usher
Hellraiser
The Masque of the Red Death
The Tomb of Legia
Theatre of Blood

Ok! Now that we’ve gone over my ENTIRE viewing for the year, what was actually from 2020, and what are our worst and best films? Let’s take a look.

Bill & Ted Face the Music – This was a perfect Bill & Ted movie. It was true to the spirit of the originals and was just stupid fun. (Review)

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – Sacha Cohen does it again lol. ’nuff said.

Mank – I wish this was better, but its just an “OK” from me. David Fincher tells the story of Herman Mankiewicz, writer of Citizen Kane, as he writes the screenplay. It was filmed and edited in a period specific style, but something was off, particularly with the use of light and shadow, which is what makes a B&W film special. The story was a little farfetched, not the basic story as it is based on real people, but some of the interactions, particularly by Mank at various Hearst parties. Aside from that, the performances were great.

The Midnight Sky – George Clooney stars and directs this film about a future earth that is dying. Some natural catastrophe has scourged the planet and life is ending. He is a scientist, some sort of astrophysicist that is dying, of cancer I believe. He is living in an arctic research station, trying to warn a returning space mission that Earth is uninhabitable. Clooney is always a good actor and often a great director. Some did not like the melancholy nature of this story, but I did. It was excellent. Clooney turns in a heartbreaking performance and I was surprised to see Ethan Peck appear as a younger version of the character. Felicity Jones is one of the returning astronauts and is also terrific. This is not a particularly uplifting film, but damn does it suit 2020. Sad, Harrowing, with something of a happy ending. I think that’s why it spoke to me. This was almost my best movie of 2020.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – An adaptation of the 80’s play, Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman (in his final film) star in this story of 1920’s Chicago jazz performers going to the studio to cut an album. Davis is always good and Boseman captivates. We lost something really special when he passed. Such wonderful tension, and as a trumpeter myself, this was up my alley. I always struggle with movies based on plays. Excellent plays sometimes cannot escape the confines of their structure. Even if you have no idea it was originally a play you can always tell. This movie is no different. Luckily they have some god-tier actors in this thing which makes you forget about all that. That said, it might be the only thing that kept this out as my best film of the year.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Aaron Sorkin writes and directs an outstanding cast (including Mark Rylance, Eddit Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, Joseph Gordon Leavitt to name a few) in the story of the 1968 Democratic convention violence and the mockery of a trial that followed. In a year that is unlike any other in my life, the parallels to the late 60’s are obvious in light of the George Floyd protests. This was a well written (Sorkin, duh), and well acted film.

Now that we’ve reached the end of the line, what are my final picks?

Wonder Woman 1984 – As sad as this is to say, of all the (albeit few) 2020 movies I’ve seen, WW84 is easily the worst. A misfire in almost every area. Shocklingly bad writing. I felt bad for the actors and sorry for director Patty Jenkins. (Review)

Da 5 Bloods – Spike Lee’s latest film, about 4 Vietnam veterans who return to the country to recover the remains of the 5th member of their crew, played in flashbacks by Chadwick Boseman. The ensemble is fantastic, but particular credit must be given to Delroy Lindo as Paul, who’s trauma from the war continues to this day. I liked that they did not de-age the cast or recast the younger soldiers. 2020 Lindo is the 1968 version, gray hair and all. It was effective. It is an excellent examination blacks in America and attitudes during the war. This is just an excellent film all around. Easily my favorite of the year.

Well, that’s the end of this very unusual edition of “The Skinny” Hopefully by this time next year we will be back to normal and I will have some movies in a theater to review. Thanks for reading!

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