Best of the Worst: 2020

Come December, I compile comment on films that stand out to me per annum. Despite the ceaseless march of this masturbatory tradition, I do sometimes ponder, who actually cares? It’s a valid question, and the answer, by and large, is not many people. Some for sure, friends past and present, but ultimately, even in a good year, it’s a modest pool.

2020 has not been a good year.

I don’t need to elucidate with context. Personally, 2020 has come with highs and lows; some creative successes that evaded me even in the non-virulent before-time, but also myriad fears and stresses felt by everyone, most keenly the swelling collective legitimately suffering incalculable loss.

So, who actually cares?

No matter your stance on the external circumstances, we’ve all seen our lives limited, with more time indoors, and naturally, our senses yearning for escapism. As long ago as say… February 2020, said escapism might have included the aroma of foamy pints, the introspective echo of a museum or the fecund possibility and hope aroused by a first date. Fast-forward and those pleasures feel antiquated at best, dangerous at worst.

Enter readily accessible art. Novels, TV and film are just some, although I’m sure many found solace in video-games, non-fiction, music and just about every type of prevalent media one can enjoy within shrinking walls. Since my teens, years have often been measured by cinema. I gauge the passing of time via release dates, cross referencing the geography of memory against movies. I know other equally obsessive people who do this, but always assumed it wasn’t the norm. 2020 feels like it might be different. Athwart the seemingly monolithic span of the pandemic, I imagine we’ve all incubated curious cultural signifiers, because heck, what else happened in April aside from you binging The Last Dance?

As a result, and because Covid has been a momentously toxic diuretic in the pissing contest that is modern living, it feels important to register artistic milestones that sat alongside this… happening. I wanted to consider what the reference points (beyond obituaries) for our lil global hellmouth might be in a decade, and keep a tidy chronicle somewhere.

I’ve conjured a few lists of the best content I inhaled in 2020. Both older stuff I experienced for the first time, and fresh creations somehow birthed during such an ignoble chapter.

2020 has not been a good year. But art yields, y’all.

Dan’s Top New Film & TV for 2020

  1. Promising Young Woman (FilmNation, LuckyChap Ent, 2020)
  2. Normal People ( Element, Screen Ireland, 2020)
  3. 1917 (Universal Pictures, 2019)
  4. The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix, 2020)
  5. The Last Dance (Netflix, 2020)
  6. The Boys: Season 2 (Amazon Studios, 2020)
  7. Dave (FXX/Hulu, 2020)
  8. The Invisible Man (Universal Pictures, 2020)
  9. Palm Springs (Hulu, 2020)
  10. The Way Back (Warner Bros, 2020)

(Honourable mentions go to the Cruel Intentions pilot from 2016 (A HOOT!), Ted Lasso, Michael Bay at a wedding and Amazon doing yeoman’s work documenting the perpetual humiliation of Tottenham Hotspur in All or Nothing.)

Dan’s Top Books for 2020 (first time reads with a *)

  1. The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Mohsin Hamid, 2007)*
  2. Double Indemnity (James M. Cain, 1943) *
  3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Truman Capote, 1958)*
  4. Kill Your Friends (John Niven, 2008)
  5. The Lincoln Lawyer (Michael Connelly, 2006)*
  6. Cold Storage (David Koepp, 2019)*
  7. Kindred (Octavia E. Butler, 1979)*
  8. The Queen’s Gambit (Walter Tevis, 1983)*
  9. The Postman Always Rings Twice (James M. Cain, 1934)*
  10. The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (Suzanne Collins, 2020)*

(Honourable mention for Michael Owen’s Reboot. Embarrassing as an exclamation on the nostalgic affection he manifests, but unusual in its vulnerability, and the athlete’s failed, but compelling attempt to reckon with the fact all that glistens still dulls with time.)

Dan’s Comfort Albums for 2020

  1. Dua Lipa — Future Nostalgia (Warner, 2020)
  2. Britney Spears — Blackout (Zomba, 2007)
  3. Gnarls Barkley — The Odd Couple (Warner, 2008)
  4. Logic — Everybody (Def Jam, 2017)
  5. Bloc Party — Silent Alarm (Witchita, 2005)
  6. The Heavy — The House That Dirt Built (Counter Records, 2009)
  7. Jamie Webster — We Get By (Modern Sky, 2020)
  8. Bruce Springsteen — Nebraska (1982)
  9. The Lonely Island — Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Universal Music, 2016)
  10. The National — Trouble Will Find Me (4AD, 2013)

(Honourable Mention goes to venerable lords of the hyper kinetic and casually misogynistic beat, 30H3!, who snuck onto my Spotify end of list. Hard to pick an album from that catalogue.)

I’m not sure you actually care. I’ll probably never know. But I do. So please, share some of your highlights. They’re what make life so succulent, even when the crockery’s fouled.

See you in 2021. Stay safe. Up the Reds.

middle name sean