In 2020, art provided both an escape from reality and a way to see it anew. We asked several Arts & Entertainment writers to reflect on the art they connected with over the past year and received a mix of responses from old classics, new discoveries, long-awaited releases and stumbled-upon favorites.
1. The Tiny Meat Gang Podcast’ (2017)
For listeners looking for a good laugh, “The Tiny Meat Gang Podcast” is a great place to start. This comedy podcast follows YouTubers Cody Ko and Noel Miller as they joke about topics ranging from the reality show “Love Island” to physical fitness. The two are easily able to riff off each other, allowing for a lighthearted and relaxed listening experience. With over 150 episodes, “The Tiny Meat Gang Podcast” offers a wide selection for new listeners and continues to expand with new episodes released every week.
2. ‘Visions of Bodies Being Burned’ by Clipping
“Visions of Bodies Being Burned” is the follow-up to the experimental hip hop group Clipping’s previous album “There Existed an Addiction to Blood.” Led by rapper and actor Daveed Diggs, this horrorcore album is a terrifying, eclectic collection of sounds that will keep listeners on the edge of their seats. From the unsettling orchestra of pots and pans in “Eaten Alive” to an audio clip of two girls playing with a Ouijia board in “Wytchboard (Interlude),” Clipping continues to make a name for themselves in the world of experimental hip hop, and “Visions of Bodies Being Burned” stands as the group’s best work yet.
3. ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ (2011)
Directed by David Gelb, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” follows renowned sushi chef Jiro Ono as he teaches apprentices the art of making sushi. On the surface, the documentary explores Ono, his Tokyo restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro and the daily life of the employees. However, the film also tackles deeper themes such as the devastating effects of overfishing, the complex relationship between father and son and the beauty found in Ono’s perseverance in sushi making. Those themes, paired with masterful cinematography, makes “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” a must-watch for documentary enthusiasts.
4. ‘The Lamentations of Zeno’ (2011)
Written by Ilija Trojanow, “The Lamentations of Zeno” follows Zeno Hintermeier, a scientist who is forced to witness people’s casual disrespect for the environment aboard a cruise ship to the Antarctic. I was introduced to this book in a German environmental literature course and fell in love with not only the material but also the style of writing. The novel is written as a collection of journal entries from the perspective of Zeno, allowing for an in-depth view of the narrator and his feelings toward environmental degradation. As the threat of climate change continues to loom over the world, “The Lamentations of Zeno” portrays the stark reality of the difficulties we must face.
5. ‘The Stuff’ (1985)
Larry Cohen’s underrated horror movie “The Stuff” critiques consumerism through the commercialization of a mysterious and addictive new dessert called The Stuff. It’s up to ex-FBI agent Mo Rutherford (Michael Moriarty) to uncover the truth about this treat and destroy the businesses profiting from it. While the film has occasionally cheesy special effects, “The Stuff” offers an exciting premise, a continuously engaging script and an overall fun time for viewers in search of an enjoyable B-movie.
6. ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’ by Fiona Apple (2020)
After eight years since “The Idler Wheel…,” Fiona Apple’s “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is everything an old fan will enjoy as well as a great starting place for newcomers. This album not only portrays Apple’s journey to self-love but also urges listeners to begin their own self-healing journey. Her emotional lyrics mixed with a variety of elements from different genres, such as rockabilly-reminiscent drums in “For Her” and blues-influenced vocals in “Relay,” are a few of many reasons why “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is arguably her best work.
7. ‘Glass Tears’ (1932)
I had my first introduction with the artist Man Ray after stumbling upon his Dadaist piece “Gift,” an iron with thumbtacks on its sole. Along with sculptures such as those, Ray also made a name for himself with photographs such as “Glass Tears,” which shows a woman’s face with small glass beads running down it. Although the photo is less avant-garde than his sculptures, it’s a breathtaking example of Man’s ability to blend the beauty of the real world with the absurdity of his imagination. The emphasis on such a small image allows the viewer to focus on minute details that would often be ignored, such as the position of the pupil and the shape of the eyelashes.
8. ‘Stardew Valley’ (2016)
“Stardew Valley” combines the community-building elements of “Animal Crossing” with the farming and mining elements of “Minecraft.” You get to play the new owner of a farm in the seaside Pelican Town, farming, mining and fishing to improve the town as a whole. There are many activities players can indulge in, from seasonal carnivals to museum expansions, offering countless hours of game time. The game mechanics are smooth and the 2D animation is well-designed. The game is a perfect pastime for those missing human interaction.
9. ‘Yeezus’ by Kanye West
Preceded by “Watch the Throne,” Kanye West’s collaboration with Jay-Z,”Yeezus” is his sixth solo album. This experimental song collection blends the masterful lyricism that West is known for with musical elements new to the musician. From the aggressive vocals in “Black Skinhead” to the tenacious buildup of drums in “New Slaves,” the album is a well-crafted departure from his previous works. While “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is widely considered to be one of Kanye’s best albums, “Yeezus” highlights the limitless creativity in his discography.
10. ‘Deep Red’ (1975)
Giallo, Italian for “yellow,” is a slasher subgenre predominantly found in Italy. It differs from standard North American slashers due to the anonymity of the killer. I’ve enjoyed a few gialli this past year, but none were as exciting as Dario Argento’s “Deep Red.” The film follows musician Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) as he attempts to solve the murder of a psychic. “Deep Red” keeps viewers invested with its tense soundtrack, a well-paced script and an unforgettable ending.
Anthony’s article is part of a year in review series by A&E writers. Read the rest here.