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 this year and received a mix of responses from old classics, new discoveries, long-awaited releases and stumbled-upon favorites.
1. All the movies I’ve been meaning to watch
I’m sure everyone has had this experience more or less this year: more free time without other things to do means plenty of time to watch movies and TV. And while many have been enjoying “Tiger King” or “The Queen’s Gambit,” I’ve felt particularly relieved to knock a bunch of movies off of my long-standing watchlist. Some favorites include Nobuhiko Obayashi’s “House” (1977), Sidney Lumet’s “Network” (1976), Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “El Topo” (1970), Federico Fellini’s “8 ½” (1963) and Fritz Lang’s “M” (1931).
2. ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’
I’ve loved JoJo, both the long-running manga series and its anime adaptation, for years now. But what has made this series special in 2020 is how it is such a shareable experience. Rewatching this series as I introduce it to friends has yielded nothing but hours of enjoyment as I soak in what makes the series great while seeing my friends experience it for their first time. Subsequently, they go on to show the series to their friends. Watch it with friends online, show it to your dad, read it with your cousin: just experience it.
3. ‘Half Life: Alyx’
The first game in years that has felt like a big step forward for video games is of course a “Half Life” game. While VR headsets have been commercially available for years, the available games have mostly felt like half-baked indie games and ambitious, yet short, tech demos. This past year’s “Alyx” is a complete game in its own right, with an immersive and compelling story matched by a level of detail and variety of technical gameplay elements.
I actually started this series last year, but didn’t finish it until late 2020. While I didn’t expect to like it and mostly watched it for the director, Naoko Yamada, this cute, fluffy slice-of-life anime progressed through two seasons and a successive movie. The voice acting, musical performances and expressive animation and camerawork (all under Yamada’s direction) make the characters so endearing that it manages to tug at the heartstrings in a special way. Watch “K-On!” for a well-directed, lighthearted series to lift one’s spirit.
5. ‘Bill & Ted’ movie series
Speaking of fun things in a dark time, Bill S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore “Ted” Logan (Keanu Reeves) present themselves. Why had I not watched this series until now? I don’t know, but I’m glad I finally did. Watching these loveable idiots on their excellent adventures through time, the afterlife and so on, is nonstop goofy, cartoonish fun. And the third installment, released last year, is the cherry on top that brings it all together.
6. ‘March Comes in Like a Lion’
This anime series is, more or less, perfect. It is one of the most deeply personal TV shows. “March Comes in Like a Lion” follows a depressive shogi player, Rei Kiriyama (Kengo Kawanishi), who lives in a town by a river. The show balances the darker themes weighing on Rei with wholesome scenes of those close to Rei, bringing out the levity in his life, showcased in a gorgeous watercolor style. The show is a privilege to revisit and its only flaw is the lack of a third season.
7. ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ (2020)
Probably the best movie released this year: “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” does what it wants and doesn’t care what you think. The film couples long scenes of Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons, trapped in a car as they deliver top-tier performances and shorter, surrealist segments, making for the most terrifying cinematic “meeting a significant other’s parents” story since “Get Out.” Writer-director Charlie Kaufman has an impressive filmography as is and this might be his best film yet.
8. ‘The Thing’ (1982)
“The Thing” is the best pandemic movie — John Carpenter’s horror masterpiece feels particularly special this year. The film follows a group of arctic researchers as they combat an alien virus that puts them at odds with each other when they fail to wear proper personal protective equipment and don’t practice social distancing. While I hate to say it, it’s like a movie adaptation of “Among Us,” and I can’t think of a better movie to sum up 2020.
9. The works of David Lynch
It’s a sin that I hadn’t seen any of Lynch’s work before 2020, but I quickly corrected that oversight. I started with “Eraserhead” (1977) in the summer and have now watched almost every major work. Whether you prefer something more down to earth like 1980’s “The Elephant Man,” something goofier (“Twin Peaks”) or something mind-blowing (“Mulholland Drive” (2001)), Lynch has amazing work in varied styles. My personal favorite is “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” (1992).
10. ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ (2020)
Released only a few weeks ago, the game is extremely buggy and not what it was advertised to be, but it’s enjoyable in spite of those faults. “Cyberpunk 2077” features compelling storylines, side characters, and quest design, an elaborate and visually stunning map and a variety of ways to approach stealth and combat that make for brutally fun encounters. It will be interesting to see how developer CD Projekt Red responds to the onslaught of criticism as they continue to update the game into the coming year.
Hipp’s article is part of a year in review series by A&E writers. Read the rest here.