My Favorite Films of 2020

She Dies Tomorrow (directed by Amy Seimetz)

From my review: She Dies Tomorrow is a profoundly impressionistic film, and writer-director Amy Seimetz is disinterested in conventional explanations or standard narrative structures. This is a mood piece that seeks to explore the ways people process a direct confrontation with their own mortality. Part of what Seimetz is doing is looking at how people choose to spend their time when they know they are going to die. Amy loses all sense of direction or priorities and just wastes away. She mentions being sober for a considerable amount of time but has given it all up now that she believes her life is over.

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Movie Review – Education

Education (2020)
Written by Steve McQueen & Alistair Siddons
Directed by Steve McQueen

During the 1970s, it was discovered that some London councils were secretly following an unwritten policy to push Black children out of mainstream schools and into “subnormal” schools that were underfunded and poorly staffed. This practice was exposed by Bernard Coard, an education activist from Grenada who worked as a teacher in England. He found that this policy had a long-term effect of making children “neurotic about their race and culture.” This was yet another in a long line of exposure of systemic racism in Western culture directed at Black minds & bodies.

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My Favorite Film Discoveries of 2020

These are movies that were new to me in 2020. This year was the first time I watched them and they stuck out as pictures that were my favorites, ones I highly recommend and would revisit myself.

Neighbors (1981, directed by John G. Avildsen)

From my review: In the same way that Kubrick played with distorted space in The Shining to subconsciously unsettling the audience, there’s play with time going on in Neighbors. Earl eventually becomes disoriented and has to ask his wife what it is after so many starts and stops on his way to finally settle down for the night. She tells him it’s two in the morning, but soon after, he ends up paying Vic a visit. When he emerges from that bizarre conversation, the birds are chirping & it’s sunny outside. These are not continuity errors but intentional distortions […]

Neighbors is a bizarre, disturbing film, and it’s a shame that so many production elements weren’t there to make it something better. I could easily see Tim & Eric remaking this novel and doing it right. If you’ve seen their Bedtime Stories horror anthology, it traffics in the same territory. The difference is that those comedians understand how comedy works, and Avildsen seems entirely out of his element. I would say Neighbors is most definitely worth a watch because it is unlike most films. It has piqued my interest in the novel, which I’ve heard is much better than what was adapted on film.

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Movie Review – Mangrove

Mangrove (2020)
Written by Steve McQueen & Alastair Siddons
Directed by Steve McQueen

The summer of 2020 was a season marked by the continued spread of COVID-19 and a massive civil unrest movement that came out of a reaction to the state-sanctioned murders of a growing number of Black people in America. What followed in major cities across the country were all-out police riots with hordes of uniformed officers revealing what brutal thugs they indeed were. The media narrative pushed was that there were riots, but in hundreds of videos released across social media, anyone could see that these attacks from police were made on peaceful demonstrators who were being very direct about their thought on law enforcement in America. Steve McQueen reminds us that this is not merely an American phenomenon or even something specific to our point in history. Police and the justice system are inherently racist, and they cannot be engaged in good faith.

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My Favorite Television of 2020

Tales From the Loop

From my review of Episode 8: Tales From the Loop is a show that demands your patience, and if you aren’t willing to offer that up, it’s okay. Not all media is for all audiences. Shane Carruth makes a significant appearance in “Homes,” and I think that signals to savvy viewers who know his work as a director what Tales From the Loop is. You don’t binge-watch the series; you savor each episode and meditate on it. What you get out of one story might not be the same as someone else. That’s mostly how life is, we all go through the same primary path, but the beauty and tragedy we experience is going to vary wildly. Tales From the Loop, despite its 1980s, aesthetics is not a mimic of Stranger Things or Dark, and that is a good thing. It exists as its own unique creature

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My Favorite Books of 2020

You Know You Want This: Stories by Kristen Roupenian

Author Kristen Roupenian has penned a collection of contemporary feminist horror stories. The tone and styles are varied so that each entry feels fresh and unique. “The Mirror, The Bucket, and the Old Thigh Bone” is told like a traditional European fairy tale but degenerates in the most lovely of ways to a twisted allegory on obsessive love. “The Boy in the Pool” is about a woman uncomfortable with the ways her childhood friends have grown apart from her. To reunite them in a shared sense of nostalgia, she attempts to find the sex symbol from a film they repeatedly watched as teenagers. Her goal is to have this man show up at one of the friend’s bachelorette party but doesn’t seem to know what should come next. “Scarred”’s narrator discovers a book of spells and ends of conjuring a man into existence but struggles to figure out what to do with him. “Biter” is a hilarious dark comedy about a woman who has fought an urge to sink her teeth into everyone since she was a child. When she becomes aware of a workplace tryst between coworkers, the woman sees an opportunity to indulge in her desires.

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Movie Review – Wonder Woman 1984

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Written by Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and David Callaham
Directed by Patty Jenkins

I can’t say I was excited to watch Wonder Woman 1984. The first film was fine, but all of Warner’s attempts to build their superhero universe since Man of Steel have just not been my style. Shazam was pretty okay, but as a whole, the DCEU, or whatever they call it, is dull & boring. I won’t waste your time if you are here to see me get to the point, but I was bored for most of Wonder Woman 1984 and just didn’t really like it. I am definitely a DC Comics fan, but the films don’t capture what it is I love about these characters in any way. They are a flat, soulless trudge through two hours.

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Movie Review – Red, White, and Blue (2020)

Red, White, and Blue (2020)
Written by Steven McQueen & Courttia Newland
Directed by Steven McQueen

In this film, director Steve McQueen explores the intersection of blacks & immigrants with the police. To say this is a politically and emotionally charged issue to take on would be an understatement. Much like the United States, England’s law enforcement has had a very tense relationship with Black and Asian communities. The majority of the London Metropolitan Police in the 1970s were white men from conservative backgrounds who saw any guff from a non-white civilian as an attempt to humiliate them. There was an ongoing sentiment that these populations need to be “put in their place” to hold up the law.

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