We decided to split our year-end roundup into individual posts this year, with each of the team providing their personal take on the entertainment that helped us through this crazy year. In this post, Sarah discusses her favourite movies and TV shows of the year. Let us know if you agree or disagree with any of her choices and be sure to keep an eye out for posts from the rest of the team.
Needless to say, 2020 has definitely been a horrific year for everyone, and the film and TV industry are among those that have suffered a great deal. We’ve seen the closure of cinemas for the best part of the year, filming having to meet strict COVID safe standards and major release dates pushed back indefinitely. As a Cineworld Unlimited cardholder, my biggest worry is whether this with result in the death of cinema as we know it. With a lot of big releases now being brought out directly on streaming or on-demand services, it’s a worry as to whether cinema will survive. After closing in September, there has already been mention of Cineworld experiencing financial troubles and to lose this chain will be a huge blow to the industry. Hopefully with Wonder Woman 1984 taking the lead to release in cinemas and online in December, this will prompt other studios to release their big films in the New Year before the damage becomes irreparable.
However, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom when it comes to film and TV in 2020 and there have been some rather epic and memorable releases. January started off with a bang with the release of Sam Mendes’ war epic 1917. I didn’t get around to seeing this until the end of the month, and it was definitely worth the wait. The single-shot cinematography is possibly the most beautiful and impressive bit of filmmaking I’ve ever seen. Aside from one noticeable cut, it’s astounding to see how they’ve made this in one single shot and in such a smooth and sleek manner. Pairing this with a haunting score, great performances from George McKay and Dean-Charles Chapman and some rather tense and heart-wrenching scenes makes for a stunningly made film.
Following 1917 wouldn’t be an easy job, and before COVID hit mid-March I hadn’t seen anything noteworthy (aside from Cats, but this was for all the wrong reasons). Then lockdown happened in March, and all new releases being postponed gave me a great opportunity to catch up on some films and TV that I’d previously missed or not had time to see. During the first 3 month lockdown, I managed to catch up on some surprisingly good TV: HBO/Sky Atlantic’s The Outsider, ITV’s Quiz and HBO/Sky’s McMillions. I’m a huge Stephen King fan so was sceptical about the TV adaptation of The Outsider, but aside from a few changes and a blatant set-up for a sequel, this was a dark and gripping detective crime thriller cum supernatural horror with great turns from Ben Mendelsohn and Cynthia Erivo. Quiz was ITV’s dramatisation of the Who Wants To be a Millionaire cheat scandal involving Charles Ingram, and provided an entertaining and informative take on the story, with Michael Sheen having an absolute hoot as Chris Tarrant. And then Sky’s McMillions, a documentary series detailing the McDonald’s Monopoly game scam from the 1990s. This was a fascinating and detailed documentary series on a story I knew nothing about, and it spares no expense in detailing every aspect of the crime without ever becoming boring.
In June and July, I finally had a chance to see two 2020 films that had been released in January and February: Jojo Rabbit and Parasite. I’m a huge fan of Taika Waititi and a film about a young boy who has a blue-eyed Hitler as his imaginary friend sounded hugely appealing, and Jojo Rabbit didn’t disappoint. This is a funny yet heart-warming film that deals with some rather serious and heavy matters, with some welcome comic relief from Waititi’s Hitler and Sam Rockwell’s Captain. Parasite is the Korean 2020 Best Film Oscar winner, and I had my reservations about this as I tend to find Oscar winners overrated. However, Parasite really opened my eyes and it’s that interesting and entertaining that I completely forgot it was in a foreign language. The life and schemes of the Kim family were enthralling and a lot more humorous than I was expecting, with a final act that is bonkers yet a work of absolute genius.
July and August was a good time for me to catch up on returning TV series. What We Do in the Shadows series 2 returned to BBC2, a show that originally I’d been sceptical about when the first series aired in 2019, however it’s as brilliant as the original film and series 2 was just as hilarious, featuring some cracking cameos from the likes of Mark Hamill and Benedict Wong. I don’t usually advocate dragging TV shows on unnecessarily, but if What We Do in the Shadows continues on to the same excellent standard then they need to make as much as possible – 10 episodes a series isn’t enough! August saw the return of The Umbrella Academy, a show I’d been looking forward to all summer and it didn’t disappoint. From the impressive fight scenes to the gore and special effects and fitting soundtrack, this show is brilliant from start to finish and has some standout characters in Five and Klaus.
August also saw the reopening of Cineworld and the release of the only major film since before lockdown: Tenet. I may be a little biased when it comes to Christopher Nolan as I’ve loved every film he’s ever made, but I don’t think there could’ve been a better film to mark the return of the cinema. Right from the opening scenes, you can appreciate the sheer brilliance of this film whilst being totally confused at the same time, but yet for me this didn’t spoil the enjoyment. The cinematography is top-notch and the action scenes are epic and hugely impressive, especially when you consider that they’ve been done without using CGI. And a second watch on the big screen really helps with the science behind the inversion, although it’s best watched if you don’t try to overthink it and take it on face value.
The latter half of the year was rather disappointing for TV and film, as cinemas closed again due to COVID-19 and a lack of new releases, leaving me more time to catch up on films I’d originally missed. Onward was the latest Disney Pixar film to be released at the start of March just prior to lockdown, and the trailer hadn’t really sold me on it. However I decided to give it a shot when it became available on Disney+ in October, and I was hugely disappointed I hadn’t seen it on the big screen. Pixar and fantasy is a match made in heaven, and despite a rather stereotypical fantasy plot, Onward plays out in a heart-warmingly funny yet unpredictable way with, as always, first-class animation.
And finally, October also brought the much-anticipated release of Amazon’s The Boys season 2. Despite the frustration at Amazon releasing episodes weekly, season 2 was definitely worth the wait. It’s just as rude and crude as the first, full of dark and often hilarious humour and the blood and gore ante has been upped considerably. Antony Starr is outstanding as Homelander although I do think The Deep, despite a hilarious first few episodes, was done a slight disservice towards the end of the series.
2020 has been a bad year, but at least we’ve had a lot of fantastic TV and films to keep us entertained. I’m keeping everything crossed that cinemas survive and that 2021 can only get better.
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!