Any other year and maybe we break these into other categories, but when the highest grossing film of the year in the US turns out to be Bad Boys for Life and Sonic the Hedgehog, things have taken a turn and you gotta open up the category a bit. If you want a feeling of exactly how long 2020 has been… remember that Tiger King came out in March of this year. March was eleven years ago, so it’s kind of insane when you think about it.
Man, I was soooo looking forward to Wonder Woman 1984. I was so sure that I’d like it that when we were concocting our best of lists in early December, I had slated WW1984 as my Best Movie of 2020 but I can’t do that in good conscious anymore.
And to the point Nick was alluding to in the opening paragraph, this year has just been this amorphous blob of time. It feels like lockdown just started a few weeks ago and a few years ago all at once. It’s hard to believe that 10 months have passed since corona became a real threat that forced people into lockdown. During that time there was a lot of TV watching. Well, I assume there was a lot of TV watching cause we certainly weren’t going out anywhere and doing anything outside of the house. There are two shows that I watched that I can wholeheartedly recommend. I’m sure I’ve watch more than these two shows but try as I might I can’t really think of anything else. Maybe because the quality of the shows and movies I watch are all equally good and so nothing is really that great? I don’t know. But here are my picks.
There is something oddly compelling about Queen’s Gambit (Netflix). A series about an orphan girl becoming a force to be reckoned with in the mostly male world of chess. I don’t play chess, I know enough about the rules to play a game but I wouldn’t say I’m any good at it. So even with my rudimentary knowledge I still enjoyed this show. Even my wife who knows less about the game was hooked. And that’s really a good indication of how good this show is: the chess is really just the backdrop. Or, really, a vehicle that transports you into this biopic of a chess prodigy. I can’t explain what it is. I certainly can’t think of anything bad to say about it. It is just a great show.
The Mandalorian is the best thing to happen to Star Wars since Rogue One, hands down. I’ve said that before and I’ll keep on saying it. I may be behind in my recaps but that is not a sign of my lack of interest. I haven’t been this excited for a TV show or even Star Wars for that matter in FOREVER. And it felt good, you know, despite COVID and being under lockdown. During a year of little to look forward to, it was nice to have that feeling again. Which goes to show that having a weekly release for a streaming TV show isn’t all that bad of an idea despite streaming audiences becoming acclimated to the binge watch culture.
Speaking of which, our family watched Rogue One over the holiday break because my kids had a lot of questions about The Mandalorian. So I’m making them watch it in release order but prefaced all of it with Rogue One. I used to think that the movie should have cut off the first 20 minutes or so and start when Jyn gets rescued from the prisoner transport. I still do but I’m more okay slogging through the beginning now. The way I see it, the first 20 minutes is truckloads better than what Ep. IX ended up being.
I got on the Cobra Kai bandwagon a little late, but it’s been fun. Johnny’s irreverance towards pretty much everything is refreshing to watch in this PC world. Season 3 just started and I’m already almost done with that one. There is definitely some cheese parts that will make a rock physically cringe but it’s not bad. The funny moments far outweigh the the bad ones. You can certainly waste your time watching stupider things. And if you haven’t watched all of the Karate Kid movies, no worries, they flashback all the highlights so you can keep up with minimal effort.
And lastly, I finished watching The Office for the third time while it was Netflix. Because it going to Peacock or whatever? Screw that, I don’t need to sign up for another streaming service.
I started this year off with Regal’s Unlimited Pass, which let me watch, you guessed it, unlimited movies in theaters. I got a good two months of that under my belt. And, you know, looking back, I didn’t see a single movie during that time I would recommend. And I saw every movie during that time. And since I don’t have Disney+ nor any desire to, I haven’t seen any of the latetst lazy remakes they’re putting out.Â So for this yar, I’m skipping my movie pick.
Oh, also, I’m skipping my TV pick, because I’m 23 and don’t have cable.
But streaming! I’m also skipping. Kinda.
I only watched one show I really fell in love with – and it’s Amazon Prime’s The Boys.
It’s not really a secret that here at FBTB we’re fans of comic book movies. And also, sometimes not a fan. So what The Boys does so well is takes my favorite philosophy – post-modernism – and applies it to this swath of comic book movies we’ve seen over the last decade. Now, The Boys is based on a comic itself, though it’s far more edgy and just…way more cringe-fest early-2000s than the show. Which the show could have done, but it updated the show and even the message to critique not only modern day superhero ideology, but modern day society’s ideology itself. A large corporation dips its toes in manipulating U.S. Congressmen. A mega-church movement’s empassioned leader (and Mr. Fantastic-like stretchy guy) is shown to be a massive sexual deviant. A new recruit of the superhero gang is pressured into giving sexual favor to another member to “really fit in”. The show isn’t neccessarily subtle in the ways it reflect’s modern day, but the addition of superheroes being the ones doing these things add such an interesting angle that it’s difficult to turn away.
So the story? Well, basically, The Boys (not superheroes themselves) want to go kill the Justice League. Which aside from the incredible character development along the way, is so entertaining in and of itself that the episodes fly by. Every single character in the show, good or bad, is so interesting, complex, and pretty much crazy in their own way, and it adds up to some incredibly wonderful set pieces.
I would be remissed not to mention probably the best character, Homelander, who is The Boys universe’s Superman. This guy is crazy, like, actually insane. And he’s painted as the obvious antagonist, and there’s nothing quiet as fearful as trying to hide from a guy with X-ray vision, supersonic hearing, flight, and laser eyes. He’s like the Terminator. An insane, very charismatic Terminator.
Man this show is cool.
I didn’t watch all that many “new” movies this year. The one that stands out the most in my mind was Bird’s of Prey, which was fine, though I wasn’t the target audience for the film (which is awesome, there need to be more movies like this made). I’ve got a few others I want to watch, like the new Bill & Ted movie, but just haven’t felt much in the mood for new movies. Instead, I watch old ones. Lots of them. Again… comfort food. Well, that and a lot of terrible movies, via Rifftrax and MST3K.
When it comes to television, or honestly, streaming, there was a whole ton of stuff I watched this year. My wife and I have been burning throughs several shows on streaming, like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Schitt’s Creek, and The Good Place. If you haven’t watched those, you absolutely should. I’ve gotten through more of Marvel Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D., but still haven’t gotten around to finishing it. There was Netflix’s GLOW (awesome – but sadly the 4th season was a victim of COVID and Netflix’s insistance on killing great shows), and BoJack Horseman early in the year capping off an ending that only that show could manage.
Turns out a lot of shows that I watched this year were also coming to an end this year, whcih makes me kind of sad. Most of the stuff I was really looking forward to ended up getting pushed later, like the huge slate of Marvel shows that will start up in January with WandaVision.
Obviously, there was the Mandalorian, which I have a feeling got talked about by Ace above (I’m writing this before he added his stuff), and as a huge fan of Rebels and Clone Wars, I absolutely adored the second season. I didn’t mind the CGI character at the end, I thought it looked okay, and I thought the actual fight was incredible. The start of the season felt a bit slow, but when it hit the gear, it hit it hard and stuck the landing. Plus, as we know now, we’re going to get eleven million new Star Wars shows over the next few years.
That being said, I’m going to cheat and call out three shows from a rival franchise as my favorite. I’ve mentioned before that I’m as much of a Star Trek fan as I am a Star Wars fan… honestly, maybe even more. I grew up watching TOS in syndication, watched TNG when it premiered, and stuck with watching it even though it was just god awful in its first season.
There was more new Star Trek this year than we’ve ever really gotten before… the closest before this would have been 1996, when we got First Contact (okay), DS9’s 4th season (amazing) and Voyager’s 2nd season (not so much). More than that, there was moreÂ great Star Trek this year than we’d gotten, which pushed the franchise in a bunch of new and different directions. When Picard ends up being your weakest entry, and still was great, you’re probably doing something good.
Lower Decks is the shows that really stands out among the others… in part because it was so radically different from anything that Trek has ever done. It was funny, interesting… but still intrinsically Star Trek. More than that, at the end of the season, it actually introduced some real stakes, and had some deep moral questions about the Star Trek universe in general. That’s been a theme with everything that came out in the shows this year, in fact.
Star Trek Picard brought back a beloved character, for good reason, and took it into a completely different direction than a lot of people were expecting. We didn’t have the noble and unshakable Picard, it was a broken, and frankly, defeated, Picard. We saw a Picard who failed, and a bit of conspiracy with it. There were some things to the first season that didn’t land quite right, but there were some moments that so absolutely did. Picard talking to Seven of Nine about dealing with the trauma of the Borg, Kestra in general, Riker and Picard sitting together, and saying goodbye to Data (and somehow making up for the travesty that was Nemesis).
Lower Decks somehow managed to do something that was seemingly impossible… make a Star Trek comedy show. The worry was that it’d be too Rick & Morty (given that it’s showrunner was a producer on Rick & Morty), or something more Akin to Family Guy. It wasn’t either of those. Yeah, it was funny, and sometimes goofy… it had jokes that sometimes didn’t land and sometimes it used dialog that sounded more like a fan than it was a Starfleet officer. Then again, when you look at Boimler as the ultimate Starfleet fan, which he was, the line “That guy is like a Kirk sundae with Trip Tucker sprinkles” makes a bit more sense. And also, I totally get it.
But the last episode, more than anything, blew up the show around it and gave the promise of something new and different in the second season. It wasn’t afraid to kill a character, even if it was a supporting one. More than that, though, it showed what the show had been talking about all season, that the Federation is terrible at keeping up on things and people in need, or second contact, or just keeping tabs on all the things that happened in other shows under control. It was the Pakled, a joke character from TNG’s Samaratin Snare (and background characters on DS9), that ended up being capable of destroying multiple Federation ships and killing hundreds of Starfleet Officers.
Discovery’s third season is continuing its upward trend… I’ve liked all of the seasons for different reasons, but the first one spent too long in the Mirror Universe. The second one gave us Anson Mount as Pike (all is forgiven for Inhumans, Anson), but sort of plodded along trying to find its overall story
. The third one has been a lot more together than I was expecting, to be honest, and giving us a different view of the Trek universe by putting them so far into the future.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t about them trying to constantly get back to their own time, it’s been all about them acclimating to the future. While it still focuses a lot of its time on Burnham, a lot of the secondary characters have been given a chance to grow and shine. It’s not perfect, and it rushes some beats and takes some undeserved moments… but it’s still very enjoyable. I could probably go on another few thousand words, but this thing is long enough… needless to say, it’s a great time to be a Trek fan (and a great time to be a Star Wars fan).