As my final stamp on the year of 2020, which was a giant shit show of epic proportions, I just thought I’d highlight some of my favourite things when it came to movies, books, music, and television.
Top Ten Movies which I first viewed this year
- A New Leaf (1971) No other film gave me so much joy and cathartic laughter than this film which still stays in my mind months after I first viewed it. Elaine May wrote, directed, and co-starred in this and it was my first exposure to her films. She has a limited output due to the fact she was basically exiled from Hollywood after one bomb. She’s still with us and is returning to the director’s chair for the first time in over 30 years. I for one cannot wait.
- Vagabond (1985) Agnes Varda’s relentless character study of a young destitute who ventures along the country, finding odd jobs and odd people. She see how she is treated, ignored, and forgotten. It’s a heart breaking film but a reminder of the forgotten people in the world who have nothing and who we tend to ignore. This film is inteded as a wake up call.
- Le Bomheur (1965) Varda’s beautiful looking film about a married man who starts up an affair with another woman. The film examines the implications of being in love with both woman and the tragic outcome of it. The final shot of this film has lingered with me since I first saw it. The cinematography is haunting how it contrasts the rather dark story.
- Cluny Brown (1946) A film I loved so much, I ended up writing a feminist paper about it for one of my English classes. A lovely comedy that only Ernst Lubitsch could produce, tells the story of a young woman who tries to fit in with society, yet is stopped with her sudded urge to be a plumber takes hold.
- My Night at Maude’s (1969) Eric Rohmer’s film of a devout catholic man who is tested when he spends the night with a free spirited woman. This is a wonderful, philosophical story centered the feelings and lives of a small number of people.
- Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) As you can see, I’ve discoved a lot from Agnes Varda’s filmography, and this one about a woman’s day while she awaits a cancer diagnosis is just a lovely film on par with the greatest films from the french New Wave.
- My Neighbour Totoro (1988) Finally getting the chance to explore the back catalogue of Ghibli Studios, it’s no wonder why this film remains a benchmark. I wonderful children’s film about loneliness, sadness, but finding the strength to carry on. Totoro is such an extraordinary creation and the film itself is a deserved classic.
- Heathers (1988) A darkly camic look at high school life, I think it blows all other 80s high school movies out of the water. I enjoyed this film thoroughly.
- Desire (1936) Charming film where a man unsuspectingly falls in love with a jewel thief. Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper have never been so fun, and this is a wonderful golden age movie not to be missed.
- Buck Privates (1941) Before this film, I’ve run hot and cold on Abbot and Costello, but they really won be over with their comedic skills. This was such a high entertaining comedy, the more I think about it, the more I find myself loving it. Also the music from the Andrew Sisters add to the enjoyment of the whole film.
Favourite New Television
As far as shows that came out this year, things mostly stayed on the lighter side of things considering all of the bad news which was difficult to escape from. Overall I really enjoyed the mini-series The Queen’s Gambit as well as the fun, but sometimes silly Cobra Kai. I was also mostly pleased with The Mandolorian more with season 1 than season 2. My girlfriend introduced me to a lot of 60s television shows which are a passion of hers. I was quickly schooled on shows such as My Three Sons, The Munsters, and The Addams Family. My favourite, and which is quickly becoming one of my absolute favourites is The Dick Van Dyke Show which we are currently in the middle of. But every show has their own charm, and I love educating myself on television from that era as it’s been a blindspot for so long.
All that being said, I would say my favourite show which is still running remains The Simpsons Bob’s Burgers. This year I caught up with some later Simpsons episodes I have never seen before and as with Bob’s Burgers, I caught up with the show on Amazon Prime where for now it seems to be the only place you can stream in Canada. Hopefully with Disney + opening their service to more adult oriented content later, perhaps they might find a place for this hilarious show.
I’m not as big a collector of music as I used to be. I don’t really seek out new music or artists as often anymore. This year I was lucky as my old favourites came out with new albums. To start off with, my girlfriend as hooked me to Taylor Swift and her album Folklore was something I really enjoyed and listened to on multiple occasions. My favourite track was probably “Exile” which she sings with Bon Iver, but all of the songs on the album all all worth a listen. Bruce Springsteen came back with Letter To You his first in over a decade where he plays with the E-Street Band. Though I think I still prefer his last album Western Stars, Springsteen never rests on his laurels and this album offers up great songs such as “Ghosts”, “The Power of Prayer” and “I’ll See you in my Dreams”. Lastly though, my favourite music came courtesy of Bob Dylan, who reminds people what a great cryptic song writer he is which puts him in his own category. His album Rough and Rowdy Ways is another testament to why he has stood the test of time. His long epic song about the JFK assassination “Murder Most Fowl” is the highlight song to me this year. It came at the right time with hypnotic lyrics which speak to both the death of the 60s, but also the same political turmoil we are dealing with today. I remain a life long Dylan head and may his songs last forever.
Working on through my English major, it was difficult to focus on much leisure reading, however I got a few books in which I had never read before. My favourite was probably Jane Austin’s Mansfield Park which I liked because of the heroine. I also read Thomas King’s An Inconvenient Indian for the first time, and I found it enthralling and educational. I also appreciated King’s brand of ironic humour throughout.
That’s pretty much it. This list has been short and sweet. I wish everyone a happy 2021 and hope it brings everyone more happiness, I know we all deserve it considering how last year went.