Due to the coronavirus pandemic, watching the year’s best films in theaters became dangerous. So, we watched from home. Our smaller digital screens became a connection to the outside world and a necessary escape. Entertainment, art, and music take us to the world we’re all missing right now, which is invaluable.
Despite the rapid changes in society, film critics continued finding ample inspiration from the cinema. However, the way they watched them changed. Instead of viewing films as intended on the big screen, critics had to stream them from the sofa.
It remains to be seen how streaming will impact the movie industry in the days to come. Personally, we can’t wait for a return to seeing movies on the silver screen again.
As in many years before, many of the films that critics are celebrating this year may not be familiar. We’ll look at a few of the quotes that stand out. Hopefully, these films will be a welcome escape as we continue watching on our small screens –for now.
David Byrne’s American Utopia
This renowned concert movie from Spike Lee is an adaptation of the show, which closed on Broadway a month before many American cities went into lockdown. It’s based on legendary Talking Heads frontman David Byrne 2018 solo-album, American Utopia.
Rolling Stone called Byrne “one of pop music’s greatest chroniclers of creepy disorientation.” Thus, his quirky voice is particularly timely in a year of often dark and surreal moments. However, the album has a balance of light and dark, “transforming uneasiness into bliss.”
The Times notes the idea is “blissfully simple” as the barefooted, but uniformed performers cover 20 songs on a bare stage. Lee uses a variety of intimate camera angles to give you a view of the theater crew and the cast.
In a sobering moment, Byrne covers the Janelle Monáe protest song “Hell You Talmbout.” The song asks, “what the hell are you talking about?” with the contraction “Talmbout.” The song calls listeners to say the names of African Americans who died due to racial violence, including law enforcement encounters.
See the performance via YouTube:
Everybody’s Coming To My House
Another one of the standout and fitting songs is “Everybody’s Coming To My House.” Byrne and guest performer and host Stephen Colbert performed the song on The Late Show. It celebrates a gathering at home, something we’re all hoping for again sometime as soon as it’s safe.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Borat as one of the best films of 2020? Maybe not, but the sequel to the 14-year-old classic Borat movie has been called “the most 2020 movie of all time” by the Times.
Sacha Baron Cohen and his collaborators, like Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, deliver an often hysterically funny movie.
However, the movie made during the first months of the pandemic also reveals many disturbing realities of current America.
As the Times describes it:
“Once again, Cohen’s friendly, idiotic alter ego arrived on our shores from Kazakhstan to show Americans as we really are: Which is appallingly bigoted, ignorant, and paranoid, but also disarmingly polite and kind to strangers.”
Despite pointing out much horror, there are also strangely touching moments. For example, unknowing participant Jeanise Jones, 62, genuinely tries to help Borat’s daughter Tutar escape from his misogynist constraints (literal and figurative). Thus, she acts as the “moral compass” of the film, while thinking she was taking part in a legitimate documentary.
In one scene, Jones lovingly tries to persuade Tutar not to go through with getting breast implants to please her father. As a result, Tutar decides to change her life and become a journalist.
Recommended: 24 Famous Movie Notebook Quotes with Images
Breakout Star Jeanise Jones
Following the “moviefilm” release, the internet rallied to raise funds for the breakout star Jones, crowdfunding $100,000. Then, Baron-Cohen matched an additional $100,000.
“I think this has been the hardest year in living memory for most people,” Baron Cohen said. “Jeanise is this incredible figure in the movie. She helps Tutar find her own beauty and helps her stand up for herself and value her independence as a woman.”
The money helped Jone’s Oklahoma community overcome a string of natural disasters. Meanwhile, on Twitter, the hashtag “JeaniseForPresident” began trending.
See more about Jeanise from ET Canada below:
In a year when everyone is missing the hustle and bustle of daily life, Soul sends a message that “it’s good to be alive.” Originally, it was slated to open in theaters over the spring. Instead, it began streaming on Disney+ on Christmas Day.
The animated film features Pixar’s first lead black character, a jazz pianist named Joe Gardner. Actor Jamie Foxx lends Gardner his voice.
“To me, Joe represents a lot of people who aren’t being seen right now,” said Foxx. “Joe is in all of us, regardless of color. To be the first Black lead in a Pixar film feels like a blessing, especially during this time when we all could use some extra love and light.”
The story centers on Gardner’s experience in New York as a middle-school music teacher and musician. However, it soon enters new territory exploring afterlife concepts in a limbo state of “The Great Before.”
Joe and a cynical soul named 22, voiced by Tina Fey, conflict over their opinions on returning to human form on Earth. For Joe, there’s nothing like the sensory, musical cacophony of city life and his beloved jazz. On the other hand, 22 doesn’t share the zest for earthly life.
For us, it’s a timely reminder of all that we took for granted before the coronavirus pandemic. Also, it’s a welcome “spark” to visualize a time when we can enter the world as we remember it again.
Even though life presents many hardships, we’re thankful to be alive and sorry to have lost so many souls in 2020.
See the official Pixar trailer for Soul below:
Featured image: Screenshots via YouTube