…but also so long they named it twice.
One pandemic. Two national lockdowns. Three release dates for No Time To Die.
It’s quite fitting that my first and last reviews of 2020 were about family: Little Women, a story about holding on to yourself and your identity, whatever life throws at you; and The Midnight Sky, an (unfairly maligned) story about the bonds of family (and what makes a family) at the end of the world.
It’s been a terrible year (and as a Brit I’ve tried to remember that in other parts of the world it has been simply the latest in a long line of terrible years) but there have been bright spots: funny, clever, moving and frankly wtf? moments that take us away from all this for a minute.
These are some of the most memorable movie-related moments for me on here: articles, reviews and interviews I wrote in 2020. You don’t have to read them – I am that writer who reads my own stuff a few months later and emits a wry chuckle, for reasons good and bad – but here they are.
1, DO NOT BE GLIBB / ABOUT BARRY GIBB (my first song right there)
My favourite documentary this year was undoubtedly Frank Marshall’s Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, to which the only answer is by listening to the Bee Gees disco songbook, as their other stuff will shatter that heart into a million pieces once again before you drown in a puddle of your own tears.
(Barry also turns out to have been extremely hot in the ’60s and ’90s too, but ’70s Barry is the only decade where he has his shirt undone for most of it.)
2, ONCE A STUNTWOMAN, ALWAYS A STUNTWOMAN (so be polite)
I loved interviewing April Wright, director of Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story. Those extraordinary 1960s/1970s trailblazers are in their 70s now, so next time you go past an older lady give her a wide berth as you never know what she’s capable of.
(Clue: look out for the ones whizzing round the supermarket with their trolleys at 100 miles an hour, backwards and in heels.)
3, BACK(WARDS) TO THE CINEMA
In August I saw TENET, and I took my 11 year old to explain it to me after he did such a good job with Ad Astra. We loved it, despite – because of? – not being able to hear it properly.
If you’ve seen it yourself, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that while my review did respectable numbers in the 100s, my attempting-to-explain-TENET article hit 8.5k.
4, SHORTEST EDITING JOB EVER
5, WELCOME TO FILM CLUB… GREAT!
I founded a new film club, hugely influential within its own WhatsApp group, consisting of me and my friend Liz. True to our low-tech roots, we watch films on streaming platforms together simply by both pressing Play at the same time, then sending Victorian urchins between our houses with notes about what’s happening*. Nice.
*we use the Zoom Chat function
6, LUCIOUS LYCANTHROPES
One of my favourite Film Club watches was actually a rewatch, after about 20 years: Dog Soldiers. Werewolves are my favourite cryptozoological beasts, even though it turns out I’ve been pronouncing them wrong my whole life.
I did learn some interesting facts about using superglue to stop your innards falling out, and – worryingly – now find the werewolves themselves rather hot (though not Barry Gibb Hot).
Scottish, hungry, extremely hairy and literally singing the music of the night as the moon rises, I imagine that’s what it’s like to bump into Gerard Butler as he emerges from Lockdown.
7, EPIC TROLLING
The film club also watched Beowulf and Grendel, a Scandinavian epic from 2005 that actually did star Gerard Butler – at both his hottest and his coldest – trying to work out who are the real monsters here, as his legendary warrior Beowulf is commissioned to kill Grendel, a giant troll.
Amazingly, despite Grendel’s fondness for playing bowls with decapitated heads, it turns out he is not, after all, the real monster here.
There is much murder, which all started decades ago over a stolen fish. All I can say is, I hope it was a fucking great white shark for all the trouble it caused.
Also everyone has terrible, matted hair except Gerry, who probably borrowed Jennifer Aniston’s Elvive for the duration of the shoot.
8, DIX POINTS!
From killer trolls to murderous elves, and Eurovision: The Story Of Fire Saga, one of my favourite comedies of the year.
With Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams as a pair of sweet innocents trying to win the world’s premier musical competition (No, not The Voice), the real star is Pierce Brosnan as Hot Scandinavian Dad In A Cardi. (Fear not, still-traumatised Mamma Mia fans, he doesn’t sing!)
9, THE END IS NIGH, AGAIN
I decided to cheer myself up in December by watching Greenland, about an extinction level event. I felt pretty miserable after that so then I watched another film about an extinction level event, The Midnight Sky.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and both Gerard Butler and George Clooney are rather fine.
(After that double bill I had to rewatch the Bee Gees documentary to cheer myself up properly, but sadly switched it on at Hot ’60s Barry singing To Love Somebody, whereupon I promptly drowned in a puddle of my own tears. Better than being evaporated in a comet strike though!)
10, INFECTION AFFECTION
Because I am one of those weirdos who find virus movies rather comforting, I also watched and reviewed both the Steven Soderbergh-directed Contagion and Songbird, produced by, um, Michael Bay.
I watched Contagion at the start of Lockdown 1.0. It’s brilliant, prescient, and apparently scientifically accurate – so this is the one time getting your health information from Gwyneth Paltrow is probably a good thing.
Songbird is the first movie about the pandemic made during the pandemic. It was heavily criticised even for existing, though you know what, it’s okay, though unmemorable.
You will also know long before pressing Play whether it’s a film you want to watch, so follow your instincts on this one. (If you do give it a go, look out for what I’m convinced is a John Wick 2 reference – Peter Stormare starred in that and Songbird.)
11, PEAK FILMMAKING
As time had no meaning in 2020, I’m not going to beat myself up for being 96 years late watching The Epic Of Everest, about the 1924 British expedition attempting to reach the summit of the mountain known to the Tibetans as Chomolungma, or Goddess Mother of the World.
When Mallory and Irvine make their bid for the top, Odell is the last to see them, at, he thinks, 600 feet beneath the summit: “still climbing and then ––– no more”.
The travelogue aspect is dated though still of interest; and Everest looks magnificent. We’ll miss it when the snow has all melted and it’s just a big spike of rock.
12, BUT IS IT ART?
With Timothy Spall / Vanessa Redgrave starrer Mrs Lowry & Son out on DVD at the start of the year, in January I was invited to join an art class to learn how to paint like Manchester’s famous son, WS Lowry.
It’s matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs, I thought – how hard can it be?
Plus – my tips for painting novices! (That’s people who haven’t painted before, not trainee nun portraiture, though if you’re into that I say go for it.)
13, THE KEANU CUT
In a world of terrible news – from COVID-19, to that mummy some archeologists wanted to open, to murder hornets – one thing stood out for me: Keanu’s hair.
First he went beardless for Bill & Ted 3 and then, as if punishing me for criticising that, followed up with a dreadful buzzcut for The Matrix 4.
He’s like a weird Samson, where he cuts his hair off and yet somehow it is me who loses all strength, flopping around until it grows back.
My crush was crushed. Thank god Hot Barry Gibb can fill the gap.
14, TV OR NOT TV, THAT IS THE QUESTION
This year I finally said “TV!”, and because televisions have become intelligent in the millennia since I last watched anything with more than one episode, it shouted back “WHO ARE YOU?”
In November I started reviewing TV shows (occasionally!) I began with Truth Seekers, a quintessentially British comedy about broadband installers and aliens.
Imagine Doctor Who crossed with the X-Files with more than a dash of Horrible Histories thrown in.
Julian Barratt is such a hot villain (not Barry Gibb Hot, but still hot) I’d probably have helped him, too.
15, THE COLONIC TONIC WE DIDN’T KNOW WE NEEDED
Writer-director Tyler Cornack must have thought he’d win 2020 when he devised his comedy-horror-thriller Butt Boy, about a man who absorbs objects and people up his bottom.
The year had other ideas though, and by the end someone absorbing people up his bum was strange, but not unusually so.
It’s still a great film though; I interviewed him about his movie, and it’s not often I get to compliment a director on the inside of his virtual colon.
16, BREAKING THE INTERNET
And last but not least (well almost last as it happened on Christmas Day), I finally broke the half-million page views in one year barrier. So putting my best Oscar voice on, I’d like to thank all of you who visited my site last year. (It doesn’t matter if you liked it, it still counts.)
Thank you for sticking with me through thick and thin. I have been both this year, several times over. (I’ve also written a sort of end-of-year letter too on the Blog, – on the pandemic and what movies can, or can’t do for us. You can read it here.)
I hope you got to see some amazing movies despite the year we had – with the blockbusters and tentpoles mostly put back to 2021 or later, smaller gems a least got a chance to sparkle. Hopefully that will continue even as the *big* movies make a return, whether to cinemas or streaming services.
Plus it wouldn’t be the new year without me promising my podcast as COMING SOON. Honestly, this year…