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Writer’s Room: 2020 In Review

In a year defined by fear, isolation, and an unhealthy longing for a trip to see anything at a movie theater, we asked our Frida writers how they got through 2020, and what they’re looking forward to in the new year! Warning: the following blog shows an unusual amount of optimism for the future of the film industry going forward. You’ve been warned!
What was the first film you watched in 2020?

  • Austin Bittner: Chain – an amazing documentary from 2004 that delves into the mundanity of retail culture. A relic of mid-2000’s strip-mall architecture that set a pretty high bar for what I’d watch this year.


  • Anthony McKelroy: It was me. I watched Tom Hooper’s Cats in theaters on 1/5/2020. I paid full price. I started the apocalypse. God have mercy on us all.


  • Bradley Burke: Parasite.


  • Isa Bulnes-Shaw: Klaus (2019).


  • Miquela Davis (Frida Volunteer): Greener Grass on New Year’s Eve. Technically 2020.


Prior to COVID, what film(s) were you most looking forward to seeing in 2020?

  • Austin B.: The new Wes Anderson of course looked pretty tight, and so did the new Edgar Wright. Hey, look at me rhyme! But for me, the biggest casualty couldn’t possibly top After Yang, the new film by Kogonada. I suggest anyone reading this to watch Columbus as soon as they finish to see what I mean.


  • Anthony M.: First Cow, Dune…are there other movies besides those two?


  • Isa B.: Get Back – The 50th anniversary release for The Beatles documentary film Let It Be (1970). Not only is it an HD restoration of footage we’ve had for decades, but it’s a reveal of more than 55 hours of footage, and 140 hours of audio from the ‘Let It Be’ recording sessions that have never been seen by the public before.
    The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run – I’m a Spongebob fanatic, and although there are definitely things to criticize (not the least of which regards Nickelodeon’s treatment of the franchise after its creator’s passing), I’d seen the previous two movies in theaters, so why not this one? The style of the CG is also a major upgrade, it looks fantastic visually.

Steven Universe: The Movie – My favorite show for seven years and one of the things dearest to my heart, Steven Universe’ epilogue series ended in March. As a send-off before the finale, theaters planned screenings of the epic movie from late 2019, and I was going to attend with my oldest friend who’s watched with me from the beginning. Instead, I bootlegged it right before the final episodes dropped and cried with her over a Discord call.

Trolls: World Tour – The McElroy Brothers, my fave podcasters/entertainers, are minor voices in this movie cuz they campaigned for years that they WOULD be in Trolls 2 one way or another, somehow. The crazy bastards did it, and I was going to pay $7 to see their 3 seconds of collective victory.


  • Miquela D.: The French Dispatch

How did you watch movies in isolation this year?

  • Austin B.: Chromecast became my best friend this year, pretty much by default. 99% of what I’ve seen this year has been through there, and considering the speakers of my laptop now making everything playing on it sound like distorted farts, Chromecast has now become my only friend these days.


  • Anthony M.: Like some streaming service Voltron, I was able to lean on lots of friends’ login info to watch movies at home this year. Though I was mostly using Criterion Channel, and Netflix + netflix DVD’s to watch things.


  • Bradley B.: Through streaming services via Netflix, Hulu, HBO etc. or through films I own on Blu-Ray.


  • Isa B.: On my tiny laptop by myself mostly, or at the drive-in pop-up screenings. Streaming, digital rental off of YouTube, and DVDs.


  • Miquela: Drive-ins, but mostly streaming in the living room.


Which film(s) from 2020 would you still like to see that you haven’t yet?

  • Austin B.: I’m still eager to catch Days – the new Tsai Ming-liang, as well as Nine Days – a film from Sundance I was pretty peeved on not being able to catch. Lots of rotations around the axis of Earth.


  • Anthony M.: Minari is pretty high on the list. But I’m also eager to catch up on all the great TV that came out this year: I May Destroy You, We Are Who We Are, The Undoing.


  • Bradley B.: Tenet.


  • Isa B.: Honestly, other than the ones that haven’t been released yet, just the ones previously listed. I’ve seen the ones I’m most interested in already, and there wasn’t too much sadly.


  • Miquela D.: Minari, Nomadland.

What movies did you see at a drive-in?

  • Austin B.: None, unfortunately. To be frank, I’ve let many depressive episodes prevent me from engaging in any events that didn’t involve the occasional distant get-together at a park or something. I was happy to help set up a screening of A League of Their Own a few months back! For Madonna!


  • Anthony M.: I think the first drive-in movie for me was a Beanie Feldstein joint, How to Build a Girl. Since then I’ve only been to two Frida events: Stop Making Sense, and Fire Walk With Me. Both phenomenal experiences.


  • Bradley B.: Unfortunately, I have yet to experience a movie drive-in. Hopefully I can change that soon.


  • Isa B.: I watched 27 of The Frida’s Pop-Up Cinema films, and volunteered at even more!


  • Miquela D.: How To Build a Girl, Stop Making Sense (1984), Fire Walk With Me (1992).


Which movie did you watch the most this year? How many times?

  • Austin B: Managed to go for round two with Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Uncut Gems (2019), Cure (1997), Popstar (2016), and I Know This Much is True (2019) – all wonderful.


  • Anthony M.: I watched Arrival (2016) twice this year. In three thousand years, I will watch it again.


  • Isa B.: It’s a four-way tie. These films all had three watches:

 Help! (1965) – The Beatles’ films and music are some of my ultimate comfort/nostalgia content, and boy did I need it! Was also the 55th anniversary, and I started my Beatles on Film blog series.

Yellow Submarine (1967) – Ultimate serotonin generator

Cats (2019) – ¯\_(=•́ܫ•̀=)_/¯

**Julio Torres’ My Favorite Shapes (2019) – Watched this three days in a row. Isn’t so much stand-up as it is one-man show / TedTalk / performance art. There’s absolutely nothing like it, just blew me away and busted my gut.


Which film(s) did you watch this year that most surprised you?

  • Austin B.: I was very much caught off guard by the sweetness of Hubie Halloween, the astounding last half hour of Da 5 Bloods, the line of reality and fiction blurring into the chaotic beauty of Bad Trip, the Mulholland Drive-esque wild ride of Black Bear, the neon energy of Ema, and just how much Oz Perkins’ Gretel and Hansel actually kicks ass. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.


  • Anthony M.: Got around to Vox Lux (2018) this year and found myself unexpectedly exhilarated for the entire runtime. The images of defiance, hubris, and ostentation in the film have replayed in my mind while watching the Eggheads completely fumble the COVID relief effort.


  • Isa B.: Birds of Prey was the only 2020 release I saw in theaters and it was SO refreshing both story-wise and aesthetically — colorful, fun, women-oriented. A damn good action flick.


  • Miquela D.: Sound Of Metal, Arrival (2016)

What was the most disappointing film you saw this year?

  • Austin B.: Easily i’m thinking of ending things. Charlie Kaufman having the nerve to juxtapose his self-indulgence with John Cassavetes is now officially starting to annoy me.


  • Anthony M.: Wild at Heart (1990). What an ugly film. Even worse, people will try to justify the ugliness as a creative technique. It’s not, it’s ugly and aesthetically superfluous.


  • Isa B.: I guess The Love Witch (2016). I’d been wanting to watch it for a long time, and I anticipated it as being one of my new favorites, but it just didn’t go deep enough into what it seemed just on the edge of and it dragged in several parts. Aesthetically though, it is truly marvelous. Also, I had no expectations for Puppet Master (1989), but there were barely any puppets in it despite the bare minimum criteria.


  • Miquela D.: Contagion because it was such a fantasy of how governments respond to a virus..

Favorite film about new years?

  • Austin B.: Those five minutes of Phantom Thread (2017)


  • Anthony M.: Passionate Friends (1949)


  • Isa B.: High School Musical (2006), Snowpiercer (2013)


  • Miquela D.: When Harry Met Sally (1989)


How many movies do you think you watched this year?

  • Austin B.: According to Letterboxd, I have reached a mere 358! Almost a year’s worth of cinema, baby!


  • Anthony M.: ~106


  • Bradley B.: 15-20


  • Isa B.:  According to my Letterboxd: 261 total, with rewatches and short films. Without either, about 164.


  • Miquela D.: 102.

What do you recommend for people to watch while stuck at home? (preferably something accessible via streaming or the library)

  • Austin B.: The big 5 (in terms of streaming) for me are Kanopy, HBO Max, Criterion, MUBI, and Prime Video (only for the shocking surplus of sleazy 80’s horror they have).


  • Anthony M.: For a good documentary, look no further than The B-Side on NETFLIX. A story about an artist trying to capture happiness on large format instant film.


  • Bradley B.: Klaus on Netflix or Parasite on Hulu.


  • Miquela D.: Enemy (2013) – on Netflix


What is the best film you saw this year for the first time? Doesn’t have to be released in 2020 to qualify.

  • Austin B.: I fell in love with Peter Bogdanovich this year. From his unreal streak through ’68-’73, his recurring role on The Sopranos, and subsequently directing an episode of it to my utmost surprise! But the peak of that love came with The Last Picture Show. The almost ghost-like loneliness of that Texas town, dying more and more each passing day, resonated with me far more deeply than I could ever have expected. A perfect COVID watch. Just narrowly edging it out are Unbreakable, Dancer in the Dark, and Rosetta.


  • Anthony M.: Streaming on Amazon Prime, as of writing this, is a little film called Thank God It’s Friday (1978) starring the one and only, DONNA-FREAKIN-SUMMERS. I don’t care if you don’t like “musicals” or whatever, if you like movies then you’ll love Thank God It’s Friday (1978). Its exaggerated 70’s design aesthetic has aged beautifully, and the film’s depiction of a night out dancing couldn’t be more needed in this age of social isolation.


  • Bradley B.: Probably Parasite, although Akira and John Carpenter’s The Thing also come really close.


  • Isa B.: Rocketman (2019) was fantastic! I also loved Xanadu (1980) so much, it was a delight.


  • Miquela D.: Arrival (2016)


Did you get into any new, non-movie related hobbies while in quarantine?

  • Austin B.: Been mostly doing this thing where I have five books I have only gotten halfway through with and now keep on a bench near my couch. Will probably get to two or three more by the end of the month.


  • Anthony M.: I’m afraid that’s classified information.


  • Bradley B.: I’ve definitely been getting more into reading graphic novels and manga as well as listening to audiobooks, which is helpful for someone like me who isn’t much of a reader personally, especially when it comes to traditional novels that only have text.


  • Isa B.: I started learning how to edit, design, and draw in programs like Photoshop and Illustrator!


  • Miquela D.: Making a book of drawings, making comics, teaching (virtual) art. Crafting shelves, baking. Standard quarantine hobbies.

Which films are you looking forward to in 2021?

  • Austin B.: I would just like the new Paul Thomas Anderson already. Would preferably want it injected into my bloodstream. And to have the title actually be Soggy Bottom. Also, the new Apichatpong!


  • Anthony M.: Dune for sure. And to be clear, I will only be seeing it in a movie theater (when it is safe to do so).


  • Isa B.: Get Back, Guillermo Del Toro’s animated Pinocchio thats been a life-long passion project of his, Candyman will be interesting.


  • Miquela D.: FRENCH *clapping emoji* DISPATCH *clapping emoji*….and the new Paul Thomas Anderson. *fingers crossed emoji*




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