We’ve never seen anything like this in our lifetime.
How many times have you said this to a loved one or a friend or a colleague, over the last six months? Ten times? Fifty? A hundred?
We all keep saying it because it’s true. Virtually every aspect of our lives has been impacted by the pandemic — and while matters of pop culture of course pale in comparison to the greater concerns about hundreds of thousands of lives lost and millions who have contracted symptoms, it still holds true: When it comes to movies and sports and concerts, etc., we’ve never seen anything like this.
At the outset of this year, our entertainment expectations for the Summer of 2020 included:
- The Tokyo Olympics
- The White Sox and Cubs contending in their respective divisions, with tens of thousands of fans in attendance for every game
- Popcorn movies such as “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Candyman” and “Top Gun: Maverick”
- Lollapalooza, and Wrigley Field concerts featuring Lady Gaga, Zac Brown Band and Guns N’ Roses
- The White Sox playing the Yankees at the “Field of Dreams”
What we got instead:
No Olympics. A near total shutdown of theaters showing first-run movies, as release dates were pushed back, movies intended for theatrical showings went straight to video, and drive-ins lured folks out of the house to see old faves such as “Jurassic Park” and “Jaws.” Major League Baseball resumed — but in lieu of fans, we got big-head cardboard cutout standees and piped-in crowd noise as games transpired in nearly empty stadiums. And the only concerts featured musicians who would set up on their balconies or a street corner or a front lawn and play their music for those within hearing range in the neighborhood.
One silver lining in this cloudiest of summers for those diversions we love so much: 21st century technology. If COVID-19 had struck in 1970 and you were holed up at home night after night from March through September and beyond, you could have listened to the radio or played a record, read a book or played a board game, or watched television on one of the three major networks. (“Honey! It’s almost time for ‘Bewitched’! And it’s not a rerun!”) Or, um, had conversations with other people in the house.
In 2020, it feels like there are as many home entertainment options as there are stars in the sky, from streaming services to apps, from on-demand movies to hundreds upon hundreds of cable channels, not to mention millions of audio- and e-books and songs — and let’s not forget how much fun it’s been to Zoom with friends and family! (It HAS been fun, right? Mostly fun?)
So, there’s no shortage of material for my 2020 Summer Report Card.
What’s up? Docs
It was an incredibly rich summer for documentaries. My favorites:
- “Desert One” – Definitive look at the failed military attempt to rescue American hostages from Iran in 1980.
- “Expecting Amy” – Cameras follow comedian/actress Amy Schumer just about everywhere as she endures a difficult pregnancy.
- “Mucho Mucho Amor” – A lovely biography of the legendary Puerto Rican astrologer and TV personality Walter Mercado.
- “Red Penguins” – The wild and crazy and dangerous ride of the Russian hockey team after the fall of the Soviet Union.
- “The Weight of Gold” – Michael Phelps and many other elite athletes talk about the mental health issues faced by Olympians.
Honor roll: “And She Could Be Next,” “Boys State,” “Class Action Park,” “Fear City: New York vs. The Mafia,” “The Go-Go’s,” “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,”“A Most Beautiful Thing,” “Robin’s Wish,” “Showbiz Kids,” “Spelling the Dream,” “#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump,” “You Cannot Kill David Arquette”
How does a Broadway sensation, filmed for the big screen, shown on the small screen, burst onto the Golden Globes scene?
The filmed version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s generationally impactful “Hamilton” was originally scheduled for theatrical release on Oct. 15, 2021 but was moved up for a Disney+ home premiere on July 3. Even though the Motion Picture Academy has adjusted its rules to make certain streaming projects eligible for the Oscars, “Hamilton” was deemed ineligible because it was a filmed stage production. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has yet to issue a ruling, but my guess is “Hamilton” will be allowed to compete in a number of categories and will sweep those awards.
Regardless of trophy consideration, the movie of “Hamilton” was a spectacularly impressive production, with so many cameras and extra microphones, it often felt as if we were onstage with that marvelous cast.
RR’s Recommended Reading
Some of these were new releases; others have been around for a while but suddenly seemed timely.
- “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” – Isabel Wilkerson
- “The Cloudbuster Nine: The Untold Story of Ted Williams and the Baseball Team that Helped Win World War II” – Anne R. Keene
- “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History” – John M. Barry
- “Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth” – Brian Stelter
- “Memories and Misinformation” – Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon
- “Modern Family: The Untold Oral History of One of Television’s Groundbreaking Sitcoms” — Marc Freeman
- “The Shawshank Redemption Revealed” – Mark Dawidziak
- “Squeeze Me” – Carl Hiassen
- “Surrender, White People!” – D.L. Hughley and Doug Moe
- “A Very Punchable Face: A Memoir” – Colin Jost
Does this movie come with a playbook?
After more false starts than a rookie offensive lineman facing Aaron Donald, “Tenet” finally arrived in theaters at the end of Movie Summer, simultaneously dazzling and confounding some moviegoers (including this one) who loved Christopher Nolan’s signature mind-blowing, time-bending story, even if we didn’t know what in the name of Junior Mints was happening all the time.
The worst movies of the summer
- “The Binge”
- “Fatal Affair”
- “A Nice Girl Like You”
- “My Spy”
- “The Tax Collector”
The best movies of the summer
- “Da 5 Bloods”
- “Hamilton” (I STILL say it was a movie)
- “She Dies Tomorrow”
- “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”
- “The Big Ugly”
- “The Outpost”
- “The King of Staten Island”
- “Palm Springs”
- “The Personal History of David Copperfield”
- “The Rental”
- “Tom of Your Life”
Gone but never forgotten …
This summer we said goodbye to Regis Philbin (88), Olivia de Havilland (104), Wilford Brimley (85), Ian Holm (88) and Carl Reiner (98), Naya Rivera (33), Nick Cordero (41), Kelly Preston (57) and Chadwick Boseman (43), among others. The first group was blessed to live long, long lives; the latter group was taken far too soon.
All will be missed.