Batman & Bill” (2017, Hulu) is about the fight to correct one of the great injustices of early comic book history – the omission of “Batman” co-creator Bill Finger’s name alongside Bob Kane’s. The documentary weaves from tragedy to fun to hopelessness to delight, avoiding that grim feeling found in most chronicles of injustice, while also contrasting the sweat-shop work process of the 1940s comic industry against this new age when writers are known and celebrated.
The Oscars are expanding the 2020 movie year by two months in order for more films to get released and compete for statuettes. That’s a smart move, but on Dec. 31, I’m happy to make my year-end list and say good riddance to this year of the pandemic and all it wrought – including the push-back of many films to 2021 and the beginning of the end of cinemas. But we’re not tossing out the movies with the year itself, because enough good ones took the financial risk of coming straight to our home theaters. These were my 10 favorites:
Acut above the typical Christmas flick shoveled out by streaming and cable, “Happiest Season” (Hulu) is a heartfelt and impressive breakthrough from director/co-writer Clea DuVall (an actress in “The Faculty” and many other roles) and co-writer Mary Holland (who also acts here, and who I had previously known as the cat-store lady in the “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” video “Buttload of Cats”). I laughed out loud three times and was never bored as an all-star cast slickly navigates the rom-com and holiday traditions.
Not all October premieres have to be scary – although a lot of them are (see later in this post) – so let’s start off this look at first episodes of new streaming shows with “Emily in Paris” (Netflix). Well, I shouldn’t say it’s not at all scary. The story of Chicagoan Emily’s relocation to Paris for her job emphasizes her outsider status and loneliness even though she always puts on her delightfully Lily Collins face.
With many shows releasing entire seasons at once nowadays, I haven’t had time to watch full seasons yet, but I have checked out some first episodes and wanted to weigh in on them. Even with the pandemic limiting the number of new fall shows, there are still more than any one TV geek can watch, so here are my first-episode impressions of four September launches:
The pandemic has wreaked havoc with fall TV scheduling (it’s hard to tell one socially distanced, masked story, let alone fill a slate with them), and also revealed that (no surprise) cable and streaming were better prepared with content in their pipelines than the networks. But while 2020 serves up the thinnest lineup in modern TV history, it’s not a total wash. Here are my thoughts on 13 notable fall premieres, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the series. All times Eastern:
Andy Samberg tones down his manchild shtick while retaining his Everyman charms, and he pairs wonderfully with Cristin Milioti in “Palm Springs,” a new Hulu release that gives us a pleasant option amid the shutdown of cinemas. It’s also unintentionally timely for this era when people don’t leave their homes as much: Samberg’s Nyles finds himself stuck at a destination wedding – he’s the boyfriend of bridesmaid Misty (Meredith Hagner) — repeating the day in a loop.
When “Glass” came out about a year ago, it seemed like the last gasp of an era: No way would filmmakers continue to portray people with mental illness as villains after this. It’s not awfully PC, as a George Clooney-vintage Batman might say. But, speaking of Batman’s world, we got “Joker” later in the year. Love it or hate it, that film got people asking: Is the Joker bad because of his mental illness, or is he bad because he doesn’t have access to his medications? Is his behavior his fault or society’s fault?
In the early going, “High Fidelity” (February, Hulu) so precisely re-creates several iconic scenes from the 2000 movie that it’s like watching a painful amateur stage production of a classic play. We might as well be rewatching the film or reading Nick Hornby’s 1995 book. But as the 10-episode Season 1 moves forward, it starts to repurpose the familiar scenes in new ways, and it ultimately justifies its existence.
With an unusually long gap between new Marvel Cinematic Universe releases, I decided to finally check out “Marvel’s Runaways” Season 1 (2017-18, Hulu). Now through three seasons, it’s part of the young-adult wing of the MCU, and I appreciate that it’s more colorful, sunnier (it’s set in Los Angeles, the opposite side of the continent from most MCU goings-on) and more fathomable than the other YA series, Freeform’s recently canceled “Cloak & Dagger.” It also has an amazing cast, but Season 1 has one big problem at its core.