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December 16, 2020

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Touchwood PR’s Favourite Movies + Series of 2020

Despite the obstacles that the film and television industry faced in 2020, this year still saw amazing new content. For us here at Touchwood PR, watching the latest season of The Crown, a great romantic comedy or even a fascinating new documentary was the perfect escape amidst the chaos and disaster of a year that was 2020. The films and series below prove that not even a global pandemic can stop Touchwood PR’s favourite pastime from flourishing. 

Films

1. Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado – Chelsea

This documentary focuses on the life of Walter Mercado, a larger-than-life, gender fluid Puerto Rican-born astrologer. “I learned so much about Walter Mercado and his legacy,” says Chelsea, “and as a self-proclaimed astrology and documentary nerd, this was definitely my favourite film of 2020”. 

2. Hamilton (Film) – Michelle

This year, Disney+ released a live stage recording of Lin Manuel Miranda’s smash hit historical musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton. “As a theatre-goer, this movie was much anticipated and I thought they captured the stage performance really well for those, like myself, who listened to the soundtrack for years wanting to witness the original cast perform.” Michelle also noted that “Hamilton also seems particularly relevant to watch this year” with the Black Lives Matter movement at the forefront of public consciousness. 

3. I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Susan

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an American psychological horror film written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, and was Susan’s pick for her favourite film of 2020. “I just found this film SO interesting on so many levels and it really really stuck with me – I could not get it out of my mind. I thought the dialogue was incredibly interesting, the performances terrific, and the design on every level was fantastic.” 

4. The High Note – Jen

The High Note, Jen’s pick, is set in the LA music scene and focuses on the story of how superstar Grace Davis, played by Tracee Ellis Ross, has reached unbelievable career heights but is struggling to stay relevant. Maggie, played by Dakota Johnson, is Grace’s overworked personal assistant who’s stuck running errands, but aspires to become a music producer. “This happened to be a film we also worked on for our client Focus Features, but it really was my favourite film of the year. It came out in May around the time we were settling into this strange new pandemic reality and it was the uplifting ray of sunshine the world needed. Also Tracee Ellis Ross is my celebrity BFF.” 

5. The One and Only Ivan – Jane

This Disney film centres around a gorilla named Ivan who tries to piece together his past with the help of an elephant named Stella. Jane chose this film because it was “not only fun and hilarious, but also emotional and heartwarming at its core.” 

6. Happiest Season – Keira

Happiest Season, Keira’s favourite film of 2020, centres around Abby’s (played by Kristen Stewart) plans to propose to her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis), while at her family’s annual holiday party, and Abby’s subsequent discovery that Harper hasn’t yet come out to her conservative parents.

“I went into this with pretty medium expectations. I would have been happy with a couple of chuckles and a few fun surprises along the way. What I got was a wildly funny instant holiday classic that embraced all of the best rom-com clichés and avoided anything overplayed. The standout character, aside from Kristen Stewart, is Jane – the black sheep of the family. The way that she happily tackles all of the MANY handyman projects that she’s asked to do around the house is laugh/spit eggnog out of your nose funny. Will be counting this one alongside The Family Stone, Little Women, and all of my other Christmas favourites!” 

7. Promising Young Woman – Lauren, Hayley, Meg

A comedy thriller written and directed by Emerald Fennel, Promising Young Woman stars Carey Mulligan as a medical school dropout who was once considered a “promising young woman”, but whose life has been derailed by an unnamed event from her past. While she has no professional ambitions, she does, however, spend her nights getting revenge on men who are intent on taking advantage of vulnerable and intoxicated women. This film was the favourite of three Touchwood PR staff. 

Meg: It’s smart and darkly funny, and Carey Mulligan is so damn good in this!

Lauren: I love this movie for a few reasons. First, it checks off four of the top qualifications I look for when watching a movie; it is visually striking, I appreciate the tone of the storytelling, the acting is compelling, and most importantly, the subject matter and/or film as a whole made me feel something (in this case, MANY varying emotions). I appreciate that the film succeeds at being entertaining while also sparking a number of essential conversations. Outside of the film itself, it’s also a favourite for 2020 because of the memories associated with watching it. The first time I watched the film, it was in a theatre with a number of my Touchwood PR colleagues, before the pandemic. The memory of walking out of the auditorium together, enthusiastically sharing our thoughts, is one I look back on fondly.

Hayley: Promising Young Woman was honestly my favourite film that I have seen in 2020. It almost feels unprecedented in terms of how the film told the story around the subject matter. Maybe it has been done before, and I just haven’t seen it. But this film seems very timely, and without giving too much away, as a young woman navigating life, I really left the theatre kind of fired up, for lack of a better term. I saw the film prior to the pandemic shutdown, and the film has stuck with me since. I highly recommend giving it a watch if you have the chance to.

8. The Forty-Year-Old Version – Alma

Alma’s selection for her favourite film is The Forty-Year-Old Version, a story of a once-promising playwright whose career has stalled and who then decides to become a rapper at 40 to salvage her voice as an artist. “When I saw this film, it had been a while since I watched a film and couldn’t wait to talk to others about it and share the experience. It’s honest, funny and deeply personal, and also shot in gorgeous black and white. While it can be raunchy and raw, it also captures the fragility and vulnerability of a woman turning 40, reflecting on her past, while looking to the future and deciding what she wants.”

9. Tenet – Shima

Directed by Christopher Nolan, Shima’s favourite film revolves around a secret agent’s dangerous, time-warping mission to prevent the start of World War III.

“To be honest, I realized I haven’t really watched any 2020 films. I have been watching older stuff all year apparently, especially TV shows. I love going to the theatre to watch movies and this was the only film where I was able to do that. Plus I absolutely love and admire Nolan’s work so I have to go with his newest film! Although this is his most confusing film yet, at least in my eyes, it was visually STUNNING, had amazing performances and soundtrack, and it made me want to read more about it, analyze it, and watch it again! I love films that confuse me and make me put the puzzle pieces together.”

10. No Ordinary Man – Andréa

This documentary, a favourite of Andréa’s, revolves around the extraordinary life of Billy Tipton, a 20th-century American jazz musician and trans icon. The film is brought to life by a diverse group of contemporary trans artists.

“I have the pleasure to be working on this film from its TIFF premiere to its release next year and everything about this project is magic. Working with the incredible film team of Aisling, Chase, Amos and Sarah; spreading the joy that was Billy Tipton and how he affected so many trans lives; and seeing audiences and media fall in love with this project – it has been a highlight of 2020.”

11. Boys’ State – Steph

This documentary follows a thousand teenage boys attending Boys State in Texas, a week-long camp where boys create a mock government from the ground up. 

“This documentary was so fascinating – the political maneuvering, campaigning and bald-faced lying that teenage boys engage in to get elected to fake positions is crazy to watch. It can definitely make you feel a little bit cynical and hopeless about the polarized political system, but at the same time, there were a few boys who were actually really inspiring and provided some hope for America’s political future.”

Series

1. Hollywood – Chelsea

This miniseries stars an ensemble cast as a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers during the Hollywood Golden Age in the post-World War II era trying to make their dreams come true. This series was Chelsea’s pick for her favourite series of the year. “I’m a sucker for great set and costume design – this series was incredible!”

2. Little Voice – Michelle

With original music from Sara Bareilles, Little Voice tells the story of Bess, a talented but undiscovered singer-songwriter living in New York, who is hesitant to perform and step out into the spotlight.  “I really enjoy Sara Bareilles’ music and projects, and felt this new series carried on the same heart and soul. The show features beautifully performed music, a cast of new faces, and a message of hope and perseverance.”

3. The Queen’s Gambit – Susan

The Queen’s Gambit is a coming-of-age period miniseries set in the 1950s and 1960s. Beth, the protagonist, is an orphaned chess prodigy on the rise to becoming the world’s greatest chess player while struggling with emotional baggage and drug and alcohol dependency. This series was Susan’s favourite from 2020. “I found this series to be incredibly refreshing, well-acted, and again, both the set design (that wallpaper!!) and costume design blew me away. I LOVED the attention to detail, like the painstaking measures the producers took to create the most authentic chess matches they possibly could (Garry Kasparov was a consultant on it) so that no true chess fan could find fault with them. I thought everything about the series was just brilliant.”

4. The Crown Season 4 – Jen, Keira, Andréa + Steph

Now in its fourth season, The Crown has become one of Netflix’s most critically acclaimed series. The show details the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family, and was the favourite series of both Jen, Keira, Andréa and Steph this year.  

“I’ve loved this show since the beginning, but this season is perfection, in my opinion. Gillian Anderson and Olivia Colman run a masterclass in acting. The stories (while I know some are not completely factual) are so fascinating and beautifully told. Best season of TV I’ve seen in a long time. Long live the Queen.” – Jen

“The performances, the set design, the music – it’s a perfect season in my eyes and I ate it up as quickly as I could and went back for seconds… and might go back for thirds!” – Andréa

5. The Haunting of Bly Manor – Jane

The series follows the events occurring in the British countryside home upon the arrival of a young American hired as an au pair and who is unaware that the manor is haunted. “While not as horror-focused as The Haunting of Hill House, this season was just as chilling and addictive, filled with mystery, romance, and – of course – a bunch of hidden ghosts.”

6. Euphoria – Lauren

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uY0_7wPGJlk&ab_channel=euphoria

Euphoria, starring Zendaya, follows a group of high school students through their experiences with sex, drugs, friendships, love, identity and trauma. Lauren is also obsessed with it. “The team is well aware of how much I ADORE this series. I was completely blown away when I first watched it, and I’ve watched it in its entirety about three more times after that initial binge. I think it’s such a work of art because of the skill both in front of and behind the camera.”

7. The Last Dance – Hayley

This series revolves around the career of Michael Jordan, with particular focus on his final season with the Chicago Bulls. The series includes interviews from Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr, and Phil Jackson.

“I feel like this year I didn’t actually watch a lot of new things, I went back and rewatched quite a bit. But The Last Dance was something I looked forward to every week in the spring. I love sports, I love documentaries, and Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty is one of the greatest sports stories to be told. It was really interesting that at a time where there were no live sports, this really came through and was able to fill that void for a lot people, including myself. I thought the way they edited the series was really clever, and kept it interesting through all 10 episodes.”

8. Lenox Hill – Alma

Lenox Hill is a documentary television series that follows the lives of four medical professionals and the daily challenges and triumphs that they face at Lenox Hill hospital on the Upper East side of Manhattan. 

“There have been many series I have loved this year but Lenox Hill has stayed with me, especially in the kind of year we have had. It’s a deeply touching tribute to those that we should be looking up to in our society.  I didn’t expect the series, and it’s subject touched me so much.  Sometimes, when I have a hard day I reflect back on the series and it puts my life in perspective.”

9. The Good Place – Meg + Judy

The show tells the story of Eleanor (played by Kristen Bell), who finds herself in “The Good Place”, a utopian heaven, after she dies. However, she eventually realizes she was sent there by mistake and has to hide her questionable past while trying to fit in. 

“It’s such a joyfully funny show, and such a delight to watch. The final season wrapped it up in such a great way.” – Meg

“I was late to this party but I was hooked just minutes into episode 1! A solid series with incredible writing and a great cast, I was hesitant to watch the final season as it really is one of those shows one hopes could go on for many, many seasons… but of course, impossible given the storyline. Well worth watching for its many twist, turns, and hearty laughs – a great binge watch anytime!” – Judy

10. Homecoming, Season 2 – Shima

In this psychological thriller series, Heidi Bergman is a social worker at the Homecoming Transitional Support Center, a facility to help soldiers transition to civilian life. However, over the course of the first season, Heidi starts to realize the facility’s true purpose. In the second season, a new lead character played by Janelle Monae deals with repercussions of the facility from a new angle. 

“Season 1 was truly amazing. I love shows that make you feel on edge, and have you guessing to figure out what comes next. Season 2 not only had a completely new storyline and characters, but what made it stand out for me was the way they unravelled the story. You watch it from the perspective of the main character who wakes up in a boat stranded in the middle of a lake not knowing who she is. A story with an unreliable narrator is one of my favourite things to watch. You are basically going through the story backwards which makes it that much harder to crack the ending. It is thrilling, mysterious and in the end resulted in a beautiful conclusion with a very thought-provoking theme. It stayed with me for a long time, and made me see the parallels from the themes in the show to the real world . Plus, Janelle Monae absolutely shined in the leading role.”

Film, Staff Picks, TV