It is a truth universally acknowledged that 2020 has not been kind to any of us. There’s been a global pandemic, civil unrest in many parts of the world, natural disasters, and a long overdue reckoning about systemic racism in the United States…and as of me typing this, it is only August!
As I lay awake last night, coming up with ideas for this article (along with the omnipresent existential dread that this year has thrust onto most of us), my brain kept circulating to a YouTube video I had watched a few days before on another sleepless night, one that discussed the similarities between the film Contagion and our current COVID-19, and I realized that there are quite a few films that just hit different this year because, well, it’s 2020 and nothing makes sense anymore.
Rentals for this film this year have gone through the roof, but I saw it a few years ago because, well, Kate Winslet. The film follows the trajectory of a lethal airbone virus that quickly takes over the globe….and gee, doesn’t that sound familiar? While the film is sensationalized (because Hollywood), a lot of what the film’s characters go through is remarkably similar to what we’ve encountered this year. Dread of encountering strangers for fear of contracting a potentially lethal disease? Check. Weird sense of guilt because you’re doing okay when hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions more infected? Check.
In the year 2020, Contagion almost feels like it was a prophecy, rather than the tale of terror that I once thought it to be.
Contagion is available to stream on HBO or to rent on Amazon.
I first saw Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite earlier this year when I was making my way through the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture (and this film rightfully won!).
At the time, in my review I wrote that this film portrays a darker side of capitalism, in which it holds up a jagged mirror to a world centered on greed, and we may not like what we see reflected in it.
Since the United States’ lockdowns beginning in mid-March of this year, that reflection has been harshly shown to the rest of the world. The “essential workers”–disproportionately those in the lower class–have been those most likely to succumb to COVID-19, and yet they are treated with such callousness and disregard by those at the top of the capitalism food chain. Parasite‘s exploration of classism and the darker side of capitalism is a microcosm of what we are experiencing today, and watching the film six months later, it just hits different now.
Parasite is available to stream on Hulu, or to rent on Amazon.
Rear Window (1954)
I have seen this Alfred Hitchcock film many, many times, but when I watched it again this last weekend, I realized that we are all Jimmy Stewart. If you haven’t seen the film, Jeff (Jimmy Stewart) is a photographer who broke his leg on assignment, and is stuck inside his apartment for weeks while recuperating. His favorite pastime? Looking out his windows and watching his neighbors (yes, this was the time before Netflix!)
While most of us probably aren’t peeping out the windows at our neighbors and discovering that one of them is a murderer, the feeling of isolation and disconnection from the outside world is familiar. We are not on the outside looking in, but on the inside, desperate to look out. For many of us, our only connection to the rest of the world is through the “window” of the internet.
Rear Window is available to stream on the Peacock app, and available to rent on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.
Selma, by acclaimed director Ava DuVernay, is not just a great film; it is a necessary one. There is so much of American history–particularly Black American history–that is brushed over or not fully discussed in schools. This history is more important than ever. As the BLM movement grows in size, it is more important than ever that we not forget this history or what the men and women at Selma fought for. For these reasons, and because it is just really good filmmaking, this film is a must-see.
After the passing of Representative John Lewis this summer, a man who marched at Selma and was a lifelong fighter for civil rights, this film definitely hits an unusual combination–somewhere between mourning his loss and celebrating his life’s work.
Selma is available to rent on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.
Go, watch this film, and make good trouble.
The Truman Show (1998)
The Truman Show is the story of a man, Truman (Jim Carrey), who has spent his entire life inside of a television studio; he just doesn’t know it. He struggles with a monotonous life of routine and product placement, and as he pushes against the carefully-crafted boundaries–both physical and psychological–he eventually reaches a breaking point and is able to break out of the system he was born into.
In 2020, this hits different because we too are feeling a little trapped and are desperate to break free of the monotony of quarantine, but I would argue that this film can also be seen as a metaphor for the current political climate, particularly in the United States. We’re pushing boundaries, we’re challenging the system, and if we weather the storm like Truman did, eventually we too, can break free. I hate to be too optimistic in this god-forsaken year, because we’re in the eye of the storm, but if we can carry on the fight–against misinformation, against racism, and for equity–perhaps, we, like Truman, can enter a new (and hopefully better) world.
The Truman Show is available to rent on YouTube, Prime Video, iTunes, and Google Play.
What movie hits different for you this year? Let us know in the comments!