Hugh Grant, Lisa Kudrow and Samuel L. Jackson in Death to 2020. Source: IMDb.
Review by Alipha Khan
With ‘The Thing That Shall Not Be Named’ showing no signs of going away in the new year and lockdowns already having become the new normal, entertainment has become rather limited in scope for all of us. Thanks to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney Plus, at least there’s a sizable selection to choose from in terms of shows to catch up on and movies to immerse ourselves in.
Here’s a review of two movies everyone’s been watching on Netflix as 2020 became 2021:
The Midnight Sky
One of the better movies to come out of 2020, The Midnight Sky is a very ambitious project directed by and starring George Clooney. It has all the ingredients for award nominations and wins (and should certainly get a few), and although it got a bit draggy in the first half of the movie the second half more than makes up for it – especially if you like poetic endings like I do.
Based on Good Morning, Midnight, a sci fi novel by Lily Brooks-Dalton, the story takes place in a dystopian future where Earth is on its last days and what remains of mankind is desperately searching for habitable planets elsewhere. The movie cuts back and forth between two stories – one of Dr. Augustine, played by Clooney, a lone researcher solemnly occupying a large observatory and the story of 4 astronauts in Aether, a spaceship currently returning from a planet they discovered and named K-23.
A lot of the plot is very generic of movies covering similar subject matter in the recent and not so recent past. There are scenes that remind you of everything from Armageddon to Gravity, and that I felt kind of takes away from the film. I wish the focus would rather be a bit more on building emotional connection with the characters: it started to do that in a few places but not long enough to do it adequately and impactfully, before moving on with the other parts of the story.
What was really good in the movie was the acting, visuals, music, and how everything came together in the end. This film is definitely thought-provoking. It wasn’t by any means a pure sci fi/fantasy movie nor pure drama, and I liked that. If it managed to create more emotional impact with the characters without it being pure drama (and certainly not putting all focus on Augustine, which it thankfully didn’t do), it could have been the best movie of the year.
Death to 2020
We all know exactly how catastrophic the year 2020 was from beginning to end. To quote from the movie, “The history books covering this period will have to be written in crayon by a dog”. And yet, this mockumentary meets Saturday Night Live skits one-hour extravaganza will leave you wanting more. A tongue in cheek look at the news events of the year, this movie has a star-studded cast featuring Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Grant, Lisa Kudrow, Leslie Jones, Kumail Nanjiani and Tracey Ullman among others and is interspersed with news clips and hilarious (and thankfully never overdone) parodies.
There has been more than one occasion during the course of the year 2020 that people have compared its events to feeling like this is all just an episode of Black Mirror. Ironically, it is the creators of Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, who are responsible for this retrospective of the year that we shall never forget. We have to wonder if this project came to be because they wanted to generate some smiles after people kept accusing them of being responsible for how the year turned out!
If you have enjoyed late night American talk shows at any point in your life (but more in recent times) and enjoyed them, you will love this movie. If Trevor Noah, Hassan Minhaj, the Jimmys and John Oliver do nothing for you, this will feel like a waste of time. The writers managed to find a joke in just about every incident but were careful in being respectful of important matters such as the death of George Floyd and the following Black Lives Matter movement.
From influencers to Karens to the political hoi polloi to even the Queen (who claims she has been binge watching Netflix during the lockdown and that her favourite show is The Crown, and does not recognise the Tiger King as being from any royal lineage that she knows of), no stones were left unturned.