The Siskoid Awards 2020

At the start of the year, we look back on the year that went before (or the last 5 years since that's how long it's seemed), and in my case, I hand out Golden Typewriter Monkeys - nothing more than bragging rights, really- for excellence in what I've read, seen or heard during the year (regardless of when it was originally released, unless I decide it's important). As usual, only newly experienced material will be up for consideration (or else A Very Murray Christmas would keep accumulating Monkeys). For television episodes, no more than one per show can be put up for nomination. Other limits may apply. I may or may not get to 4 runner-ups in each case, depending. In any case, write-in votes/dissent go in the comments section.

Best Film of 2020 (in theaters, which may include older releases, and 2020 releases at home because it's complicated now) - The runners up are...
5. I'm Thinking of Ending Things
4. Soul
3. Ride Your Wave
2. Palm Springs

...and the Siskoid goes to: Emma. - The list was longer than you'd think, but Autumn de Wilde's Emma is the only film that made the noms list that both actually came out in 2020, AND that I saw in theaters (I saw three of these in theaters). Here's what I said at the time: "You wouldn't think, watching the most recent adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, that it's director Autumn de Wilde's first feature (after working in music videos for 15 years), because it's so damn good and polished! I mean, the text is already strong, so what she seems to have done is focus on the physical - comic bits of business, expressions, choreography - the best part undoubtedly being the complete embarrassment felt by the servants in the background at being among these high society fops and gossips. Bill Nighy is also a comic highlight, no surprise there, but he's not alone by any means. Leaning into the comedy as it does nevertheless doesn't stifle the story's emotionality, and our middle class hearts still go out to Emma, her best friend/pet project, and the annoying chatterbox Miss Bates. I will admit I sometimes get lost in Austen's stories when there are too many handsome boys with tall hats that I couldn't possibly be expected to tell apart, but I don't care so much here. Emma (period) is just such a delight (period)." I know it was a sparse and thus weak year for movies, but this would have been near or at the top in any year.

Best Film of 2020 (at home, but not released in 2020, serious category) - The runners up are...
5. The Tale of Zatoichi
4. Les demoiselles de Rochefort / Peau d'ane / Une chambre en ville (I'm cheating here, but couldn't decide on which Jacques Demy musical I saw this year I wanted to put on the list)
3. Supa Modo
2. Shoplifters
...and the Siskoid goes to: My Winnipeg - "My Winnipeg is somewhere between documentary and poetry, a wondrous film essay about the Winnipeg that is, that might be, that should be, a center whose gravity prevents escape, a dreamland and a secret history, and through Guy Maddin's supposed (but staged) reenactment experiment, a touching meditation on the ties that bind us to our history, confusing City with Mother, and expressing a complicated relationship with both, in a poetic language that repeats and chugs along, train-like, which is very appropriate for Winnipeg, for Manitoba, for Canada really. And while there are things here that are surely bogus (some more overtly than others), it had me thinking that yeah, every place has its legends, its weird events that sound unbelievable but did happen, its own special character somehow informing its citizens', and though Maddin can only ever do this once, because he only comes from ONE place, the movie makes you crave a similar treatment for YOUR hometown. And that's the universality hidden in My Winnipeg, how it makes you feel about YOUR home (whether you stayed there or escaped), despite being incredibly specific. And perhaps, there's a little bit of Winnipeg in every town. I've been there, once, but it's not the city I recognized so much as myself."

Best Film of 2020 (at home, but not released in 2020, cult category) - The runners up are...
5. Hell Comes to Frogtown
4. Chopping Mall
3. Office
2. The Hitcher
...and the Siskoid goes to: Slumber Party Massacre II - I added this category because I really do love an insane genre flick, and it was a tough choice, but I came down on the side of this totally crazy slasher sequel, of which I said: "It's 5 years later, and the tween who survived the first movie has been recast as Crystal Bernard from Wings in Slumber Party Massacre II. And somehow she's gained a Southern accent. Don't worry about it. Director Deborah Brock salvages the generic franchise and makes a neat FEMALE gaze movie about girls in an 80s band and their hapless boyfriends, AND a sequel that's actually about the trauma of the first. Courtney is haunted by those events and has terrible nightmares that include a rock god version of the "driller killer" that is so much more fun and entertaining than the original killer, you really wish he'd been part of the formula all along. And it's not about trauma in the sense that say, 2018's Halloween was - it's more psychological and mysterious than that, somewhere between Nightmare on Elm Street and Inception perhaps, and you're never quite sure where fantasy ends and reality begins. Wild, weird, and with much better gags than the first film, I dare say SPM 2 is not your typical slasher movie and is the better for it."

Best TV Series of 2020 - The runners up are...
5. The Orville Season 2
4. The Good Place Season 4
3. The Great Season 1
2. Upload Season 1
...and the Siskoid goes to: The Tick Seasons 1 and 2 - "Amazon Prime's The Tick remixes a concept that was never consistent from version to version anyway (the only characters from the comics or any other version of the show used are the Tick, Arthur, Dot and the Terror) and offers a less cartoony though no less amusing (even funny) long-form story about a family's Destiny with a big D, with characters that allow the show to compare comics reality (of different eras) to our own in a comedy format. Comedy, but not without action and thrills, no matter how absurd things get. The best thing about the show is the joy it takes in word play, and its two main delivery devices are the Tick himself, a blank slate who says things all wrong in an old-fashioned bombastic comic style, and Overkill, a 90s grimdark anti-hero whose tortured metaphors lead him into rhetorical dead ends. The first season is Arthur's origin story and culmination of his obsession with the villain who killed his father and the City's heroes. I actually prefer the second season for the laughs and world-building, as Arthur and the Tick are invited into the community of superheroes. Sadly, there won't be a third, tough I could have continued to watch this for a few more years, but even if you can see where it might go, it doesn't really end on a cliffhanger. We're  left with a few mysteries, but we can let our imagination roam. Chief among these, I imagine, is where the Tick came from. I have my theory, but there's onscreen evidence that contradicts it, so I'll shut up."

Best TV Episode of 2020 - The runners up are...
5. "Can You Hear Me?" (Doctor Who S12)
4. "Nepenthe" (Star Trek: Picard S1)
3. "No Small Parts" (Star Trek: Lower Decks S1)
2. "Lasting Impressions" (The Orville S3)
...and the Siskoid goes to: "Souvenir Shop; ELAIFF" (Nathan for You S2) - I essentially discovered Nathan Fielder and his brand of deadpan comedy this year, and Nathan for You was a revelation. The Hollywood Souvenir Shop bit was to me funniest thing the program managed, and seemed to build organically to more and more absurd consequences. I would hold it as one of THE episodes to show the uninitiated. (And I still lay awake at night thinking of teenage Fielder and Seth Rogen being in the same improv team in British Columbia and wondering what that was like.)

Best Stage Show of 2020 - The runners up are...
5. This House (National Theatre Live)
4. Bo Burnham: Make Happy (Netflix)
3. A Midsummer Night's Dream (National Theatre Live)
2. Hamilton (Disney+)
...and the Siskoid goes to: One Man, Two Guvnors (National Theatre Live) - So funny, I watched it twice in a row. This is another new category, helped along by National Theatre Live's decision to run some of their backlog on YouTube during the pandemic for one-week engagements. I ended up watching most of them, but as you can see, not all nominees are from that initiative. Of 1M2G, I said this: "National Theatre Live presents One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden in the lead role of a hired man with two masters who must not know about each other, adapted from Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters, a commedia dell'arte classic. And though I'm not a commedia fan per se, this crazed and often broad comedy makes me feel like I'm watching Molière (who took commedia and ran with it) or Shakespeare's cross-dressing comedies. Except it's set among Cockney-ish gangsters in 1963 Brighton, has fun (but sometimes overlong) musical interludes that get better once the actors get into the act, and interplay with the audience that could be pulled out of a Penn and Teller show! Corden even gets into hot water with the audience on the night they taped. But this is a play where the characters know they're in a play, to the point of winking at it in pantomime fashion, which might take a while to get used to. Ultimately, there's so much verbal and physical humor, you just succumb to its charms. Don't sit in the spit section."

Stupidest Geek Move of 2020 -
The runners up are...
5. Bill and Ted Face the Music were drive-in only but New Mutants stayed in theaters for, like, 8 months?
4. The lawsuit against Enola Holmes because "nice" Sherlock isn't yet in the public domain apparently.
3. The comics industry is crumbling under our feet, but let's publish another hundred Black Metal books, why not.
2. The Synder Cut (bound to be nominated next year too)
...and the Siskoid goes to: Cyberpunk 2070 making the setting's 50th Anniversary, no matter the cost - As if it wasn't enough to have a feature with a high risk of causing epileptic seizures, the must-awaited and hyped video game is buggy AF, with dicks and boobs randomly sticking out of your character's clothing. I really have to ask why, in 2020 (or 2077, whatever) we really need such a complex dick and boob selection engine in the first place. I guess the game wants you to show your work! It clearly wasn't ready for market, but these days, video game companies almost seem to do it on purpose since they can patch things up later, or have another big sales boost from some updated "Best of the Year" edition. I get it, it's based on a role-playing game called Cyberpunk 2020, so making it come out this year, come hell or high water, is cool. But if it's gonna potentially kill people, I think we'd understand if it came out in 2021.

Let us know what YOUR picks would have been. After the weekend: The Technical Awards as given in a ceremony prior to this one, just like with the Oscars! 


Drinkplentyofmalk said...

Cyberpunk gets even worse when you factor in the obscene abuse of it's developers through crunch time. Not to kick it's most hyped fans while their down (moreso than the actual product), but was literally all of the hype for this game just because of Keanu?
It reminds me of Omikron, a game from the late 90s that was utterly bug-ridden, dull, derivative and unintuitive... but they got Bowie to play a character in it, so that's all most people remember.

Ryan Blake said...


Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Thanks for the list and the tips.

I'm a lone voice but I'd also put as a sub-category to "Cyberpunk 2070", the awfulness that is the Avengers video game. I'm old af so maybe I don't get it but it was buggy, slow, rote, boring and the cue was the "winner" of the ingame comic book contest won by writing "The Avengers versus the Sewer Lizards". This game was that.

Happy New Year!


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