Monday, January 11, 2021

Erika's Favorites of 2020

 by Erika Bromley

These are the movies from 2020 that held my “Pandemic-effect attention span loss.”

Happy New Year, everyone! While creating my list of favorites for the absolute sewer sludge of a year that was 2020, I kept thinking about how my viewing habits changed due to not just the pandemic closing theaters, but due to pandemic-related and other stress affecting my brain. I’ve never really struggled with focus or attention span. Patrick and I used to regularly sit through five movies in a row, in a theater, and I was never once antsy or bored. I have survived many 24-hour movie marathons (Patrick’s line-ups, the Music Box of Horrors, etc. - and I will argue that a nap around 3 am doesn’t count as losing focus but is moreso the body saying “I’m trying to live!”). But a couple months into the pandemic, I noticed my focus changing in that… I no longer could.
Maybe trying to stay connected to news, family, and friends while sheltering-in-place meant using my phone and laptop even more. As technology has become more and more of a primary tool in most of our lives, especially during this pandemic, I have noticed a change in my general attention span, and I hate it. Sometimes staying off of social media (which can do wonders for your mental health, use of time, relationships, friendships, etc.) can significantly help one’s attention span be more focused and more willing to go the whole mile - to keep watching, keep listening, keep creating, keep digesting, keep reading, keep doing WHATEVER it is you are doing. (Social media accounts will be there later if we HAVE to tell the world what we’ve consumed. No one needs updates as we go, right?) I am grateful to remember how it feels to focus on the now and how wonderful it can be to just get lost in a book, movie, song, etc.

I missed theaters terribly this year, but I’m so thankful for the wonderful films I was able to watch safely at home! Here are my favorites - the films that moved me, spoke to me, entertained me, and/or taught me. Some reminded me that it’s ok to just “be.” Some provided hope or comfort. Some reflected the larger ills of society that we are trying to overcome. All swept me up in emotion and empathy and “movie love,” reminding me that art is a constant support system for us all - connecting us in ways that, especially during a global pandemic, most things (even Zoom!) simply can’t.

Favorite documentaries of 2020, in no particular order (usually not in their own category, but I love documentaries and can’t leave any of these off this page):
Bee Gees: How Do You Mend a Broken Heart
All In: The Fight for Democracy
Showbiz Kids
Class Action Park
Bruce Springsteen: Letters To You
Athlete A
Boys State

All the other favorites:

1. Da 5 Bloods
2. Nomadland
3. Minari
4. Spontaneous
5. Let Him Go
6. Soul
7. Underwater
8. After Midnight
9. Hamilton
10. David Byrne's American Utopia
11. Sound of Metal
12. Run
13. Miss Juneteenth
14. Birds of Prey
15. Palm Springs/His House (This wouldn’t be a proper list if I didn’t have a tie, right? Thank you to everyone who understands this little joke.)


  1. Hi Erika. ๐Ÿฅฐ Loved your list, saw 8 of your suggestions. Wish l had more disposable income for some of those $20-day-and-date new releases ("Let Him Go", plus Patrick's Chicago Critics' connections for unreleased-to-the-public goodies ("Minari"). Still, 8 out of a potential 24 ain't bad. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

    Keep up being a great mom, a good teacher and Patrick's best friend that fuels the lil' angel in his shoulder battling the devil of bad movies on the opposite shoulder. ๐Ÿ‘ฟ

    Later. ๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿ˜€

  2. An Erika Column!!! :) :) :) YAY!

    Everything you said about lack of attention span during 2020 is so relatable. I felt that way especially in the first few months of the stay at home order and early summer. It felt hard to concentrate on anything besides the immediate, and even though movies are normally an escape or respite, for me they felt like just one more task I was somehow neglecting because my brain couldn't deal with the world. It has gotten better but you articulated very well something that I feel like many people experienced.

    Love your list! Lots of things on there I loved, lots I need to see. And I also thought about doing a docs-specific list this year, because I watched more than usual and nearly all were amazing! Two very good ones you didn't mention that you should check out if you haven't already:

    The Painter and the Thief, about an artist who befriends the man who stole two of her most famous paintings from a gallery (It's on Hulu I think)

    Circus of Books, where the director interviews her parents & other family members about the adult bookstore her parents opened & ran since the early 80s in West Hollywood (it's on Netflix)

  3. Erika, this is a bit random, as it doesn't relate to your 2020 list, but your 2018 list. I recently watched "If Beale Street Could Talk", and it was so beautiful (yet anger inducing), so I did a search on the site and was glad to see it was your #3 of that year. I then saw Sorry To Bother You was your #1 and I appreciated that as well, I lovee that movie. Can't believe those two didn't get best pic noms that year over black panther, green book, bohemian rhapsody..yuck. Sorry for being off topic!

  4. the boy in Spontaneous is ADORABLE!