Getting rid of last years junk to make way for the promise of a new year (when everything, including you, will be better! Really!) is one of those perpetual clichs that never really takes. As with most things relating to 2020, however, this year is different. We dont just want a fresh start, we desperately need one. The only appropriate way to end 2020 is to set fire to it and walk away like Angela Bassett torching her husbands car in Waiting to Exhale.
In 2021, we have the opportunity to make some things right (or at least not worse). Whether youre ringing in the New Year at home alone to avoid COVID-19, or youre nursing a hangover on the couch come January 1 (or, honestly, both), youll want to ring in the new year with movies that get you ready to throw out the crap in your life and embrace the future. Consider this list of options, organized by mood-defining inspirational quotes, your cinematic smudge stick to expel the bad spirits of 2020. Lets go!
Photo courtesy of Cabin in the Woods
If youre looking for a burn it all down movie, its hard to do better than this 2011 Drew Goddard movie. Its both the ultimate skewering of formulaic horror tropes and a fantastic analogy for how it feels to live in a rigged system.
Goddards film, co-written with Joss Whedon, follows a group of college students (Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams and a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth) as they head to a secluded lake for a weekend of fun and friskiness. Of course, all is not as it seems, not only because of the terrifying zombie redneck torture family that attacks the nubile coeds, but also in the sense of whos actually pulling the strings behind the scenes.
Weve all felt jerked around this year by coronavirus, politicians, law enforcement, the economy, you name it. Its easy to feel like unwilling cogs in a machine designed to crush the human spirit. The Cabin in the Woods reminds us that determined people, in the face of overwhelming, even supernatural odds, can take on the system and winnot just win, but dismantle the whole stupid, unjust mechanism and start over.
Photo by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
The final image of Ready or Not feels like 2020 in a nutshell: Samara Weavings Grace sits on the steps of a burning mansion, wearing a wedding dress and high-top sneakers plastered with blood, smoking a cigarette. Grace has been through absolute hell in the last 24 hours, marrying the man she thought was the love of her life, son of a mega-rich family of board game magnates, only to find out family tradition dictates that she survive their homicidal game of hide-and-seek.
Like The Cabin in the Woods, Ready or Not is a burn-it-all-down survival movie with a heroine you desperately want to see succeed. This year, weve all had to fight for survival at the hands of entitled folks desperately trying to hold on to privileges they believe are theirs by birthright. If youve had just about enough of that (and lets be real, you totally have), Ready or Not is the catharsis you need. In 2020, we are all Grace. That burning mansion? Its the white heteronormative patriarchy. Get at it.
Photo courtesy of Shawshank Redemption
Andy crawled to freedom through 500 yards of shit-smelling foulness I cant even imagine.
Morgan Freemans Red is describing the prison escape of Tim Robbinss Andy Dufresne here, but it feels like he could be speaking about any of us. If you identified with the shell-shocked appearance of Grace at the end of Ready or Not, youll definitely relate to Andy taking a cleansing shower in the rain after crawling through a filthy sewer, and enduring all that after 20 years of wrongful imprisonment.
Youve probably seen The Shawshank Redemption at some point in your life, but if you havent checked it out in a while, theres no time like the present. Given the hell of the last four years, its an extremely rewarding experience. For extra credit, watch it while working on your own homemade version of Warden Nortons His judgment cometh, and that right soon needlepoint.
Photo courtesy of Paddington
Maybe youre feeling less vengeful and more celebratory, living for the hope of a public discourse defined by actual civility and kindness. If thats your vibe, Paddington and Paddington 2 will make an inspiring, heartwarming double-feature.
Join the clumsy-but-sweet refugee bear Paddington and his adoptive Brown family as they discover the value of being open-minded and loving. Witness as Paddington makes a measurable impact on the happiness of his neighbors, and improves the prison system through selfless consideration and an occasionally-employed Hard Stare. Have a cleansing sob as Paddington finally understands the extent of his influence on the people around him. Listen when Paddington says If we are kind and polite, the world will be right. Make it your mantra for the next year, and see what happens.
Photo courtesy of MGM
Legally Blondes Elle Woods is a perky, irrepressible agent of positivity and change, and she makes this movie a delightfully upbeat call to sweep out the cobwebs of the past year and make way for possibility. In her journey to get admitted to and graduate from Harvard Law, Elle defies others expectations of her, applying her natural charm and ingenuity to get the most out of the knowledge she already has. Shes also a team player, using her skills to help friends in need. Thats the kind of energy we all should bring with us into 2021. Be your authentic self, and use that identity to help build others up.
Photo courtesy of Sing Street
Its hard to be enthusiastic about life right now, but John Carneys 2016 movie Sing Street might help give you the kick in the pants you need to make 2021 a year of promise and new beginnings. Carneys film about misfit Dublin teens starting a band in the 80s is full of creativity, charm, and life-affirming sentiment, not to mention some banger tunes. Its got the wide-eyed optimism of youth, backed up by its characters determination to go out and make their dreams happen. If Paddingtons kind and polite isnt the approach to life youre looking for, maybe Sing Streets teen rocker declaration of drive it like you stole it can be instead.
Photo courtesy of The Personal History of David Copperfield
Maybe your yearor your lifecontains more fluctuations of fortune than most. When things get difficult, we can either get despondent, or get creative. The Personal History of David Copperfield argues for creativity as resilience. Armando Iannuccis adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novel gives us a hero who uses his experiences and the people around him to help him vibrantly tell his own story. Every experience, good or bad, contains worthy characters and valuable life lessons. 2021 is likely to contain difficulties of its own, but The Personal History of David Copperfields worldview can help you meet those challenges head-on.
Photo courtesy of Pacific Rim
Guillermo del Toros Pacific Rim is first and foremost a love letter to Japanese anime and kaiju movies. However, its also a movie about teamwork. Nobody in Pacific Rim beats the movies giant aquatic monsters on their own. Its all about finding the people you grok with the most, and using that connection to beat down the baddies. If the end of this year has you amped to start the next one hunting down systemic or personal leviathan, then its time to hop in your jaeger and grab a drift-compatible buddy. To paraphrase Idris Elbas Stacker Pentecost, today youre canceling the apocalypse.
Photo courtesy of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Even though weve spent most of this year in isolation, 2020 has felt like it cemented the importance of community and relationships in our lives. Our friends, mentors, and family help us remember who we are, and act according to our values, even when the world is falling apart. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is inspiring in a lot of ways, but its depiction of how Miles Morales learns how to become a hero with help from alternate-dimension Spider-folk is perhaps its most affecting aspect. Doing the right thing is a lot easier when we know we arent doing it alone.
Photo courtesy of DC Entertainment
Similarly to Into the Spider-Verse, Cathy Yans gonzo Birds of Prey highlights goals accomplished through teamwork. Given the state of womens rights recently, its also an empowering portrait of female friendship that feels authentic to how female friendships actually work.
After her troubling but memorable introduction in Suicide Squad, Margot Robbies Harley Quinn gets to re-invent herself with a better wardrobe, independent lifestyle, and a backup crew of awesome women. When Harley helpfully offers Jurnee Smolletts Dinah Lance a hair tie mid-bad guy battle? Thats sisterhood right there. If 2020 has taught us anything, its the importance of having a support system thats got your back. If youre feeling social, plan a digital watch party with your squad and go into the new year with your head (and middle fingers) raised high.
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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero