A Dispatch From the Year 2020 on the State of Film

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2020 Movies: The Year in Review

What a terrific year 2020 has been for the movies! We've seen a lot of milestones. 3-D movies outnumbered 2-D movies for the first time this year, with 4-D starting to catch on fast. Netflix introduced Instant Backlash®, which allows moviegoers to download a movie, watch it, like it, then get tired of people liking it, all in a matter of seconds. The summer blockbuster season set a new record for duration, beginning on Groundhog Day with the horror film Punxsutawney Kill, and continuing through Thanksgiving with the new holiday classic Tila Tequila Stuffs a Turkey.

Also making headlines was Seasons of Echoes of Love, whose R rating was changed to NC-17 after the MPAA realized it was an indie film and not a studio production.

The star of the year has been Jaden Smith, son of the late Will Smith (whose final film, More Aliens, Y'all, got a small release in April). The 22-year-old Jaden was everywhere in 2020: The Karate Kid 4: Miyagi's Revenge, the romantic comedy Tokyo Sandblaster, and the Shakespeare adaptation Go Shrew Yourself. He even found time to make a cameo in Manbot, the inventive and original Sundance hit that's getting Oscar buzz for its groundbreaking portrayal of a twentysomething robot who's unsure what to do with his life. That's not to mention Smith's voice-over work in Pixar's Trees, about the secret life that trees have when there are no people around (which earned Pixar its first-ever PG-13 rating for "graphic depictions of photosynthesis, and some smoking"). Will Jaden Smith finally win the prestigious Internet Commenters Award? Or will he have to settle for another Oscar?

For the most part, the movies this year were fun and lighthearted, providing a welcome distraction from the economic depression, the rise of the machines, and the war against Iceland. The biggest moneymakers were broad comedies like Schindler's Lisp, Look at Fattie, and Paul Blart: Secretary of State. The few cerebral comedies that Hollywood dared to produce -- Brigham Young: Breakdancer and Helen Keller's Twitter Feed: The Movie, etc. -- performed poorly.

A few serious dramas managed to make waves, though, often by capitalizing on current events. Michael Bay's Transformers: Assault on Reykjavik is generating Oscar talk, as is the Barack Obama biopic Kenya Feel the Love Tonight, starring Martin Lawrence. Hobo with an iPhone drew attention to the housing crisis, and also provided work for dozens of homeless SAG members. (Lookin' good, Wil Wheaton!) Even Ben Stiller's lucrative Night at the Museum franchise took a serious turn, with a plot centered around the 2019 closing of the last American museum.

In happier news, Katherine Heigl lost the ability to speak.

There was another clash of the titans at Halloween, as Saw XVII and Paranormal Activity 12 went head-to-head, with the latter emerging victorious. Each Saw film since 2010's alleged "finale" has made progressively less money; Saw XVII earned just $6,816. (Breaking it down, at an average ticket price of $48, that means 142 people saw it.) Paranormal Activity 12, on the other hand, earned credibility with naysayers by casting a respected Hollywood legend (Will Ferrell) in the lead, and by securing the participation of the ghost of Betty White. Both franchises faced some competition from Friday the 13th III: The Second Sequel to the Remake of the Reboot, starring Miley Cyrus as Jason Voorhees, but not much.

Ah, but 2020 saw its fair share of clunkers, too. The Three Stooges update starring the Jonas brothers was a notorious failure with audiences, as well as with all seven remaining human film critics. (Ben Lyons' ReviewBot 3000 loved it, though.) Three of the five movies Tyler Perry directed this year did poorly, and the other two were just compilations of clips from Very Special Episodes of Good Times.

We're looking forward to 2021. So many surprises are in store for us. Will this be the year John Travolta make his fourth comeback? Will The Hobbit start shooting? We'll find out!

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Eric D. Snider (website) welcomes our new robot overlords.