020 will forever be known as the year of video on demand, livestreamed concerts, Zoom theater productions and yearning after the days of being our local cafes’ peculiar main character once again. The months since March have undoubtedly taken a heavy toll on the Bay Area’s arts and culture scene: Our favorite movie theaters and concert venues have indefinitely shuttered, and who knows how long it’s been since some of us stepped foot in a museum.
But through this turbulent year, we’ve seen that art is more essential than ever. How would we have spent our evenings — and our mornings, and sometimes that pesky hour or two between classes — without Hulu or HBO? What would we have done without Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher or the folks of NPR’s “Code Switch” podcast to keep us company on our third walk of the day?
Whether realized or not, the outlandish reality TV shows, the never-ending Netflix original movies, the dread of spotty Wi-Fi during your favorite artist’s live YouTube performance and the unforgivable agony of introspection via Spotify Wrapped playlists have kept us going — and unarguably will keep us going far after quarantine orders. So without further ado, here is a roster of the good that 2020 has produced, as voted on by The Daily Californian’s arts & entertainment staff, all thanks to the passion and dedication of those creating just as much as we’re consuming.
— Skylar De Paul, arts & entertainment editor
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” dazzles and dizzies even its most attentive viewer; the film is a psychological feast boasting richly clever construction and riveting performances. — Maya Thompson, film beat reporter
Gorgeous pastel visuals, effortless pacing and surprisingly deep character study mark “Palm Springs” as one of the best films — and easily the best comedy — of 2020. — Olive Grimes, film beat reporter
It’s evident with “First Cow” that the synergy between narrative and visuals is stronger than in any of their previous works. — Neil Haeems, video game beat reporter
In her many chess escapades throughout the course of “The Queen’s Gambit,” Anya Taylor-Joy never finds a worthier scene partner than Thomas Brodie-Sangster. The show’s texture is rich but never stodgy, and Brodie-Sangster plays a crucial role in helping it thread this needle. — Matthew DuMont, television beat reporter
D’Arcy Carden’s role in “The Good Place” is undoubtedly a unique one: an all-knowing celestial known as Janet, who assists four humans with their zany quest to change the afterlife for the better and improve themselves in the process. — Caitlin Keller, theater beat reporter
With her debut album Sawayama, Japanese-British artist Rina Sawayama demonstrated the huge variety of music she is capable of dominating. — Crew Bittner, music beat reporter
On her latest record, singer-songwriter Adrianne Lenker emerges with startling clarity as she explores feelings of love and longing within the recesses of pain and heartbreak. — Vincent Tran, music beat reporter
Released in January, Circles is Mac Miller’s sixth studio album and the posthumous capstone to his music career. — Kathryn Kemp, literature beat reporter
Skylar De Paul is the arts & entertainment editor. Lauren Sheehan-Clark is the deputy arts & entertainment editor. Contact Lauren at [email protected]. Contact Skylar at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.