“Away From Home Through No Wish of My Own”: 20 from 2020

Posted on Updated on

I opened my work laptop this morning to a collage of Dorinda Medleys gesticulating expressively at someone(s), her mouth silently shouting “I’ll tell you how I’m doing. Not well, bitch!” ad infinitum. An amusing enough, if not especially unique, sentiment to describe the last year, and perhaps discomfitingly auspicious. (Could anyone have predicted that the Real Housewives would become, first, an obsession to theorize and intellectualize, and then its rightful sweet spot as fascinating, pulpy via affluence pop cultural artifact to zone out to while doomscrolling, sans fake thesis titles?) 

It’s an absurd image, from this or any year, not just one rich lady asserting herself in loose appropriative body language garb — hand curved like a C, just short of a barrel bent threat or some more rapid and articulate bodying — but an endless scroll of them, wordlessly in sync with one another. I do not know what she is wearing other than a black sweater and pearl earrings, but her aggression implies she’s ready to take them off, finding a queasy cocktail of bizarrely hilarious drag and dystopian lane hopping. (The “someone” was Candace Bushnell, author of the Sex and the City books.)

Anyways, the point is that opening up to the gif of Dorinda from season 9 of Real Housewives of New York is as absurd as the scenario itself. I think, in other images of absurdity, or surreality, one can find tenderness, softness, beauty. 

In the final frame of Miranda July’s Kajillionaire, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) has found her freedom from parents who are more like managers and family that’s more like a startup grift with none of the perks, but also in the unfamiliar, terrifying, and expansive world of compassion, empathy, and vulnerability. Spending a majority of the film with her joints locked in place, the mere consideration of touch eliciting a quake that rumbles through the Earth unchecked, she finally can melt into someone as they (Gina Rodriguez as Melanie) melt into her. Her value is not predicated on some quantitative scale she brings to a group. This final scene, set beneath the blinding and brutal fluorescents of a no name retail palace, has a startling beauty contained within horror. It’s not precisely a shrug, but July identifies an impossibility, a paradox within the real paradigm these characters exist in despite her absurdist framework: finding love in a hopeless place (read: capitalist hellscape).  

Surrounding Old Dolio and Melanie is a corporatized immaculateness, sheen as the end and infinity, retail workers going about their day, selling people things onto which their identity will be projected, the lights above unflattering to all and, if anything, inclined to reveal the ugliness of it all. But, so too, the beauty of two people embracing, embracing one another amidst the ugliness. The objects around them dare not encroach upon their peace, their little Utopia. Bobby Vinton’s “Mr. Lonely” wafts through the space as the scene ends (is it playing in the store? In their heads? In ours?), the camera zooming out to reveal the little world that Old Dolio and Melanie have created for themselves, surviving in rubble. Old Dolio’s mother (Debra Winger) and father (Richard Jenkins) were always waiting for the “Big One”, an earthquake as some sort of renewal or rebirth from ashes. Newly liberated, Old Dolio may have already found it for herself. 

Anyways, here are my favorite things from 2020:

The List

20. The Invisible Man // Directed by Leigh Whannel + Possessor // Directed by Brandon Cronenberg + Host // Directed by Rob Savage

19. The Wolf House // Directed by Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña

18. Dick Johnson Is Dead // Directed by Kirsten Johnson

17. Blow the Man Down // Directed by Danielle Krudy and Bridget Savage Cole

16. Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square // Directed by Debbie Allen + Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga // Directed by David Dobkin

15. The Boys in the Band // Directed by Joe Mantello + Nimic // Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

14. Beanpole // Directed by Kantemir Balagov

13. Freaky // Directed by Christopher Landon + Ask Any Buddy // Directed by Evan Purchel

12. Swallow // Directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis + The Assistant // Directed by Kitty Green 

11. The Flight Attendant // Developed by Steve Yockey // Real Housewives of Potomac – Season 5: 5.8 – “Serving Up Betrayals” // Created by Scott Dunlop

10. Save Yourselves! // Directed by Eleanor Wilson and Alex Huston Fischer

9. Born to Be // Directed by Tania Cypriano 

8. On a Magical Night // Directed by Christophe Honoré + Dash & Lily // Created by Joe Tracz and Directed by Pamela Romanowsky/Fred Savage/Brad Silberling

7. Lingua Franca // Directed by Isabel Sandoval 

6. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) // Directed by Cathy Yan

5. The Surrogate // Directed by Jeremy Hersh + Sylvie’s Love // Directed by Eugene Ashe

4. Driveways // Directed by Andrew Ahn

3. Circle Jerk Live // Created by Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley, in collaboration with Cat Rodríguez and Ariel Sibert, and co-directed by Rory Pelsue

2. The Half of It // Directed by Alice Wu

1.  Kajillionaire // Directed by Miranda July

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s