Despite the overwhelming amount of tradegy happening in 2020, we have also been given a wealth of entertainment. If you were bored at home this year you probably weren't paying attention to Al Gore's internet. Here's a post dedicated to all of the movies, music, memes, and more that kept me from going stir crazy so far this year!
*This list is organized in no particular order.*
1. Terrell Grice's An Invitation to the Cookout
Avid music lover and Youtube creator, Terrell Grice, pulled a Beyonce and dropped a surprise album at the top of the year. The news was revealed after his long anticipated season three finale of Song Association, in which Race to the Blue winner, Kim Cruse took her rightful place on the blue wall. The album itself is written and produced by Terrell Grice and filled from top to bottom with features from special guests from his popular show. If you are a fan of 90s R&B and love a good party and a good praise, this is the album for you! Some of my favorite tracks are: "Nobody Else Gonna Get My Love", "All", and "The Prayer Song."
2. Tiger King and other Netflix Crime Documentaries
Why does the internet's obsession with Tiger King feel like it was years ago? For whatever reason, Tiger King was the show that pushed me off the edge of a crime documentary cliff and I've been falling ever since. I'm hoping everyone has seen it or at least knows what it's about and so I don't need to explain it here. Instead, I want to talk about all the other documentaries my friends have recommended to me since then.
The next one was Killer Inside: The mind of Aaron Hernandez. Assomeone who has almost no interest in sports (especially football), I didn't know who Aaron Hernandez was or what I was getting myself into. This docu-series has a very ominious vibe from the very beginning and it only got darker and darker the more I watched it. So dark that I waited almost a month before I watched Don't F*** With Cats. The title of this docu-series is a bit misleading and insensitive. A human being was murdered, but his death is overshadowed by some dead kittens, a dog, and a potential serial killer. PITA don't come for me, but damn! Jun Lin deserved more than this documentary gave him.
Abducted In Plain Sight was my next recommended documentary and I only have one thing to say about it: Be picky about who you let around your kids. NEXT! Out of my own curiosity upon re-watching Spike Lee's Malcom X, I was interested in seeing Who Killed Malcom X?. In this series, activist Abdur-Rahman Muhammad investigates the details of the civil rights leader's assasination. Muhammad's research skills were just as good on foot, as the vigilantes in Don't F*** With Cats were on the internet. I truly looked forward to getting home to watch this show (for 3 days straight) and rooting for him to find Malcolm X's Killer. Although the final episode left me underwhelmed, I highly recommend it if you have any interest in the short yet meaningful life of Malcolm X.
The latest crime documentary I've watched is Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story. Thankfully, this is a story with a happier ending, despite its focus on child sex trafficking. The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez has been on my watch list for months, but I'm learning to space these shows out....cause people be out here people-ing too much for me!
3. Spike Lee Joints
Around the time that Covid-19 reared it's disrespectful head around the world, I made it my personal goal to watch a Black film every weekend. By Black, I mean constisting of a mostly Black cast and/or filmed by a Black director. Who is the Blackest of them all? None other than Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee! Now, of course I have seen some of his work prior to this year. But I wanted to watch those I had not seen which were also considered classics among filmmakers and the Black community alike.
I began my deep dive with School Daze. The most standout symbol in this film is the "Wannabes" and the "Jiggaboos" and what they represent. The story is set at an HBCU but shows us all the problem with beauty standards and the tension created by colorism. I quickly realized that Lee likes to use a lot of the same actors, especially in his early films.
I followed up with Do the Right Thing, inwhich I was able to predict the ending becuase the unjust killing of Black men is more American than apple pie. What I did appreciate is Spike Lee's unique use of the camera, specifically his infamous dolly shot. I softened the blow of Do the Right Thing with Mo' Better Blues. It's a jazzy rom-com and the first of many Denzel Washington and Spike Lee collaborations. It's also my favorite of the all the "joints."
As I already mentioned, I watched Malcolm X (which I hadn't seen since high school), and I will list the others in no particular order. Crooklyn, He Got Game, Jungle Fever, BlacKkKlansman, and Da 5 Bloods. I watched his directorial debut, She's Gotta Have It, back in 2017 after the series of the same name premiered on Netflix (and I don't need to see it ever again...the movie not the series).
4. Love is Matchmaking: Reality Dating Shows
Reality TV is not usually my jam but I joined the bandwagon and watched two shows that are hilariously entertaining! The first was the ever popular and super meme-able Love is Blind. Who knew watching strangers, separated by a wall, get to know each other would make for such fascinating TV? There are too many memorable and meme-able moments but some of my faves...
And a few weeks ago I started (and finished) watching Indian Matchmaking. What a fascinating show! I mean!! I really couldn't stop watching! And I want more! This show is about professional matchmaker, Sima Taparia AKA "Sima from Mumbai!" Sima repped her set so hard in every episode of this show! Mad respect for that! Seriously, she's my favorite person on the show. But her clients.....HA! A box of chocolates! Each one was better than the last. Until they weren't. Cause let's be honest, I didn't really care about anybody else after Vyasar pulled up to the scene with good vibes only! And what was with that sus fortune teller!? *insert eyes emoji* Please watch this show and DM me your thoughts...Because, Aparna....Wow.
5. Verzuz Battles
The fateful day was April 18th 2020. 500,000 fans in the virtual stands. Babyface in one corner. Teddy Riley in the opposite corner. Unfortunately it was not a good clean fight. In fact, there was no fight at all because, Teddy Riley seemed to be streaming from an RCA VHS-C Camcorder from 1994! Jesus take the wheel! And He DID!! But not without a variety of memes to commemorate the madness!
I was able to catch the rematch two days later and it was a good time! The most noteworthy moments were Babyface throwing some of that old school shade and Teddy Riley continuously asking someone in his house to get his charger. Other than that, I was there to appreciate the musical genius of two R&B legends. I think it's safe to say the original battle mishap was a blessing in disguise; without it I don't think Verzuz would've blown up like it has.
The battles I tuned in for?: Ludacris VS Nelly, Erykah Badu VS Jill Scott, John Legend VS Alicia Keys, 112 VS Jagged Edge, Kirk Franklin VS Fred Hammond, and Gladys Knight VS Patti Labelle. You can probably find all of these and more to replay @VerzuzTV's Instagram or somewhere on Youtube. We definitely owe our thanks to Swizz Beats and Timberland for keeping us entertained throughout the summer. And I can't wait to see what the platform brings to us next!
6. Jhene Aiko's Chilombo
While I was a month late to the party, I couldn't get enough of Jhene Aiko's newest album Chilombo. I distinctly remember hearing "Pu$$y Fairy (OTW)" in the background of a skating video I saw on Tumblr (no you cannot have access to my Tumblr). The song is a braggadocious lullaby about the powers of that WAP! And If you're familiar with Jhene's sound you know she is the queen of saying very explicit content in the most angelic way. It's like that scene in Mean Girls when Janis calmly tells Cady, "You smell like a baby prostitute." Ms. Aiko is serving a full bottle of Baby Prostitute eau de parfum and I'm ready to pay full price! The album has twenty tracks and here are some of my favorite picks: "Triggered", "Speak", "B.S." (ft. H.E.R), "Lighting and Thunder" (ft. John Legend).
7. Victoria Monet's Jaguar
I'm not exactly sure how I discovered Victoria Monet.. I think someone on The Terrell Show mentioned her sometime last year and I tapped into her then. No matter how, I'm glad I had my eyes open for the release of her latest EP, Jaguar. The first song from this project that caught my attention was "Experience." Its an up-tempo disco/dance track featuring Khalid and SG Lewis. And the roller rink video goes perfect with the mood of the song. But the video for the single, "Moment", is pure art! The location (South Africa), the wardrobe, the male model! The symbolism of it all! Well done, Ms. Monet!
And she's not just the voice behind the music...she writes and produces too! We love a Renaissance woman! The title track "Jaguar" is up-tempo as well but the feeling is slightly less disco in comparison to "Experience." However, she made use of all the instruments, including the horns! In the words of the Traphouse Jazz creator, Masego, "This is a horny album!" And its horny in both senses of the word! What are my picks? This project only consists of nine tracks but "Moment" and "Ass Like That" are my most played.
If you read my August blog post, which was in honor of Chadwick Boseman, then you already know about my love for music documentaries. Even before Unsung existed, I was a big fan of Behind the Music and shows that help me to see the evolution of a musician. I have been watching Unsung since I can remember and its probaby my favorite show of the biographical genre. The thing that stands out about Unsung, is that it touches on those artists who you probably forgot about, who sang that one song you used to love. The show seems to only cover one hit wonders, and artists who fell off or died before they reached their full potential.
There are two episodes of Unsung that particularly stand out to me: Phyllis Hyman and H-town. Phyllis Hyman's episode is actually the very first episode of season one (I'm shook cause I didn't know and I just googled it)! Her life ended far too soon but her voice is definitely one of a kind. I was even more shook when my mother told me that she and my father's first date was attending a Phyllis Hyman concert. They've been married nearly forty years so I say the date was a success! With that said I consider Ms. Hyman partly responsible for my existence therefore I shall refer to her as Auntie Phyllis from now on. RIP!
Thanks to some thoughtful yet infringing person, I was able to watch many episodes of Unsung on Youtube this year. H-Town's episode stood out most to me. Before watching, I knew nothing about the group aside from their hit song, "Knockin da Boots" and that they are from Houston, Texas, hence their name. Upon finishing the episode, I was saddened by learning of the untimely death of their lead singer. Dino's voice is a soulfilled one that is synonymous with 90s R&B. Thanks to Unsung, I discovered many artists and bands I would not know otherwise!
Here are some of the episodes of Unsung I watched this year: Adina Howard, Shirley Murdock, Kenny Latimore, Dru Hill, Christopher Williams, Skyy, Betty Wright, Billy Paul, David Ruffin, Silk, H-Town, Dave Hollister, After 7, Next, and Case.
9. Netflix: Strong Black Lead
Netflix's acquisition of seven Black sitcoms was by far one of my highlights of the year. I'm very appreciative of the efforts to support Black Hollywood. Moesha, Sister, Sister, One on One, The Parkers, Girlfriends, The Game, and Half & Half, are all shows that gave me the representation and inclusion in television that I didn't know I needed back then, until now. As I'm rewatching these shows, I'm reminded of how beautifully diverse Black people and our stories are. I feel like I'm twelve years old again, sitting on the floor watching TV while my sister is on the bed talking to her friends on the phone. I needed this nostalgia!
I'm able to recall my favorite episodes with my friends and appreciate the messages I didn't quite get as a teenager. Especially in Girlfriends! I've started season seven and I just wanna shake Joan one good time and tell her to, "GET IT TOGETHER SIS!" So I'm taking a break from it and watching Half & Half for now. I see so much of my quirky self in Mona Thorne, its not even funny! She's a homebody, a little awkward, and I think I remember her having a blog too! YAAAS! Also, shoutout to Rachel True for rocking her natural hair way before it was trendy!
Netflix Honorable Mentions: When They See Us, Rhythm & Flow, Gentefied, Raising Dion, Soundtrack, Atypical,Mudbound, Disclosure, Project Power, Black AF, The Black Godfather, Todrick Hall: Behind the Curtain, Isoken, Seriously Single, Beats, Juanita, All The Bright Places, A Message From the King, Becoming, 40 Year Old Version, Giving Voice Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Queen & Slim, Voices of Fire, and Come Sunday.
10. "Who Read That!?"
Just like I set out to watch more Black films, I also set out to read more books this year. Back in March, I posted a photo to my Instagram page of four books I was excited to start reading (see below). One was given to me by a friend and the other three I purchased myself. And one of the three that I purchased was a fiction book. For the last five years or so I have been reading mostly self-help and inspirational books. I do admit that I probably read through the three non-fiction books quite fast and I should've taken proper notes, instead of underlining and writing in the margins. But I was most excited to get to the novel.
Queen Sugar is a book I chose to read because I wanted to watch the TV series of the same name. However, I thought it would be cool to read the book first. I'm so glad I did! Its a family story set in Louusiana and the slow, poetic diction was just what I needed. The author, Natalie Baszile, uses lush words that made me want to book a flight to NOLA and take a walk through the nearest sugarcane field. There is so much detail in her writing and I love the way she uses third person to jump back and forth, giving attention to certain characters and traveling through time when it's necessary. While I read, I made mental notes of techniques I wanted to try in my own writing. It took me almost three months to finish the book and it's ending was surprisingly relevant to recent news headlines.
And I finally got around to reading "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you've been reading my blog for most of this year, then you've seen me refrence this book a couple times. It's probably the self-improvement book that is the basis for all others. This is the book that I keep in my purse and read when I need a gentle reminder not to take make assumptions. Ruiz uses very simple yet profound examples to explain how to apply four life changing principles. It's a must read for anyone on the road to be becoming their best self...which should be everyone!!
Books I read this year: What A Time to Be Alone by Chidera Eggerue, The Truth About Men by Devon Franklin, So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile, and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Wonder by R.J. Palacio.
In 2020, the world has suffered many great losses. I am grateful for having made it this far into the year still in my right mind. Among all this tragedy, self-care and mental health is a top priority! Whether it's a movie, book, a meme, or a tik tok dance, I hope you too find the audacity to laugh in the face of oppression.
As I have recommended a plethora of shows, movies, and music. I'll spare you a video link this time around. Instead, I leave you with a quote:
"Against the assult of laughter, nothing can withstand." -Mark Twain
Next month I will be participating in writer and speaker, GG Renee's #30Layers30Days. It's a daily writing challenge that I participated in this past February. You can find my past writings in the archives of my Instagram page @miyaa.mariee. See you in November!