My best of 2020 list is below. But for now, here are some standout first-time watched of movies that didn’t come out in 2020.

I watched 137 movies in 2020, which is close to typical despite me being at home all the time because of a pandemic. (In 2017, I recorded myself as watching 135).

The Thin Man (W. S. Van Dyke, 1934) — 1/19

What a lovely relationship! Exchanging quips, drinking, and solving crimes. It’s ideal!


If you’re looking for my list of the best movies that came out this year, I wrote an extended one up over at INSIDER. I pretty much stand by it, except I’d add Phantom Thread, which I didn’t get to see by deadline. Here, too, you can read a list of great movies too many people missed.

This is something different. I watched 135 movies this year, and here are the outstanding ones that came out before 2017. I’m omitting the 2016 releases, which I wrote about here.

I would also like to note that the best thing I’ve seen all year is Twin Peaks: The Return.

A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan, 1957) — 1/7


Julia Cooper’s ‘The Last Word’

Image: Ondřej Šálek

Not too long ago, I was late to a memorial service for a family member because I had to be at work when it started. When I arrived, the deceased’s son was just finishing up his eulogy. There were a few more speeches, the evening prayer, and some food, but I didn’t have much time to reflect on the death. Life kept getting in the way. It was a few more days until the enormity of the loss hit me.

In the era of late capitalism and distraction, it’s hard enough to find time to think. It’s harder still to…


Yeah, I know, it’s February. But I don’t get to watch advanced screenings of every movie, and I have stuff to do, so it’s taken me awhile to watch everything I wanted to watch. I figured I should write up this list before the Oscars, which is pretty much the last time anyone keeps talking about movies from the previous year.

Nonetheless, there are still a handful of movies I didn’t get a chance to see, but which might make this list if I had a chance to watch them. Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, Anna Biller’s The Love Witch, Pablo…


For the record.

  1. My predicted winner
  2. Runner up possibility
  3. Also maybe might win
La La Land, via Lionsgate

Best Picture
1. La La Land
2. Moonlight
3. Manchester By the Sea

Best Director
1. Damien Chazelle
2. Barry Jenkins
3. Mel Gibson

Best Actor
1. Denzel Washington
2. Casey Affleck
3. Andrew Garfield

Best Actress
1. Emma Stone
2. Natalie Portman
3. Isabelle Huppert

Best Supporting Actor
1. Mahershala Ali
2. Dev Patel
3. Jeff Bridges

Best Supporting Actress
1. Viola Davis
2. Octavia Spencer
3. Naomie Harris

Best Original Screenplay
1. Manchester by the Sea
2. La La Land
3. Hell Or High Water


PewDiePie/YouTube

After Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States, I wanted to read some more about nationalism and the ideologies that led him to the presidency. The question I wanted to answer was: When does it get violent?

I didn’t expect the answers I found to tie into PewDiePie, who was dropped by Disney this week under accusations of racism and antisemitism.

Nationalism and male violence


Good books.

2016 was a bad year. Most of the things I read were, literally, bad news. I also read some books. Many of those, fortunately, were very good.

I wrote a list like this in 2014 but never finished my 2015 writeup because I’m bad at finishing the things. If you want to see those books, here’s a list. For a full list of the books I’ve read and I’m reading, add me on Goodreads!

If you are an author I know (whether on Twitter or real life) who came out with a book this year and I didn’t read it…


It’s this scene.

In the newest episode of “Atlanta,” there was a moment that looked nothing like I’ve seen on television before. But it did look a lot like something I’ve seen in the movies.

Describing a television show as “cinematic” is a cliche at this point. Since David Lynch made “Twin Peaks” 26 years ago, television’s rules have been broken over and over again. But I noticed something about that scene — and the episode as a whole — that made me realize how “Atlanta” is pushing the envelope even more.

“Atlanta” is about Earn Marks (played by Donald Glover, who also…


I am in love with a bad song. Since I found “Closer” by The Chainsmokers (ft. Halsey) on Sunday night, I’ve listened to it about twenty times.

I don’t generally accept the term “guilty pleasure” — if you like something, you should own it — but I am ashamed of this one. It is an awful song, and it has an awful music video. But damn, it makes me feel alive.

The Chainsmokers in case you are unaware, are the douchiest musicians to exist. Their song “Kanye” is the only one I know that exists for SEO. They also…


I first heard this song in a cafe in Prague. There was a man working there — just one man — who was tall and blonde and had blue eyes and was quintessentially European. There are not many Kosher cafes in Prague (in fact, there is just this one), so I visited it often for meals. He also stepped outside for a smoke several times a day and I passed by him (Prague’s Jewish area is famously small) and I think by the second time he saw me he was tired of me but I still stopped by on…

Jacob Shamsian

Journalist at INSIDER and Business Insider. I’ve published work at GQ, the New Republic, Time, Entertainment Weekly, and Pipe Dream. jacobshamsian.com

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