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Recess editors pick the best of 2020

culture roundup

"Sick Jan" by Chris Fleming

Much of the art released this year advertised itself as a distraction: a potential source of levity or hope in an otherwise dismal world. But Chris Fleming's song "Sick Jan" needed no such tagline. The Internet comedian, who got his start as the titular Gail in the YouTube short-form series "Gail," has made the irreverent his domain, effortlessly mining comedy gold out of the trivial minutiae of daily life. "Sick Jan" is the greatest example of his observational acumen yet, as well as his musical chops and green screen mania. A synth-driven tale of Fleming's eponymous tax preparer who seemingly wants Chris to go to jail for tax fraud, the song is unbelievably catchy, expertly mixed and layered with professional vocals and written with a beautifully detailed flourish. As strange as it sounds, "Sick Jan" is one of the most joyous songs released this year. Nobody produces a distraction quite as buoyant and hysterical as Chris Fleming. —Sydny Long, managing editor

Netflix's "Tiger King" 

Although it’s hard to believe that the era of quarantine where everyone was watching Tiger King was actually less than a year ago, no other show epitomized living in America this past year quite like the ridiculous docu-series that The Atlantic once called an “ethical train-wreck.” Morally speaking, the events of the show are inarguably terrible and not a single featured zookeeper comes out looking like a hero. In any other year, it'd be hard to believe that the show would've received the attention that it did, but in 2020, it makes perfect sense. While watching, I was constantly left thinking about how chaotically awful these people are and wondering why no one is stopping them. It's the same can’t-look-away, stomach-churning experience you get from reading news about how the U.S. government is handling the coronavirus, but with punchier dialogue, better cinematography and lower stakes." —Tessa Delgo, local arts editor

"Folklore" by Taylor Swift

On "Folklore," Taylor Swift achieved what her fans have long wanted: polished narrative songwriting without the pressure to churn out radio hits. Upon arrival, it was clear that the record was not just Swift's best album, but among the best in recent memory from a pop star. For such a tumultuous year, the quiet and reflective nature of "Folklore" provided a much-needed catharsis. —Jonathan Pertile, social media editor

“Da 5 Bloods” by Spike Lee

From the musical number about Black women's hair in “School Daze” to the verbal and physical explosion of “Do the Right Thing,” Spike Lee consistently creates nuanced characters and honest portrayals of racial tensions rather than search for idyllic solutions to this country’s 400 year-old plague. This 2020 film follows a group of Black Vietnam veterans returning to Vietnam to search for signs of the fallen leader of their troop, played by the late Chadwick Boseman. The Academy Award-winning director reveals the toils of defending a country that forces you to fight at home, kill abroad and battle the inescapable trauma in your mind. —Skyler Graham, culture editor

"Punisher" by Phoebe Bridgers

This year's release of Phoebe Bridgers's album "Punisher" has solidified the support of her loyal fanbase and her name in indie folk, landing her four Grammy nominations, including for Best New Artist. "Punisher" provides the perfect accompaniment for these times, the songs reflecting a general theme of collapse and endings: relationships, touring with her band, chapters in life as we grow with age. After 2020 undoubtedly, so many can identify with such loss and falling apart, but her music isn't just "sad" and "depressing" as so many are quick to conclude; "Punisher" is multi-dimensional, and offers a glimpse of hope and even joy for the wonderful things that can emerge from the ashes after everything comfortable and familiar has been burned down. —Sarah Derris, Recess editor

2020 Sundance Film Festival

This year, I had the incredible opportunity to attend Sundance Film Festival with the Chronicle. For me, the best piece of pop-culture this year is the first film I saw at Sundance: Czech documentary "The Painter and the Thief." Directed by Benjamin Ree, the film chronicles the friendship between Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova and Karl Bertil-Nordland, the thief who stole two of her paintings. It confronts the societal binaries of innocence and guilt, freedom and containment and love and hate. Not to mention, Kysilkova’s art is absolutely mesmerizing to watch. —Kerry Rork, campus arts editor

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