1. Soul (2020, Watched 1/2/21)
Like anyone with a conscience, I was really feeling the damage of 2020 by last year’s holiday season. I struggled in feeling hopeful for the future and overcoming what seemed like a major dead end. Then I watched Soul, and the second its closing credits rolled, I sobbed. Suddenly, everything was going to be okay. Almost anything Pixar has made in the last decade has the power to destroy me, and Soul‘s take on enjoying your life and finding gratitude in it was no exception.
2. Crossing Delancey (1988, Watched 2/14/21)
I love simple slice-of-life movies made in the ’80s and ’90s. Moonstruck is a balm for the soul, right? When Harry Met Sally might be your go-to for a late ’80s New York rom-com starring a heroine with both big hair and big hats, but consider this: single New York bookseller Isabelle (Amy Irving) is perfectly content with her job, her apartment, and looking after her bubbe, who lives on the Lower East Side. Her grandmother enlists the local “marriage broker” to set her up, and given her budding flirtation with an author, Isabelle isn’t too thrilled about this move. However, things get complicated when she meets the matchmaker’s pick for her, pickle shop owner Sam.
3. In the Heights (2021, Watched 6/18/21)
This film garnered criticism for not casting dark-skinned Latinos in lead roles, and reading several takes on this definitely educated me on the portrayal of Afro-Latinos in pop culture. But to see this joyous movie musical right as the world and New York City were opening up again was such a treat. Because I wasn’t super familiar with the story beforehand, I also didn’t expect my viewing to be as emotional as it was. This was the first movie I watched in theaters post-2020, and it was the perfect story for that honor.
4. How to Be Single (2016, Watched 7/30/21)
Sometimes I just need an inconsequential, low-stakes rom-com to close out the day with, and How to Be Single did the job. Dakota Johnson’s character finds herself single for the first time in years, and a coworker at her new job (Rebel Wilson) makes it her mission to teach her how to appreciate this new independence. The women in this all represent different approaches to being single, and the movie has a few heartwarming moments I particularly related to.
5. Tick, Tick…Boom! (2021, Watched 11/28/21)
Rent has always been one of my theater blind spots. I know its most popular songs and basic history, like how composer Jonathan Larson died right before the show even premiered, but I’ve never been able to get into it. I was similarly neutral and uninformed about Tick, Tick…Boom!, and I went into the movie a little hesitant about Lin-Manuel Miranda directing for the first time and how the story would translate to screen. I ended up loving this story of a semi-fictionalized Larson struggling to compose a hit musical in 1990s New York as his thirtieth birthday looms and the AIDs crisis continues to impact his circle of friends. The music is so powerful, and like one of my TV favorites Schmigadoon!, it has so many little cameos and Easter eggs for big theater lovers to spot.
6. Reopening Night (2021, Watched 12/27/21)
This year was my first time seeing a Shakespeare in the Park production, so I loved revisiting the show and the humid, soaking haziness of this summer through this documentary. It tracks producers’ decision for Shakespeare in the Park to return after shuttering in 2020, the creative team’s adaptation process of The Merry Wives of Windsor, and how the production’s Black cast and crew feel about this representation of themselves in what is historically a very white acting tradition.