For better or for worse, anything smeared with the syrupy weight of swoon-worthy romance is often waylaid for something not to be taken seriously. Now, this doesn’t in any way discount its value of entertainment, which by the accounts of book sales, box office returns, and streaming view counts, is almost always a soaring success. But even despite its commercial triumphs, the shameless delight in it has to be coddled by hushed conversations or prefaced as guilty pleasures. For all its titillating tropes, farfetched formulas, and often off-putting optimism, there is a lot to derive from the realm of romance than just drivel and derivatives, especially when it is turned on its head or twisted just enough to keep you hooked on what happens next.
Bridgerton is a story of romance in its purest and most essential. Set in Regency Era London, there is no denying that for all its worth—flaws and all, of course—l’amour binds this hotly anticipated and deliciously addicting series like a deliriously tightened corset that were all the rage back then. From the machinations of Shondaland and its queen supreme, Shonda Rhimes, the adaptation of the beloved work of romantic fiction by Julia Quinn made its dazzling debut on Netflix on Christmas day to the same amount of fired up whispers and furtive glances that Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers would get from the high society of its times. (A wink of warmth to the pearl-clutching scandals of society, Lady Whistledown is voiced to grand, gossiping, and graceful perfection by an actual Dame herself, Julie Andrews.) Salacious, sensual, and scintillating as its omnipresent character, Bridgerton is pure pomp and romp that is worthy of your undivided attention. But despite its obvious decadence and predilection for gossip, scandal, and drama (which there are lots to go by on its nearly hour-long eight episode run in the first season), there is enough depth and deftness to air out what becomes of tired and typical period pieces.
Taking itself seriously, especially on its female-empowered premise of subverting traditions of sex, politics, and relationships from right under the nose of a bored patriarchy, the regal and riotous Bridgerton doesn’t present itself as a rewrite or revision of history, but rather a reimagined reclamation of possibilities as orchestrated by its creator, Chris Van Dusen, and its immensely talented pool of rising young women writers with the likes of Abby McDonald, Janet Lim, Sarah Dollard, and Joy C. Mitchell. Here, enough liberties are exercised to expand the worlds that the families of Bridgerton and Featherington, as well as of the pivotal royal connections, run circles in. Instead of a dark and brooding telling, we get a buoyant and witty exchange that sees a circumstance of color in the couture (7500 pieces, 238 team members, and 5 months of work), cinematography, and even the characters, much like the irreverence of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette and Tony McNamara’s The Great. As is standard in the world of Shonda Rhimes, the casting is not only brilliant and inspired, but also diverse. More telling of the history it takes inspiration from, Bridgerton skips the dull and dreary whitewashing and bolsters the narrative with a definitive chutzpah that sees the series through. A black queen lording over the affairs of the matchmaking season? Yes, please.
Now, Bridgerton isn’t perfect by all means. In fact, for strokes and strides of success, it sidesteps with its periods of dragging dalliance and insufferable lead characters (Simon, Duke of Hastings and Daphne Bridgerton) that make the will-or-won’t-they signature of romance more painful than swoon-worthy. However, it shines the most with its interlacing of well-realized story arcs, the discussion of what is hard-hitting realities (premarital pregnancy, sexual assault, and the rigors of relationships), and its necessary anachronism (string symphony reworks of Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, and Taylor Swift anyone?), there is nothing to be guilty about Bridgerton—it is pure viewing pleasure that won’t make you stop. “These are just good stories about relationships, emotional politics, how you juggle duty, love, and lust,” details Executive Producer Betsy Beers in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. There is a lot of privilege tucked within, but this is a telling of people and what they’re truly passionate about. In fact, as is usual with really smart shows, it pulls the rug from underneath you and leaves you not only trying to make sense of things in the settle, but also wanting so much more.
With a sense of reckless abandon and penchant for what is true and real for the person, not necessarily of an adherence to reality, the elegant yet earnest exposition of Bridgerton becomes that binge-worthy fodder into something you truly want to sink your teeth into. Sure, this might make your most well meaning literature teacher or strict history professor furrow their brows, but hey, at least you’re paying attention and getting into the romance of it somehow. It all starts somewhere—and for a few hours (trust us, you will mindlessly pummel through in one sitting) this is where the obsession begins. Don’t you agree, Lady Whistledown?
This year is a lot of things for sure, but whether we will want to admit it or not, it wasn’t all entirely terrible. Sure, the foreseeable future is still a little bleak, and we will maintain that 2020 is the year that we will not want to speak of, but if you listened closely, music definitely helped us get through some rough and tough spots. From comeback queens to refreshing discoveries, there have been songs that saved the scene, saved the year, and most importantly, saved our lives in one way or another.
Whether it was a worn out playlist that soundtracked your day-to-day or an escape to the tragedy that Miss Rona brought upon us, we have to tip our hats to what really has been a good year for music. Imagine, even with the many limits and challenges stacked up, there was a lot of good songs to go by, with the creativity being upped in terms of marketing, production, and pure artistry.
So here it is, without agenda, fanfare, and no favoritism—20 of what we strongly believe to be the best songs for the year that…whatever, let’s get this over with and hit the forward button to 2021, shall we?
Ready? Press play.
The kings of K-pop continued to reign supreme in 2020, releasing their first English-language song to chart-topping success. The track not only solidified their global stardom, but also demonstrated pop perfection. It’s a credible disco-pop pastiche, bright and inoffensive enough to soundtrack much of the year as the feel good song of the year. (Think of it as a “big tent” pop song created to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.) Glittery, infectious, and equipped with a final chorus key change, Dynamite lives up to its name.
Care opens the record, starting off dreamy before it pummels into an angsty chorus. Even in the anger, it’s playful, since she knows that even though someone wronged her in the past, the experience has since helped her to grow. It’s the kind of song you wish had been released when you were in high school, so you could simmer to it when you were in a mood after class. Over all, Beabadoobee’s record takes you back to that late 90s to early 2000s era of romantic comedies and it’s eponymous soundtracks that embraces every teen’s angst, heartbreak—a moment encapsulated in a promising artist that longs to be Stephen Malkmus.
The atmosphere is intimate and understated yet assured, as if we’re hearing her thoughts before she has time to process them. “I’ve never been a natural,” she sings over dreamy electric guitars and a lapping drumbeat that sounds buried under several layers of comforters. She seems lost in the moment, like she has no one to please but herself. Mirrorball is a testament that Swift’s songwriting and ear for sweeping melodies has not been limited to stellar pop hooks, but always flawlessly capturing the gut wrenching moment of a calm, steadfast endurance after a storm.
Lianne La Havas—Bittersweet
Bittersweet, the opener of her eponymous third LP, envelopes La Havas’ heart-wrenching ache with production that’s as warm and inviting as a crackling bonfire. La Havas has captured the beautiful arc of romance and the rubble it leaves behind. Her guitar parts echo and rival the ambiguous, unresolved chords and supple rhythmic games of Joni Mitchell and Radiohead, while her voice moves from low, sultry insinuations to open-throated declarations.
Haim—I Know Alone
I Know Alone might be the most daring Haim track yet. Proving that the sisters have explored a dalliance with UK garage, they’re at their best when pushing the boundaries. With its shuffling 808 beats, ethereal layered vocals and glitching production, Haim’s signature sound has been imbued with something that sounds suspiciously close to UK garage. It’s a brilliantly bizarre combination, but a fusion that sees them continue to grow. This song is a staple in my pandemic playlist because it alludes to a certainty that even loneliness can end. Maybe soon.
Róisín Murphy—Murphy’s Law
Róisín Murphy’s glossy totem to the dance floor is based on an adage that feels extremely appropriate given this year’s circumstances: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. In a press release, Murphy said: “[This] is our crack at a straight up, straightforward, no-frills, disco standard. Oh, and it’s the story of my life. It’s about the nature of the past, it’s often a difficult thing to outrun but it can also be quite comforting…” True enough, there’s a simple sense of belonging to it, which is most felt in the lyrics, “I feel my story’s still untold. But I’ll make my own happy ending. I guess I’d rather be alone. Than making do and mending,”—a definitive strength that only a true disco diva could muster both on and off the dance floor.
Phoebe Bridgers—I Know The End
I Know The End packs an album’s worth of ideas into five minutes and 45 seconds. The song itself begins gently, carefully, with a little eerie submerged distortion, but otherwise a return to the nigh-unbearable intimacy of just her guitar and her fragile, unbreakable voice. Time is an even flatter, smaller circle. And even now, when I take physical- and mental-health walks late in the afternoon with the song on repeat, it becomes a steadfast understanding of what life is living in the year 2020.
The Weeknd—Blinding Lights
Blinding Lights is indisputably one of the landmark songs of 2020. In this track we hear Max Martin’s polish that helped make it a number one single for four weeks: the hurried drumbeat, surging choruses, and neon-lit 80s synth that allowed Tesfaye’s falsetto soar like the euphoric if grinding edge of an amphetamine high. But it’s also easy to hear the broader spiritual resonance in this ode to a lonely man with little joy left except for intoxicants and the object of his desire. With a crystalline synth hook straight out of 1985, the song’s initial success gave The Weeknd the validation he needed to push ahead with the adventurous songs on his latest album, After Hours, which could be Abel’s masterful album in his discography.
Jessie Ware—What’s Your Pleasure?
The message is crystal as it is clear on this one: There’s no pleasure without fun. Jessie Ware and producer James Ford’s intent was pure—to give the listeners an overall feeling of smoky sleaze and a full-on Kylie meets Róisín Murphy in an underground 1980s drag ball. I practically salivated and hit double rainbows after listening to this song on repeat for a good three days straight. So yes, this has to be on the list. It was the best gratification I can give to myself, and maybe yours, while we wait for the clubs to re-open.
Lady Gaga / Ariana Grande—Rain On Me
Lady Gaga made sure her return to pop music was fearless with the all-bangers-no-ballads exposition that was Chromatica. On an album that championed dance music’s ability to heal, Rain On Me is the apex, a group therapy session disguised as a turn-of-the-millennium Euro-house floor-filler. Kitschy and campy, but exuberantly melodic, Rain On Me seemed to face the rain head on—and then deliver you from it. Gaga is earnest, closing her eyes and letting it drench her, while Grande is blithe, as if caught in a downpour on the way home and choosing not to care. Needless to say, this song did not only slap musically, but it also saved us.
Yves Tumor—Gospel for a New Century
The staggering genius of Sean Bowie emerges immediately upon pressing play on an anticipated fourth album as Yves Tumor, which opens with Gospel For A New Century. Tumor’s own brand of brilliance survives in their own mystique, which shape-shifts in kaleidoscopic, sonic morsels that fleetingly reveal themselves through flashing emotional windows. Here, Tumor allows us to momentarily gaze, where the enigmatic title and propulsive production herald grander subjects—perhaps apocalypse, perhaps rebirth—than the broken relationship hinted at in its lyrics.
Megan Thee Stallion—Savage Remix (ft. Beyoncé)
Through what can only be described as pure witchcraft, Beyoncé jumping in and joining Hot Girl Meg makes it feel like you’re hearing this omnipresent hit for the very first time–even if the original already got you hooked good. Together, the pair are an unstoppable force of Houston bravado and empowerment that will boost your serotonin levels just enough to have hope for a world beyond this pandemic. Unlike most pop remixes of the past couple years, Beyoncé goes above and beyond to make this one powerful: She serves up three verses along with a wealth of angelic, whisper-y runs that feel like diva ASMR.
Christine and the Queens—People, I’ve Been Sad
The heartbreaking and emboldening song from Christine and the Queens’ Héloïse Letissier has taken on a new resonance during isolation. In the song, she conjures the emotion with gravitas and synth-pop charm. Backed by sauntering keys and quivering strings, Letissier sings in her native French about teenage loneliness and angst. On the chorus, she pleads for presence and permanence, which makes it a song that is blunt, incisive, and vulnerable enough to effectively describe this awful year. It is a synth-pop power ballad that combats that awfulness with an exquisite gentleness, truly a soothing balm for the loneliness that is 2020.
Cardi B–WAP (ft. Megan Thee Stallion)
In a generation where Li’l Kim has been absent for years now, we can all be thankful that Cardi and Meg came together and gave us and anthem with rapid-fire flow and endlessly quotable one-liners. The two hip-hop stars create a female sex-positive anthem as they trade lyrics and reclaim the genre’s sexual narratives from male rappers…and then wipe the floor dry with the boys’ boxer shorts. Of the many words that could describe their duet—dirty, vulgar, nasty, explicit—none come anywhere close to capturing the attitude of the acronym itself. WAP is so decisively absent of shame that it’s now positioned alongside similar anthems by the likes of Khia, Lil’ Kim, and Trina. Viva La WAP!
Rina Sawayama—Comme Des Garçons (Brabo Remix feat. Pabllo Vittar)
In her debut LP SAWAYAMA, Rina creates an expansive musical account of her personal history, all bolstered by her impressive experimental song-writing techniques. And on top of that, she’s somehow managed to make nu-metal sound effortlessly cool. This partnership between Rina Sawayama, and Brazil’s Queen of Drag Pabllo Vittar, made the original even more accessible and club-ready. Comme Des Garcons’ is a song about confidence and there’s no better pairing on this planet to have elevated that. One of my setlist and work-out staples this year–this track pounds and hammers until you have peaked serotonin levels and achieved the confidence you need to tackle this pandemic.
DaBaby–Rockstar (ft. Roddy Ricch)
In 2020, DaBaby showed that he wasn’t just unstoppable; he was flexible. Rockstar, constructed around the rapper’s warbled hook, offers a soothing tone atop a guitar lick and producer SethInTheKitchen’s booming percussion. The result is a single by one of rap’s biggest new stars that also invites in traditional pop listeners looking for a catchy chorus. Musically, Ricch balances out the song with his helium-voiced sing-rapping arriving after DaBaby’s sharp lyrical jabs on the track. However, the fact that Rockstar was not dramatically altered by the remix does not diminish the symbolism of the leading song of the summer being aligned with one of the biggest civil rights movements in United States history. The song already made a statement against systemic racism and police brutality long before the remix was released.
Miley Cyrus—Midnight Sky
Midnight Sky is a showcase of natural progression and a culmination of everything we have come to love about Miley. Leaning into the sparkling 80s nostalgia that has captivated pop music this year, the Bell and Watt-produced track is built on bubbly synths and draws influences from disco, rock, and synth pop. With a sample of Stevie Nicks’ Edge of Seventeen, Miley truly transports us to the 80s as she sings about her free spirit, the power of her individuality, and her security in a solid identity. This may be the most confident Miley has ever sounded on a track. Her voice has evolved so much over the years and on the song, she employs her now-signature smoky tone, slight growls, and a rasp that adds rougher textures to the polished production.
Troye Sivan–Easy (feat. Kacey Musgraves)
Earlier this year Troye Sivan transported us into a dreamlike world with his appropriately titled EP, In A Dream. This body of work heard him soaked in an 80s infatuated sound swirled with an indie-pop aesthetic. It was immediately captivating as you found yourself falling into emotions of each track, and one song that really stood out was the confessional, Easy. The glittery new version of the track is deeply layered in 80s influenced production. It’s a lot more upbeat and prominent than the original version, which was instead a bit more experimentally layered. The natural lightness of the production is so playful, euphoric and ultimately dreamy, and you won’t be able to stop yourself dancing immediately.
Chloe x Halle–Ungodly Hour
Chloe x Halle have always been here, teeming with potential just under the surface as Beyonce’s carefully-curated, well-manicured protegees for years. But 2020’s sophomore album Ungodly Hour found the pair hitting their remarkable and confident stride. The project’s title track is doused in funk—an impressive and perhaps unexpected groove from its electronic producers, Disclosure. As the sisters exchange chirps of flirty invitations and angelic innuendos, it’s been clear since day one that Chloe x Halle are the futures of R&B. Now it’s time to pay close and clear attention.
On Fiona Apple’s triumphant album, Fetch The Bolt Cutters, her first in eight years, she looks back at the challenges and learning moments of her formative years with a discerning eye. One of those reflections is the bright and punchy Shameika, where Apple recalls a time when she was being bullied in school and a classmate told her that she had potential, prodding her to ignore bullies at school because she had “potential” to go far in life. The exchange resonated with Apple, both as a child and as an adult, and now with listeners who’ve quoted the lyrics in tweets and Twitter bios. The lesson is clear in this song: Thwart a seismic-shifting loneliness by listening to your inner Shameika.
Like most industries around the world, the movies industry got hit badly because of COVID-19. Thousands of theaters around the world closed and countless big-budget movies were delayed into 2021 and beyond. The dearth of big-budget releases and the lack of open cinemas made it feel like there were no new movies that came out this year. It was not all bad though as there have been great movies released in 2020. These movies come from different genres and tackle different subject matters, but they were all able to give us the escapism, entertainment, and insight we needed this year.
If 2020 taught an important lesson, it was that the government’s actions can greatly affect our daily lives. In Boys State, we see a representative government be built by thousands of American teenage boys. This documentary centers on the Boys State summer camp held in Texas where thousands of teenage boys spend the summer in the Texas State Capital learning about the government as well as running for political office themselves. Even if you are not well-versed in American politics, this documentary is a fascinating look into the minds and motivations of politically-interested teenagers. You get to see a diverse group of people from different ideologies interact with one another which makes for some interesting encounters. Boys State might make you hopeful for the future or unsettle you with how some of the teenagers see elections and democracy. Either way, Boys State is one of the best and most compelling documentaries of the year.
Within the past five years, A24 has built itself as one of the premier movie distribution companies for prestige cinema. From Moonlight to Lady Bird, A24 is no stranger to releasing movies that attract critical attention, and First Cow is no exception. Set during the early days of America, the movie follows Cookie (John Magano), a cook who travels to the Oregon Territory with a group of fur trappers. There, he meets King-Lu (Orion Lee), a Chinese immigrant with an entrepreneurial spirit. Together, the two collaborate on a successful food business with the help of one of the only milking cows in the area. In a sense, First Cow is an appropriate film for 2020 since the two main characters became successful with a food business, and people turned to cooking and starting their own food businesses this year during the pandemic. Director Kelly Reichardt delivers a minimalist masterpiece with a tight story and strong performances. The movie’s 4:3 aspect ratio also gives the film a unique look. This is not the story of early America, but one of a growing bond between two unlikely people. First Cow is a quietly beautiful film and makes for a great viewing experience in the very hectic year that was 2020.
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
Some movies achieve greatness with the strength of their technical achievements. Others do by the strength of their phenomenal performances. In Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the performances not only speak for themselves, but they will leave you speechless as well. Set in a recording studio in 1927 Chicago, the film sees talented and brash blues singer Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) record some of her songs with her band. However, tensions rise when Ma Rainey clashes with her ambitious horn player Levee (Chadwick Boseman) and the white management. Viola Davis absolutely commands the screen with her powerful performance as Ma Rainey and proves that she is one of her generation’s best actors. Chadwick Boseman also delivers his career-best in a swan song of a performance for his sadly shortened career. He plays his character with an electrifying and driven confidence that makes him too hard to forget. The movie is based on the play by August Wilson, and the jump from stage to screen worked well with excellent set design and era accurate costumes. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a well-made film that will leave you in awe of the one-two punch performances of Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman.
NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS
In Never Rarely Sometimes Always, director and screenwriter Eliza Hittman takes the viewer on an intimate and sometimes gut-wrenching journey of a teenage girl making a big decision. The movie follows Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), a 17-year-old living in rural Pennsylvania. She learns that she is pregnant and decides to get an abortion. Along with her cousin Skyler, the two travel to New York City to get an abortion for the unplanned pregnancy. The movie’s focus is on the emotional aspect of things. Autumn and the emotional journey she goes through to get what she needs is the emotional core of the film. Autumn’s journey is portrayed as a gloomy, overbearing, and often isolating experience that isn’t an easy decision. The film does not shy away from the realities of abortions in America. In Pennsylvania, she is exposed to conservative doctors who misguide her and dissuade her from ending the pregnancy. In New York City, she is harassed outside the women’s clinic by anti-choice protesters. She has to deal with outside factors as well as her own inner turmoil. Autumn feels so vulnerable because Sidney Flanigan delivers one of the best performances of the year. She fits the role like a glove, and her performance hopefully sheds a light on the feelings that young women who do this go through.
Some people may think that rom coms are not exactly the place to find critically-acclaimed cinema, but those people have not watched Palm Springs, the year’s best rom-com and one of the best movies of the year. The film follows Nyles (Andy Samberg), a carefree man attending a wedding in Palm Springs. At the wedding, he meets the maid of honor, Sarah (Cristin Milioti), and the two hit it on. Their chance encounter leads to some unintended consequence, and they soon find themselves stuck together in the same place and time. Both Nyles and Sarah are not one-note characters, but multi-dimensional people with their own dreams and motivations. Samberg and Milioti have great chemistry with each other. They both carry the film with their nuanced portrayals of their characters. Nyles is nihilistic and struggles to find a purpose in his life. Sarah is the black sheep of the family and is looking to redeem herself from her actions. The movie can be extremely funny but knows how to dial it down for the more emotional, impactful, and poignant moments. The mix of comedy, romance, and fantasy really works well for the film. Palm Springs is not a mindless comedy, but a movie that can both tickle the funny bone and meaningfully tackle the idea of what a long-term relationship should be.
THE FORTY-YEAR-OLD VERSION
2020 saw the debut of new talented directors and actors in movies. The Forty-Year-Old Version made waves as one of those must-see debuts. Radha Blank is a tour de force in her feature film debut, one she directed, wrote, starred in, and produced. The movie follows Radha, a struggling playwright living in New York City. Wanting to reinvent herself, Radha decides to become a rapper under the stage name RadhaMUSPrime and finds that she actually is talented in rapping. She then straddles the worlds of hip-hop and theater as she tries to find her voice and what she genuinely wants. Radha uses her life as an inspiration to give a performance that is mesmerizing and emotional all in one. She can be tough and confident but also world-weary and jaded. She has a magnetic presence on screen. The film also shines with how the movie explores Radha’s character arch. Her story is fleshed out, so the audience gets to see all the sides of Radha. Aside from this, the movie provides some funny and timely commentary on race and gender in the contemporary world and how it is perceived with a modern lens. The Forty-Year-Old Version is a successful debut for Radha Blank convincingly portrays artistic struggle, mainstream success, and being true to oneself.
THE INVISIBLE MAN
The Invisible Man was an early favorite during its initial release in February. As the year comes to a close, the movie stands tall as the best horror movie of the year and one of the best movies of the year. The movie follows Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), an architect who escapes her abusive boyfriend, Adrian. A few weeks later, Cecilia is informed that Adrian ended his life, but soon, strange things start occurring around her, which makes her think that Adrian may not be gone after all. The film’s greatest strength lies in the powerhouse performance of Elisabeth Moss. She is firing on all cylinders in this movie as she genuinely looks like she is being tormented. The movie is also a commentary on abusive relationships, how that kind of relationship haunts you even when it is over, and who people are supposed to believe when accusations of abuse are said. The film uses the fear of the unknown to its advantage by making every scene feel like something might happen which leaves the viewer on edge. The Invisible Man is a crisp and chilling movie that effectively uses the fear of the unknown to deliver and tense filled ride.
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7
The events of The Trial Of The Chicago 7 take place between 1968-1969. However, the subject matter of the movie is apt for today’s political climate. The movie revolves around the Chicago 7 as they are put on trial based on charges against them by the US government relating to the protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The cast all around gives a solid performance, but special mention has to go to Sacha Baron Cohen as Yippie co-leader Abbie Hoffman for his free-spirited performance and Mark Rylance as the hard-charging lawyer of the Chicago 7, William Kunstler. The real star of the movie, however, is Aaron Sorkin’s superb, but not the most historically accurate, script. It manages to capture the mood of the time and infuse each courtroom scene with so much tension and action. Even the scenes held outside the courtroom are engaging with scenes set during the convention and an interrogation scene near the end being standouts. The movie can get you mad, aggravated, and emotional with what goes on during the trial. For something that happened more than 50 years ago, the movie truly feels like it can happen today. The Trial Of The Chicago 7 delivers a strong message of when outspoken people encounter a hostile government in a justice system that is not exactly fair for everyone.
WELCOME TO CHECHNYA
Movies can be an avenue for us to escape from reality. For two or so hours, we get transported to a different world or time and live the life of someone else. Yet movies should also open us to harsh but true realities of the world. Welcome To Chechnya is a chilling documentary that shows the abhorrent but true treatment of the LGBT community in Chechnya, Russia. The documentary centers on a group of LGBT activists in Russia as they hide and help LGBT Russians in Chechnya from imprisonment, torture, and execution. The film gives the viewer a firsthand account of LGBT Russians living in hiding as they fear for their lives and look to escape to another country. It is a riveting and unforgettable documentary as it mixes advocacy, investigative reporting, and suspense. There is no happy ending for this movie as the persecutions are still happening to this day, but there is hope in the form of activists and members of the LGBT community who help one another and speak out against the crimes. Welcome To Chechnya is a hard documentary to watch, but one that will open your eyes to the situation and leave a lasting impact on you.
This year may not be remembered as a banner year for animated movies. That is a shame since this year saw the release of one of the best animated movies in recent years, WolfWalkers. The movie follows a hunter and his young apprentice daughter, Robyn, as they set-up a new life in Ireland to hunt down the last wolf pack near the settlement. Everything changes, however, when Robyn befriends a little girl from a mysterious tribe that can transform into wolves by night. The movie is absolutely gorgeous with breathtaking and colorful animation. The art style is like a children’s sketchbook come to life. The film is a feast for the eyes and great to look at both in stills and in motion. This all helps to enhance the movie’s storytelling that will keep you hooked from start to finish. The film also manages to infuse the story with mature ideas like Irish folklore, the destructive nature of colonialism, religion, and environmentalism. It’s eye-catching how far the movie goes to paint the main villain as a man of deep faith and trust in God. It makes you wonder what actually motivates the villain to do what he did. This is Cartoon Saloon’s best movie to date, and that is saying a lot since their past films have been great as well. (Soul is probably the only other animated movie released in 2020 that could rival WolfWalkers in terms of animated excellence. It is Pixar’s best movie in years and proves once again that the animation studio knows how to ask complex questions in an accessible form.)
Bad Education – A strong ensemble cast led by an excellent Hugh Jackman; this movie is an entertaining depiction of the biggest embezzlement scam in American public school system history.
Beanpole – This Russian movie tells a compelling story of two young women trying to find meaning in their lives in post WW 2 Leningrad Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. While the movie’s satire is as great as always, the real star of the movie is the breakout performance from Maria Sagdiyev as Borat’s daughter, Tutar.
Dick Johnson is Dead – A heart-warming documentary on family and what it means to die.
Disclosure – In a year that saw Netflix release excellent documentaries like Athlete A and Crimp Camp, Disclosure stands out with its riveting examination of transgender people portrayed in the media.
Freaky – A body swap horror movie that manages to deliver both on the scares and the laughs
On the Rocks – The reunion of Bill Murray and director Sofia Coppola is made better by the addition of Rashida Jones and makes for a fun father-daughter adventure in New York City.
Possessor: Uncut – A brain trip of a horror movie that holds nothing back with its visceral action and thought-provoking themes.
Tenet – Despite a sometimes hard to follow story, Christopher Nolan’s take on a spy movie has some of the most creative and exhilarating actions scenes of the year.
As part of the graduating class of 2020, I thought that this year would be my year. However, life had other plans in store.
Like most of my batchmates, I was looking forward to 2020. It was my final semester in college, and I was set to graduate in May. I had friends and classmates preparing trips around the country or abroad after graduation. Coming into my final semester, I fully intended to enjoy every moment as this would be my last time in college. Like many who have come before me, I wanted to close this important chapter of my life on a good note. Then March came, and everything hit a brick wall.
When I learned that school was going to be suspended because of the coronavirus, I thought that it was going to last only a few weeks. It soon became clear that in-person classes would be suspended indefinitely, and I would have to finish the rest of the semester online. After a month, my school announced that they would give the option to let students end their semester early and opt not to be graded for the semester. As much as I would have liked to finish my last semester in college, my brain was not in the right headspace to complete my final requirements with everything that was going on. I opted to end the semester early, and soon, I was a college graduate. What I thought would be a grand celebration to end my college life ended up being more of a whimper.
A CHANGED CAREER PATH
If COVID-19 never happened, I had planned on spending the months after graduation traveling or just at home on a long vacation. By September, I would start looking for a job and hopefully end the year with a full-time job. My dream job is to become a writer, specifically a movie critic. I was hoping that there would be openings in magazines, newspapers, or websites for such. I would then hopefully use that as a launching pad to achieve greater things. However, the coronavirus crisis took all of that away. Writing jobs, especially the ones I gravitated towards, were few and far between. When I applied for a job I did like, I was up against dozens to hundreds of applicants with stronger credentials than me. I applied to over 40 jobs in the last six months of the year, and I never heard back from any of them. What other writing jobs I could find were not suitable for my skill set. Even if I did apply for them, I knew I would go up against more experienced applicants. While I still do dream of becoming a movie critic, I don’t think that is achievable any time soon in terms of it as a livelihood, and I’ll probably have to put that on hold for now.
When it comes to other graduates I know, it’s been a mixed bag. I have friends who were able to find jobs during the pandemic—some they wanted and some they did not. I also have friends who are currently unemployed because they are not interested in finding a job right now or cannot find one. I wouldn’t be surprised if batchmates I know end up shifting career paths because of how the pandemic changed everything.
WHEN STATUS QUO IS NO LONGER OKAY
“I always try to be aware of the state of things around me but at times, it felt like I was living in this bubble.”
Aside from how my professional life has changed, this year has also changed the way I see the world. With a house to go home to and without having to worry about what I’m going to eat for the day, I admit that I come from a privileged background. I probably am in a better situation physically, mentally, and financially than some of my peers. With that being said, I always try to be aware of the state of things around me but at times, it felt like I was living in this bubble. 2020 popped that bubble wide open.
I am entering the “real world” during one of the most significant periods in modern human history. The pandemic has highlighted how broken some systems truly are. Inequality and injustice have been pushed to the forefront of society with how pandemic has affected certain sectors of people harder than others. The Black Lives Matter movement has shown that America, and frankly most of the world, have a long way to go when it comes to treating people of different skin color, race, and background fairly.
If you watched the news anytime during the past year, you realize that things are not okay in the Philippines. I get angry when I see local politicians use the pandemic for their own political agenda. The countless stories of police killing civilians and other abuses do not make me feel safe. I get frustrated when I see healthcare workers get mistreated or die of the virus without getting proper protection. Both my parents are doctors, and whenever I see them get in their PPEs and scrub suits before they go to work, I always worry in the back of my mind that they may get sick or spread the virus to me and my siblings. I have a cousin who is doctor who caught COVID-19. I even had a relative die of the virus. It’s not lost on me that the Philippines has one of the worst responses to COVID-19 in the world.
I never have been vocal about my beliefs before. I had my own opinions and beliefs for sure, but I just never vocalized them out loud on social media because I’m introverted like that. This year though has shown me that I can’t just be silent and let things be the way they are. I decided to speak up more about what I did not like and the bad things I was seeing happen in this country.
Tempting as it is to retreat to my bubble, I cannot do that. If I do so, I will be using my privilege the wrong way. Some of my Facebook friends did not like this more vocal side of me, but I felt I needed to use my voice to help out in any way I can. Besides, it’s not illegal to voice your displeasure, right?
LOOKING TO 2021
As I enter 2021, I feel like I’m in a state of limbo. Professionally, I am not sure what the year has in store for me. I was able to find two writing jobs. The first job is unpaid and voluntary, but at least I get to write about topics I like. The second is a part-time paid job, which is better than nothing, but definitely not enough to sustain a long-term livelihood. I hopefully will have a full-time job in 2021, but what that job exactly is remains to be seen.
In the long run, I do have my blessings to be thankful for. My parents and siblings have not caught COVID-19 (and I hope they never will). The countless Zoom and Discord calls I’ve done made me appreciate my friends and family more now than I ever did. I also do know that there have been so many people who have suffered an unprecedented loss this year whether it be the loss of a loved one to COVID-19 or suffering financially like the loss of a job. I want to be positive and grateful, but it gets hard when I see all the loss, pain, and anger on the news and social media.
I want to be hopeful that things will get better, but with the way life work, that’s not a guarantee. 2020 truly was a year unlike any other. It shook me, my beliefs, and the way I see the world. My future used to be clear for me, but now, I do not know what to expect any more. Hopefully, all the nonsense of 2020 can stay in the past, and all the positive change that was seen this year will be continued into 2021 and for the years to come.
Still trying to figure out how to make those effortless videos on Tiktok? Learn a thing or two from Maris Racal’s page full of hidden, relatable gems, quirky parodies, and pop culture challenges.
With over 3 million followers both on TikTok and Twitter, and 4.9 million Instagram, you’d have to think, why are people on the Internet always talking about Maris Racal? Yes, it’s already a fact that she makes great music and is one of the most sought-after actresses of her generation, but when she started actively tweeting and taking on Tiktok challenges, that’s when everyone grew to love her even more.
Winning the Internet while maintaining the glossy celebrity-pop star hybrid image she’s become known for isn’t easy, but we all love authenticity, don’t we? Real as real can get, she isn’t afraid to talk about current issues, too.
When Maris Racal posted her now infamous OPM Dress-As-The-Song challenge featuring songs by APO Hiking Society, Gary V, Kamikazee and IV of Spades to name a few, and got her trending on Twitter, she celebrated it in the most Maris way. Yes, by posting an actual fan cam made by none other than herself. ‘Cause who else could’ve done it better? Crown her already!
From remakes of iconic TV spats, learning how to do the “Woah,” and just making the most mundane things humorous, she proves that she has the RANGE. Here’s a compilation of some of our favorite Maris Racal TikToks that you have to try.
WOKE UP LIKE THIS
Sorry, I can’t talk right now. I’m doing hot girl sh#t.
MARICRIS VS. BEA
Raise your hand if you’ve ever used the “act your age” line from this iconic PBB fight.
THE BOTE CHALLENGE
There’s so many layers to this that have to be revealed. We need some damn answers, Miss Maris.
YOU’RE JUST LIKE RAT, JUMPING AROUND THE CORNER
You’re just jealous because you know I’m beautiful and you’re not! Very jealous.
Even with the best and most sincere of intentions, not every gift given will be loved. Appreciated, sure. Accorded with gratitude? Definitely. But when backs are turned, the affection is quite the same. It could be an almost unnoticeable twitch of the lip or the immediate slipping of the present into a pile, but it happens—the intention will not equal the reception. And that’s okay, really. As clichéd as it sounds, it’s the thought that counts. Better than nothing at all, right?
It’s not always even unwanted, because there are cases of it being something you already have. So, what happens with those unwanted or well, abundance of generosity? While others would see the present through, maybe use it a few times before retiring it to oblivion, there will those with a more economical and efficient sense to pay it forward through regifting. At this point, you have most likely been triggered by the thought of being passed along a gift meant for someone else, dismissing it as tired, thoughtless, and just plain tacky, but is it really? Or have you been brainwashed by everyone saying it is?
Let’s level with this. There are rights and wrongs when it comes to regifting, but inherently, it isn’t bad just because a few have said it so. That is their opinion, not yours. Personally, whether it is a recycled present, I am still thankful, because we all know that giving gifts is always a challenge and more importantly, times are harder now. The mere fact that people still go out of their way to give gifts, speaks a whole lot of their generosity. Think of it this way: If they find no use for it, it is better to find a better place or person for it, lest it just gather dust or get thrown in the trash.
The picture painted with regifting has more to do with psychology than personal preference. If others didn’t say it was bad, would you actually think the same with something you received for whatever holiday or special occasion that you actually liked? Granted, you have to make sure you have thoughtfully considered it for some time and have absolutely no use for it (don’t just toss it for the sake of), you exercise regifting outside a few social circles to skip that whole awkward conversation between gifter, regifter, and regifted, and you steer clear of giving out anything personalized or monogrammed, but otherwise, you have to let your own free will do the thinking and deciding, not someone else. There’s a lot of stigma and taboo that come with it, when perhaps all it was some person who hated the gift someone gave them and decided no one else should like it. Now, who’s the real Scrooge or Grinch here?
When regifting, make sure to rewrap it nicely and write a heartfelt note apart from the usual to and from—it’s the very least you can do. Besides, unless it is fitted specifically to the person, you should have no more business with what the person wants to do with their gift. It’s like the gift that gives (not to be confused with giving, which might suggest a continuous case of a present being passed along as a regift), going to someone that truly deserves it more than others. Not all gifts will be perfect, but taking out the physical, all that’s left is the personal affectation. And if someone has taken the time to extend generosity, sharing something special regardless, then honestly, that’s the real gift right there.
Warm your icy heart a little, no one needs a gatekeeper of gifting. It is Christmas after all.
More often than not, romantic comedies are not taken as seriously as its more dramatic or art house counterparts in the grand scale of the cinema. While greatly appreciated to a certain degree, not a lot will openly admit to a liking to the specific facet of the comedic genre that is predisposed to an extra suspension of disbelief with formulaic engineering of meet-cutes, emotional entanglements, and happy ever afters. Instead, it is filed as a guilty pleasure, one that you go-to when you’ve run out of thing to binge on Netflix, when you’re in a rut of feelings, or when you need a little dose of cheering up. Even the most jaded and cynical will be no match to the peppy and sunshiny disposition of especially good rom coms, because trust me, there are really questionable ones—but even that I will most likely have watched and thoroughly enjoyed as the hopeless, hopeful romantic that I am.
It is too good to be true, yes. But even in its most absurd and most clichéd tropes, strange and serendipitous rom coms are a unique study into the complexities of romantic relationships. While many have tried and tried to make sense of it in both the educational and emotional sense, the slices of life that are fleshed out in the charm of a Nora Ephron production or the sardonic leanings of British humor work simply because it heroes love. I know, eye roll, but at the end of the day, wherever your barometer tips in the scale of romance, we crave for love—the unapologetic, the unequalled, and unequivocal kind that literature has long worked to thoroughly define.
You see, it isn’t anything less than other cinematic genres. Sure, it can sometimes be too self aware, overly saccharine, or a ridiculous oversimplification of romance and relationships, but even the most agonizing of these fairy tales will warm the icy cockles of your heart, whether you will want to admit or not. It will catch you off guard, where the stories are most likely too close to home or too real that you relent to the feeling and just run away with it—even if it is in the middle of the Christmas rush or iciness of winter. As it is signature to rom coms, the universal language it speaks can turn even the most doubtful into a believer, especially during the holidays.
There is just something about the pervasive spirit of joy, abundance of hope, and persistence of love that gives you the warm and fuzzy feeling. With the usual war-grade defenses lowered, as well as of the typical cool seasonal breeze that makes it even more Christmas-y, the only thing you will want to do amid the flurry of festivities and feelings is to bundle up in the corner of your bed and watch holiday rom coms. And in concurrence with what Hugh Grant says in the overture of Love Actually, “I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
Here we list 10 of the essential holiday rom coms you should watch over the holidays or even beyond—we’re not one to judge.
Has it really been three years since Justin Bieber last took to the stage? Technically, yes, because while it was all systems go for his Chances Tour early this year, the mighty pummelling of the pandemic said, “Nope, not this time, buddy.” From optimistically downsizing the effort to outright canceling it, better believe it has been that long since the multiple Grammy Award nominee made the fans go wild at his energetic performances, his musical explorations, and of course, his signature sound. However, there has been no lack of his presence over the blurred out stretch that is the year about to end, because while keeping us up to date on his social media, popping up on talk shows, and gushing over the love of his life, Hailey Bieber, Justin Bieber has been dishing out collaborations (Lonely with Benny Blanco, Holy Feat. Chance The Rapper, and Monster with Shawn Mendes) to at least in his own way, help air out the collective dread and doom that have been the desensitized norm for everyone.
“See you on NYE,” he teases in an Instagram Story, taking us behind-the-scenes of his befitting punctuation to the year. A holiday gift to his fans and to finally end the years-long drought of his performances of epic proportions, T-Mobile is presenting New Year’s Live with Justin Bieber to rock out to what has to go and ring in a fresh new start, which we are all in dire need of. “I can’t wait to partner on this epic New Year’s Eve concert with them, and give everyone a safe way to kick 2020 out the door, together,” says the pop star in a statement detailing his return to the live stage. “We’re working on more surprises to watch out for during this special night.”
While the larger-than-life coming together that is typical of counting down from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day is out of the question for the time being, Justin Bieber and T-Mobile are mounting a full-length livestream event on December 31 at 10:15 ET through JustinBieberNYE.com, with re-airings on January 1 at 5:00 AM and 3:00 PM ET. Touted to be an arena-sized production in an yet to be disclosed iconic location, T-Mobile Presents New Year’s Live With Justin Bieber is going all out with a five-piece band, Justin’s dance crew, a new stage, and a state-of-the-art-light show.
If you are looking to greet the New Year with the same high-octane and purposeful entertainment as is typical of the turning of the tide, but with adapating to the changes of our current reality, then the T-Mobile Presents New Year’s Live With Justin Bieber is your ticket to a good ‘ol time. While tickets are on sale and T-Mobile subsribers have free access, you, dear reader will have the chance to experience the livestream by simply following NYLON Manila and MCA Music on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and answering this question: Tell us what Justin Bieber collab helped get you through this year and why?
It’s that easy. With two special codes up for grabs, we find out the winners on December 30. So, what are you waiting for? He said it himself, “You make me wanna live it up, your presence is critical.” Get to it, because Justin Bieber will be waiting in full force on New Year’s Eve.
You think you’ve seen everything from Issa Pressman? Try again.
Content creator, artist, musician, and now, a business woman doing big girl things, Issa Pressman is no longer afraid of being on anybody’s radar—even if it means being the most-searched female personality in the country for 2020, according to Google’s Year in Search.
Fearless yet self-aware of every decision she makes—whether it’s for her family, her pups, or her career, shares Issa, “it’s true that criticism is something given, but the choice of receiving it is within our control.” Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Might as well go with your gut. And boy, she did.
She’s been booked and busy, working on Koop Studio, one of the go-to salons in Manila, Presidential Paws Club, a dog accessory line she created together with her sister Yassi for the pet lovers, and now, her much-awaited project, I S S A The Brand where she creates her own hand-drawn designs on scarves that you can pretty much wear any way you like. Building a brand isn’t easy—let alone in a pandemic, but she’s quite the rebel, doing things in the most unconventional way. She’s unapologetically herself—whether you like it or not. Though she had her fair share of struggles in 2020 just like the rest of us, she picked herself up and admits life is still a learning process: including the highs and lows. Today, we catch up with the head-turner as she unravels her reflections and realizations before the year ends and why you’ll never see her not thriving.
How would you differentiate your life right now compared to early this year?
Early this year, moments were crazy. Scenes so personal, but still special for my family and I to go through, then…a movie for the world…Right now? Life is still as crayyyy. And that’s not going to change ‘coz life just ain’t that easy. What is life if it doesn’t get uneasy anyway? The tummy aches you get from the butterflies going wild are the same tummy aches that happen when you’re laughing your loudest.
One of the things I am sure of is that the difference between our yesterday and our today is growth. Externally, things have been unsure. Internally, I took that time to find myself and mature. There’s still so much ahead of me, but if I were to compare myself from the beginning of 2020 and the end of 2020, while staying grounded, I’m definitely thinking further.
It’s amazing how my lowest point in my life (not just year) is also the highest. My Dad’s time of saying his final good night to the world was the lowest, but because of how much of a beautiful person he was, he left with a good night and an assurance that my sister and I will say good morning to life, everyday. My highest point was seeing how special love is, how real happiness can get and that life is ours to live. It was that point when I was at my lowest, that I had to pick my self up, high enough that I saw the value of life.
Criticism is inevitable. How do you deal with it?
Criticism that comes from a good place is something you should accept and listen to ‘coz there’s a caring intention there, but if it’s coming from a negative space, someone who just has time to waste, and means nothing but to offend you, then leave that time wasted for them.
My family and best friends who are now my teammates in work and in life. 2021 is a new year for all of us, and we’re fueled and inspired. P.S. Love u guys, you know who you are!!!! Hehe. But really tho, I’m taking GRATITUDE with me as I enter 2021…can’t be without it!! ??
Can you tell us about I S S A the brand? What motivated you to release it despite the pandemic?
I S S A is a brand born of the desire to embrace self-expression when I took the stillness of last year to push the boundaries of my creativity. The four designs are all wearable pieces inspired by art movements and the natural world—femininity, beauty in distortion, embracing imperfection and recognizing uniqueness.
You do you, 5 yr old boo boo! And also, since my sister and I used to fight a lot as kids, I’d tell baby me to “stop fighting with your sister, it’s such a waste ‘coz after your teen years, you guys are gonna be best friends, and you’ll have each other’s back for life. So, stop pulling her hair you and start hugging her!”
What comes to your mind when you hear the word NYLON? Can you visualize it?
When I hear NYLON, I feel the intensity rising, so it had to be red, but I mixed in a nice and soft purple shade to show that what you guys have up for us is all freeeeeshhhh. Mixed in my print that I call, Linealisms. Enjoy this! It’s a little year-ender gift from me to you guys at NYLON! Thanks for having me!
Long before the last-minute shopping rush, awkward year-end virtual parties, and the worst traffic sitch of the year, Christmas used to be just snuggling up in our blankets during the weeks-long holiday break while watching TV.
While the most wonderful time of the year doesn’t feel so lovely given 2020’s distressing shake-up, we turn to 10 of our favorite childhood Christmas specials and films that we watched as kids for some much needed holiday cheer. Brb, re-watching everything to re-calibrate our minds from everything we went through this year.
This highly underrated film starring Jim Carrey may feel like a Tim Burton production because of the odd-looking characters that were literally brought to life from Dr. Seuss’ children’s book, but the actor’s over-the-top performance as the mean ol’ Grinch (despite some issues on the set) and his transformation from being a killjoy to one of Whoville’s biggest hearts is unforgettable.
2. HOME ALONE 1 & 2 (1990, 1992)
You know it’s finally that season when you catch this Christmas classic on TV. If anyone grew up making booby traps and having trust issues with strangers, you have Kevin McCallister to thank for it. We also love how it was re-created by MaCaulay Culkin remade those iconic scenes more than 20 years later!
3. RUGRATS’ THE SANTA EXPERIENCE (1992)
As kids, most of us were led to believe that a guy in a red suit would only grant your Christmas wishes if you made it to the exclusive, members-only Nice List. But what happens when children question the existence of Santa Claus? Here’s a childhood show that explains a lot of grown-up stuff beginning from their Hanukkah episode, sibling rivalry, and growing up without a motherly figure to name a few.
4. JACK FROST(1998)
Hate to break it to you, but this isn’t the movie starring the gorgeously animated blonde guy with magical flowers, but Jack Frost, the snowman. Not everyone gets a second chance in life—especially if you’re a flaky musician that reincarnates as a snowman in the afterlife. A true Christmas classic, we dare you to watch this heart-warming film without shedding a few tears.
5. MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. BEAN (1992)
It’s hard to believe that Mr. Bean only had 15 episodes, probably because each one was memorable. Who could ever forget when he met the Queen of England and got completely disoriented and hit her with his head upon bowing down? This episode will forever be etched in our core memories as kids and it’s not hard to see why it is memorable to this day . Who else remembers that hilarious nativity scene?
6. THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994)
As the real Santa gets injured when he falls off the roof one night, Scott Calvin puts St. Nick’s suit on ’cause you know, the reindeers know what to do once you wear it, and eventually takes his place. He is skeptical of the physical manifestations at first, especially during his trip to the North Pole, but then realizes that he truly is more than just the guy with a white beard and red suit.
7. ELF (2003)
Maybe the world would be a better place if we could just make ginger bread houses and hold hands. No? Well, this isn’t the case for Buddy, the human raised by elves. In search of his real parents, he travels to NYC to find his family, but feels disoriented as soon as he arrives to the Big Apple. If you’re feeling desperate for laughs, this movie takes the cake.
8. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS(1997)
6 years after the Beauty and the Beast film premiered, Disney created this Christmas spin-off of the beloved tale. A party is held in the castle sometime after the spell has been broken and the Beast is haunted by his past—mainly because he was cursed on Christmas eve, but Belle still manages to save the day. Also, we have yet to find that fur cape that she wore. Can anyone ID?
9. THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992)
We fondly remember seeing this on VHS back in the day and most adults still try to watch this movie every December. People still think it’s a silly kid’s film, but the storyline is surprisingly deep and full of symbols. With the turmoil of 2020 in the country, who comes to your mind when you think of Ebenezer Scrooge?
10. ARNOLD’S CHRISTMAS (1997)
Tackling life’s big questions in the big city, Hey Arnold’s premise feels like therapy for most adults up to this day—not to mention the astounding jazz soundtrack. On their Christmas special, Arnold learns about the heartbreaking story of Mr. Hyunh, a Vietnamese restaurant worker who gave his daughter to an American soldier during the war to give her a better life. Arnold and Gerald begin to find her, and the ending leads to an unexpected cry fest. Word of caution: box of tissues required.