How can we make sense of the most difficult year of our collective lives?

Through the magic of cinema.

Going forward with Leo Listening in 2021, I want to focus not only on helping you understand movies in English and native English speakers without subtitles, but also on helping you understand yourself and the world through movies.

What makes movies such a great way to explore the human condition? Director Martin Scorsese sums it up perfectly in this quote:

“Movies touch our hearts, and awaken our vision, and change the way we see things. They take us to other places. They open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our lifetime. We need to keep them alive.”

So with that in mind, here are 5 movies to make sense of 2020.

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#1 The Shawshank Redemption

Imagine spending over 20 years in prison for a crime you didn’t commit. But you dig your way out anyway with a rock hammer and hide the tunnel you created behind a poster of a movie star.

Shawshank is a tale of patience, resolve, resilience and determination. And above all a tale of hope. Just a few of the qualities we’ve developed and strengthened this year.

#2 Cast Away

So we haven’t been in solitary confinement on a tropical island for 5 years. But at some moments, you may have come close to drawing a face on a ball and creating your very own Wilson to talk to.

Cast Away reminds us of the extraordinary will to live within us, our ingenuity and our ability to keep going in the toughest and loneliest of circumstances.

And of course, Tom Hanks was one of the first celebrity Covid casualties that we heard about – at 64 and with type 2 diabetes, we’re lucky that he made a full recovery and that Forest Gump is still with us to continue making movies

#3 Contagion

Contagion is the movie I hoped I’d never find myself in – and then 2020 happened. 21 days into this movie’s pandemic, and the world stops.

When the film came out in 2011, it might have seemed far-fetched that an anti-vaccine, miracle cure peddling conspiracy theorist like Alan Krumwiede, played by Jude Law, could have such an impact on millions of people.

Fast forward a few years and social media is full of conspiracy theories and charlatans offering magic potions. Meanwhile public health professionals watch in horror cases and deaths rise, as governments ignore their advice.

The movie is not only socially, but scientifically accurate. The pandemic kicks off after a company clears forest in China, and a bat infects a pig. Gwenyth Paltrow’s character becomes patient zero after shaking hands with the chef who was cooking the infected pig.

2020 is the year I finally gave up meat after first getting interested in vegetarianism/veganism aged 19/20. Eating less meat will help us prevent the next pandemic.

#4 Avatar

This year we experienced life with less traffic, less air pollution and looked on with wonder as nature filled the void humans had left.

Is this our Avatar moment? Will we take this chance to graduate from our petro-capitalist society to an ecological one? A society of interconnection? Or will corruption continue to destroy the living world?

We’ve seen the worst that can happen this year when governments prioritise the economy over health.

#5 The Thing

Our “Movie Club” choice for October and one of the greatest horror movies of all time, John Carpenter’s The Thing is about a superspreading event.

Instead of showing solidarity and support, a bunch of guys at a scientific research base descend into fear and distrust after an alien being starts assimilating them one after one.

Just like an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic Covid case, no-one knows who the alien has infected, until Macready, Kurt Russel’s character, finally comes up with a way to test for it.

Sounds like many European governments right? Let’s finally start testing, tracing and isolating once the pandemic has already spread.

Over To You

So, let me know in the comments, which movie or movies sum up 2020 for you? Do you agree with my choices? Have you seen any of these movies before or would you like to?

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