Christ, what a mess.
That’s the general sense of this year. The pandemic! The president! The pretzels I keep stuffing in my mouth! Shakespeare has an expression — I think it comes from Henry V — and it goes like this: oy vey iz mir.
Anyway, with the world in disarray I stayed grounded by shoveling #content coal into the furnace. I filed more stories this year than I ever have in my life. A lot of them were quickies (there were a few strange months where I was actually covering breaking news — like real news — and writing up Governor Cuomo’s press conferences) but I also got to do some nifty interviews, deep-dives into unusual waters, and even some old fashioned reviews.
Here’s some of the stuff I am proud of. I won’t overdo it.
I spoke to a lot of cool people this year, some of whom I have admired for years. For Vanity Fair, I spoke with Randy Newman, Branford Marsalis, the documentarian Matt Wolf (whose work I really love), Kelly Reichardt, the producer from the terrific show The Eddy that too few people watched, and Alex Winter about Frank Zappa.
At Times of Israel I spoke with Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker about Hitler, my friend Liel Leibovitz about Stan Lee, and one of the greatest directors working today, Rebecca Zlotowski, about her lush and wonderful film An Easy Girl. My interview with Zlotowski was the last bit of professional business I did outside my apartment this year. Indeed, returning from our chat in a tiny room deep within Lincoln Center was the last time I took the subway. Weird. Oh, wait, for weird, nothing tops this: also for Times of Israel, somehow I ended up interviewing Bernard Henri-Lévy. Not my usual beat, but he was extremely nice!
For Polygon, I spoke to the creator of Star Trek: Lower Decks, Mike McMahan, and at Vulture I spent way way way waaaaaaay too long ranking every one of Billy Crystal’s Oscar parody numbers. (This is an example of, if I were to look at the amount of effort that went into it against the money I received, I would have been far better served working at Burger King. This is the business we’ve chosen.)
Jordan H. with Rebecca Z., some years ago.
At Vanity Fair I frequently find myself dashing off hastily written obituaries. I did a lot of them this year. However many you think I did, double it. There are are few where I feel I did right by the person, including Toots Hibbert, Little Richard, and Neil Peart. One I wrote for Ennio Morricone was filed in advance, and it shows.
Other stories I am proud of this year include this 90th birthday tribute to Sonny Rollins, a look at the weirder side of Bob Dylan, a fairly deep-dive into the mostly forgotten film The Strawberry Statement, something resembling a review of the Russian movie/social experiment DAU, and a look at the number one picture during the 1918 pandemic, a silent comedy called Mickey. All of these unusual stories (and more) were published at the great MEL Magazine, an outlet that gave me a “go for it!” when I asked if they wanted a review of Sátántángo when a new print hit streaming. God bless MEL Magazine!
At The Guardian I weirdly ended up writing two pieces about The Grateful Dead. The first is something of a primer for noobs, and the second is me kvelling about their oft-overlooked self-produced documentary, The Grateful Dead Movie. I also detailed my first ever viewing of Forrest Gump and expressed my love for the blatant Star Wars ripoff Starcrash. And then, in answer to “what was your favorite movie at age 14?” I answered honestly, with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
At Thrillist I reported on just what in the hell is going on at New York City’s arthouses during this pandemic year, and at Vulture I spent way way way too long writing about every one of Billy Crystal’s Oscar parody songs.
At TV Guide and elsewhere I wrote a lot of reviews in 2020 about junk people have already forgotten. (Where are the Project Power fans? Nowhere. The answer is nowhere.) But there were a few where I feel like I really nailed it, so here are links to my reviews for The Plot Against America, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Hubie Halloween, Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix special, and especially The Trial of the Chicago 7. (I really went to town on that movie, with a fairly in-depth “what happened next?” story, as well as a “wait, did it actually happen like this?” one.)
Lastly, and most true to my heart, I wrote a short news item about my hero Trey Anastasio, and the groundbreaking work he did with The Beacon Jams. If you don’t know what I am talking about, well, this link is exactly what you need to click.
I’ve got one exciting thing up my sleeve for 2021 I can’t talk about yet, and then, well, who the hell knows? I’m always ready to try something new.