Things that got me through 2020. In no particular order.

Elvis mask, made for me by Jill Blake who was like “I just happened to have this Elvis 68 Comeback Special fabric lying around … do you want a mask?” Do you have to ask?

There were so many great videos showing artists still creating – or trying to create and entertain – during lockdown. This one is my favorite:

It didn’t matter that I was in lockdown, living alone, in total isolation. Every day, come hell or high water, I applied Kat von D tattoo liquid eyeliner plus copious mascara. It made me feel human.

YouTube reactor community, primarily:
Stevie Knight
Mr. Video
R. Toney Reactions
Larissa and Lauren
Twins is the new trend
Scru Face Jean
India Reacts
The Jayy Show
Too Sushi
Sincerely KSO
No Life Shaq

Speaking of which, my film critic friends, many of whom I don’t have pictures of, but who were there as a community – online – on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter and in some cases doing periodic Zooms – I miss them. I miss seeing them at screenings. Running into them. Gathering at Keith and Dan’s. In no particular order again:
Farran Smith Nehme
Kim Morgan
Isobel Smith
Liz Helfgott
Glenn Kenny
K. Austin Collins
Hillary Weston
Tomris Laffly
Angelica Bastien
Nicolas Rapold
Abbey Bender
Stephanie Zacharek
Odie Henderson
Steven Santos
Jourdain Searles
Andrew Chan
Dana Stevens
Jen Johans
Christina Newland
Bill Ryan
David Moses
Bilge Ebiri
Sean Burns
Michael Koresky
Jonathan Goldman
John Beifuss
Keith Uhlich
Dan Callahan
Jill Blake
Kelly Sedinger
Manohla Dargis
Caden Gardner
Monica Castillo
Matt Zoller Seitz
Alan Scherstuhl
Sonny Bunch
Catherine Stebbins
Miriam Bale
Simon Abrams
Charlie Taylor
Ed Gonzalez
Willow Catelyn Maclay
The Ebert team: Chaz Ebert, Brian Tallerico, Matt Fagerholm, Nell Minow, Nick Allen

Also, all of my Supernatural friends:
Everyone who shows up to comment on my Supernatural posts – love the discussions
all the Supernatural folks on Twitter – Candi, KJM, The Big Winchester, Antipodes Annie, Rainbow Tits McGee (lol), Kelios … every one of you who kept talking about the show, loving on the show, having great Twitter discussions during the endless lock-down before the finale

And then Instagram, all the feeds that gave me joy, made me think, gave me a break, gave me hope – go seek these feeds out, if you’re on Instagram:
Maria McKee
Accidentally Wes Anderson
History of Art
Lana Sator
Lian Lunson
Velvet Coke
Royce da 5’9″
Sarah Nicole Prickett
Everyday Refugees
Bethostern (Howard Stern’s wife. Her feed is mostly cats. It’s healing.)
Michael Rapaport
GigantesNazare (about the surfing at Nazare in Portugal: terrifying and awe-inspiring waves)
The Ballerina
Linda Thompson
Muhammed Muheisen
Courtney Love
King Bach
Diane Keaton
Tobe Nwigwe
Kxng Crooked
Cats of Instagram
Our Planet Daily
Old Fashion Vibes
Skylar Grey
Sam Shaw Photo
Megan Abbott
Big Foot Waves
Britney Spears #FREEBRITNEY
Epson Pro Photography
Jack Black
Monastery of the Angels
Chelsea Handler
Nan Goldin Studio
The 90s Supermodels
Ellen von Unwerth
NASA Hubble

My college-graduate nephew Cashel – drawing by my mother:

Aaron Rupar on Twitter. There are others who kept up the flow of information during an incredibly challenging year. But I’ll pull him out because what he was doing was so unique and very meaningful in the atmosphere of lies coming from the top. Speaking of which:

and …

… but he gets me through every year.

Nothing like the friends you met when you were 10. Or, in some cases here, 6.

The “informality” of the Zoom-pandemic-world led to some of the best celebrity interviews! It’s been an embarrassment of riches. Cut out the middle-man, the weird arch-artificial set-up of most interviews, the same sound-bites. It’s a new world now. I’ll miss it when the world opens up again. This first one is, at least, the most in-depth thing I’ve ever seen regarding Jensen:

Then there was Joe Rogan interviewing Miley Cyrus, which – again – it’s the best interview with Cyrus ever – no contest – and it’s quickly become one of my favorite celeb interviews ever:

And finally: Eminem is famously elusive and even more famously cagey and guarded in interviews. Right before lockdown came one of the best interviews with him in existence: he appeared on Mike Tyson’s podcast:

Speaking of which: Excepting my family and friends, he’s what got me through, culturally, as a self-sustaining digging-into-discography from start to finish project. I can’t explain it. It just happened that way.

This moment, during one of Pat McCurdy’s Live Facebook shows on Friday nights: This person remembered me from when I used to perform with Pat in Chicago in the mid-90s – and he wasn’t the only one to ask if I “was there” but he was the first:

High-waisted boot-cut yoga pants. Every. Day. I bought multiple pairs. Every. Day. All. Day. Alone in my apartment for weeks on end. It’s all I wore. Preferable to wearing pajamas all day because then you really go down into a wormhole of despair. So yes. I got dressed. In my boot-cut yoga pants and a fleece sweatshirt. And carefully-applied thick black liquid eyeliner and thick black mascara. All day. Every day. It’ll be weird to, like, wear my other shit when all this is over.

I don’t know what it is, I never was into pineapple before this year. Now I can’t get enough. I DEVOUR pineapple. Like a WILDEBEAST. I’d get anxious if I didn’t have pineapple in the house.

My sister and I freakin’ made this Woody scarecrow for the town’s annual scarecrow display. (Woody is being a good citizen and is using his handkerchief as a mask.) We Googled “How to make a scarecrow” and then followed the directions. Neither of us are crafty. I quit Girl Scouts when they made us do crafts. But look at what we made.

My cousin Emma (aka Lil Frex … I’ve written about her on here before!) is insane – in a great way – and has been doing a web series this whole pandemic called “That’s What I Heard.” I love her so much. “I’m smoking a cigarette AND I’m writing a letter to Santa Claus.” Cameo by my Aunt Regina. Here’s Emma’s year-end round-up but all individual episodes are on YouTube.

Also in the cousin realm: since quarantine began, my cousin Kerry has been posting a daily picture of her with her dog on Instagram, in matching Boston-team sports merch with matching masks. A different one every day. It became this soothing daily ritual:

Binge-watching, in general. A small sample:

Zoom call with friends, after Mitchell’s slow recovery from COVID. We were required to show up in costume.

Luisa and Brenda and their oasis-home:

After Hope died, my sister and the kids bought me one of these puffy stuffed animals – a cat one. The kids are obsessed with them, and each of them have multiple “versions” – and I had admired one of Pearl’s a couple nights before. They’re SO soft. The day after I had to put Hope to sleep, Jean and the kids surprised me with a bouquet, and home-made cards, and they had something in a bag – the kids all hovered around me as I opened it. I FLIPPED OUT when I saw what it was and the kids were SO excited to see my reaction. It was so touching. Especially because of what THEY all have been going through, to take the time to comfort me because I lost my cat. It was one of the major moments of Love this year. And I’ve slept with it ever since. Nights are the hardest because Hope and I had a whole ROUTINE. I still hear her feet in the other room sometimes. So I love my puff-puff cat. Every time I look at it I feel loved and I feel love. For my hurting mourning family, who are grieving so much.

Alex (my friend, Alexandra Billings.) She started her 8-month run in Wicked on Broadway in late February. I went to see her in it. SO thankful I did because Broadway shut down soon after, throwing the world of theatre people into disarray, despair, mourning. We did a Facebook Live conversation for her followers where we talked about Liza Minnelli, our attempts to infiltrate Scientology and Judy Garland’s acting … and half of the time both of us are in a blur, because we are rolling about laughing.

Writing this. It took me a long time to get it to what I considered to be right. It took me that long because I didn’t really understand it, even though it happened to me. Writing that piece changed me. Something lifted. Not really ready to write about that part of it, and maybe I never will. But something important shifted once I got that piece out of me and into the world. I own it now. Who he was to me. I understand now. It’s not often you actually shift the narrative of your own past. Like Tom Robbins wrote: “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” Or a happy 20s-30s.

John Krasinski’s Some Good News, especially the online Prom he hosted.

Spike Lee’s “New York New York”, which he posted to his Instagram in May, and it, of course, went viral. We at the NYFCC are giving him a special award for this film. It was so mournful but so hopeful. In a time when the leadership of this country was outright hostile towards the sick, the helpless, the needy, refusing to wear masks, refusing to mourn, blaming healthcare workers for not wearing masks properly (there are NO WORDS), when everyone (who wasn’t a heartless idiot) was filled with anxiety and concern for their fellow humans … making enormous sacrifices to social-distance, losing jobs and homes – with ZERO federal assistance – AND they’re trying to take away healthcare in the middle of a pandemic … fucking ghouls … when New York was an eerie ghosttown like out of a science fiction movie – everyone hurting and scared and in their apartments uncertain about the future, mourning their dead family members, unable to have wakes or funerals, worrying about their elderly family members or at-risk family members … in May, as the reality was starting to sink in that the shutdown was going to go on much longer than anticipated … out came this short film from Spike Lee. I have watched it so many times when I needed strength, or the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a love letter to New York, its resilience – FRANK!! – but also an acknowledgement of the current reality as it stood. For me, it’s one of the films of the year. Thank you, Spike.

And strangely enough: this place. I wrote a lot here this year. I researched all these different people I’d never written about before, and in some cases had never even heard of before. I challenged myself. It kept me focused, especially since I didn’t have my Film Comment column to occupy me anymore.

I thank my aunt Regina: I texted her: “Your skin is so perfect. I need a good cleanser. What do you use?” Instantly her answer came back. I went and bought a bottle and I’ll never look back. It’s amazing.

And last, but definitely not least, and I’m pulling her out of the Instagram section because she deserves it:

January Jones’ Instagram. Believe the hype.

This entry was posted in Actors, Books, Directors, Founding Fathers, Movies, Music, Personal, Television, Theatre and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Things that got me through 2020. In no particular order.

  1. Helena says:


    • Helena says:

      And good to see Lovesick on your list. I watched it A LOT when lockdown started, and thanked the Lord for its fluffy, messy, funny existence. This has been a year of being grateful for all kinds of things previously taken for granted.

      • sheila says:

        I think you might have been the one to tell me to check it out? After my discovery of JOHNNY FLYNN in Emma??

        And Lovesick just does not have the same connotation as its original title … why are we so prudish over here??

        I should watch the series again. The riverdancing scene makes me laugh just thinking about it.

    • sheila says:

      So thankful for our online hilarity but also enriching discussions!

      • Helena says:

        Yes, you have made it such a welcoming and enriching place. There is honestly nowhere else like it.

        Since lockdown I have joined a few fandom discords and – ooof, while one is lovely (it was created by a fantastic group of women who blog about Korean drama, so they have an established identity and have set a tone) it can be such a weird experience. I feel like making a comment in those places can be like waiting at a rural bus stop. You don’t know when the bus is coming, or if three will come at once, or if three will come and none of them will stop for you. Sometimes they might stop just to throw something at you. Oh, and some of the buses are driven by teenagers who actually hate the object of the fandom, as the Object has got things wrong, and also by the way, you, that person waiting at the bus stop, you are not entitled to like it. Good times.

        Which is to say, you have created a very special thing here, Sheila, and I’ve particularly cherished it over the past year, so thank you.

        • sheila says:

          Your description of fandom is so hilarious and true. “hate the object of the fandom” … it’s so weird when that happens. We’re seeing that now in Supernatural. The finale was … when was it again? … and the subset of the fandom is still raging through social media, telling writers/directors of the actual show that they deserve never to work again … saying over and over and over and OVER agin how the finale got everything wrong …

          but … it ended with the brothers? just like it started?

          I am so glad I carved out my own space in that fandom and met like-minded people – I think that was one of the reasons I started to write about – I wanted to talk about it but I was frankly terrified of the discourse as I saw it.

          I just wanted to talk about the SHOW, not the SHIPS. For God’s SAKE.

          and thank you Helena – this place was a little space of normalcy for me too – and i’m so glad other people feel the same way.

  2. Donna Thomas says:

    This made me search for the first posting of yours I ever read which was your and Alex’s visit to the COS and Ron world. It is friends and family who help face the absurdity of life. 2020 was filled with opportunities to bond with those who would walk through the headquarters of the COS with us and get to the other side.

    • sheila says:

      Oh my God, Alex and I visiting that L Ron museum is one of the highlights of not only our friendship but my whole life. That’s so funny that that’s the first post!

      I never wrote about our epic experience – recently, actually – trying to infiltrate the New York org. We wanted to see how far in we could get without putting any money down. We were in there for hours, and we had to PRY them off us to get out of there.

      The jig is up though with that cult. Those buildings are all mostly empty now. It had been building for a while – but Leah Remini was the final nail in the coffin!

      // 2020 was filled with opportunities to bond with those who would walk through the headquarters of the COS with us and get to the other side. //

      lol yes!

      • Donna Thomas says:

        My unnatural interest in cults started with the after school cult movies of the 1970’s. One with Kristy McNichol stands out.
        I’ve been a long time reader of all things COS and I find it very brave that you two went in twice! Glad they didn’t get you guys to sign the billion year contract.
        Thanks for a year of great content.

        • sheila says:

          I think we discussed “One” before – if I’m not mistaken I went and checked and I think it’s on YouTube. Don’t quote me on that. I wish there was a box-set of after-school specials. They’ve vanished into the ether and yet they were really relevant, and tackled big topics, and got great actors, many of whom became stars!

          // Glad they didn’t get you guys to sign the billion year contract. //

          hahahaha We really got to experience the move from soft sell to hard sell – that’s what we wanted to do. Like … how does it go when they put the pressure on?

          This is how we spent a day in New York City, when there were so many other things to do.

          and let me tell you … I KNOW about this cult, and I KNOW about psychological pressure … and even I found it hard to resist the hard sell. It began to feel like a vice around me. I began to think, “I actually don’t know if they’re going to let me leave” – !!! – that’s how much pressure I felt. also, they separated us for the hard-sell portion of our visit. so we didn’t have each other to rely on.

          We did get out of there but it was an amazing glimpse at just how TOUGH they are, and what kind of pressure they feel perfectly confident about applying.

          Thanks for showing up here over the years and commenting!

  3. Kerry O’Malley says:

    I am so honored.

    • sheila says:

      I think I said that to you on Instagram … it was so good to have daily rituals during these months of lockdown – and going to see what get-up you were in – with matching masks – every day – was a great ritual! I want to see where you store all of those things!

      Love you, cuz!

  4. John Vail says:

    This post was a joyful way to start the new year. The way we all survived was to improvise our own regimen of joy, finding those moments with zoom calls, walks at the sea, tv series (for me Normal People is what floored me), novels (Deacon King Kong for 2020 and then a re-read of Vasily Grossman). Hope we all have more moments of happiness and solidarity in the tough months to come.

    • sheila says:

      I need to watch Normal People. So many people have told me to check it out.

      and Vasily Grossman!! I’ve written down a couple of titles – mentioned in the “Dismantling Utopia” book I read this year – the whole book starts with a lengthy quote from Life and Fate.

      Your pictures of the seashore are so beautiful and a soothing part of my day. Thank you!

  5. Jessie says:

    I am so glad you have made it through and to have made it through with you! You and your work are always a bright spot <3 I have seen and read almost nothing this year, it feels like, but your reviews and recommendations always linger in the back of my mind, waiting to be ticked off the list — I'm a little ways behind — only got around to Kedi a few months ago hahaha. Look forward to tackling some of what you talk about here and in your other round-up posts in oh 2042 or thereabouts.

    • sheila says:

      Kedi!! Isn’t it wonderful? I still think about some of those cats. Especially the bossy wife cat who won’t let her husband eat.

  6. Cassandra says:

    I love being a part of this community you built for us – thank you for including me! Even when I’m not commenting here, I’m still reading, and I get so much from the discussions. This space has helped get me through some of my worst times, and I’m so grateful for it. Here’s hoping 2021 is a better year all around!

  7. Bill Wolfe says:

    Watching those street celebrations after the election was called still makes me get the biggest smile. When John Oliver showed something similar on his show, there was a shot of a young woman on the back of a motorcycle; as she passed the camera, she yelled, “Fuck Donald Trump!!,” with total exuberance. That was my single favorite moment of the year. A close second: watching as – to borrow a line from Greil Marcus – Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)” became, for one day, America’s unofficial street national anthem.

    Thanks for your writing here. A clearing in a very dark forest.

    • sheila says:

      // That was my single favorite moment of the year. //

      Ha! It was a totally spontaneous nation-wide performance of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” – it warmed my heart.

      Thank you for your kind words. I very much appreciate your participation here and your comments!

  8. Regina Bartkoff says:


    Fantastic list! Great photos! It flows out so great.
    I’m in total solidarity with yoga pants, Everyday.
    Also black eye make up! Everyday.
    I loved the Miley Cyrus interview, (I loved her cover of Heart of Glass) she’s such a tomboy.!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.