Our Best of 2020

Our Best of 2020

2020 was most certainly a thing.

Okay, now that the elephant in the room is out of the way, what actually went right this year? As it turns out, way more than all the doom-and-gloom-speak might lead you to believe! Some local businesses found brave new footing on which to stand and innovate during the pandemic, new companies such as Trellis are breaking new ground while helping online sellers, many folks working from home found new opportunities to improve relationships with themselves and others, and we’re sure that more than a few of you have spent entirely too much time (or not enough) on their Animal Crossing: New Horizon islands rather than in the real world.

We’ve asked the UpFront Ottawa family about their personal positives of 2020; in other words, what helped them make the most of it? A classic film, earworm of an album or a carefully planned trip within the country, perhaps?

For this year’s entry in our “best of” series, we took the line of questioning further with more categories than ever, as follows:

  • Favourite film
  • Favourite album
  • Favourite song
  • Favourite TV show
  • Favourite video game
  • Favourite book
  • Favourite place (outside is still a thing, right?)
  • Favourite moment 
  • Favourite food delivery order
  • Favourite hobby discovered this year
  • Favourite way to pass time at home
  • 2021 dreams (end of pandemic, yes, but what else?)

It was critical to us that we bring out the brighter, more enjoyable aspects of this year we experienced, sharing them in hopes of inspiring you to try something new. Even in the face of adversity and tough times, we are the ones who decide how each day goes. Life is what you make of it, even with any temporary restrictions or a need to hit the brakes in some areas. Given the responses in this year’s “best of” post, it’s clear as day that life indeed goes on, so let’s get to it!

This is by far our biggest, most exciting list yet. Many thanks to those who contributed!

Favourite Film

Alexa R: “Just because I’m in the Christmas spirit: Elf.

Connor N: “I watched The Departed for the first time in 2020 and that was pretty darn good.”

Frank L: The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger as the Joker was something else.”

Corey R: Polar. I had been playing a lot of Death Stranding and was obsessed with Mads Mikkelsen’s acting in it so, segueing into this film, I knew I was in for a ride. Despite its panning by critics, it’s a versatile, powerful movie with impeccable cinematography and a really fun script. Put it on your Netflix ‘My List’ and give it a watch! Can’t wait for the follow-up.”

Amanda M: Jojo Rabbit. I am not a film buff so I usually only see a handful of movies a year. I am so glad this movie made the watch list. An unforgettable mix of humour and tragedy.”

Brandon T: The Invisible Man.”

Catherine H: Shrek. Can’t beat a classic!”

Alex B: Palm Springs (terrible year for movies, had to look up what came out lol).”

Marlee S: “It’s a close call: either I, Tonya or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood! I have a serious love for the late 60s, figure skating and, of course, Margot Robbie!”

Cécile C: El Hoyo. It was just so disturbing. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen and really needed to know how it was going to end.”

Hardi V: Tenet. Incredible! It’s one of those things we have to watch twice to understand all the concepts, not to mention, ‘why the last fight?'”

Favourite Album

Alexa R: “Divinely Inspired to a Hellish Extent by Lewis Capaldi.”

Connor N: The New Abnormal by The Strokes. Fitting title, right?”

Frank L: Live at the Sands by The Rat Pack.”

Corey R: “Fumbling Towards Ecstacy by Sarah McLachlan, without hesitation. There’s a timeless, soothing yet melancholic feel to this record that I can’t seem to escape – it’s like holding your breath underwater for a moment, looking up to watch the dappled sunlight shimmer through from the other side. Only the finest alternative pop/rock/folk albums of the 90s have this quality, and songs on here including ‘Plenty,’ ‘Fear,’ and ‘Ice’ are among Sarah’s more hauntingly beautiful pieces. A mainstay in my novel-writing playlist along with artists such as Low Roar, Boards of Canada, Rhye, Public Memory, and Sharon Van Etten.”

Marlee S: Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey. I’ve always loved this album but recently found out that it was produced by Dan Auerbach, who I’m a huge fan of. Relistened and it made it even better.”

Amanda M: Imploding the Mirage by The Killers.”

Brandon T: HUMAN. :II: NATURE by Nightwish.”

Catherine H: Free Spirit by Khalid.”

Alex B: The New Abnormal by The Strokes.”

Cécile C: “Indochine released an album mix of all their hits from the last 30 years, Singles Collection (1981-2001), and some of the songs were re-recorded. I just really like this band and the remix of 3SEX with Christine and the Queens is AMAZING.”

Hardi V: After Hours by The Weeknd.”

Austin P: Fire in the Church by Montana of 300, and The Goat by Polo G.”

Favourite Song

Alexa R: “‘Forever’ by Lewis Capaldi. According to Spotify, my obsession with this song put me in the top 0.05% of Lewis Capaldi fans.”

Connor N: “‘Age of Machine’ by Greta Van Fleet (it’s only been out a couple weeks and is #1 by far).”

Frank L: “‘Around the World’ by Daft Punk.”

Corey R: “alt-J’s ‘Bloodflood’ is right at the top of my novel-writing playlist for a reason: it’s a lush and vivid masterpiece. I can’t limit it to one, sorry, so I’m also going to recommend ‘Verdict’ by Public Memory and ‘Hunt’ by Goldfrapp as must-listens.”

Amanda M: “‘The Borders’ by Sam Fender.”

Brandon T: “‘Blinding Lights’ by The Weeknd.”

Catherine H: “‘The Less I Know, the Better’ by Tame Impala.”

Alex B: “‘Pet Boy’ by The Subways. Not a new song but listened A LOT.”

Marlee S: “‘Going to California’ by Led Zeppelin.”

Cécile C: ” ‘Tomorrow’ by The Roots. Definitely not from 2020, but it’s such a good song!”

Hardi V: “‘Blinding Lights’ by The Weeknd.”

Austin P: “Chiraq” by Montana of 300.”

Favourite TV Show

Alexa R: Friends. I will never stop rewatching this.”

Connor N:Modern Family. Every character is amazing.”

Frank L: Shark Tank.”

Corey R: Beastars. Some of the bloody best writing I’ve ever come across in an anime, especially in terms of character introspection, aided further by the unconventional AF plot premise. The main theme, score and art style also deserve significant praise – get past episode 3 and you’ll likely be hooked.”

Amanda M: The Challenge.”

Brandon T: The Haunting of Bly Manor.”

Catherine Hansen: This is Us, Selling Sunsets, The Bachelorette, Grey’s Anatomy – I can’t decide!”

Alex B: The Boys.”

Marlee S: Entourage, but Ozark is a very close call. Very different shows, but seeing as Ozark has another season coming out, the title goes to Entourage.”

Cécile C: “Not from 2020 but I just started watching Bull. It’s about trial science and jury analysis in court. Really cool.”

Austin P: Prison Break: Season 1 was the best thing I have ever seen in my life.”

Favourite Video Game

Alexa R: Call of Duty: WWII.”

Connor N: “I’ve been playing a lot of super old computer games on Steam/GoG lately. Let’s say Red Baron 3D by Sierra (1998).”

Frank L:Fifa 15.”

Corey R: Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Not only did this super-relaxing, uplifting sandbox of a game help me stay positive and focused on what really matters this year, but it’s the title that got my husband into gaming. As a result, we spend many an evening on the couch, controller in one hand and a glass of pinot grigio in the other with the beagle snuggling between us. A whole new opportunity for having fun and sharing a hobby! Now to save for a second Nintendo Switch so we can each create our own islands and visit them over Wi-Fi, heh.”

Amanda M: MLB: The Show.”

Brandon T: Final Fantasy XII Remake.”

Catherine H: Mariokart.”

Alex B: Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla.”

Cécile C: “Loved The Outer Worlds. Never finished a game that quick.”

Austin P: Call of Duty / NHL 21.”

Favourite Book

Alexa R: “The entire Harry Potter series.”

Connor N: 1984 by George Orwell. The prophecy!”

Frank L: “The Dynamic Path: Access the Secrets of Champions to Achieve Greatness Through Mental Toughness, Inspired Leadership and Personal Transformation by James M. Citrin.”

Corey R: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson. I’d also recommend Surfacing by Margaret Atwood.”

Amanda M: Where the Crawdads Sing. I started reading heavily in 2020 after a long hiatus and this was one of the books that kickstarted the habit. I read every single day in 2020 – 52 books total!”

Catherine H: Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner.”

Alex B: The Film Director’s Intuition by Judith Weston.”

Favourite Place (Outside is Still a Thing, Right?)

Connor N: “Kinda cheating on this one but all of Ottawa’s bike trails.”

Frank L: “Hongdae, a cool area in Seoul, South Korea.”

Corey R: “Port Hope, Ontario. Can never stay there long enough. Got away for book research/a writing retreat/vacation and it’s such a peaceful, scenic little town. Also a little biased as it’s where I grew up – or am I still working on that? Anyhoo, visit any time of year and you won’t regret it.”

Amanda M: “My brother’s backyard, with a pool, hot tub, trampoline, fire pit…”

Brandon T: “The great outdoors for camping and canoeing.”

Catherine H: “The new Farm Boy and Adonis (food-related, of course).”

Alex B: “Rooftop Patio (everything else was closed).”

Marlee S: “Does Mexico count? I have a serious love for travelling down south – big fan of the heat! Unfortunately with COVID-19 we weren’t able to do as much travelling as planned, but here’s hoping for a return to Mexico come 2021!”

Cécile C: “I was a very ‘home-loving’ person before the pandemic so, uh, anything outside without too many people/interactions is fine with me!”

Hardi V: “Sunflower Farm in Cumberland.”

Favourite Moment

Alexa R: “Finally buying a house after 3 years.”

Connor N: “Filling out this survey is my favourite moment every year.”

Frank L: “First time coaching kids’ hockey in China.”

Corey R: “Hitting the home stretch in the first draft of my novel. Also, speaking of home, finally moving into our own apartment and investing heavily into a dedicated home office. Lots of home happening. Home home home. Home! Home so long. Homehomehomehomehomehomehome -” [corey.exe has broken. Please contact a system administrator.]

Amanda M: “Getting back into basketball (go Celtics).”

Brandon T: “First time ‘real camping’ outdoors for a weekend back in the summer.”

Catherine H: “Receiving two scholarships for school :D”

Alex B: “11:59 PM Dec 31st, 2020 (upcoming).”

Marlee S: “2020 was a really great year and I’ve learned a lot! If I had to choose one moment, it would be down south earlier this year with my boyfriend, his brother and uncle – amazing memories!”

Cécile C: “Video chatting /catching up/getting tipsy with my family on Christmas Eve :D”

Favourite Food Delivery Order

Alexa R: “Honestly, I order McDonald’s way too often.”

Corey R: “Honestly, I don’t order enough McDonald’s. Inject the chocolate milkshake INTO. MY. VEINS.”

Connor N: “OUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU, tough one. Let’s go with ANY order from Dominos.”

Frank L: “A breakfast sandwich from Sanguicco’s.”

Amanda M: “Chipotle steak burrito bowl.”

Brandon T: “The Works.”

Catherine H: “Open Rice.”

Alex B: “Milanos Pizza.”

Marlee S: “Fat Bastard Burritos – they’re huge, delicious and filling.”

Cécile C: “Sushi. Whenever. Wherever. Always.”

Austin P: “Anywhere that has Canadian salad – aka poutine!”

Favourite Hobby Discovered this Year

Alexa R: “Paint by numbers! Beautiful canvas paint by numbers kits which turn out great even if you’re not a skilled painter!”

Connor N: “Randomly ambushing and ‘attacking’ my girlfriend to keep her on her toes.”

Frank L: “Podcasting.”

Corey R: “Aggressive self-editing and wine. Not a coincidence.”

Amanda M: “Exercising every day!”

Brandon T: “Fishing.”

Catherine H: “Biking and breadmaking.”

Alex B: “Online shopping.”

Marlee S: “I now LOVE to bake and cook! My boyfriend’s parents taught me how to cook and bake from scratch this year, and it’s made a huge difference! I also enjoy running every day – would have never guessed I’d voluntarily do cardio!”

Cécile C: “Fashion. I really want to learn how to sew with a machine and make my own clothes but haven’t had the opportunity yet, so I just watch fashion shows in the meantime. :D”

Hardi V: “Painting and illustrating!”

Favourite Way to Pass the Time at Home

Alexa R: “Netflix, reading and painting. Sometimes watching Netflix while painting.”

Connor N: “Randomly ambushing and ‘attacking’ my girlfriend to keep her on her toes.”

Frank L: “Watching a YouTube tutorial and learning a new skill for digital marketing or content creation.”

Corey R: “When not gaming, looking after our beagle or zoning out to music, writing my novel takes top priority. I can’t put it down and, frankly, am more excited to tear the sucker apart during my two planned rounds of aggressive self-edits. Then comes the sendoff to pre-arranged focus readers. Then one final edit and proofing before drafting innumerable queries and proposals. Then smoking a box of Romeo & Juliets from Cuba to celebrate. Then waiting and wine.”

Amanda M: “Indoor cycling via Zwift and a smart trainer.”

Brandon T: “Netflix or playing/recording music.”

Catherine H: “Going for walks with my dog, binge-watching movies and cooking!”

Alex B: “binge movies.”

Marlee S: “Netflix, of course!”

Cécile C: “Playing video games, watching TV, doing puzzles while listening to music, learning how to code or play the piano, and practicing the guitar.”

Hardi V: “Painting and illustrating!”

2021 Dreams

Alexa R: “Travel. Please let me travel in 2021.”

Connor N: “I’m looking to have my plan for buying a home in 2022 solidified in 2021.”

Frank L: “Bench 315 pounds. Box jump 30″. Travel somewhere in Canada where I haven’t been yet, most likely Quebec City. Keep improving my skills for digital marketing, content creation, podcasting and video editing.”

Corey R: “Securing a literary agent who values and is equally passionate about my manuscript, along with a subsequent multi-book publishing deal so I can hopefully reach more readers. Not a want but an absolute need. Another need is to travel again for more self-conducted writing retreats/extensive filming for a visual concept (a companion piece meant to accent my novel), planning the next book as it’s something completely different, as well as heading back to Mexico to visit my parents-in-law.”

Amanda M: “Getting married!”

Brandon T: “Hopefully I can travel in 2021 and visit friends.”

Catherine H: “Going on my Slovenia and Croatia trip that was planned for April 2020 (lol) or somewhere in South Africa once I graduate!”

Marlee S: “Travelling, and as much as possible! :)”

Cécile C: “Going home and seeing my family!”

Hardi V: “Reconnect with nature more and more.”

PHEW! This was by far our most extensive, detailed and insightful entry in UpFront Ottawa’s “best of” series – kind of ironic that it’s the best one yet in itself! We wanted to hear more insights from more regular folks for one big reason: we’re all in this together, there’s plenty of ways to stay connected and stimulated, and it’s better to close the year with newfound optimism and positives galore.

How was your year? Did you have any similar experiences, or perhaps a new memory worth sharing? Sound off in the comments below, and let’s look forward to what next year has to offer! Hopefully, that includes travel – make it possible by doing your part to follow local public health guidelines and create a safe environment!


Corey Reed is an Ottawa-based freelance writer with a passion for ocean liners and retro gaming. He has published a wide variety of content including reviews, essays, and retrospectives that can be found at www.coreyreed.net.

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