2020 Recap of Films, Television, and Books

Shoutout to Josh Sorensen for the idea to use glitter headers. The 2000s are good, I never said anything bad about the 2000s.

Birds of Prey, Palm Springs, Sibyl, Banana Split

Hii!! I wish I could say that it’s all over, but it’s not. Hell is empty and all the devils are here. All we can hope for is that next year eventually brings us out of the darkness and into the light. This has been an incredibly difficult year, but I’m thankful that I had great media to consume — so here’s what I consider the best!

Contents:

  1. Top 10 Films of 2020
  2. Top 10 Horror Films of 2020
  3. Uncovered Faves
  4. Christmas Films
  5. Recommended Hidden Gems
  6. Most Rewatched
  7. Top TV of 2020
  8. Filmography Progress
  9. Top Books of 2020
Top 10 Films of 2020

Although lots of big films were pushed back, we still got so many amazing films this year, including some banging hidden gems. If anything, it at least gives me chance to highlight some fantastic films that might’ve been lower on my ‘Top 10’ list otherwise.

  1. Sibyl — this completely blew me away! It’s about Sibyl (Virginie Efira), a jaded psychotherapist, who returns to her first passion of writing when her newest patient, Margot (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a troubled up-and-coming actress, becomes a source of inspiration and obsession. Everything about it was perfect: the cinematography, the writing, the direction, the cast, the acting, the story, the emotional depth and complexities. It’s a superb character study of fabulous but fucked-up French people. (My favourite kind of person, to be honest.)
  2. The Invisible Man — After Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) escapes her abusive boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), she learns that he took his own life and left her his fortune, but she can’t shake the feeling that his death was a hoax. Directed by Leigh Whannell, he and co-writer H.G. Wells do an excellent job of depicting abuse in a clever and inventive way that fits perfectly into the horror-thriller-science fiction genres as Cecilia works to prove she is being hunted by someone that nobody can see. Moss is also spectacular, as usual, in her emotionally demanding performance.
  3. Host —I always love seeing how innovative the found-footage genre is and how cleverly it adapts to current tech and society! Read my review for Screen Queens.
  4. Relic — Director Natalie Erika James creates an effective slow burn by utilising drama and building unnerving tension alongside horror imagery throughout. While daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and grandaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) are often disturbed by Edna’s (Robyn Nevin) unpredictable behaviour, the pair still remain empathic towards her illness. Overall, Relic is such an emotional devastating portrayal of illness. I reviewed this for Film Daze.
  5. Birds of Prey — pure fun and delight!! The soundtrack absolutely bangs!
  6. Palm Springs — most “Groundhog Day” type films are pretty samey but this had such a refreshing take on the genre. It was genuinely funny, gorgeous to look at, never boring, and the cast are fantastic — especially the leads, Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. What a treat!!
  7. Banana Split (2018)— this is a coming-of-age film about two teenage girls who become friends when one of them starts dating the other’s ex! It’s so heartwarming and well-shot with gorgeous sets and a fantastic cast (Hannah Marks, Liana Liberato, Dylan Sprouse). You can also tell a woman co-wrote it (Marks) because of little things such as friends holding hands in bed and pee pooling at your feet when you pee outside. I was never bored for a second while watching this and I loved how it captured female friendships.
  8. Soul — I think if I’d watched this as a kid I would’ve had an existential crisis.
  9. The Craft: Legacy — I feel like most people didn’t really like this, but I absolutely loved it! It doesn’t have the strongest plot due to weak villain characterisation, but it’s just an absolute blast to watch. It handles current societal issues much better than I thought and the friendship between the teen witches is a blessing, especially as friendship wasn’t really a strong point in the beloved original.
  10. Yes, God, Yes — this is so lighthearted and funny, plus I love the 90s setting so much. Natalia Dyer was perfectly cast! You can read my full thoughts in my review for Film Cred.
Top 10 Horror Films of 2020

Horror is my favourite genre, so it needed a list of its own! I’ve been pretty impressed with the genre this year to say that some of my most highly anticipated didn’t get released (specifically The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It). But this comes as no surprise as horror isn’t traditionally a large blockbuster kind of genre. These are in rough order:

  1. Host
  2. The Invisible Man
  3. Relic
  4. The Lodge (2019) — fuck them kids!
  5. The Unhealer — this was such a refreshing and entertaining take on the ~evil superhero kid genre! I reviewed it for Screen Queens if you want to read my full thoughts.
  6. Freaky — seeing Vince Vaughn play a teenage girl and Kathryn Newton play a serial killing man? yes sir. absolutely. 100%. sign me up. So far Christopher Landon has basically made Groundhog Day and Freaky Friday into Teen Slashers and I’d love to see this trend continue. Either way, let this man make whatever he wants.
  7. The Craft: Legacy
  8. Spontaneous — silly and fun!
  9. Triggered — such a fun, gory surprise! Check out my review for Screen Queens.
  10. Run — Sarah Paulson hive rise!! But the true star was newcomer Kiera Allen, and I really hope she becomes a big star! I cannot wait to see her in more films and I recommend reading this New York Times interview with her where she talks about being disabled and playing a disabled character.

I saw The Unhealer and Triggered as part of Grimmfest, but they’re coming out in 2021. I also don’t even think The Lodge is out in the UK yet. When will they release that film from the void?

Uncovered Faves

Here are my favourite new-to-me watches:

  • Ellie Parker — I am obsessed with this!! Naomi Watts stars as an aspiring actress in a low-budget film that could be her Mulholland Drive character’s life before that film. It’s so much fun and really captures what I envision a hectic Hollywood lifestyle is. It’s such a hidden gem which I bought second hand from CEX.
  • Erin Brockovich — Julia Roberts is amazing in this role and it’s generally just a brilliant film.
  • Tammy and the T-Rex — this is so silly and is an absolute riot!
  • Sorority Row (2009) — no tea, no shade, but this is fucking amazing and much better than the original!
  • Tremors 1–3 — these are outstanding, truly.
  • V For Vendetta — I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to finally watch this.
  • 10 Things I Hate About You — and this!
  • Good Manners — an immersive film that starts out relatively simple, but spins completely out of control! I included this in my Best Women-Directed Horror Films of the 2010s list for Film Daze.
  • Double Jeopardy — Ashley Judd deserves to kill any man she wants.
  • The Call (2013)— this was so gripping!
  • Ghosts of Mars — I watched this with my dad and sister and out good bad film night and it was fun.
  • The Watermelon Woman — Cheryl Dunye is such a wonderful filmmaker and I’m so glad I finally watched this, which was the first feature film directed by an “out” Black lesbian. The subject matter is so interesting: a young Black lesbian (Dunye), who works at a video store, tries to make a film about a Black actress from the 1930s who is known for playing stereotypical “mammy” roles. Also, Guinevere Turner is in this and I am obsessed with her.
Christmas

This year I rewatched my Christmas faves: The Santa Clause, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Black Christmas. I also watched Home Alone 1 & 2 which I hadn’t seen for years. It had gotten to the point where I was more familiar with Macaulay Culkin as an adult which is outrageous.

My favourite new-to-me watches were Happiest Season, The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two and Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Not to mention, I finally watched The Muppet Christmas Carol for the first time. I liked it, but I’m sad I’m not as taken by it as everyone else seems to be.

Check out my Happiest Season review for Film Cred for my full thoughts!

Recommended Hidden Gems

Some of my favourite films from 2020 include under-watched hidden gems already, but here are some more:

  • Jezebel (2019)— a captivating Black film about the reality of sex work, which also highlights racism and loss!
  • The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (2019) — a woman encounters a young Indigenous woman, barefoot and crying in the rain on the side of a busy street, who has just escaped a violent assault at the hands of her boyfriend! This is such a beautiful film despite its dark subject matter as it shows how powerful small gestures can be. I highly recommended reading Shea Vassar’s review for Film Daze.
  • Buffaloed (2019)— Zoey Deutch having a banging ol’ time!
  • Unpregnant — fantastic coming-of-age comedy-drama road-trip film about unwanted pregnancy. Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreria are wonderful.
  • Undine—very weird German-French film about a woman who is perhaps a water nymph. Full of captivating shots, including of the mesmerising Paula Beer.
  • Infamous — two lovers rob their way around the southland, with Bella Thorne’s character posting their exploits to social media to gain fame and followers. This isn’t necessarily a good film, but it’s hella fun.
Most Rewatched

I was going for comfort rewatches this year because my brain really needed to have some fun and switch off with some laid back warmth, laughs, and sometimes a good cry. These are mostly 2000s films, which is the ultimate comfort era for me as I was born in ’93. Here are my most rewatched:

  • Almost Famous (3) — one of these included watching the director’s cut for the first time which was awesome! This is my all-time favourite film.
  • Freaky Friday (3)
  • Bring It On (3)
  • Palm Springs (3) — this film is new but I’m obsessed with it!
  • 13 Going on 30 (2)
  • The Princess Diaries (2)

Other rewatches includes Legally Blonde, Booksmart, The Girl Next Door, Not Another Teen Movie, Music and Lyrics, Knocked Up, School of Rock, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, American Pie 1–4, and more.

My most watched TV series are probably:

  • Gilmore Girls
  • Charmed
Top TV of 2020

These are not in any specific order, apart from The Queen’s Gambit is definitely #1.

  • The Queen’s Gambit — best!!!!! When the pandemic finally eases, let’s all meet up to test out our newly acquired chess skills inspired by this series and developed by quarantine boredom.
  • Little Fires Everywhere — this broke me!
  • The Haunting of Bly Manor — this also broke me. (My review for Film Cred.)
  • Killing Eve —I wrote about the transformation of Eve Polastri for Killing Eve.
  • Sex Education — season two was SO good and I can’t wait for more.
  • The Mandalorian — baby yoda hive rise!!!!!!!
  • Spinning Out — I’m mad that this was cancelled. Kaya Scodelario and January Jones are (ice) queens.
  • Normal People — this made me want to die, as did the book. Great adaptation!
  • The Boys — I can’t get over how insane this is. It’s so clever and fucked up and funny.
  • Ratched — lesbians!!! Read my Ratched review for Film Cred here.
  • Emily in Paris — yes I unironically enjoyed this, ok?

Honourable Mentions: Warrior Nun, The L Word: Generation Q, The Stranger. I’m currently watching Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 4.

Filmography Progress

As a Letterboxd Pro member, I enjoy seeing my statistics, including my top actors/actresses and directors! This has made me want to watch more films by/starring certain people, so here’s my progress for this year:

Adam Sandler

I wasn’t content with Samuel L. Jackson just beating out the Sandman, so I had to go back and watch some films of Sandler’s that I hadn’t seen yet. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a big fan of his.

  • Uncut Gems
  • Goldman v Silverman
  • Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
  • Pixels
  • Sandy Wexler
  • Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh
  • The Do-Over
  • The Cobbler
  • Hubie Halloween

This was a lot of watches considering Jackson was only a couple of films ahead, but what can I say? I felt like I’d missed too much. I also rewatched 50 First Dates and The Hot Chick. I’m not sure if I’ll ever do myself the disservice of watching Jack and Jill, though.

Letterboxd score: 52% — 39/75

Milla Jovovich

I’ve been obsessed with Milla ever since I first saw The Fifth Element (which I rewatched this year). I’ve seen the first Resident Evil film before, but definitely wanted to complete the series, which I did:

  • Resident Evil
  • Resident Evil: Apocalypse
  • Resident Evil: Extinction
  • Resident Evil: Afterlife
  • Resident Evil: Retribution
  • Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
  • The Perfect Getaway

Letterboxd score: 26% — 14/53

John Carpenter

I’m so proud of the progress I’ve made with John Carpenter’s filmography. In addition to a Halloween rewatch, the new-to-me Carpenter films I watched are:

  • Big Trouble in Little China
  • Ghosts of Mars
  • The Ward
  • Assault on Precinct 13
  • Escape from New York

Letterboxd score: 45% — 11/24

Wes Craven

I’ve been very slowly trying to increase my Wes Craven watches, but he’s still my most watched director. I only managed two new films:

  • My Soul to Take
  • Red Eye

Next year I’m hoping to watch Vampire in Brooklyn, The Serpent and the Rainbow, and Music at the Heart. I also don’t believe I’ve seen Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes.

Letterboxd score: 53% — 14/26

Top Books of 2020

I read 50 books this year, which is the most books I’ve ever read in a year by far — granted a lot of them were short as I vowed to read more poetry, which I did! Here are my favourite books I read this year (from any year), which are no particular order, however the books by Taylor Jenkins Reid are my absolute fave reads of the year by year! Plus I’d say Claire C. Holland’s horror-themed poetry book is the best.

Fiction:

  • Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
  • The Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Disaster by Meg Cabot
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Idle Hands by Cassondra Windwalker
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney

Non Fiction:

  • Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Poetry:

  • Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass by Lana Del Rey
  • I Am Not Your Final Girl by Claire C. Holland
  • The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories by Tim Burton
  • Sweetdark by Savannah Brown
  • I would Leave Me If I Could: A Collection of Poetry by Halsey

Short Stories:

  • The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  • Mr Salary by Sally Rooney
  • At the Clinic by Sally Rooney

Thanks for reading — or skim reading. See you next year!

A freelance film and tv writer from England, who enjoys horror films, cats and middle-aged actresses.

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