I had big plans for 2020. Yeah, I know, me and everybody else, right? But I really did. I decided to start journalling more regularly in a hardback A4 notebook I dubbed my “Life Journal’. I wrote down my long and short-term career goals. I had a story writing, publishing and marketing strategy all worked out. I was going to attend my first WorldCon, right here in New Zealand!
And then… everything went to Hell in a hand basket.
But I kept on journaling and recording and noting down everything I did that felt like a “win”, and that went a long way towards helping me get through the worst of the year. So, without further ado, I present my round up of books, movies and TV shows I have enjoyed the most in 2020.
(NB. Not all of these were released in 2020, some I just happened to discover a little later than everyone else or I enjoyed as a rewatch. I give all of these a 5 star rating.)
The New Year seemed bright, shiny and promising, and I was ready to jump into new things and begin fresh projects. I started the year with some bloody good werewolves, some sarcastic, kickass witches and some friendly, neighbourhood spider-folk. I had goals and plans and… no idea what was coming.
Movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018, rewatch)
TV show The Witcher (2019)
A family holiday cut unexpectedly short and a serious head injury for my husband marred February, and I turned to some darker material to help me through. Lullabies… is a marvellous anthology but not always an easy read, which was just the way I liked it. I watched a lot of movies featuring strong women this month: Aliens, Hancock, The Silence of the Lambs; but I’ve given Sarah Connor the top spot for this month. The October Faction was a fun, monster-hunting romp that I’d love to see more of.
Book Lullabies for Suffering by Mark Matthews (2020)
Movie Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
TV show October Faction (2020)
Ah, March, month of the Level 5 lockdown in New Zealand. With no headspace to read any books at all, I threw myself into editing the charity anthology, Black Dogs, Black Tales instead. This also heralded the beginning of not being able to concentrate for very long on the written word, and novel reading was a real struggle. Harley Quinn and Joe Exotic were an excellent, technicolour distraction.
TV show Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020)
I turned 41 in April in the middle of lockdown and, weirdly, it was actually one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. I pretty much always watch the Princess Bride on my birthday and Empire Records on Rex Manning Day (if you know, you know) and I got sucked into V-Wars on the TV. Damn those prions… Alan Baxter’s terrifying gonzo creature feature The Roo kept me reading – and terrified of kangaroos.
Book The Roo by Alan Baxter (2020)
Movie Empire Records (1995, Rex Manning Day rewatch)
TV show V-Wars (2019)
I actually read and reviewed a book this month, the first one of the year, and it was delightfully devastating – Bruce’s novella was both beautiful and gripping. I thoroughly enjoyed Angelina Jolie’s second take as Maleficent and for some light relief I binge-rewatched the foul-mouthed black comedy, Misfits.
Book Honeybones by Georgina Bruce (2020)
Movie Maleficent, Mistress of Evil (2019)
TV show Misfits (2009, rewatch)
With ConZealand/WorldCon reorganised to be online only, many of those long-term goals I’d planned to tick off fell completely into the 2020 dumpster, but I decided to keep going and learning and Le Guin’s help-book was exactly what I needed to level-up. My husband told me he didn’t know who Snake Plissken was, so that needed to be rectified immediately. I rewatched Raising Dion with my kids, and we all wanted a Pinchy crab.
Book Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin (1998)
Movie Escape from New York (1981, rewatch)
TV show Raising Dion (2019)
While reading novels was almost impossible for me, I got really stuck into nonfiction and graphic novels. I didn’t watch any horror movies at all this month, but I did revisit Mitchell and the gang of Being Human. Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams made me laugh in what was an otherwise bleak winter for me in New Zealand.
Movie Eurovision Song Contest: the Story of Fire Saga (2020)
TV show Being Human (2008, the BBC version, rewatch)
Reading short stories was more manageable than longer form, and Lee Murray’s collection was un-put-down-able. I rediscovered my love for superheroes and antiheroes by rewatching NBC’s Constantine series as well as a few other fantastic “Marvels”.
Book Grotesque Monster Stories by Lee Murray (2020)
Movie Unknown Origins (Orígenes Secretos, 2020)
TV show Legion, season 3 (2019)
I stuck with anthologies, and Steve Dillon’s antipodean offering did not disappoint with some stand-out stories from Dan Rabarts, Tracie McBride and Matthew R. Davis. I adore Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson in pretty much anything they do, so seeing them together is always a treat. The Long Kiss Goodnight is ridiculous but great fun. Klaus remained my favourite Umbrella Academy character and season 2 was ten times better than the first in my opinion.
Book Outback Horrors Down Under: An Anthology of Antipodean Terrors edited by Steve Dillon (2020)
Movie The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996, rewatch)
TV show Umbrella Academy, season 2 (2020)
I found myself reading about the dark and terrifying side of fairytales in preparation for a writing project and I re-read Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw after watching The Haunting of Bly Manor. A vampire movie marathon rounded off the end of the month with Fright Night, The Lost Boys, Vampires vs the Bronx and the gorgeous Only Lovers Left Alive…
Book Fierce Bad Rabbits by Clare Pollard (2019)
Movie Only Lovers Left Alive (2013, rewatch)
TV show The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)
One of my very favourite authors, Kit Power, dropped a new book this month and it was utterly spectacular and everything I needed. I finally watched the follow up to the 1996 cult classic, Trainspotting, and I actually preferred it to the original. On my TV, Māori warriors met violent zombies in The Dead Lands, a refreshing take on legends of the undead, and I loved the styling, production and use of te Reo throughout.
Book A Song for the End by Kit Power (2020)
Movie T2 Trainspotting (2017)
TV show The Dead Lands (2020)
The year isn’t over quite yet, but I was destroyed, in a good way, early in the month by Laurel Hightower and her amazing and heartbreaking Crossroads. I dipped into a rewatch of Netflix’s Bleach about a Japanese teenager with the power to see ghosts who must fight off evil spirits, and keeping to the theme of ghosts, I finally watched another Mike Flanagan gothic mini-series, The Haunting of Hill House which I enjoyed immensely as a gripping depiction of mental health and anxiety. Quite a fitting way to end 2020 perhaps…
Book Crossroads by Laurel Hightower (2020)
Movie Bleach (2018)
TV show The Haunting of Hill House (2018)