What I Watched in 2020

31 Dec

I don’t usually write up my watch list, but in this ‘unprecedented’ year, I wanted to record the films and shows that have entertained me. I don’t have space to record literally everything, but some highlights:

Film

  • La Strada (Federico Fellini) – bleak.
  • Parasite (Bong Joon-Ho) – this was the last film I saw in the cinema (Peckhamplex) and it was one of my best cinema-going experiences ever. The gasp that ran through the room at that moment!
  • Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (J-P Valkeapää) – a very darkly comic Finnish tale of BDSM and grief.
  • Paris Qui Dort (René Clair) – a silent film from 1925 that was interesting to watch in locked-down London.
  • Make Up (Claire Oakley) – a coming-of-age dressed up as a horror, set in a Cornish caravan park.
  • Papicha (Mounia Meddour) – a young woman dares to put on a fashion show in 90s Algeria.
  • Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) – a linguist must attempt to communicate with an alien species.
  • Knives Out (Rian Johnson) – a classic whodunnit with a modern twist.
  • Annihilation (Alex Garland) – a group of women must venture into a mysterious ‘zone’ where mutant creatures roam
  • Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky) – three men must venture into a mysterious ‘zone’ where all is not as it seems
  • Luxor (Zeina Durra) – a woman returns to Luxor to recuperate after serving as a war medic.
  • The Apartment (Billy Wilder) – classic comedy with an edge.
  • Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder) – a movie about the movie industry, and an ageing former star descending into madness.
  • Pinocchio (Matteo Garrone) – a stunning adaptation of a tale that is rather too dark for kids.

TV

  • Britannia (S1/Now) – Violent, OTT and definitely anachronistic look at the Romans vs the Britons.
  • Watchmen (S1/Now) – A new take on the subversive comic, extending its alternate history to the present day.
  • Love is Blind (S1/Netflix) – A ridiculous, trashy and completely compelling reality show.
  • The Last Kingdom (S4/Netflix) – I love The Last Kingdom. Although it’s swords, it’s definitely not sorcery – the setting is the fascinating period of the Saxon consolidation of England and their conflict with the Vikings.
  • The Bonfire of Destiny (S1/Netflix) – Soapy, outrageous and a bit telenovela, but I definitely had room for that in my life in 2020. Starts with the true story of a horrifying fire in Paris, 1897, then explores its impact on three women.
  • Normal People (S1/BBC) – The story of two young lovers from Sligo. Lots of sex scenes but also Connell’s chain.
  • Unorthodox (S1/Netflix) – A young Orthodox Jewish woman escapes from an unhappy marriage in Brooklyn to find a new life in Berlin.
  • My Brilliant Friend (S2/Now) – The continuing story of Lena and Lila, two friends growing up near Naples in the 1960s.
  • Harlots (S1-3/BBC) – The lives and adventures of two rival houses of prostitutes in 18th century London (based on Hallie Rubenhold’s The Covent Garden Ladies, which I read in December). So much fun.
  • Dark (S1-3/Netflix) – A small town in Germany holds secrets and time warps to be discovered. Mind-bending and incredibly satisfying.
  • The Queen’s Gambit (S1/Netflix) – A young woman rises to chess stardom in the 1960s. Manages to make chess thrilling.
  • The Good Lord Bird (S1/Now) – Based on the true story of an abolitionist preacher gathering an uprising against slavery in pre-Civil War US. Black characters are centred, in particular a young boy nicknamed Onion, who is mistaken for a girl.
  • We Are Who We Are (S1/BBC) – Directed by Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name), this series looks at the lives of a group of teenagers living on the American army base near Venice. Their crises of identity are magnified by the weird bubble they find themselves in.
  • Star Trek Discovery (S1/Netflix) – Still on S1, but enjoying this new Star Trek series that manages to pull together some fun tropes, exciting plotlines, fresh characters and still make room for that indomitable Star Trek spirit.

And, as a bonus…

Podcasts (all on Spotify)

  • Wind of Change – A brilliant limited series which asks the question: did the CIA write a bestselling pop song in the late 80s? Takes some twists and turns and is generally great fun. Highly recommended if you’re interested in spies, rock music and the truth being stranger than fiction.
  • Scene on Radio – I very much enjoyed seasons 1 and 4 of this documentary show. John Biewen and Chenjerai Kumanyika take a look at ‘whiteness’ and American democracy.
  • Dolly Parton’s America – This limited series looks back at the life and works of Dolly Parton, exploring the intersection with modern American politics and identity.
  • The Most of It – New Zealand actress Antonia Prebble (of The Tribe, my teenage fandom) interviews a selection of guests who are approaching the question of how to make the most of life in very different ways.
  • The Rest is History – Historians Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook examine a range of historical topics and questions.
  • Language Hacking – Benny and Shannon from Fluent in 3 Months interview language learners from a range of backgrounds, finding out what motivates them to continue on their language journeys.
  • The Happiness Lab – Laurie Santos ran Yale’s most popular class on ‘how to be happy’. In this podcast, she presents some of the psychological research and explores the concept of happiness.

In other languages, I enjoyed:

  • Inner French – this is specially designed for intermediate French listeners!
  • Mi Amor, Let’s Go! – despite the title, this is a podcast in Greek, covering travel tips for solo women.

And a big, big shout out to my regular favourites:

  • The Bowery Boys – New York history ❤
  • Happier with Gretchen Rubin – the most soothing podcast ever. An insight into the lives and minds of middle-aged American women.
  • Arts and Ideas/ The Documentary – the BBC makes the most incredible radio output. I’ve listened to all sorts of things via their podcasts: the Alaskan oil dividend, an Indian cricket tour, representations of disabled people in literature, animal rights, people who erase their lives in Japan, recycling efforts in Chile, the life of Cary Grant… to name but a few!

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