It was fun getting back into this era of Lynch, and I also got a big kick out of seeing so much of the Twin Peaks cast in this (the series was happening around this time even, although most are Lynch regulars anyway). It’s weird, it’s wild, in all the right ways. I quite like this movie, but I do prefer Blue Velvet and Lost Highway, and even Mulholland Drive (and Twin Peaks remains my all time favorite TV series).
I’ve rewatched this movie quite a few times over the years, and I enjoy it just as much every single time. Along with The Shining, it’s probably the best Stephen King film adaptation — and it probably doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the rare King novels I’ve actually read and enjoyed (for some reason I’ve barely read any of his novels, but I’m sure I’ve seen every single movie based on them). And yes, I still gasp every single time when it gets to the hobbling scene.
At the start of 2019 I gave myself a goal to read more books (in an effort to rekindle my inner bookworm), and this past year saw a continued growth in the number of books I read, which makes me very happy. Following the 11 I read in 2019, I got through 16 this past year, which falls just short of the goal of 18 I had given myself, which is close enough for me. I did hit some dead spots throughout the year where I didn’t read any, and a few (like Ametora, Pure Invention, and Killing the Business) I ended up reading in 1-2 days. That said, I’m raising my goal for 2021 to 20 books, which I think is very doable, as long as I manage to be more consistent throughout the year — and I think the lesson here is to not feel bad about dropping a book if I’m not really enjoying it. Below, are a few thoughts on everything that I read in 2020, which again saw me mostly alternate between fiction and non-fiction.
Moonraker (Ian Fleming)
This past year I continued to make my way through all of Fleming’s Bond novels. Despite being a huge Bond fanatic, this obsession has always entered around the movies, and I’ve never actually read all of the books (some here and there, but I don’t really remember which ones). This was one of my favourites so far — and it’s nothing like the wacky Star Wars-inspired spacefest that we see in the movie adaptation.
Katamari Damacy (L.E. Hall)
I’m a big fan of the Boss Fight Books series — each one focuses on one game. I usually end up reading 1 or 2 each year, and this one was as enjoyable as they generally are — and it covered a game I’ve always loved. After reading this, I ended up with the multiple soundtracks of the game series on heavy rotation.
Agent Running in the Field (John le Carré)
Despite my love for Bond and spy fiction in general, surprisingly, this is the first novel by le Carré I read. I really enjoyed it, and although it may be weird to start by reading his final novel, it did make me want to go back and read more (which I will surely do in 2021).
Diamonds Are Forever (Ian Fleming)
This was the second Bond book I read this year, and I continue to read them in order of their release. Of all the Bond novels I’ve read so far, this one is maybe the one that feels the most like the movie, at least in terms of general structure.
Pure Invention: How Japan’s Pop Culture Conquered the World (Matt Alt)
I devoured this over a weekend, and you can read why in this post I wrote after.
Five Little Pigs (Agatha Christie)
Reading Agatha Christie novels is comfort food for me, I feel so comfortable in them. It’s usually my go-to when I hit a patch of not reading for a while, as I find it easy to get back in reading mode, and getting through one doesn’t take very long. This was quite enjoyable as well, and I loved the structure.
Annabel Scheme and the Adventure of the New Golden Gate (Robin Sloan)
This is more like a novella in terms of length — it’s a collection that was originally serialized in a newspaper. I quite like Sloan’s writing (including his newsletters), and this was as enjoyable as anything else I’ve read by him.
Magpie Murders (Anthony Horowitz)
So far the only Horowitz I had read was his Bond novels, but there was a lot of buzz around this, and so I decided to give it a try. I ended up quite liking it — even though one aspect bugged me in that it had me knowing that something was up, and so I was anxious to get to a point where more would be revealed. But yes, it’s a very smart murder mystery, and this year I plan on reading the sequel that was published last year.
The Monocle Book of Gentle Living
When I started this book reading quest in 2019, I told myself that I would just count regular books, and not something like this, which I guess falls more in the “coffee table book” category. But in the end, these Monocle books (I picked up a few this past year) are pretty text-heavy and take a while to get through, and so I felt like I should include them. And no, I don’t feel like this is cheating.
The Monocle Book of Japan
Of all the Monocle books I read this past year (the three included in this list, as well as another one that I’m not done reading yet), this was my absolute favorite. It’s a beautiful love letter to Japan, and it definitely made me feel incredibly homesick.
The Monocle Guide to Shops, Kiosks and Markets
I’ve always meant to buy the various books that Monocle has been putting out over the years, but never got around to it until recently. These are all beautiful publications, and I do intend on getting all of them eventually.
A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. Le Guin)
I don’t really read fantasy anymore, not since I was a kid, but I thought it might be interesting to read this, as it’s considered a classic. It was indeed an enjoyable read. Interestingly, after I was done I wasn’t really planning on reading any more in the series, but then I re-watched the Ghibli adaptation of the third book (Tales From Earthsea) and enjoyed it so much that it made me want to go and read more. I expect I’ll do that in 2021.
Young Bucks: Killing the Business From Backyards to the Big Leagues (Matt and Nick Jackson)
The Young Bucks are not only two of my favorite wrestlers (along with Kenny Omega), but they are also the reason I’ve become such a huge fan of pro wrestling over the past two years (through their “Being the Elite” web series and the role they played in the formation of All Elite Wrestling). I devoured this in a day, as I just couldn’t put it down.
Ready Player Two (Ernest Cline)
The first book has certainly been criticized a lot since it was originally published, but I remember having a really good time reading it, and so I was certainly willing to give the sequel a go. I enjoyed bits here and there (especially the sequence around John Hughes films) but overall it wasn’t as fun as I remembered the first one being, almost coming off as a parody of itself.
All Systems Red (Martha Wells)
This is a novella that I read over the last two days of the year, and found it to be pretty fun. I had heard good things about this “Murderbot” series, and so was curious to check it out — and I won’t lie, I wanted to try and get one more book in before the end of the year. I think I’ll probably read more in this series.
For the 11th consecutive time (previously: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019), here’s my massive look-back at all my favorite things that I consumed over the past year. As always, this is limited to things that were released in 2020, and it’s of course HIGHLY subjective — this is not a round-up of the best media of 2020, but rather a look back at stuff I really enjoyed this past year, because I like the exercise of doing it. And that of course means there’s plenty that came out this year that I haven’t yet had the chance to check out, and I’m sure I’m also forgetting things I did enjoy. So be it. Each category is made up of an alphabetical top 5, followed by a few honorable mentions if warranted. I’ve added some new categories, with some disappearing, like board games (because I barely bought anything in 2020, for obvious reasons) and French comics (since I’ve been mostly limited to what’s available digitally from my local library).
Despite the list below, I will say that the highlight of my gaming year has been getting access to Game Pass when I got my Xbox Series S upon release, and catching up on tons of games I missed out on in recent years. And my most happy game times have been playing Forza Horizon 3 and 4 — these were the games that I was really sad I missed out on since I didn’t have an Xbox One, and it’s been a joy to dig into both over the past couple of months.
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Xbox Series S)
- Hades (Switch)
- Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch)
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Xbox Series S)
- Warframe (Xbox Series S)
Honorable Mentions: Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch), Destiny 2: Beyond Light (Xbox Series S), Genshin Impact (PS4), Ghosts of Tsushima (PS4), Watch Dogs Legion (Xbox Series S)
Favorite Mobile Games
This is a category that comes and goes over the years, as some years I end up playing a lot of mobile games (mostly on iPad), and some I don’t. Up until about a month ago, I wasn’t planning on including it, since the majority of iOS gaming I did was on Apple TV with a controller (mostly Apple Arcade games), but then I got the Backbone One controller to use with my iPhone, and since then I’ve absolutely loved playing games on my phone, as it really does feel like I’m playing with a true portable gaming system.
- Legends of Runeterra
- Legend of the Skyfish 2
- Little Orpheus
Honorable Mentions: Marble Knights, Slash Quest, South of the Circle, The Collage Atlas, The Last Campfire
It was obviously a strange year for movies, with a lot of big releases being pushed back. But I did find a lot to like, even though I do probably spend more time watching older movies (through all the movie marathons I do) than I do new releases.
- Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm
- Da 5 Bloods
- Weathering With You
Honorable Mentions: Altered Carbon: Resleeved, Beastie Boys Story, Bill & Ted Face the Music, Color Out of Space, The Go-Go’s, The Invisible Man, You Cannot Kill David Arquette
Favorite Movies of 1990
As I’ve been doing in recent years, here’s a top 5 for one of the movie marathons I did in 2020, for movies from the year 1990 (and I’m not done yet).
- Die Hard 2
- Miller’s Crossing
- Total Recall
Yet another strong year for TV series, which made it difficult to narrow down what would make it to my top 5. But what is there is truly what I enjoyed the most — and if it had released a day earlier (and not on January 1), I would have included Cobra Kai.
- AEW Dynamite
- Long Way Up
- The Mandalorian
Honorable Mentions: Altered Carbon, Better Call Saul, Devs, High Fidelity, High Score, Lovecraft Country, Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, Raised by Wolves, Star Trek Discovery, Star Trek Picard, Ted Lasso, The Boys, The Last Dance, The Queen’s Gambit, Tiger King, Westworld, What We Do in the Shadows
Even though I’ve gotten back into watching a lot of new anime series as of 1-2 years ago, this is the first time I include it as a category — I guess I finally feel like I’ve watched enough to be able to warrant making a list.
- Great Pretender
- Japan Sinks 2020
- Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
- Sing “Yesterday” for Me
- Wave, Listen to Me!
Honorable Mentions: Dragon’s Dogma, Kimetsu no Yaiba, The Millionaire Detective Balance: Unlimited, Woodpecker Detective’s Office
Favorite Web Series
I do still spend a lot of time watching a lot of stuff on YouTube, to a point where this year I finally started paying for YouTube Premium because I couldn’t stand the insane amount of ads anymore. As you can see in my top 5, it’s pretty much all wrestling-related, except for the Formula 1 channel, which I tune in to watch the race previews, as well as First Practice and Qualifier highlights.
- AEW Dark (on the All Elite Wresting channel)
- Being the Elite
- Formula 1 (channel)
- Sammy Guevara’s Vlog
- Whatculture Wrestling (channel)
When I look at the automated list that Apple Music creates at the end of the year, it’s pretty much all composed of hard bop, which continues to be what I listen to the most, but I did enjoy quite a few new albums this year, as listed below.
- Always Tomorrow (Best Coast)
- Coriky (Coriky)
- Dry – Demos (PJ Harvey)
- Earth (EOB)
- Everything Else Has Gone Wrong (Bombay Bicycle Club)
Honorable Mentions: Causers of This – Instrumentals (Toro y Moi), Domingo (Chip Tanaka), Fake It Flowers (Beabadoobee), Future Past Life (STRFKR), Giant Steps – 60th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (John Coltrane), Host (Cults), It Is What It Is (Thundercat), Ludi (Chassol), Mordechai (Khruangbin), Mr Experience (Donny Benet), Not From Where I’m Standing (Various Artists), Palo Alto – Live (Thelonious Monk), Seeking Thrills (Georgia), The King of Sudanese Jazz – Habibi Funk 013 (Sharhabil Ahmed), To Bring You My Love – Demos (PJ Harvey)
As with the web series category, my podcast listening is very wrestling heavy. My favorite new podcast though has been TokyoScope — I get a lot of enjoyment out of listening to Patrick and Matt talk otaku (and Tokyo in general) topics.
- AEW Unrestricted
- All Songs Considered
- Talk Is Jericho
- Whatculture Wrestling
Honorable Mentions: Japan by River Cruise, Pop Culture Happy Hour, The Stack
As I mentioned in the intro up top, I’m not including picks for French comics this year, since I didn’t read enough 2020 releases (due to me not going to the library). As for American comics, again, I should probably seek out more original graphic novels (that I keep seeing in year-end “best of” lists), but I’m a weekly comic reader.
- G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
- Usagi Yojimbo (regular series and color reprints)
Honorable Mentions: Hill House (comic imprint), Pulp, Strange Adventures, Rorschach, Spy Island, Star Wars: Darth Vader
I love magazines, and I still read tons of them, but I’ve never included a category for some reason. The only two titles that I buy physically are Monocle and Konfekt (that just launched), and the rest I read digitally via Apple News+.
- Total Film
Honorable Mentions: Retro Gamer, SFX
The first thought when watching this is just how weird it is, I mean, to the point where I wonder if a film like this could even get made anymore — it doesn’t really feel like it. Then, even though you accept that this is just fantasy and so you just go with it, you sill wonder: how does he feed himself, how does he put on that tight leather suit, how does he use the washroom… But hey, that’s not the point here, it’s just a fantastical tale that is as fun as it is weird, with of course that unique Burton aesthetic (although at this point it’s still pretty tame, and more colourful than you’d think). I had also forgotten that Anthony Michael Hall is in this, but I’ll say that I’ve never really liked when he plays bully/jock/asshole roles (as opposed to the nerdy roles we know him from in those classic John Hughes films). All in all, it was fun, and a nice way to end the year (I watched it on New Year’s Eve).
I watched the new re-edit by Coppola, that retitles the film to The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (this is what he originally wanted as a title, but the studio insisted on using “Part III”). In a way I wish I had rewatched the original earlier this year, to then better appreciate how this re-edit affects the film — but I did read an article in which Coppola explains what he wanted to achieve with this revisit, and it did sound like an improvement. I remember liking this movie fine back in the day, but it had its criticisms, and didn’t really compare to the earlier two films. But at this point, I quite enjoyed it, and that could be because of the new edition being better structured — one big change is the opening of the film, which now really sets the stage for everything that comes after (politicking with the Vatican), and I honestly can’t see how the movie would make sense any other way. That’s certainly a sign that he made the right decision with this, even if it did come 30 years later.
Die Hard 2 is pretty much the perfect movie sequel. Sure, it’s not as good as the original Die Hard, but you can’t blame it for that, and it manages to be entertaining as all hell, while playing around with the premise that made the original so great (stuck in an environment that’s being controlled by villains). It’s a shame that none of the subsequent sequels ever managed the same trick — although I’ve been entertained here and there, I’ve never really thought any of them were great. And the climax with the lighter is so incredibly inspired.
Following the October horror marathons I did in 2018 and 2019, I decided to do the same this year, and what a ride it was. I ended up watching much more this year than in the past (34!), which is especially surprising since that includes multiple episodes of a few series (Lovecraft Country, Ash vs Evil Dead, Creepshow, and The Haunting of Bly Manor). I think that what contributed to this was that since the start of the pandemic, I barely watched any horror — maybe not such a big surprise — and so even though I’d slowly started watching some recently, when I decided to dive in for October, well, I really dove in. So below are links to my short write-ups of everything I watched, or you can get to them all under the “October 2020” tag.
- Ash vs Evil Dead (Season 3)
- Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island
- Books of Blood
- Child’s Play (2019)
- Child’s Play 2
- Creepshow (Season 1)
- Creepshow Animated Special
- Death of Me
- Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack
- Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
- Halloween: Resurrection
- House II: The Second Story
- Lily C.A.T.
- Lovecraft Country
- Seoul Station
- Spiral (Uzumaki)
- Suspiria (2018)
- Tales From the Darkside
- The Babysitter
- The Babysitter: Killer Queen
- The Dead Don’t Die
- The Exorcist III
- The Final Girls
- The Haunting of Bly Manor
- The Mortuary Collection
- The Rental
- The Trigger Effect
- Vampire Hunter D
- Wicked City
I capped off my monthlong horror fest with a triple bill on Halloween night that included The Mortuary Collection, Books of Blood, and then lastly Relic. This was quite good. Incredibly slow and creepy during its buildup, it then climaxes in a harrowing and stressful bout of unexpected horror that’s not specifically scary, but eery, and although I didn’t quite understand what the ending meant, a bit of reading after the fact (interviews with the director) made me appreciate what it all meant and represented. It’s definitely worth taking in.
I followed my viewing of The Mortuary Collection with another horror anthology film, Books of Blood, which itself is an adaptation of a Clive Barker book. Feels like I haven’t seen anything new film-wise from Barker in ages (I of course have revisited some of his classic films), and so I was quite looking forward to this. This was really great, and not only because each of the stories were interesting (and creepy as fuck) by themselves. I especially liked how they all intertwine with each other — I think the best way to describe it would be à la Pulp Fiction. Well worth watching.