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.
I was very happy to see that this was going to get released this week — as I wrote in my other post about Creepshow, it’s what reminded me to go back and watch the rest of the series. This was quite good, especially the first story which is by Stephen King, and deliciously macabre — the second tale, by his son Joe Hill, gets good by the end, but the constant Twitter chatter by the main character annoyed me a bit. Also, this is more done as motion comics than purely animated, but it didn’t really make me enjoy it any less, as they did a good job of using this style to illustrate the stories, which both pretty much entirely revolve around long monologues. Well worth checking out.
I had watched the first couple of episode of this Shudder-produced series adaption of the classic 80s anthology film during my October marathon last year, and only now have I gotten around to watching the other episodes. I’m glad I did, because as I wrote in that original post, this is a really fun series, and does a great job of telling the same sort of creepy (and occasionally silly) stories that the original film did, which makes me happy. I was reminded of the series with the recent announcement that a new animated Halloween special is getting released later this week (also on Shudder).
I quite enjoyed last year’s The Haunting of Hill House, and so it was a no brainer that I was going to watch this sequel series. I’ve only watched the first episode, but I already prefer the setting — nothing like a big ol’ manor in the English countryside. I’ll of course need to watch a lot more before I can say if I really enjoy the series or not, but I think it’s off to a good start, with a great cast, and some already pretty spooky and creepy moments. It’s definitely great to have this drop in October, like last year.
As I was going through my (insanely long) watchlist on Netflix, I realized that I hadn’t yet watched all of the third (and final) season of Ash vs Evil Dead. There’s no particularly reason for that, I’m sure I just got distracted at some point and forgot to watch the rest (I had only watched the first couple of episodes). It’s a happy discovery, as I’ve been having a blast watching it. The bad part though is that it’s making me feel upset again that they ended the show with this season. I’ll enjoy it while I can, I guess.
I’m not completely caught up on this series (I think I’m a couple of episodes back), but despite some episodes being less interesting than others (due to the nature of having different themes for each one), Lovecraft Country has been fantastic. I think an especially standout thing to point out is the the soundtrack, which mixes contemporary songs (or at least songs that aren’t tied to the 1950s setting) with specific sequences of the show — a truly inspired one was the use of “Whitey’s on the Moon” during the ritual scene in the second episode. But even more important is the role racism plays here — it’s shocking, it’s hard to take in, it’s disgusting, but it’s necessary to share and part of the horror. And I’m definitely happy to see more black creators and casts in the horror genre these days.
This marks my tenth year doing this annual reflection on my favorite media of the year, which means you can also easily see what my favorite media through the decade was (see 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018). As always, this is a look at the media released in 2019 that I was able to consume this year that I enjoyed the most — it’s not a “best” list, and of course it doesn’t include all of the things that were released this year that I haven’t yet had a chance to check out, and that might have made the list if I did. Instead, take it as a big ol’ recommendation list of stuff that came out this past year that I liked, and so you might like it too. Each category kicks off with an alphabetical top 5, and then I include a few honorable mentions if there are other things I would like to highlight.
Favorite Games I feel like I don’t have as many games in this category as in past years, but I think this is also a reflection of me spending more time playing fewer games. That’s especially the case with Destiny 2 — I could have listed the Shadowkeep expansion to indicate a 2019 release, but instead, I’ve decided to include a “live” game for the first time in my year-end list, since that’s how I’m consuming it (playing through the seasons, etc.) Sayonara Wild Hearts is included here and not in mobile because the best experience of this game for me was through Apple TV with a controller. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe for me was such a revelation because it was the first time I played a Mario game completely in co-op (with two colleagues at work), and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing a Mario game.
Destiny 2 (Stadia)
Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch)
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (Switch)
Sayonara Wild Hearts (Apple TV)
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch)
Honorable Mentions: Death Stranding (PS4), Far Cry New Dawn (PS4), Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Switch), Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch), Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (PS4)
Favorite Mobile Games This is a category that comes and goes, as some years I see myself barely playing anything on mobile (and the stuff that I do play is usually on iPad, although my new iPhone XR has me enjoying playing games on a phone again). This year of course marked the introduction of Apple Arcade, and that got me back into playing mobile games in a big way. Below are my favorites so far, but there are still loads of games I haven’t had a chance to properly play yet.
Assemble with Care
LEGO Builder’s Journey
What the Golf?
Honorable Mentions: Card of Darkness, Guildlings, Rayman Mini, Sky: Children of the Light, Steven Universe: Unleash the Light, Tangle Tower, Yaga the Roleplaying Folktale
Favorite Board Games I introduced this category last year — following my re-entry into having a board game collection (after the purge I did when I left Japan) — and again, I include games from 2018 (that I didn’t include last year) and 2019, since I feel like board game releases are a bit of a slower thing, especially with the way Kickstarter is used.
Architects of the West Kingdom
Detective: LA Crimes
Magic: The Gathering
Honorable Mentions: Hokkaido, Raids, Tower of Madness
Favorite Movies Since I spend so much time watching older movies, I do tend to have more trouble coming up with movies that are new releases — and even for this list, six of the titles included I ended up watching over the past week, as I tried to play catch up with 2019 releases. As a bonus, I include my top 5 of movies released in 1989.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
The Art of Self-Defence
Honorable Mentions: Alita: Battle Angel, Avengers: Endgame, John Wick 3: Parabellum, Joker, Klaus, Midsommar, Missing Link, Ready or Not, Us
Favorite Movies of 1989
Dead Poets Society
Do the Right Thing
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Patlabor: The Movie
Favorite TV No big surprise, but this year was again a fantastic one for TV. And yes, for the time I’m including a wrestling show — this year marked my return to wrestling fandom in a big way, thanks to the new AEW league, which is absolutely my favorite thing to watch on a weekly basis (and the only one of these shows I watch live).
Formula 1: Drive to Survive
What We Do in the Shadows
Honorable Mentions: Black Mirror, GameCenter-CX, Game of Thrones, Fleabag, Jack Ryan, John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch, Killing Eve, Love Death + Robots, Patriot Act, Russian Doll, Saturday Night Live, Shameless, Star Trek Discovery, Stranger Things 3, The Boys, The Twilight Zone, The Umbrella Academy, The Witcher, Watchmen
Favorite Web Series This is another category I introduced in recent years, and this year I feel like my consumption of web shows/content really did explode. And yes, wrestling content takes up a lot of space, with both the AEW and NWA weekly web shows in my top 5, as well as the Being the Elite series, that I binged to completion this year as I played catch up, and then a couple of more channels I follow regularly included in the honorable mentions.
Favorite Music This is a really weird year in music for me. I did listen to a lot of new stuff, but I didn’t really spend a lot of time with most of those records, and so didn’t develop a lot of “loves.” I think it’s telling that according to Apple Music, my top 20 of most played tracks was entirely composed of hard bop — it’s definitely what I listened to the most this past year, and I continue to do so. And in the lead-up to my trip to Japan in November, I spent a month or two pretty much listening exclusively to my old Shibuya-kei favorites (Pizzicato Five, Cornelius, etc.) One of my new year resolutions is definitely to spend more time taking in new music.
Flamagra (Flying Lotus)
I Know You Like It (Shinichiro Yokota)
Reward (Cate Le Bon)
When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Billie Eilish)
Honorable Mentions: Beat Tape 09 (Eevee), Juliana Hatfield Sings the Police (Juliana Hatfield), Ladytron (Ladytron), Outer Peace (Toro y Moi)
Favorite Comics For the first time, I don’t include any honorable mentions in my comics list, and that’s telling. My interest in BDs (bandes-dessinées, or French comics) continues to eclipse my interest in comics, and I’ve seen my weekly reading list go down and down throughout the year. The absolute highpoint is Jonathan Hickman’s House of X and Powers of X series, my favorite comics in years (at least since Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and Avengers). Dawn of X refers to all of the separate Hickman-curated titles that have launched in its wake (X-Men, New Mutants, X-Force, Excalibur, Fallen Angels, Marauders), which I’m not as enthusiastic about, but still find them to be quite enjoyable (most of them).
Dawn of X
House of X/Powers of X
Peter Cannon Thunderbolt
Silver Surfer: Black
Favorite BDs My rekindled love of BDs (as of last year, when I started going to my local library) continues, and has grown, with this year being easier to include a lot of 2019 releases — although there are still some late-year releases that I’m sure would be included here (like the new Thorgal and XIII) but that I haven’t read yet. I do spend more time reading older releases (reading through a series) than new ones though.
Amazonie – Épisode 4
La Jeunesse de Thorgal – La dent bleue (7)
Renaissance – Interzone (2)
Retour sur Aldébaran – Épisode 2
Stern – L’Ouest, le vrai (3)
Honorable Mentions: Alix Senator – Les Spectres de Rome (9), Carthago – Le Pacte du centenaire (9), Katanga – Dispersion (3), Lefranc – Lune Rouge (30), Soleil Froid – L’armée verte (3)
Favorite Podcasts My rekindled love of wrestling is also evident here (what can I say, I’m hooked), as is my rekindled interest (since the Ayrton Senna era in the 80s) for Formula 1 — ignited by the excellent Netflix series Formula 1: Drive to Survive (which got me excited about watching races again).
Pop Culture Happy Hour
The Chris Van Vliet Show
Honorable Mentions: All Songs Considered, Monocle 24: The Stack, On Margins
As I did last year, I decided to do another horror marathon during the month of October, to put me in a proper Halloween mood. This year’s list of what I watched (see below) is a bit shorter than last year (20 vs. 27), but I think this year I ended up watching more TV series, which took up more time — and I ended up watching the second half (all made up of movies) during the final week of October. (I’m also watching more pro wrestling these days, so I imagine that affected things too.) So here then is the list of TV shows and movies I watched for this year’s marathon, and I can’t wait to do the next one — you’ll also find all my write-ups under the “October 2019” category.
This is a new series that’s currently airing on Shudder, and it really does feel like a proper follow-up to the original movies. It really embraces the comic book aesthetic as well — all framing sequences are done in that style, including some bits during episodes — and it just feels fun to watch. Sure, it’s a bit on the low budget side — something you mostly notice when it comes to creature effects — but I think it suits the campy vibe of the series. I’ve watched the first two episodes (which are themselves divided in 2 half-hour episodes), and liked pretty much all of them — the one with the dollhouse was especially great. Well worth taking in of you were a fan of the original movies, or enjoy fun campy horror.
Last year for my Halloween marathon I watched season 2, and this year I’m watching season 3 (which is sadly its final season). I’ve just watched the first few episodes, but so far so good, pretty much what I want and enjoy from the series. I’m sure I’ll be a bit sad when I’m done watching the season, but here’s hoping the character lives on in some other form (one more movie, please).