2020: What Kind of Year Has It Been? Plus Plans for 2021

2020 was some kind of year, right? Many people have been describing it as the worst year in their lifetimes, and quite rightly so. On a global scale the past twelve months have been devastating, so I’m not going to go there. Instead I’ll just go through what I got up to, in relation to the resolutions I made this time last year.

Media

List films:
I aimed to review one “list” film a week. I did not do this. This was never going to happen. Even with a nationwide lockdown that left me home, not working and not being able to go anywhere for three solid months, I still only reviewed a total of three films in the whole year – Her, Rio Grande and Blackbird. Ridiculous. The lockdown did strange things to everyone, and for me it took away my drive to watch films. I watched an additional eighteen list films I didn’t get around to reviewing, but most of these were for podcasts. Hopefully I’ll do a write up for the likes of Little Women, Disclosure, The Thin Man, Gone With The Wind, The Seventh Seal, Congo, Monty Python And The Holy Grail, The Third Man, The Manchurian Candidate, The Pillow Book, The Great Escape, The Best Years Of Our Lives, Lost In Translation, Dunkirk, Interstellar, Insomnia, Following and Tenet soon.

Non-List films:
I made a list of twelve non-list films I owned on DVD to watch last year, with five of these rolling over from 2019. I did a little better than the 7 films I watched two years ago by hitting ten of the twelve, and yes half of these were watched in the past week, and three of them were yesterday. Still counts. I didn’t get to Marathon Man or The Dead Zone, but I did watch, from worst to best:
Triangle
The Station Agent
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Pontypool
– For a single location, low budget zombie film it was pretty good, with a great lead performance from Stephen McHattie, but it’s mythology was all over the place and I couldn’t stick with it.
The Way of the Gun – I’d heard this was great, but honestly I can barely remember anything other than the admittedly fantastic opening scene with Sarah Silverman.
Rare Exports
Kelly’s Heroes
Blue Ruin
The Skin I Live In


Cinema:
For some reason I didn’t see 24 films at the cinema this year. Can’t think what it was. I managed seven, six pre-pandemic (Jojo Rabbit, 1917, Parasite, Birds of Prey, Onward, The Invisible Man) and I popped in to see Tenet inbetween the various lockdowns when the cinemas briefly reopened. I regret seeing Tenet as I didn’t feel safe (there were people sat right behind me, not far enough away for my liking). I think cinemas got better at distancing after that, but I didn’t go back. Not sure when I will at this point.

TV:
I didn’t get around to watching Twin Peaks, and I watched the first episode of Deadwood but it didn’t really live up to expectations. I’m not quitting on it, I’ll give it another go eventually, just don’t know when. Outside of those two we finished ER, and we did start watching Buffy, in that we watched four entire seasons, and it’s pretty great. Oz is awesome, Willow is great, Giles is often the MVP, Spike’s accent is delightful, Angel kinda sucks, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s acting is better than I’d been led to believe, and Xander is the worst. Also the entirety of Schitt’s Creek, which exceeded expectations.

Books:
The plan was to read a book a month. I’m pretty sure that, over the course of a year, that should’ve added up to twelve books, but somehow I only read four. I’ll have to double check the maths on that. I read The Understudy, How To, Raptor and The Good Immigrant, and I’m a few chapters into American Dirt. The Good Immigrant was the problem here (or rather, I was the problem, as is the case with so many aspects of my life) in that I tend to read just before going to bed, and invariably I fall asleep mid-sentence, because I’m a bad person who cannot respect other people’s art. The Good Immigrant is a collection of essays on life in the UK for people who aren’t white, and this seemed such a worthy topic that I disliked falling asleep during it, and as such I tried to fit in reading it when I was unlikely to drift off. And that’s why it took me seven months to read.

Sites

Just like with reviewing the list films, I did pretty much none of the website updates I’d planned to. Again, no real reason other than a lack of drive. I did use the lockdown to take some online course and pass exams for SolidWorks, the CAD software I use for work, so that was good, but really I could’ve quite easily stayed on top of, for example, new LAMB members, at least monthly Lambscores, or any of the other relatively minor areas.

House

Oh yeah, that’s what we did during lockdown. We were actually in a pretty decent position DIY-wise at the start of lockdown, in that we’d already bought some paint we needed for some projects, and we were borrowing a power-breaker (basically a heavy-duty power drill designed for breaking rocks) from a friend. We’re still borrowing it, and have definitely used it more than he ever did. Of the twelve house projects we set out to do, here’s what we finished:
Fix crack in dining area – Yep, all done. This was set to be repaired literally the day our first lockdown happened. That was also the day I was due to get a haircut, so I entered lockdown with already unbearably long hair, and it got worse from there.
Strip plaster from lounge area – Yep. All hail the power breaker.
Redecorate lounge-diner – Done. All painted, with a picture wall and everything. I don’t deserve all the credit for this one, Aisha did a lot of the painting.
Paint kitchen – Yep, all done, but again this was mainly Aisha.
Fix plumbing – To an extent. It’s better. I’m not going into it.
Sort attic – The first thing I did during lockdown. I built a couple of bookcases in the attic and all my DVDs are now easily accessible, as opposed to being stored in big plastic boxes. I went through the many, many boxes of stuff we had, made a big pile to sell/donate, and unfortunately that big pile is still in the attic. That’s for this year.
Sort/tidy front garden – All done here too. Destroyed a wall (power breaker, go!) dug out the borders, re-clad the remaining shitty breeze block walls with wood panelling, painted it (it looks like a beehive; unintentional), filled the borders with new plants, took out a weird stone circle that’s been in the middle of the lawn since we moved in and filled the hole with excess turf. The driveway still needs to be finished, but the garden is done.
And here’s what’s either half-way done or hasn’t been started yet:
Re-do rear garden – I’ve dug out the border and, with a lot of help from my Dad, put in a raised border. The plan was to raise up the vegetable patch to a height our puppy Charlie couldn’t get to, but it turns out he’s pretty adept at jumping. Still need to finish re-shaping the lawn and putting a narrow border round it.
Re-patio garden – My Dad and I had a couple of socially-distanced concrete-laying sessions, so the base for this is all done, just gotta actually lay the patio. Kind of need to do this before the rest of the garden can be finished. Getting the foundation laid was wonderful though, as it’d been a mud-pit for months with the dogs traipsing dirt and loose stones into the lounge.
Shelving in lounge-diner – Half done. Two of the alcoves have shelving, the other two will, hopefully, be done soon.
Sort shed – The second thing I did in lockdown was sort the shed out, but I haven’t got the extra shelving yet. Soon.
Sort house exterior – Nope, still looks like shit.

Health

Running:
I aimed to run every other day, and I did. I aimed to run on average at least 100 miles a month, and I did. I aimed to, in total, run at least 2,020 kilometres over the year, and I did. In 2020 I ran a total of 2,141 kilometres (1,330 miles). I’m fortunate to live somewhere with lots of varied running routes including forests and beaches, plus I can run to work and my dog Murphy loves running too. His little brother Charlie enjoys it, but not when he’s tied to me, so he’s limited to just running round the park. What I found interesting was when I compared my running graphs from the past two years (if you know me, you should’ve been expecting a spreadsheet to be involved somewhere). I had three lulls in running on both years, and for both years they were in early March, late April and September/October. What’s weird is the cause of them. This March I got a bad cold, in April I badly hurt my foot (I could only walk because I had some good solid boots that held my foot like a cast, it was a very frustrating period to not be able to run given I wasn’t doing much of anything else) and in September I fell over running to work near the start of a run, still ran the whole way and then home again, which was a series of mistakes that led me to not run for a little while. None of these events happened in 2019. It’ll be really interesting if other events cause similar lulls this year.

Sleep:
I aimed to sleep at least 5 hours a night, and I’m pleased to say my average for the year was 5 hours 44 minutes a night. There were two nights where I slept over 8 hours. Shit is crazy. For the past couple of months I’ve been working the early shift in our office – we split the shifts in an effort to reduce the number of bodies in close proximity at any given time – so I’ve been getting up at 4:30am to get to work for 6:00am, but I’ve been getting home at around 3:00pm. Given my wife was, for a while, working the evening shift from home, I took up taking afternoon naps so we could see each other for a while each day, and I gotta say I don’t mind the naps at all. The dogs reliably wake me up at 6:30 each evening for their dinner, and just getting that extra 60-90 minutes of sleep did me wonders.

Other health:
I didn’t keep up with pilates, I did cut back on alcohol and increased my water drinking, I didn’t really increase my fruit and veg intake and if anything my Pepsi Max obsession increased. I spent a lot of time and effort losing weight in 2019, and I put some of it back on in 2020. It wasn’t even during the lockdown, it was when I went back to work, but because of the early shift I was down a dog walk each day as Aisha took them out in the mornings instead. Stupid 2020.

Podcasts

The secret resolution I didn’t mention last year was my intention to quit hosting the Lambcast, and start hosting a deep dive podcast about Deep Blue Sea. I did both of these things, but not in the order I’d intended. The plan had been for me to retire from the Lambcast in February, after our month-long James Bond special culminating in the release of No Time To Die. Then NTTD got pushed back to April, so the plan moved with it and, if you’re not aware, it got pushed back again and still hasn’t been released yet. My co-host Richard was going to take over from me, and it made sense that whilst I was home not doing a great deal else, I could still be on the Lambcast, so we shared the hosting duties a bit more until I went back to work and eventually left the show in November, after a 5-hour long mammoth recording session that’s one of my favourite podcasting episodes to date. I’ve since been back on the Lambcast, strictly in a guest capacity, to discuss Arthur Christmas, and I’m certain I’ll keep coming back for as long as Richard has me. I’ve also been fortunate enough to guest on other podcasts this year, including Pop Art (twice, once looking at The Seventh Seal & Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and more recently for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang & The Thin Man), Movies Films & Flix (most recently for Congo) and Exploding Helicopter (to look at Rampage).

The Bionic Stud Muffin himself.

Deep Blue Sea: The Podcast exists, is so much fun and I’m loving every minute. Mark Hofmeyer and I, along with some fantastic guests including many of our friends along with writers from Empire and Cracked, and genuine published authors, are spending about an hour each week delving into each DVD chapter of Deep Blue Sea, and it’s just as ludicrous as that sounds. If you like the film, check out the show, and if you don’t like the film well watch it a few dozen more times and eventually you will.

Resolutions for 2021

So what’s the plan for 2021? Well, for the most part, more of the same. Here’s the resolutions:
List films: I’d love to review one a week, hopefully starting with the ones I already watched in 2020. I’ve also started listening to the Unspooled podcast, which reviewed the films of the AFI list, so I’d like to prioritise the films on that list that I haven’t reviewed yet.
Non-list films: Again I’ll be aiming to watch 12 films I’ve had on DVD for a while that aren’t on any review lists. This year I’m doing something a bit different though, by for the most part picking a franchise. The blind spot of mine that comes up the most often is the Star Trek franchise, of which I’ve only seen the three recent films, but I’ve owned the full box set for years now. There’s ten films in it, but one of them (something about the tiger from The Jungle Book being really angry) appears on a list, so the other nine are this year’s mission, along with the two hold-overs from last year, and I’m chucking Bottle Rocket in as the 12th.
New releases: I only saw 39 new releases in 2020, which seems quite low. I’d like to watch more than that next year. As for cinemas, who knows?
TV: Finishing Buffy seems achievable, although given there’s crossovers with Angel we should probably try and watch that too. I need to draw up an episode release timeline so we can watch them all in the right order. That’s what normal people do, right?
Books: Once again, one a month is the goal that will not be achieved.
Sites: All those updates from 2020 still need doing.
House: Another 12 jobs are needed! And they are:
Carpet the lounge
Finish lounge shelving
Replace lounge window
Patio rear garden
Finish rear garden
Finish rear fence
Paint the shed
Shed shelving
Finish under the stairs cupboard
Strip the hallway
Redecorate the hallway
New front door
Running: Keep running every other day, with the intention of running a personal, non-official marathon this year. I’d like to run at least one at-least-half marathon every month, and January’s is already crossed off as I ran a half this morning (in a new personal best of 1 hour 53 minutes!). However I should’ve spent more time breaking my new running shoes in as now my feet are mostly blisters and I can barely walk. Fun times.
Health: On the non-running days, try and do some other kind of exercise. I’ve got some weights, and want to try yoga or some other core/balance/stretching-based exercised.
Diet: Eating better would be good, but for now I’m going to settle for calorie-counting. My Fitbit app handles it well and gives me an estimated calorie in/out comparison for the day, which helped me lose wait in the past. I know it’s not a good idea in the long run, but I’ll handle that once I’ve lost a stone or two.
Sleep: At least 5 hours sleep a night seems to be working. I’ve proven I can do at least five-and-a-half hours a night, so that’s this year’s aim.
Podcasts: Keep up with Deep Blue Sea, and try to stay more on top of the editing than I have been. I don’t enjoy staying up late to hit the self-imposed next-day deadline some weeks, especially when I’ve had the episode recorded for a month in advance. I need to get better at knuckling down and editing the shows instead of whiling away time on Youtube or Instagram.
I’m down for guesting on other peoples’ podcasts, but I need to learn to say “not right now” instead of a knee-jerk “Hell yes!” response. I love podcasting and talking about movies, but if it becomes a detriment to my own projects I need to be better at turning people down, at least temporarily. Anyone reading shouldn’t refrain from inviting me on their shows, just don’t be insulted if I say I can’t right now.

So that’s my 2020 lookback and my 2021 plan. What are your resolutions? How were your past 12 months? However it went and whatever your plan, I hope everything works out for you in 2021!

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