The end of the year is traditionally a time to reflect on what’s come before and what will come next. We duly trot out metaphors like Janus, the two-faced Roman god who looked to the past with one face, and the future with another (and for whom the month of January is named). Or if you’re a particular type of nerd, you make a joke about orbital mechanics. It’s all arbitrary, of course, but I’ve always found it to be a fun exercise, even if I’ve been particularly lax about the timing for the past few years.
2020 has been an unusual year in most respects, so being a little late with something like this recap of overall 2020 movie watching (n.b. not just 2020 releases, but all movies watched in the year) is perhaps not that remarkable, but it’s actually pretty well in line with my normal schedule (actual film publications typically do their recaps starting in November/December, though this year was a little more freeform for, again, obvious reasons).
Here at Kaedrin, we’ve already done the Movie Awards and Arbitrary Awards, so all that remains is the annual top 10. I am, however, still catching up with a few things, so that will probably have to wait until next week (or maybe even the week after!) In the meantime, let’s take a spin through my 2020 in movies, which has been the most productive movie-watching year in recorded history. It turns out that when the world is fighting a pandemic with lockdowns and social distancing, I watch a lot of movies (and read a lot of books and drink a lot of beer), go figure! I keep track of all my movie watching on Letterboxd, so if you’re reading this and are a member, we should be friends there. They also provide some stats, which I’m going to dive into below…
This is what I watched in 2020:
- 445 films watched
- 788.9 hours watched
- 37.1 movies a month on average
- 8.6 movies a week on average
- 31 movies made in 1978
That’s a lot of movies! Last year I “only” watched 392 films, so this is a significant increase, driven almost entirely by lockdown. I’ve already started to trail off from that pace though, and I’m hoping that as we return to some sense of normalcy in 2021, next years numbers won’t be nearly as high. I tend to do pretty well with structure when it comes to this sort of thing, but 2020 has been perhaps too structured. I should find a way to break out of some of those ruts.
I made good progress on the 1978 Project, but largely fell off that bandwagon when it came time to catch up with 2020 releases. Things will resume in the next few weeks, and I intend to do a full yearly recap at the end (with the same Movie Awards and Top 10 format as I have done for the past 15 years or so).
Some variability by week, but actually much more evenly distributed than recent years. Again, this is almost all driven by pandemic-related sheltering in place. There are still various spikes, such as the Six Weeks of Halloween or the last weeks of the year (in which I took some vacation time, but the whole area was in an extra-festive Holiday lockdown, so I basically stayed home, drank beer, and watched a bunch of movies). In terms of day of the week, Tuesday and Wednesday are still my least productive (at least partially owing to a group of friends and I maintaining a remote RPG game night over discord), and Friday/Saturday being when I watch the most stuff. Still, this was a pretty consistent 2020 in movies.
Genres, Countries, and Languages
When it comes to genres, countries, and languages, it’s not that big of a surprise to see US and English leading the pack. Given the extremes there, it’s hard to see that the other countries did see modest increases across the board. France and Hong Kong bumped up in the rankings this year, though Germany and Italy still fare well. Japan makes it to the list this year (while Spain drops off). This balance could improve for sure, and so far in 2021, I’ve been pretty good, but that’s driven by catching up with 2020 releases from other countries.
Comedy makes a jump to the top of the genres, perhaps not surprising given the harrowing year we had. Action, Thriller, Horror and the catch-all Drama remain healthy contenders. Interestingly, Documentary fell off the list, which is something I should probably correct in 2021.
I didn’t count the number of different countries, but this seems about on par, though perhaps more diverse than previous years. For whatever reason, I hadn’t watched anything from the entire continent of Africa in the past couple of years, but that changed this year, including a film from Wakaliwood, which I’m most definitely going to need to explore more fully. If I can find their releases!
Ratings and Other Patterns
Only 16% of my watches were a 2020 release, though this is at least partially driven by studios pushing back releases to 2021. 25.2% of watches were actually rewatches, a slight increase from last year, but in the general range for me. My ratings spread continues to movie slightly lower, really centering around 3 stars, but generally resembling a bell curve, which is decent enough I think. I suppose there’s a slight bias towards the higher end of the scale (probably driven by rewatches, which tend to be movies I love).
Stars and Directors
I certainly didn’t set out to watch a bunch of Joe Chrest movies in 2020, but as a testament to “that guy” character actors, it’s nice to see that they can outgun prolific superstars like Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington. The list is still largely white and largely male, but who knows how Letterboxd orders the stars. They do show you the next 10 most watched actors, and they all had 5 films too… Interestingly, this list is usually dominated by franchise rewatches, but I didn’t do a whole lot of that this year (though I guess Mad Max and Ocean’s rewatches drove a couple people into the list). Special shoutout to Van Veronica Ngo, winner of the Breakthrough Performance Award in the Kaedrin Movie Awards. She had small roles in a couple of 2020 movies, but her performances made me want to go back and watch some of her Vietnamese movies, hence her relatively high ranking.
Sadly, this is only the first time that a woman has made my list of most watched directors in a year, but I followed along with the Blank Check podcast this year, which drove both Nora Ephron and Robert Zemeckis on this list (they also did Demme on their podcast, though my watches were mostly decoupled from that). So not exclusively white and male, but I could probably still do better on that front.
Highs and Lows
I have to admit that I don’t really get why Stop Making Sense is so highly rated. It’s a documentary that captures a great concert experience for sure, but that average rating is absurdly high. I certainly do get why The Star Wars Holiday Special is so lowly rated though; it’s mindblowingly bad. Knives Out was also my most watched movie of the year. For some reason, I never get sick of that movie, and I watched it five times in 2020 (though two were with various commentary tracks). I suspect the overall popularity on Letterboxd also has to do with it being available on Amazon Prime.
Finally, the most obscure movie I watched was No Chance, a bizarre, parodic quasi-sequel to Commando (a classic 80s action flick). I find it hard to recommend the movie, but it certainly has some charms. Shoutout to Revanchist, an obscure Hong Kong action flick with an absolutely bonkers ending action sequence. It held the Most Obscure spot for quite a while. it’s a shame so many of those great Hong Kong action movies are so hard to find these days…
So that was 2020 in movies. Another banner year of movie watching here at Kaedrin HQ. I suspect things will settle down a bit in 2021, but I’ll probably still watch a crapton of movies.