Ivy’s 2020 Recommendations

I don’t review books, tv shows, or films anymore because I hate saying bad things about them, but I still want to share some great finds. So, after a year which has allowed me to consume more art than usual, I have come up with a list of my favourites.

Books:

I did not read as much books as I’d hoped to. I’ve started allowing myself to quit books because life is too short to waste on a book you’re not enjoying. A goal of mine is to read more in the new year. I think I had the same goal last year. We’ll see what happens, I guess.

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (YA)

A YA fantasy with Mulan and Aladdin influences full of adventure, romance, and magic. A teenage girl pretends to be a boy to compete for the position of Imperial Tailor.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab (A)

An adult contemporary fantasy with some cat-and-mouse chasing and superpowers. Two former friends armed with incredible abilities, one determined to exterminate anyone with superpowers, the other determined to end the first, are on a deadly path towards each other.

TV Shows:

TV shows are what kept me occupied most of the year. I’ll have to scale back my viewing in the future, but the following shows are ones I have no regrets spending hours watching. In Canada, they can be found on Amazon Prime and Netflix.

The ratings are my own, based on intensity, violence, and maturity required to understand the subject matter. Language is not taken into account, and nudity and sex aren’t considered as heavily as some rating systems. You can do your own research into any show and its content if you have any questions or concerns.

The Great (16+)

Probably my favourite on this list. After a naive young woman gets married to the Tzar of Russia, she realizes her dream of a happy marriage and life in Russia isn’t what she’d hoped, and she decides to do something about it. A satirical dramedy based on the history of Catherine the Great of Russia. Stars Elle Fanning, Nicolas Hoult.

Good Omens (PG)

Mostly perfect, about an angel and a demon working together after accidentally losing the antichrist. Stars David Tennant, Michael Sheen.

The Wilds (14+)

A fun watch combining survivalist and dystopian genres. A group of teen girls survive a plane crash and end up on a deserted island, but not by accident. Stars a lot of newcomers.

Hunters (18+)

After his Auschwitz survivor grandma is murdered, a young man joins a group of nazi hunters. Kind of intense, but excellent for every minute and the acting is top notch. Stars Logan Lerman, Al Pacino.

The Queen’s Gambit (14+)

Too popular for you not to have heard of. A young woman is battling her personal demons while trying to become the best chess player in the world. Stars Anya Taylor-Joy.

Snowpiercer (16+)

Takes inspiration from the movie by Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) for the basic premise of post-apocalyptic survivors living on a never-ending train ride. A police detective is brought out of the lowest class in the tail of the train to solve murders that have been happening. Stars Daveed Diggs, Jennifer Connelly.

Spinning Out (14+)

Similar to The Queen’s Gambit, but not as well known. Instead of chess, it’s figure skating, and instead of addiction, she has bipolar disorder. Was unfortunately cancelled after one season, but the first season is good enough to stand alone. Stars Kaya Scodelario, January Jones.

The Good Place (PG)

A bright, crazy, and endlessly enjoyable comedy about a woman who died and made it to the Good Place, even though she almost definitely shouldn’t be there. Stars Kristin Bell, William Jackson Harper.

Films:

Obviously there wasn’t much going to movie theatres for me this year, which is where I watch the bulk of my films normally. However, being at home with so few new releases has meant I’ve been able to dive into movies from the past, which is nice, and streaming platform films have been good too. Same rating system as TV above.

Icarus (16+)

A documentary that starts off studying doping in pro sports, the doc maker going as far as using the drugs himself to know its effects, but soon the issue becomes much bigger and darker.

The Silence of the Lambs (16+)

In order to catch a serial killer, Clarice must talk to a dangerous and manipulative cannibal. Can’t believe I only watched it for the first time this year. I can see why it’s a classic. Brilliant. Loved it. Stars Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (18+)

One of the very few films I’ve ever watched with a five-act plot structure, and to great effect. A journalist searches for a girl who’d gone missing decades before, with help from a computer hacker. Stars Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara.

The Half of It (PG)

A sweet coming-of-age film. Ellie agrees to write love letters for a boy who struggles to talk to his crush. In the process, she becomes his friend, and falls in love with his crush. Stars newcomers, Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer.

Arctic (14+)

The last film I’ve seen this year. A survivalist film of a man, stuck in the arctic, witnessing the helicopter crash of his would-be rescuers, is now tasked with crossing the arctic with a critically injured young woman whose plight he feels responsible for. Stars Mads Mikkelson, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir.

John Wick 1, 2, 3 (16+)

Just some action packed movies about a guy out to avenge his puppy and everything that happens as a result. Stars Keanu Reeves.

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm (18+)

A mostly unscripted partially-real comedy movie. I was too young to watch the first Borat film when it first came out, so I went into this not knowing what to expect and was blown away by the talent and genius of it. Stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova.

It’s A Wonderful Life (G)

A classic for a reason. A kind and selfless man who aches for adventure goes through hardship after hardship, but there are moments of good and happiness and no matter how tough things get, life is still worth living. Especially poignant after a year such as the one we’ve had. Stars James Stewart, Donna Reed.

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