End of Year Review 2021 : Erika

The year 2021 was a funky year in general. From the launch of new streaming platforms, the same-day streaming, and a well-known director blaming millennials for the failure of his film (side-eye to Ridley Scott), it’s just been a mess. At least films and television shows delayed due to the pandemic were finally released. Some were worth the wait (Green Knight), and others should have never been made (Loki).

Since US movie theatres opened in March, indie and foreign-language films have gotten their time to shine. This has been an excellent year for cinema.

The only big studio film on my favourites list is Free Guy. I have a weakness for Ryan Reynolds films; his under-the-breath humour has always amused me. Free Guy delivers that humour and more. Focusing on video game non-player characters was a great concept, and it was entertaining. Taika Waititi as the evil d-bag, Antwan (who spells that name that way??) brought the most laughs for me.

I was thrilled when I got an invitation from Focus Features to stream Edgar Wright’s The Sparks Brothers, and I jumped at the opportunity. Honestly, I knew nothing about the Mael brothers before watching it, which I think was good. The brothers Mael had a significant influence on pop music, and I’m glad Wright made the documentary. There was a barrage of talking heads in the 180-minute runtime. From Beck to Flea, two members of Duran Duran, Neil Gaiman, and Wright himself, the variety of people impacted by the Mael brothers’ music was fascinating.

When Focus Features released this film in November, they definitely wanted it to be in consideration for awards season. Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast is what you’d call Oscar bait. I have to be honest; all of the movie’s best parts were in the trailers. Seriously, I was waiting for the whole film for Jamie Dornan’s rendition of Everlasting Love. I really enjoyed the film overall. Who knew there could be a joyous film set during The Troubles?

Typically, I tend to avoid movies that may make me cry in a movie theatre. So, I decided to take a chance on Blue Bayou, a film about a Korean Adoptee, Antonio, who awaits deportation due to a paperwork issue, and his criminal past. Justin Chon’s writing, directing, and acting was tops, and the film made a lasting impression. By the way, I sobbed at the end, and I’m an emotional robot.

Before the first showing of Shang-Chi, I decided to see a film that was leaving theatres the next day, Confetti. This heartfelt, small movie about a determined Chinese mother seeking education for her dyslexic daughter was poignant. You could tell it was a personal movie for writer/director Ann Hu. It’s worth a watch, and I recommend it to everyone. In fact, I recommended it yesterday, and my coworkers pulled Confetti up on Prime… Amazon’s algorithm suggested GLITTER, starring Mariah Carey…

I usually can’t choose a definitive favourite film of the year, but this year, I can. The Green Knight was indeed my favourite. I remember seeing the preview at the indie theatre right before South by 2020. Of course, it was pushed back multiple times, but it stayed on my must-watch list. Based mainly on the poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, our Gawain, Dev Patel, hasn’t proved himself worthy enough to be a knight. The King sends him on the quest to meet the Green Knight. Most of the well-known Arthurian characters are never named in the film, which I thought was clever, so all the focus was on Gawain. The film had symbolism to the max, allegories galore, all the stuff I love in a movie.

Admittedly, I have a hard time getting into television series; I prefer films because they’re one and done. The world has been inundated with ‘originals’ from the numerous streaming services, and it’s impossible to keep up unless you don’t sleep. But I did find a good handful of shows I liked this past year.

I typically ignore popular shows; it’s a hangover from being a former hipster. However, I did end up watching Squid Game. It wasn’t the most original concept and pretty easy to figure out, but it was insanely fun to watch. It had a huge impact; the kids at my apartment complex play red light green light and beat each other up; life imitates art, I guess.

The newest season of A Discovery of Witches premiered in January, and I used a free trial to view it on Sundance Now. I’m a massive fan of the books, so I’m going to stick it out until the end. Following the second book in the series, Shadow of Night, our main characters, Matthew and Diana, travel back to Elizabethan England. The costumes were period accurate, but Matthew Goode is still too old, and Teresa Palmer still can’t act. It was so lame, but I still loved it.

This year was a crapshoot when it came to documentary series. There were a lot of duds, and only a few hits for me. Netflix’s This is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist featured the early morning March 18, 1990 heist of thirteen works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The thieves orchestrated this heist when the cops were preoccupied with St. Patrick’s Day debauchery. Absolutely brilliant idea. I’ve read numerous books about the robbery, and the series introduced so much information that made my art nerd heart sing. The whole case is just odd, and it still keeps going.

I’m glad that my dislike of Alec Baldwin didn’t stop me from watching Dr. Death. Based on the podcast by the same name, Dr. Death features the story of “Doctor” Christopher Duntsh, who repeatedly maimed patients while “performing” spinal surgery. It was truly horrifying, and Pacey, sorry, Joshua Jackson, did a great job as the lead character. Christian Slater was my favourite; it was one of the most realistic portrayals of a surgeon I’ve ever seen.

A series I was really looking forward to this year was Dopesick. I looked at it on Hulu, then saw they released an episode a week. So, I put it on hold. Finally, after being encouraged to watch it by the phlebotomist at the blood bank (weird but true), I started it and finished it in less than a day. It romps through the last 30 years of the opioid epidemic, and it is both horrifying and infuriating. If inquiring minds want to know, that stuff legitimately happened. I really loved Dopesick, and Michael Keaton was the MVP. This was the last series I watched as of this writing, and it ended the year on a high note.

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