Sean Lemme

Sean is mildly pleased with most things in life, so I guess it's good he made this website.

Sean’s Top 10 Movies of 2021

One thing about our annual top 10 lists that we have to deal with every year is that eligibility gets a little more complicated each week as we move through the media we cover. Despite the Grammys bizarre rules, picking albums is easy: did it come out between January 1 and December 31? Then it counts, even if the album had a single or two from the year before. TV shows get a little more complicated, since some shows have seasons that start in the fall of one year and the spring on another, for example. And then movies are the most difficult, because a lot of indie movies have multiple release dates: do we go by festival debut? Limited release in LA and New York? Wide release? If they’re foreign films, do we go off their home country’s release or when they came out here?

For the most part, we’ve just done whatever the big critics did, which, living in Seattle, often meant making a lot of trips to the art house theaters in December and January to catch up with the indie darlings critics saw in the bigger cities, at festivals, or on screeners. But that was not the case in 2020! The theaters stayed closed after March 2020 and didn’t become a part of my life again until F9 saved cinema in June of 2021. For the first time ever, it just was not possible to see a lot of the most beloved movies – including major Oscar pictures – until their digital release in 2021. So (and I warned John and Colin I’d be doing this) I’m making a one-time exception to my own list eligibility rules and expanding the field to any movie that was released for the first time IN A WAY I COULD SEE IT in 2021. Does this have anything to do with the fact that I’m still skittish about going back to theaters and haven’t seen a lot of beloved 2021 movies? MAYBE.

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Sean’s Top 10 Shows of 2021

When I think back on the TV shows I watched in 2021, frankly all of them will pale in comparison to the most ambitious television project I ever took on: watching every single episode of ER in one year. Michael Crichton’s medical drama was a staple of NBC’s Must-See TV Thursday night lineup from 1994-2009, a run that encompassed 331 episodes over 15 seasons. At a minimum of 45 minutes per episode, that’s more than 10 days of screen time. So whenever I ate, whenever I was getting ready for bed, whenever I had a project, I would put ER on. I lived and breathed Chicago’s County General Hospital from January until I finished the show in late November.

What did I learn from all that watching? TV has really changed! Not just the obvious shift from shows being only being on TV to wherever we are now, but all the little things. ER was a “water cooler show” that people watched and talked about for like half the year every year. Now we’re lucky if we can find one other person tweeting about a show we like at the same time as we’re watching it. ER was big enough to attract A-list guest stars, which at the time were people like Sally Field and Ray Liotta because there was still a stigma that movie actors don’t do TV. Now it almost seems reversed – actors do shows and miniseries to flex their talent. Remember 22 episode seasons? Remember how networks used to hate serialized storytelling? Remember the disappointment you’d feel when an episode ended in “to be continued”?! Those were they days.

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Sean’s Top 10 Albums of 2021

(The featured image comes from the best live performance of 2021: Final Fantasy XIV composer Masayoshi Soken’s rendition of the “La Hee” meme. You might need to hear the real song for context.)

For the second year in a row, I find myself feeling disconnected from the annual top 10 process. I can think of a few possibilities for that, and, first and foremost of them is the fact that I’m in my thirties now and therefore much less cool and getting lamer by the day. But also there’s still this whole thing going on and that prevailing despair definitely effects my mood. Plus, that situation means a lot of media is still getting delayed, cancelled, or changed as we learn to adapt – which ultimately makes the idea of confining years feel less essential than ever before. But now I feel like I’m getting all Neil deGrasse Tyson on you, so I’ll stop and say: check out some awesome music below!

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Shocktober: Saint Maud

Saint Maud (2020)

What year should I attribute Saint Maud to? It was an unusual COVID casualty, originally playing at TIFF in September 2019, where it was picked up by A24 and scheduled for an early 2020 release. That obviously didn’t happen, but A24 did optimistically postpone its release to July 2020, but… let me check my notes here… thing were still really bad then, so it was pulled entirely from their schedule. To add one additional wrinkle of complexity, it was released theatrically in the UK last October, but it didn’t come out here until late January. So you could make a case this is a 2019, 2020, or 2021 movie! I split the difference and went with the UK theatrical release, but don’t be surprised if I reconsider and make it a 2021 movie when list-making season comes. That is to say this whole preamble was just leading up to me admitting that I thought Saint Maud was quite good.

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Shocktober: The Nightingale

The Nightingale (2018)

I went into The Nightingale mostly just knowing that it was the second feature film from Jennifer Kent, the writer, director, and creator of queer icon The Babadook. On paper, a brief synopsis of The Nightingale almost sounds like an action movie; something akin to Kill Bill or John Wick. This is the story of Clare (Aisling Franciosi), an Irish convict who sets off to get her revenge against a British officer after he commits a horrible act against her and her family. But don’t get it twisted, there’s nothing fun or satisfying about this story. Had I known that this movie had a reputation for being unflinchingly brutal – to the point that it was a common occurrence for audiences to storm out of screenings – I might not have decided to dedicate one of my precious few reviews this Shocktober to it. But the whole idea of this genre is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and I do believe Jennifer Kent is an amazing talent, so I guess I don’t regret my ignorance. That said, if you haven’t seen this one yet, you should probably know what you’re getting into.

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Shocktober: Jennifer’s Body

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Needy Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried) is a violent inmate in an asylum who is convinced the people running the place are trying to keep her placid with shitty food and frequent exercise. She’s not having any of that, so she assaults someone and gets thrown into solitary confinement. It seems hard to believe that not too long ago she was an insecure student at a small town high school. Just what the hell happened here?

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Shocktober: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Note: I was supposed to review Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark today, but in between the time I volunteered to review it and last night when I actually sat down to watch it, it disappeared from streaming. Whoops! John says I’ve seen it before anyway. I guess it’s lucky we didn’t announce the schedule in advance, but since John mentioned Bigelow in his intro post, I wanted to let you know up front we won’t actually be looking at any of her movies this year.

Ten years before the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, in 1982, Frank Zappa gave a name to a certain type of affluent, young white women in California’s San Fernando Valley: The Valley Girl. To Zappa’s chagrin, his song helped popularize the stereotype and Valleyspeak, spreading the culture throughout the country. It helped create a new market for stories about ditzy, privileged girls and set us off on a long, dark road that somehow includes in a Nicolas Cage movie and I guess ends with Modern Family? Another man, a worse, hateful piece of shit named Joss Whedon, was apparently inspired by this trend but left wondering one thing: could he fit these girls into his nerdy fantasies? And thus one of the great media franchises of the late twentieth century was born.

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