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.
After the big black hole of nothing that was movies last year, 2021 couldn’t help but feel like a step up in comparison. But regardless of that, this did feel like an especially great year for movies, possibly because so many good ones were delayed and finally released under the best possible circumstances. Though of course, those circumstances still weren’t perfect, since there are plenty of movies I wasn’t able to see since Omicron forced me to spend a lot less time over the holidays in movie theaters than I was planning on. Also, as is the case even in a normal year, some arthouse or foreign films are just an ordeal to see or they don’t get released properly until February. So to the likes of Red Rocket, The Worst Person In The World, Parallel Mothers, and The Souvenir: Part II, guess we’ll have to acquaint ourselves some other time. Continue reading
2021 was a good year for movies… I think. I didn’t see a lot of ‘em. There was a window where I felt safe going to the movies. Heck, there was a day last summer where I went to a mall to see a movie and neither the theater or mall required a mask. Not because they were being negligent, because people thought masks weren’t necessary anymore. It always feels like two steps forward and one step back with COVID. Or maybe that’s one step forward, two steps back?
Fortunately, there were solid releases on streaming. How fun was that HBO Max same-day release stunt? I’m missing that already. How else would I have had the opportunity to see such classic as Space Jam: New Legacy or Mortal Kombat (in my underwear.)
There’s a lot I haven’t seen yet that I know would be on this list. Licorice Pizza and West Side Story for sure. A few others on streaming I wish I’d made time for like CODA and Summit of the Gods. And a couple I have no idea how to watch, The Worst Person in the World and Petite Maman.
Because this list feels incomplete to me, I decided to at least make it fun for myself. Instead of the usual paragraph after paragraph of plot recap and half-assed analysis, I’ve made checklists for each movie. Bite size pieces of plot recap and half-assed analysis for each movie. Did I devise this plan out of laziness? Sort of. But I think it’ll be fun. Let’s give it a shot.
Like Sean and John, I spent a decent amount of last year watching older shows, though I think I was less successful. I started out watching The West Wing before losing interest around the time that Rob Lowe (and slightly before Aaron Sorkin) left the show, while I also tried to slog through watching the later seasons of Friends, which I also gave up on. Those projects kept me a bit from staying on top of new TV, though I feel better about this list than I thought I would. I didn’t even have to marathon a season of a show in the week leading up to making this list, which is often the case. Still, there are some big shows I wish I’d caught up with, the most notable being Succession, Squid Game, and the final season of Insecure. But regardless, here’s what I did watch… Continue reading
There were great shows this year. Seems like there are great shows every year. Did the Golden Age of TV ever end? Are we forever doomed to be subjected to too much good TV? Why god?! WHY? Anyways, I spent a good chunk of this year only watching The Sopranos. So by the time October rolled around, I had to haul ass and catch up. That being said I’m happy with my list. Though there are definitely shows I wish I’d caught up with.
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.
I listened to a lot of cool music in 2021. The problem is all the “new” artists I got into were artists who had released albums in 2020. So not only did it fuck this year’s list, it fucked last year’s list too. If you’re curious those bands were Beach Bunny, Vulfpeck, and Khurangbin. Thanks a lot 2020.
The hard part of listmaking this year was I had no road map. I gave up on Pitchfork about a year ago cuz they think they’re so big. YouTube turned out to be helpful. I follow a couple of indie record labels and try to keep tabs on up and coming artists. KEXP’s YouTube channel is incredibly helpful. Those guys r kewl.
And I’m not embarrassed to admit I still check the Billboard Hot 100. Well, maybe a little embarrassed. I say all this and I didn’t end up with that crazy of a list. At least it’s not crazy to me. I’m not crazy. Anyways, here’s my not crazy list.
I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you.