What. A. Year.
Before the first month was over, we watched a bunch of extremists storm the seat of the US congress, and a bunch of fed-up Redditors used Gamestop to get revenge on hedge funds to the tune of billions.
And it didn’t let up: military coups in Myanmar, relentless bombings of Palestine, the rise of NFT’s and the Metaverse, a bunch of rich white guys had a dick measuring contest in space, and of course, that little thing called covid.
Yes, another plague year is over and we are still here, consuming media like it’s the only thing worth doing. So without further ado, let me dive into the truly subjective, most likely controversial, list of my personal favourites from the unforgettable 2021.
Best Films of 2021
It was a great year for films. And even more impressive was how production teams and casts overcame the challenges facing them over the past 2 years to bring us so many great films. Admittedly there are some big titles that I’ve yet to see, so here are my favourites of what I’ve seen (in no particular order).
Disney’s latest is among their most charming; great voice acting, great story, great pace, it had laughs, heart, and the songs were actually good (if a movie has songs in it, they better be damn good or I’m out). Right-wing snowflakes also hate it, (which frankly is another positive point in my book) Genuinely, I saw a rant online over his perceived notion that Disney has an agenda to demasculinise men because none of the male characters in Encanto were muscular. That’s stupid, he’s stupid, the film is great. Go see it.
If I had to pick a top film, Dune would be the winner. Denis Villeneuve’s artistic style and direction perhaps makes him my favourite director of the modern era. And in Dune, he is given plenty to work with. Unlike the Lynch original, this feels more like a marriage between excellent source material and directorial vision, producing a more coherent narrative with all the splendor of sci-fi. Chalamet is a far more convincing Paul Atreides than I ever imagined and the rest of the cast nails it. My only complaint is that this is part 1 of (I hope) 2.
I will admit, this is the first live-action Spider-Man film I’ve seen since Tobey Maguire left and rumours of his return were what fuelled my visit. Seeing all three Spider-Men converse was by far the best moments of the film, turning franchise inconsistencies into comedy gold. The final showdown had me, as Limmy would say, “I cheered, I shouted, I fist-pumped the air”. I will only entertain Andrew Garfield’s trilogy film if there is more Maguire. My only complaint is there was no “Pizza Time” reference. Truly missed a trick there.
“Nicolas Cage is looking for his pig and…” stop there. I’m sold. Sign me up. Shut up and take my money.
While PIG does suffer from some of the indie movie tropes (WHY DOES EVERYONE MOVE SO SLOWLY?!) But between agonizingly long takes of people doing everyday tasks that would take normal people a few seconds, there is a wild film here. It constantly changed my perception of the film, and after the first 20 minutes, I had zero ideas regarding where this film would take me.
The “Get Out” acting duo team up again for another racially motivated film. And much like their work on Jordan Peele’s seminal horror, both actors pull out charged performances worthy of all the accolades.
It’s very dumb in so many ways. But it is also very fun. Sit down, turn your brain off, and just go with it. Snyder ended up creating a solid film with a solid cast that won’t challenge you, nor will it breathe new life into the zombie genre, except maybe “oh a zombie tiger”.
I’m not even giving it a trailer. I want you to know as little as possible before you see this film. Did I enjoy it? I don’t know. But has it stuck to my brain ever since? Absolutely.
Best Songs of 2021
Some off-kilter choices here, but 2021 was a stellar year for music. I’ve really embraced my love of electronic music this year but heavier songs still just hit that sweet spot.
Take a good song, speed it up, and add a better beat. Voila!
If this band releases anything in a given year they will have a song on this list. Been listening to Gojira solidly for about 12 years now, and as things stand, there are no signs of that stopping.
A definite headphones song when you want to escape. It seems to just wrap you up and take you somewhere where you didn’t know you needed to go.
Two of my favourite artists collaborated on an EP in 2021. While the result isn’t as strong as either artist on their own, it is damn catchy. Video is a must for your first time to get a feel for its energy.
The angrier PVRIS gets in songs the better. Plus their shift to harder electronica has elevated their sound while keeping them connected to their earlier work.
Nice to include a Scottish band here, and one of the all-time greats in Mogwai. Shoegaze is definitely a “mood” genre. But if you are in the mood for big walls of sound then you’re in the right place.
The song is good, but the video definitely elevates it, plus it annoyed republicans to no end. “hOw CaN cHiLdReN lIsTeN tO tHiS sAtAnIc MuSiC!?” Double win.
I miss Porcupine Tree, but this song is quintessentially Porcupine Tree, and I am 100% here for it.
Running late? Pop this on, and you’ll find yourself walking twice as fast as you normally do. I guess that means don’t listen to it while driving.
The album was quite meh for me, but this song was on repeat. The video does nothing for the song either, so don’t draw conclusions from the thumbnail. Give it a listen and make up your own mind.
Once my go-to band to say “I know a really shit band”. Now, since they papped the absolutely terrible original singer and brought in a new one, their sound has immediately evolved (as has their attitudes as they look to change their name), and that evolution produces such a fun output. Masterstroke.
Yes the internet went wild over “Inside” but this song, in particular, is just such a good song in the way it builds, recedes then crescendos. The lyrics are spot-on as well, Burnham in a nutshell.
If this album had come out when I was a teenager, my entire identity would have been different. I felt like I had been waiting for this album.
Best Games of 2021
I didn’t get to play as many games in 2021 as I have in previous years. So this list might be a little scarce.
The Resident Evil franchise has been on an incredible hot streak by returning to its horror roots. The remakes of 2 and 3 and the release of 7 have all been consistently quoted as some of the best games of the last few years with 8 just upping the ante. Plus, no other game had such a cultural impact due to the widespread sexual awakening of people who realised they just wanted to be stepped on by a really tall vampire lady.
I only played the first Subnautica in 2020 and it turned out to be one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had. Having to face my fear of large expanses of water and swimming deeper into the abyss as the game progressed, was an interesting personal journey, but couple that with getting totally caught up in the story that I had no idea was so big (I thought it was a 2-hour indie game experience). The second game didn’t quite catch lightning in a bottle again, but it gave me more of what I so passionately loved and for that alone, it was up there.
This game didn’t interest me at all during its marketing campaign. But watching my partner play I realised it was an incredibly clever action game, becoming more satisfying the longer you play, deepening your knowledge of the loop to set things up for a perfect run.
Yes, it’s a demo, but it’s also more about experiencing what unreal engine 5 can do. And it is IMPRESSIVE. The next era of games that really get stuck into this engine is going to be insane. Forget the “gameplay” which wasn’t great, but the fact I walked around for a good ten minutes in a busy city and didn’t see a repeated NPC player is incredible. Full cities built to operate flawlessly around you is a concept I started to see the promise of this way back in 2008 with Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. It seems like it is finally here.
It seems like comedy was the real winner in 2021.
How could this not be here? Though I do want to shout out “Hellbound” another South Korean offering on Netflix as well. Squid Game though, was great. Each episode was well constructed, tense beyond belief and although I felt the ending was a bit subdued, the journey there was some ride.
It didn’t quite get as much fanfare as it deserved, but Resident Alien paired an interesting concept, with genuine hilarity into one. Tudyk absolutely nails it and while some of the jokes are a bit simple, the overall script is fantastic.
Capturing 90’s nostalgia (makes me feel old just saying that) and pairing it with devastating cringe and adding a lot of heart, makes this a surefire winner. Both Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle deliver performances so good in sets, so good, that when I found out they were in their mid-thirties and not pre-teens, I had to sit down and process it for half an hour.
Ted Lasso has A LOT of heart. It tries (and succeeds) to be fuzzy, disarming, and open about toxic masculinity in sport. Bludgeoning you with good-natured quips and kindness constantly between the odd moment of harsh reality surrounding relationships between people (and in turn, themselves). Jason Sudeikis excels in the lead and while the rest of the cast is amazing as well, I’m really only here for him.
Surrealist cringe-comedy gold. Tim Robinson is just able to tap into that space where no one else wants to find themselves and pulls out skit after skit after skit that had me binge both seasons in as many days. Truly awful in the absolute best way. *chef’s kiss*
Unpopular opinion, I didn’t like season 2. It just did nothing for me. But I am fully behind season 3. The characters are amazing, and the script is the best it’s ever been.
I know you are dying to tell me what I missed, and I actually want you to! There’s so much I missed in the last year and I want to dedicate some of 2022 catching up on the best the previous year had to offer. So like this article (to validate my existence) then comment below what you would do with this list!
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