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Film Games Magazines Music TV Web

Favorite Media of 2021

I’m sharing this later than usual, but yes, this year again (following 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020) I’ve compiled a comprehensive and highly subjective list of my favorite media, this time for the year 2021 — that means I limit it to media that was released in 2021, which of course means that there are things that simply don’t make the list because I haven’t yet had a chance to take them in. For every category I start with an alphabetical top 5, followed by honorable mentions. Here we go.

Favorite Games
This year, I again remove the separate mobile games section, since I really didn’t find myself playing a lot of them — if I did any gaming on my phone, it was doing remote play with my Xbox Series S and playing with my Backbone One controller (which I absolutely love). And why is Assassin’s Creed Valhalla there? I really became obsessed with the game in December of 2021 (playing over 100 hours), and since that includes the DLC that was released during the year, I feel it’s warranted to include it.

  • Art of Rally (Xbox Series S)
  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Xbox Series S)
  • Far Cry 6 (Xbox Series S)
  • Forza Horizon 5 (Xbox Series S)
  • The Gunk (Xbox Series S)

Honorable Mentions: Genesis Noir (Xbox Series S), Hextech Mayhem (Nintendo Switch), It Takes Two (Xbox Series S), Psychonauts 2 (Xbox Series S), Riders Republic (Xbox Series S), Ruined King (Nintendo Switch), Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury (Nintendo Switch), The Artful Escape (Xbox Series S), The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo Switch), Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Xbox Series S)

Favorite Movies
I feel like my top 5 this year is pretty strong, as the latest Bond film was terrific, I think The French Dispatch is the best Wes Anderson film so far, and I think The Summit of the Gods is one of the best films I’ve ever watched. If you want to see most of what I watched over the year along with my ratings and reviews, you can check me on Letterboxd (although I only started using it in May). I’ve also continued to do my year-based movie marathons, so I include top 5s for both 1981 and 1991.

  • No Time to Die
  • The French Dispatch
  • The Harder They Fall
  • The Sparks Brothers
  • The Summit of the Gods

Honorable Mentions: Evangelion 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time, Dune, Jolt, The Green Knight, The Story of Film: A New Generation, The Suicide Squad, Titane

Favorite Movies of 1981

  • Escape from New York
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • The Decline of Western Civilization
  • The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2)

Favorite Movies of 1991

  • Cape Fear
  • Point Break
  • Raise the Red Lantern
  • The Last Boy Scout
  • The Silence of the Lambs

Favorite TV
Yet another great year for TV, and I have a feeling I’ve probably forgotten to include things I really enjoyed. I continue to be a huge fan of AEW wrestling, so those two weekly shows continue to be my favorite thing to watch, but directly behind would be The Beatles’ Get Back documentary, which absolutely mesmerized me. I don’t include it here because it doesn’t seem to fit as a “series,” but my other obsession is F1 racing, and I watched every single race of the 2021 season live.

  • AEW Dynamite/AEW Rampage
  • Arcane
  • Dexter: New Blood
  • The Beatles: Get Back
  • The Book of Boba Fett

Honorable Mentions: City of Ghosts, Cobra Kai, Foundation, Hawkeye, Heels, Loki, Only Murders in the Building, PEN15, Servant, Star Wars: Visions, Ted Lasso, The Last Pirate Kingdom, The Wheel of Time, WandaVision, We Are Lady Parts, What We Do in the Shadows, Yellowjackets

Favorite Web Series
As with last year, my web video content (all from YouTube) is heavily wrestling-related, along with the Formula 1 channel (that I love for the pre-race First Practice and Qualifying highlights), and the excellent Power On, a 6-part documentary about Xbox.

Honorable Mentions: Fake Name No Gimmicks, Whatculture Wrestling

Favorite Music
This is certainly the category where I had the hardest time narrowing it down to a top 5 albums for the year — it could easily have been a top 10. But yes, there’s a lot of music that I enjoyed this year, and my honorable mentions list could easily have been longer, but I tried to keep it down to the stuff I feel like I listened to the most.

  • Asakusa Light (Soichi Terada)
  • Cold Brew (Sam Mehran)
  • Escapades (Gaspard Auge & Justice)
  • First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings (Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers)
  • Paradigmes (La Femme)

Honorable Mentions: Another Side of John Coltrane (John Coltrane), Attention (Smaller Hearts), Blood (Juliana Hatfield), Bodies of Water (Moontype), Cheater (Pom Poko), Chering Is Caring (Cher Strauberry), Clang Clang Ho (Cub Scout Bowling Pins), Cozy (Chelmico), Death of a Cheerleader (Pom Pom Squad), Domani (Chip Tanaka), Doomin’ Sun (Bachelor, Jay Som & Palehound), Earth Man Blues (Guided By Voices), Future Past (Duran Duran), Get Up Sequences Part One (The Go! Team), Heaven Beats Iowa (Cub Scout Bowling Pins), It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be The. It Is Them! (Guided By Voices), Marriage (Deap Vally), Palladium (April March & Olivia Jean), Pizzicato Five On Demand (Pizzicato Five), Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea – Demos (PJ Harvey), Take the Cake (Packs), Texis (Sleigh Bells), Van Weezer (Weezer), Wink (Chai)

Favorite Podcasts
This is probably the category that stays the most consistent year in, year out, as I tend to listen to the same podcasts, just dropping or adding 1 or 2 each year.

  • AEW Unrestricted
  • All Songs Considered
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • TokyoScope
  • Whatculture Wrestling

Honorable Mentions: Japan by River Cruise, Talk is Jericho

Favorite Comics
Looking at my list, it’s not hugely different from what I had included last year. I also feel like I’m slowly drifting away from monthly series, and I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point I start reading more via trades. As with every year, I do find a lot of interesting non-superhero things (original graphic novels) to read via year-end “best of” lists, so they never get included here because I read them the following year.

  • Batman
  • Decorum
  • Nightwing
  • The Human Target
  • Usagi Yojimbo (regular series and color reprints)

Honorable Mentions: BRZRKR, Geiger, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Infinite Frontier, James Bond (Agent of Spectre and Himeros), Strange Adventures

Favorite Magazines
I still read a lot of magazines, pretty much all of them digitally via Apple News+, with the two print exceptions being Monocle (which continues to be my favorite title, along with all of its special spinoff publications) and Orange Crush (an indie magazine about pro wrestling).

  • Edge
  • Empire
  • Monocle
  • Orange Crush
  • Total Film

Honorable Mentions: Retro Gamer, SFX

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Books

Books Read in 2021

After trying to get back into reading books regularly in 2019 by giving myself goals, I’m so happy that for 2021 I was able to reach my goal of reading 20 books. In 2019 I was overly ambitions and had set a goal of 24, only reading 11, and then it got better in 2020 with a goal of 18 and reaching 16. But more than just reaching that goal, what I’m especially happy about is that I feel like reading books as finally turned into a routine, not something I’m doing to accomplish a goal. I used to be a big reader when I was a kid, and then for some reason lost that habit. The other thing I started doing this year was that instead of mostly alternating between fiction and non-fiction, I tended to have both on the go at the same time, as sometimes I was just in the mood to read fiction. And you’ll probably notice that when it comes to fiction, I’m big into murder mysteries.

So what’s the goal for 2022? Instead of putting extra pressure and risk losing that comfortable habit I’m starting to form, I’m going to stick with a goal of 20, which I of course hope to reach again. I log all of my reading in Goodreads, so below is a list of everything I read in alphabetical order, with links to my short reviews.

  1. Ask Iwata: Words of Wisdom from Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s Legendary CEO (Satoru Iwata)
  2. Busy Doing Nothing (Rekka Bellum)
  3. Doctor No (Ian Fleming)
  4. Earthbound (Ken Baumann)
  5. From Russia With Love (Ian Fleming)
  6. Ici OSS 117 (Jean Bruce)
  7. Lending the Key to the Locked Room (Tokuya Higashigawa)
  8. Light of the Jedi (Charles Soule)
  9. Lion’s Pride: The Turbulent History of New Japan Pro Wrestling (Chris Charlton)
  10. MOX (Jon Moxley)
  11. Nightmare Mode: A Boss Fight Books Anthology (Various)
  12. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)
  13. Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schultz (Chip Kidd)
  14. Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity (Kim Scott)
  15. The 8 Mansion Murders (Takemaru Abiko)
  16. The Ginza Ghost (Keikichi Osaka)
  17. The Gray Man (Mark Greaney)
  18. The Guest List (Lucy Foley)
  19. The Murder on the Links (Agatha Christie)
  20. The Secret Adversary (Agatha Christie)

Categories
Film

Thrillin’ and Chillin’ in October 2021

As I’ve been doing for the past three years (2018, 2019, 2020), I devoted October to a lot of horror watching. The main change this year is that I’ve decided to focus only on films, whereas in past years I’d also include TV series (that said, I still watched some horror-related shows, like Midnight Mass and Brand New Cherry Flavor). The final number is lower than previous years, and I blame video games for that, especially the 30+ hours I spent playing Far Cry 6. So below you’ll find the full list of the 23 films I watched, with links to the mini reviews I wrote up on the Letterboxd website. It was good fun, and I’m sure I’ll be doing it again next year.

  1. A Quiet Place Part II
  2. Candyman (2021)
  3. Carrie
  4. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
  5. Halloween Kills
  6. Malignant
  7. Nightbooks
  8. Old
  9. Omen IV: The Awakening
  10. Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin
  11. Phantasm
  12. Prisoners of the Ghostland
  13. Saint Maud
  14. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
  15. The Forever Purge
  16. The Neon Demon
  17. The Night House
  18. The Nowhere Inn
  19. The People Under the Stairs
  20. The Silence of the Lambs
  21. Titane
  22. Vampires vs. the Bronx
  23. We Summon the Darkness
Categories
Events Personal

PechaKucha

I’m happy to say that I’m getting in the PechaKucha swing of things again, getting involved with the PechaKucha Night series in Shanghai in the lead-up to our move there.

The scene at one of the PechaKucha Nights I used to produce at the SuperDeluxe event space in Tokyo.

This is not to say that I left PechaKucha completely behind after I left Tokyo and the organization back in 2015. I’m still a strong proponent of the format, and have regularly encouraged its use at Ubisoft, within various contexts (team meetings, casual Friday sessions, as part of lightning talk sessions, on a regular internal stream I host — I even presented the format to the Shanghai studio recently in a sharing session), but I never got to do anything within the organization during my time in Montreal. I did reach out to the long-standing organizer early on, and met up with him, but nothing ever ended up happening (and the series in Montreal remains dormant).

But as we started looking forward to the new adventure we’re about to embark on in terms of living in a new city, I liked the idea of getting involved in a PechaKucha Night series again — in good part to quickly start immersing myself inside the local creative scene — and so I reached out to the organizing team in Shanghai to offer my help. The series there has been dormant since the start of the pandemic, but there’s now some early talks about when the next event could happen (sometime in early 2022), and I’m happy to be brainstorming that with them currently.

Me behind the console, making sure the presentations are running smoothly at one of our PechaKucha Nights in Tokyo.

So even though I’m not quite sure what role I’m going to be able to play overall in the production of the events, I’m looking forward to getting my feet wet again, and to get those fun feels I had when I was running the PechaKucha Night series in Tokyo for all those years — and that I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic for of late.

Categories
Personal

To Move or Not to Move

Weren’t you supposed to move to Shanghai?

I sure was, and I still am, but since accepting my new role at Ubisoft Shanghai back in May (and then starting to work for the studio at the start of July), we finally (hopefully) have more of an idea of when that’s going to happen.

Indeed, ever since the start of summer, we have been without news on when we would be able to apply for visas (for both my wife and I) to make the move. When I accepted the role, the thought was that things were going to start re-opening towards the end of summer, but then the world didn’t suddenly start getting better as many of us thought. Enter the delta (and more).

That meant that things were getting trickier and trickier for us here in Montreal. Apartment leases here are for 1 year, and you are unable to break them, and so are responsible for that rent until it’s over (you can try and sublease, but that can be challenging as well). My latest lease was over at the end of May, and I of course didn’t want to renew for another year, and so managed to negotiate with my apartment building administration to stay a few more months (until we could move). That was great for the summer, but I was recently informed that this was no longer possible, and would have to now commit for a longer period. What to do?

Luckily, 2 weeks later we got news that China was re-opening the visa process — as well as the news that China would now recognize WHO-approved vaccines — and so we’re up and running again in terms of the application process. Before that, we were even floating the idea of moving to Japan for a while (as a call to the Japanese embassy had revealed that I am currently able to apply for a spouse visa), to then move to China when things would open up again. It would at least have put me in the same timezone, making it easier to connect with my colleagues.

So when are we moving? It’s still not a given, and there are multiple parts to the process that are estimated to take at least 2-3 months. This means that if everything goes well, we could look at a move towards the end of the year — January being the most likely.

This is all incredible news for us, because it finally gives us a tentative timeline on when we might finally be able to make this move happen.

Categories
Film

Like it’s 1981

It certainly took a while (most of this year), but my latest year-based movie marathon (previously 1967, 1968, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1990) is now done. 1981 was certainly an interesting year, and there was a lot more I wanted to watch than in 1980 — in the end I capped it at the 24 films you see listed below, but there were still a few more on my list, but I just felt like it was time to move on. The other thing that happened this year was that I stopped doing my mini write-ups on this blog, and instead started doing them on the Letterboxd site — so all of the films listed below link to those reviews, which have the bonus that I give them a star-rating as well. So if you’re curious to see what I thought of all these films, I invite you to click through the titles, and you can also follow me on Letterboxd for all of the movie reviews I share there (since I started using the site, I now review every film I watch, not just the ones that are part of my movie marathons). And in terms of marathons, what’s next? Well, that would be 1991, which I will kick off soon.

  1. American Pop
  2. Death Hunt
  3. Excalibur
  4. Escape from New York
  5. For Your Eyes Only
  6. Friday the 13th Part 2
  7. Halloween II
  8. Heavy Metal
  9. History of the World Part 1
  10. My Bloody Valentine
  11. Night Hawks
  12. Omen III: The Final Conflict
  13. Outland
  14. Porky’s
  15. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  16. Scanners
  17. Stripes
  18. The Cannonball Run
  19. The Decline of Western Civilization
  20. The Evil Dead
  21. The Funhouse
  22. The Howling
  23. The Road Warrior
  24. Time Bandits
Categories
Personal

To Shanghai

I’m moving to Shanghai.

Well that’s something. After six years here in Montreal, we’ve (my wife and I) decided to embark on a new adventure, and one that involves a return to Asia. It’s not a return to Japan, that I think many would have expected, but rather a return to China, which is how I started my Asia adventure in the first place.

May has turned out to be a defining month in my life — on top of the fact that it’s my birth month. It was in May 1997 that I first went to China, to the city of Tianjin for what was supposed to be a 10-week study program (an exchange program between my university in Montreal and Nankai University), and saw me changing my plans and remaining there until the end of the year. It was in May 1998 that I moved to Tokyo, which would become my home for over 15 years. It was then in May 2015 that I moved to Montreal to embark on a new journey working in the games industry (first at Eidos/Square Enix, then at Ubisoft).

And now, in 2021, it’s in May that I’ve accepted an offer to take on a new role at the Ubisoft Shanghai studio — I’ll start this new role in the summer, with the move happening when our visas our sorted, which we expect will be towards the end of summer, maybe September. After two years working in esports, this will also mark my return to game production — my new role, Production Services Manager, is a transverse role within the studio, working closely with all of the production services teams that support all of the production teams at the studio.

Why this move? After six years in Montreal, we felt like it was time to move on and experience something new. I’m incredibly thankful for the time I was able to spend at both Eidos Montreal and Ubisoft Montreal to “level up” this new career in games I embarked on not that long ago, but at the same time it hasn’t been as productive a time for my wife, in good part due to language issues, but we’ve had other challenges to deal with in our time here, and so we decided it was time for a new adventure in another city.

Why China? As I mentioned earlier, my first stop in Asia was in fact in China, as part of the East-Asian Studies program I was enrolled in at my university, which focused on the Chinese language and culture — and my time at Nankai University in Tianjin was spent studying Mandarin. It’s also where I met my wife, who was also studying Mandarin at the same university — and who, unlike me, continued to use it as part of her studies in the years following our move to Japan. So even though I have never been to Shanghai, I am excited at the prospect of rebuilding my Mandarin skills, and for my wife it means a chance to explore new opportunities in a language and setting that she knows very well. I’m also thankful to work in an expansive global company like Ubisoft, that let me find an opportunity like this, and that allows me to continue to build on the years of experience and contacts I’ve accumulated over my five years here.

So there it is, 2021 is turning out to be a big year for me, as I was hoping it would — it’s maybe a good sign that we’re in the Year of the Ox, which is my Chinese Zodiac.

Categories
Books Film Meta

Letterboxd & Goodreads

I’ve decided to change the way I track all of the movies I watch — which I share here mostly in the form of my various movie marathons — and my book reading as well.

For books, I actually did start using Goodreads to track my book reading in 2019 when I decided to increase the number of books I read each year, but it was only at the end of the year that I bothered writing mini-reviews in posts here (2019, 2020). I’ve now copied over all of those mini-reviews to my Goodreads log, and written a few for what I’ve read so far this year (I’ve read 6 of my planned 20). So if you’re curious to follow what I’m reading and my thoughts on those books, I invite you to follow me on Goodreads.

As for the movie stuff, as mentioned, I’ve been writing mini-reviews for the movies that I watch as part of my movie marathons over in the “Debaser” section of this site, which I then sum up in round-up posts for each. In terms of all of the other movies I watch, I usually just write quick thoughts that I share on Twitter — like this thread when I recently started re-watching Wong Kar-wai movies, as well as the films of Zhang Yimou, and Tintin films. I started thinking there might be a better way to share and then track all of this, and remembered Letterboxd (I’ve had an account for years, but never used it). So I’ve gone and added most of my movie watching so far this year there, creating entries for all of the 1981 movies I’ve watched so far, and the other things I’m watching. My intention is to still create round-up posts here when I finish a marathon, like I’ve done in the past. So if you’d like to follow all of my movie viewing — which now include adding a star rating — I invite you to follow me on Letterboxd.

Categories
Books On Something

Busy Doing Nothing

I’ve been a huge fan of Rekka and Devine’s — better known as Hundred Rabbits — adventures sailing around the world over the past few years, following them through their various posts, tweets, and especially videos that they would share as they sailed from Vancouver, down the coast to Mexico, then to New Zealand, before reaching Japan and then back again. But despite all the following I was doing, it’s reading their book Busy Doing Nothing that gave me the best understanding of what they were actually experiencing and going through as they made those multi-week crossings. From the mind numbing to the fear-for-the-end-of-your-life, the book is an extended log of the 51 days it took them to sail from Japan back to Vancouver, and it’s a fantastic read. As much as I admire what they achieved, there’s no way in hell that I could put myself through something like that, but Busy Doing Nothing at least gave me an intimate look at what they had to endure, both physically and mentally. You can read the raw logs on their website, but I recommend picking up the digital book, as it expands on the entries, with additional info and details, as well as all of the recipes that kept them going through those long days and nights. I can’t recommend this enough.

Categories
Film

Like it’s 1990

Well, here we go, another year-based movie marathon done (previously 1967196819771978, 19801985198619871988, and 1989), this time for 1990. I started it quite a few months ago, stopped for a while (in part for my October marathon), and then started up again in December to finish it now. There are still a few films that I was originally planning on watching, like Flatliners, The Two Jakes, and Miller’s Crossing, but I felt like it was time to stop and move on to something else — I actually started watching Miller’s Crossing, but for some reason wasn’t getting into it at all, even though I used to consider it a fave. So I end it at 25 movies, which I think is a decent number — and I’ll say it was a pretty good year for films, and I quite enjoyed the vast majority of what I watched. Next up I’ll be taking a little break from marathons to catch up on various newer releases, but the next marathon will be for 1981, and I already have a long list of things I want to watch. Below, the list of all the movies from 1990 that I watched, with links to my short write-ups (or just go to the “1990” tag to see them all together).

  1. Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams
  2. Another 48 Hours
  3. Back to the Future Part III
  4. Child’s Play 2
  5. Dances With Wolves
  6. Darkman
  7. Days of Thunder
  8. Die Hard 2
  9. Edward Scissorhands
  10. Goodfellas
  11. La Femme Nikita
  12. Misery
  13. Nightbreed
  14. Predator 2
  15. Presumed Innocent
  16. Robocop 2
  17. Tales From the Darkside
  18. The Exorcist III
  19. The Godfather Part III
  20. The Hunt for Red October
  21. The Russia House
  22. Total Recall
  23. Quigley Down Under
  24. Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael
  25. Wild at Heart