In April of last year I wanted to watch Zhang Yimou’s Shadow, one of his newer films that I hadn’t seen et, and at the time I decided that I would start by doing a massive re-watch of his work. During my university years, when I made a switch to studying History, and then veered into Asian Studies, his films had a very strong influence on me. It had been ages since I had revisited his films, and there were a few (more recent ones) that I had missed as well. It took me longer than expected, as I took a long break at some point, but today I finally capped this movie marathon of 17 films with Shadow. The ones I didn’t get to watch I just wasn’t able to find ways to watch them — there are a couple of older (lesser known) ones, as well as a few films from the last decade, including three films he has released since Shadow, which came out in 2018. I hope to be able to watch these as well at some point. But for now, you can read my mini reviews that I posted on Letterboxed via the links below — I also shared them all in this Twitter thread.
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
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
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.
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.
All Songs Considered
Pop Culture Happy Hour
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
I definitely remember the VHS box art for this movie, from when I was a kid, but I don’t think I ever got around to watching it — I wasn’t as much of a horror fan back then as I am now. Also, I didn’t know that this is a Canadian film — and after wondering where it was shot because the area and accents felt so familiar, I found out that it was shot in Nova Scotia, not far from where I grew up (in nearby New Brunswick). As for the movie, I thought it was a pretty decent 80s slasher flick — the deaths are pretty gruesome, and the setting (in and around working mines) is actually novel I felt, as is the age of the victims (young adults instead of teens). The setup at the end is also great, and I’m a bit surprised that the reception was apparently pretty negative at the time, and so we never got a sequel (just a remake a couple of decades later). All in all, not a fantastic film or anything, but it was enjoyable to watch.
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.
Even before I started watching this I was fully expecting it to be problematic, and oh boy, it sure was. I mean, yes, it’s a product of its time, and rampant sexism and misogyny is pretty much par for the course when it comes to that era’s comedies — especially anything that revolves around teens or college students. At first I was even taken aback by some raw examples of anti-Semitism, although that turns out to be a plot point that becomes surprisingly progressive. Did I laugh? A bit, and of course I was looking forward to that “classic” shower scene. Oh, and what a weird freeze-frame ending.
This was a lot better than I was expecting — it had been so long since I’d last seen it that I really didn’t remember much, other than the fact that it infamously reveals the family connection between Myers and Strode (that has now been eliminated with the new films, that act as direct sequels to the original film only). What I especially like is that it’s a direct continuation of the first film, and basically continues straight from the last scene of that movie, with the action taking place on the same night. The one thing I don’t quite like is that at this point, as far as I can tell, there’s nothing supernatural about Myers, but he gets drilled with so many bullets that it’s really hard to accept that he keeps going. But hey, it’s still a thrilling ride, I love that small town Halloween night setting, and the Carpenter theme song is still one of the best and most effective movie theme songs of all time. Oh, and Carpenter doesn’t direct it, but it’s still written and produced by him.