The Best of 2021
Soho scares, space-based shootouts and superheroic season's greetings!
2021 turned out to be not that much better than 2020, with big chunks of time either in lockdown or with heavy enough restrictions to make the difference impossible to tell, so it still wasn't a case of getting anywhere close to back to normal just yet. So that means fewer new movies seen than I'd have liked - although more than I thought I'd manage at the start of the year - and also not as many games or TV shows completed either - flip-flopping between working from the office and at home made it almost impossible to establish any kind of routine.
BEST MOVIE /// Last Night in Soho
Honestly, I didn't see myself choosing this after seeing it and I was fully expecting to be picking No Time to Die or Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but neither of those two would be my pick for runner-up either. I've come to a kind of realisation that reviews are more first reactions/impressions unless you're looking at older media you've seen multiple times before.
Because the runner-up for my movie of the year would've been Eternals, albeit quite some distance behind Last Night in Soho. The reason these two are my favourites of the year is because they really stuck with me, long after I saw them - not to put down Bond or Shang-Chi's efforts, they're both excellent experiences even a second time through but they're both so complete in how they wrap up that there's very little left to wonder about after they're finished.
I really can't wait to get Last Night in Soho in digital format as soon as I can, just so I can enjoy how amazing the movie looks and sounds, as well as the fantastic performances from Matt Smith, Anya Taylor-Joy and especially Thomasin McKenzie. It hit that perfect sweet spot of imagination and (aside from the ending) near-flawless realisation that makes it a movie I'm going to enjoy watching over and over again.
BEST GAME /// Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
A remaster as best game of the year? Absolutely. In all honesty, if each remaster had been released on their own, they would've been my top three for the year and pretty easily too. I'll admit that I haven't played most of the titles picking up all the awards from various sites, podcasts and the like, but none of them have piqued my interest and made me want to play them either.
The Mass Effect trilogy has been seen for years as a high-point of western-style RPG games - especially thanks to it being science-fiction and not regurgitative fantasy - but I honestly don't think there's been very many games of any kind that's come close to touching the cumulative experience of the originals since, never mind the remastered versions found in Legendary Edition.
As for 2021 releases? If I had to pick one, it would be Guardians of the Galaxy (review coming soon!), which has a quasi-Mass Effect vibe thanks to the interactions between the party members and some limited choices giving an otherwise linear story a more personal feeling than it could've had. Unfortunately, a sizeable number of rough edges means the crew of the Normandy trumps that of the Milano this time out.
BEST TV SHOW /// Hawkeye
Again, another choice that I didn't see coming, with WandaVision my favourite right up until a couple of weeks ago. Much like with the choice of Last Night in Soho above, there's another aspect to reviews that helped me make my choice - namely, that I have to pay for any media I want to enjoy and that everything I do for this site is on top of my regular day job and everyday life.
What I mean by that is there are a many critics who value ambition above all, even if that results in major flaws in a work. That's fine for someone who is being paid to watch (whether through an employer or something self-paid like Patreon) several hundred new movies and/or TV shows a year, but doesn't really work as an approach for regular people who have to be selective about the media they enjoy.
In essence, what I'm saying is that I absolutely believe WandaVision has far higher highs than Hawkeye ever comes close to, but the latter's lows are nowhere near as bad either. There were moments (and only moments!) in WandaVision that were really poor and off-putting that I honestly never felt once during the Clint Barton and Kate Bishop series, and I'd rather watch something that is almost-always very good rather than something that can often be brilliant, but can also often be poor enough to break my sense of immersion.
To finish with, I'll also look ahead to what I'm most anticipating in 2021:
Movies: Licorice Pizza is out soon, and so is Nightmare Alley - both of which had 2021 releases delayed to the start of 2022 for some reason in the UK; Jackass Forever is another delayed movie I can't wait to see; The Batman looks incredible from what I've seen so far; and Lightyear looks like it could be very good too. Team those with the usual MCU exploits and there's a lot coming I'm keen on seeing already!
Games: Honestly, I think 2022 might continue the trend of being a backlog year for me, although it looks like I'll be helped by there not being very many games coming out that I'm genuinely looking forward to - I checked a list of the biggest releases scheduled for next year and the only that stands out for me is Sifu, so next year might see a surprise/indie winner of game of the year...
TV: Much like games, it feels like another backlog year here too, although that will include getting caught up on Succession, which I keep getting pestered to watch by friends, so I'll be ready when/if a fourth season arrives. Amazon's Lord of the Rings show will hopefully be good, but I have very little interest in the Game of Thrones spin-off, House of the Dragon. Out of the MCU offerings, Oscar Isaac in Moon Knight looks like the one to watch for me.