My 6 Favorite Things of 2021
It’s that time of year again. The end of it. And at the end of the year, everybody on the internet gets together and shares their Best Of lists for the previous year, this one being 2021. I’m no different. I’ve got favorites to talk about and share, and I’m happy to share them with you fine readers. Perhaps you’ll even agree with some of my choices!
As always, I don’t really listen to new music or read books, so I don’t have choices for those. That makes getting to six categories rather difficult, but I find ways to manage. Then we can dive into the really fun stuff! My favorite movie of the year? My favorite TV show? I was surprised by this one. How about video games? Or especially comics? There was a lot of great stuff to enjoy this year. I don’t claim to experience everything. I missed a ton of those really niche, arthouse movies. And I didn’t even up playing too many new video games. But I had a really good year, I think. And I’m looking forward to what this fancy new year has to offer.
Join me after the jump for my favorite bits and pieces of 2021. And feel free to share your own favorites below in the comments!
6. Movie Trailer: Lightyear
I don’t know what we’re ultimately going to get with this Buzz Lightyear movie, but I do know that this early teaser trailer touched me in a special way. When I think ‘Buzz Lightyear movie’, I think something like that cartoon from a few years back, where it’s gonna be some silly, wacky thing. I definitely don’t expect this awesome, haunting version of David Bowie’s “Starman” that burrows its way into my very soul. Will future trailers and the movie itself live up to that teaser and that song? I do not know and I do not care. Just let me have have my mind blown.
5. Marvel TV Show: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Why not list these shows in the regular TV category further down? Because everybody had so much fun this year ranking the Marvel shows. After a completely Marvel free 2020, this past year exploded, at long last, with the highly anticipated Disney+ Marvel shows. Produced by Marvel Studies, featuring MCU actors and being officials part of canon, these shows were a real treat! And my favorite of the bunch was The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which did not garner a lot of love from the collective fandom. I don’t know why, I thought it was great! I loved the character development, and especially all the character interaction. I loved the journey of Sam Wilson into a true, proud Captain America. I loved the B-story introduction and development of U.S.Agent. And I especially loved the way the show examined race relations in America through the lens of the mantle of Captain America. I thought that was a fascinating idea for a show, and TFATWS pulled it off swimmingly. I am very much looking forward to Sam Wilson starring in Captain America 4, and seeing where U.S.Agent ends up.
Runner Up: Hawkeye
I thought Hawkeye was great! A perfect little low key adventure starring one of the actual Avengers. I am a big fan of Hawkeye’s family from Age of Ultron, and it was just a neat idea for a story to have Clint Barton trying to make it home for Christmas. The writers and special effects people clearly had a lot of fun with all of the trick arrows. And the introduction of Kate Bishop was extraordinary! She is surely a character to watch for going forward, especially if she gets to spend more time with Yelena. And Jeremy Renner was just phenomenal as a dude ready to retire, but driven by guilt, grief and duty to keep helping. Adding Kingpin to the MCU was a nice touch, as well.
Video Game: New Pokemon Snap
So I went and did it, I bought a Nintendo Switch. It’s my first ever Nintendo console, as long as we don’t count Game Boys and DSes. I’ve had a lot of fun with my Switch so far, catching up on all the great games I’d missed over the years. I also bought my Switch just in time to try out New Pokemon Snap! And I had a great time! I was a big fan of the original Pokemon Snap, despite never having my own N64 to play it on. I’d get in a little photography every once and a while, like at a friend’s house. New Pokemon Snap was finally my chance to luxuriate in my own Poke-photography game, and I had a great time! I loved jumping into a new zone and just being wowed at the Pokemon safari, at seeing all my favorite creatures pop up and run around. I also simply enjoy photography, so it was a true hoot! And once I had my fill of exploration, I was happy to look up guides online to see how to trigger all the secret stuff, for even more fun! There was already one bit of free DLC this past August, and I’m holding out hope for more in the future!
Runner Up: Back 4 Blood
Another game I really enjoyed this year was the zombie shooter Back 4 Blood. I was a big Left 4 Dead fan back in the day. So having this spiritual sequel show up all these years later was a real treat! I even managed to get some of my old Left 4 Dead gaming buddies back into the saddle so that we could game together for the first time in nearly a decade. That was great! But then Back 4 Blood was good on its own. I loved just diving into the levels, shooting zombies and progressing to unlock all the neat stuff. I enjoyed putting together specific builds in the deck-building aspect of the game, whether I was playing a Cleaner focused on grenades, doubling up on primary weapons or the doctor. Great fun was had by all.
TV Show: Arcane
Boy, was this one a surprise! I don’t know the first thing about League of Legends. I’ve never played, I don’t know the characters or the lore. But I kept hearing great things about this new cartoon on Netflix, so I decided to check it out, and I was very pleased! Arcane is a video game adaptation done right. Arcane is television storytelling done right. It’s got rich, interesting characters, an investing and meaningful storyline, and tons of extra content that is just as exciting. Couple all of that with some truly brilliant, next level animation and you’ve got a real treat on your hands. Arcane was so much fun that I started looking up League of Legends characters just to see who they’d slipped into the show and how they all fit together. Arcane has a lot of potential going forward and I look forward to more seasons!
Also, Arcane is clearly what every single adaptation of Mortal Kombat wishes it could be.
Runner Up: Squid Game
No other new show this year was as gripping or as heartbreaking as Squid Game. It lived up to all the hype it was getting and took me by complete surprise! When people started talk about Squid Game, I thought it was just a bunch of ninnies on the internet getting all shook because people were dying in a TV show. Then I caved to all the public commentary and watched it for myself, and I saw that Squid Game was a deeply fascinating character drama, with some truly brilliant storytelling choices. Then came the sixth episode, and I couldn’t help but tear up at this show, just like everybody else. Marvelous stuff. Though in the end, I really don’t care for the twist ending. And I don’t see the need for a sequel. But it was still great overall.
Also this year, I finally watched Kingdom on Netflix, the Korean zombie period piece. That show is another masterpiece! So Korean television is putting out some great stuff!
Movie: The French Dispatch
I love Wes Anderson movies, and his new one is definitely one of his best. The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun (full title) is pure Wes Anderson style, all gorgeous framing and overflowing ennui. The performances were touching and genuine. The energy was just perfect. And the three individual stories were so utterly touching, as was the general theme of loneliness. Anderson always gets great performances out of his casts, and The French Dispatch was another banger. It’s all so utterly whimsical and lonely, it really sticks to my heart. Of the three stories, I think The Concrete Masterpiece was my favorite, following closely by The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner. But all segments were really great. I think The French Dispatch would make for a great introduction to Wes Anderson movies, should anyone be looking for such a thing.
Runner Up: Spider-Man: No Way Home
There were four Marvel movies released this year and I enjoyed them all — but I loved Spider-Man: No Way Home! Such a masterpiece! Such a love letter to all things Spider-Man! I know a lot of rumors were swirling around this movie ahead of time, and I’m sad they ruined some of the surprises, but No Way Home took those rumors and went even deeper than I could have ever anticipated or asked for. That’s what really sold this movie for me: the amount of time characters were allowed to just hang out and interact with one another, both heroes and villains. That was so joyous to watch. And then the movie was one big superhero extravaganza, with a plot that felt true to Spider-Man’s character.
1. Comic: Beta Ray Bill
I already love Beta Ray Bill as a character, so of course I was going to pick up a fun little mini-series about the character. It also helps that I was reading Thor comics at the time, from which this story spins off. It was then a very welcome surprise to get a truly amazing and powerful story about Beta Ray Bill, with out-of-this-world artwork. Unlike some mini-series these days, this Beta Ray Bill comic knew exactly what it was and what it was saying from the very beginning. Clear stakes were drawn, a clear quest was launched, and clear lessons were learned by the end. All told through some truly mind-blowing artwork, taking full advantage of scale, power and the depths of Hell to which this story travels. This is the sort of work Marvel should be striving for in each of its mini-series these days. I loved every single page of this comic, a true triumph for the character.
This series also served as my introduction to writer/artist Daniel Warren Johnson. You best believe I’ll be watching his career with interest from this point forward.
Runner Up: Mighty Morphin
The BOOM! Studios Power Rangers comics have been a frequent contender on my year-end lists because they’re simply so great. I am an old school Power Rangers fan from my childhood. And BOOM! and writer Ryan Parrott are taking those classic characters and concepts and applying modern comic book storytelling techniques, making for an all-around wonderful comic book series. The whole Power Rangers mythology/modus operandi is just plain neat, and you can apparently get some great drama and comedy out of just telling real, engaging stories with the material, instead of just cookie cutter, slapdash episodes to appease young kids.
Of the two series these days, Mighty Morphin is by far the better product. Parrott is doing fine work on the Power Rangers sister series, but Mighty Morphin continues to follow the Earth-based Power Rangers team and the man just killed it this year. From the introduction of the new Green Ranger, to some truly sinister plans by Lord Zedd, to the new Eltarian War, this series has told such great stories!
Those were my favorite bits of media from the past year! What were your favorites? Let me know in the comments!