I need to ask a favor.
Over the next few days, you’re going to see a great many year-end articles listing the best/worst/whatever of the year. Untold millions of these lists are generated by umpteen critics, looking back at the movies, TV shows, books, songs, video games, and other media of the year previous. And at the end of these lists, it’s customary to leave a comment with anything that the author neglected to include or perhaps overlooked entirely.
Don’t do that. Please don’t. Not this year.
I beg of you all to remember that 2020 was the worst year in recorded history, the year in which everyone had to stay at home and deal with the double-whammy of a global pandemic and a presidential election. Entire industries were shut down, many businesses didn’t survive, and all we got were a couple thousand dollars from the government that did about as much good as a Post-It note on a bullet wound.
Cut to 2021. Though the pandemic still rages on (indeed, there were more COVID-related deaths in 2021 than in 2020, and by a wide margin), 2021 was the year in which vaccines and mask mandates meant that getting out of the house and into a theater was at least a semi-plausible notion. Thus the studios rushed out to release all the movies that had been sitting on their shelves for the past few years, all eager to make back the money they lost in 2020. And of course the streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.) were not about to give up any of the growth they made while everyone was stuck at home, so they likewise scrambled to push out all the content they could.
And remember, I’m just talking about the cinema side of things. Whether it was TV, video games, music, books, or whatever, you saw this exact same pattern everywhere. The dam had burst, and fucking EVERYONE was in a rush to try and cram two years’ worth of content into 12 months. And looking ahead into 2022, I’m seeing such long-delayed films as Jackass Forever and Top Gun: Maverick, signalling that we’ll be sorting through this backlog for months or maybe even years to come.
Seriously, folks, say a prayer for your favorite critics and reviewers. You can’t even begin to imagine how stressful it’s been to try and keep up with everything that came out this year while also leading some semblance of a happy and productive life, WHILE ALSO dealing with all the political and pandemic-related shit everyone else had to deal with all through 2021.
But at least we’re here. And for all the ways 2021 sucked, it was still a marked improvement over 2020. And in that spirit, let’s look ahead to my year-end lists.
For those just tuning in, my typical style is to write up three year-end lists in a kind of “awards” format, with movies grouped into “categories” and a “winner” selected from each one. (It’ll be more clear in context, I promise.) The categories are divided into three lists: The Masterpieces, the Disappointments, and the Wild Rides. Each list and category has its own parameters, but they all follow the same basic rules.
1. Only movies that I’ve seen and reviewed will be considered. I believe I’ve already said enough about this particular subject.
2a. Only movies released in 2021 will be considered. I know it feels like linear time stopped existing somewhere around March 2020 (one of many reasons why I didn’t write any year-end lists for 2020), but I have to draw the line somewhere.
2b. Festival premiere dates don’t count. Because movies have been known to change in post between festival screenings and public release, I don’t consider a movie to be truly completed while it’s on the festival circuit. I know Nomadland won Best Picture for 2020, but the film was only screened in festivals during 2020 and didn’t even see a limited release for common moviegoers until January 2021. So fuck you, AMPAS, it’s a 2021 film.
3. Only one award per film, and one award per category. I don’t want a situation in which one movie wins everything, and I don’t want to call any ties. That would be too easy, and frankly boring.
I’ll be kicking things off with the Masterpieces list tomorrow at the latest, so stay tuned!