2021 was a solid year for me. My family is safe and healthy, I had a ton of fun with the world cautiously opening up again, and I’m looking forward to what 2022 offers.
While I did spend quite a lot of time listening to music this year, I found myself more often than not listening to music that came out last year or even older than that. That being said, I still found some 2021 releases to be quite enjoyable.
Sunmi – 1/6
It’s my favourite K-pop release this year. Everything I enjoy about Sunmi’s music is distilled into six bangers. I’ve wanted a different dimension from her on each song, plus a studio version of Borderline, which I’ve wanted ever since she performed it on her tour a few years ago. My interest in K-pop may have waned, but something like 1/6 keeps me plugged in.
Nas – King’s Disease 2
I’m so glad Nas and Hit-Boy continue to make music together. It feels like Hit-Boy is single-handedly reversing the perception that Nas doesn’t always rap over the best beats. Nas is out here sounding motivated and revitalized lately, too. I haven’t yet listened to the surprise album Magic they put out on Christmas Eve, but if KD 1 & 2 is any indication, I’ll find something on that album that I’ll enjoy.
I’ve also been trying to up my movie game, so I spend a fair amount of 2021 watching both new releases and going back and filling some gaps. Here are some of the highlights:
Malcolm & Marie
When I saw the trailer, I knew it would be a kind of movie for me. I liked that the film only had two actors, who, through conversation, are going through all the pros and cons of their relationship—definitely an early highlight for me.
High and Low
I haven’t seen many Akira Kurosawa movies, and while his samurai movies are his most well-known works, when I learned that he also had this collection of hard-boiled detective movies, they became my entry point. High and Low was an absolute delight to watch.
This was the first movie I ever did a virtual screening of. Of course, it would’ve been great to watch this movie in a packed theatre, but that didn’t make it less impactful. Both specific yet universal, this movie helped me understand how a movie could use cultural and personal touchstones and not be alienating.
In The Mood for Love
We are getting a double dose of Tong Leung. 2021 was the year I officially dove into the works of Wong-Kar Wai, and I’m glad I did. I enjoyed many of his movies, and some of them I loved after finishing them, but In The Mood for Love is the one. WKW’s work as a whole opened my eyes to what a movie could do, and In The Mood for Love encapsulated that for me. Being able to convey a lot in fleeting moments, this movie hits that bullseye.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Coincidentally, right before I watched In The Mood for Love, I watched the first trailer for Shang-Chi and was utterly surprised to see Tony Leung in the movie. But, boy, does he bring it in the film as well.
The Disney machine kicked into high gear on this one, introducing a new character into the mix and being wholly unique. Man, this movie goes from a beautiful Chinese fantasy action complete with wirework to a Jackie-Chan style action in a small space like a bus. Happily will see everything Shang-Chi appears in moving forward.
Never read the book, so I went into this movie having no idea what was in store. I’m in. Sign me up for part two whenever that comes out.
Last Night in Soho
Sometimes I know I want to watch something even without seeing a trailer. It wasn’t until I saw the trailer for this that I wanted in, and it became more intense and went places I wasn’t ready for. Sometimes you need to ride like that, and this movie did that for me.
House of Gucci
I’m not above a story about rich, white angst. However, I liked how ridiculous and fun the performances were, plus I didn’t know the story about the luxury brand, so it had me hooked on that part. I still sometimes mimic Lady Gaga saying “House of Gucci.” Also, I like that director Ridley Scott has done movies like Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, and House of Gucci. What a career.