no. 17: A Cinematic Year in Review

in which Sydney details her top five 2021 theatrical releases and her top five watches of 2021

no. 17: A Cinematic Year in Review

This is our 2021 year in review. This little newsletter has grown so much since we started in August. We’ve gone from an issue every two weeks to an issue every week, included many contributors, received lots of great book recommendations, and more. Here’s to hoping that 2022 is filled with the same kind of pop-culture soaked joy.

Sydney’s Top 5 pretty-much-everything

I watch and read a lot throughout the year. At the time of writing, I’m sitting at 82 films and 44 books. Though I didn’t reach my goals of 82 and 44, respectively, I still had a good year filled with some stunning stories.

In this week's issue, I'm sharing some of the best films I watched in 2021.

Top 5 2021 Film Releases

  1. Titane, directed by Julia Ducournau: It’s hard to explain my feelings toward this film because it is such a vision. I watched it in a theater with only 20 seats on a Saturday afternoon with only two other people in the theater. On the surface, yes, it’s body horror, but underneath that designation, Titane is a touching story of what it means to have a family. Read more of my thoughts about Titane in Charleston City Paper.
  2. The Green Knight, directed by David Lowery: If you know me, you know I like medieval tales. Gawain and the Green Knight remains one of my favorite reads to this day, and I loved how Lowery interpreted the age-old epic poem. Lowery’s version of the story considers what it means to show prowess, to be chivalrous, and to rule as king.
  3. Dune, directed by Denis Villenueve: Villenueve’s take on the classic sci-fi novel is expansive. From the wide shots to the incredible world, everything is on a grandiose scale. Despite its long runtime, Dune holds attention and suspense, balances action and worldbuilding. It’s safe to say I can’t wait for Part 2.
  4. Malignant, directed by James Wan: Malignant takes the pulpiest pulp horror one step further for a blood-soaked joyride into madness. All of the tropes are there—evil twins, terrifying dreams, dark things lurking in the house—but Wan decides that it’s not enough to just include the tropes, he needs to extend them further. Did I guess the ending as I was watching? Sure. Was I surprised with the way Wan executed that crazy ending? Absolutely.
  5. Spencer, directed by Pablo Larraín: Truthfully, I don’t know much about Princess Diana, so I didn’t go into this film with an understanding of her role as a cultural icon. I—like many other queers—went to see Kristen Stewart’s stunning performance. This film is shot-for-shot stunning thanks to Claire Mathan’s cinematography. It’s haunting and melancholy, making it a perfect winter film.

Top 5 Films I Watched for the First Time in 2021

Some of these are repeats from the above list.

  1. Titane, directed by Julia Ducournau
  2. Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola: Coppola has been a longtime favorite director of mine, starting with The Virgin Suicides. I’m not sure why it took me this long to watch Marie Antoinette, but I’m glad I finally did. Coppola’s biopic of the French queen—played by Kristen Dunst—is a romp through the life of a young teenager thrust into a position of power. The film looks at Antoinette as the teenage girl she was, reminding us all of an adolescent universal truth.
  3. Dune, directed by Denis Villenueve
  4. St. Maud, directed by Rose Clark: If anything’s terrifying, it’s heavenly power. Clark’s dark descent in the life of young hospice nurse Maud tells the story of horrific piousness through the lens of an unreliable narrator. As a former fundamental Christian, this film was both comforting and horrifying—we see what we want to see.
  5. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, directed by Russ Meyer: It’s outlandish, funny, and dripping with excess. Watching this is like watching an alternate reality of questionable decisions and so much fun. Los Angeles is nothing if not deviant (and I haven’t even been there).

...and that's all for today! This issue got sent out a few days (and a few hours late).

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