Movies I watched in 2021 (Part 5)

I meant to write this installment of this post…months ago. The last one I did was all the way back in July 2021. The reason I put it off so long was simple–I wasn’t watching movies at as fast a rate. I started a new job, I was catching up on shows, etc etc etc.

Since it’s November, I considered just leaving it until the end of the year. But given I’ve watched three movies in the past week or so, and will probably watch more when I get into the holidays, I’m doing it now. As always, trailers are linked!

Gunpowder Milkshake: This Netflix movie starred Karen Gillan (who I love, and was the main reason I watched this movie), Lena Headey, Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, and Carla Gugino. The lead character Sam (Karen Gillan) was raised by the crime syndicate her mom worked for after her mom abandoned her, turning into an elite assassin. When a hit job goes wrong, she finds herself returning to the “library” and group of female assassins her who were her mom’s associates in order to protect a young girl as well as herself. This movie was really fun, considering the subject matter. It was campy, it was action packed, it had comedy and drama, it had epic fight scenes. It was so so cool to see a movie like this that was female led, especially since so many of the women were “older” for a female action star. If this sounds like your kind of thing, go for it, it’s a fun time.

Black Widow: I wrote about this being the first movie I had seen in theatres since COVID started back in August! I stand by my quick review at the time: loved it, would die for Yelena Belova, fuck the patriarchy. There are scenes in that movie I was thinking about for a long time after the movie ended. If you’re a Marvel fan, I’m sure you’ve already seen this.

Awakening the Zodiac: I’ll be honest, I barely remember this one, which probably isn’t a glowing review. This movie stars Shane West and Leslie Bibb as a couple who discover the film reels of a serial killer (the zodiac killer) and decide to try and capture him themselves in order to get a monetary reward. If you like serial killers and mediocre thrillers it’s a decent way to spend an hour and forty minutes, but I can’t say it stood out for me weeks later.

Cinderella (2021): If you’re like me, you might have seen the trailer for this movie and thought, “Why do we need another Cinderella? Is this one contributing anything new?” I watched it and am still not sure of the answer. It stars pop singer Camila Cabello as the lead role–she does a pretty good job (although I don’t think her voice suited the main “I want” song written for her, oddly enough) and the movie feels a bit like it’s meant to be a star vehicle for her. The movie isn’t terrible, but it’s not particularly great either. There’s some funny moments–James Acaster as a mouse/footman was fun to see–and some fun musical numbers. There’s also some deeply confusing song choices in this jukebox musical, and some very very clunky messaging. I’ll note that I’m definitely not this film’s intended audience, and this is almost definitely some 8 year old girl’s favourite movie right now, so I can’t drag it that hard.

Definitely, Maybe: Released in 2008, this is one of those rom coms I meant to watch and never got around to. It stars Ryan Reynolds as a divorced father who tells his daughter (played by Abigail Breslin) the love story of him and her mother–without telling her which of the three women he talks about in the story are her mom. It’s funny and cute and heartwarming and I’m really glad I finally watched. If you’re a fan of rom coms, I would definitely recommend.

Eternals: The second Marvel movie on this list!! This is another one I watched in theatres, and I was so excited to have done so. It’s got grand special effects, beautiful cinematic shots, and beautiful people, so it’s absolutely worth a theatre watch. I really enjoyed it, and how it was a slight shift from the typical Marvel formula. It still had the comedic moments and the action sequences and it’s still set in the same universe, but it has a darker tone, grander cinematography (they actually filmed much of it in real locations, which actually isn’t super common in the MCU), and a really interesting way of rolling out the story and characters. I can see so many ways in which this movie will impact the MCU going forward, and where these characters and storylines go from here (including those credits scenes, if you have seen it you get me) but also enjoyed it as a film on its own).

Love Hard: This Netflix romcom is about a woman (Nina Dobrev) who meets what she thinks is the perfect guy on a dating app. She flies to Long Island to surprise him only to discover she had been catfished by a man (Jimmy O’Yang) who was using the pictures of one of his more conventionally attractive friends (Darren Barnett). To make it up to her, he agrees to set her up with the guy whose pictures he used. Hijinks ensue. If you have ever seen a rom com you can probably guess where it went from here, but it’s a pretty cute and funny ride. You have to be kind of careful with a plot like this, but I think they did a pretty good job of balancing it and not letting anyone get off that easily. A nice Christmas themed rom com watch if you’re okay with awkwardness.

Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings: And the last movie of the list is yet another Marvel feature, what a surprise!! I unfortunately wasn’t able to get to the theatres to watch this movie when it was out, so waited patiently until it was released on Disney Plus this past weekend. I LOVED IT. This is another Marvel movie that shifts from the typical Marvel formula, although in a very different way. It’s very much inspired by martial arts films, and characters speak Chinese nearly as much as they do English. The fight scenes were indeed memorable and fantastic, and the film was well acted by everyone involved. I look forward to seeing where they go as well, and love that it’s a Chinese-Canadian man in the starring role!! I honestly think all the marvel movies on this list can be watched without having a ton of familiarity with the MCU. There are some references you will miss, but it’s not too bad.

A tiny life update

I’ve really been slacking on posting lately. I genuinely wanted to have a posting schedule, and be more active, but have found myself COMPLETELY devoid of inspiration and dedication. I’m working on it, I really am. But for now, here’s a little look into what I’ve been up to.

First of all, I FINALLY WENT TO A THEATRE AGAIN. As a lover of movies, this counts as a life update for me. I haven’t been in a movie theatre since January 2020, when I went to watch Frozen 2 with my cousins. I had been planning a trip to the movies right when COVID hit, and cinemas have been closed here (for the most part) ever since. Theatres opened again under limited capacity a few weeks ago, and last weekend, I finally took the plunge and went to the nearby movie theatre to watch Black Widow.

I booked the tickets Saturday morning for that same afternoon. The theatre I went to has those massive plush armchair seats, with armrests and a foot stool, where you can adjust the angle of your seat. It felt like the perfect theatre to mark my return back to theatres. When you book the tickets, they automatically block out the seats beside you, so no one can sit directly next to you in the theatre. Masks were also required in the theatre at all points when not seated and if not eating. I kept mine on, choosing to forego snacks for safety reasons.

In the best of ways, watching a movie in the theatre again was an almost overwhelming experience. The draw of the massive screen, the moment where the lights go down before the movie starts, the sheer VOLUME of the music and the action. I got emotional at a trailer I had already seen. I got emotional at various parts throughout the movie. Partially, of course, because I found the movie itself emotionally affecting (quick review: I loved it, I’d die for Yelena Belova, fuck the patriarchy), but I couldn’t help but think that part of it was just the feeling of being in a movie theatre itself.

That’s not to say there were no negatives to the experience. It’s a bit awkward to wear a mask in the theatre, and there were some kids running around the theatre during the credits who were allowed to run amok wayyyy longer than they should have been. But none of that was enough to be a damper on the experience. I missed theatres, I’ve missed them the whole time, and they’ll never be obsolete to me.

Second, probably more major life update: I got a new job! I won’t go into details about what it is, but it will require me to move downtown–within only a few weeks. I’m being provided with a place to live and most amenities, but there’s still a lot to get done in that time period! On top of filling out the required forms and papers that always come with getting a new job, I’ve been making lists of things I’ll need to buy, doing some early research, reading reviews, and thinking about my budget. I’ll have to go through all of my clothes and see what I need to to bring (not an easy feat with the amount of clothes and shoes I own), what I need to buy more of, and what I can leave at home (close enough to get picked up on a free day if I really need it). I’ll have to figure out what luggage and bags I’ll be bringing, do some cleaning, pick up new toiletries. I also have yet to get a full list of requirements and scheduling and information from said new job, so I have to take that into account while doing all of this work and planning. It’s exciting to have a new job, but I almost feel like I won’t even truly take it in until I have all of this done.

I’m going to do my best to post more within all of the planning. Not for anyone else’s sake, but for my own.

Movies I watched in 2021 (Part 4)

At it again! Here is the last part if you missed it.

The Woman In The Window: This Netflix film is based on a novel of the same name, which I have not read. It stars Amy Adams as an agoraphobic woman who spends her time spying on her new neighbours until she witnesses a crime in their apartment. Things start getting strange when denials from the police and her neighbours cause her to question not only what she saw but her reality and her sanity. This movie got some mixed reviews, but I like a mystery and there’s a lot of great actors in the cast (Amy Adams, Wyatt Russell, Anthony Mackie, Gary Oldman) so I gave it a shot. And it was fine! I guessed at least one of the twists, but I don’t think that makes it a bad movie. I wouldn’t rush to watch it again, but I watched the whole thing and the performances were very good. It wasn’t a stand-out of this genre, but a fine watch if bored and it’s a genre you’re already into.

Raya and The Last Dragon: I love a good Disney movie, and would have watched this one sooner if theatres were open here. Alas, it was $30 extra on Disney Plus, and I didn’t feel like paying that, so I had to wait until it was available for free on the platform. I’m really glad I watched! The story follows Raya, a warrior princess who sets out to seek the legendary last dragon, hoping to restore the kingdom. I thought this movie was a TON of fun. I loved the main character, Raya. She was tough and stubborn and made mistakes, but she was also a cool and confident princess who wanted to do the best for her kingdom. I also deeply appreciated that they didn’t throw in an unnecessary love interest for her, she had enough going on. The animation in this movie was BEAUTIFUL. I especially loved the designs of the dragons (and that there were dragons in general! I just really love dragons) but in general it was absolutely beautiful to look at. I could see kids being obsessed with this movie, but even as an adult, I really enjoyed watching it.

In The Heights: You know what else I love? A MUSICAL. I’d been looking forward to this movie since it was first announced. I’d never seen this show onstage, sadly, but had heard some of the songs and knew it would be a good time. The movie tells the story of a pre-dominantly latino neighbourhood of Washington Heights in New York City, following a few days around a blackout. Among many others it stars Anthony Ramos, who I knew from his role as John Laurens in Hamilton (which is written by Lin Manuel Miranda, who also wrote In The Heights). Reader, I loved it. I love a movie musical that isn’t afraid to be a musical, that isn’t afraid of spectacle and tricks with camera work and perspective and scene changes and elaborate dance numbers. I loved the music–every single person on the cast is EXCEEDINGLY talented and deserves all the applause, and the energy in the music is so much fun to watch in general. One number brought me to tears. Other numbers had me laughing. If you love musicals, or dance numbers, watch In The Heights.

Luca: We are back to Disney, this time with the latest Disney/Pixar release! For some reason the Pixar releases aren’t being released with the extra price on Disney Plus, which both annoys me on behalf of the creative teams, and pleases me because it means I can watch them the day they are released. Luca is set on the Italian riviera–already a win for me, who comes from an Italian background–and follows a young fish person? humanoid aquatic creature? who longs to explore on the surface. He discovers that he turns into a human when on land, and so befriends Alberto, another sea creature living as a human on land. The two of them run off to the nearby human town, where they meet a young human girl named Giulia, and team up with her to race to try and win a vespa. This movie is adorable and funny and joyous and heartwarming. It just made me feel good inside when I watched it. I loved the setting (there’s some extra comedy if you understand Italian), I thought all of the characters felt well fleshed-out and fully rendered, I enjoyed the message of the story, and the friendships between the characters. Again, the animation was beautiful, in a much different way than Raya and The Last Dragon‘s animation was beautiful. I would definitely watch it again and recommend it.

Crimson Peak: And now for something completely different. This movie was released in 2015, and I’ve meant to watch it for a while. I love the work of the director, Guillermo Del Toro, and I love a period piece. What was deterring me, for years, was that it’s a creepy ghost story. I’m not inherently against ghost stories, but I can get really freaked out sometimes. I ended up having a work-related excuse to watch it, and so powered through while in my bed alone–with my phone to block the view when necessary. The movie follows a young woman named Edith (Mia Wasikowska), an aspiring writer and heiress in 1901 who falls in love with an English Baronet, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). When she moves to his dilapidated mansion in England with him and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain, who I did not recognize right away), she soon discovers that the siblings, and the house itself, hold dark secrets. The movie also stars Charlie Hunnam, which I mention because I love him. This movie was very good. That may sound strange to say considering I had to watch through my fingers at certain parts, but I don’t think that ultimately took away from the quality of the movie for me. It’s less of a ghost story, and more of a story where there are ghosts (both literal and figurative). The performances were all excellent, and the costumes and aesthetic were AMAZING. I would never expect less from this director, who puts so much thought and detail into each and every one of his films. Frankly I think the trailer is kind of misleading, and I think it’s less of a horror and more of a classic gothic tale. If those appeal to you, I’d give it a watch.

Theatres open here in a limited capacity on July 16th, and I am bursting at the seams to get into one (wearing a mask and being safe). Hopefully next time I write one of these, I will have seen Black Widow in theatres.

Movies I Watched in 2021 (Part 3)

I meant to read another book and write about it, but didn’t end up having the time to do so because of work. I’ll get to that soon. But for now, here are the four VERY DIFFERENT movies I have watched for the first time since the last time I did this. All the trailers are linked!

Love and Monsters: This movie was released on Netflix and stars Dylan O’Brien as a young guy who has been stuck in a bunker for several years during the apocalypse with a group of other survivors. He decides one day to leave the bunker in search of his former girlfriend, who he hasn’t seen since the day of the apocalypse. I admittedly watched this movie largely for Dylan O’Brien, who I watched religiously in Teen Wolf and have been fond of ever since. But I ended up really enjoying it. I knew it would be fun, but it got a lot of genuine laughs from me, was genuinely heartwarming, and Dylan was very likeable, understandable, and charismatic as the protagonist. I also loved the concept for the apocalypse. Basically, an asteroid headed for Earth is destroyed, and that creates chemical fallout. This causes cold blooded animals to mutate into large monsters, many who are dangerous and kill off much of the population, while the rest hides from them. I’ve devoured a LOT of post-apocalyptic content, and can honestly say I’ve never seen an apocalypse quite like this before. It was really fun and definitely worth a watch.

Promising Young Woman: This is a surprisingly divisive movie. But I was interested in it from the first trailer, and after watching, think it was a brilliant film. But I get why it isn’t what some people wanted or expected. I also get why it can be hard for some people to watch. It’s hard to talk about. I think if you aren’t triggered by discussions of sexual assault, and it’s safe for you to watch, you should give it a try. The performances by the entire cast is amazing (and some of the casting choices are just brilliant….the use of actors who have played iconic “nice guys” is an amazing touch), the cinematography is beautiful, and so much is just a fucking gut punch. Things are morally grey, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

The Mitchells vs the Machines: And now swerving back to Netflix family fare about the apocalypse! This is an animated film about a family who finds themselves the only ones who can prevent the end of humanity when a furious AI takes control of technology. There’s so much to love about this movie. It’s funny, really funny in a way that’s silly and interesting and never punches down. It’s a story about technology and about finding yourself and about the importance of family even when it’s not perfect and also about robots. There are lots of robots! It’s also so interesting stylistically. I know not everyone loves stylized movies but it’s always appealed to me. I think the style and editing of this cartoon is really quirky and fun and suits the storyline and the main character. Absolutely recommend if you want a laugh and also robots.

Bo Burnham: Inside: This is the second project featuring Bo Burnham on this list, since he also stars in Promising Young Woman. This is his latest Netflix special, created by himself during the pandemic, and in a lot of ways, it’s about the pandemic, and about us during the pandemic, and about Bo during the pandemic. I don’t know if “comedy special” is the right descriptor for this film. Yes it’s definitely funny, in weird ways, and in silly ways, and in dark ways. But it also gets dark and meaningful and hard to watch in a way where you don’t want to stop watching. It’s the most creative “comedy special” I have ever seen. It’s poignant and funny and off-kilter and full of songs and it’s just so damn good.

I’m hoping to see a movie in theatres this summer, although I don’t think there’s even a possibility of that here until July. But fingers crossed!

Movies I watched in 2021 (part 2)

I have watched five movies since the first time I did this, with one of them being four hours long. I think I went through quite a range of movies in the past month! Once again, these are only films I am watching for the first time, so this does not include my rewatches of Mean Girls, Tangled, or Spiderman Far From Home, for example.

Palm Springs: This is a movie I have wanted to watch since I saw the trailer, and it finally got released on streaming in Canada (we don’t have Hulu). This movie follows the “Groundhog Day” trope of repeating the same day over and over, but at no point did it feel like a remake or like something I’d seen before. This movie stars Cristin Milioti as a young woman who meets a guy, played by Andy Samberg, at her sisters wedding, only to accidentally find herself trapped in the same repeating time loop that he has already been stuck in for a while. This movie was very well acted and very funny, but also genuinely heartfelt and emotional. When it ended I found myself thinking, “wow. I’m so glad I watched that.” I’m glad it got some awards buzz because it definitely deserved it. Also, if you watch this and enjoy it or enjoy the Groundhog Day trope in general, I would also recommend “Happy Death Day” for a slasher-comedy version of this, and “Before I Fall” if you want to cry.

Alitta: Battle Angel: I kind of avoided this film when it was first released because I was so weirded out by the uncanny valley nature of the main character’s appearance. It still weirded me out after watching the movie, but you do get more used to it in time. This movie tells the story of a cyborg who gets reactivated by a doctor, turning out to have the soul of a young woman, who then sets out on a quest to discover her own identity. I don’t think this was a bad movie but I think it could have been a better one. I think it had a lot of really cool imagery and a lot of interesting concepts. But I also felt it tried to fit in too many plot threads and storylines at once, which consequentially, meant several of them felt strangely tacked on or not fully fleshed out. This movie is based on a manga series, which I think partially explains how this happened. They may have tried to fit in too many points from the manga. Overall a fun watch, but I don’t think I would watch again. I’d love to see this turned into a TV show of some kind.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles: This documentary follows chef Yotam Ottolenghi as he and a team of pastry chefs from all over the world put on a Versailles themed gala at the Met Museum in NYC. I love history and history-based documentaries are my favourite kind of documentaries. I love learning about Versailles. I love watching cooking shows (even though I’m not exactly a cook myself). So unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed this. I think it was so cool to see how these modern pastry chefs interpreted the spectacle and atmosphere of the feasts of Versailles for this space and this gala. It’s only about 75 minutes, so I would recommend checking it out if you like history or food or museums or all of those things.

The Trial of the Chicago 7: This is another movie that has received a lot of awards hype, both wins and nominations. This is a drama based on the historical story of a trial in 1969 of defendants charged by the federal government with conspiracy during the countercultural protests in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. I’m not usually drawn to court drama films, but I had heard so many good things and the cast is full of amazing actors, so I decided to check it out. And I absolutely do not regret it. This movie was fantastic. The writing, the acting, the cinematography, the energy, the message–it was just riveting to watch. It’s also shockingly relevant in 2021. Definitely one to watch.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League: For those of you who don’t know, Justice League was originally released in 2017. It had been directed by Zack Snyder, but he had to step down partway through production due to a personal tragedy, leading Joss Whedon to take over. Whedon made rewrites and reshot some scenes, making it a different film than Zack Snyder’s original vision. Zack Snyder has now released “the Snyder cut,” a FOUR HOUR cut of the film which is closer to his original vision. Yes you heard that right, four hours. I had to watch this over two days, although I know others who watched it all in one shot. I thought the original film was alright–it’s a superhero movie, I watch all of them and always end up having a good time to some extent–but did have some issues. The four hour version of the film, surprisingly, solved a lot of those. There were more clear backgrounds and motivations for most of the characters and just a better sense of the universe and a more fleshed out and interesting plot. Of course this brings up some questions and concerns–like was his vision going to involve a FOUR HOUR theatrical release, and if not, maybe there should have been some cuts and rewrites before going into production? But I did think it was good and there were some moments that really stuck with me. It’s a shame there won’t be a direct continuation to this movie (to either version of it really) because I would have liked to see where they would go. I do look forward to seeing the individual character movies for some of the heroes that are in development or in production. I do hope they have less slow motion moments with dramatic music in the background though, I cannot express how many of those were in this movie.

So that’s it for the time period between Feb 20 and April 1! I have also been reading, working, working out, and watching television shows (I don’t talk enough about television on blog, but I love tv shows and series!) so it’s not all movies all the time. But overall I saw some really fantastic movies in the past month, and ones I definitely suggest watching when you have the time. I’ve linked to all the trailers, so if my vague thoughts are at all interesting, or even if they aren’t, check those out too.

Movies I Watched in 2021 (Part 1)

This year, I decided to write down every movie I watched for the first time in 2021. It didn’t have to be a new film, just one I had never seen before and watched in its entirety. I watch a lot of movies, but I’ve never kept track in this way before. I’ve watched six movies that were new To Me so far, so thought I would list them and briefly talk about each one. Don’t expect anything indie or underground in this list–I’ll inevitably watch movies like that later this year, but I haven’t gotten there just yet.

Wonder Woman 1984: I think this was generally enjoyable, but not as good as the first Wonder Woman. Looking back I think the main issue was focus. The new characters were interesting, but even when they overlapped, it felt like separate storylines. I also think there should have been more fallout from the storyline with Steve Trevor, but generally I think he was the best part of the movie. Chris Pine is always great. Overall I always enjoy a superhero movie, but I don’t know if I would call this one particularly memorable, especially in comparison to the first film.

Tenet: This is the latest Christopher Nolan movie, and I had heard mixed reviews before I watched. Upon watching, I do understand why. It’s a very cool and interesting concept, but it needs a LOT of set up. The concept needs so much set up that the REASON that the concept is happening felt almost secondary? I don’t think it really came together before the second half for me personally. That said, the cast is fantastic. I always love Robert Pattinson and find him very magnetic on screen, John David Washington is wonderful and deserves all the praise he gets, and Elizabeth Debicki was definitely a standout. The visuals were also very cool and I would have loved to see those on the big screen. Overall not my fave Nolan movie, and I wish the first half was less muddled, but still an interesting watch.

Scoob: This is the most recent cartoon movie in the Scooby Doo franchise. While I actively sought out the other two movies, this is one that just happened to be available for free, my dad wanted to watch, Zac Efron voices Fred, so I sat down to watch it. It was alright! It was a light fun cartoon caper. The voice acting was all good, and the animation and story was generally fun. It made me laugh. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Scooby Doo movie, you’ll probably like this.

The Dig: Now for something completely different; this film is a British Netflix movie starring Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes based on a true story about the 1939 archaeological excavation of Sutton Hoo. And I loved it. I cannot express how beautifully done this movie was. It could be quiet and serious and contained, and the acting performances felt so real and genuine. I really felt for these characters and understood their experiences and the parameters of their world. I cried at the end. Just beautiful.

Birds of Prey (and the fantabulous emancipation of one Harley Quinn): Along with The Dig, this is my favourite movie on this list. They are very very different movies, but I contain multitudes. I feel like this movie was exactly what I wanted and what I didn’t even know I wanted from a Harley Quinn movie. It was hilarious, it was dark, every character felt both over the top and real at the same time, the action sequences were fun, the aesthetic was fantastic. It was quite stylized which I love. I was really invested and laughing the entire time. I don’t understand why this movie is so underappreciated. Is it because people dislike DC movies? Is it because men are terrible? Is it because the marketing was poor? I don’t know, but I’m a big fan.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before: Always and Forever: This is the third and final in the series of Netflix teen rom coms based on well loved YA novels which I have not actually read. I’m a bit older than the target demographic. But you know what? I really enjoyed it. I think the first movie in the series is still the best one, but this was a good one. It gave me a lot of nostalgia not just for high school but for that feeling of confusion and transition. I know these are generally pretty “fluffy” and often predictable movies, which is what they get criticized for, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It was a nice watch after I had a headache all day, the aesthetic was nice, the characters were cute, and the pop music in the background was catchy.

That’s all for the year so far! In between I have watched some movies I have already seen and some TV shows, but those do not belong on this list. The second part of this will probably turn up in a month or two, depending how many movies I watch during that time.

I talk about Golden Globes nominations because why not

I know the problems with awards shows. I know I often curse the choices made, or the lack of women in certain nominations, or lack of POC, or lack of queer people.

But I still love an awards show. And I MISS awards shows. Even the ones that have been held in the last year just haven’t been the same. And I would know–I watched them all regardless because goddammit, I miss awards shows.

When it comes to awards shows for movies and television, I admit while I have often heard of most of the nominees, I’ve never seen them all. I love TV and I love movies, but these awards shows (especially the Oscars) have a tendency to award certain kinds of films and disregard others (see this excellent YouTube video on the concept of Oscar Bait). Sometimes though, I simply haven’t seen the films or shows yet and end up thoroughly enjoying them whenever I do (examples include: Parasite, Jojo Rabbit, Hidden Figures, The Favourite, and The Marvelous Mrs Maisel for TV, all of which I watched after their awards run). Every year I mean to watch all the nominated films and at least one episode of each the shows, and every year there’s something in the line up I either just cannot bring myself to watch or have no interest in. And so I never do.

While Oscar noms aren’t out yet this year (the ceremony was pushed for obvious reasons), the Golden Globe nominations were announced today. So why not go through them and talk about what I have seen, what I haven’t, what I have heard of, and if I am interested. I won’t bore you with every single performance category, so will stick to the main ones.

Best Motion Picture: Drama

The Father: Vagurely remembered the trailer so went to go rewatch. It looks deeply depressing so I honestly probably won’t watch it. The cast is amazing though so I’m sure it’s good, maybe one day I will watch it if I want to be sad.

Mank: Have yet to watch, but it genuinely looks interesting. I think it’s cool that it’s in black and white. Biopics can be hit and miss but this looks like it was told through an interesting lens.

Nomadland: Had no clue what this was and had to google. Reminds me of books I did not like to read in school. But it has Frances McDormand and as usual I am sure she put in a great performance.

Promising Young Woman: REMIND ME TO WATCH THIS. I have been really interested but just have yet to take the time to sit down and watch. It looks really good and I am amazed I managed to avoid all spoilers.

The Trial of the Chicago 7: LOVE this entire cast. I have also not watched this, which makes me 0/5 in the drama category. Not super surprising honestly.

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: I didn’t even watch the first one in full. It just gave me too much mass secondhand embarrassment. Props to Sacha Baron Cohen for being in two nominated movies though (he is also in Trial of The Chicago 7)

Hamilton: I may have mentioned once or twice or three times on this blog how much I love Hamilton. It won many Tonys during its musical run for this same original cast, which I think is extremely well deserved. It deserves awards for the speed of Daveed Diggs’ rapping as Lafayette alone. I don’t expect it to take this category but know I love it.

Music: There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this movie, as is expected when a non-autistic person makes a film about autism also starring a non-autistic actress. Haven’t seen it, do not plan to do so.

Palm Springs: I have been wanting to watch this since it came out but we don’t have Hulu in Canada, for some strange reason. It was recently released on Crave here so it’s on my to-watch list after Promising Young Woman. I love Andy Samberg.

The Prom: This was a surprising one, but I am aware there aren’t as many options for nominations this year due to COVID-19. This was fun and cute and light. It’s a musical and I can never hate a musical. I would not choose it as the winner though.

Best Motion Picture: Animated

The Croods: A New Age: I have seen the trailer for this and I will say I am not the intended demographic and leave it at that.

Onward: I really enjoyed this film. It was cute and charming and really heartwarming. I’m also a big Tom Holland fan and am happy he is having such a successful year.

Over The Moon: I had never heard of it but it looks very cute. Again I think a bit specifically younger skewing.

Soul: This movie is absolutely beautiful both visually and in its plot and message, so I am 100% cheering for it to win. Fantastic. I need to watch it again already even though it gave me an existential crisis and then fixed it again.

Wolfwalkers: I had never heard of it but I looked up the trailer and LOVE the animation style. It looks really good honestly, I will add it to my to watch pile.

Best TV Series, Comedy

Emily in Paris: I watched Emily in Paris. I enjoyed Emily in Paris. It was fun and fluffy and I was obsessed with Emily’s outfits (me and the actress, Lily Collins, are really similar in size, so I just kind of…imagined it all on me). But why on earth is this show nominated?? I’m truly baffled. It’s cute, but I think there are so many other shows in the comedy category that should have taken its place. Especially since this category turned out very white.

The Flight Attendant: This show honestly took me by surprise with how good it was. It was so well written and I really loved the visual choices made in the show. I’m happy that lead Kaley Cuoco was nominated because I think she deserves it for the work done here. Watch it if you haven’t, you will just want to keep going.

The Great: I watched one episode of this show the other day. I love the leads, and I like the basic concept. But as someone who is into Serious Period Pieces, I kind of…wish it was one of those? Or at least slightly more historically accurate? I will probably try another episode though to see how it goes.

Schitt’s Creek: Am I a bad Canadian if I never religiously watched this show? I’ve watched a few episodes here and there and always enjoyed it, I just wasn’t watching from the beginning. This show SWEPT the comedy Emmys, so wondering if it will do a repeat.

Tad Lasso: I have heard of it, but have never seen an episode. It’s apparently quite good hearted which is promising. Maybe will check it out.

Best TV Series, Drama

The Crown: Oddly enough I am a period piece lover who…has never watched The Crown. My mom likes it? I heard good things and the acting was very good from episodes I have seen, although sometimes leaned almost a bit too much into impressions.

Lovecraft Country: Anyone who says there isn’t good horror in TV shows hasn’t watched this show. Some of the horror and supernatural elements in some episodes are truly horrific and yet I could not look away. I think the way it handled historical events and combined them with classic film tropes and horror elements was very well done. Loved the musical choices made as well, including old Black spirituals and speeches from activists.

The Mandalorian: I tried so hard to get into this show. I love Star Wars! Pedro Pascal is great! I LOVE SPACE. I LOVE SPACE SO MUCH. But I could not get into it. I’m sorry Space.

Ozark: I’ve seen parts of this show walking into the room while my dad had it on. I don’t think it’s for me, but I like the grey aesthetic and acting looks great.

Ratched: I’m almost surprised I haven’t given into this Ryan Murphy series yet. I just don’t understand why anyone thought we needed background for this particular villainous character? But that’s Ryan Murphy for you.

Best Limited Series or Movie

Normal People: One of the biggest shows of 2020 and I have not watched it and kind of have no interest in doing so. It just doesn’t draw me in. The cast seems very charming though. Love the accents.

Small Axe: I have not watched, but JOHN BOYEGA WAS NOMINATED FOR THIS and I am very happy for him. This also doesn’t particularly draw me in as a show, but I may watch the episode with John.

The Queen’s Gambit: I LOVED THIS SERIES. I know everyone did, but for good reason. This mini series about chess, of all things, managed to keep me riveted the entire time. Anya Taylor-Joy was a big part of that, and I’m so happy she was nominated for this as well as for Emma. The costumes were also magnificent, I love that era in fashion.

The Undoing: Everyone talked about this show while it was airing and I honestly still don’t really know what it’s about. I think there’s a mystery so I will probably watch it eventually.

Unorthodox: Another one that got quite a few nominations at the Emmys, and another one that doesn’t personally appeal to me. I’m sure it’s very good.

Clearly, I have homework to do.

In which I have feelings about book adaptations

The other day, Netflix revealed some of the cast for their series adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s comic book series, The Sandman. I am a fan of that series, and was really excited to hear that not only would there be an adaptation, but that Neil Gaiman would be heavily involved. I knew the author himself would be able to do the very best to bring the comics to the big screen.

There’s been a lot of book adaptations over the years, and I have watched a lot of them. The quality of these vary. Sometimes a great movie or series isn’t always a great adaptation. Sometimes it’s both a great adaptation and a great movie/series. Sometimes it’s neither. There will always have to be changes made when going between mediums, but sometimes these changes are for the better and sometimes they are not.

ADAPTATIONS THAT MAKE ME GENUINELY MAD

Howl’s Moving Castle: Now this is going to be a controversial opinion, because this movie is generally very well loved. But here’s a confession: I’ve never actually watched the full thing. How could it be on this list then, you ask? Because even the parts I have seen, even the trailer, are so far away from the book I love that it makes me angry. The book “Howl’s Moving Castle” is written by Diana Wynne Jones, an author I have sung the praises of before, and is one of my favourite books. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s touching, it’s strange, it’s set in an interesting world with interesting and imperfect characters and cool and new ways of looking at magic and doing magic. And yet that’s all thrown away because the movie wants to be…whimsical. It’s not true to the humour of the book, or to the spirit of the book. The characters are softened around the edges. Not even THE MOVING CASTLE ITSELF is done right. The world in the book “Howl’s Moving Castle” feels like a real world, even with its use of magic and spells and demons. The movie doesn’t show me that world. Maybe it’s a great movie in itself, but I know I will never be able to enjoy it.

Ella Enchanted: I will forever list this as one of the worst movie adaptations of a book I have ever seen. If I hadn’t read the book, I wouldn’t think the movie was a masterpiece, but it’s harmless and fluffy enough. But having read and loved “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine?? I am genuinely offended by its existence. The movie takes the rough concept of the book and some character names and basically creates its own early 2000s family friendly fantasy movie with it. That’s annoying enough, but doing that to ELLA ENCHANTED? A beautiful novel with a bleaker take on the story of Cinderella with fleshed out characters who change and grow and an interesting love story and a detailed universe?? YOU HAVE ALL THAT AND YOU GIVE ME SINGING CHRISTMAS ELVES? The insult! I await the day when Neflix or Amazon prime or the BBC or someone does a proper mini-series adaptation of this book.

Artemis Fowl: I read all of the Artemis Fowl books growing up, and there were always rumours of a movie but it did not come to fruition until 2019, released in 2020 on Disney Plus. I could not believe that after all those years…this is the movie fans of Artemis Fowl got. They really took some rough plot points and the character names and descriptions and said “good enough” and proceeded to make a generic kid hero movie. The worst part about it is that the Artemis Fowl books should be SUPER EASY to adapt. You can easily picture the action, scenes, and dialogue while reading the books. But the movie didn’t even maintain THE MAIN CONCEIT of the series–that Artemis is a 12 year criminal mastermind who captures a fairy for his own gain. THEY COULDN’T EVEN KEEP THAT. That’s the whole point?? It’s not like it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for kids, because KIDS READ THE BOOKS. It’s just laziness and a lack of respect for both the source material and the intelligence of their audience. Maybe I will have to wait another two decades for a proper adaptation.

ADAPTATIONS THAT ARE GREAT IN ALL WAYS

Good Omens: We started this post with Neil Gaiman, and we are coming back to Neil Gaiman. “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett is one of my favourite books. It’s funny and weird and irreverent and it’s about the apocalypse. I was really excited when I heard that it wasn’t getting a movie, it was getting a whole mini series to be released on Amazon Prime. Gaiman was heavily involved, writing the series and acting as showrunner because he wanted to make sure the adaptation was done right not only for the fans, but in honour of the late Terry Pratchett. He absolutely did that. The series was amazing, managing to capture the comedy of the book, the emotion, the tone, the weirdness. Everyone was flawlessly cast and put in fantastic performances, from the child actors to Frances McDormand as the voice of God. I absolutely recommend it even if you haven’t read the book, and I recommend reading the book too.

His Dark Materials (the HBO series): I may be jumping the gun a bit since the third and final season of this series will not be released until next year, but for now I feel safe putting this here from what I have seen. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman were books I read over and over growing up, and can always return to. They’re pretty intense and serious in a lot of ways, but I was always so drawn in by the world and the characters and how it tied in magic and religion. I was so glad when it got a series, because although it’s a trilogy, there’s no way to capture the full scope of even one book in a single movie. They were able to include scenes and characters that would not fit in otherwise. I’m also glad they did it when there was enough of a budget that it LOOKS beautiful. I’m really interested to see the visuals for the next season and hope they do just as well adapting the final book as they have the first two.

Emma (2020): I’ve watched pretty much every Jane Austen adaptation out there, but I have to give a shoutout to this 2020 adaptation. The costuming was flawless, it was so well acted, and it was engaging and clever and funny, just like Jane Austen’s writing is. I think it also let its leads be less than perfect while the audience still roots for them. I even mentioned it as one of my favourite films of 2020.

I DON’T FEEL AS PASSIONATELY ATTACHED TO THESE BOOKS BUT DAMN THESE ARE GOOD MOVIES

Stardust: And Neil Gaiman makes his third appearance on this list! I don’t remember this book very well for some reason (maybe I will make a point to read it this year), but I adore this movie. I think it’s massively underrated and should be a fantasy movie classic. It’s just full of joy. Please watch it if you haven’t.

The Princess Bride: Yes, this is actually a book adaptation! I would say this is one of those movie adaptations that has overtaken the book in the public consciousness. It’s an absolute classic and I’m fairly certain I can recite every word of it. I can’t even remember the first time I saw this movie, that is how much it is a part of my brain. If for some reason you have lived under a rock and not watched it, do so.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World: I’ve only read the first few graphic novels in the series that this movie is based on, so I honestly don’t know how the hardcore fans view it as an adaptation. I know it does make several changes, although to me the movie still feels true to the spirit of the graphic novels. It’s a really fun movie with a hilarious cast. It’s also very stylized, and I know that isn’t for everyone but I am one of those people who LOVES a visually stylized movie. Give me all the aesthetic. It’s also set in Toronto, so special points for that. Again if you haven’t seen it, do it.

SOME QUICK MODERN ADAPTATION SHOUT OUTS

Clueless: Another Emma adaptation, but set in Beverley Hills in the 90s. It’s somehow still a better adaptation than Ella Enchanted. Fun and cute and funny and a fave always.

10 Things I Hate About You: This classic teen movie manages to adapt one of the most sexist Shakespeare plays, “The Taming of the Shrew” into a hilarious non sexist teen comedy where Heath Ledger sings a Frankie Valli song. We love to see it.

West Side Story: Another Shakespeare adaptation, this time turning “Romeo and Juliet” into the a battle between two gangs in 1950s New York City. It’s also a musical with iconic songs and beautifully choregraphed dance numbers.

I could keep talking about adaptations for hours, I really could. I love books and I love movies and I love television and it’s inevitable that I have opinions when the worlds come together. Including some very passionate opinions!

Bye bye 2020

I thought about making a post about all my thoughts and feelings from 2020. I thought about reflecting, and being introspective, and talking about 2021 and how to move forward.

But instead, I’m going to make a list of things that made me happy in 2020. Just random things that made me happy. I’m not going to list movies I talked about before, or songs that I also posted about before, or TV shows (I attempted to make a list of every show I watched in 2020. It uh. Got long.).

The novel “Red White and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue: A Novel: Amazon.ca: McQuiston, Casey: Books

This is a story about the Prince of England and the son of the US President falling in love. The description was enough to sell me on reading it, but it also turned out to be cute, funny, heartwrenching, and heartwarming. It made me feel warm and happy inside. It was like reading a really excellent romantic comedy.

The explicit version of the Potential Breakup Song by Aly & AJ.

This song was a jam and still is a jam. A dance around your room kind of song. Now with swear words.

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit

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I really didn’t do much this year. I played it very safe, as one should. But this summer, when cases weren’t as high as they are now, I attended the socially-distant, mask-required Immersive Van Gogh exhibit in downtown Toronto. It’s a massive warehouse space with shifting images projected on the wall, immersing you in Van Gogh paintings combined with light and music. I went twice, once with one of my good friends who got a job there and got us free tickets, and once with my mother. It was worth it both times.

Walking by the lake

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I took a few walks this year around my neighbourhood. There are some lovely parks and pockets that make you feel like you are much farther away from the city than you actually are. Those were all very nice walks. But the two times I was able to take a walk by the lake downtown get a special mention. There’s something about it that just can’t be matched by the streams in the parks.

Soul (2020)

If I had watched this before yesterday, it would have definitely made my list of favourite movies of 2020. It was so beautifully animated and stunning to look at. The concepts and lessons really resonated with me. I had a mini existential crisis and then got put back together again. I laughed and cried and hummed along to music. Beautiful!

Visiting the Bloodsukers and Winnie the Pooh Exhibits at the ROM

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This was my last proper outing pre COVID. Me and one of my close friends got tickets to see some exhibits at the Royal Ontario Museum–one about bloodsuckers, which included everything from leeches to vampires, and one about the Winnie the Pooh books. They were both beautiful and educational exhibits, and we had a great day. I miss it. (And yes, in a first for this blog, that is my back in the picture).

I built a Lego Harry Potter Castle

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I only have a good image of the full thing in video form but it was 400 pieces and it took ages and it looked cool and it was a fun project.

Hamilton on Disney+

I lied before, you’re hearing about this one again. I was supposed to see Hamilton live this year. I had gotten the tickets in October after waiting years for the show to come to Toronto. So the recording of the original show coming to Disney+ this summer, earlier than it was supposed to, felt like fate.

On to 2021!

Talking about my thoughts on Mulan (2020)

Warning: This post includes spoilers for Mulan (2020), if you care about that, go watch it before reading. If not, carry on.

Mulan was one of my favourite Disney movies as a kid, and still is. The songs are amazing, I love the storyline, I love the way tonal and visual shifts are used, I love the characters. So when it was announced that they were making a live-action version of Mulan, I was apprehensive. Could they make a movie as magical as the cartoon? The fact that they weren’t making it a musical gave me mixed feelings–I love the songs and always love a musical, but maybe this would allow the movie to stand on it’s own instead of trying to replicate the cartoon.

The trailer was fine when it was released–the cast seemed good, it was aesthetically pleasing–but nothing that made me want to spend $30 on top of my Disney+ subscription to watch it when it was released on the platform a few months ago. Now that the fee has been lifted, I settled down to see for myself what Mulan (2020) was all about.

So like, it wasn’t terrible.

I’ve seen most of the recent live action versions of Disney films, and in my opinion, they vary in quality. The Lion King (2019) does not need to exist and I’m not sure why it does, but it’s still mostly enjoyable because…it’s still The Lion King. Aladdin (2019) made some puzzling changes and I don’t think the casting choice for Jafar was great, but it was charming overall. Beauty and the Beast (2017) was pretty good, and the music was probably the best out of all of these. They’re all fun, and watchable, although my very biased self doesn’t think any of them surpass the cartoons.

Mulan (2020), in my opinion, was watchable, I didn’t turn it off. The cast was good–especially Donnie Yen and Jason Scott Lee–and there were some very cool visuals and action sequences. In terms of plot, it was less of a direct live-action remake than the films I listed above, and it tries to do more of it’s own thing and take inspiration and influence from the original legend (in this way it’s similar to Peter Pan (2003), which I think is a brilliant movie and I absolutely love).

Except.

For me, where I think Mulan (2020) fails is where it is trying to be Mulan (1998).

In parts, Mulan (2020) wants to stand on it’s own as a film and as a story. But in other parts, it makes such direct references to elements of the cartoon that are not present in this movie that it completely took me out of the story. They do this most obviously with the missing musical numbers. The first time it happens it’s fine; they play an instrumental version of “Honor to Us All” over the matchmaker scene and it feels like a fun wink, even though it did make me turn to my brother and say “this would be a great time for a musical number.” But then they just keep doing it.

They quote lines directly from “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You”–I sat there blinking for several seconds when a character completely seriously says “tranquil as the forest, but a fire within”–and they also recreate a lot of the imagery from the scene in the cartoon. There is a randomly placed conversation made up of lines from “A Girl Worth Fighting For,” which again just felt like they SHOULD be breaking out into song in that moment. They start playing an instrumental version of “Reflection” as a musical motif over some of Mulan’s key moments–which only works if you have never heard the words of “Reflection.” As it is, as someone who did a competitive dance to that song as a kid on top of watching the movie many times, I found myself thinking “this is an odd song to be playing over this moment.”

There are some other references that work or don’t work to various degrees. They call one of Mulan’s fellow soldiers “Cricket” as a reference to the actual cricket character in the cartoon, for example, and that’s fine. The phoenix spirit she sees is similar in colour to Mushu from the cartoon (who doesn’t exist in this film), and that’s also fine, although the phoenix itself is a bit random and not fully explained. There’s a few shot remakes that would probably be cool subtle references if all of the other references didn’t exist.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this movie would be a masterpiece if I had never seen Mulan (1998). There are some pacing problems around the middle, there’s a scene involving an avalanche that is very weirdly edited, the way one of the characters dies feels like a cop-out. There’s also been some criticisms about how they handle some aspects of Chinese culture that as a non-Chinese person I do not feel equipped to talk about. There are issues beyond the clunky references. But I think the references welcome more constant comparisons than would have already been made.

As I said before, it’s not terrible. I don’t think I would seek it out to watch again, but I still watched the whole thing and I can think of scenes and elements of it I genuinely liked. I just wish that if the filmmakers wanted to create a film based on the original legend of Mulan while making references to the cartoon most people are familiar with, it was done more gracefully.