As mentioned last month, this post represents the end of 100 Films in a Year.
Er, except for all the end-of-year wrap-ups I need to do (did you think I’d leave you without an annual stats post? Perish the thought!)
But after that… the end? Really? Or is it…
But let’s put that aside for, ooh, a couple of days, and instead look back at the final month of 2021…
#189 Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)
#190 Falling for Figaro (2020)
#191 Gremlins (1984)
#192 Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
#193 Pather Panchali (1955)
#194 Black Widow 3D (2021)
#195 Tokyo Godfathers (2003), aka Tôkyô goddofâzâzu
#196 Happiest Season (2020)
#197 Zatoichi’s Conspiracy (1973), aka Shin Zatôichi monogatari: Kasama no chimatsuri
#198 Dreamcatcher (2003)
#199 Jingle All the Way (1996)
#200 The Final Countdown (1980)
#201 A Christmas Story (1983)
#202 The Matrix Resurrections (2021)
#203 A Boy Called Christmas (2021)
#204 Last Train to Christmas (2021)
#205 The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
#206 A Study in Scarlet (1933)
#207 23 Walks (2020)
- I watched 20 feature films I’d never seen before in December.
- And that’s the first 20-film December — the final month to hit that milestone! It’s funny it’s worked out that way, because there was a 19-film December all the way back in 2008, at which time it was the second highest ever month, a title it held for seven years, and yet it’s taken three years beyond every other month (the last to crack 20 for the first time was November in 2018). Well, I got there just in time.
- In terms of monthly averages, it surpasses the lot: December’s (previously 11.1, now 11.7), the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 16.4, now 17.25), and the average for 2021 (previously 17.0, now finalised at 17.25).
- As for the year, ending on #207 makes 2021 my fourth year ever to pass 200 films; and, as I did it in 2020 too, that’s the first time I’ve done it two years in a row.
- Overall, it’s my third highest year ever. (I would’ve needed to make it to #261 for second place.)
- See the Arbies for more on specific films, including #200 itself.
- With Zatoichi’s Conspiracy, I’ve finally completed Criterion’s box set of the series. It’s taken longer than expected: I’ve gone from watching one Zatoichi a month (at my height of getting through them in 2018 and ’19) to more like one per year. Although that’s the end of the original film series, I’ve still got a few stragglers to go (a revival movie and three continuations/reboots). Hopefully they won’t take me until 2025…
- I had two Blindspot films to watch this month to complete my challenge for 2021. I watched one, Satyajit Ray’s enduringly acclaimed depiction of a rural Indian childhood, Pather Panchali. The other was Come and See. I did plan to watch it — I set aside an evening and everything — but then… I just didn’t feel like it. I’ve been in a generally Christmassy mood this December, and it didn’t fit with that to spend two-and-a-half hours watching a film whose own blurb advertises it as “a senses-shattering plunge into the dehumanising horrors of war.” I mean, what could sound less festive than “a waking nightmare of unimaginable carnage and cruelty”? So, yeah, the second greatest film ever made can wait ’til another day.
- From last month’s “failures” I watched Black Widow, A Boy Called Christmas, and Home Sweet Home Alone.
The 79th Monthly Arbitrary Awards
Favourite Film of the Month
It’s proven divisive with critics and audiences alike, but I’m firmly in the camp that loved The Matrix Resurrections. Expect it to feature highly on my forthcoming “best of year” list.
Least Favourite Film of the Month
It was an enjoyable month overall (there’s a couple of likely 5s in the list), but duds crept in nonetheless, especially when trying to pack in the Christmas films. Perhaps the most disappointing was Home Sweet Home Alone. Some people would say predictably so, but I was open to the prospect of a remake. Unfortunately, this particular one fudges the fundamental conceit. Ho hum.
Most Christmassy Film of the Month
I don’t normally watch many Christmas films over the festive period. It’s not that I’m averse to them (far from it), I just don’t make a particular effort — and, as December is a time when I often am making a particular effort to round out some goal or other, other things can fall by the wayside. Well, this year I did put some effort into it, and — while I didn’t come close to completing the shortlist of 30 specific Christmas films I drew up — I did watch 10 festive films, which is a lot more than the two or three I usually manage. Of those, I reckon the most Christmassy of all was Happiest Season. I mean, what could be more Christmassy than a mix of festivities and familial awkwardness?
Most “I Only Chose to Watch It Because of the Title” Film of the Month
Regular readers will know I like to choose films that are somehow significant for my milestone numbers. My first-ever #100 was Citizen Kane, for example, and others have included Lawrence of Arabia, The Story of Film: An Odyssey, Stalker, Sholay, and, this year, Cinema Paradiso. So for 2021’s #200, I had to pick something befitting my last-ever (sort of) milestone movie. While not a particularly noteworthy film in itself, The Final Countdown seemed a thoroughly apt title.
The Audience Award for Most-Viewed
New Post of the Month
With just two new posts in December (and one of those only a brief Christmas message), let’s once again ignore their fate and see which was the most popular post overall. And this month it was… a tie! And a seasonal one at that, because the joint victors were The Past Christmas on TV and The Past Christmas on TV! Er, that’s the 2018 and 2019 editions, respectively. You might think the 2020 one was close behind… but you’d be wrong: for whatever reason, while those two topped the charts, last year’s Christmas TV post was way down at 25th. Not sure what’s going on there, but my referrals from IMDb suggest the elder posts’ victories may be due to a new series of Vienna Blood (I reviewed the first in the 2019 post) and Christmassy one-off Click & Collect, which I noticed popped up on Netflix this month (and I mentioned in the 2018 column).
To make my goal of 50 rewatches this year, I would’ve had to (re)watch 18 films this month. Considering my average for 2021 to the end of November was 2.9 rewatches a month, that didn’t seem particularly likely…
#33 Elf (2003)
Yeah, of course it didn’t happen. I didn’t even reach that average again (it ends up at 2.75 rewatches per month).
As for Elf, I enjoyed it more on this, my second viewing, when I was free from any hope of, say, well-executed character arcs (one of the main things I criticised it for in my above-linked review) and so just enjoyed the holiday hijinks.
Despite setting a new December record, my failures were as multitudinous as ever. My most noteworthy oversight from the big screen has to be Spider-Man: No Way Home, but there was also Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story and prequel The King’s Man, plus films with smaller releases that have nonetheless been much-discussed in cinephile circles, like C’mon C’mon, Lamb, and Titane. Also, Clifford the Big Red Dog. Hm.
There were similar big guns on the streamers, including forthcoming awards season contenders The Power of the Dog and The Lost Daughter on Netflix, plus other originals like Don’t Look Up, The Unforgivable, and Death to 2021 — though, after not much enjoying Death to 2020, I think I’ll skip its Charlie Brooker-less sequel. Over on Prime Video, there was a belated UK bow for Guy Ritchie’s Wrath of Man, plus Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos and sci-fi Encounter. And talking of Charlie Brooker and sci-fi, Apple TV+ offered the Black Mirror-esque Swan Song.
Sky Cinema’s originals were mostly Christmassy: as well as the ones I watched, they debuted the likes of 8-Bit Christmas and A Christmas Number One. Also this month, they’ve had Lin-Manuel Miranda musical In the Heights, plus a couple of things that I (annoyingly) bought on disc but haven’t watched yet, like Another Round and The Suicide Squad. Of course, Netflix and Amazon threw up a bunch of back catalogue stuff too, but, looking back over my long-lists, little jumps out at me as being worthy of particular note. That said, if you’ve not seen it, Netflix now has my #1 film of 2020, Never Rarely Sometimes Always. And, as well as meaning to catch Spielberg’s remake, I’d also like to make time to rewatch the original West Side Story, which is streaming on both Prime and iPlayer now.
Once again taking advantage of not having to worry about licensing windows, Disney+ offered up early streaming debuts for their latest ‘animated classic’, Encanto, plus Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, which seemed a bit gruelling for Christmastime viewing. The latter is getting a belated, limited release on 4K Blu-ray in the UK at the end of January, which I’ve preordered, but I should probably find the time to watch it on D+ first — if I don’t like it, it’ll save me a few bob.
And talking of things I’ve bought, that certainly didn’t slow down in December. As is always the case at this time of year, there were multiple big box sets, like folk horror collection All the Haunts Be Ours (encompassing a whopping 22 feature films and 14 shorts), or Arrow’s kung fu collection, Shawscope: Volume One (another 12 features. Vol.2 is due in June), or Indicator’s Mae West box set (another 11 films, plus a TV movie biopic), or the limited edition of Cartoon Saloon’s Irish Folklore Trilogy (including the only disc release ever planned for Apple TV+ exclusive Wolfwalkers), or The Film Detective’s Sherlock Holmes Vault Collection (I actually watched one of those! See #206).
Also in a ludicrously oversized box was StudioCanal’s 4K release of Mulholland Drive. Considering said box was (a) a weird size and (b) mostly full of air, I think there must’ve been some crossed wires in manufacturing. Similarly joining my 4K rewatch pile were Breathless, My Fair Lady, No Time to Die (a popular Christmas present, based on it becoming a Twitter trending topic on the 25th), Criterion’s edition of Citizen Kane (with dodgy 1080p disc), and Vinegar Syndrome’s 4K/3D edition of Flesh for Frankenstein (with dodgy 4K disc). Also Millennium Actress, part of a frankly excessive haul I ordered from All the Anime’s Christmas sale. Said indulgence also included regular Blu-rays of Birthday Wonderland, The Dragon Dentist, Jin-Roh, Mind Game, Night is Short, Walk on Girl, Promare, and Ride Your Wave. Not heard of some of those? Me either, to be honest — I got one of their mystery boxes. Still, it all looks interesting.
That’s not even all (I could name another dozen things I bought), but, honestly, it’s more than enough. I’ve once again tried to keep this section brief and to the point, and it’s once again about as long as the entire rest of the monthly review combined. Is it worth giving it its own post each month in 2022? Something to consider…
…but the moment has been prepared for.