2021 in TV

Even though I grew up watching too much television in general, I never thought to do a year-end TV recap until the end of last year, when it suddenly became an obvious gap in my year-end recaps! Movies and books but no TV, when I know I spend a ton of time watching TV? (Maybe it was denial about how much of it I was watching…)

Below are the full seasons of shows released in 2021 that I watched this year! To see every show (and movie and book etc.) I watched this past year, including older seasons, you can check my 2021 Media Log.

Posters for 2021 seasons of TV I watched this year
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2021 in Film

In the wake of last year, this year felt very different for movie-lovers. For one thing, we were able to (kind of, almost) safely return to theaters. And many projects that had been delayed last year were released this year. It felt like a much more… hopeful? year for the movies. At the same time, streaming really had a strong year. Many of the movies I saw were streaming-exclusive, during a year when the IATSE nearly had to strike due poor work conditions and lower wages for the “disadvantaged” streaming companies, compared to traditional Hollywood studios.

This year, I also successfully used Letterboxd to log every movie I watched, so you can head over there to see every movie I watched this year beyond this year’s releases, and you can look at my 2021 Media Log to see everything I watched, read, and listened to this year.

Here are the 2021 releases I watched this year:

Movie posters from all the 2021 releases I watched this year
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2021 in Books

Another year, another reading challenge attempted. By lowering the bar for myself, I am back in the good graces of my Goodreads challenge! I actually got to start commuting to work for a few days this year, but unfortunately I was stuck on slower-paced non-fiction books so it didn’t help with my reading pace much.

Reading just always takes a backseat, so I’m going to think really hard about how I can set aside dedicated “hobbies” time and to make sure some of that time goes to reading for fun.

Anyway, here are the books I read this year:

Covers of books I read in 2021
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2021 Media Log

Inspired by my friend Ben Hong (no longer media-logging), who got the idea from Jen Myers, I am continuing the practice of tracking my media consumption this year.

Past media logs: 2020 | 2019

Key: (B) = book | (F) = film | (T) = television series (completed season) | (L) = live performance (theater, music, comedy, etc.) | (A) = album (music) | (G) = video game | (C) = stand-up comedy special | [R] = reread/rewatch

Logged during the month I completed the unit. For example, I logged a full season of a TV show after watching the last episode of the season, whether I began the season that day or years earlier, I logged a game or album when I completed the entire thing, etc.

J A N U A R Y

  • Wonder Woman 1984 (F)
  • Ratatouille: The Musical (F?)
  • Ratatouille (F)[R]
  • King of Scars (B)
  • Promising Young Woman (F)
  • Luigi’s Mansion 3 (G)
  • Bridgerton (T)
  • Homegoing (B)
  • Bend It Like Beckham (F)[R]
  • Pride and Prejudice (2005) (F)[R]

F E B R U A R Y

  • Enter the Dragon (F)
  • The Mummy (F)[R]
  • The Mummy Returns (F)[R]
  • Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella (F)[R]
  • To All the Boys: Always and Forever (F)
  • Desperados (F)
  • History of Swear Words (T)
  • You’ve Got Mail (F)[R]
  • Coming to America (F)
  • Love Wedding Repeat (F)
  • Underworld (F)
  • Underworld: Evolution (F)

M A R C H

  • Je ne suis pas un homme facile (F)
  • WandaVision (T)
  • Moxie (F)
  • Two Weeks Notice (F)[R]
  • Raya and the Last Dragon (F)
  • Coming 2 America (F)
  • Blood of Elves (B)
  • Serendipity (F)[R]

A P R I L

  • Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex (B)
  • While You Were Sleeping (F)[R]
  • Warrior S1 (T)
  • Warrior S2 (T)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (F)[R]
  • The Big Boss (F)
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (T)
  • Castle Crashers (G)
  • Shadow and Bone S1 (T)
  • Life in Color with David Attenborough (T)

M A Y

  • When Harry Met Sally (F)
  • Loathe at First Sight (B)
  • Mortal Kombat (2021) (F)
  • David Attenborough’s The Great Barrier Reef (T)
  • Kingdom Hearts 2 (G)
  • Stardust (F)
  • Song of Achilles (B)

J U N E

  • Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet (F)
  • Inside (F? C?)
  • Black Lady Sketch Show S2 (T)
  • In the Heights (F)
  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal part 1 (F)
  • Exhalation (B)
  • Ted Lasso S1 (T)

J U L Y

  • Ted Lasso S1 (T)[R]
  • The Time of Contempt (B)
  • Shark Beach with Chris Hemsworth (F)
  • Black Widow (F)
  • Loki (T)
  • Space Jam: A New Legacy (F)
  • Never Have I Ever S1 (T)[R]
  • Rule of Wolves (B)
  • Never Have I Ever S2 (T)
  • Project Hail Mary (B)
  • Crying in H-Mart (B)
  • Red, White, and Royal Blue (B)

A U G U S T

  • Demon Slayer S1 (T)
  • The Year Earth Changed (F)
  • Transcendent Kingdom (B)
  • In the Moon for Love (F)
  • Solutions and Other Problems (B)
  • The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf (F)
  • The Ingenuity of the Househusband (T)
  • God of War (G)
  • Invincible S1 (T)

S E P T E M B E R

  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (F)
  • The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (F)
  • The Way of the Househusband S1 (T)
  • Over the Moon (F)[R]
  • Brittany Runs a Marathon (F)

O C T O B E R

  • Star Wars: Visions (T)
  • The Lightning Thief (B)
  • The Sea of Monsters (B)
  • The Titan’s Curse (B)
  • What If? S1 (T)
  • Ted Lasso S2 (T)
  • Star Wars: Visions (T)
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (F)
  • Hocus Pocus (F)[R]
  • It Takes Two (G)
  • Casper (F)[R]

N O V E M B E R

  • Luca (F)
  • Coco (F)[R]
  • The Resistance (A)[R]
  • Eternals (F)
  • Closing Down the Pattern Department (A)[R]
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service (F)[R]
  • Kingsman: The Golden Circle (F)[R]
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Original Soundtrack (A)[R]
  • Paddington (F)
  • Arcane S1 (T)
  • Love Hard (F)
  • A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (F)[R]
  • John Wick (F)

D E C E M B E R

  • John Wick: Chapter 2 (F)
  • The Art of Showing Up (B)
  • Wicked (L) (!!)
  • Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love (B)
  • George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (L)
  • The Witcher S2 (T)
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (F)
  • Hawkeye (T)
  • Die Hard (F)
  • Elf (F)[R]
  • Molly’s Game (F)
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (F)[R]
  • Insecure S5 (T)
  • Spider-Man: Miles Morales (G)

That’s everything I read, watched, listened to, and played — in their entirety — this year!

Of note is that this year is the first that I actually played these video games to completion on my own. In past years, I marked a game as “complete” via backseat gaming, as in little to no actual controller-in-hands time for me. But this year, my partner encouraged me to try to play them all the way through on my own, with minimal help on some of the difficult boss fights for God of War (it was supposed to be “just give me the story” mode…) and then refusing to help me beat any of Miles Morales so that I could fully own beating AND 100%-ing that game. I have a long way to go as a gamer but I feel less like the Fake Gamer Girl™ label that I have embraced for the past several years. Not sure I’ll be able to start streaming like my partner thinks I can, but at least I can hold my own on these easier difficulties of games. (Plus, God of War taught me so much about being a father… I’ll never forget it.)

You can follow along with my 2022 media logging at sipofstarrshine.com/media-log, which is kept up to date throughout the year!

Eternals (2021)

I have to first confess something before I do my first movie review since… 2017? (Wait really??)

I have not been as interested in Marvel since Avengers: Endgame, which gave me an unreal amount of closure and finality.

You may be wondering if I have watched anything from the MCU since Endgame and the answer is yes, I’ve watched all the things since Endgame but Phase 4 hasn’t held much of my interest. I enjoyed WandaVision and The Falcoln and Winter Soldier and Loki and Shang-Chi (not so much Black Widow) but I’m not invested in this cinematic universe anymore.

So I’ll admit that I thought I was detached enough to not really need to see Eternals.
Until it seemed it would get spoiled for me, and I realized I wanted to see it enough to not want it to be spoiled. Whodathunk, this MCU sucker is still a sucker after all.

Before Eternals‘s release, there was a LOT of buzz. The auteur director fresh off her Oscar win! A star-studded and diverse cast! Including not one but two Stark brothers from Game of Thrones! It’s Phase 4 and we’re working in more comics material, aka things are getting weird! As soon as the hype started, the critiques started coming in, too. Before I bought a ticket, I was hearing a lot about how this movie got the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score of any MCU film ever, how the movie was just being review bombed by people who hate women directors and a diverse cast.

Well. I went to go see for myself. (No spoilers until after the trailer.)

Eternals (2021) movie poster

I went in with quite low expectations, given all that I had heard, and came out of the theater thinking it was a decent Marvel movie. My main issue was that it was a bit too ambitious. Eternals is hardly connected to any previous MCU movie. Basically every mention of other Marvel characters or events is in a trailer: Thanos obliterating half of the universe and everyone being brought back, Captain America and Iron Man and the future leadership of the Avengers.

But otherwise, this movie felt like the start of something brand new, with many possibilities for sequels and spin-offs but little tying it to the pre-existing MCU. I don’t think seeing any of the past 12 years of Marvel movies will help you understand this one more. We are introduced to a lot of new characters, including 10 Eternals.

I mention this because with us being 13 years deep into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, building towards bigger and more integrated stories, Eternals felt unusual in that it focused on completely new-to-movie-audience characters, teased even more new characters by the end of the movie (including their infamous mid- and post-credit scenes), and focused on powers and stakes and settings that we have not really touched in any of the past movies or shows.

That being said, this movie had a strong emotional core. I think I cried… 3? times over the course of the film. (True, I cry very easily, but still! I usually don’t cry more than once or twice a movie.) Some early reviews said that this was the first Marvel movie to feature a romance as a primary plotline (versus the many… mediocre at best romances we’ve seen in the MCU) but I actually found the romance in Eternals underwhelming, especially when compared to the much more compelling family relationships between the 10 Eternals. 10 superpowered beings brought together on this messy planet of ours for millennia leads to some interesting dynamics that I enjoyed seeing play out.

My main critique of the movie is that it was too ambitious in what it tried to achieve in a single feature-length film. I’m still not too sure what each of the Eternals’ powers are? The plot was simple but not straightforward and could have used a lot more time to flesh out the stakes, the context, all of these brand new characters.

Speaking of these characters, I really did love how diverse this cast is! Lauren Ridoff, the deaf actor who plays the first deaf MCU superhero, and her standout performance as speedster Makarri have led to an increased interest in learning American Sign Language. Brian Tyree Henry and his character, Phastos, represent many things to many people, not least of all as a man who didn’t have to lose weight to be a superhero. Salma Hayek was moved to tears upon her own realization that her Ajak is a brown face in superhero suit on the screen. Gemma Chan and Kumail Nanjiani and Don Lee are representing Asian actors in ways that are still not yet often seen in Hollywood.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how stunning this movie is. Marvel has cast many different directors with distinctive styles to helm their movies, and although I haven’t seen any of Chloé Zhao’s movies before, it had an immediately recognizable visual style that sets it apart from the rest of the MCU. To be honest, sometimes the visuals felt too grandiose, so as to almost feel unreal, almost fake, even though Zhao opted to shoot on location in lieu of green screen. At times, these beautiful visuals were distracting in how long the camera lingered on them. In a movie where time is scarce and we didn’t have enough time to get properly situated in the world of Eternals, some of the scenes felt too indulgent. Sure, the scenes are gorgeous, every frame a painting, but some of them don’t have enough substance to support them, in a film where we really needed a bit more support to this story.

Phase 4 is getting weird, folks. As we drift farther from the watered down, more palatable comic storylines of Phase 1 and into the cosmic, multiversal narratives, I’m curious to see how the next years of Marvel movies play out. I’m not sure I feel as invested as I was a few years ago before Thanos snapped half of the universe away, but it’ll be a fun ride.

Marvel Studios’ trailer for Eternals
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