The 2021 List: January

I’m back. Well, I’ve not really been away, just side-lined by work and life. I’m sure anyone reading this appreciates just how strange life is getting, and how we’re getting worn down. Its really quite relentless, and most nights now I’m so tired in the evenings I don’t have energy to concentrate enough to even watch a film, let alone write about it. Maybe I just need a holiday (ha, ha) – ain’t that the truth/sick joke (delete as appropriate). Its been  more than two years since my last holiday anywhere, and my booked holiday in May (which was deferred from May last year, for reasons obvious to everyone) is looking as unlikely as Vangelis releasing an anthology of his unreleased soundtracks headlined by a complete Blade Runner. Or him ever releasing that Juno to Jupiter album.

So what have I been watching? Not included on the list waiting for your perusal below as its not finished until next Wednesday, is Season Five of The Expanse, which has been quite brilliant. As someone who championed this series way back when I had to import the Blu-rays to watch it, its great to see the show having some critical success before it ends next year. Amazon saving The Expanse from its third-season cancellation is the rescue Farscape deserved but never got. Anyway, more on that next week/month/when I get to write about it.

toastJanuary is a hell of a bleak month, and Lockdown is just making it all the bleaker. I’ve been retreating to sitcoms, mostly Toast of London, a show from a few years back that I vaguely recall noticing but never watching. Finally watching it thanks to the Netflix algorithm bringing it back to my attention,  its quite funny and quirky and I enjoyed it enough to binge all three seasons of it, but not enough to write a post about it. There’s that energy-sapping thing again. I don’t know. There was a feeling of biding time watching it; I knew I should be watching something more worthwhile but it was low-effort, making little demand of me. I’ve just moved on to another feast courtesy of the Netflix algorithm, an American sitcom titled Superstore, currently watching season one. There’s five seasons of this show and I never knew it even existed until I started watching it last week. I think this is what’s called Sitcom Hell. I need to find some escape.


Most ill-conceived reboot of the month:

2. Black Narcissus (BBC Miniseries)

Sitcom ‘comfort food of the month’ (lockdown special):

6) Toast of London Season One

7) Toast of London Season Two

11) Toast of London Season Three

Sexed-up Downton Abbey of the month:

15) Bridgerton Season One

Female Space Messiah Award:

9) Star Trek: Discovery Season Three 


The Good, and the even Better:

3) Proxima (2019)

4. Hidden Figures (2016)

5) The Garment Jungle

8) The Lineup (1958)

16) The Wages of Fear (1953)

The Distinctly Average:

10) The Gentlemen (2019)

12) Sputnik (2020)

14) The Wackiest Ship in the Navy (1961)

The Utterly Woeful:

1) The Midnight Sky (2020)

13) Outside the Wire (2021)

So that’s sixteen titles, split between six seasons of TV shows and ten films. Regards re-watching stuff, apart from the fantastic Millennium Actress that I did actually post about, I did re-watch The Two Towers, the second film of the LOTR trilogy, part of the 4K UHD boxset that came out late last year and which I seem to be struggling to get to actually watch, never mind actually writing about. I watched The Fellowship of the Ring over the Christmas period, and while its proving a struggle, strangely, to get around to watching all three films (possibly its because they are the extended versions which makes it awkward to schedule, in all honesty, with everything else going on) its been very interesting, returning to what is quite possibly the last genuinely great blockbuster trilogy ever made, and seeing how well they have aged (or not).  I intend to possibly expand upon this in a future post once I’ve managed to watch The Return of the King, which, on my apparently monthly schedule will happen in February. Some people managed marathons of the LOTR in a single day, or over three consecutive days- I haven’t even managed it over three weekends.

It has occurred to me that the sheer bravura of shooting all three films back-to-back might be something we never see again, considering the state of theatrical exhibition in this Covid World. We are in a situation now in which traditional blockbusters are not economically viable and are being delayed one or even two years waiting for some kind of stability regards exhibition. Where this leaves Villenueve’s Dune and its ‘will-they-won’t-they’ second film completing its story is anyone’s guess. At some point if things don’t change, more of these films will end up relegated to streaming premieres such as those Warner have announced for HBO Max in America, and what that means for studios cutting their losses and plans for 2023, 2024 etc is really a concern.

So anyway, that’s January. Looking towards February, well, its anyone’s guess how that month will likely turn out. Indicator’s second Columbia Noir set is due out so I look forward to getting into that, having so enjoyed the first set. And I have a pile of unwatched films on the Tivo etc and waiting on Netflix and Amazon, if I can ever muster the enthusiasm to watch any of it. Or indeed the time, due to working at home proving particularly problematic of late. We’ll just have to see. Oh, and its possibly going to include my biggest non-event of a birthday in all my 55 revolutions of the sun. That should be curious, although as a bonus it sees me jump up a group on the Vaccination schedule. Life. Is. So. Strange. Now.


7 thoughts on “The 2021 List: January

  1. “possibly the last genuinely great blockbuster trilogy ever made” — the Planet of the Apes prequels would like a word…

    I read an interesting Twitter musing the other day that the only reason the streamers make movies is because they come with a certain kind of clout — that’s where you can still get the biggest names; that’s where you get Oscars, etc. But series are a much more natural form for them: nowadays they have comparable budgets, but TV series get longer engagement, thereby generating more audience chatter and attachment; and it’s what audiences expect (it seems people’s default assumption for anything they’ve not heard of on a streamer is that it’s going to be a series). Proposing the idea that movies will someday not exist at all sounds ridiculous, but if streamers become entirely dominant, where’s the benefit to them of not making everything as a series? Especially things like Lord of the Rings — if it was being made for the first time now, you can bet it’d be a mega-budget TV show aiming for three eight-episode seasons.

    1. That’s the funny thing about those Planet of the Apes prequels, I never thought of them as blockbuster movies- at least I never thought of them in the cultural zeitgeist in the same way as LOTR seemed to be when they came out. But I suppose that’s a different thing anyway; do we define a film a blockbuster by budget (as which they would qualify) or in box-office/cultural impact (well, they made money, certainly). They might even be better movies. Which reminds me, I bought them in 4K in a boxset sale for a ridiculous price twelve months ago and its still, er, in the shrinkwrap. Which might indicate why I didn’t consider them when describing the LOTR films as I did.

      I think you’re right regards streaming and movies. I think big budget films with stars earning $30 million a pop might be gone. I just don’t see how the studios can finance them and get enough back to justify it if they can’t charge a £12/$15 ticket. That being said, I did read that Congress might be passing legislation to allow studios to own theatres like they did back in the old days, which would allow them to own the point of sale theatrically in just the same way as streamers like Netflix and Disney+ do, so they don’t need to share receipts with independent cinema chains at all. Which would conceivably mean possibly more profit even with reduced ticket sales if Covid remains a long-time factor.

      Imagine Cineworld becoming Warner Theatres.

      1. Honestly, I hope they do let studios own cinemas again. I’m sure stopping it was the right thing to do back in the day, but now it’s probably our only shot at keeping the big screen experience alive. Though that only increases the chances of them just being venues for spectacular blockbusters, which will upset many a cinephile for sure. I’m glad I don’t have a job that depends on predicting the future of this industry, because God only knows where it’s headed!

      2. I remember the old days of having both an ABC Cinema and an Odeon Cinema in my local town centre. The out-of-town Multiplexes saw the end of them, but could something like those days be coming back? A ten-screen Warner Theatres multiplex wouldn’t have enough content for just Warner movies, so would cut deals with minors/indie studios, affiliates etc for more content but would it show Sony or Disney movies? Although, saying that, it would be a good way of profiting from the competition, taking a slice out of receipts of a rival studio’s releases…

        Its insane isn’t it. Maybe multiplexes would actually be gone, replaced by seperate, smaller Warner Theatres and Sony Theatres and Disney Theatres. Content direct to customer, both theatrically and at home via streaming.

        I wouldn’t want to be the likes of Sky or Virgin media etc. in that world. They’d be just broadband providers eventually. I guess Amazon would have to buy a Studio to stay in the game, but I guess Bezos has pockets deep enough to buy Warner etc if he wanted. I think something like that shouldn’t be discounted in 2021.

      3. I saw a tweet a couple of months ago where someone said “it’s only a matter of time before one of the streamers buys a studio”, and it’s really stuck with me. I think Netflix are so focused on making new stuff, they forget the value of a good back catalogue. If you look at the launch of Disney+, sure they’ve had success with new shows, but most of their content was classic series and movies and people were excited to see them; never mind the fact that things like The Office and Friends remain perennially popular, or that Netflix’s top 10 movies is often full of older studio films they’ve recently added. Maybe at some point they’ll wise up to all that.

  2. Matthew McKinnon

    Brief notes…

    Sputnik wasn’t all that good., was it?
    I actually came to it via a Facebook recommendation by Paul Schrader (!), but it was only just above-average.

    I’m not sure I’d class the POTA prequels as ‘great’ because the first film is pretty hit and miss; but the Matt Reeves ones are terrific.

    I don’t think I can do more of an episode of Toast at a time. I used to love Matt Berry (and used to keep seeing him in M&S on Oxford Street years ago), but I find a little goes a long way now. Don’t know how you could binge three seasons in a month!

    I turn 50 in March, and I’m just postponing the whole thing until later in the year. The Superman Live at the Albert Hall has been pushed to mid-July so maybe that weekend, if there’s places open by then. Bad enough being this old, worse having to ‘celebrate’ it with nothing.

    1. Yeah, Sputnik… I keep intending to post about it but its hard to get much enthusiasm (maybe I should just write little capsule reviews). Struck me as a weird mash-up of Arrival and, er, Pitch Black or something like that; the original Quatermass must have been a big ‘influence’ (lets call it that). How the hell did the creature get in the capsule in the first place when they were in orbit? What the hell was it even doing there? It was such a silly premise, and Quatermass did it so much better decades before. Don’t know what Paul Schrader saw in it, I guess he’s no genre connoisseur.

      I wonder how I did three seasons of Toast of London too. Its all a bit of a blur, but you know, its January, long dark evenings, knackered from work… it passed the time. How damning is that? I suppose that’s the trap of sitcoms. But hey, they don’t antagonise me like Dr Who (still can’t bear to watch that last season, and its still sitting on my Tivo like some Child of Satan waiting to be summoned) or that ST:D Space Messiah nonsense.

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