Since we are still within the narrow window of opportunity to look back upon 2021, I imagined it would be a good idea to – in addition to counting down my favourite films, a task at which I may have failed – examine how far I have come (it at all) in my journey as a self-taught writer and a self-confessed cinepreacher. Therefore, I thought I’d share the top 10 articles I wrote last year I am most proud of.
10. My work on M. Night Shyamalan
I hate to start by cheating already, but I honestly couldn’t decide which one of the four pieces I wrote about Shyamalan’s cinema to put on this list, and I knew I wanted to put at least one. It just so happened that thanks to both the release of Old and the fact we covered The Village and Glass on Uncut Gems Podcast, I ended up revisiting the vast majority of his work and – somewhat organically – I wrote a bunch of articles that I am particularly happy with:
(1) THE VILLAGE: A Misunderstood Critique of the Upper Classes
(2) Can OLD Be Weaponized by Vaccine Refuseniks?
(3) The Shyamalan Cameo and Authorial Control
(4) M. Night Shyamalan’s Cinema of Self-Actualization
9. WANDAVISION: An Accidental Encapsulation of the Marvel Fanbase
Somehow, thanks to marketing sorcery I got tricked into watching WandaVision on Disney+ and ended up thoroughly disappointed by what I witnessed. In addition, what I experienced not only stood in stark contrast to how the rest of the world seemed to have received this miniseries, but it also translated into militant outrage at even the most subtle attempts at criticism aimed at this show or Marvel in general. So I wrote down my observations about what I can only call ‘cultural inbreeding’ that takes place over at Marvel and how it stifles creativity in the blockbuster landscape. (Article here)
8. How THE MATRIX Became STAR WARS of My Generation
Let’s just say I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Matrix Resurrections. However, in the run-up to this film’s release and thanks to a marathon we did over at Uncut Gems Podcast, I ended up revisiting The Matrix, its sequels and a whole bunch of movies that either inspired it directly or fit tangentially as parts of the platform upon which it was built. After some deliberations I finally surmised that the cultural uniqueness of The Matrix could only be compared to the impact Star Wars made upon the popular culture in 1977 in that it reshaped the landscape of blockbuster filmmaking and became a cultural estuary that served as a gateway drug for throngs of young adepts of the film-loving passion. (Article here)
7. The Ingenious Unsettling Ambiguity of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN
This one I wrote kind of unexpectedly, perhaps as a result of my annual re-watch of Halloween. Even though I have seen it a good number of times (and it is one of my favourite films in general), it finally clicked with me why it crawls under my skin so much. I found it fascinating to dig a bit deeper into this classic and find a perhaps serendipitous mechanic in which the filmmakers toy with our perception of who Michael Myers is behind the mask. And perhaps as a by-product of this, I have now committed to writing an article about each and every film in the Halloween series. While writing about Halloween II was immensely pleasant, I can only surmise it will get progressively challenging from now on. (Article here)
6. The Implicit Irony of the new CANDYMAN
Although I liked Nia DaCosta’s take on Candyman, I couldn’t help but notice how blissfully unaware this movie was of the self-inflicted irony of its thematic aspirations. I found it immensely titillating to have a go at scratching at the lore beneath the series, the political message embedded within the film and how DaCosta’s film attempts a takeover of its cultural heritage while completely side-lining the original film and Clive Barker’s short story, which is a de facto attempt at gentrification of the series… a theme the film is commenting on at the same time. Fascinating stuff. (Article here)
5. Would Travis Bickle vote for Trump?
I honestly don’t know how and why I wrote it. It may have been a by-product of having an opportunity to talk about Bringing Out the Dead on the podcast, which is an implied spiritual successor to Taxi Driver. Coupled with processing the events of January 6th in America, I believe a stew of unfettered thoughts must have formed in my cerebrum that forced me to ask myself this question and in turn examine Travis Bickle not as a tragic antihero or a deconstructed comic book superhero, but rather as an avatar for the seething right-wing rage boiling under the epidermis of societal normalcy. (Article here)
4. Is Paddington a Religious Figure?
Admit it, it’s a great question that nobody seems to ask because everyone and their mother is spellbound by this smug bear and his wholesomeness and an untreated marmalade addiction. Following a spate of comical attacks on Twitter I found myself on the receiving end of (because I dared criticize the Paddington movies I simply did not like), I penned this semi-satirical piece that I am particularly happy with, in which I posit that Paddington bear is kind of like Jesus and criticizing him is like farting in a church. (Article here)
3. THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD: A Masterpiece Nobody Watched
This was an article I wrote out of immense pain I felt when I noticed how short-lived the discourse was surrounding Barry Jenkins’ The Underground Railroad. If you’ve seen my best-of list of the year, you’ll know what I think about this miniseries, which I believe is a monumental piece of film-making that comments so profoundly on the current times using elements of history, hyper-stylized fantasy and allegorical language of symbols. And it just breaks my heart to think it just disappeared into the depths of the Amazon catalogue, doomed to oblivion. (Article here)
2. NOMADLAND: Elegy for the Lost at Sea
Having watched Nomadland, Chloe Zhao’s Oscar-winning juggernaut, I immediately found kinship with its strong and multi-faceted thematic messaging. And I felt I wanted to add to the conversation surrounding the film, most of which related to its political commentary on the predatory capitalism and corporations sucking the blood of hard-working people and forcing them out of their homes. However, what I saw in this movie was a potent poem on loneliness and despair of being untethered from people we love and left to fend for ourselves out in the ocean without any bearings whatsoever. (Article here)
1. Rocky Balboa: An Unlikely Role Model for Men
This is by far the most important piece I have written this year, perhaps in my entire life. Now, Rocky Balboa as a character has found me when I was already an adult, but he affected my journey through life in more ways than I could count. I have been carrying this piece in me for a very long time and waited for a good opportunity to put it together, and I ended up writing it to mark Sylvester Stallone’s 75th birthday. It’s probably the most personal piece for me that touches on the rarely discussed vagaries of being a man in the current age, facing up to adversities, dealing with failure, finding balance between what is expected of us and what we can physically achieve, developing fortitude and motivation to stay hungry and stay busy even when our lives are seemingly falling apart and so much more. I poured myself into these words and I can only hope it comes across that way. (Article here)
Naturally, I did write quite a bit more and I don’t intend to stop. In fact, I have finally understood the role of writing in my life (partially as a result of having to actually sit down and write a self-reflective piece on Rocky Balboa) and it is a form of self-care for me. Even writing this listicle (and if you know me, you probably know how I despise listicles) is therapeutic. This is my foremost passion I have always striven to pursue even when my life would crumble around me, so I hope you enjoy reading some of those pieces I have humbly presented here. Take care!