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This year I’m breaking my own record for reporting about LAST year: I don’t think I’ve ever been quite this late. Ouch. If I continue like this, it’ll become so bad that I will have to promise that next year, my musings on 2022 will be on-line before February starts…

Once again I wrote a lot less in 2021 than in the years before. I never even had time to write a Pretty Packaging article, a big regret as there were some good sets which had warranted one. But much happened in 2021 on many fronts. Film, private, day-time job… everything was impacted and at my age it seems everything only goes faster. But even with that, it seemed like much of it happened in the last month. Many of my musings will be pretty recent in nature, as the articles they refer to will only have been published in the last few weeks.

Anyway, without further ado here is my gallery of musings about 2021. Click on the edge of the pictures to scroll through all bullets, and I hope you have fun with at least some of them!

When the Elephant in the Room Mutated

Last year the first bullet in my 2020 overview was about COVID-19, and I ended that by writing “If 2021 brings us anything, let it be hope for light at the end of the tunnel, and please, with millions sick worldwide already, don’t let that light be a train rushing towards us with a new, deadlier mutation on board.”

Well… we got Delta, and we got Omicron. The lockdown at the beginning of 2021, complete with closed schools and a curfew here in the Netherlands, was brutal but it did give us a nice Summer, and most of Autumn wasn’t to bad either. But since the end of November? Brrrrr… back into lockdown again.

Let’s hope we get a little break, and that science will have us discover a few extra solutions.

La plus regardée, c’est Belle…

Looking at the site’s statistics, every year I check which of my articles got the most views, because I’m a raging narcissist and on top of that I’m also curious. Our readers’ tastes tend to be hard to predict and the Internet is a fickle thing indeed. Take 2021: one of my articles actually made it into the Top-10! But it’s an old review from 2017, for Pedro Aguilera’s Spanish drama Sister of Mine. I have no clue why this title constantly keeps drawing views for so long already, but for lack of a better reason I’ll just blame Ivana Baquero’s bikini.

Among the articles I actually DID write in 2021, the most viewed was the announcement back in June that Hosoda Mamoru’s Belle got a new trailer. As luck would have it, last week Belle got released on the West of the Atlantic, and that trailer isn’t lying, so it gets the picture on top of this bullet. Go see it, as Belle is a damn good film which deserves it to be seen on a very large screen!

Uneasy Rider

In January 2021, the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR for short) celebrated its fiftieth edition. That should have been a huge event in my hometown, as regular editions tend to sell about 300,000 tickets each, and the festival is considered to be the Netherlands’ largest cultural event. So you can imagine what would have been made of this anniversary… if there hadn’t been several lockdowns throughout the year.

Yup, out of necessity, the fest was on-line only, just as this year’s fifty-first edition will be on-line only as well. Theatrical screenings during the Summer were meant to alleviate the pain a bit, but several of those got cancelled too.

That didn’t mean we saw no great films. The IFFR had managed to secure itself a pretty great collection, and several films got a review or a mention here on this site. And my favorite was Riders of Justice, Anders Thomas Jensen’s new, eh… murder revenge comedy thriller drama. Coupling hysterical lethal anti-terrorist violence with a heartfelt look at grief and loss? It shouldn’t work. But it does, oh, how it does. This is a magnificent film. And Mads Mikkelsen proves once more that he is a God among Men.

This Film is XXXXXXX Great!

The lockdown went all the way into April, swooping up Amsterdam’s IMAGINE Film Festival and making it an on-line only event. This pissed me off no end because the festival had made me a jury member, and I had been looking forward to partying in Amsterdam for a week, being spoiled rotten. One advantage though was that I could now see all films with my wife sitting next to me, and a lot of fun was had by us both.

On-line only or not, like the IFFR, IMAGINE had a great selection once again. My favorites were Michael Venus’ Sleep, David Victori’s Cross the Line… and Prano Bailey-Bond’s Censor, which our jury chose as the winner of the 2021 Méliès d’Argent.

Censor is a psychological thriller which takes place in the time Britain was gripped with fear about horror films on videotapes, the so-called “video nasties”. Surely, the endless rewatching of certain films would warp people and make maniacs out of them? We follow one of the Government’s censors, a young woman whose task it is to snip “dangerous” bits out of films, thinking she makes the world a better place by doing so. Well, Prano Bailey-Bond sure made the world a tiny bit better in 2021 by releasing her film in it.

Being Spoiled Rotten in Neuchâtel…

So. Yeah. Everything I complained about missing in Amsterdam because the IMAGINE festival went on-line only? I received it back, in spades, a few months later in Switzerland. Screen Anarchy had agreed to provide a member for the 2021 Critics’ Jury of the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival (NIFFF for short), and by luck I managed to be the only one available. And as more luck would have it, mere days before the festival started, the Swiss Government removed many of their COVID-restrictions, allowing the festival to bloom in full.

Words fail me to describe how welcome us jury members were made to feel, nor can I describe how jealous my family at home was. I made so many new film friends, and have so many great memories. Drinking absinthe before bedtime (which apparently is a thing there)… eating cheese fondue with real Gruyere, while IN Gruyere… visiting museums when time allowed it… walking at the lakeside…

And of course we all saw many great films! The one we ended up awarding the Critics Prize was my favorite this year, so more about that one later. But rest assured the NIFFF was a much needed one-week-long highlight in what was otherwise a pretty dreary year.

And professional photographer Miguel Bueno took this picture of me during the awards ceremony. So:
© Miguel Bueno, NIFFF 2021

The End Is the Beginning Is the End…

The last festival I’ll mention is the Camera Japan Festival in Rotterdam, as it opened just as the Dutch Government removed most restrictions for visiting theatres. It made it so my wife and I sat at a sold-out screening of Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, and a good time was had by all. And I mean by ALL. This film plays magnificently when surrounded by an appreciative audience.

It shows that you can actually make a no-budget film in one day (though with aaaaaaaaages of planning, I assume…), based on one brilliantly executed idea, and entertain people worldwide with it for over an hour. Don’t just take my word for it: read this review.

The End of an EV… I Mean an Era…

If it seems like I’ve been writing about the Evangelion franchise for ages, it’s probably because I have. It’s a fantastic franchise, a great story, and I know few things I love and hate so much at the same time. Its potential is awesome yet feels squandered as its creator Anno Hideaki constantly veers off into directions you don’t want him to go to. It’s like being a child in a gigantic toy store, but every time you want to check out something in detail or have questions, you’re being whisked away to another floor, another group of toys which yes, look nice, but can we for a moment please return to where we just were? It’s amazing, bewildering, exhilarating, annoying, infuriating…. grrrrr.

And this year, it was also ending. For real.

Anno Hideaki capped his franchise with a two-and-a-half-hour-long monstrosity of a movie, with a monstrosity of a title: Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0 Thrice Upon a Time. And surprise surprise, the end result is… strangely satisfying for once, as I explain in my review.

DUN-dun DUUUUNN!

When we here at Screen Anarchy did our “Best of 2021” lists, guess what ended up on number one? Yep, Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited Dune. For sheer spectacle, there simply wasn’t a better film to go see on a big screen, or better yet: a 3D-IMAX. Hey, love it or hate it, but this is what big cinemas were made for.

Was it flawless? No, or at least, not yet. We’ll see if the current perceived gaps were intentional when the second half of the story arrives… And if you didn’t like it, see if our official review here agrees with you. Me, I loved it.

My favorite interview was…

Yikes, only four bullets are left out of my dozen, so I better start my very own “best ofs” now. First: interviews. I didn’t do many, what with not running into celebrities much this year, but the one I had in October made up for all that.

Courtesy of the Vancouver-based Spark Animation Festival, I was allowed a full hour of Zoom-time with the legendary anime director Hosoda Mamoru, who released Belle this year. I love that film (and I’m not alone in that: read the review here), and several of his other films too, so this talk required some calming of nerves.

Thankfully, all went well I think.

My Precioussssss…

My most favorite acquisition this year was (gasp) not a book, but a Special Edition. Hey, it had to happen at some point, right? Anime Limited released one of their famous Ultimate Editions for the first time in years, and it happened to be for that abusive thing I love called Neon Genesis Evangelion. Yes, that one.

Well, if anything was going to get me me to write a “Pretty Packaging article” again, it was this edition. Holy Moly…

The Most Magnificent Witches’ Brew…

That Neon Genesis Evangelion may have been my favorite acquisition, but I am an Eva nutcase.Objectively speaking, the best boxset of the year was Severin’s absolutely fantastic All the Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium of Folk Horror. Basically, it is a Special Edition Blu-ray release of Kier-La Janisse’s epic three-hour-long documentary on folk horror films Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (reviewed here), but Severin made it a 15-disc (!!!) edition with a wealth of additional films, shorts, music, spoken stories even, and added a book. People in the United States and Canada could order a more souped-up version with all sorts of added physical extras, but the “regular” version shown here sure is magnificent enough to win the first prize already. Sorry Criterion, sorry Wong Kar Wai, yours was great but Severin won.

Rest assured I will be putting up a “Pretty Packaging” article for this in the coming days. It arrived so close to the New Year that I haven’t found the time yet. Also because I keep watching the films. Have I been bewitched perhaps?

Yum-yum!

In that bit I wrote about the festival in Neuchâtel, I mentioned that I saw my favorite film of the year there, and the jury I was part of gave it our prize. That was Lee Haven Jones’ Welsh horror Gwledd a.k.a. The Feast. It’s a fantastic slow-cooker of a thriller, slowly putting on the pressure for most of the film. But when this thing blows, popping grue like puss from a rotten cyst, the wincing starts. Few people have been heralding this film like our J. Hurtado has, so check his review!

And that concludes my musings on 2021. Let’s see what 2022 brings…

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