If you were following these reviews, my apologies this latest one took six months to create. Life happened and a considerable chunk of my year was spent languishing. Nonetheless, here I am with my year-ender reviews for 2021 on a selection of TV, movies, and some books from June to Dec 2021.
Note: As usual, if you’ve not seen / read any of these below, please skip and don’t blame me. You were warned!
Squid Game – Watching Squid Game was a stressful event for me. I generally do not like watching anything that’s violent or portrays “injustice”. I wasn’t planning on watching it as I am not really into Korean stuff. However, the hype was too much so I forced myself to watch it to see if it is worth writing a review. There is no doubt, the execution of the show was great. The concept of people killing each other for a prize in a controlled environment is not new, so I won’t say this is groundbreaking. However, it fell flat to me towards the end, that I just wanted it to be done already. Sure, there is a need to answer the question “why” but they could have answered that at the end of the final game. The answer to the “why” is not even a shocker anymore. For me, we could have done away with the last 30 – 45 minutes of the final episode. And yeah, this isn’t something I will want to watch again.
Rate: 3 / 5
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
This might end up being a long and winding discussion about systemic abuse, so I will try to keep it short. It was infuriating and difficult to watch. I have mixed feelings about Death Penalty but to be honest, some people are evil to the bone that they deserve to disappear on the face of the earth. I’m not just talking about Epstein, but all his accomplices and the influential people he conspired with to game the system and abuse people. It’s disappointing that there were not enough powerful names divulged from this mini-series, just a mild focus on Prince Andrew, some mention of Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, etc. Perhaps stuff is in the courts/investigations so it cannot be discussed? Cover-ups? I don’t know. This documentary is probably not representative of every detail of this whole saga. However, it makes viewers aware that there is such evil that exists in the world and they exist as an empire. Hopefully, somehow, someway, the reckoning will come for these people.
The Farewell – I’m not Chinese but I am of Asian decent so I can relate to the story of The Farewell on so many levels. As an Asian millennial who has exposure to the “outside world” as well as technology whilst coming from a place with a conservative, communal culture, I understand what it means to straddle between fulfilling filial duties while wanting to break free of our path. The story of The Farewell distinctly catches that. I know it is difficult for westerners to understand, but we Asians do make sacrifices for the sake/betterment of the whole family, and not just for ourselves. However, I couldn’t quite grasp why they had to keep the secret from the matriarch. I couldn’t imagine doing that and wouldn’t the person on subject know it??
The Chair – A new series about the plights of being in a middle management role in the year 2021. My first job was in a school, so I am well aware of the nuances in the interactions of school employees. To me, it also highlights the plight of teachers and school management in managing the current generation of students who are more aware of social issues and want to break free from the stereotypes that are still taught in school. It was fascinating to see that “cancellation” we are so used to seeing online portrayed in live-action (clue: they did it in the University Square). I suppose it really is even more difficult to become a teacher nowadays (especially history :D)
Cruella – I love Emma Stone here. She is so versatile. We don’t see a lot of Americans who can pull off a British accept but she did. I also loved how they “edgy-fied” the aesthetics and backstory of Ms. Devil. Story-wise, there were too many plot armors, but what can we expect from a Disney movie? It is not meant to further the narratives of the wokes, but it sure was entertaining.
Rating: 4 / 5
The Object of My Affection – I thought this was going to be a no-brainer romcom but it actually has an interesting predicament. Jennifer Anniston is a straight woman who became friends with Paul Rudd, a gay man. They live together, she gets pregnant with her then-boyfriend whom she doesn’t really love and asks Paul Rudd to raise the kid with her instead. This was one of those movies featured on The Take in their analysis of how LGBT characters are often sidelined in Hollywood movies. I thought it was pretty selfish for Anniston’s character to ask so much of Rudd just because she can’t stand being alone. I was on the verge of getting mad, I thought they were going to make that mistake, but it was saved when Rudd stayed true to himself as a gay man who wants to pursue his own happiness. This was probably a radical story at the time (the late 90s), but by today’s standards, it will likely get a lot of criticism (but not canceled). Oh, and 90s Allison Janey kicks ass as much as today’s Allison Janey.
Eternals – I’ve seen some very polarizing reviews about this movie ranging from “This is one of the best MCU movies” to “This is the worst movie I have seen”. I’d say it was meh. The movie is good for not so hardcore Marvel fans like myself because the movie was good at telling, but unfortunately bad at execution. It is not the usual fun, fast-paced, actioned movie that is the trademark of a Marvel movie. Also, some more comments: 1) If we were to count the number of pages in Angelina Jolie’s script, it will probably be just five pages while the rest of the cast had 50 pages. They were really stingy in her scenes. 2) The movie fulfilled it’s *diversity requirements* for sure.
The Morning Show S2 – TMS S1 did such a great job imitating life, showing us the nuances of workplace abuse “in the lens of #MeeToo movement”. On the contrary, I felt like S2 didn’t know what to do with itself. Admittedly, Steve Carrell’s character, Mitch Kesler doesn’t know what to do after his fallout either, ultimately, taking the easy way out. Meanwhile, Alex is so insufferable and self-obsessed. I feel like she can’t own up to the fact that she is a part of the abusive system and benefited from it. As for Bradley, well I wasn’t sure what they wanted to do with her either. She too had a lot of personal issues and reckonings that needed sorting out this season. But knowing her, she will still be her stubborn self and refuse to do it. On the other hand, I did appreciate this show keeping with the times, having the Covid-19 epidemic unfold as its “backdrop” for this season. I also appreciate the exploration and introduction of other characters that made the show more *diverse* and how other forms of cancel culture in the eyes of the canceled. Chip is his still old pushover self. I was wondering at which point will he finally confess his undying love for the narcissist Alex. Also, The ultimate suave character Cory was finally seen breaking a sweat, having to deal with the mess of Mitch and Alex’s breakdowns, a plummeting business and his apparently (until recently) secret love for a major character.
All in all, I felt like season 2 lost its way. I am not sure how they will take this forward in S3, if there will be any.
Promising Young Woman
Took me a long time before I could get access to watch this. What I love about this movie (and other English films as well) is that it has a more realistic feel to it, unlike the highly sensational ones that Hollywood is so used to creating. Promising Young Woman is a female revenge movie about Cassie’s (Carrey Mulligan) quest to avenge her dead best friend Nina’s pay by hunting down the perpetrators and enablers of her sexual assault that resulted in them dropping out of a promising future as doctors. She does this by making each one of them look in the mirror, making them understand how they are all part of the system that allows women to be abused, not believed, forgotten while the Promoting Young Men go on with their lives. While I do have two specific critics about the plot ( 1 – Why didn’t they just make it so that it was Cassie who was abused?), It doesn’t take away too much from what I love about this movie.
Spiderman, No Way Home
I’ll be careful with my words since this movie has not been shown in some places until now. Let’s just say that this is the all-stars version of Spiderman; Shows how the Spiderman movie franchise has come full-circle. Though the future is uncertain for now, there will definitely be a lot more things to look forward to in the MCU. Also, this is probably the best MCU movie out of the 4 that we watched this year (2nd – Shang Chi 3rd – Black Widow 4th Eternals)
The Shrink Next Door
Ok. It seems this limited series bombed as far as critics are concerned, but I actually like it. Though it was a slow-burn, it had a lot of pull on me as this is a psychological drama and dark comedy (and I studied Psychology), and themes of manipulation, dysfunctional relationships, power play, and injustice really get my goat. The limited series was based on true events about a completed inappropriate (not sexual) and abusive relationship of a well-known Psychiatrist Ike (Paul Rudd) and his client Marty (Will Ferrell). Will Ferrell is as effective as a dumb, neurotic man as Paul Rudd is effective as a gaslighting, narcissistic sociopath who takes advantage of his patients. I do wish we saw more of Kathryn Hann (Phyllis, Marty’s sister), but the story really did call for her not to be around so much. I’m also disappointed that there weren’t more punishments given to the real-life Ike.
The Age of Umbrage
It’s my first time to read a Jessica Zafra novel, but not the first time read a Jessica Zafra piece. Her first novel tells the story of Guada a teenager who grew up in the 80s in the backdrop of a tumultuous state of the nation and her life as the odd kid who lived in the world of one of the richest families in the world (Her mother was the family’s cook). If you know Jessica Zafra’s writing style, you will certainly see her signature sarcasm and dry humor in action through Guada’s own. It is a coming-of-age kind of story, something that I don’t think we’ve not seen/heard read before. So while it is not bad, it certainly isn’t The Novel of The Century either. Hence I am rating it as below.
The Art of Thinking Clearly
It’s another one of those books that seem to bomb in people’s reviews but I love it. The Art of Thinking Clearly compiles a collection of intellectual fallacies and dissects each one of them as to why people, even the most well-meaning ones, fall into them and how to correct or avoid them. To be honest, even some of the psychologically sound coping mechanisms available are a product of intellectual fallacies which might make this book too harsh for some people. Nonetheless, I feel it did help me think clearly and understand more about why people think or act the way they do. Ultimately, it assured me that just because everybody is thinking or doing something, doesn’t mean it is right.