02 January 2022

NMW's Salute to 2021: More Movie Stuff!

We wrapped up the year last week, but we still have a few lingering things to get to. There was a lot of fun stuff at the cinema this year that needs to be honored and trends to be explored.

Scenes of the Year

I usually reserve this for big films with one big scene that captures the imagination, or something that elevates an otherwise crappy film. We sure did have a lot of loud, crappy films this year. They kind of echoed off each other in mindless noise without a coherent culture to glob on to. But here we go.

I did like the intro to A Quiet Place Part II just for being competent dad porn. I guess runners up are the flash-forward maybe ending to The Green Knight, Kong's fight with Godzilla on the battleship in Godzilla vs. KONG, and numerous bus fights in Nobody and Shang-Chi.

I also just really liked pretty much all of Mortal Kombat. Let's choose the scene where Kung Lao bifurcates a dude with his hat.

I liked movies like James Bond and DUNE, but hardly anything stood out as the coolest scene ever. Now, PIG, however...

Nothing stands out to me like Nicholas Cage's life criticism.

Movie Song of the Year:

Edgar's Prayer from Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar. Done.

Actors of the Year:

This year had a lot of stand-out work. Florence Pugh has been on the scene for a while, but I'm going to give her a lot of credit for being the best stand-out part of Black Widow, and following up playing the same character in Hawkeye. I've dug her since Midsommar (2019) but it's nice to get her in front of a wide audience where she's not crying constantly. Same thing with Ana de Armas, who has been around for a while now, but people seem to be noticing after No Time to Die. She definitely gets the Best Appearance in One Scene of a Movie Award this year! Awkwafina was the queen of sidekicks this year in Shang-Chi and Raya, both films where she couldn't not be Awkwafina.

But ultimately, I'm giving this one to Zendaya! She didn't appear too much in DUNE but a lot in Spider-Man: No Way Home, which ended up being the biggest movie of the year. It feels right, she's got the buzz and proving to have the acting chops for a wide range as well. I don't know how many people saw DUNE but it felt like a lot, and she seemed like a big deal in the lead-up, even if she was only in it for forty-five seconds.

For the men, we have some options. Benedict Cumberbatch had both his time to shine in critical circles in The Power of the Dog and a reprisal of his comic character in Spider-Man: No Way Home. That's how these things work these days - one for them, one for us. But it doesn't feel like a Cumberbatch year, does it? Maybe it's Jamie Dornan who crushed both ridiculously serious in Belfast and extremely doofy in Barb and Star. Both are a significant departure from what he was previously known for.

But fuck it, let's go with Chalamet. He owned DUNE with Zendaya, then appeared in The French Dispatch and Don't Look Up, covering a wide swath of genres and roles, which really cemented his status as an untraditional leading man and stoner sidekick. He's just crushing it, and while he broke through years ago, this felt like a very cementing year for this dude.

General Thoughts

As I look back at it, 2021 had a surprising amount of big loud franchise-defining blockbusters. But no one cared. We had four MCU movies, another Fast movie, Bond, Godzilla, Ghostbusters. Not to mention a movie about a beach that makes you old!

I think we're stretching thin, though. F9 in outer space was legit fun, but the core of that movie faltered. Bond was regularly great, and bowed out gracefully. The less said about Afterlife the better, and the MCU had some reliably competent films that don't quite stand out to me at the end of the year. I should maybe give more praise to Spider-Man, although I can't sort out the nostalgia.

No Way Home and The Matrix Resurrections present an intriguing end of year conundrum. We have officially entered the early 2000s nostalgia zone. This was my high school and college era, which means I actually have memories about being hyped for these movies and seeing them in the cinema. Now we are using our cinematic language to resurrect (literally) these characters to squeeze some more juice while the actors are still kind of able to make action films.

We are eating ourselves. It's happening. I remember back when all the biggest trilogies were in production. It was like, Spider-Man, the Matrix, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Wars. There was Shrek and Bourne movies, but I never totally cared about those - they just never really bothered to tell stories that needed finishing. But these were all completed and now we're dipping back into that well. I am still forming thoughts on Resurrections, but rest assured I have plenty on that...movie of a film.

What else? The Rock has settled into making bad movies starring himself as himself. As has Ryan Reynolds. And then they did one together!

But mostly this year is just about not sharing anything. Bond didn't feel big because not all my friends were talking about Bond. I didn't see a ton of posts about it on the Internet. Films were dropped on streaming services, which feels great, but we didn't all see it at the same time. I wonder if our immediacy and access will actually just lead to delays, as we don't have an urgency to see something so we never do. Or it's just ephemeral - Army of the Dead took over Netflix for a weekend. Everyone saw it, hated it, moved on. It's not like we had to wait for the next free weekend to go with our friends.

This sounds curmudgeony, and I don't mean this as necessarily a bad thing, just a thing that now exists. Clearly movies do have the ability to find distribution better than ever before, but it's about getting enough shared eyes at the same time to create some kind of cultural momentum, which is what we're all about here at Norwegian Morning Wood.

So, that's it! We'll tackle music at some point this week, but then it's on to 2022. What will come next!?

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