I always write that I believe I will have some new kind of introduction to this post, but how can I? Take my introduction to These Things I Loved in 2020 Will Change Your Life where I was reflecting on the idea that 2019 was kind of ass:
"The year is the year it is, and was, and so in an otherwise really not terribly great year in so many ways, as opposed to a merely not terribly great year in so many ways, such as last year or the one before that, and for so many people at that, there was still good, because there is always good.
"The thing is that really isn't the case this year.
"2020 was terrible for most.
"Full-stop, period, as my boys might say,
"And yet, there were still books, television, music, podcasts, art, comedy and movies. Though even then, it's not enough, never enough, of any of it. It's also true that for the first time in my life I had trouble concentrating on books and I read less than year in recent years. Like many I also watched a lot of television. Which is to say, we do what we can and I did what I could do. And here we are, ignoring so much of the year, if only for a moment, to look back, and share what there is, and what there was, with you, now, totally."
Which is to say that 2021 was not much better for most than 2020 was, even if there were moments of normalcy and a change in administrations.
Still, in 2021 I read more, more fully went back to museums, when it felt safe, saw live music, outdoors mind you, and even a Broadway show, masked, and as always, I consumed as much as possible, while trying to stay safe, and like most of us, focused on getting to the other side of all this. I'm also back at it with this post, and I am once again joined by the delightful guest blogger, consumate pop culture consumer and son extraordinaire Myles Tanzer.
Cultural criticism and memoirs that read like personal essays and personal essay collections that read like memoir and cultural criticism. That sing. And explore sickness, art, nostalgia, pop culture, social issues, literature, the present, past and future, and everything in between.
The Pueblos/Bill Hillmann, Brain Dance/Diane Grimard Wilson, Old Stye/Dmitry Samarov, Blind Man's Bluff/James Tate Hill, Blow Your House Down/Gina Frangello, Always Crashing in the Same Car/Matthew Specktor, Desert Notebooks/Ben Ehrenreich
Kick-ass short story collections (or linked somethings) by kick ass writers who, you know, kick ass.
We Were Called Specimens/Jason Teal, Little Feasts/Jules Archer, No Good For Digging/Dusting M Hoffman, Deadheading/Beth Gilstrap, The Cult in My Garage/Duncan Birmingham, JERKS/Sara Lippmann
Novels wonderful and substantive by authors wonderful and substantive.
This Close to Okay/Leesa Cross-Smith, The Paradox Twins/Joshua Chaplinksy, dawg towne/Alice Kaltman, The Ancestry of Objects/Tatiana Ryckman, Dreams of Being/Michael J Seidlinger, Crushing/Kelly Kreglow
Debut novels, quite Jewish, and terrible affecting.
Meiselman: The Lean Years/Avner Landes
And poetry. never enough, really not, and so much more next year, promise (and I know, I promised that next year), but the poetry I read was by the Jason Fisk, so you know, the Fisk.
Sub Urbane/Jason Fisk
The movies I re-watched, because well, children, and pandemic.
Goodfellows, Love Actually, Juno, Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, The Wolf of Wall Street, Good Will Hunting, Dope, Midnight Run, Captain Fantastic, Love and Basketball, Love Jones, Reservoir Dogs
Movies I missed in 2020 and caught up with.
One Night in Miami, Mank, Promising Young Woman, Kajillionaire, I'm Your Woman, Nomadland, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Judas and the Black Messiah, Dick Johnson is Dead, Minari, My Octopus Teacher,
Movies I somehow I never watched before, but did this year, and maybe didn't need to.
The Bling Ring, Mid 90s, Buffaloed
Movies I watched after taking edibles at some point earlier that night for which the details escape me.
First Reformed, Bad Trip
Movies I re-watched after once trying to watch them with my wife, but falling asleep.
Short Term 12, Grandma, Obvious Child, Animal Kingdom
Rom-Coms (and/or holiday movies), some mostly fine.
We Broke Up, Good on Paper, Single All the Way, Friends Vacation
And some a lot more fun than that.
To All The Boys I've Loved Before: Always and Forever, Christmas is Canceled
The first movie I saw in a theater and what an excellent and joyous choice it was.
In The Heights
The only superhero movie I watched all year, yet it was such a good one indeed.
The almost really good movies I was more than happy enough to see during a year where I saw even more movies than last year, being at home all the time and all, though I'll never see enough movies to satisfy my movie Jones.
Malcolm and Marie, Last Night in Soho, House of Gucci, Being the Ricardos, Don't Look Up, Belfast, The Humans, CODA, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, Shiva Baby
Well-crafted movies I really liked.
Together Together, King Richard, The Eyes of Tammie Faye, The Lost Daughter, Tick, Tick...Boom!, Spencer
The best crafted movies of the year that weren't quite my favorite movie of the year.
Licorice Pizza, Zola, Passing
The abortion rights movie that was surprisingly delightful.
The quite well-crafted movie that may be the best movie of the year.
The Power of the Dog
But the movie that is ultimately, probably, my favorite in a year when I didn't quite wholly fall in love with anything.
West Side Story
Also, documentaries, wonderful, tough, sad, shocking, goodness.
The Donut King, Summer of Soul, Roadrunner, The Last Blockbuster, Found, Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street
Movies I still plan to see.
Dune, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Spiderman: No Way Home, C'mon C'mon, Drive My Car, The French Dispatch, Cyrano, Red Rocket
New music which I did a way better job of finding this year mostly thank you to our new Apple Music account (which is not a plug, just a reality) and was mostly really happy with.
Lucy Dacus/Home Video, Brandi Carlisle/In These Silent Days, Ike Reilly/Because The Angels, Courtney Barnett/Things Take Time, Take Time, Adele/30
New music by artists I was familiar with and really surprised me because of how much I enjoyed it.
Liz Phair/Soberish, Tyler the Creator/Call Me if You Get Lost
Music and artists quite new to me that I really loved.
Jackie Hayes/There's Always Going to be Something, Model Citizen/Meet Me at The Altar, Eris Drew/Quivering in Time, Plush/Plush
The music that one or both children insisted I listen to, did, and enjoyed, sometimes a lot.
Doja Cat/Planet Her, Olivio Rodrigo/Sour, Leon Bridges/Gold-Diggers, Isaish Rashad/The House is Burning,
Music I got to listen to live after a quite extended break, outdoors, of course, and while not new to me, delightful, and necessary.
The Dead & Company | Wrigley Field, Wilco (+ Sleater-Kinney) | Pritzker Pavilion
Television shows I kept on watching, finished watching or caught-up on after I fell behind, that were actually, mostly, usually very good, and got in the way of reading, thinking, getting work done and sometimes sleeping, but ultimately made me very happy.
Cobra Kai, Ted Lasso, Sex Education, Never I Have Ever, Love Victor, The Handmaids Tale, Shrill, All-American, Search Party, Frayed, Ramy, Breeders
The show my wife and I watched in its entirety that people kept suggesting we watch and was okay, maybe.
Shows that I caught-up on, or mostly, that I enjoyed.
Veep, Love Life (Season Two)
Shows I caught-up on that yes, I really loved, and so did everyone else.
Television shows that ended, that were exceptional and that I'm going to really miss.
Television shows I lovingly consumed, or continued to consume, in part, because at least one, or both, of my children said it must be so.
Big Mouth, F is for Family, Manifest
The only television show I've ever re-watched in its entirety and I did so to watch it with the Noah, which was both glorious and just as good as I remembered it to be.
Limited run shows okay (some of which I caught up with).
Your Honor, Nine Perfect Strangers, The Sister, Collateral, Deadwater Fell, The Cry
Limited run shows good (including some I may have caught up with).
Made For Love, The People vs. O.J. Simpson, Midnight Mass
Limited run shows surprisingly good (that also may have involved some catch up).
The Chair, It's a Sin, Sort Of, The Good Lord Bird
Limited Run shows surprisingly good, funny and addictive.
The Shrink Next Door, Dr. Death
Limited run shows I was quite, even compulsively, taken with.
The limited run show that was most close to achieving outright greatness.
The Underground Railroad
The limited run show that was certainly, possibly, definitely one of my favorite shows all year.
Mare of Easttown
New shows mostly quite good (or good enough).
Squid Game, Lupin, Euphoria, Girls5Eva
New shows really good.
Reservation Dogs, The Wilds, The Sex Lives of College Girls, We Are Lady Parts
New shows that were so surprisingly good.
Flight Attendant, White Lotus, Hacks, Only Murders in the Building
And the new show that was so shockingly good and fun.
My ongoing favorite show based on what was released this year and what was not (I see you Better Things).
Marvel shows surprisingly good.
Marvel shows surprisingly great.
Marvel shows surpringly endearing.
Also, docuseries (or single docmentary-style shows), mostly really good.
Hysterical, Kid 90, Framing Britney Spears
And the docuseries that broke my heart.
What Happened, Britanny Murphy?
Finally, a show that is still almost like a docuseries, but might also be a visual essay, and either remains wholly addicting or the thing I most want to somehow create myself. Or both.
How To With John Wilson
Live theater, again, for only a moment, masked, and stressful, but on Broadway, and terrific.
Caroline, Or Change
Art exhibits, quite a few compared to 2020, always masked, and at times stressful as well.
Grit | Philadelphia Museum of Art (+Cy Twombly: 50 Days at Illiam- fucking incredible, mesmerizing), Bisa Butler Portraits | The Art Institute of Chicago, Barbara Kruger: Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You. | The Art Institute of Chicago, Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror | Philadelphia Museum of Art + The Whitney, Carrie Mae Weems: The Shape of Things | Park Avenue Armory, Jack Brusca | Daniel Cooney Fine Art
Also, an exhibit, a retrospective, glorious, and apparently the last of its kind.
Tony Fitzpatrick: Jesus of Western Avenue | Cleve Carney Museum
Podcasts I still listen to again and again, if sometimes inconsistently at that and maybe less regularly than usual, while adding nothing new.
WTF with Marc Maron, Other People with Brad Listi, The Slate Culture Gabfest
And now for the Myles Tanzer.
- In the Heights
- King Richard
- Spider-Man: No Way Home
- Don’t Look Up
- tick, tick… Boom!
- Being the Ricardos
- The Eyes of Tammy Faye
NEW TV SHOWS
- The Sex Lives of College Girls
- Gossip Girl
- Mare of Easttown
- One of Us Is Lying
- The White Lotus
- Only Murders in the Building
--What Happened, Brittany Murphy?--
- Pose Season 3
- Pen15 Season 2 Part 2
- Cobra Kai Season 4
- Sex Education Season 3
- Ted Lasso Season 2
- You Season 3
- Never Have I Ever Season 2
- Love, Victor Season 2
- Big Mouth Season 5
- Manifest Season 3
--RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13 and RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Season 2--
- 30: Adele
- Sour: Olivia Rodrigo
- Happier Than Ever: Billie Ellish
- Planet Her: Doja Cat
- Dancing With The Devil… The Art of Starting Over: Demi Lovato
- Montero: Lil Nas X
- Still Over It: Summer Walker
- Solar Power: Lorde
- An Evening with Silk Sonic: Silk Sonic
- Justice: Justin Bieber
--Red (Taylor’s Version): Taylor Swift--
- All Too Well (10 Minute Version): Taylor Swift
- 34+35 (Remix): Ariana Grande feat. Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion
- I Drink Wine: Adele
- Between Us: Little Mix
- Mood Ring: Lorde
- Happier than Ever: Billie Eilish
- Industry Baby: Lil Nas X feat. Jack Harlow
- Deja Vu: Olivia Rodrigo
- Rumors: Lizzo feat. Cardi B
- Up: Cardi B
Most finally, there are many people to thank for making this a good year or just rule in general) in spite of all that has been going on and feels like still will be. And I'm most definitely overlooking some, a lot maybe, and I apologize for that, but there you go.
Ryan W. Bradley, Steve Lafler, Lavinia Ludlow, Rob Funderburk, Greg Olear, John Barrios, Joseph G. Peterson, Michael Seidlinger, Gabino Iglesias, Adam Lawrence, Dave McNamara, Mike Smolarek, Beth Gilstrap, Duncan MacKenzie, Andrew Keating, Avner Landes, Matty Byloos, Brad Listi, Michael Czyzniejewski, Ken Wohlrob, Mike Keren, Myles and Noah Tanzer, Leza Cantoral, David Masciotra, Clayton Smith, Bryanna Tartt, Alisha Bashaw, Mel Bosworth, Paul Cohen, Joshua Chaplinksy, Lee Matthew Goldberg, Todd Summar, Megan Stielstra, Hosho McCreesh, W. Todd Kaneko, Jim Warner, Mathieu Cailler, David S. Atkinson, Emory Easton, Debbie Pritzker, Steve Eisner, BL Pawelek, James Yates, Kristin Fouquet, Clayton Smith, Seth Berg, Maggie Manoyan, Amber Sparks, James Tate Hill, Mike McClelland-Williamson, Lori Jakiela, Robert Vaughan, Gregory L. Norris, Michael Gillan Maxwell, Meg Tuite, Chris Linkenbach, Robert Duffer, Kathy Haueisen, Brian Alan Ellis, Keir Graff, Luke Jerod Kummer, Emma Irving, Joanna Topor MacKenzie, Jeff Linkenbach, Matt Rowan, Jacob S. Knabb, Jason Behrends, Andrew DeYoung, Jason Pettus, Joanna C. Valente, Moeses Soulright, Anthony Michael Morena, Brad Wolff, Amber Griffith, Bob Hartley, Shifra Malka, Joanna Shroeder, Barbara Newman, Johnny Misfit, Greg Gerding, Trish McDonald, Victor David Giron, The Book Cellar, Gretchen Kalwinski, Michael Paige Glover, Jennifer Banash, Bill O'Neill, City Lit Books, Marilyn Atlas, Matt Fitzpatrick, Art Edwards, Judith Tanzer, Kimberly Ann Southwick, Erika T. Wurth, Leesa Cross-Smith, bBrian Gresko, Beth Splaine, Garret Schuelke, Shaindel Beers, Chris L. Terry, Kara Vernor, Adam Tanzer, Patricia Ann McNair, Glen Binger, Sean Beaudoin, Sean H. Doyle, Ken Sherman, John Reed, Jerry Brennan, Serena Makofsky, Callie Nelson, Lauren Becker, David Legere, Marisa Siegel, Brad Listi, Robert James Russell, Jenny Bhatt, Brian Gresko, Lori Hettler, Sharyn Skeeter, Tobias Carroll, Leah Angstman, Christian Winn, Angelique Pesce, Charita Cole Brown, Brad King, Spencer Dew, Glen Binger, Neile Parisi, Steve Karas, Aubrey Cox Warner, Sarina Prabasi, Amanda Headlee, Barry Graham, Jennifer Steele, Wendy C. Ortiz, Matt Winkler, Dave Newman, Jeremy T. Wilson, Donald Quist, Christine Maul Rice, D. Foy, Ben Drevlow, JH Palmer, Cari Luna, Amber Griffin, Shawn Henry, Elaine Soloway, Rachel Slotnick, Judith Krummeck, Behn Reza, Alex Rhodes, Largehearted Boy, Cyn Vargas, Colin Hosten, Anne Poirier, Tim Drown, Greg Santos, Joe Starr, Joe Thompson, Allison Joseph, Alan Heathcock, Tony Brunelli, Tara Fishler, Keith Lesmeister, Sara Lippmann, Spencer Fleury, Grace Agnew, Mikaela Shea Fowler, Ariel Rudolph, Giano Cromley, Zoe Zolbrod, Dawn Hogan, Kali VanBaale, Tom Williams, Jennifer Pastiloff, Joshua Mohr, Deborah Greenhut, Neil Elman, Amy Danzer, Patrick Wensink, Nicholas Barron, Maria Price, Robert Tomaino, Stuart Ross, Chauncey Fitzsimmons, Alice Kaltman, Paul Cohen, Susan Messing, Rick Kogan, Amy Guth, Khloe Karova, Jeff Pfaller, Emily Schultz, Shaindel Beers, Christine Eberle, Volumes Bookcafe, Susan Messing, Jonathan Evison, Leland Cheuk, Rebecca George, Robert James Russell, Donald G. Evans, Matt Covert, Christina Beauchemin, Davis Schneiderman, Ray Charbonneau, Sam Slaughter, Gina Frangello, Steph Post, Rachel Hyman, Nick Ostdick, Len Kuntz, Pete Anderson, Terry Hiner, Alicia Del Real, Pam Hoadley, the Tomaloff's, Paula Bomer, Brandon Will, Melissa Faliveno, J. Bradley, Jason Fisk, Gint Aras, Yogi Roth, Eric Spitznagle, Beth Gilstrap, Charles Rubner, Ryan Ridge, Lee L. Krecklow, Keidra Chaney, Christopher Bowen, Liz Mason, Chris Tarry, David Olimpio, Jessica Kashiwabara, Christoph Paul, Ines Bellina, Jon Papernick