2021 in lists: concerts & shows, theatre, books, movies, TV

(A work in progress…)

Movies (seen in the cinema)

  • Bonjour Tristesse. Read some grumpy words about this here
  • La Dolce Vita. Read some grumpy words about this here
  • Possessor. A movie from David Cronenberg’s son, Brandon, I brought husband because it was described as a sci-fi thriller. I sort of had skipped over the ‘horror’ part so saw more blood and gore than I’ve seen in a long time. But I thought it was an amazing film: engaging story, creepy atmosphere, superb acting. 
  • Roman Holiday. Having not appreciated two film classics, and another not-so-classic old film, I had high hopes that this film would change my view. Oh yes it did. Obviously the mother of so many romantic comedies, this was the original, and done in a way I found engaging and charming. Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck have wonderful charisma, the script is funny, Rome is shown in its full glory (whereas when watching La Dolce Vita, I was like: Where’s Rome? (except for the Trevi Fountain scene). If you haven’t seen this film before, give yourself a treat! We saw it on Valentine’s Day. Perfect.
  • Max Richter’s Sleep. A documentary about Max Richter’s 8.5 hour musical composition, written for audiences to sleep to, the film has the same dreamy, unrushed quality. I really like Richter’s music: it’s emotional and direct, beautiful and atmospheric. The film is a little about him, and a little about him and his wife and their partnership, with a focus on some of the fans of the music and event. I loved it.

Movies (seen on TV, like on Netflix)

  • Pride. How I loved this charming English movie about a group of ragtag gay and lesbian activists who supported a community of Welsh miners during the strikes in Thatcherite England in the 80s. Based on a true story. 
  • 101 Rent Boys. A documentary, of sorts, of 101 rent boys in Los Angeles. I thought it couldn’t be NOT interesting (and was right) but didn’t expect the storytelling to be so weak and just watching it makes you feel like you’re part of the exploitation. 
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: It did feel like a play made into a movie, which is not necessarily a bad thing, to hear that sort of dramatic poetry in intense spurts. And my god, the acting. Very intense. 
  • Nomadland: Strange and beautiful and harsh. I found the combination of non-actors and Frances McDormand engaging and interesting. 
  • Luca: I’m reading the reviews which say it’s fine but not the best Pixar movie (the NYT review has the best headline ‘Calamari by my name’. Kudos to whoever wrote that). But it charmed me, made me laugh many times, and marvel at how beautiful the imagery and colour was. And it was a taste of sunny Italy. Locked down and unable to travel overseas, I LOVED this. Who cares if it’s not a masterpiece?

Documentaries and Reality Television

  • RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 13. All in all, I thought this was a pretty good season, including the pandemic special, which showed the extra measures they had to go through to film this. I thought it was the right winner, and the cast was pretty entertaining and interesting, particularly Gottmik. 
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race Vegas Revue. Hmm. Watching out of sheer fandom. It’s painful to watch these young men, who are great performers but not very mature human beings in how they treat each other and their bodies and their expectations. 
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, Season 2. Wow. How much of drag race can we watch? The year has only begun. Still, it was such a diverse group of queens in the finale, I enjoyed it. I’m not sure I’ve seen Ru lately fall in love with someone so much as he did with the winner. Every time they were on screen together, it was clear that Ru LOVES this one. 
  • Amy. Ouch. Amy Winehouse had such an amazing, natural voice and a real talent. Could she have survived her addictions? It’s not sure, but she was certainly surrounded by people who did not help her survive, and those who wanted to help her couldn’t reach her. Sad. 
  • Blown Away, Season 2. I loved the quirky first season of this reality show about glass-blowing and you know, I loved Season 2 just as much. 
  • Project Runways All Stars, Season 8. Not sure how we missed this when it came out a year or two ago, but we can’t resist this show. It was, all in all, pretty fun, and I think I was happy enough with the finale, though a little nationalism was creeping through and I was hoping Biddell, the Canadian designer, would win. 
  • The Great Pottery Throw-Down, Season 1: A reality TV show about pottery? I think only the British could pull this off, and it was a lovely look at an art form that I love. Two more seasons to go!
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under. Because I can’t resist watching it and everyone else down here seems to be. But RuPaul and Michelle seem out of sorts and the judging feels very random. In the end, it was very disappointing. Though drag is fabulous and creative here in Australia, Australian drag didn’t seem to translate to this game show format. 
  • Masterchef Australia. It’s crazy to think back to last year, when most people in Australia seemed to be watching that season, with new judges and returning favourite contestants, partly because we were all in lockdown. I’ve always loved this show, though with it on FIVE NIGHTS A WEEK, I’m trying to be reasonable about it and just catch it when I can. But I have fallen in love with the contestants. Nowhere else on Australian TV is the real diversity of society represented, including Asians, gays, and gay Asians, but it’s not the story. It’s just presented as the way Australia is while they cook up a storm nearly every night of the week. Bravo.  

Other television

  • Death to 2020. Not a documentary but a mockumentary by Charlie Brooker of Black Mirror on 2020. It got mediocre reviews but I don’t have high expectations these days.
  • Lupin. Seasons 1 & 2. We loved this series. Fun, stylish. The lead actor has buckets of charisma. Some episodes are better than others, but it is well worth watching. 
  • Snowpiercer. Season 2. I was enjoying it but in the end, I didn’t love this season that much. The first season had a strong dramatic question and then a fantastic twist at the end. This season had too many plots and a focus on too many characters for me. But husband liked it a lot. 
  • Money Heist (La Casa de Papel). We totally loved this: the characters, the storytelling. Watch it with subtitles. We watched the first two parts, took a break and then watched the next, so we’re up to date. Great TV. 
  • It’s a Sin. Touching, engaging, the tragedy leavened by comedy. Apparently a huge hit, in the UK, especially. I’m glad that this story is being told for a new generation. 
  • Sex Education. Seasons 1 and 2. I really like this series. The characters are appealing and mixed in with light, youthful comedy are some heavyweight emotional truths and situations. 
  • Handmaid’s Tale, Season 4. Woohoo. This was amazing TV. I found the previous season too harrowing, and while this was also harrowing, there were so many important questions about choices, survival, recovery and more, all anchored by incredible acting. I really enjoyed it. 


  • Alain De Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life (philosophy). I’m not convinced that I should read Proust, but I loved reading this instead. Is that cheating? Beautiful writing about friendship, reading, paying attention and being alive. 
  • Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain (novel). I was so engaged with the story and characters that I stopped noticing the writing. It’s a harrowing story and feels unique. I’m not sure if I loved it as much as some of my friends did (or the Booker prize jury) but it is a great book.
  • Judith Flanders’ A Place for Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order (non-fiction). It’s rare that I give up on a book, and I note I probably could have finished it as the last third of the book is footnotes. And it really was interesting in many ways to see the way alphabetisation developed. But it’s SO well-researched with SO much detail (about text from so long ago). It takes a particular kind of mind to be able to engage with this material. 
  • Tricia Dearborn’s Autobiochemistry (poetry). A fellow Sydney poet; we read together recently at an event. And I was so glad to receive her latest collection from her. There are some gems in this collection. 

Concerts, Shows, Theatre, Exhibitions & Words

  • Sydney Festival’s The Rise and Fall of Saint George. An interesting, passionate sort of rock opera that portrayed the time of the same-sex marriage debate in Australia, symbolised by the defacing of the striking wall mural of George Michael, as a saint, in Erskineville. And what a setting. I had no idea they’d be able to host concerts at the Headland in Barangaroo like that. It was stunning. 
  • Young Frankenstein (Hayes Theatre). It seems like Mel Brooks, buoyed by the success of adapting his movie ‘the Producers’ to a hit musical decided to do the same with Young Frankenstein. It’s basically a silly, ridiculous, entertaining farce. I think is reminded me of the ridiculousness of Spamalot more than the Producers, and the cast and crew do an amazing job with bringing this to life. An enjoyable, silly time. 
  • Hamilton (Lyric Theatre). Way back when Hamilton was I heard Australia would be opening in Australia, I wondered how they would find Australians to do such an American show and if they could manage such complicated and demanding parts, combining Broadway and rap and other musical genres. It seemed like a unique phenomenon. I was wrong. Completely. The Australian cast is young, scrappy and hungry and put their own spin on a show which I think is amazingly written and constructed. I feel very privileged that we’re able to see theatre here in Australia where most places in the world have shut down their shows. 
  • Fun Home (Sydney Theatre Company). In university, I read Alison Bechdel’s wonderful lesbian comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, and was amazed and delighted to watch her journey as she published the autobiographical graphic novel, Fun Home, and see an introverted artist on the margins win multiple awards, become beloved across North America and THEN have that book be turned into an award-winning musical. To see a deeply personal and strange story be brought to life was fantastic; I’d been waiting to see this since it came out. Also, Maggie McKenna, who we last saw in the musical adaptation of Muriel’s Wedding, playing the ‘Middle Alison’: astonishing.
  • Frozen (Capitol Theatre). Oh dear. I didn’t even question that we’d see this: a Broadway musical, with a songwriting team we admire, and hey, we liked the movie. But just before arriving, an acquaintance asked, ‘Why are you going to THAT?!’ and when we arrived, I understand why. It was crawling with children, chatting over the scenes, asking out loud ‘Why did she just hit him?’. It reminded me of when I was at Disneyland with my niece. So, the story was very young and somewhat confusing, and I admit, I didn’t like it very much. 
  • I want to know what love is (Darlinghurst Theatre). From the Queensland-based The Good Room, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a piece compiled from audience submissions. Yet it was joyous, dark and sad, using the best conventions of theatre to create amazing theatre by a diverse, talented and engaging cast. 
  • Come from Away (Capitol Theatre). I’d seen this musical before in NYC, and was amused what the Canadians had pulled off. New Yorkers love themselves, so creating a musical partly about NYC (by way of 9/11) and combining it with a true story set in Canada, it was a brilliant commercial idea. But much more than that, it’s great storytelling and wonderful music, with a cohesive style. Seeing the Australian version, I had forgotten just how good it is as a musical. Very emotional. 

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