2021 in Film(s That Didn’t Come Out in 2021)

Check out previous installments here, here, here and here.


2021 was, I’m sure we can all agree, the most recent year in the Gregorian calendar. Though, that being said, Ciara now exclusively understands the passage of time through self-programmed film seasons (e.g. Soviet June-ion, Silent September, Shane Black Christmas) and Dean has lost track of linear time altogether. It was a year of surprises in film: Zack Snyder finally got to finish his four-hour superhero epic and Sylvester Stallone, for better or worse, finally got to cut the robot from Rocky IV. We started a podcast, The Sundae Presents, where we take turns showing each other favourite films of ours the other hasn’t seen (catch up now!). We published lots of good pieces, including the first guest contribution to our pop punk series. Ciara finished watching all the Nightmares on Elm Street (except the remake, obviously) and Dean watched every Gus Van Sant film, then immediately got super into pirate movies for some reason. 

We’ll be looking back at our favourite films released in 2021 on Oscars weekend, which we guess is in March this year? This is a look back at some of the best films from other years that we watched for the first time, spanning eighty years of cinema from the earliest days of animation to the earliest days of Paul Verhoeven’s post-Hollywood career. At the risk of repeating ourselves, one of the few upsides to a year where staying inside was, at the very least, highly recommended was a lot of time to watch movies, and these represent less than five percent of them, so you know they come highly recommended. We’ve got Arthurian myth and silent romance and four films from the seventies, because we can’t pretend we don’t have a period bias. Check them out and stay tuned to The Sundae for more cold takes and fresh pods in 2022!

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It’s a Wonderful Life: The Sundae Presents Episode 11

Ciara and Dean co-host The Sundae Presents, a podcast in which each of us makes the other watch films they haven’t seen. For our first Christmas Spectacular, Ciara helps Dean rid himself of one of his most grievous shames: never having seen It’s a Wonderful Life. They talk about its view of capitalism, the brilliance of its final act and whether there’s even such a thing as corny.

It's a Wonderful Life The Sundae Presents

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Ikiru: The Sundae Presents Episode 10

Ciara and Dean co-host The Sundae Presents, a podcast in which each of us makes the other watch films they haven’t seen. This episode, in a shocking twist, Dean shows Ciara a film widely acknowledged as one of the greatest of all time: Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru. They talk about its humour and humanism, Kurosawa’s influences and how the main character’s son is a complete piece of shit.

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It’s Been a Long, Lonely December

This article is part of the In Defense of the Genre, a series of critical and personal essays in praise of pop punk. Previously, Tina Kakadelis’s ode to The Summer Set.

This year I entered a truly unprecedented third emo phase. My first was the usual one, in my early teens, sad and lonely and ready to burst out of my skin. My second was in college, an instinctive reaction to a mental health crisis that had me climbing out windows so I wouldn’t have to see my roommates. It’s odd, then, that my third came this year, when – despite living in the apocalypse – things have mostly been fine for me. The overwhelming panic that would have me hiding in bathrooms, the worry worry fluttering in my stomach that made it so hard to speak, has, if not subsided, then become something I can cope with.

But I listened to more pop punk than I have in years. I listened to all of All Time Low, a band with a consistently mixed discography who finally fulfilled their promise with 2020’s Wake Up, Sunshine. I had my triennial Blink-182 hyperfixation, so deep that I happily watched livestreams of Mark Hoppus doing the Sunday crossword. I got into Modern Baseball, Stand Atlantic and Something Corporate. I listened to this one Good Charlotte song five million times.

It wasn’t the lightning strike epiphany moment I had back in 2012: after pop punk got me through my first year at college, I don’t think I could ever turn my back on it the way I did in the back half of secondary school. It felt like “it’s not a phase, mom” had finally reached the fullness of truth. It felt like it was pointless still delineating waves in the face of the tide.

I spent February this year listening to ‘December’ by Neck Deep on repeat and thinking about people I don’t know anymore. Like Motion City Soundtrack were in a faraway city the guts of a decade ago, it was the wintery soundtrack of my spring.

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Too Pop for the Punk Kids

This article is part of the In Defense of the Genre, a series of critical and personal essays in praise of pop punk. Previously, Say Anything’s final album, Oliver Appropriate, and its position in the marvellous history of challenging, transgressive, vulgar queer art.

I found The Summer Set the same way everyone found their favorite band in 2007: on MySpace. Coincidentally, it was also MySpace that would lead to the formation of The Summer Set.

Formed in Scottsdale, Arizona, The Summer Set was born from remnants of Last Call for Camden. After releasing one album, Last Call for Camden disbanded and drummer Jess Bowen, bassist Stephen Gomez, and guitarist John Gomez put an ad on MySpace for a lead singer. Enter Brian Dales. Together with guitarist Josh Montgomery, they formed the lineup of The Summer Set from 2007 to when they took a hiatus in 2017.

Most of the time when talking about the heavy hitters of pop punk, The Summer Set aren’t included in the conversation. They have spent their entire career trying to bridge the gap between the two worlds. Sure they were staples on Warped Tour for a few years, but they were also crowned the winner of Macy’s iHeartRadio Rising Star Award. It was a combination that didn’t make much sense. One day, they’d be sharing a stage with Sleeping With Sirens or All Time Low and the next, they’d be opening for The Backstreet Boys.

They were both pop punk, but they summed it up best in “Figure Me Out” with the opening lines: “I’m a bit too pop for the punk kids / but I’m too punk for the pop kids / I don’t know just where I fit in / ‘cause when I open my mouth / I know nobody’s listening / to the words of a prophet / who still can’t turn a profit.”

It’s frustrating to be in that position of not fully existing in either world. Part of this conflicting pop punk personality comes from their plethora of musical inspirations. They would list off New Found Glory, Blink 182, Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen, The Last Five Years Broadway musical, Sarah Bareilles, Bright Eyes, Green Day, A Goofy Movie soundtrack, Something Corporate, Taylor Swift…and somehow all of that came together into their ultimate style of ‘80s-twinged arena anthems with pop punk energy. As someone who grew up loving ‘80s power ballads and pop punk, The Summer Set felt they were made especially for me.

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Welcome to Me: The Sundae Presents Episode 9

Ciara and Dean co-host The Sundae Presents, a podcast in which each of us makes the other watch films they haven’t seen. This episode, Dean shows Ciara a film released after they met instead of before they were born: the 2014 Kristen Wiig vehicle Welcome to Me. They talk about the positive thinking movement, Wiig’s career arc and why Oprah sucks.

Welcome to Me The Sundae Presents

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TV Was Always Good #2

The last time we decided to shine a spotlight on some of the classic TV shows we’ve fallen in love with over the last few years, we were motivated in part to push back on the idea that TV only “got good” relatively recently, with The Sopranos, and then shows that lived up to its sophistication followed, mostly from HBO, other cable networks and then streaming services. But that’s a myth, one that HBO has been capitalising on for decades, and which the streaming giants are essentially trying to claim for themselves. Let’s hope they fail, because if not the recency bias people already have toward TV is gonna get dragged up to, like, Breaking Bad becoming a global hit on Netflix at the latest.

That would be tragic, because TV has literally always been good, from the very earliest days of the medium to the present moment. It can be hard to feel that at the present moment when there’s more television being made than ever, but less and less television that stands out enough to make you think it might not be focus-tested and algorithmed into a bland tasteless mush. We’ve almost a year left before we help you sift through the slurry of contemporary TV for the handful of precious shows worth watching in the next Sundae TV Awards. But we’ve both watched a lot of different TV shows, from a lot of different decades, in a lot of different genres since the last time we defended the honour of classic TV.

Here’s some you should check out, to remind you of what makes television great:

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Westerns, Part 3

“I can name for you every western I’ve ever seen. It wouldn’t even be hard.” – 2018

“There’s something just better about westerns, I can’t explain it. A great western is a special thing.” – 2019

“… nobody wants to be the crotchety old man saying things were much better in the good old days. But then you sit down and actually watch a 1940s western and it melts your face clean off.” – 2020

There probably wasn’t an exact moment when I went from “getting into westerns” to just “being a big westerns guy,” but if I had to pick, it would probably be around the time I started watching the Friday western on TG4. TG4 is an Irish public broadcast TV station that mostly shows Irish language programming, but every Friday night, they show a western. I’m not sure why, but I’m glad. “An western”: Irish for “the western”, with the word western untranslated, the way you wouldn’t translate noir or giallo into English. The films they show range from established classics to obscure gems to stuff that really isn’t very good at all, but usually in an interesting way. I don’t always watch the western on Friday, but I’m always happy I did. There are some things in this world that are so purely joyful, so satisfying, that they make your heart feel like it will burst. They’re precious, and I try to hold onto them where I can. A great western is one of those. The particular pleasures great westerns offer make me fall in love with films all over again.  

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Michael Collins Remains an Irish Cornerstone 25 Years Later [Paste]

25 years ago, Neil Jordan was coming off directing The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire. He had two box office hits and a screenplay Oscar under his belt. So, naturally, he spent his Hollywood cache on a biopic about Irish republican Michael Collins.

The result occupies a peculiar place in film history and Irish culture. Despite being a major studio release, it faded from the consciousness of the international film community more or less immediately. But in Ireland, it remains a cornerstone of both pop culture and popular history: We’ve all seen it, probably lots of times, so it’s a big part of how we understand our nation and its history. For me, and I’m sure millions more, when I picture some of the most significant figures in Irish history they look like Liam Neeson or Alan Rickman.

I wrote about the 25th anniversary of Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins for Paste magazine! You can read it here.

The Evil Dead / Evil Dead II: The Sundae Presents Episode 8

Ciara and Dean co-host The Sundae Presents, a podcast in which each of us makes the other watch films they haven’t seen. For our first Halloween Spooktacular, Ciara shows Dean a Sam Raimi double bill: The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II. They talk about the genius of Bruce Campbell, innovation born from ignorance, and all the different kinds of goo.

The Evil Dead / Evil Dead II The Sundae Presents

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