Favorites of 2021

Another year has been completed, which means I have another round of recommendations of movies, books, games, and more. Let’s get into it.

Check out previous years favorites: 2019, 2020

Books

  • The Story of Philosophy: [From Reading List] Another late arrival to the list. Read this book twice and could honestly still get more out of it. An excellent primer on the essentials/who’s who of philosophy.
  • How Music Works: [From Reading List] An incredible look at music from many different angles — from the music itself, to the environment of the music, to the more business-related principles. The book is also beautifully designed, and because of that I’d recommend reading a physical copy if you get the chance.
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street: [From Reading List] If I had to recommend one book on investing, it would be this. Others would recommend The Intelligent Investor but I’d argue that Random Walk has the same principles distilled into it plus several updates and bonuses. If you know nothing about how investing works and would like to learn, this book will get you 90% of the way there.
  • Sun and Steel: [From Reading List] I don’t necessarily agree on all of what Mishima says here, but I do believe his approach to fitness as meditation and philosophy is excellent. It was a real eye opener to me, in finally motivating me to work out regularly and actually enjoy it rather than bemoan it.
  • The Four Hour Chef: [From Reading List] This is the third Tim Ferriss book I’ve read (after Workweek and Body) and it’s the first I’ve genuinely enjoyed. The bits on learning, cooking, and survival tactics are all interesting and keep up the book in a good pace. A lot of Tim’s writing is genuinely funny, and comes littered with anecdotes of knowledge.

Movies

  • Do the Right Thing: A fun, colorful, meaningful movie. I don’t think I really need to describe this film too hard, and I honestly think that an attempt to describe it will just end up messing with the experience. Go watch it!
  • Safe: There are a lot of “underground hits” in this year’s movie playlist, but it doesn’t quite get as underground as Todd Hayne’s Safe. Which is somewhat hard to believe, since the movie had a decently large budget. This movie is the perfect combination of abstract horror alongside well-written story and dialog. There is a lot I like about this movie, and highly recommend anyone to see it (that is, if you can find it streaming anywhere). 
  • Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters: A month or so after finishing Sun and Steel, I decided to check out Paul Schrader’s attempt at a documentary on his life. Besides being astonished by the dream team that put this together (produced by George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola? Music by Philip Glass??) I really love how Schrader attempted a more abstract method of telling this story, using elements from Mishima’s books to show how he put his personal story inside of his writing. Needless to say, I am Mishima-pilled at this point. Expect next year’s book favorites to be filled with Mishima!
  • House: I had been told that this movie was mostly just a goofy mess that was a decently entertaining watch, but what I got out of it was far different. Yes, it’s true, House is goofy. Very goofy, and very fun. But more than that, there’s a level of true art that permeates the whole thing — a near 1:1 replication of the childhood experience. Reading the background of this film, it appears it is all based around a series of dreams which the director’s daughter had. And this film certainly feels like a dream. It is equal parts terrifying and calming, triumphant and anxiety-inducing. It genuinely feels like a little girl’s dream developed into reality, which is not something I think I’ve ever seen happen. 
  • Pink Floyd’s The Wall: Last year, I listened to The Wall for the first time. I thought it was alright — a few good songs here and there in an overall confusing and muddled album. Then, I watched The Wall, and did a complete 180. It’s clear that The Wall the album was always made with the film in mind, and the visuals and narrative of the movie help illuminate the overall point of the art as a whole. The Wall will probably go down for awhile as one of my all-time favorite movies, and by virtue the album goes up quite a few pegs on its own. 

Music

  • Donda LP 2: You might claim that it’s cheating to put down one of the listening party variants of this album onto the best music list, mostly because this is a version that did not make the final cut of the album and therefore is not representative of the “true” way Donda was meant to be listened. To which I say… fair, but it’s also my list and I don’t care. The Listening Party 2 version of Donda contained some great production, lyrics, and instrumentals that either did not make the final album or was wholly butchered in the process (Looking at you, Junya). Not only that, but LP2 contains a track listing that actually makes sense. I didn’t think you could really argue that the listing of the tracks themselves made that much of a difference in the quality of an album, but Donda certainly proved me wrong in that regard.
  • Sometimes I Might Be Introvert: I put Gray Area on my favorites of 2019 list and then named a short story after it, so needless to say I was looking forward to what else Little Simz had to offer. This album features much of the same great production as Grey Area did, and while some might argue it’s pretty much more of the same, that’s exactly what I was looking for at this point. 
  • Violent Femmes: I had listened to the Violent Femmes before (most people have heard Blister In The Sun, and I also listened to Add It Up) but I was surprised by how high-quality the album was as a whole. 
  • Third Eye Blind: Okay, this is practically cheating. I’ve known TEB is one of my favorite albums for years, but I technically never finished listening to the entire album until this year. Just like how I said for Donda LP 2, it’s my favorites list. I make the rules, damn it!
  • Gimix: That’s right! Avalanches once again make their way into the favorite music list. At this point it’s a little shocking how Avalanches is the Favorites post every time despite only making an album once every five to ten years. Unfortunately I have now reached the end of the Avalanches backlog, and so we might not see them again for awhile. Expect the Heavenly equivalent of this once I finally get to the Talulah Gosh backlog. 

Games

  • The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild: It took me a while to finally beat this game, since I got it when it was released in 2017. But that was mostly due to me setting it down for a while. Once I finally got into the game, it took me probably a month or so to get through it. A really fun physics wonderland — it’s one of those games that I hope more people rip off, just because I want to see a genre develop for it.
  • Cyberpunk 2077: Okay, this one is weird. Even I admit this one is weird. But I think if any game deserves a spot on this list, it’s this one. Let me start off by telling a story: First of all, I have never really been a big fan of CD Projekt Red. I thought the Witcher games were alright, but nothing to write home about. So when Cyberpunk 2077 was first announced, I just wasn’t interested. I didn’t look at trailers, I didn’t follow the news, and I didn’t preorder. It was only once the game came out, and everyone was reporting on how bad it was, that I then decided to buy it. Why, in that moment, did I decide to spend $60 on morbid curiosity? Who really knows. If I recall correctly they were giving refunds pretty actively during that time, and so I might have figured that buying and trying it was a relatively riskless play. But it ended up being a good call, because I absolutely fell in love with it. Yes, the game is flawed — it’s a mostly buggy piece of shit, with graphics or audio breaking every 5 minutes or so. But it’s playable, and its gameplay is solid enough to enjoy. But the real sinker for me was the story: this was easily the most immersed I have felt in a game in years, perhaps ever since the release of New Vegas. I think it really says something about how easily I was able to feel part of this world and be engaged in its overall storyline despite all the problems the rest of the game had. Would I recommend it? Perhaps not. Is it one of my favorites of 2021? Absolutely. 
  • Mount and Blade Warband: An oldie but goldie. Technically there’s no way to beat Warband, but I decided to add it to my “beaten” list given the amount of hours I had put into the game. I think this is the closest thing I have played to just being crack distilled into a downloadable product. Prepare for your entire evening to be gone in a flash if you choose to play this game. 
  • Bloodborne: Speaking of taking a while to beat, I bought Bloodborne back in 2015 and only just earlier this year finished it off. Think that says a lot about how much I’ll have to prepare to beat the rest of the Souls series. Still, this one was easily my favorite of the bunch given just how fast and fluid the gameplay worked. 
  • Devil May Cry 3: This year, I had beaten the entire original DMC trilogy. 1 was kind of an annoying mess, and 2 was easy yet also a slump. 3, on the other hand, was where things really got going. Most of the gameplay flaws in DMC are fixed by the time 3 rolls around, and I also believe it has the most entertaining (and coherent) storyline of the original series. Looking forward to eventually playing 4 and 5!

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