My 2021 at the Movies, Part 2 of 2: The Year’s Best

Scarlett Johansson IS Black Widow!

Yeah, I know, superhero films with only one timeline in them are so 2018.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: In 2021 I made 22 trips to the theater to see films made that same year. In Part 1 we ranked the majority from “this film is pretty keen” to “this film is my mortal enemy” but in reverse. And now, the countdown concludes with the ten most relatively awesome films I saw at a theater in 2021 that were released for general audiences in 2021. Exactly those dates. Exactly those dates.

EXACTLY those dates.

Onward!

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My 2021 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: The Year’s Least Best

Spider-Man: No Way Home!

“Our billion-dollar movie made six whole people grumpy! Let’s ask Doctor Strange to overwrite their brains!”

It’s listing time again! In today’s entertainment consumption sphere, all experiences must be pitted against each other and assigned numeric values that are ultimately arbitrary to anyone except the writer themselves. It’s just this fun thing some of us love doing even though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Spider-Man: No Way Home” End Credits

Spider-Man No Way Home!

It wouldn’t be a true Spidey film if Peter didn’t unmask for the final battle.

Here’s the Too Long, Won’t Read version: despite some wonderful interplay among the main cast and the special guests at the heart of the film (and one beautifully meta performance in particular), Spider-Man: No Way Home is my least favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe film since Thor: The Dark World. I’m in the minority on this, but no other 2021 film has aggravated me as much as this box-office leviathan did.

Hope that helps? You’re now free to go. Thanks for stopping by. I do understand. I just need to get the following 5000 words out of my system. Imagine it’s Martin Scorsese’s rapid voice so it’ll move faster.

Still here? Cool, but fair warning: it’s been a long time since I front-loaded a movie entry with a courtesy spoiler alert. There’s no way I can adequately express my reactions without moving beyond the trailer-approved plot points and into its numerous surprises, some of which were foretold on various geek clickbait sites and some of which I predicted from the trailers. Really, the courtesy spoiler alert is for real, anything goes. You might find plenty of reasons for irritation with me, but by venturing beyond the courtesy spoiler alert guard post you hereby forfeit the right to count “AAAHH! SPOILERS!” among them.

Once again, for those just joining us: courtesy spoiler alert. Thank you.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Eternals” End Credits

Celestial Arishem!

“Kneel before your new god, the great and powerful d6!”

Hi, I’m a longtime comics reader who always thought the Eternals sucked.

Among the tenets of staunch dogma handed down by elder comic book fans is: Jack “King” Kirby was a saint and every page he breathed upon was perfection incarnate. To find fault in anything Kirby ever did is to sound like an edgelord poser and betray Comics. Kirby indisputably drew legendary comics and was one of the most significant co-inventors of one of our greatest American corporate mythologies, but his heyday largely ended a few years before my time. His pages could be wondrous panoplies of dynamic, majestic, blockbuster imagery, all the more mind-blowing if you can see the original, full-size art in person.

Then there were the other components, from the peculiar scripting in his post-1970 Stan-Lee-less bombastic productions to his predilection for pun-filled character names that could sound like their own MAD Magazine parodies. Multiple short samples of his mid-’70s Eternals, arguably a rehash of his DC “Fourth World” work with new nametags, left me cold. Later revivals by the likes of Walt Simonson and Neil Gaiman — yes, that Neil Gaiman — likewise did nothing for me. I didn’t even finish reading Gaiman’s version. I tried. Alas, I’m not proud to be a longtime heretic barred from the Eternal Orthodox Church of King Kirby the Konsummate Kreator.

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Yes, There Are Scenes After the “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” End Credits

Shang-Chi!

If Shang-Chi throws less than 50 punches an hour, the bus will explode.

Midlife Crisis Crossover has dozens of unwritten rules and three or four written ones. Among the latter that longtime readers might recall: every film I see in theaters gets its own entry. Some entries get procrastinated longer than others, but sooner or later their turn will come, no matter how much I curse myself for establishing that stupid rule.

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Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” End Credits

Venom Let There Be Carnage!

Rated PG-13 for high body count, one shrewdly placed F-bomb, and splattering more food than blood.

A lot of Tom Hardy fans were looking forward to the new film where he plays a thickly accented schlub possessed of too much power who can’t deal with its consequences and, after leaving too much death in his wake, hits some major obstacles and faces the possibility of living out the rest of his life in powerless mediocrity. That was 2020, and we all agreed never to speak of Capone again. One year later Venom: Let There Be Carnage reminds us why Hardy rules, sometimes despite his surroundings.

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Dragon Con 2021 Photos #4: More Cosplay Parade

Cult of Marriott Carpet cosplay!

The Cult of Marriott Carpet is one of those extremely specific Dragon Con in-jokes. See, there’s a Marriott with this distinctive carpet that looks like Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrian made a map of Boston together…

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In 2019 my wife Anne and I attended our very first Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. We returned home to Indianapolis with a plethora of new memories, hundreds and hundreds of photos, and a shared suspicion that we’d return someday. Not every year, but someday. In the year of our grand pandemic 2020 we attended exactly zero conventions for easily guessed reasons. In 2021 several cons made their comeback plans, but Dragon Con stepped up hardest and made us some offers we couldn’t refuse. We didn’t have to think long or hard before accepting the special rules under which this pandemic-era show would be held…

As promised, another gallery from the annual Saturday morning cosplay parade through downtown Atlanta. Marvel unintentionally dominates this section, but they don’t quite have this one all to themselves. For past comic-cons I used to sort the costumes by company, by genre, or by whatever pop-culture divisions came to mind. That procedure takes extra time and has been suspended for the time being so I can save time and get these done for You, The Viewers At Home. Corrections and revisions welcome as always. Enjoy! Again!

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Dragon Con 2021 Photos #2: A Cosplay Sampler

2020 cleaning supplies cosplay!

A round of applause for those 2020 MVPs, the Hygiene Theater all-stars! Flanked on each side by a pair of…uh, RocketDoge?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In 2019 my wife Anne and I attended our very first Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. We returned home to Indianapolis with a plethora of new memories, hundreds and hundreds of photos, and a shared suspicion that we’d return someday. Not every year, but someday. In the year of our grand pandemic 2020 we attended exactly zero conventions for easily guessed reasons. In 2021 several cons made their comeback plans, but Dragon Con stepped up hardest and made us some offers we couldn’t refuse. We didn’t have to think long or hard before accepting the special rules under which this pandemic-era show would be held…

To our surprise and delight, thousands of cosplayers showed up in full effect to showcase their sartorial talents and represent for their fandoms, despite the mandatory masking protocols. Some used plain masks to make them easier to overlook; others chose accessories with matching elements or incorporated them into their costumes. The rules were very specific that attendees couldn’t simply throw on a Ben Cooper plastic mask or a Latex Halloween head and consider themselves compliant. The masks felt and looked odd in a convention setting for about six minutes until we all remembered we’ve been staring at masks, masks, and more masks for over a year now. In a world where everyone’s doing mask cosplay, they were just more visual blips that blended in to our kaleidoscopic surroundings.

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My 2021 Reading Stacks #3: Stan Lee, Presented

Abraham Riesman's "True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee".

The man. The myth. The marketeer. The misery.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Welcome once again to our recurring MCC feature in which I scribble capsule reviews of everything I’ve read lately that was published in a physical format over a certain page count with a squarebound spine on it — novels, original graphic novels, trade paperbacks, infrequent nonfiction dalliances, and so on. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text, though I do try to diversify my literary diet as time and acquisitions permit.

Occasionally I’ll sneak in a contemporary review if I’ve gone out of my way to buy and read something brand new. Every so often I’ll borrow from my wife or from our local library. But the majority of our spotlighted works are presented years after the rest of the world already finished and moved on from them because I’m drawing from my vast unread pile that presently occupies four oversize shelves comprising thirty-three years of uncontrolled book shopping. I’ve occasionally pruned the pile, but as you can imagine, cut out one unread book and three more take its place.

I’ve previously written why I don’t do eBooks. Perhaps someday I’ll also explain why these capsules are exclusive to MCC and not shared on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites where their authors might prefer I’d share them. In the meantime, here’s me and my recent reading results…

I set this feature aside for a while because I knew which book would be next in line and dreaded how much headspace it would require. With its paperback edition coming soon, now seems a good time to exorcise it.

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Yes, There’s a Scene After the “Black Widow” End Credits

Marvel's Black Widows!

Never, ever mess with war Widows.

Nearly a decade in the making and fourteen months in the releasing, the next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is here at long last, two years after Spider-Man: Far From Home capped off Phase III in theaters. Fans had to content themselves with Marvel’s new above-average TV fare on Disney+ (or, I guess, some comics) until the world was ready for Black Widow…or at least a lot of the world. Calling them “most of the world” might be an overstatement considering the pandemic has not yet been called off in numerous countries and states. Alternatively, Disney+ subscribers who can’t wait for the home video release in October can cough up thirty bucks and slightly expand that virtual library of above-average TV fare.

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