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Lamounier's Best of 2021: The 2021-Free Edition (Almost)

This year we were all kind of stuck in a limbo – yay, things will go back to normal, oh wait, no they won't – and most of what I watched or read was not from 2021. That wasn't deliberate, though, it just happened, and in many ways it was a return to simpler times.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

I read and watched a lot of "children's stories" this year. One animated TV series that I started watching recently and have fallen in love with is Avatar: The Last Airbender. I cannot say enough good things about it, it has it all: great heroes for you to root for – Katara is my favorite – good character development, great mythology, solid pacing. Every episode is standalone-ish in nature*, but contributes to the overall story and/or the worldbuilding. I can see why it's getting a live-action adaptation. It has all the right ingredients.

*I'm midway through season one, so please don't spoil me in the comments. :)

The Mitchells vs the Machines

Another animated story I fell in love with was The Mitchells vs the Machines. It could be your typical coming-of-age story where the teenage protagonist can't see eye-to-eye with their father about anything anymore, but it's so much more than that.

The script is great and was obviously written with care – there are these little details or seemingly one-off jokes that pay off later. The comedy is on point, I laughed out loud several times. The robots going crazy is pretty straight-forward, but there is enough inventiveness to keep the story interesting. And it's all presented in such quality animation. I also loved that the main character is LGBT and that is not part of the central conflict, instead it's hinted very matter-of-factly as the movie goes. Great stuff all around.


Going back to Pollyanna was very nostalgic. No, I had never read the novel before, but I watched the 1960 film so many times as a kid that I could still tell while reading the novel what was different in the movie. I honestly thought I was going to hate the book when I started reading it because Pollyanna's perpetual glee had the potential to get old and irritating pretty fast, but I thought her misplaced naivete to be both charming and accidentally hilarious. She cracked me up several times. Several. If I have one quibble with the book is that it ends too abruptly, solving in two pages a subplot that required a few more chapters to be properly concluded. But overall, I loved the novel to pieces.

I also had a very good experience reading it. I had just started working at a new place, and there is this wonderful bookstore near the office. Every other day I would go there and read a few chapters of the novel after work. Coincidentally, I was going to finish it off on this year's Black Friday, but when I arrived at the bookstore the copy I read – a joint edition of Pollyanna and Pollyanna Grows Up – was gone and all the other copies were plastified. I had no plans of buying the book, what could I do? Pretending to be as innocent as the titular character, I went to a salesperson and asked her "do you know where I can find Pollyanna?" hoping that she would take me to my beloved missing copy. She said, "that's me." No, I'm kidding, she didn't, but she did take me to copies of a solo edition of the first novel, and several of those were not plastified. Win!

I plan on reading Pollyanna Grows Up next year.

The Matrix Trilogy

Moving over to the "grown up stuff," I had never watched the sequels to The Matrix, I'm not sure why. But this year, when the buzz around the new sequel grew stronger, I decided to watch all of the original trilogy.

The Matrix is, of course, terrific. Science fiction done right from start to finish. I'd forgotten how great it is. The visuals, the philosophy, the plot, the pacing. Ugh, the pacing. I love a movie with perfect pacing. Reloaded and Revolutions are not on the same level, but I liked them well enough and preferred the third installment over the second. It was an epic, triumphant ending to the saga.

I did watch Resurrections, but since that is my "Best of" list, that movie did not make the cut.

The Queen's Gambit

So, a bit of a personal story here. Earlier this year, my mom traveled to stay a while with my sister and I. On Sundays, my sister's boyfriend would come over and we started watching The Queen's Gambit. None of us are binge-watchers, so it was either one or two episodes each Sunday. That was until my mom, my sister and I all got COVID-19, mom's condition quickly worsened, and she was hospitalized and intubated. I know this may sound silly, but I had this thought that if she didn't recover I wouldn't be able to finish watching The Queen's Gambit, it wouldn't feel right.

One Sunday, after my sister and I were already cleared from quarantine, her boyfriend was at our place and said "Hey, we should watch The Queen's Gambit," and I replied "Not without mom," to which my sister agreed. Mom's condition was still serious, but her lungs were getting better, so when I said "Not without mom" I actually believed that I could get my mom back and we should wait for her to continue watching the show.

Long story short, we did finish watching The Queen's Gambit with mom. :) It was probably the biggest break I ever took in the middle of a season, but it was just a break and I'm forever thankful for that. This pandemic has taken so many lives, I know not everyone was as lucky as my family and I were. I also want to take the opportunity and thank Billie for being such a great, supportive friend when I shared with her what was going on back then. Thank you, B.

As for the show itself, I loved it, of course. Miniseries are just the right kind of commitment when you want longer and juicy character development that movies can't give you, but at the same time you don't want to commit for several seasons. And Beth is a terrific protagonist, the flawed hero you really want to see rise above her demons and get some peace. I loved her.

Other Stuff

- I started reading A Series of Unfortunate Events, and it will probably take me a while to finish it because there is a similarity to the stories in each book that doesn't propel me to read more of them. I really like the narration style, though, it's so good, and my friend who is lending me the books said that the saga picks up speed midway through.

- Grace and Frankie is a show that I quit watching somewhere during its third season, but decided to go back to. Though I cannot stand Frankie's antics most of the time, everything else in the series is great. I particularly love the ongoing theme of reinventing yourself and finding new things to do in life. There is always something new. And Brianna is probably the best sitcom character ever created.

- Alias Grace is another minisseries that I watched and enjoyed a lot. I'm a bit curious to read the novel (not a priority, but might do at some point) and see how it executes the big twist near the end.

- I don't usually read self-help books, mostly because they tend to repeat the same thing over and over in 147 different ways and drive me nuts, but I really loved a book a dear friend gave to me. It's called Love for Imperfect Things, by Haemin Sunim. He does repeat things 147 times, maybe 148, but in such a charming way that I actually wanted him to keep repeating. It's a book about understanding you do not need to have achieved the greatest things ever for your existence to be worth it. You are worthy just because. I deeply recommend it.

- Last but not least, the best work of art I came across this year was Two Shots In The Arm, and Booster was a terrific sequel. Do yourself and the world a favor, and go get vaccinated.

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2022 be gentler than 2020 and 2021 were.


  1. Lamounier, you're so very welcome. I'm so glad your mom recovered. And thank you for being such a good friend, too.

  2. Long story short, we did finish watching The Queen's Gambit with mom. :)

    I got a little weepy reading that.

    A Series of Unfortunate Events gets less repetitive after the third or fourth book! It's like watching a TV show find its serialized footing.

  3. I haven't seen Alias Grace, but I did read the book some years ago. It's not one of my favorite Atwood novels.

  4. Lamounier, you must keep us apprised of your ATLA progress. I'd love to know your opinions! I've never read Pollyanna but I was a positive devotee of the film when I was a child.

  5. Lamounier -- what an absolutely lovely piece. I am so glad to hear that your mom recovered from this simply awful disease. Like Josie, I got a bit weepy when I read that she had recovered.

    And, your choice for the best works of art this year are spot on.

  6. Lamounier, the moments we grab with loved ones to enjoy things make those things all the sweeter, don't they? Thanks for sharing.

    I also discovered Avatar last year. I'm smiling thinking of the journey you have ahead!

  7. Josie, I read the first three books of A Series of Unfortunate Events. So maybe I stopped right before it got less repetitive? I do plan to read book four at some point, though.

    sunbunny, I will definitely let you know what I think of Avatar.

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments. :)

  8. I think book four is when it gets interesting. I started with that one, or possibly five, and was disappointed when I went back to read the first books in the series.


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