Film and TV of the year | 2021

In no particular order

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) 

Directed by Questlove from a Tribe Called Quest this is a documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated Black history, culture, music, and fashion over 6 weeks- sometimes called the “Black Woodstock”. It is the greatest concert movie I have ever seen, and more than that a celebration of black music culture in one of the greatest eras for soul, jazz and funk. The footage has been left unseen for over 50 years, and it’s restoration and release are a labour of love. Fierce and feel good all at the same time.

Ghostbusters Afterlife

A great coming of age movie in it’s own right, and a brilliant sentimental return the original 80s Ghostbusters. All round a great film. Honestly, suspend belief and just go watch it.

The Green Knight

The cinematic equivalent of a handful of magic mushrooms and an Incredible String Band LP, but in a good way. The amazing Dev Patel is Sir Gawain in an Arthurian tale set in a damp and gloomy mystic Albion haunted by ghosts and gods.

Velvet Underground

Todd Haynes tribute to one of the greatest bands of all time. Amazing footage and interviews, and some fantastic ground breaking music. I was however left baffled how Jonathan Richman watched move Velvet Underground gigs than any other fan, and went on to write Roller Coaster By The Sea


Long regarded as unfilmable this is a brilliant attempt at bringing Frank Herbert’s Sci-Fi classic to the big scream. Arty and beautiful, it draws on Jodorowsky’s never released 1970s version as much as the book. It is hard not to see it as an allegory of the West’s exploitative relationship towards the Arab world from Sykes-Picot onwards.

The only criticism is that the long dreamy desert sequences, beautifully shot and soundtracked ,are a bit too soporific, and in the dark of the cinema it was easy to snooze.

Promising Young Woman

Carey Mulligan is out for revenge for her friends death. Part psychological thriller, part black comedy, it doesn’t follow the rules of either genre which makes it unique, and confounds expectations. Maybe the genre breaking does at times make it uneven, but don’t let that put you off.


I loved this, but it split audiences. Jordan Peele made one of my favourite movies of the last decade (Get Out), and one of my favourite TV shows (Lovecraft Country). This is his reboot of Candyman, mixing together classic horror with modern themes from the Black Lives Matter movement, and Lovecraftian dread. Brilliant.


Steve Coogan stars as real life DS Clive Driscoll, the veteran murder squad detective who finally brought Stephen Lawrence’s killers to justice. Brilliantly tells the story of the Laurence families fight for justice, and the endless bureaucratic obstruction from the Metropolitan Police.


Another unfilmable sci-fi classic, this time on the small screen. Marxist historical determinism meets big data as Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) creates a revolutionary vanguard on the fringes of a corrupt and collapsing Empire. Just don’t call me Brother Dusk.

Four Hours at the Capitol

A BBC/HBO production following the attempts by Trump supporters to prevent the confirmation of Joe Biden as President by attacking the Capitol building. Equally good dealing with the attackers and the defenders. Brilliant.

Squid Games

Netflix massive Korean hit show, a mix of Hunger Games and Battle Royale, with a dwindling group of desperate contestants fighting to the death. Brilliant and brutal satire on the logic of debt driven capitalism.

New Labour Revolution

Yet another brilliant BBC documentary, this traces the rise and fall of the New Labour political project. Amazing interviews with all the main participants, centered on lengthy interviews with Blair and Brown.

Inside Number 9

I’ve lost count of how many seasons I’ve watched, but this years was among the best, with Simon Says the standout, a dark tale of a sci-fi show runner confronted by his own obsessive fans. I expect the makers of Squid Games and Foundation will have similar problems

9/11: Inside the President’s War Room

The last BBC documentary on the list, this follows George Bush as he lived through the events of 9/11, taking angry decisions with little information and no wi-fi. Extended interviews with all the major participants, including Bush himself, who comes across as a decent chap hopelessly out of his depth.

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