In Slate’s annual Movie Club, film critic Dana Stevens emails with fellow critics—this year, Bilge Ebiri, Alison Willmore, and Odie Henderson—about the year in cinema. Below is Entry 10.
Dana, Alison, and Bilge,
It has been an honor and a privilege to participate in this year’s Slate Movie Club. So I would like you all to be pallbearers for the coffin housing my film critic career. Because if the last two posts haven’t already gotten me canceled, this one will definitely do the trick. Last time, I wrote a musical number to close out my time here. This year, there’s another number. And since this is my second time at Movie Club, it’s as big and overdone as a sequel demands!
In the meantime, thank you, Dana for bringing up Summer of Soul, my number one movie of 2021. I was amazed by how well this film was put together by Questlove and his crew. Obviously, Hal Tulchin’s the MVP here, shooting all that footage, but the way the film is constructed is just a miracle to behold. I had to see it in Harlem because my screener didn’t work and my review was due. I’m glad I had to trek up there. I walked out of the Magic Johnson theater and went directly to the park where that concert took place. I felt the presence of all those concertgoers who congregated there the year before I was born. It was a rare moment of peace for me this year. Questlove’s film also answered a long-standing question I had by revealing where YouTube got this Nina Simone performance.
Alison, your Swan Song (Udo Kier version) review made me verklempt! I haven’t seen the Mahershala Ali movie, but whoever thought to put out two movies with the exact same name in the same year needs prayer. I’m also glad you brought up Belfast, a movie whose needle drops I found incredibly obnoxious but whose love of film bought it a lot of goodwill. Why there’s so much hatred for it I’ll never understand. It’s sweet, nostalgic, and I think Branagh did a great job casting it. You mentioned Dorman and Balfe, but I want to throw my two cents in for Ciarán Hinds and Dame Judi Dench as the grandparents. As she did in Cats, Dench closes out this film. This time, however, she doesn’t sing an interminable song about addressing a cat. Her silence is the last shot is a small thing of beauty.
I, on the other hand, WILL close out with a song. And, to show I’m not a complete bastard, I’ve set this to the tune of my favorite song from West Side Story, “Gee, Officer Krupke.” I’m a huge fan of Sondheim, and this is the first of many “story songs” he’d write. This is an homage, not a takedown! For me, it’s 2021 in a nutshell.
Deeear kindly Bronco Henry
Ya gotta understand
That Westerns aren’t so trendy
And they’re not in demand.
It’s good that you’re on Netflix,
Golly Moses, that film was a slog!
Gee, Kodi Smit-McPhee
You really were great.
You played so many complex beats
While being sedate.
But I don’t buy Benny.
His role’s too one note.
He was a prick, that’s all she wrote.
All she wrote!
So one note! So one note!
He was so one note!
On the screen, does he even emote?
That’s a real contrarian story, Odie!
Let me tell it to the world!
Just tell it to the critics groups!
Deeear helmer Hamaguchi
Just let me say hooray!
You won NYFCC
Your Car made the top ten lists
But Wheel did it for me.
Leapin’ Lizards, you made crix agree!
In awe, Hamaguchi
Is where we will be
If you manage to win over the NSFC
Is so very rare.
All I can say is “beep beep yeah!”
And “here, here!”
Beep beep yeah, beep beep yeah
Beep beep, beep beep yeah!
Like the Beatles I say beep beep yeah!
That Odie is depraved! Send him to where the depraved people go: the multiplex!
Sooome people go to Regal.
Some go to AMC.
Though it’s kinda illegal,
Some torrent the movie.
Box office was abysmal
Til Spider-Man swung by
Goodness, gracious! That made critics cry:
“Gee, folks at the movies!
Have you any class?
You need to see West Side Story
Or we’ll kick your ass!
Can’t blame ticket prices
Or the pandemic.
Your taste in movies is just sick!
Very sick! It is sick, it is sick,
You all make us sick!
Hope they don’t properly mask your flick!”
Very funny! Anything else you wanna say before we kick you outta this joint?
Deeear cinema of this year
The good, bad and ugly
I’m glad that you were all here
To at least distract me.
It’s not I’m antisocial
But this year was a jerk!
Gloryosky, movies were a perk!
Gee, Slate Movie Club, see
You’ve done it again!
This boy has done his job
And his time’s come to an end.
To my esteemed colleagues:
Hug you if I could.
All jokes aside you’re all damn good!
So damn good!
You’re so good, you’re so good!
You’re so fuckin’ good!
Now I’m gonna go back to my ‘hood!
Out, out, brief candle,