It’s April 1st. which (probably) means its far too late to publish my ‘Top 10 Movies of 2021’. So, I present you with this: The Best and Worst of Everything I watched in March.
(Although I might need to caveat my click-baity title: unlike other critics, I don’t tend to watch something If I think I’m going to hate it. So when I say “Best to Worst”, I really mean more like “From Excellent to a Little Bit Disappointing”.)
So here’s everything I saw in March, ranked best to worst:
- Bridgerton Season 2 was everything I’d hoped for and more. Having found Daphne’s (Phoebe Dynevor) wide-eyed naïveté pretty frustrating in Season 1, I was delighted that her plotline has been shafted in favour of the slow-burn enemies-to-lovers of Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley). Although (as everyone has noted) there’s less sex than season 1, Bailey and Ashley bring sizzling chemistry to every moment they share together, making this my favourite season by far. I personally love that the show forgoes historical accuracy for drama and aesthetics. You can never have enough ball scenes with gorgeous colourful gowns and horny, longing looks shared across a dancefloor that’s inexplicably playing pop music. Give me more!
- Luxe Listings Sydney was an unexpectedly addictive gem about the absurd ultra-rich world of Sydney Real Estate. The show tries too hard to get you to care about the personal lives of the real estate agents, but if you skip over those bits, the tours and auctions of multi-million dollar mansions in Sydney’s East are jaw-dropping. Season 2 drops today and I CAN NOT WAIT to get back into it.
- Written, directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais, After Life is a thoughtful and authentic look at a man struggling to mourn the death of his wife. Occasionally the show relies too heavily on self-indulgent monologues about grief to wrap up each episode, but mostly, Gervais’ signature dry wit and charm saves After Life from being unbearably depressing.
- Only Murders In The Building was a cute little murder mystery with a witty take on the true crime podcasting industry and I look forward to Season 2. Martin Short and Steve Martin are a great comedic duo and Selena Gomez wasn’t as annoying as I expected.
- I (finally) finished Vikings this month after six seasons and more than 89 episodes. I have to say, this was a bit of a slog. This hugely ambitious serious chronicles multiple generations and about 40 years of legendary Norse hero, Ragnar Lothbrok. The show features some brilliant battle scenes, and great performances by Alex Høgh Andersen, Travis Fimmel, Katheryn Winnick, Alexander Ludwig andLinus Roache. However the terribly written female characters (with the exception of Lagertha) basically all exist to serve as romantic interests to the men of the Lothbrok family, and are discarded when they are no longer useful. My final take on this show is that I would have enjoyed it more had I watched it yearly from 2013 as it originally aired. But by bingeing it all at once really emphasises the unevenness of the quality as the show cycles through many generations and storylines— when Vikings is great, it’s great. But so much of it just average, that it’s a painful binge.
- The much-anticipated Shonda Rhimes series about Anna Delvey, Inventing Anna, was a serious letdown. Rather than centring the hilarious and fascinating real-life scammer Anna Delvey (Julia Garner), the show forces us to learn about the Anna through the eyes of journalist Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky), inadvertently making the uninteresting journalist the main character, a change that literally no one wanted. My recommendation? Read the excellent feature “Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track of It” by Jessica Pressler (the journalist Vivian is based on) which broke the real Anna Delvey news back in 2018.
- The Before Trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight)— an ambitious love story told over three films and 18 years—has been on my cinematic to-do list for a while now and I’m glad I finally got to it. I love the “real time” style of Richard Linklater’s writing and how the camera stays with the characters through long sprawling conversations as they walk around the streets of Europe falling in and out of love. I loved the first one— Before Sunrise— the most, and each subsequent one a little bit less, but maybe because I’m still young and idealistic and romantic like the protagonists in Before Sunrise. I’ll update you all in 18 years to see if my favourite changes.
- The Rescue on Disney+ is a gripping and fascinating documentary about how cave divers pulled off the extremely complex and dangerous rescue of the Thai soccer team from a flooded underground cave in 2018.
- The Duke, in cinemas now, is an extremely wholesome and charming film about a working-class taxi driver (Jim Broadbent) who steals a famous Goya painting
- Because of last year’s covid lockdowns, Sydney missed getting an In The Heights cinema release, and were forced to consume the plot through viral tiktok audios, so I was excited that it finally dropped on Foxtel and Netflix. Unfortunately Anthony Ramos’ leading man charm has dropped off for me a bit since he was caught public cheating on his long-term fiancee and Hamilton co-star Jasmine Cephas Jones. I wasn’t a huge fan of the rest of the casting either, but I still enjoyed the dance sequences (especially “96,000”) and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s songwriting.
- Encanto itself? Ok, wholesome, had a few good songs. The Oscar’s Performance of Encanto’s “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” featuring Megan Thee Stallion? Perfect, flawless, no notes!
- The Batman was too long, I’m sorry it’s the truth. The cinematography and production design were moody and stunning, but I just struggled with the film’s obnoxious length. Also I signed up for this movie based on the promise of steamy chemistry between Robert Pattinson’s Batman and Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman and after all that, we didn’t even get a sex scene? Disappointing. In all seriousness though, I don’t think any Batman film is going to top Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, so why even try? Pick another character!!!
- Spencer: A painful two-hour close-up of Kristen Stewart (Diana Spencer) having a mental breakdown over a family christmas with the Royal Family. Not for me! (Although considering my lukewarm reaction to Pablo Larraín’s last film about a tragic historical woman— Jackie— I probably should have known I wouldn’t like this). Great poster, though!
Although I only made it to three shows this months, I picked wisely and am quite pleased with my choices. Here’s what theatre I saw in March (all recommended!)
- I finally got to White Pearl this month,a show I’ve been meaning to see since I missed its 2019 Australian premiere at the National Theatre of Parramatta. When a racist ad for an Asian skin-whitening cream leaks and goes viral, the all-female staff at Singapore’s Clearday cosmetics must scramble to save themselves from the social media storm. Written by Thai-Australian playwright Anchuli Felicia King, White Pearl is a ruthless and incisive satire about social media, “cancel culture” and how the internet has made discussions of race and racism more common, and less nuanced.
- The newly choreographed remount of A Chorus Line at the Opera House was great fun with predictably incredible dance sequences. I was a little disappointed by Drama Theatre’s small stage compared to the 2012 Capitol Theatre run. Although I appreciated the more intimate space, it didn’t give the dancers as much room as I would have liked to showcase their considerable talents.
- Orange Thrower at Griffin functions well as a sweet coming of age romance between two Black teenagers, and less well as an awkward supernatural tale of generational family trauma. Still, I appreciate that Griffin is making space for these stories, written and directed by African-Australian women. Also, Orange Thrower had probably my favourite use of lighting design in years, with Verity Hampson using bold, saturated colours to evoke the whimsical feel of an Australian summer, and all the strong teenage emotions that come with it.
And that’s everything I saw in March! Check back in next month for my April wrap-up, and let me know if there’s anything I need to put on my watchlist for this month.