Top Movies/Shows of 2021

Here are my top picks for movies and TV shows that PB and I watched this year. It’s getting harder to find television that is praise-worthy. Maybe you noticed. I went over my list and checked it twice to stretch this favorites list to ten. I didn’t include two carryovers from last year’s list (“The Great British Baking Show” and “The Chosen – Season 2”) even though they received a star in the margin of my journal.

1. Miss Potter (Amazon Prime) — This is the story of Beatrix Potter, the author of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”. It takes place in Victorian England and is charming from start to finish. A little romance, a little comedy, and a look at the creative process of an absolutely delightful writer/artist. (PG)

2. The Repair Shop (Netflix) — This is a British television reality series that follows expert craftspeople who restore family heirlooms. They all work together in a barn in the English countryside. It is all very proper, but not in a stuffy way. These people are genuinely nice and polite to each other. It’s a wonderful escape from a world that has not been so nice and polite lately.

3. Get Low (Amazon Prime) — Robert Duvall plays a crusty old hermit in the mountains of Tennessee who throws his own funeral, where he uncovers a long-held secret. (PG-13)

4. A Week Away (Netflix) — If you’ve ever been to church camp in the summer, you will totally get this. A bad boy gets sent to camp and meets a good girl. Completely predictable and cheesy, but it’s like they know it’s cheesy, so it’s okay. Super fun music and dancing (it’s a musical!) with cameo appearances by Amy Grant (camp nurse) and Steven Curtis Chapman (lifeguard).

5. The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) — This series is definitely a departure from my usual wholesome picks. It is rated Mature for many reasons, so beware (language, suggestive scenes, addiction and abusive behavior). It is the story of an orphan who is a chess prodigy. She grows up to compete at the highest level, but self-destructs. It’s pretty dark, but gave me compassion for people struggling with addiction.

6. Fatherhood (Netflix) — The previews to this movie led me to believe it was a comedy. I cried through the whole thing. Kevin Hart plays a widowed dad who has to raise his baby girl alone. There are some lighter moments, but grab a box of tissue. (PG-13)

7. Marvel Movies (Disney+) — I’m lumping several Marvel movies into one category. They are pure entertainment. We watched “Guardians of the Galaxy” (volumes 1 and 2), “Ant Man”, “Ant Man and Wasp” and “Dr. Strange”. (PG-13)

8. All Creatures Great and Small (PBS) — This Masterpiece Theater production is set in the 1930’s in England. It’s based on a series of books by James Herriot, a veterinarian in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. The characters and the filming all make for a really enjoyable experience. Season 2 is coming soon!

9. Awakenings (Netflix) Robin Williams stars in this remarkable story about a doctor who discovers an experimental drug that effectively brings catatonic patients out of their unresponsive state. Based on a true story, Robert DeNiro awakens after 30 years of sleeping-sickness. (PG-13)

10. Sports — I can’t overlook the fact that PB and I watched a lot of sports this year. Between the Brewers playoffs, the Bucks championship and the Packers run to the Superbowl, we logged in lots of hours. Plus, I can read a book while there’s a game on, so everybody’s happy. Full disclosure — I’m the only one who stays up when games go long. But I yell loud enough to wake up PB when there’s an exciting finish.

That’s it! Happy viewing in 2022.
Or read books, knit sweaters and bake bread instead.

Favorite Movies/Shows of 2020

When “Stay At Home” orders were issued in March, PB and I started taking a walk every evening. Then we would sit down and watch “The Andy Griffith Show”. Every evening. It was a routine that provided some comfort, a bit of stress relief and a little escape from the headline news.

We watched more TV than usual this year, something I ordinarily consider to be a colossal waste of time. But I discovered that it’s not all twaddle (trivial, silly or tedious). In fact, I welcomed the entertaining diversion and even learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite films and shows from 2020.

  • Little Women — I love every version ever made of this classic. PB and I saw this movie in a theater in January. Haven’t been inside a theater since.
  • The Great British Baking Show series (Netflix) — seasons 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. Yep, we got hooked. I even bought a thermapen and a digital scale.
  • Somebody Feed Phil series (Netflix) — One of the happiest people on earth, traveling all over the world, eating amazing food. A perfect trifecta.
  • The Chosen series (free app) — The best Jesus film I’ve ever seen. Finally, a Jesus with personality. I have so much appreciation and respect for the director and his approach to this project. Beautifully done.
  • Chef’s Table – BBQ (Netflix) — Especially episode 1: Tootsie Tomanetz, an 85 year old pit master.
  • Lars and the Real Girl — A sweet movie about the power of community to help a young man work through mental health issues. Don’t let the blow-up doll throw you. We borrowed it from the library, but I bought a copy so I could make all my family and friends watch it.
  • Hamilton (Disney+) — PB and I saw the show in Chicago, but watching it in our living room, with subtitles on, was such fun. Then we watched it without subtitles. Twice.
  • Pioneer Quest series (Amazon Prime) — Two couples spend a year out on a Canadian prairie, living like it’s 1870. Filmed in 2000, it’s reality TV before it was a thing. I would have lasted a week. Maybe. Pioneers were tough folks. Alone series (Netflix) was a modern day version of survival in the Canadian tundra, but had a competitive twist. I would have lasted a day. Maybe.
  • The Crown series (Netflix) — Can’t stop watching those British royal historical dramas. Also Victoria (Masterpiece Theater – PBS)
  • The Mandalorian series (Disney+) — I never was a serious Star Wars fan, but it was fun watching this series with our son and daughter-in-law every Friday night this fall. Mando is so cool.
  • Enola Holmes (Netflix) — A smart, quirky mystery featuring Sherlock Holmes’ sister, Enola. Pure fun.
  • A Most Beautiful Thing (Amazon Prime) — A documentary about four young men from rival gangs from Chicago’s west side who became a rowing team.
  • The Movies That Made Us (Netflix) — The behind-the-scenes stories of how movies got made. We just watched the “Home Alone” episode. Then we caught the “Elf” episode on The Holiday Movies That Made Us. The insider information produced in an engaging style was interesting and entertaining.
  • Just Mercy — PB and I saw this in a theater in January, too. We didn’t know then how poignant this film would become in the coming year. As I write this, I am reminded of a quote from my #1 book of the year, “Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers”.

“But God, being rich in mercy…” (Ephesians 2:4) Nowhere else in the Bible is God described as rich in anything. The only thing he is called rich in is: mercy. In his justice, God is exacting; in his mercy, God is overflowing.

Dane Ortlund

May the same be said of His people in the coming year.

That’s just a sampling! We watched about 50 movies/television series this year. I’m not necessarily proud of that, but I also feel no shame! After all, it was 2020. Got any film recommendations to get me through the winter?