Elliott’s top five favorites of 2021


Asset credit: Nicholas Podany

This story was originally published in the second edition of The Lion’s Tale (December 13th, 2021).

Over the years on The Lion’s Tale, many writers have come and gone to share with readers the latest and greatest in entertainment. This spread has hosted a wide array of media and how they shape our culture or ignite excitement in our lives. For the past year and a half, I’ve had the honor of being the 2020-2022 Entertainment Editor for this publication. And to celebrate the end of the year, I want to take this time to sit one-on-one with you, the reader, and share my top five favorite works of entertainment from 2021.

I won’t keep you waiting any longer. If any of these peak your interest, I highly recommend you check them out, and thank you for reading.

1. LUCIDS by Nicholas Podany ——— Dec 04 – Mar 19

After two boys wake up from a shared dream, Benjamin and Oliver learn that their entire lives were a fantasy and now they’re back in the 2nd Grade. Under the apprenticeship of their math  teacher Mrs. Hills, the boys are trained to become “Lucids”, people who can jump through dreamscapes and explore the multiverse. Benjamin wishes to go back to sleep and return to his adult life while Oliver struggles with the reality of waking up,
and when both are tasked to find and return a long-lost memory of Mrs. Hill’s, both are forced to face the true horrors of their cross-dimensional existence.

Created, written, scored and edited all by Broadway actor and musician Nicholas Podany, this YouTube series is a mind boggling, quick-witted and fast-paced six episode ride right out of my own dreams. I absolutely love the writing and visuals in this show, the Inception meets The Matrix meets Doctor Strange style plot, and the damn music, such exhilarating and heart- breaking tracks. Everything you need is right on his YouTube channel so I urge you to really sit down and watch the whole thing, it’s a series I couldn’t stop thinking about all year.

2. Paper Mario: The Origami King ——- Apr 13 – Apr 19

When Princess Peach and the Mushroom Kingdom are overtaken by the tyrannical King Olly, Mario must team up with Olly’s younger sister Olivia and a series of foes – including Bowser and Bowser Jr. themselves – to fight against the King’s tightly folded enemy forces. Traveling across the paper landscape, Mario and Olivia venture out to the far corners of their world to free the Mushroom Kingdom from a series of imprisoning ribbons and the clutches of the Origami King.

I grew up on 2007’s Super Paper Mario and watched several YouTubers play my personal favorite 2004’s Paper Mario: The  Thousand-Year Door, so this series is one I harbor deep love for, and The Origami King captured my heart. Although it came out in 2020, I didn’t get to play it till now and I wish I had bought it earlier. From the crafty story to the gorgeously colorful settings to the simple but distinct gameplay, it was so easy to pick up and master. The characters are adorable and heartfelt, the graphics are eye-catching and creative. Everything about this game gave me a blast of nostalgia, and ever since I finished it  I’ve wanted to play it again and again.

3. Scaled And Icy by Twenty One Pilots ——— May 21
Acting as a sequel to their 2018 album Trench, Twenty One Pilots’ Scaled And Icy continues the cryptic story behind the city of Dema and their panopticonic rulers: The Bishops, now with a funk and rock twist. Built on top of a years of hidden websites and an ARG puzzle game, Scaled And Icy further develops the lore, now with bandmates Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun under Dema’s control and acting as propaganda puppets for any possible deviants.

Stepping away from the darkly synth-centric reggae pop and rap of 2015’s Blurryface and the multi-layered rock opera meets alternative indie pop of the aforementioned Trench, Scaled And Icy dives deep into jazzy and bubbly 80s pop-punk, saturated with synthrich and electronic noise, dashed with hints of darkness, depression and the horrors of an overactive mind. The album released alongside an hour-long live performance streamed straight to fans’ living rooms, where Joseph and Dun celebrated the record with colorful sets, euphoniously mixed tracks and a concert unlike anything else that I’ll never forget. It’s not my favorite album of theirs, but it sure is a strong open, something that made my summer all the more bright.

4. The Suicide Squad —————————- Aug 06
Helping to rectify its messy 2016 counterpart, The Suicide Squad really does the namesake justice, string- ing together a hodge-podge of D-tier supervillains – and Harley Quinn – on a mission to locate and shut down a secret American experiment gone wrong on the island nation of Corto Maltese. After successfully breaching the island, our misfit cast of characters discover the hideous mind-control and deep space kaiju truth behind “Project Starfish” and fight to either finish their mission or fight against the bombs planted in their necks.

The film tells a story of corruption, abuse and love with an all-star cast of  morally-twisted but oddly beautiful villains. And all of that is pulled off through a killer and tongue-in-cheek soundtrack, bloody gorgeous cinematography and equally grotesque action. The Suicide Squad easily became one of my favorite comic book movies of all time, never missing a beat between the quick and messy but sad opening and the gloriously powerful finale.  I had a blast all the way through watching these wonderfully written rogues rain hellfire in some of the weirdest, most absurd ways possible. It does what the first couldn’t, and does it incredibly.

5. Sora joining Super Smash Bros. Ultimate —- Oct 05

As the final DLC fighter added to the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate roster, Sora from the Kingdom Hearts series soars into battle after years of fans requesting the boy from Destiny Islands to go toe-to-toe with “Mario Jumpman Mario” and “The Hero of Hyrule”. The internet broke with excitement, many fans – myself included- overjoyed by his inclusion, some of us having a hard time believing that it was even happening.

The sight of seeing Sora fly above the ideas of so many video game icons made me ecstatic, my eyes glued to the screen as Sora swung his Keyblade around and floated across the battlefield like the bubbly kid he is. I remember jumping around between classes as my girlfriend and I watched the announcement, frantically texting friends as we all celebrated about what must have seemed like nothing too exciting from an outsider’s point of view. The beautiful Hollow Bastion and the grand ensemble of epic music only ramped things up, acting in tandem to make this reveal the powerful finale for Ultimate, a game three years old and still fresh as ever with life. Seeing my number one most wanted character get included made the child inside of me lose it with happiness.

This year has been a long one, but these works honestly helped me through it, comforting and distracting when needed. And even though there are a handful of things I’m equally excited for come next year, these movies and albums and games will always have a special place in my heart as 2022 rolls around the corner.