The year is 2021. Part 2 of the COVID era. Reality is a little less of a meme simulation and more of a post-outbreak world. We have work-from-home setups and online classes, but variants and anti-vaxxers threaten to extend lockdowns. Seemingly following the strangeness of it all, this year had Nic Cage return to form while Bruce Willis makes a string of really bad movies.
Here are my top 10 films of 2021:
Coda is a genuinely feel-good movie without the schmaltz of a Hallmark film. It’s earnest, inclusive, and doesn’t exploit the deaf community for brownie points. While it has the familiar beats of a coming-of-age story, the family at its center is what makes CODA a heartwarming tale.
Anyone who has seen a Nic Cage movie for the past decade will be surprised that he’s in Pig, an odd yet charming tale about a truffle hunter and his pig. Anyone familiar with his earlier work, on the other hand, we’ll see what they’ve already known – he is a good actor. Pig takes you on a bittersweet journey about creative expression and human connection through food.
8. The Green Knight
Here, Sir Gawain doesn’t defeat fantastical beasts or rescue a damsel in distress. The Green Knight tells us that you can’t run away from yourself and owning your choices, rather than blindly accepting what path others choose for you, defines who you are A24 style.
7. On-Gaku: Our Sound
On-Gaku: Our Sound is everything that isn’t a conventional anime. There is no photorealistic animation, flashy action sequences, and out-of-this-world worldbuilding. There are no youthful tales of love, friendship, and Talk no Jutsu. It’s an amateur movie about an amateur band that perfectly captures the amateur spirit.
6. Petite Maman
Céline Sciamma mixes a fairytale and a rite of passage journey in Petite Maman, a story about an 8-year-old coming to terms with her grandmother’s death. As expected from the director who made “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, this movie is heartbreaking and profound.
5. Drive My Car
At first, glance when judged solely by its movie summary and running time, one can assume that Drive My Car is one of those films that only critics can love. But this three-hour-long film is great for anyone with a mature cinematic palette. This Japanese export explores how one’s life bleeds into their art and how artistic expression reflects life.
4. Summer of Soul
In 1969, during the same summer as Woodstock, a different music festival took place 100 miles away. The Harlem Music Festival featured legends including Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, and Nina Simone, but was mostly unknown and remained an obscure pop culture moment until now. Summer of Soul is an insightful and potent documentary.
Memoria is a silent and mysterious movie about the transcendental power of memories. Here, Jessica (played by the she-don’t-miss Tilda Swinton) hears a strange sound that wakes her up one day and proceeds to haunt her everyday life. It will make you rethink how memories can transport us to a different time and place in simple yet profound ways.
2. The Worst Person in the World
Julie is a hot mess, but who isn’t in their 20s? The Worst Person in the World deftly combines a coming-of-age tale with a rom-com to deliver a funny and sharp story about millennial adulting. It’s about the not-so-good and hurtful choices we make on our journey to figuring out who we are.
1. The Power of the Dog
The Power of the Dog is a Western masterpiece that combines the sweeping backdrop of Montana with a measured character-driven thriller. It’s a brilliantly acted and incisive take on toxic masculinity that makes it an Oscar-worthy Best Picture.