As you know, the epidemic of Covid has crippled the film industry in the last two years – many films came directly to streaming services instead of planned cinema distribution, while some experienced an infamous video-on-demand fate. Cinemas went slightly better than in 2020, but that is still far from the most glorious days. New delays may await us, and many authors and studies will not risk recording and losses.
Traditionally, as every year, the time has come to collect film impressions related to the past year. Many of the films originally announced for 2020 arrived a year later, such as French Dispatch, Dune, No Time to Die, The Green Knight and others, so 2021 was a film richer than the previous one. There was something for everyone and almost every genre produced a great film. Authors of independent works and small studios have fulfilled their quota this year as well, and the season of film awards will be interesting and unpredictable.
I must point out that I have not been able to watch some films yet, including Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Tragedy of Macbeth and West Side Story. From the list in front of you, I have excluded documentaries such as Summer of Soul and the excellent musical special Bo Burnham: Inside.
Whoever follows me a little longer knows that I am a fan of dramas based on strong characters and great dialogues, so such films are represented in the largest percentage. I repeat once again that this is a SUBJECTIVE list of the best films from last year, which primarily serves to remind you if you forgot to watch a film or missed my recommendation. The title of the film contains a link to the entire review.
15. The Worst Person in the World
Jokaim Trier’s films are described as melancholic meditations that deal with existential issues of love, ambition, memory and identity. Romantic dramas about young people who find their way in life can rarely present something new and are most often subject to a classic narrative that confirms the joys and pains of entering adulthood. However, Trier brings us something fresh and innovative, a film that can be watched and those for whom romantic dramas are not among their favorite genres.
The Worst Person in the World is a Norwegian romantic drama about the search for love and meaning in modern Oslo, which brings much-needed freshness, fun and significance to this rather shabby genre.
CODA is a film that is specific to the characters we follow, as well as the special challenges of a child of deaf parents, but it is also universal in its ideas, themes and emotional impact. Well-written and likable characters make the story richer, deeper and much more emotional than the synopsis might suggest. There is uncertainty in the film, real pain and a warm human story because we understand these characters and the way the routine defined their lives and expectations, and thus the dramatic moments are even stronger and more beautiful.
CODA is a touching, charming family drama full of love that gives us a recognizable, but warm and convincing story – a beautifully realized feel good film with many moments of sincere emotion.
13. Old Henry
Although the western genre has not been a shining star in the film sky for a long time, the lawlessness of the Wild West continues to start romanticized stories about the fight between heroes and criminals, that is, good and evil. The script was set in 1909, when the period of the Wild West was coming to an end, when there was no more room for research or conquest, and the borders of the USA were more or less drawn. Thus, traditional cowboys and farmers on the one hand, and criminals and people light on the trigger on the other became forced to live under new circumstances that are much more strictly controlled by law. In this film, people still live by the old rules, the law has not reached these inaccessible landscapes, and people are left to defend their property and their lives on their own.
Old Henry is a micro-western with a solid dose of suspense, a simple story of secrets and redemption, as well as good old-fashioned dynamic gunfire.
12. Drive My Car
The author uses all the time available to him and everything that his slow pace and slower narration allow. The film has a melancholic tone in which the author placed lonely, vulnerable characters and his empathic philosophy of lost souls. Hamaguchi has always provided a lot of humanity to the challenging topic of the relationship between art and life, and in his film the car becomes a combination of a confessional and a couch characteristic of psychiatric surgeries.
Drive My Car is a Japanese Oscar nominee who presents a patient, subtle and melancholic study of lost souls – if you like slower three-hour dramas that have a lot to say about love, grief and inspiration, I believe this will be the film of the year.
11. Red Rocket
Our hero is not even close to being honest about bad decisions, failed plans, betrayals, scams and everything he said or did that finally brought him to his hometown, which he swore he would never return to. What we see about him, his motives and his actions gives us a pretty good idea of how bad he was, typical of a man who went through life thanks to charm. Mikey doesn’t care about affection and acceptance, but to convince people to do what he wants – he acts as if he cares, but there is always some reason well known to him.
Red Rocket is a vivid portrait of a poor American suburb and a fascinatingly non-judgmental depiction of an immoral man who is ready for anything in search of a better life.
10. The Hand of God
The Hand of God is a coming-of-age drama about a teenager trying to understand his life, what he wants, what he needs, what he wants to do. It doesn’t take much to understand how this is a very personal story for Sorrentino, whose protagonist lives in the same place and at the same time when the author was his age. Like life, this film is full of melancholy, laughter, vulgarity, so for some it may represent “only” a bunch of things that happen unrelated. In my opinion, he lacks a bit of mystery and glamor of Sorentino’s best films.
The Hand of God is a personal project of Paolo Sorrentino full of unexpected joy, but equally unexpected tragedy – this is not his best film, but it is a beautifully shot and insightfully presented story about growing up, family, loss and individuality as a driving force.
9. Don’t Look Up
The basis of this film is a comedy that mocks our weaknesses with the visual solutions characteristic of Mackay who likes to use a hand-held camera and leave the impression of a documentary style of filming. The basis of the comedy lies in the fact that no one understands or cares about the imminent extinction of all living things on the planet, and Mackay uses the opportunity to take the absurdity of a potential reaction to this imaginary crisis to extremes – recent history that is, unfortunately, a fine line between satire and sad reality, especially considering that the comet is a metaphor for climate change.
Don’t Look Up is a combination of comedy and science fiction that has relatively successfully mastered the challenge of satirizing something that has already become so absurd that it defies all common sense.
8. The Green Knight
The famous poem tells a rather simple story about a knight who encounters the usual Arthurian tests of part and character on his way, but even those who are well acquainted with it may be confused by the elements of the author’s adaptation, especially its very enigmatic ending. The film conveys ideas, values, ideals and storytelling in a forgotten, traditionally romanticized form, which is so old-fashioned that this time it seems new and unique. The author pays homage to her and deconstructs the original material, providing us with a fantastic adventure that leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
The Green Knight is a feast of vision and style, a film that seems to be from another time or from another world, and a visual spectacle intended for a selected audience.
The beginning of the film tells us that this is a true story and that certain names and places have been changed to protect certain people. As it turns out, the director is a long-time friend of the subject of the film, who does not tell his escape story often. His name is probably not authentic, but it is obvious that Amin’s story will not be easy to tell. He is now in his mid-thirties and lives an academic life in a country that allows him to express his sexual orientation, but the pressure of secrecy prevents him from enjoying that life. This film allows him to tell that story to everyone.
Flee is a Danish combination of the expressionist beauty of animation and documentary realism, which presents us with a true story about man’s need to face his past and a touching portrait of permanent refugee trauma.
This film is mysteriously interesting from the very beginning, and the very conversation about what will happen in this small room provides a feeling of uncertainty. It is inevitable that you do not ask yourself which topic could require so much caution, but again it should be so important that this meeting must be held. Some things have to be said, and some of the things that seem vital simply cannot be said. Saying them out loud would mean acknowledging, accepting and facing the unthinkable, so some statements remain unfinished, but even those have noticeable weight.
Mass is a difficult and honest drama about grieving, forgiving and reconciling with others and with oneself – a great indie film set in one room with a first-class quartet of actors and complex emotional issues.
5. Judas and the Black Messiah
Throughout the film, we see indirect but detailed explanations of the beliefs and specific ideology of the Black Panthers, as well as Fred Hampton’s charisma and expertise to become a leader of people of different races or ethnic groups who have in common the oppressed and social strain. not valid. Because of their activities, the Panthers filled the headlines, were considered terrorists and people who pose a danger, so the authorities did not choose the means to shut down the organization, considering them a direct threat to “our way of life”.
Judas and the Black Messiah is an excellent dramatization of historical events, a strong condemnation of racial injustice, an honor of the courage and passion of the revolution, and a biographical work that is both universal and unique.
It is clear that this story is more or less autobiographical, and this especially refers to the presentation of the formative magic of films and theaters whose shots and scenes are presented in color, as well as shots of modern Belfast that we see at the beginning and end of the film. From this perspective, Brani as an artist has been more interested in film adventures and theater performances in these years than family problems and growing violence, but I must admit that I did not get the impression that his life required such a fantastic escape – simply Buddy either does not notice or does not fully understand most of the problems or the seriousness of the situation.
Belfast is a great black-and-white drama with a lot of conflict, melancholy and uncertainty – a deeply personal project by Kenneth Brane and a carefully realized nostalgia that overcomes its narrative deficits with numerous touching moments and directing skills.
Considering that Dina is a dense combination of politics, technology, colonialism and religion, and that after Khodorkovsky and Lynch he has an even greater reputation as a difficult material for filming, this is certainly Villeneuve’s most ambitious project so far. His endeavor to record a coherent adaptation was comprehensive and difficult, so it is quite understandable (although not so advertised) that his version will be presented in (at least) two parts. Precisely because of this, the final answer as to whether he fully met expectations will be known only after watching the sequel or sequels.
Dune is an ambitious, visually stunning epic spectacle that takes your breath away, respects Dina’s legacy and which, despite its long duration and small imperfections, is a real film / cinema pleasure whose biggest drawback is that we have to wait for an unannounced sequel.
2. The Power of the Dog
The events are set in the American West in the 1920s, and although there are only four characters, there is a lot to say and unspoken. While Phil is a showy and violent man who is aware that he causes awe, his brother seems to be different from his other mother, in contrast, moderate and gentle. His flaw is that he is not aware of how dissatisfied Rous is with coming to the ranch, so his more and more frequent departures will affect her, who is initially a collected woman, and later escapes into a world of unspoken shame and intoxication.
The Power of the Dog is a great combination of an artistic western and a slower psychological drama intended for a more serious audience – a raw, visually rich and perfectly acted story about toxic masculinity and repressed feelings.
1. The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson is a filmmaker who has proven many times that his work does not need a detailed plot in order for the film to function, that is, to be watchable. His specific style consists of mostly static camera settings and a series of geometrically precise and detailed shots in which this innovative filmmaker proves that he is very skilful with visual effects and colorful scenography. He easily manages to create special worlds in which he places numerous, diverse and strange characters who utter their sentences mostly emotionally neutral.
The French Dispatch is an impressively realized aesthetic treat from a film in which the author pays homage to a certain era and type of journalism – an anthological comedy that is a little harder to follow, but which you should not miss if you are a fan of Wes Anderson’s meticulous aesthetics.
Movies that could easily have ended up on the list:
Benedetta, Boiling Point, C’mon C’mon, Finch, King Richard, Luca, No Time to Die, The Mauritanian, tick, tick… BOOM! and more!
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