2021 was a much stronger year for cinema than 2020, creativity and originality both made a comeback. Sure, Hollywood overwhelmed us with too many big budget money grabs and there is always some type of comic book adaptation playing somewhere, but directors of weight made a welcome return. It made my cinema-loving heart glad to see films from Jane Campion, Paul Schrader, Pedro Almodovar, Steven Soderbergh, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, and Ridley Scott (who gifted us with two!) all come out in the same year.
For the first time in years, it was difficult to choose only ten films. Certainly a year in film to remember.
Here are my top films of 2021 (listed alphabetically)
“The Card Counter”
A modern Paul Schrader classic. A tremendously well-crafted work of redemption that is as riveting as it is profound. Oscar Isaac gives the performance of his career and Tiffany Haddish is a revelation in her dramatic debut.
Mike Mills gifted 2021 audiences with his finest film to date. Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Norman are devastatingly excellent in this sharp and emotional look at family in motion. I was moved on so many levels.
“Don’t Look Up”
Adam McKay’s fiercely funny film holds a mirror up to an America that is battling a pandemic of sheer stupidity. A sharp, witty, in-your-face film that is so spooky in its wit and commentary on where this country is today, that it almost feels like a documentary.
“The Green Knight”
David Lowery takes the legend of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight and crafts it into a piece of philosophical art. A feast for the eyes and mind in every frame.
“The Harder They Fall”
Jaymes Samuel breathes life into 2021 cinema with his outrageously inventive and superbly directed Western tale of violence and revenge. One hell of a cast shines supreme in this unique and satisfying film.
“The Last Duel”
Sir Ridley Scott brings class back to the period piece in this intense drama of misguided vengeance, a film of power, the kind where Scott excels as a filmmaker. Jodie Comer is Oscar-worthy.
“The Pebble and the Boy”
What a delight! Director Chris Green’s ode to the “Mods” and the music that fueled them is sweet and moving and the best surprise of the year.
“The Power of the Dog”
A new Jane Campion film is something to celebrate. The filmmaker did not let us down with this intense tale of misguided masculinity and interpersonal traumas. Kirsten Dunst never better.
“Simple Like Silver”
Filmmaker Damian Lahey crafted a poetic rumination of life directed with style and respect to the filmmakers of the seventies, a hypnotic and weighty piece.
“Summer of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Musician Questlove blew my mind with his riveting documentary/concert film. The tale of a legendary 1969 Harlem Culture Music Festival that was overshadowed by Woodstock. A marvelous celebration of music and Black Pride unity.