The year of 2021 has become a defining moment in global Cinema as the impact of CoVid on the the average cinema goers viewing habits has changed so much. With the cinema fully opening up, all but with restrictions, the box office has been pretty good with a few tent pole movies being released during the year. Such fare as Black Widow (delayed from 2020), No Time To Die (delayed from 2020), Dune, Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings, brought in the much needed monies into the Hollywood monster, smaller budget and foreign language films have fared very well in the UK too. With streaming channels which have truly established themselves as a go too for new releases. Again, with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Studios releasing films into the cinemas and simultaneous streaming and Disney and Warner Bros. doing the reverse with their films it has become an over filled pot of gold for the cinephile. As I have said before, if a film was made to be shown on the silver screen then that it where it should be seen there.
Enough of the waffle and instead I will guide you through the films I have enjoyed watching over he last twelve months. No doubt there will be people who do not agree with my listing, but that is always a good sign, as it opens up debate and discussion on why we all love and cherish they media called cinema.
Please note all of these choices were released in 2021 as the year of production might differ 🙂
15. Pig (2021) directed by Michael Sarnoski. Nicholas Cage continues his obscure career path with a great character piece in the shape of his character Rob, a truffle pig farmer living in the middle of the woods who’s prize pig is kidnapped. Rob sets off on a quest to find the pig, opening up old wounds he left behind in another life. A superb dark and brooding drama.
14. Last Night In Soho (2021) directed by Edgar Wright. Wright’s film veered from modern day to late Sixties all set in and around Soho in London’s West End. Part psychological drama part horror film, Wright has some fun with conventions and plays with the time travel elements with confidence. Matt Smith plays the nasty pimp Jack with total menace. Nice to see top Sixties stars Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp and Rita Tushingham amongst the cast.
13. One Night In Miami (2020) directed by Regina King. Based on a stage play by Kemp Powers, the drama centres on one night when African American icons Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown all meet in a hotel and discuss, cajole and argue their influence they each have on the Civil Rights Movement. Fictional this maybe but the dialogue is wonderful to listen to and the chemistry between the four leads is superb.
12. Deerskin (La Daim) (2019) directed by Quentin Dupieux. Short and well written serial killer film has Jean Dujardin playing his best Eric Cantona (!) look as a recently divorced man who turns up at a remote village to by a deerskin jacket with the last of his money and inherits a video camera as well. As his grasp on reality loosens he decides to recorded all his actions, resulting in committing murder on camera! Dupieux plays with tropes, has fun and a virtually un-recognisable Dujardin turns in a cool, dark performance.
11. Bergman Island (2021) directed by Mia Hansen- Løve. Two film directors / writers take a sabbatical to Bergman Island, named after the director, to re-energise their creativity. Reviewed here. An enjoyable analysis of relationships.
10. The Green Knight (2021) directed by David Lowery. Set over a year from Christmas to Christmas, this is a moody, visually stunning take own the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. As the old guard of knights gather with King Arthur for Christmas, Gawain is knighted as a new addition to the Table, in time for the Green Knight to appear and issue a challenge. Sir Gawain rises to the challenge and thus begins a quest for the young knight as he travels across the kingdom to find the Green Knight and conclude the challenge. Beautifully written for the screen, wonderful cinematography and fantastic acting form Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander with Sean Harris as the King.
9. The Power Of The Dog (2021) directed by Jane Campion. Campion’s film centres on the relationship between two brothers, Phil and George who run a successful ranch but are always squabbling with each other. Phil is a hands-on rancher, while George is the academic of the family. Into their lives comes Rose and her son Peter. She is a widow who George is attracted to and eventually marries, which brings upheavals into the family and long simmering issue come to the surface. Campion plays with male machismo beautifully and all the leads, Cumbetbatch, Dunst, Plemons and Smit-McPhee are superb.
8. Mogul Mowgli (2020) directed by Bassam Tariq & Sound of Metal (2019) directed by Darius Marder. Two well produced dramas with one thing in common, both star Riz Ahmed and both have musical backdrops to their stories. Ahmed is excellent in both films and as an actor who really puts his all with layered acting style and an intense feel to both these roles.
7. Promising Young Woman (2020) directed by Emerald Fennell. Fennel’s film deals with Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) who outwardly is the promising young woman but inside she is unraveling with murderous results. As her life begins to crash all around her, Cassandra is heading to some kind of oblivion where some incident from her past propels her to a final destructive finale. Mulligan holds the whole film together with an emotive performance.
6. Nomadland (2020) directed by Chloé Zhao. Zhao’s film explores the groups of people in America who travel in caravans and vans who live a nomadic life. Part life choice, part circumstance, these people have many stories to tell. France’s McDormand is Fern, nomadic and independent with fractured family relationships, drifting from menial jobs to menial job, who’s only solace are the nomadic tribes she comes into contact with. A story that opens up the American West in modern times.
5. Saint Maud (2019) directed Rose Glass. Glass’ film deals with faith, commitment and religious fervour as Maud (Morfydd Clark) a nurse/carer applies for a job to care for a cancer patient Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), who’s previous life was as a dancer, who still tries to enjoy the high life still, which Maud does not agree with. As Maud slow decent into religious piousness and prayer begins to taken over her life, Maud must save Amanda from her evil ways or so she thinks. The climatic ending is both shocking and sad, with Clark giving a heart rendering performance.
4. Censor (2021) director Prano Bailey-Bond. Written by Bailey-Bond this film is set in the 1980’s with Niamh Algar playing Enid Baines a Censor of the title working for the BBFC who spends her time watching and classifying horror films. Set in the wake of the Video Nasty’s debacle of the early 1980’s, Bailey-Bond captures the feel of that decade with dated sets, billowing cigarette smoke and lots of nice retro-tech. Enid becomes convinced that one of the films she is watching may have clues to the disappearance of her sister. This leads her to tracking down the director and eventually entering a world where her reality blurs uncomfortably with her subconscious illusions brought on by her obsessive film watching.
3. Druk (2020) aka Another Round directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Vinterbergs film is a tragi-comedy based on four academic friends, lead by Mads Mikkelsen who test the boundaries of drinking with scientific anyalsis of how alcohol affects their professional and personal lives, with some very comic-tragic consequences.
2. Dune: Part One (2021) directed by Denis Villeneuve. Frank Herbert’s multi-novelled Dune series was always going to have a hard ride to the silver screen. David Lynches take was okay, but panned at the time. Villeneuve takes a massive expansive approach and we, the viewer, are treated to a visually stunning, slow paced, beautifully written dialogue, for what I would describe as an intelligent Sci Fi film.
1. Judas And The Black Messiah (2021) directed by Shaka King. King’s film follows the dramatic life of William O’Neal, a petty criminal who is offered an undercover job in exchange for not being thrown in jail. O’Neal must infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and gather information on it’s charismatic leader Fred Hampton. Both Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton and LaKeith Stanfield as William O’Neil are superb in their roles. An historically interesting film, capturing the American justice system desperately trying to control people by any means necessary and eliminate any opposition.
And that, as they say, is that. Another year of excellent films which I have enjoyed the pleasure of watching. Hopefully there are a few in this list that you like, maybe there are one or two you might think ‘ohh, might watch that now…’ Either way, thanks for reading and see you this time next year.
“Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out” Martin Scorsese.