2021 At The Movies At Home
Every year it takes me until about halfway through the following year to make it through the new movies that I am interested in hunting down and this year was no different. There were just a few stragglers that are officially "2021" movies that still aren't available to watch that I just plain gave up on, but the 2021 slate of movies was quite good, nonetheless. Best Picture Coda was a movie that had early buzz from it's very first festival of the year and I was hesitant to watch it, but when I finally got around to it I had a hard time resisting its charms. It was a year of movies that I just plain enjoyed the hell out of and had a lot of rewatches of many of my favorites. I started to get a little more picky about limited series that played like movies as that's starting to be a bit more commonplace and seems to be more in the vein of really good TV rather than very long movies.
One of my favorite viewing experiences of the last few years. This is a movie that inspired me to hunt down a copy of the David Lynch movie from the '80's and the miniseries from Syfy. It just might have rekindled an obsession in Dune and Dune adjacent fiction.
2. The Power of the Dog
Such a beautiful slow burn, one of the great westerns of this century. Watch out for the Criterion release this winter.
3. The Beatles: Get Back
The marathon length of this that lets us join into the dynamic of the Beatles to get to know them at a more personal level. It's the best way to get every Beatles song in their catalogue stuck in your head.
4. Spider-Man No Way Home
This definitely has the most Spider-Men… well, second most. There has been a lot of universe jumping and this doesn't quite enter the spider-verse, but it's still hard to resist a Tom Holland Spidey and get yet another Andrew Garfield one.
I did not expect this feel good movie to work so perfectly. It's hard to root against a movie that is nicely made and culminates in sobbing with joy.
6. The Suicide Squad
A real masterpiece of super anti-hero cinematic fun. It's insane how this franchise went from one of the worst DC movies to one of the most entertaining comic book movies ever. The shark guy rips a guy in half, dammit.
7. The Matrix Resurrections
This is so layered in such incredible ways. The obvious level of metaphor is the use of the Matrix video game and Neo’s negotiations over why the story would need to continue in a sequel, much like the case of the movie we are watching. Under that is a story where the chosen one changes from the male lead to the female lead, just as the director had transitioned from presenting as a male to a female. All while changing the look of the film from the previous three and wowing with spectacular action sequences.
A very quick contender to be one of my most favorite Marvel movies, despite the confusion from audiences. The cinematography is amazing, and the chance to experience superhero aliens through human history is an entertaining ride.
9. Bergman Island
What I like about this is that the love for Bergman by the characters in the movie is questionable, and the filmmaker is perhaps not quite as enamored as one would expect. It does sound pretty fun to go to an island with a private screening room, even if Bergman’s movies would be a bit of bummer on vacation. I love how the reality of the film shifts in the final act.
10. No Time To Die
While it is a bit dire to have a threat of this level to the world in a Bond movie, but damn if Daniel Craig isn't bringing everything he has to acting in his final installment as 007.
Crammed with stylization to an incredibly fun extent. The story is wild but it's the characters and the performances that really make this movie.
12. The Green Knight
A visually stunning depiction of an Arthurian tale that has not been filmed nearly as much as the Lancelot love triangle.
13. King Richard
As much as the Will Smith awards season business is distracting, the story of Venus and Serena is really well done and I'm a sucker for tennis movies.
14. In The Heights
This brings me all of the thrills of a cinematic musical and the countdown to the blackout brings an extra layer of excitement.
More and more movies of late have told revenge stories or stories looking for closure that would tend to be revenge stories that resolve themselves without the main characters actually resorting to violence. This is a masterpiece of precision dialogue and a fine showcase for Nicolas Cage.
16. The Last Duel
I can't get over the fact that Ridley Scott was 83 when this came out and his fresh take on the Rashomon concept of multiple unreliable storytellers hardly feels to be octogenarian energy. A first rate medical action/drama.
17. The Hand of God
A nice autobiography of director Paolo Sorrentino, it’s fun to see how his small city was a weird convergence point for film and soccer during his childhood. I’m not sure it’s the most focused film ever, but every little tidbit, slice of life, that is offered brings something of interest. I love that this starts in almost a Coen Brothers world mixing supernatural mythology and the modern world in a way that makes us question the storyteller.
18. The Tragedy of MacBeth
While I am hardly a big fan of Shakespeare, the really great productions and performances make his language more accessible without drastically changing any of the words. This is the case here, and the greater world offered in the sets that a film can present over a stage production along with a light touch of special effects make this really special.
The amazing thing about this documentary is how much footage there really was of the prison uprising and subsequent tragedy for a major event that I knew very little about. It’s interesting to see the dynamic of some bad advice on behalf of the prisoners that was taken as an excuse for horrible behavior by the authorities. It’s a truly shocking documentary.
20. The French Dispatch
This has a little something for most Wes Anderson fans, however it also means that some of the stories won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Even a few good segments of a Wes Anderson movie make the viewing experience worthwhile.
No, the dog doesn’t die. This provides one of the great Tom Hanks performances in a dystopian wasteland version of Cast Away. It’s a man, a dog and their robot on one last road trip.
22. Summer of Soul
I think I get weirded out by the Woodstock documentaries because despite the romanticism of the music and the togetherness depicted of that festival and this is so much more alive in the range of music and it’s much more interesting to see a concert like this in a neighborhood with people coming out to just see what’s going on and enjoying the shows that they found.
Great music and stunning visuals, this was an excellent installment into the world of Disney animation.
24. No Sudden Move
It was nice to see Steven Soderberg come back to do a crime thriller, as dark as this is. Great cast and a story filled with twists and turns.
While it is a flawed movie, it is still filled with fun and excellent action. I think I would take this over any of the John Wick movies.
Although this year didn't have as many five-star movies as 2019, perhaps one of the best years for movies in recent years, the depth of very good movies and very enjoyable movies that are extremely rewatchable was very high. I have a feeling that Berman Island might find a way higher up my list in upcoming years, and Eternals will age really well for Marvel fans.
Letterboxd review of Spider-Man: No Way Home