The year of 2021 led me to a cinematic journey full of emotions and surprises.
I fell in love with a robot and I almost bought a water bed. I enjoyed battles with sand worms and teared up at the unexpected reunion of three generations of superheroes.
I discovered that Adam Driver is an amazing comedian. Joaquin Phoenix made me think about life’s purpose more than ever. Wes Anderson’s elaborate world fooled me to think his movie was based on a true story. Ridley Scott’s true story surprised me with its stand on feminism. And Jane Campion’s western-not-so-western impressed me in every possible way.
Composition, light, colors and angles made every shot of Nightmare Alley, The Tragedy of Macbeth and The West Side Story worthy of an art exhibition. The sentiments of youth in Licorice Pizza and the Hand of God made me dream of possibilities.
I think that ultimately, the year of 2021 was a great year for the world cinema and these are my top 10 favorite movies.
It is 80s, it is Italy and Paolo Sorrentino kind of gives us the story of his youth. The Italian director has always known how to tell a family story, and he has always aimed at reveling different sides of the human experience.
The Hand of God is not an exception, although it rings much more personal than his other movies. It captures well the spirit of that time and it reveals a lot of the Italian culture. It even serves as a compliment to the Italian cinema. I don’t know if this is a movie that is supposed to be enjoyable or even relatable. It is just a piece of life showed on the screen with its complexity, simplicity, insanity.
“The Last Duel” is a historical drama set in a medieval France where a knight challenges to a duel a former friend who has been accused of raping his wife. The story is told from three different perspectives which gives the movie an extra depth.
“The Last Duel” is directed by Ridley Scott, and we all know how good he is at making epic period movies. Well, maybe this one is not so epic compared to what we have used to see from him, yet it is suspenseful and thoughtful. Most importantly, it deals with issues that, unfortunately, are still very relevant today. I was genuinely surprised to see how this multi-million-dollar studio production is so boldly taking a feminist stand. And I am impressed by Ridley Scott who brought thousands of people to the cinemas promising historical drama and action while serving an uncomfortable tale about a few misogynic men objectifying, controlling and hurting women. Well done!
“Dune” is the first part of a two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel with the same title. This is not the first attempt of adapting this story for the screen, so I was a bit skeptical. Now, without any hesitation, I dare to say that the movie is better than the book.
The screenplay masterfully captures the essence of the story together with all the political and philosophical themes. I can even go as far as saying that the characters get much more personality and individuality than described in the book.
In addition, the cinematography, costumes and the production design are gorgeous. If there was one movie to watch on a big screen last year, Dune should have been the one. The whole movie is a tribute to cinema as an art for the senses. Overall, “Dune” is substance and style working together for an epic movie experience.
“The French Dispatch” is supposed to be, as Wes Anderson says, a love letter to journalism. The story is set in the fictional French town Ennui-sur-Blase. Arthur Howitzer Jr, the editor-in-chief of the „The French Dispatch” magazine has just passed away. By his wish, the journalists’ team are to publish one last issue as a farewell to their readers and to then close the magazine.
“The French Dispatch” is a strange combination of plots, characters and means. It is a love letter to journalism, for sure, but it is also a tribute to art and life in general, to all the creators, and those people whose passion turns the world.
The movie is shot in the typical Wes Anderson style, and it is lively, funny, quirky, and artistic.
“Annette” is the latest work by Leos Carax. The French director caught my heart with his movie “Holy Motors” – one of the few true masterpieces in the past 10 years – so naturally I had great expectations.
Annette is a love story about a star couple of a comedian and a soprano who marry and have a child together. The movie is a musical, rock opera, drama, satire, stand-up act, and many other things. It is full of layers, ideas, references. It is a tale told in Carax’s surreal style yet deals with some very real issues like fame, jealousy, obsession, violence, exploitation.
Although, I have to admit that “Annette” doesn’t come close to the genius of “Holy Motors”, it is maybe the most unique cinematic experience I had last year.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza is an untraditional love story. Set in 70s L.A., this is a movie about two young people discovering the world and discovering themselves. It is a tribute to the USA and to all the people who dare to dream big. It is about youth, freedom and chance.
“Licorice Pizza” has such a strong presence that captures the imagination. This movie is joyful, yet somehow nostalgic. It’s aimless, absurd and hilarious.
“CODA” is the story of a young girl, who is the only one hearing person in her deaf family. When she discovers she can sing, she is torn between the idea of pursuing musical education and staying home to help her parents.
The movie is a sweet coming-of-age story full of heartfelt moments. It is a crowd-pleaser, in the best possible way. It is funny, it is sad, and everything in between, without pretension. I think this is a movie that everyone should see. Call me sentimental.
“C’mon C’mon” almost has no story and yet it has so much meaning at the same time. The plot revolves around a radio journalist who is working on his latest project of traveling across the USA and interviewing kids about how they imagine the future. Suddenly he receives a call from his sister who is asking him to take care of her young son while she is dealing with a family problem.
The movie is shot in black and white, and all shades of gray, and it reflects on some of the most important questions in life. Ultimately it is a story about what it is to be an adult, and what it is to be a child – about hopes, disappointments, innocence, pain and family.
“C’mon C’mon” is profound, yet relatable, sincere, authentic and heart-warming.
“I am Your Man” is one of the coolest movies of 2021. It is a sort of sci-fi romantic drama where a scientist agrees to participate in the experiment of living with a humanoid robot, created to make her happy.
This is a movie about loneliness, longing, connection. It reflects on the serious topic of the nature of human relationships, yet it is humorous, easy-going and charming. And, Dan Stevens gives a performance of a life-time.
“The Power of the Dog” is the latest movie by Jane Campion. It is set in 1925-ish in rural Montana, and tales the tale of two brothers taking care of the family ranch. Everything is going fine until one of them decides to marry a woman which the other disapproves of.
“The Power of the Dog” is by far the best movie I saw in 2021. It is a movie about personal struggle, resentment, self-resentment and self-acceptance, identity, strength, understanding, sexuality, and more.
Each scene is elegant and suspenseful, and it is a powerful reflection of the characters’ inner world. Every line is just at the right place. Each shot is masterfully directed and presented.
Having grown up with European cinema and festival movies, I think I am too much of a snob to include a superhero movie in my top 10. Yet, I just have to mention Spider-Man: No Way Home. Finally, we get the movie that this character deserves – with a strong narrative, full of action, moral dilemmas, and surprises. A movie that feels right at every level. It is so funny, absolutely hilarious. It is exciting and so very sentimental.