Kevin Muller shares his list for the best films of 2021.
#BestMovies #BestMoviesof2021 #MovieReview
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I absolutely love the rebirth of intellectual horror that Jordon Peele is giving us. In this film, he cowrote the script, but you can feel his touch in this film. That isn’t to say that director Nia DaCosta doesn’t provide anything, because she sure the hell does. The film is connected, but doesn’t rely, on the first film that came out 30 years ago. DaCosta deepens the lore of the urban boogeyman through lush cinematography, a beautiful score, and some damn fine performances from Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Paris, who will most likely add the umph that the “Captain Marvel” sequel needs. Some maybe turned off by the themes of brutality against African Americans, but that shouldn’t take away from the power of this one. It all feels like a surreal nightmare from start to finish.
This film’s selling point was it was the story of two lesbian nuns, directed by the guy who did “Basic Instinct”, “Robocop”, and “Starship Troopers.” Yes, there is some woman-on-woman action, but that is only a piece of Paul Verhoeven’s wacked out religious film. He has been wanting to make this for years, and once you see it, you’ll understand why no American studio wanted touch it. In one scene, a buff Jesus, reminiscent of Rambo, fires down characters who haunt young Benedetta’s dreams. The title character, played by French actress Virginie Efira, is fantastic, as a young nun who may or may not be the direct connect with us and the word of God. It isn’t until the homely Bartolomea, Daphne Patakia, equally as great, that things start to change. The film examines religion as something that brings faith and hope, but also something that is used as a mask those who use it for their selfish desires. Outside of the nudity and sex, it contains many moments that would make it uncomfortable viewing with your church going grandmother. Verhoeven doesn’t let up. For a man in this 80’s, he still maintains that creativity and boldness that we need more of in cinema.
8. Shiva Baby
On the flipside, of both religion and genre, we have a short and intimate film about a sacred Jewish tradition. Tradition goes out the window when the frantic Danielle, played by Rachel Sennott, in a star making performance, tries to keep the peace at this holy event. This is a problem since she is aimless and having an affair with one of the married men there. Sennott guides us through the mind of someone who feels like her life is turned up to 100 mph. Director and writer Emma Seligman creates a memorable, funny, frantic, and uncomfortable film in the 77 minutes run time.
7. The Mitchells Vs the Machines
The best animated film of the year wasn’t something from the mouse house or Pixar, but one produced by Netflix. The one thing it shares with those two powerhouse studios, is the importance of a strong family unit. Here, the morality lesson is placed within a man vs machine conflict. Oscar winner, Olivia Coleman, is having a blast as the evil A.I. in charge of the enslavement of humanity. It sounds like dire stuff but thanks to the direction of Michael Rianda, it is a perfect family adventure film that is up there with anything from any rival studio. Danny McBride is perfect as a father trying to hold on to his little girl, voiced by Abbi Jacobson, fantastic here too, before she goes away to college. The film is extremely satirical of our modern technology obsessed society. Outside of the emotional beats, the animation has so much style that adds to the wackiness of this touching story.
Everything you’ve heard about the film, that won the Oscar for Best Picture of 2021, is true. The film treats its subjects without pity. They are a normal family, who outside of Ruby, beautifully played by Emilia Jones, are all deaf. Troy Kotsur, who walked away Best Supporting Actor, is both hilarious and touching as a father who is both funny and charming as hell. The last half hour of the film is an emotional rollercoaster of sentiment and love. I challenge you not to get a little teary eyed!
5. Red Rocket
Sean Baker is a breath of fresh air. He convincingly shows the underbelly of America in a realistic way. His characters may seem morally defunct, but as with all of us, they have their own strengths and weaknesses. In this film, Baker has his work cut out for him with Mikey Saber. Saber is a former porn star who crawls back to his old town after losing it all. At first, you want him to succeed since he is likeable character, but as the story progresses, you start to see he is a tornado of destruction to anything that is good. Thanks to Baker and Simon Rex, contributing just as much to this hilarity, we can’t help to love Mikey and the film.
4. Licorice Pizza
Paul Thomas Anderson does it again with a film that is lighter on its feet than his previous ones. Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Phillip Seymour, who are making their big screen debuts, are perfect together and individually. Hoffman’s Gary Valentine is one of those too wise for their age teenagers. His ease on screen is incredible. His father would’ve been proud. Haim, who plays the lost Alana, same first name, different surname, is a lost young woman trying to find her place in the world. There isn’t much of a plot, it is reminiscent of 2019’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” where it is following characters placed in the 70’s. Anderson meticulously recreates it with the music, costumes, cinematography, and overall feel of a film from over 40 years ago. Each character, that these two run into, have their own story that Anderson brings out brilliantly
3. The Green Knight
David Lowery’s medieval epic is one for the ages. Based upon the poem “Sir Gwain and the Green Knight,” Lowery walks the line between fantasy and reality beautifully. The fantastical elements blend smoothly into the real-world setting. It makes this all immersive and a sight to behold. Dev Patel, who plays Sir Gwain, is a top-notch leading man who goes on this once in a lifetime journey. This is what all fantasy films should aspire to be. It is one of the most compelling, adventurous, and imaginative films of last year.
Enough can’t be said about Denis Villeneuve’s science-fiction epic, based upon the classic novel. Every frame of this bad boy has a master’s touch. Unlike most Hollywood films, there is more than what is on the surface. Frank Hubert’s story is a rich world with deep characters, and Villeneuve perfectly captures it all with a grand feel. This is a film that is built for the theater. The cinematography alone is worth the price of admission. Bring on Part 2!!!
Before I reveal my favorite film of 2021, let’s look at my picks for the top films from previous years…
1993- Schindler’s List
1994- Pulp Fiction
1996- Everyone Says I Love You
1997- Good Will Hunting
1998- The Truman Show
1999- American Beauty
2001- A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
2002- The Hours
2003- Mystic River
2005- Batman Begins
2006- United 93
2009- Up in the Air
2012- The Master
2014- A Most Violent Year
2017- The Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
2019- The Irishman
- The Last Duel
Ridley Scott directed two movies last year. One was about the downfall of the Gucci family that was the film being pushed during awards season. The other was a far superior one that reunited two Oscar winning screenwriters and had a performance by a new star that should’ve garnered awards attention. Instead, this movie was widely ignored by both the public and the awards circle. Well, their loss. This is an incredible film that is beautifully directed, expertly written, flawlessly acted, and has a high watchability. A single narrative is presented through three different perspectives. Each of these accounts gives Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer, a chance to shine in their individual ways. This is a feat that Ridley Scott takes on and knocks out of the park. Damon and Driver are fantastic. Ben Affleck is having the time of his life playing a king who abuses his power, but with a smile on his face. As with Simon Rex’s performance, it is so damn fun to watch him be bad. The standout here is Comer, who is the best performance in the film as a women thrown into the worst situation possible. Writers, Damon and Affleck, brought on female screen writer Nicole Holocener to aide them in order to give justice to her side of the story. Her presence is felt not only through her molding of Comer’s Marguerite De Carrouges, but the themes of how women of that age had little to no power in almost every part of life, especially the trial where Marguerite’s life hangs in the balance. Each time you watch it, I’ve seen it 5 times, you catch something new in the Scott’s direction or the performances. This is a world that feels real, raw, dirty, morally unjust, and violent. Oh, and the duel is satisfying brutal.