Although we all thought 2021 would be the triumphant return to normalcy, we still find ourselves battling for something next to normal.
However, thanks to film, we’ve had a plethora of stories to keep us entertained, challenged, and singing along for a brighter tomorrow – whether it be from the comfort of our own home, or surrounded by dazzling images on a silver screen where “heartbreak feels good” and “stories feel perfect and powerful”. (If you know, you know)
And despite all of this, unfortunately, time really got away from me this year.
I saw a LOT of films but didn’t get around to seeing critically acclaimed hits like Licorice Pizza, or Nightmare Alley before end of year. Not to mention, living in Orlando has had its limits. Noteworthy films shaking the industry like Drive My Car, Cyrano, Flee, Mass, or Worst Person in the World are still almost impossible to find. Even the film I have been most excited for this year, The Tragedy of Macbeth, (which, full disclosure, would have probably made my list, because HELLO! It’s MACBETH.) is inaccessible until January.
So knowing that this list would have gone differently if life has gone differently, I decided to go in a different direction, ranking my top 5 films of the year instead of 10, with honorable mentions below.
So here you go. My top five films of 2021.
If there is anything to be thankful about during 2021, it’s the rebirth of the movie musical. One of the most notable is Steven Spielberg’s vibrant and fresh retelling of the beloved movie-musical, West Side Story. With a talented ensemble steering the story and energetic break out performances from newcomers, Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose, West Side Story honors its roots while building more more authentic foundation to the classic tale to make it relatable for today’s America.
I will always harp on the phrase, “representation matters” and CODA is easily one of the most authentic representations of the deaf culture that I have seen in film. The sweetheart of the Sundance Film Festival, CODA is a beautiful coming of age story with a strong and inclusive ensemble performance. Despite the predictability, its genuine heart and soul is so big, it radiates off the screen. This feel good film is a crowd pleaser and the delight we need in this weird world we live in.
The conclusion of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man trilogy is nothing short of epic. Between its nonstop action, emotionally-charged plot and the most glorious nostalgia-driven fan service I have seen in my lifetime, Spider-Man: No Way Home is one of the most enjoyable theatrical experiences of the year and an instant Marvel classic. Words alone cannot express what it was like seeing it on opening night, and it’s so rare to see a cinematic moment to bring people together like that. Especially in this pandemic-world we live in. Will it win Oscars and awards? No. But with its record breaking box office numbers and rave reviews, it is clear that Spider-Man: No Way Home is the moment of 2021.
As I turned 30 this year, this overwhelming internal pressure or the constant ticking of the clock has felt all too real. So needless to say, Lin Manuel-Miranda’s film adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s musical, tick, tick…BOOM! spoke to me on a very deep level. But beyond my personal connection, tick, tick…BOOM! is pure musical magic and without a doubt one of the most moving films of the year. Andrew Garfield gives one of the most impressive performances of the year.
With remarkable performances, breathtaking cinematography and meticulously crafted direction, the Shakespearean drama, The Power of the Dog, earns my top spot this year. A haunting western that tackles complex thematics and family dynamics, slowly burns into one of the most unforgettable finales I’ve seen in a long time. This is the kind of film that directors can only dream of creating and Jane Campion just knocks it out of the park with flawless execution.