Top 10 Films of 2021 + 15 Honorable Mentions

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Hello fellow film fans! My picks of best/favorite movies of 2021 is here! Per my blog tradition, I usually wait until mid January to post the obligatory Top 10 Best list.

I always have to preface this kind of post that there are still plenty of 2021 movies I have not seen yet: The Worst Person in the World, The French Dispatch, A Hero, C’Mon C’Mon, Licorice Pizza, Spencer, Summer of Soul, etc. which might alter my current Top 10.

It goes without saying of course, that everyone’s list is personal… my criteria is that a film makes a lasting impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply-moving, thought-provoking and indelible. Replay-ability is a factor I take into consideration as well, though I don’t necessarily want to rewatch every single film on my list. Well without further ado, here we go… 

Top 10 Films of 2021

(in reverse numeric order)

10. Black Widow* (Full Review)

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I’ve included MCU films in my top 10 in the past and this past year, Black Widow is the one that really impressed me the most. Despite the lame villain, overall there are lots to love here, especially the introduction of Florence Pugh as Yelena. I’ve come to love Scarlett Johansson in the titular role so it’s great to finally see her get the solo movie, albeit it’s long overdue. The screenplay by Eric Pearson manages to balance the action, humor and emotional moments pretty well. It’s a fun mix of spy thriller and superhero genre that’s essentially about family ties.

9. Spiderman: No Way Home (Full Review)

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If you asked me earlier this year if a Spider-man movie would make my top 10, I’d say ‘no way!’ But hey, this is a year where some of my most-anticipated films end up disappointing or simply didn’t live up to my expectations. Well, kudos to Jon Watts + co for delivering first rate entertainment that’s delightful, funny, and surprisingly emotional ride that makes me fall in love with the characters all over again. Now that most people have seen this by now, I can say how much I enjoyed seeing the three Spideys hanging out and fighting together. Not only was the stakes really high for Peter (or I should say Peters), the movie also gave Andrew Garfield’s Spidey such a great redemptive arc. I think the record-shattering box office is well deserved. I for one think that films of any genre can be great art, including comic-book movies.

8. West Side Story (Full Review)

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In a year where there are plenty of musical adaptations, this is the one I’m most impressed with. I really wish ANNETTE would make the cut as I had anticipated that one the most, but I think the best part about that film is Adam Driver’s astounding performance (hence it makes my Honorable Mentions list). Admittedly, this version of West Side Story is the first cinematic adaptation I’ve seen and it looks absolutely glorious on the big screen! Seeing it on Dolby Cinema was quite a treat for the senses. This film further proves that Spielberg’s still got it and he is truly a master filmmaker who can thrive in any genre.

7. The Tragedy Of Macbeth (Full Review)

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I honestly didn’t think I’d be listing a popular Shakespeare adaptation to my Best-Of list, it’s a film I wasn’t even that interested to see. Yet I was blown-away by Joel Coen’s beautifully-crafted adaptation done with minimalist yet bold approach. Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand make for a captivating middle-aged Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, while Kathryn Hunter delivers an effectively-eerie, Oscar-worthy performance that’s quite hard to shake. The Tragedy of Macbeth exceeds my expectations in every respect and definitely one of the absolute best films of the year. 

6. The Lost Daughter* (Full Review)

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I’m thrilled there have been quite a few buzz-worthy female-directed films last year. This one is still fresh in my mind as I had just seen it recently. It’s another phenomenal directorial debut with stunning central performances. I’ve appreciated Maggie Gyllenhaal as an actress before and she’s definitely got the chops as a writer/director. It’s such a bold first film, tackling a a taboo subject about motherhood that’s rarely depicted on screen, yet it presents the issue without a condemning eye. She directed this with such a deft hand, keeping the tension & suspense up until the end.

5. CODA* (Full Review)

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CODA is actually an English-language remake of the French-language film La Famille Bélier (2014) that the original film producer himself wanted director Sian Heder to direct for American audiences. Well, Heder certainly did an astonishing job reinventing the story and making it her own. It’s such a delightful film about a family of mostly deaf adults, with the exception of Ruby (Emilia Jones), hence the title that refers to Child of Deaf Adults. Heder is astounding here and she deserved more attention this award season, as is Troy Katsur who plays her dad. The father-daughter moment while they’re looking at the starry sky is one of my favorite scenes I’ve seen this year.

4. Drive My Car

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I’m glad I got a screener for this and it was the first film I watched of 2022. I’m glad I waited before I posted my top 10 until after I saw this. The 3-hour running time might make it hard for some people, I actually had to break it up into two viewings. The fact that the story revolves around the world of theatre–the protagonist Yûsuke is adapting Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya–appeals to me, but it’s an emotional journey about loss and love. Hidetoshi Nishijima has a magnetic appeal as Yûsuke that I’m curious to see what else he’s been in. Filmmaker Ryûsuke Hamaguchi takes his time in peeling back its layers, and I think the film could be edited down to be closer to 2-hours. At the same time, the slow, atmospheric ride is a captivating one that does reward my patience.

3. Belfast (Full Review)

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Thanks to Twin Cities Film Fest, I saw this back in October and it’s definitely the film fest highlight for me. I’ve long admired Kenneth Branagh as an actor and director, and this time he tells his own childhood story of growing up during the turbulent times of ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. The cast is fantastic, with notable, Oscar-worthy performances from Ciarán Hinds & Caitríona Balfe. Despite the dark subject matter, I find BELFAST entertaining and heartfelt, with plenty of wit and humor to keep things from being too dour. At just 1hr 38min, it never overstays its welcome. I truly appreciate filmmakers who can tell their story efficiently in a relatively short time.

2. The Power Of The Dog* (Full Review)

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Of all the movies I’ve seen last year, I think The Power of The Dog is the most potent and haunting that really gets under my skin. There’s an unsettling mood and tension permeating every minute that takes hold of you and wouldn’t let go. It’s been weeks since I saw it and I still find myself thinking about it and recounting some of its layered mystery and meaning. Benedict Cumberbatch is in fine form here that proves his versatility, and Kodi Smit-McPhee is definitely one of the best young actors working today. Bravo Jane Campion for crafting a quiet but tremendous film with plenty of undercurrents beneath the surface. It’s simply exquisite, a word I don’t usually use to describe most films. She’s a shoo-in for Oscars’ Best Director nominations. I’ll be rooting for her to win this year, but mostly I wish she’d direct more movies!

1.  DUNE (Full Review)

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It’s so wonderful when a movie you’ve been anticipating lives up to your expectations. A film that ought be seen in as big a screen as possible, but also holds up on repeat viewing on HBO Max. I actually enjoyed it more on repeat viewing, and the visuals are still as breathtaking even on the small screen. There’s so many things Denis Villeneuve did right with this massive undertaking, and one of the biggest thing is pacing. Most films over 2-hours long tend to drag, but it kept me engaged most of the time.

‘Fear is the mind-killer’ is the book’s mantra, but it might as well be Villeneuve’s. It takes some gargantuan ambition, guts, passion and craftsmanship to tackle something deemed ‘un-filmable.’ The immensely watchable ensemble cast, led by Timothée Chalamet, are terrific overall. Bring on part II!


15 Honorable Mentions

There’s no ‘science’ in picking a Best List… mostly just gut instinct and personal preference. I really enjoy these 15 films, and some of them actually almost made it to my top 10 list. In any case,

(in alphabetical order)

  1. Annette – review
  2. The Green Knight – review
  3. The Harder They Fall
  4. I’m Your Man* – review
  5. King Richard – review
  6. The Last Duel – review
  7. MASS
  8. My Name Is Pauli Murray* – review
  9. Nightmare Alley – review
  10. No Time To Die – review
  11. Passing* – review
  12. Pig
  13. Riders Of Justice – review
  14. Shang-Chi – review
  15. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit*

The films marked with * (asterisk) are those #directedbywomen
Check out my list of films I saw as part of the 52 Films By Women Challenge


What do you think of my 2021 Top 10 list? Any of your favorites on the list?

FlixChatter Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

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Let me preface this by saying that I wasn’t initially super excited for this movie. I felt that it was overhyped and I remember limiting my time on social media due to the fatigue of the relentless promos for this. But days before its release, my hubby and I rewatched the previous movie, Spider-Man: Far From Home, which got me excited to see this one. Well, this movie picked up where it left off when Peter’s identity was revealed by Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) and he’s deemed Public Enemy #1 by Daily Bugle (JK Simmons).

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The first 15 minutes dealt with the ramifications of that big reveal. The whole world’s attention is on poor Peter Parker–some are cheering for him, but given he’s been framed as Mysterio’s killer, some are castrating him too. Peter is now a high school senior who’s looking forward to college. He and his buddy Ned (Jacob Batalon) & new girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) hope to go to MIT, but their hopes are dashed with this new revelations that he’s been accused as a criminal. Peter is devastated that his friends also bear the brunt of his actions, that they too are found guilty by associations which cost them their college dreams.

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If you’ve seen at least one trailer then you likely know Peter enlists his fellow Avenger Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to help reverse time to where people would forget he is Spider-man. Despite Wong’s (Benedict Wong) warning not to cast that time-altering spell, Strange ends up help him out anyway, but Peter’s constant interruptions messes up the spell. ‘We tampered with the stability of spacetime. The multiverse is a concept about which we know frighteningly little,’ Strange said to Peter as they brace for what’s going to come next.

Director John Watts and screenwriters Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers has come up with the boldest and most ambitious movie of the franchise. Instead of coming up with a new villain, Peter now has to deal with Spider-man’s enemies from outside his own universe. One of my faves of the franchise is Spider-man 2, so it’s fun to see Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) shows up with his giant mechanical tentacles. The action sequences on the freeway overpass is pretty wild and filled with the humor we’ve come to expect.

The first villain from the franchise directed by Sam Raimi, Norman Osborne aka Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) is also back terrorizing Spidey once again. I have to say I was in awe of Mr. Dafoe’s commitment to the role, the acclaimed thespian never phones it in which big stars often do in franchises like this. In fact, his performance in the third act alone makes me think he’s one of the strongest baddies of the MCU. There are previous villains from Maguire’s and Garfield’s Spidey movies as well, but none of them are really that memorable by comparison.

Tom Holland proves once again he’s a terrific Spider-man who can balance the action, humor as well as emotional beats. The fact that he was cast when he was a teenager makes him the most age-appropriate for the character. I enjoy the effortless chemistry between the trio of friends, it helps that the actors are actually good friends in real life. Both Batalon and Zendaya have more screen time in this adventure that feel organic and not at all forced.

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Now, I’m going to talk about my favorite moments and it’s be impossible not to discuss important plot points, so consider this a spoiler warning.

Spoiler Alert (proceed with caution):

The long-rumored reunion of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as the previous Spideys indeed materialize. As is the appearance of Charlie Cox as Peter’s attorney, Matt Murdock. The entire theater erupted every time each of them showed up, and the filmmakers engineered each of the Spidey appearance in a delightful and hilarious fashion. Inclusivity brownie points for including Tagalok language in the scene involving Ned’s grandma.

The fight scene in the third act is definitely the highlight with a trio of Spideys fighting multiple villains from the multiverse. Filled with witty one liners, dynamic action, hilarious as well as moments up until the end. The final action sequence is loud, chaotic and cgi-filled that often plagued superhero movies, but this one has plenty of humor and surprises that made it more palatable. That bit where the other two Spideys were making fun of Tobey’s version for having organic web-shooters is a hoot! Garfield undoubtedly steals the show with his funniest comments… that ‘cool youth pastor’ quip still made me laugh. Having seen him as Spidey again, I feel like he was unfairly maligned. He’s the Timothy Dalton of the Spidey franchise and now fans want to see him reprise his role in a third film. Count me in!! 

I love how each Spidey got to atone for the mistake they made in their own film. When Peter say goodbye to his beloved aunt, there were few dry eyes in the theater. I remember tearing up towards the end as well as Tobey’s Spidey prevented Holland’s version from making the same mistake he did, that is killing his enemy. This is the first superhero film that actually try to save the villains instead of getting rid of them, even at a high personal cost… that altruistic quality makes it even more perfect that it’s released during the Christmas season.

End Spoiler

I’m glad I got to see this in IMAX to enjoy the dazzling visuals that one would expect from Marvel. Be sure to stay for the mid and post-credit sequences. I wasn’t really clamoring to see Doctor Strange sequel, but now I’m excited to seeDoctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness next Spring. How interesting that Raimi is directing that one, good to see him joining the MCU fifteen years after he did Spider-man 3.

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No Way Home is a great example of ‘fan service’ done right that make people fall in love with the characters all over again. The writers did a good job raising the stakes for Parker involving those he holds dear and devised an ending that’s quite a game changer for the character. It’s the kind of blockbuster crowd pleaser with redemptive qualities and genuine emotional resonance that can break through even the most bombastic action sequences.


What are YOUR thoughts about Spider-man: No WayHome

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