BEST OF MOVIES 2021
Every year I post what I think are the best films of 2022, based on what I viewed. This year is no different- I watched a lot and liked (not necessarily loved) a lot. Some of these picks are popular, maybe among audiences and/or critics, some little known, and some made it to Oscar nods. Either way, for this blog, it's my professional (critic) and personal opinion.
The Power of the Dog by Jane Campion, is a film I saw during the Mill Valley Film Festival last fall. I knew even thought it was early in the high brow movie season, it would be a strong contender and quite possibly the one to beat. While other solidly good films started filing in, Power of the Dog has remained my favorite, and I think, the best. It's a slow burn psychological drama/ a dark Western period. Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role as a cowboy and co-owner of a ranch, along with his brother played by Jesse Plemons. Cumberbatch's character is exudes toxic masculinity that threatens Jesse's character's new wife, played by Kirsten Dunst and her delicate teen son. The acting by the four leads is impeccable. The photography is enticing, and the story adapted by Campion and overall direction are stellar.
A Hero (go to full review HERE).
Drive My Car (go to full review HERE)
C'mon C'mon - Because director Mike Mills never disappoints and always delivers equal parts tenderness, intensity and delight, it's hard to say if this is his best yet. Maybe so with Joaquin Phoenix in the lead as Johnny, portraying an estranged brother his sister, Viv who's a single mom (Gaby Hoffman), and a neglectful uncle to his sister's young, quirky nephew Jesse (Woody Norman). When Johnny, who is a documentary filmmaker based in New York, visits his sister and nephew in Los Angeles, he ends up staying longer than planned to free up his sister to fly to Oakland in order to help her son's dad who is plagued with mental health issues. As a result of the uncle and son's quality time together, they develop a bond and Joaquin offers to bring him back to New York with him while his sister needs more time away. Their time in New York is equally parts fun and frustrating for them both, but the journey of reconnection and relationship building for all parties involved is an utter delight for the audience to experience.
Passing - Taking place in the late 1920s, light skinned childhood friends reunite as middle class adults- one, Irene, living as a Black woman in Harlem with her husband and two children, the other, Clare, living downtown passing as a white woman married to an established white man. In establishing a renewed friendship, the two become increasingly involved in each other's lives and insecurities. While Irene identifies, with Clare's "passes" as white becoming problematic for them both.
The film is the directorial debut for actor, Rebecca Hall who is also impressively adapted the script from the novel by Nella Larsen. It is shot beautifully and starkly in black and white, has a deliberate slow pace, with a nuanced story line, with equally nuance dialogue and plot. For some, all that slowness and nuance will serve to either intrigue or attract, while many more, I suspect, will probably less engaged. Either way, there is no denying that the casting. of actors Tessa Thompson and Ruth Nega in the lead roles is perfection. They both physically present as you would expect Irene and Clare to, and they are both immensely talented, embracing the complexity of their situations.
The Tragedy of Macbeth - What is there to say? It's two of the best actors of our time - Denzel Washington and Francis McDormand - robustly taking on two of the most iconic roles as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and under the direction of one of the prolific and talented directors, Joel Cohen. The only thing possibly better than their performances and Cohen's direction, is the cinematography and set designs. I do suggest before watching this film that you familiarize or re-familarize yourself with the original play by the Bard- Shakespeare- or at least availing yourself to the Cliff Notes. Otherwise, it will be like watching a foreign film without subtitles.
Parallel Mothers by the cinematic institution that is Pedro Almadovar, is not close to as good as his masterpieces, All About My Mother or Talk to Her, but not as disappointing as his more recent films. Parallel Mothers, with Penelope Cruz in the lead is as good as his 2019 film, Pain and Glory, starring Antonio Banderas. In Parallel Mothers, two women, Janis (Cruz) and Ana, meet in a hospital room where they are going to give birth. While they are both single and became pregnant by accident, the older, Janis is looking forward to what could be her last opportunity at motherhood. The other, Ana, who is a teenager, is scared and regretful. Janis is a source of encouragement and support, and later will continue to be so when their lives intersect, post pregnancy.
If Pedro had focused on that one story line, with maybe one subplot, this could have been an exceptional offering from the maestro. Instead, he bordered, per usual, on melodrama, and introduced one too many subplots that went unexplored. In fact, it was not until the film's end that he touches on historical and political issues, that seem much more interesting, but sadly only touched on. With that critique you are. probably asking why did Parallel Mothers make my list. It did mostly due to the strong performance by Cruz. This is not dissimilar to Banderas in Pain and Glory. If nothing else, it is always a pleasure to see Pedro bring out stunning performances from exceptional actors.
Woman is Loser (Go to full review HERE)
Summer of Soul (Go to full review HERE)
Don't Look Up - This might not be Adam McKay at his best, but his "not best" is better than most. This is a fun and thought provoking in a way that only McKay can deliver, and with a fantastic all-star ensemble cast. Two scientists, played against type, but pitch perfectly and delightfully by Leonardo Dicaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, warn the president of the United States (Meryl Streep) that the end of the world is at hand as a planet from a different stratosphere is headed earth's way. What ensues, in addition to a lot of laughs, is a reflection of modern day society, with no meeting of the political divide.