Here's the recap of moviegoing in 2021. Cinemas were open for a while before they were closed, only to be re-opened again a few months later. In-person film festivals were back, even though online festivals were still a thing, too. Streaming services and online rentals still carried the year.
All in all, cinema still prevails, and good films triumph. So, here are the highlights of the year, including the best films of 2021 curated by Sinekdoks.
Check this table of content first to navigate the post easily.
Table of Contents
Top 10 Films of 2021
Special Shoutouts: Best Performances of 2021
Top 10 Best Films of 2021
Unlike previous editions of the 'Best of' series, I will only list the top 10 best films in 2021. From around 30 ti...
Christopher Walken stars as a Saskatchewan farmer, Percy Schmeiser, in Clark Johnson's Percy. The screenplay, written by Garfield L. Miller and Hilary Pryor based on a real-life legal battle in the late 1990s, is an outright story about David against Goliath. The alternate title Percy Vs. Goliath even takes this notion to the next level. Percy is the David and the agrochemical corporation, Monsanto, is the Goliath.
Percy, like his father and grandfathers before him, has been a canola farmer for generations. His method is always the same: taking the finest seeds from previous harvests for the next season. That's why he's more baffled than surprised when, out of a sudden, Monsanto sued him for illegally using their genetically modified canola seeds. To him, it's a helluva accusation;...
Amy Poehler's directorial effort, Moxie, brings back teenagers to the breakthrough movement of the bygone era fused with current issues. It's suddenly a DIY fanzine era again, with teen angst and niche poured all over, to send a sharp message. With themes revolving around bullying along with patriarchal and rape culture in US schools, you can almost observe the director's footprints here and there — without more aggressive whimpers than barks.
With a long-standing feud that has lasted for nearly 80 years, the infamous Thomas Cat and Jerry Mouse return for another showdown in what's become their second feature film (after Tom and Jerry: The Movie in 1992). In aftermath of the slow-moving development hell, Tom & Jerry finally arrive under WarnerMedia's cahoot with HBO for a hundred-minute slapstick bonanza between a couple of love-to-hate felines and rodents. This time, their story comes as a live-action and animation hybrid a la Roger Rabbit with Tim Story directing and Chloë Grace Moretz starring alongside the animated duo.
Coming to America is a surprising cultural touchstone. Eddie Murphy, possibly the greatest showman of that era, leads an all-Black ensemble of casts for a feel-good titular journey. He's portraying Prince Akeem Joffer from Zamunda, a wealthy African monarch country whose on-screen luster precedes Wakanda in recent history. The film's bold guts to choose how a Black community is portrayed and represented is a landmark of its own, even when its broad slapstick and shades of misogyny often draw egregious legacy.
In 2001, a Mauritanian man was arrested by the US government in aftermath of the September 11 attacks. The govt accused him of recruiting members for al Qaeda. He was then detained at Guantanamo Bay from 2002 until 2016 without any official charge or trial. The man, Mohamedou Ould Salahi, wrote his misfortune in a 2015 memoir 'Guantanamo Diary' which becomes the inspiration for Kevin Macdonald's The Mauritanian.
Related Post: Review: Dark Waters (2019)
Tahar Rahim sympathetically portrays Salahi with panache and extra sensitivity. However, The Mauritanian is ironically a more collective, multi-faceted story, rather than a focused story about Salahi's ordeal. The plot adds extra perspectives to the 14-year story with the inclusions of an Americ...
Inarguably, Kepompong might be one of the most memorable Indonesian pop-culture paraphernalia from 2008. The daytime teen series went on releasing 290-ish episodes between 2008 and 2009 while resurging former child actor Derby Romero's career. At the same time, the series saw the rise of newcomer Mikha Tambayong and the gush of the one-hit cult-classic song by Sind3ntosca.
More than a decade later, a feature film reworks elements from the original series into a timeless high-school drama called Persahabatan Bagai Kepompong. One of the original writers, Alim Sudio, returns on the writing desk; meanwhile, Sentot Sahid (usually known as a film editor) sits on the director's chair. However, it's not a mere adaptation; it's more of a spiritua...
Netflix-bound young adult romance, Geez & Ann, adds to the ever-expanding hit-or-miss Wattpad waves in Indonesian blockbuster scenes. Based on a story by Rintik Sedu, Rizki Balki (with another Wattpad adaptation, A: Aku, Benci & Cinta, in his repertoire) takes the directorial duty working on the script adapted by Adi Nugroho and Cassandra Massardi along with Muthia Khairunissa, Amit Jethani, and Bonky. Junior Roberts stars as Gazza Cahyadi a.k.a. Geez; meanwhile, Hanggini portrays Keana Amanda a.k.a. Ann. Now, where's its place among other Wattpad adaptations?
Anthony and Joe Russo pick up where they left in the aftermath of blockbuster classic (in the making), Avengers: Endgame with a provoking adaptation of Nico Walker's semi-autobiographical novel, Cherry. Written in a US prison, the 2018 novel follows a 'cherry' (slang for a fresh soldier in the battle) with his frail love story, his visceral tour in Iraq Wars along with the PTSD, his descend into illegal drugs, and his eventual notoriety as a bank robber. The cherry is Tom Holland in another attempt to shed the school-boy style out of his repertoire.
J Blakeson (The 5th Wave, The Disappearance of Alice Creed) must have written the script of his Netflix-bound thriller with Rosamund Pike, specifically her portrayal of Gone Girl's Amy Dunne, in mind. The protagonist (or maybe anti-protagonist) in I Care a Lot is a cunningly cool, manipulative woman whose words can twist the truth —blurring the lines between fact and fiction almost effortlessly. Here are the keywords: she is a human-prison. If anyone should portray such a character, Pike will always be the frontrunner; and she's the one with the role.
Here comes another romantic comedy —fluent enough at incorporating time-loop without getting tangled in the familiarity. It's fluent enough not to beat the dead horse and give away any exposition about the temporal anomaly's nature. It's fluent enough to give the time-loop a purpose in the narrative greater than a mere gimmick. It's fluent enough to make the titular Map of Tiny Perfect Thing a worthwhile journey.
Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky's high school romance has eventually come into the closing stage with To All the Boys: Always and Forever. Michael Fimognari, helmer of the second installment, returns in the directorial duty with Katie Lovejoy taking over the writing department. The power couple, Lana Condor and Noah Centineo return with the whole ensemble for a final stroke in this saccharine-heavy teen romance that starts exhilaratingly with To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018) and immediately shows sign of fatigue by the release of To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020).
Paul Greengrass's News of the World might observe the director's venturing in an area he barely touched in his repertoire. Coming from the filmmaker whose works are associated with fast cuts, energetic camera movements, and dazzling thrillers (as shown in the Bourne series or United 93), this Western drama starring Tom Hanks (reunited with the director after Captain Phillips) seems a little too patient and placid—but not less Greengrass-y. Narrating the story of Civil War-torn America through a newscaster of yore, this couldn't be less political, journalistic, and timely than his other films.
It's hard to tell whether Mike Cahill's Bliss is a sci-fi drama or simply a wicked rom-com at least until half-way through the film. The film basically gives away the same promise his previous sci-fi dramas, Another Earth and I Origins, tries to deliver rather profoundly and philosophically albeit seeming comical at some intersections. This time, however, the premise ends up being more interesting than the actual film is—even when Salma Hayek's recently rare leading performance sparks some lights.
In some other stories, death might be the end; but, not in this one. Death is what set this Taiwanese drama in motion. Grief that follows is the force that stokes up Joseph Hsu Chen-chieh's family melodrama, Little Big Women, as it navigates between the sea of distresses and unspoken longings. Grief is also an unlikely power that reunites an ordinary family with a not-so-ordinary story and unravels secrets from the past that have been swept under the rug.
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