Wes's Top 10 Films of 2021 (and more)
I will fully admit, 2021 was not my favorite year of films, and coming up with my Top10 list proved to be a mild challenge, as there were few films that truly wowed me. It was a better year than 2020 and hopefully will improve even more next year. Overall, I give the year itself a C+, maybe a B- for Spider-Man bringing it at the end of the year.
Here are my 10 best films, in no particular order:
"Summer of Soul" - This Questlove documentary about a 1969 Harlem music festival, was the most fascinating, fun and even touching. A must-see.
"CODA" - This Apple drama is the year's most touching dramedy, about a hearing-impaired family with a daughter who hears fine (CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults).
"West Side Story" - While I didn't like it as much as some others, Steven Spielberg's remake is nearly as good as the original. Nearly.
"Dune" - Denis Villenueve's sublime sci-fi drama has much more heft and excitement than the dreadful 1984 David Lynch version.
"Belfast" - Kenneth Branagh's semi-autobiographical black-and-white period piece is one of the year's most uplifting and well-acted.
"Passing" - This drama, also a black-and-white period piece, is an auspicious directorial and writing debut of actress Rebecca Hall, will stay with you after its over, particularly that confounding ending.
"In the Heights" - This rousing musical, the one Lin Manuel-Miranda wrote and produced before "Hamilton," was colorful and inspiring.
"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" - One of the most exciting in this phase of MCU, even with a silly ending.
"Being the Ricardos" - Aaron Sorkin's script and Nicole Kidman's transformative performance made this Lucille Ball bio-drama one of the year's best.
"Licorice Pizza" - Paul Thomas Anderson's 1970's coming-of-age dramedy is offbeat, charming, well-acted and one of his best films in years.
Honorable Mention: "Spider-Man: No Way Home," "Pig," "The French Dispatch," "The Last Wave," "Free Guy," "Black Widow," "The Courier," "No Time to Die," "The Last Duel," "The Suicide Squad," "Army of the Dead" and "Nobody."
And my worst of 2021:
"House of Gucci" - What was the point of this film? The lifestyles of the Rich and Boring. Gaga was good, Adam Driver was terrible, Leto and Pacino, big hams.
"Old" - M. Night Shyamalan's horror films are still hit and miss these days. This dumb, ill-conceived thriller was definitely in the miss category.
"The Tomorrow War" - Think Chris Pratt couldn't do anything wrong after "Guardians of the Galaxy?" Think again. This Amazon Prime apocalyptic thriller was one of the silliest films of the year.
"Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard" - Salma Hayek, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson took the money and ran very fast in this awful and bloody, supposed comedic mess.
"Annette" - One of the most bizarre films of the year. Adam Driver and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard try their best, but what the heck were The Sparks Brothers thinking?
"Dear Evan Hansen" - The Tony-award winning musical played much better on Broadway. And yes, we all loved Ben Platt as Evan, when he was age-appropriate to play him.
"The Matrix: Resurrections" - There was lots of nostalgia, but everything about this sequel was unnecessary and dumb.
"Space Jam: A New Legacy" - This follow-up to the original 1996 "Space Jam" was dull, unfunny and headache-inducing. LeBron James' acting? Yea, stick to your day job.
"Tom & Jerry"' - No. Just no. Much like the above "Space Jam," this is one of the year's most headache-inducing films, dumbing down a classic cartoon to the lowest level.
"Joe Bell" - This depressing film, based on a tragic true story of a teen's coming out, was re-made into a Mark Wahlberg film. As if that wasn't questionable enough, the film's awful, attempted "twist" is so casually mentioned by Wahlberg mid-film that's it's jaw-dropping, and the film never recovers. The real story deserved much better.
I liked but didn't love (and there were many):
"King Richard" - Will Smith is a shoo-in for an Oscar for his great (though occasionally hammy) turn as larger-than-life Richard Williams, father to Venus and Serena. But the movie felt like it left a lot of the story out, namely the huge talent of his daughters.
"Spencer" - Kristen Stewart's excellent, detailed turn as Princess Diana is one of the year's best single performances. The movie? Trite and ho-hum. Netflix's "The Crown" did this story better.
"Don't Look Up" - So many enjoyed this, and while some of it is timely, Oscar-winner Adam McKay's heavy-handed, much too long apocalyptic satire was a mess, chasing way too many rabbits. He also couldn't reign in a bad, overacted Leonardo DiCaprio performance.
"The Unforgivable" - I love Sandra Bullock. And she's great in this otherwise dour, predictable drama. I gave the basic plot points to my awesome hairstylist, who figured it out in 10 seconds without having seen the film.
"Eternals" - This overlong, jumbled film was a disappointment in the MCU universe, especially considering the director (Chloe Zhao, fresh off her Oscar-winning "Nomadland") and talent.
"The Tragedy of Macbeth" - Denzel Washington was towering as Macbeth in Joel Coen's adaptation of the classic Shakespeare drama, but it doesn't add anything new to it, appealing mainly to English lit majors.
"Encanto" - I may get hate mail for this one. "Encanto" was colorful but certainly not one of Disney's best: the whole first half was a bit of a slog, and Lin-Manuel Miranda's bland music was just OK.
"tick..tick..Boom!" - This rousing musical was a terrific tribute to "Rent" creator Jonathan Larson, but Andrew Garfield's teary performance had me wondering if Larson himself was that emotional.
"The Power of the Dog" - The acting is superb in this Jane Campion character-driven western: Benedict Cumberbatch gives one of his best performances to date, but its slow-as-molasses plot didn't do it many favors.
"Nightmare Alley" - Guillermo Del Toro's overlong period piece and follow-up to his Oscar-winning "The Shape of Water" was well-acted by Bradley Cooper and Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, and is lovely to look at, but is so plodding you'll feel most of its two-and-a-half hour running time.