“Lost Daughter”, “Licorice Pizza” are AP’s best films for 2021 | Venue

The Associated Press filmmakers select the best films of 2021:


1. “The Prodigal Daughter”: There is an element of danger, real and theoretical, that pervades every moment of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s electrical adaptation of the Elena Ferrante novel. Despite the idyllic Greek coastal location and the intoxicating premise of a solo vacation, the discomfort hovers oppressively as we follow the brilliant, passionate, selfish, cruel and inscrutable Leda Caruso (Olivia Colman) through some unorthodox decisions past and present. Not only is she one of the richest characters to ever grace our screens, but she’s also the kind of movie that will dig itself into your subconscious.

2. “Liquorice Pizza”: It’s a rare movie that leaves you nostalgic for a time and place you never knew, but Paul Thomas Anderson’s breezy, sunny “Licorice Pizza” does just that for the San Fernando Valley directed by Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and Alana Kanes (Alana Haim) young people. Bathed in southern California’s calm and optimism, this is a playful and happy ode to great personalities, embellished stories, endless possibilities and the lovable Hollywood neighborhood of a place that barely exists.

3. “Dune”: A smart and spectacular vision that is bigger than IMAX. Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” is by far the best blockbuster of the last few years. There was so much baggage and failures and missed opportunities swirling around “Dune” that it is miraculous that they have been able to make something so clear, exciting and visually unique. The best part is that it isn’t even done yet.

4. “The souvenir part II”: Art house films don’t usually get sequels with numbers for many reasons, most of them boring and money-related, so it’s a bit of a miracle that “The Souvenir Part II” even exists. But perhaps even more extraordinary is what a great film it is when director Joanna Hogg and her star / deputy Honor Swinton Byrne unpack Julie’s tragic first love and development as an artist.

5. “Drive my car”: Quiet reigns in the Japanese drama “Drive My Car,” which filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi adapted from a Haruki Murakami short story about a widowed actor who connects with his chauffeur while putting together a multilingual production of Uncle Vanya. Don’t be put off by the three-hour runtime that has seemed like an exclusive realm of bloated epics lately: it’s sublime here.

6. “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar”: Writing about the absurd joys of “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” is almost a disservice to something that has to be experienced, preferably in pastel culottes with curlers in your hair and a mixed tropical drink in hand. It was a big swing that could have been a disaster. Instead we have a new comedy classic. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t take Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig 10 more years to think of their next adventure.

7. “Luca”: This is the only movie on the list that I’ve seen more than 10 times. It’s not exactly voluntary, there’s a 2 year old in the equation, but it’s not a chore either. Indeed, it is a pleasure to be transported to the Cinque Terra-inspired city of Portorosso to watch a couple of teenage sea monsters dream of Vespas and a better future. It also has a tremendous score and a lively soundtrack of mid-century Italian bops.

8. “The power of the dog”: Jane Campion’s breathtaking and sure-footed film is a story about loneliness in the barren Montana border from 1925, as rich and complex as a novel, set like a mystery, a western and a meditation on masculinity, femininity, class, love and hate . Benedict Cumberbatch’s brilliant, unwashed, casually cruel rancher Phil Burbank is a villain for the ages.

9. “The hand of God”: Paolo Sorrentino’s autobiographical film “The Hand of God” may deal with tragedy and fate and “coming-of-age”, but it is not a sentimental or exaggerated sentimental matter. This is a shimmery, ecstatic love letter to the family that uses all of the colors of the box.

10. “The Planet”: Director Amalia Ulman plays at the side of her real mother in “El Planeta”, a wild satire about two women with very limited resources who are trying to live a glamorous farce in post-crisis Spain by navigating high-end establishments cheating and shoplifting and doing their best.

Also note: “The Rescue”, “Bergman Island”, “Flieh”, “The World to Come”, “The Green Knight”, “Summer of Soul”


1. “The worst person in the world”: The extremely sensitive character study by Joachim Trier was not my first feature film this year, but the first film that filled me with all the joy, joy and surprise of going to the cinema. The Trier film, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and got off to a real start in February, shows Renate Reinsve as an insecure Oslo-30-year-old who finds her way. I haven’t figured out yet if the film’s warm, exuberant humanity or the experience of seeing it on the big screen with other people moved it to tears. But what’s the difference?

2. “The Beatles: Back”: It’s been an exceptional year for music documentaries thanks to revelations like Questlove’s “Summer of Soul” and Todd Haynes’ “The Velvet Underground”. But Peter Jackson’s eight-hour Beatles hangout is an overwhelming cultural artifact, not only because it reinterprets so much of what we know about Paul, John, George and Ringo, but also because it captures real-time artistic creation and collaboration. As much as “Get Back” is about breaking up the band, it’s often amazing and sweet how in sync they can be with each other.

3. “Liquorice pizza”: Paul Thomas Anderson’s shaggy story of self-discovery in the San Fernando Valley of the 1970s strikes me as Anderson, a virtuoso filmmaker in his most delicate and organic form. “Licorice Pizza”, replete with the comical chronicles of adolescence and young adulthood, is the most-lived film of the year.

4. “The souvenir part II”: Better still than Part One, Joanna Hogg’s continuation of her deeply autobiographical drama is simply one of the most sublime portraits of an artist as a young filmmaker there is. If Anderson revived 1970s California in Licorice Pizza, Hoggs film is just as detailed in 1980s London. Filmmaking is seldom as acutely personal – and yet generously expansive – as this.

5. “The truffle hunters”: Michael Dweck’s and Gregory Kershaw’s extremely charming documentary is about ancient Italians looking for truffles with loyal canine companions. However, their tradition is jeopardized by the greed of those who would thwart or even kill the dogs so that they could better compete for the high-priced delicacy. With lush, pointillist images (and dog cameras!), The filmmakers discover an enchanting, disappearing world. (For a double game on truffle hunting, combine it with “Pig,” in which a fabulous Nicholas Cage stars.)

6. “Drive my car”: Dogs are also a key to happiness in Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s emotional epic, a breathtaking work of quiet, deep intimacy. There is a lot under the hood of “Drive My Car” – art, sadness, friendship, Chekhov. Many films are described as a “ride,” but Hamaguchi’s melancholy masterpiece, in which the opening credits last 40 minutes, deserves this label in its own unique way.

7. “The Mitchells against the machines”: A classic family road trip film featuring a robot apocalypse and a pug that can easily be mistaken for a loaf of bread. An ancient delight.

8. “Little mom”: Celine Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” was my favorite film of 2019, but I still wasn’t prepared for what a gentle gem her follow-up “Petite Maman” would be. In just 72 minutes, Sciamma composes a sparse but enormously rich fairy tale about an 8-year-old girl who, at a time of mourning in the forest, meets another girl who is mysteriously similar to her. There’s a magic here that Maurice Sendak would have worshiped.

9. “The people”: A family gathers in a shabby Chinatown apartment for Thanksgiving when it gets dark in Stephen Karam’s terrifying adaptation of his own Tony-winning play. Like the apartment, they all have their own flaws and flaws painted over, and the conversation vibrates with existentialist reverberations. In a flawless cast, Richard Jenkins and Jayne Houdyshell stand out in particular.

10. “The hand of God”: Autobiographically, it doesn’t feel like a natural mode to Paolo Sorrentino, but that’s part of what makes his most personal film so full of wonder. Sorrentino’s film about a childhood in Naples, which stretches from the divine to the profane, from bliss to tragedy, is best when he does not look to himself as a young man, but to the outside world, to his coastal city and family him around.

Likewise: “Red Rocket”, “The Power of the Dog”, “The Lost Daughter”, “A Hero”, “CODA”, “Titane”, “Flee”, “Dune”, “Annette”, “Riders of Justice”

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