The Associated Press filmmakers select the best films of 2021:
1. “The Lost Daughter”: There is an element of danger, real and theoretical, that resides in 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 past and present decisions. 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. “Licorice Pizza”: It’s a rare film that makes you nostalgic for a time and place you never knew, but Paul Thomas Anderson‘s airy, sunny “Licorice Pizza” does just that for the San Fernando Valley by Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffmann) and Alana Kanes (Alana Haim) Teenagers. 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 vision that is as intelligent as it is spectacular, which is bigger than IMAX. Denis Villeneuve‘Dune’ is by far the best blockbuster in recent 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”: Arthouse films usually don’t get sequels with digits for many reasons, most of them are boring and have to do with money, so it’s a small miracle that “The Souvenir Part II” at all exists. But perhaps even more extraordinary is what a great film he is as a director Joanna Hogg and her star / deputy Honor Swinton Byrne unpack Julie’s tragic first love and her development as an artist.
5. “Drive My Car”: The Japanese drama “Drive My Car” that the filmmaker made Ryusuke Hamaguchi adapted from a Haruki Murakami Short story about a widowed actor who connects with his chauffeur while putting together a multilingual Uncle Vanya production. 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”: To write 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-colored culottes Curlers in your hair and a tropical mixed drink in your hand. It was a big swing that could have been a disaster. Instead we have a new comedy classic. Let’s just hope it won’t take Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig another 10 years to think of their next adventure.
7. “Luca”: This is the only film 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”: A story about loneliness on the barren border of Montana from 1925, Jane Campion‘s breathtaking and sure-footed film is as rich and multi-layered as a novel, plays out like a mystery, a western and a meditation on masculinity, femininity, class, love and hate. Benedict Cumberbatch‘s, brilliant, unspoiled, 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” deals with tragedy and fate and “coming-of-age”, but it is not a sentimental or overly sentimental affair. 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 appears at the side of her real mother in “El Planeta”, a wild satire about two women with very limited resources who are trying to experience a glamorous farce in post-crisis Spain by tricking their way through high-end establishments and Shoplifting and doing your best.
Also worth mentioning: “The Rescue”, “Bergman Island”, “Flee”, “The World to Come”, “The Green Knight”, “Summer of Soul”
1. “The worst person in the world”: Joachim TrierThe utterly compassionate character study wasn’t my first film to hit theaters this year, but it was the first that filled me with all the joy, joy, and surprise of going to the cinema. The film from Trier, which made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival and got off to a real start in February, plays the leading role Renate Reinsve as an insecure Oslo thirty-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: Get Back”: It’s been an extraordinary year in music documentation thanks to revelations like Questloves “Summer of Soul” and Todd Haynes‘”The velvet underground.” but Peter JacksonThe eight-hour Beatles Hangout is an overwhelming cultural artifact, and not just because it reinterprets so much of what we know about Paul, John, George, and Ringobut how it captures artistic creation and collaboration in real time. 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. “Licorice Pizza”: Paul Thomas Anderson’s shaggy story of self-discovery in the San Fernando Valley of the 1970s strikes me as 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”: Even better than the first part, 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 and Gregory Kershaw‘s extremely charming documentary is about old Italian men who seek 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 truffle hunt double film, combine it with “Pig” with a fabulous one Nicholas cage.)
6. “Drive My Car”: Dogs are also a factor of happiness Ryusuke Hamaguchi‘s emotional epic, a breathtaking work of calm, 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 vs the Machines”: A classic family road trip film with a robot apocalypse and a pug that can easily be mistaken for a loaf of bread. An ancient delight.
8. “Little mom”: Celine Sciamma“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 Maurice Sendak would have idolized.
9. “The Humans”: A family gathers in a shabby apartment in Chinatown for Thanksgiving as it gets dark Stephen Karam‘s terrifying adaptation of his own Tony-winning piece. 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 are special features.
10. “The Hand of God”: Autobiography doesn’t feel like a natural mode for 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.
Also: “Red Rocket”, “The Power of the Dog”, “The Lost Daughter”, “A Hero”, “CODA”, “Titane”, “Flee”, “Dune”, “Annette”, “Riders of Justice” “”
Republished with permission from The Associated Press.