Screen Gems: 2021 didn’t bring us back to theaters, but it brought an avalanche of quality films | Movies | San Antonio

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  • Emilia Jones plays the leading role in Sian Heder’s CODA.

Have you seen any good movies lately? We sure have.

In fact, 2021 was a pretty cinematic year. Like last year, cinemas didn’t play a big role in the movie experience, but there were still plenty of films that left lasting impressions. Here is a list of our 10 favorites of the year.

1. CODA
Uplifting and emotionally rousing, the coming-of-age feel-good story by writer and director Sian Heder (Tallulah) is based on an authentic, unpretentious and incredibly talented cast. At face value Heder’s script may seem conventional, but the nuanced approach she takes to telling a story about an aspiring singer (Emilia Jones) and her deaf family is brimming with zeal for life that it’s impossible, not everyone the tender moments and how beautifully the family drama is carried out in two languages. That jaded heart was shaken.

2. Mass
This intense drama from lead writer and director Fran Kranz, carried by four high-profile performances, is challenging and gripping in the way it presents its tragic story. Jay (Jason Isaacs) and Gail (Martha Plimpton) are a married couple whose son was killed by a mass shooter at school. Linda (Ann Dowd) and Richard (Reed Birney) are the mother and father of the boy who committed the crime. When the two couples agree to meet to begin the healing process, their intimate conversation is in equal parts cathartic and soul-shaking.

3. Licorice pizza
Eight-time Oscar-nominated writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) has dabbled in romantic stories in Punch-Drunk Love, Phantom Thread, and even Magnolia, but his most recent film was in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s is love in its purest and most carefree form. First-time actors Cooper Hoffman (son of late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Alana Haim (of the band HAIM) exude charming chemistry, and Anderson’s script, which is far less misanthropic than his earlier work, is determined in its pursuit Happiness and nostalgia.

4. Be the Ricardos
Director and Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) can do a sentence better than almost anyone in Hollywood. Even when he overrides dialogue, it’s hard not to be wrapped up in his sharp wit and humor. It’s a perfect combination with a story about stars Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) during a turbulent week working on their 1950s TV series I Love Lucy. Kidman masters her roles as Ball and Lucille Ricardo, and while it’s fair to criticize Bardem’s cast for not being Latino, he still serves Arnaz well and captures his essence.

5. In the heights
Directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) and written by playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes, the musical is a joyous celebration of culture and family that is creative, spirited and sincere. The entire cast do their best, but actor Anthony Ramos (Hamilton) and supporting actress Olga Merediz (The Place Beyond the Pines) deliver some of the most memorable scenes in the film. With Lin-Manuel Miranda’s unforgettable soundtrack and great choreography, this is a musical that deserves to be played on a loop.

6. Language teaching
Actress and filmmaker Natalie Morales (Plan B) directs Mark Duplass (The One I Love) and herself in a film about a friendship between a grieving man and his online Spanish teacher. The format is narrated entirely between the two main characters speaking via video chat, the format is consistently engaging and it is a rewarding experience to watch the narrative evolve.

7. Spencer
More artistic and unconventional than most biographical films, spending a weekend with Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) within the walls of the royal estate during the vacation is engaging and sometimes an empathy exercise. Filmmaker Pablo Larraín (Jackie) creates an atmosphere of dignity and discontent.

8. Prayers for the stolen
Three young girls grow up in Mexico fearful that the drug cartels that rule their territory will one day take them away from their families. The fear emanating from the harrowing drama is heartbreaking when we see these innocent children living in the shadow of their own homeland.

9. The murder of Kenneth Chamberlain
The true story of Kenneth Chamberlain is heartbreaking. The 68-year-old former Marine was shot dead by New York City police in 2011 when they went to his home for a welfare check. More Fruitvale Station than Detroit, the film spearheaded by a phenomenal performance by Frankie Faison (Red Dragon) deserves to be seen.

10. The Mitchells vs. the machines
Of all the animated films this year, the story of an eccentric family at the center of a robotic Armageddon is the funniest and most imaginative of the group. It also has a fat pug, so what can you go wrong with it?

Honorable Mention: C’mon C’mon, Identifying Features, Jockey, Nightmare Alley, Parallel Mothers, Pig, Red Rocket, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Summer of Soul, West Side Story

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