To round out the year we now move onto the best the big-screen had to offer in 2021. With the cinema shut-down in the UK lifted mid-way through the year, a wave of hotly anticipated films finally made their landing. And while the quantity of films released in 2021 is unsurprisingly still abnormal, there have been some fabulous pictures in the 2021 calendar. We’ve had blockbusters, fantastic indie films and more superhero adventures than even the biggest comic-book fan could stomach.
No Tim To Die finally honoured its release date schedule - although Bonds omission from this list should tell you how Craig’s final outing as the notorious spy turned out. Dune received its highly anticipated big-screen redemption arc as science-fiction aficionado Denis Villeneuve attempted to right the wrongs of the films previous 1984 adaptation. While we also had a whole host of thrilling horror films. Finally, 2021 also represented a stellar year for first-time directors - particularly female directors - with Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Lost Daughter), Rebecca Hall (Passing), Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), Emma Seligman (Shiva Baby) and many others making their feature film directional debuts. But anyway let’s get into the list.
Honourable Mention, Kate
Female reboots have been the wiping boy of Hollywood for the last decade. Every time a studio is looking to reach their self imposed quota for female inclusivity they turn to pre-existing source material for a quick fix - which also coincidentally allows them to keep the rights to that material. It’s lazy on their part, produces more often than not box-office and critical duds while also being frankly insulting. That’s why Kate is a breath of fresh air. Here we have a brand new, originally female character we can route for, with none of the added baggage from a franchise that has already been drained dry. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fantastic as the deadly assassin Kate. It’s a physically demanding performance that showcases her well-honed martial arts skills - previously witnessed in Birds of Prey last years honourable mention. The Neon lit streets of Tokyo make for an endlessly enthralling, futuristic feeling setting. Miku Patrica Martineau makes for an entertaining companion to Winstead’s fearsome warrior. Out of her depth, she works as a bridge for the audience into this dangerous, frequently violent, world.
25) First Cow
Director Kelly Reichardt's delicate western recounts the sombre story of two wayward grifters Cookie (John Magaro) and King-Lu (Orion Lee) trying to find their purpose during the American gold rush. Down on their luck, the pair discover an ingenious money-making scheme in order to pay for their freedom from the harsh environment of Americans underdeveloped west. The only issue? This plan involves stealing the milk of the unforgiving Chief Factor's (Toby Jones) prized cow. The films major narrative doesn't being until First Cow reaches its halfway point. Reichardt is effortlessly comfortable in her direction. Taking time to explore the beautiful landscape of the untarnished west coast. For a western the film isn't flashy in the slightest, there are no extravagant action sequences or flamboyant performances. But despite this First Cow remains utterly engrossing. The plight of our two leads is honest and completely believable. They are just two men trying to find their place in the world. The cinematography should also be praised. With Christopher Blauvelt taking full advantage of the rich, deeply textured wildness that encompasses the world the story inhabits to create a visual style that revels in the settings natural beauty.
Set in 1980’s Britain during the height of the ‘Video Nastys’ craze - the state-sanctioned censoring of low budget horror films released directly to VHS - Prano Bailey-Bonds feature debut follows film censor Enid (Niamh Algar), who upon viewing a film that shares eerily similar themes with her sister's mysterious disappearance, sets out to uncover the truth behind her sister's fate. Ultimately leading to an experience that melds reality and fiction together. It’s worth remembering that despite their openness today, film censorship in Britain was rife during the '70s and '80s. Often leading the world in the never-ending hoops creators would have to jump through in order to get their film released. Censor explores this paranoia, which transfixed everyone from the government to the press and even the church, though the lowly censor Enid. Her difficulties of separating reality from fantasy encapsulate this moment in British film history perfectly. The film is also visually stunning. With ever-changing aspect ratios creating a sense of building dread as the mystery starts to be uncovered. The use of neon lighting against the stark black background the film embodies looks spectacular.
23) Petite Maman
Following on from last years marvellous Portrait of a Lady on Fire seasoned French director Celine Sciamma has returned with another beautiful feature film. Petite Maman is a story about trauma and loss. Exploring the various ways human beings cope with the fallout. After losing her Grandmother Nelly (Josephine Sanz) travels with her parents to her Grandmothers home to help clear it out. Upon arriving at the idyllic woodland house she explores the surrounding woods only to stumble upon another little girl who shares startling similarities to her. A modern-day fable it's unclear what we are supposed to take as verbatim from Sciamma's touching drama. But the reality is it doesn't really matter. Clocking in at just 72 minutes long, the ability named Petite Maman is a short but ever so sweet exploration of the simplicities of childhood innocence, that is sure to leave viewers reaching for the tissues.
22) The Harder They Fall
2021 has seen a recovery for the Western genre. A genre that has died a slow death with the worthy entries since the turn of the century limited to a number you could count with your fingers. The Harder They Fall fits into that category. The film is a brilliant throwback to the westerns of old. A simple revenge premise, crafted with skill and finesse. The film's style is reminiscent of Tarantino. The exaggerated violence and blood-shed feel straight out of his black book. Yet the film still manages to differentiate itself from the popular director's work. The Harder They Fall director Jeymes Samuel has assembled a fearsome cast, boasting some of the best and brightest talents currently plying their trade in the industry. Idris Elba returns to his villainous routes as outlaw Rufus Buck and Jonathan Majors - who seems to be here there and everywhere at the moment - takes the leading role as the vengeance-driven Nat Love. But it’s Regina King, playing the steely no-nonsense henchmen Trudy to Elba’s Buck who really steals the show here. It’s rare to see King, as seasoned an actor as she is, playing against type like this. But, as she always does, she nails her antagonist role. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her explore this avenue further in future projects.
21) Last Night in Soho
Edgar Wright continued his trip down nostalgia lane with his latest creation throwing us all the way back to 60’s London, dripping in sex, sleaze and…Ghosts? Upon arriving in the big city In the modern-day, fashion student and Cornwall native Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) - who is comfortable keeping herself to herself - starts to experience very real, very extravagant dreams of 60’s counter-part Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) who herself came to London in order to make something of herself. Unsurprisingly, these dreams soon turn into a nightmare and the true hideous underbelly of both 60’s Soho and its modern-day parallel starts to be unravelled. Wright has created a film that is spectacular to look at. The lighting and cinematography are extravagant, creating at times both a beautiful but also mysterious London. His normal fast-paced editing, which he has become lorded for, fits seamlessly with the audacious narrative he has created. There’s also a fantastic lead performance by Thomasin McKenzie who really stands out from the crowd here. It’s certainly her strongest performance of a flourishing career so far.
Staring Emilia Jones - who has had a breakout 2021 - as teenager Ruby, who like the films title states is a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) and directed by Sian Heder in her feature film return, CODA is the breakthrough Apple needed to finally compete in the film space with their streaming counterparts. The plot follows Ruby’s struggles as she is torn between the life she has built with her family, who rely heavily on her, and her dreams to become a singer by pursuing her love for music at college. It’s very rare that you’ll see a mainstream project approach deaf characters in such a detailed carefully constructed way. It’s important for these stories to be told for this very reason and Heder along with her cast and crew have done a fantastic job. Making sure to hire real deaf actors has helped to embrace the realism the story is trying to inhabit. They find humour and love in a disability that is often seen as a curse. Jones, who has an emphatic singing voice, shows her range throughout the film. Shining not only in the singing sequences but also the emotional, dramatic moments of the film. A tear-jerker ending makes this film a must-watch.
As mentioned already, 2021 has been a stellar year for first-time directors. With Passing being one of that ilk. It may not be as high up this year's list as its counterparts but what you can’t deny is the sheer audaciousness of a first-time director taking on such a complex and bold first feature. Rebecca Hall - who will appear later on this list in an acting capacity - has come out swinging and this is only the being what is sure to be a fruitful career behind the camera. The film follows the unexpected reunion of two old friends in 1920’s New York. However, it’s not your average reunion. Clare (Ruth Negga), although mixed-race is presenting herself as a white woman - or ‘passing’ - which shocks old friend Irene (Tessa Thompson) and sets in motion a fractures reconnection between the two women, who are living very different lives. Both Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga deliver spellbinding performances. Neither has ever been better than this, which is an astounding feat in itself, considering their exceptional careers so far. The themes of the film run deep with identity and betrayal taking the forefront. Both characters remain emotionally composed for the majority of the film, so it’s an opportunity for Thompson and Negga to showcase their subtle acting capabilities. The emotion that would previously take lines of dialogue to capture is instead brought to the screen in a single glance or a solitary movement. The black and white colour grading mixed with the tight 4:3 aspect ratio makes for a beautifully crafted film, led by Hall and her cinematographer Eduard Grau. It’s a rarity that a first time director will push to create something so brave. Hopefully Passing will inspire more to take such a rewarding risk.
18) The Suicide Squad
If 2021 was the year where Marvels big-screen adventures died a slow death, it was also the year DC flexed their muscles and further demonstrated why of the two, they are the ones willing to experiment with the superhero formula on the big screen. Under the vision of James Gunn - the man behind Guardians of the Galaxy - Suicide Squad has transformed its image from that of a laughing stock, after the abysmal 2016 film of the same name, into a laugh riot. Dropping the serious persona of its predecessor this reimagining embraces the idiocy of its premise. While also introducing a plethora of new characters who perfectly embody this change in tone. From a Half man half shark who’s only interested in eating people, to a villain whose powers revolve around regurgitated polka dots while being haunted by visions of his overbearing mother - which as expected from Gunn is presented in a hilarious equally disturbing way. There’s even a human-size weasel. Idris Elba takes over the reins from Will Smith as Bloodsport in a deliciously heightened performance. Playfully teeing off against his almost identically powered confidant Peacemaker (John Cena) - in what must be his first palatable role. This relationship between the two of them and the bonkers opening sequence of the film perfectly encapsulate what Gunn has tried to achieve with this new entry into the much-maligned DCEU. Suicide Squad knows it’s stupid and isn’t afraid to embrace it.
17) The Night House
If there's one thing we have learnt from cinema over the last decade, and particularly during the pandemic when the only films released were those directly onto streaming services, you can always rely on the horror genre to produce multiple notable films every year without breaking a sweat. This previous decade has seen horror evolve from the cheesy B-movie films of the 2000s into a mixture of the glory days from the '70s and '80s and an altogether new philosophical animal, which treats horror with the respect it deserves. The Night House is another entry into the latter. Haunted by her husband's sudden, seemingly unexplained, suicide Beth (Rebecca Hall), in an attempt to piece together her husband's state of mind in the lead up to his death, starts to uncover the dark secrets which plagued his existence. There’s a subtle early precedent set in the film that there may be supernatural elements at work. But despite a third act with brings these ideas to the forefront, The Night house for the most part remains a deeply grounded exploration of grief. The beauty being the supernatural elements are never fully confirmed. Only becoming prevalent with the deterioration of Beth's mind. I can’t help but feel flabbergasted that this film isn’t based on a Stephen King novel. It’s trademark King, right down to that third act structure. Directed expertly taking full advantage of its Erie lakeside setting this is a film so good King might wish it was one of his many adaptations.
Bob Odenkirk has had a glittering but often overlooked career. Featuring in a plethora of great films (admittedly normally in supporting roles) Odenkirk has also treated us to one of the all-time great small-screen performances in his performance as the flamboyant lawyer Saul Goodman. He truly is a god amongst men. His new feature film character - finally a leading role - Hutch Mansell shares very little with his iconic character. He’s a mild-mannered quiet office worker who likes to keep himself to himself. But under this well-crafted facade lays a ruthless former killer. The man you call in to fix a problem when all other methods have been exhausted. After his house is burgled this killer turned docile family man must once again become a cold-blooded killing machine as he takes on the Russian mob. If Kate is the female version of John Wick this would be the over the hill dad version. Sharing the uninterrupted long-take style of action which Kate embraced and John Wick made the norm. Nobody boasts adrenaline fulled action sequences that arrive in droves. I wouldn’t be surprised if director Ilya Naishuller's crime-thriller becomes the next big action franchise.
15) Black Bear
Looking for inspiration, Aubrey Plazas filmmaker Alison visits a wilderness retreat and uncovers creative inspiration from her own life and the glorious location. Split into two very distinct mini-films, Black Bear explores many different themes. Betrayal, manipulation, the chaotic production style of indie films, unhealthy relationships and gender dynamics. The comfortable nature in which Black Bear is able to fit all of these competing themes into a film under two hours is a triumph in itself. But the detail to which they are explored makes this film something really special. Maybe best described as a hilariously awkward dark-comedy there are sequences of extreme awkwardness that will leave you cowering from the screen. In particular, an effortlessly, cringe-worthy dinner sequence in which Alison's two hosts at the secluded lakehouse she's staying at Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and Blair (Sarah Gabon) lay the wounds of their marriage bare for all to see. Taking full advantage of the aforementioned location and lavish house, director/writer Lawrence Michael Levine masterfully creates a sense of isolation with Black Bears first story, before turning the lake house into a wooden coffin of claustrophobic horror in its second.
14) Promising Young Woman
Emerald Fennell's debut feature film follows Cassandra (Carey Mulligan). A young woman who in dealing with the trauma of a tragic event from her past has dedicated her life to exerting vengeance upon the predatory men who cross her path. Carey Mulligan produces a breathtaking performance as the deeply troubled but morally justified, modern-day femme fatal. For a first feature, this is mightily impressive work. Fennell - who also penned the film's expertly written script - has showcased an appetite for the macabre, while also demonstrating she is unafraid afraid to ask searching questions while exploring the pitfalls of modern-day society and misogyny. Promising Young Woman is an endlessly stylish film. From the costume design to the lighting and camerawork. I do however have some reservations with the films ending. And although I respect its boldness, I can’t help but believe it rings untrue to the world Fennell has dutifully crafted. It’s difficult to explore fully without spoilers and is certainly something I feel many other viewers will share. But it shouldn’t detract from what is otherwise a magnificent first feature film for Fennell. A film which is still a stand out from this turbulent year. It's truly shameful how overlooked Mulligan's complex leading performance was by the major awards ceremony's at the start of the year.
With his Oscar-nominated film Jackie in 2017 and the brilliant TV series Lisey’s Story, Pablo Larrain has already shown he is drawn to stories featuring strong female characters dealing with the loss of their husband. In Spencer, although it may not follow the same structure of the grieving widow, his lead this time around Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) is very much morning the breakdown of her marriage. The only difference is her Husband is very much alive, and not covering himself in glory that’s for sure. We’re a little spoilt for choice when it comes to on-screen depictions of the illustrious princess at the moment. Emma Corrin shined as the character in last years series of The Crown. With Elizabeth Debicki set to carry the Diana touch into the shows fifth series next year. But Stewart’s extraordinary performance might end up being the best of the lot. She has captured Diana’s mannerisms with such precision, taking care to create her very own tailored version of Diane as opposed to becoming a parody or impression. Like the aforementioned Jackie, Spencer embraces the same haunted feeling when depicting its version of the ghoulish Sandringham Estate. The cold winter mist creates a ghost-like atmosphere, while the music - which coincidentally would feel at home in a horror film - severs as an unnerving but equally poetic score to the tragic mental health crisis playing out in front of us.
12) The Power of the Dog
Directed by Jane Campion on her return to the big screen after a 12-year absence, The Power of the Dog tells the story of sexually repressed rancher Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his toxic jealousy after his brother George (Jesse Plemons) brings home new wife Rose (Kirsten Dunst) and her young son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Campion isn’t afraid to take her time in telling this story, based on Thomas Savages novel. For long stretches, it’s not entirely clear what we are even watching. Phil is emotionally closed and his true intentions can be difficult to pin down. But the beauty of Campion's direction and the steadfast performances her cast deliver make this a most intriguing experience, even when the plot is wafer-thin. Cumberbatch perfectly encapsulates a man more interested in his performative masculinity than the feelings of those who are closest to him. Routinely belittling his kind-hearted brother and his new wife with intimidation and indifference. It’s a performance that has already generated a great deal of awards buzz. Kodi Smit-McPhee's Peter is a frequent target of Phil's menacing temper. Smit produces an empathetic performance opposite Cumberbatch. With a brilliant Jonny Greenwood score overseeing an astute third act, The Power of the Dog is a thoroughly engrossing experience.
11) I Care a Lot
As already perfectly exhibited in David Fincher's masterful 2014 film Gone Girl Rosamund Pike knows how to play nasty. With manipulative villains one of her many expertise. In a performance that echoes that aforementioned famed leading role in Gone Girl - while equally working as an allegory into the future endeavours of one Amy Elliot Dunne - Pike cranks up the toxicity as Maria Grayson. A crooked as they come legal guardian who spends her days draining the livelihood of rich elderly wards. An act so villainous it leaves no room for interpretation of her morality. After setting her sights on the mother-load of paydays she finds her new victim may not be the deer in the headlights she’s used to. Soon finding herself in a ruthless battle for evil seniority with mobster Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage). Pike unsurprisingly is phenomenal. When’s she’s on it she’s truly in a class of her own. I never thought I’d see such a mouth-wateringly wicked performance as the one she delivered in David Fincher's masterpiece. But this is just as conniving, just as malevolent and just as endlessly watchable.
10) West Side Story
After the criminally ordinary Ready Player One legendary director Steven Spielberg has made a rapturous return in the form of the latest West Side Story adaptation. Exploring the Shakesperean forbidden love of Romeo and Juliet but in an American setting, West Side Story follows the same major beats of the frequently adapted story with some notable changes. When Maria (Rachel Zegler) and Tony (Ansel Elgort) fall in love their budding romance is threatened by the ever-growing rivalry between their separate factions. the Sharks and the Jetts. When the bubbling rivalry finally explodes, in traditionally tragic style, the love they share for each other is tested to the very limits. Spielberg hardly needs an introduction. And every superlative under the sun will already have been labelled at the man's feet. After all, he has influenced cinema more than any other person living or dead. But his direction here is sublime. This big-budget musical is everything it should be. Load, flamboyant, brilliantly choreographed and overflowing with fantastic set pieces. The dance at the gym and America musical numbers are some of the best musical numbers ever put to screen. While newcomer - plucked from a list of over 1000 potential performers - Rachel Zegler is magnetic as Maria, boasting euphonious vocals and a profound emotional range.
9) Palm Springs
If horror has been enjoying a resurgence in the last decade comedy is going down a very different path. It would be an understatement to say the previously beloved genre has lost its way. Comedies nowadays are either excessively crass or simply un-funny. What a breath of fresh air Palm Springs is then. Working as a new addition to the Ground Hog day universe the film directed by Max Barbakow tells the story of two wedding guests who fall in love while stuck in a punishing time loop forced to relive the same day over and over for eternity. There’s almost an endless amount to love here. The cast spearheaded by Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, whose chemistry together exudes from the screen, with a side helping of J.K Simmons are a laugh riot, who aren’t afraid to embrace the more emotional sides to their characters. The plot is fast-moving and thoroughly engaging. Going place that its main competition in the mini Groundhog Day universe, the 90’s comedy of the same name, wouldn’t dare to tread. It’s directed exceptionally well and the script by collaborators Andy Siara and Barbakow is a delight. It takes an awful lot to get a comedy into my top 10 so this is a resounding endorsement of Palm Springs brilliance.
After taking a break from horror to direct Aquaman, James Wan returned to his routes this year with Malignant. The mini-break may just be what the horror auteur needed because Malignant is by far his greatest contribution to the genre since kicking off the Saw franchise way back in 2004. Very much a film of two halves, Malignant starts off as a by the numbers ghoul loving horror film, very much in the form of Wans beloved Conjuring franchise. But after frequently threatening to turn campy it transforms into the most bonkers, derange barnstorming horror film we’ve seen in years. And I mean truly Mother! levels of bonkers. Wan's kinetic style of direction is on full show here. The films action sequences are mesmerising and the camerawork is reminiscent of golden age De Palma. A glorious abundance of long takes and a plethora of inventive camera angles. The performances from the films cast are heightened to the degree that Malignant can at times feels like a straight parody of the genre. But they tie in so well with the tone Wan is trying to create they almost inexplicitly work. It’s almost impossible to discuss any of the films major plot points without giving away clues to the batshit third act so instead, I will encourage you to seek the film out and see for yourself.
7) Kind Richard
Sometimes when the world is spiralling towards oblivion, as let’s be frank it has felt for the last two years, the perfect tonic is a by the book moving biopic, that not only inspires but also restores your faith in humanity. King Richard is just that and more. Will Smith deliveries his best performance in decades, reaffirming his status as one of the few ‘Box Office’ actors still able to produce a performance of this level. His depiction of Richard Williams is dynamite, true unadulterated charisma flows through that man's veins. But it’s not just Smith who deliveries. Aunjanue Ellis as Oracene Williams plays against his loveable but prickly Richard Williams with expert precision. Really, the entire family bring a contagious charm to the film that left me smiling throughout. I must also tip my hat to the director Reinaldo Marcus Green as well. The actual art of directing sports within sports films is not an easy feat. It can be very difficult to find the right balance between realism and entertainment. Green juggles this with ease, with each tennis sequence more enthralling than the last. All while you start to fall in love with this precocious family. We’ve seen so many biopics over the years. This is comfortably one of the best.
6) The Father
Anthony Hopkins latest Oscar-winning performance sees him playing Anthony, an elderly man struggling with the horrors of dementia. Hopkins career has been filled with milestones and era-defining performances. Still, to this day people will routinely quote his iconic role as the chilling Hannibal Lector. A role so renowned that it lead to the first book from the Hannibal trilogy Red Dragon being completely remade just to fit Hopkins into the previously told story. There was also his sublime turn as Dr Robert Ford the brains behind the Westworld theme park in the HBO show of the same name. The Father on the other hand represents a very different facet to the famed actors illustrious acting wheelhouse. His character Anthony is as vulnerable as they come. Frightened and overwhelmed by a reality that to him feels ever-changing. Director Florian Zeller has structured the film very much like a puzzle box. Leaving the viewer to try and piece together the complexities of a dynamic narrative that is always shifting, never resting even for a moment. It can be relentless. Perfectly capturing the brutal reality that is felt by those living with the unrelenting degenerative disease.
Minari is the gentle story of a Korean family who moves to 1980s Arkansas in order to start their very own self-sufficient farm. Spearheaded by father Jacob (Steven Yeun) the families very own 'American dream' proves to be a weary path of sacrifice and setback. But the complex relationship that starts to blossom between youngest child David (Alan S. Kim) and his Grandma Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn) brings levity to the story. This is a very personal story for director Lee Isaac Chung and that personal connection seeps into the story creating a rich environment for the films actors to breathe life into their detailed well-rounded characters. In the same vein as King Richard this is an uplifting film which, as its poster dictates - is the movie we need right now. Jacob and his family star the film as fish out of water. Trying to adapt to the world of Arkansas while attempting to keep change to a minimum for their children. But by the end of the film, despite conflicts along the way, they have started to become full ingrained in their new life as farmers. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Lachlan Milne, Minari is a delight.
4) Sound of Metal
After his hearing starts to deteriorate at an alarming rate, heavy metal drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) must leave behind his life and budding romance with bandmate Lou (Olivia Cooke) to try and find a solution to his life-altering predicament. Riz Ahmed has been building quite the reputation for himself and as Ruben, he has taken his acting credentials to a whole new level. It’s a gutsy and difficult role to portray, especially since Riz himself isn’t hearing impaired. But guided by director Darius Marder he handles it with resounding grace. The sound design in this film is off the charts. The way Rubens hearing is constructed and portrayed through the screen is extremely complex. Instead of going with the standard stone silence. Marder has carefully curated an accurate depiction of what someone who is losing their hearing would actually hear. The intense vibrations and relentless ringing swarm us like they do the films lead. We feel as if we are in his head living through this tragedy with him. But Sound of Metal is also conscious to show that losing your hearing doesn’t mean losing yourself. It explores the ways in which this dramatic change can be managed in a mannered, patient way. And that is the most important message of the film. Never lose hope and never give in.
3) Shiva Baby
Fucking hell!! If Uncut Gems and Mother! created a deranged child of a film this would be it. A hell for leather, fever dream of a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout its short, but ever so sweet, 77 minutes run time. The story itself is very straightforward. Danielle - played by revelation, soon to be star Rachel Sennott attends a Jewish funeral service, or Shiva, with her family only to run into her sugar daddy. It’s what first-time write and director Emma Seligman does with this simple plotline that makes the film so utterly engrossing. Much like the aforementioned Mother! the directing style here focuses heavily on its lead character. Implementing a plethora of over the shoulder shots and extreme close-ups to really carry home the exhaustion of this family gathering. From overzealous parents to relentless gossiping and nosey family members who may as well be strangers. And a love triangle tangled up with a second forbidden relationship from the past, there is so much going on within this tight-knit setting. The use of string instruments for the score complements the direction style perfectly. The sounds are sharp and penetrating, more in tune with what you’d expect from the horror or thriller genre as opposed to a comedy-drama. But so is the complexity of Shiva Baby. It’s not interested in fitting into pre-constructed genre boxes, it demands its own indenting, almost as much as Danielle’s family demand answers to their intrusive questioning of her life and goals.
2) Licorice Pizza
The latest feature film from renowned American filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson Licorice Pizza is an intoxicating coming of age love story navigating the puzzling world of 1970"s San Fernando. When child actor turned Del boy -esque schemer Gary (Cooper Hoffman) first locks eyes with Alana (Alana Haim) he proclaims her to be the woman he's going to marry. What follows is a woozy daydream of a love story encased in protracted adolescence as the two leads spend their time competing for each other's affection. Licorice Pizza is effortlessly charming and comfortably Andersons most comedic film, with hilarious set-pieces and gag-filled cameos - from the likes of Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper - littered throughout the films rapturous 2 hours run time. Anderson films have always existed in their own unique space. The way he structures his films and the story he chooses to explore mean it's almost impossible to fit them into the traditional genre categories cinema has become accustomed to. Devoid of cliches his films are more an experience than an actual film. A portal into the mind of one of cinemas great storytellers. Cooper Hoffman is electric in his leading role as Gary. Showcasing all the gravitas and magnetic screen presence as his late father, it's astounding that this is his debut. Alana Haim's is also marvellous playing against Hoffman, in a hilarious and cool performance. In an industry that has become cluttered with remakes, sequels and simplistic adaptations it's reassuring to know there are still directors out there who are crafting unique stories like Anderson.
The sheer audacity of Dennis Vilenelle to attempt to adapt the sprawling science fiction Novel of Dune, which has long been proclaimed - after several failed productions and underwhelming screen adaptations - as a story that is simply unadaptable, let alone take the huge risk of splitting the story down the middle, knowing full well that a part two was never a guarantee, is both insanity and a testament to the level of filmmaker Vilenelle is. He’s comfortably one of the best directors working today and Dune is the latest film to further prove this fact. The film is a masterwork. A tremendous example of how blockbusters don’t need to be dumbed down for audiences to engage with them. From the sweeping politically charged narrative to the sheer grandeur of the films desolate but beautiful vision of the planet Arakas, which has been perfectly translated from page to screen, it’s hard not to run out of superlatives for the landmark sci-fi story, which has had to fight tooth and nail to finally get its long-overdue worthy on-screen adaptation. Hans Zimmers mesmeric score is as mesmerising as Dune’s sought after spice itself, adding a shine to what is a perfect film. This generations Star Wars - it’s worth remembering most of the story elements and themes Star Wars is beloved for were borrowed, “cough” “cough” stolen, from Frank Herbert’s original novel - Dune is without a doubt the cinematic event of the year.