I already made this list on 31st of December, but due to the complexicities of distribution and me being in Finland, I was not able to see many of the best movies of last year by that time. So, here’s another version.
First of, movies I would like to see, but haven’t had the opportunity yet: Ich bin dein Mensch, Madres paralelas, One for the Road, Gûzen to sôzô, Censor, Memoria, Flugt, The Fallout, Verdens verste menneske, Jai Bhim and After Yang. There’s also Ghahreman, but after it turned out that the director might have just stolen this from his student, I’m not so sure anymore.
Onto the list, in partial order (and I’ll try to come up with something I didn’t say previously).
The three best movies of 2021:
There’s a scene in this movie, in which Nicolas Cage just sits at a table in a restaurant, completely dismantling the chef, because he knows the man thoroughly mostly based on food. Food, in this movie, is everything, but at the same time, there’s a lot to it. This chef received the dressing down, because Cage’s character feels that he wasn’t using his talents properly. And this resonated with me: Why was the chef trying to make artsy food, when that was not his calling? He had previously wanted to open a pub, so why did he pursue something else? It’s just money. A high-end restaurant makes more of it. (Well, at least for a period.) But food isn’t about that.
Cage’s character tells later on in the movie, that he remembers every meal he ever cooked and who it was served to. Food can be a magnificent experience, but it doesn’t need to be fancy. I do think he gets this a little wrong: It’s actually more about the people around you that elevates the food, but yes, quality food can be incredible.
However, the movie also has another side to it. There’s a saying (presumedly by Oscar Wilde) that says something along the lines “There’s many people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” What this leads to is that if there’s money to be made, competition will corrupt the whole thing eventually and lead to unwanted results.
The Mitchell’s vs. The Machines
Hollywood has really nailed family dynamics in recent times, which leads to such movies as CODA (which is a good movie, but just not quite good enough to reach my list). Maybe we’ll get tired of it at some point, but for now, let’s just enjoy it while we can.
Doraibu mai kâ aka Drive My Car
This is one of those movies you need to pay attention to. There’s so much meaning in everything. What they say, what they decide not to say or do, the play they are practicing for and so forth (it even happens mostly at Hiroshima, which can’t be accidental either). But it’s definitely worth it. It’s very long, but I didn’t even notice it.
We learn so much about these people. There’s hidden depths to everyone and everyone is carrying secrets and just pure sorrow.
Next, the other seven:
The Suicide Squad
The best superhero movie in a year where superhero movies tried to come back. Except that…
De uskyldige aka The Innocents
I guess you could argue this is actually the best superhero movie of the year. It’s messed up. Like, several trigger warnings here. It is not scared of going to places most movies just wouldn’t even entertain as a notion. But again, trigger warnings all around. I mean, this isn’t like a little bit of violence and maybe some nudity and slurs, this is as bad as a movie that actually has mainstream distribution can get. At the very least.
Still, there are interesting discussions here. Children can be cruel, but it’s not quite as simple as that.
Hytti nro. 6 aka Compartment Number 6
It’s nice to be able to bring even a little bit of visibility to a Finnish movie that’s actually worth it. I mean, this might be a little bit too Finnish for most, but at the same time, that local touch is a great selling point for me (for movie from any country outside of US).
Petite maman (literally little mother, but does not have an English title for some reason or at least the UK DVD didn’t)
This is very lowkey in a way we don’t get too many movies. Just a nice little magical realism story about complexities of family. The director made Portrait of a Lady on Fire a few years back, so if you liked that, you will probably like this as well, even if this is quite different.
The main character is impregnated by a car early in the movie. So, if you can handle that, this is a movie for you.
Verdens verste menneske aka World’s Worst Person
A coming-of-age story, but this time the main character is much older than people generally are in that kind of stories. She’s close to 30, but is still having trouble finding her way, which is understandable. The movie does make her much more symphatetic than other similar movies I’ve seen.
Two Norwegian movies on this list. Did not see that coming.
Leos Carax took took nine years to follow up Holy Motors. This isn’t as good, but still very interesting. The problem is that Adam Driver, who is the main driver of the movie (see what I did there? Okay, I’ll just shut up now) is not a very good singer, or at least not in the style this movie requires. And it is a musical. Basically all dialogue is sang.
There is weirdness I enjoy here. Especially the opening scene in which they declare their intentions quite clearly.