2021 was when we all started to go back into the theatre. It was a year that had inspirational comedy, musicals, inclusion, and of course, web-slinging superheroes. This year, the theme for my top pick is “love.” My number one film of 2021 was the “colossal musical theatre hug the world needs right now.”
It’s crazy that in 2020 I stated, “I’ve seen enough of the bad last year, and these ten films encapsulate the good in the face of adversity and challenge.” That same sentiment is true again as we face an awful war, inflation, a divided US, and many more threats. Yet, there wasn’t a movie that captures how the world needs to grow outside of TICK, TICK… BOOM!. It asks the tough question, “Do we lead with fear or love?” And I want to praise it LOUDER THAN WORDS on repeat.
Stepping off of my soapbox, here are my best films of 2021! 🤩
Variety Critic Owen Gielberman is spot on describing the new version stylistically feels like something from Brian De Palma. The mirror shots and mood-setting prove that Nia DaCosta has done her homework. This modern-day retelling of the Clive Barker classic is easily the best horror film of 2021.
09. SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS
Holy sh*t, I was not expecting this type of fantasy action movie from the MCU! I want to sing the film’s praise karaoke-style for the late surprise hit of the summer. As we enter phase four, one thing is clear, Marvel will take chances while sticking to a superhero origin story template. And whoa, do they take chances. For a story that’s simply a brother and sister coping with daddy issues, we get some of the most spectacular action sequences ever to grace the Marvel cinematic universe. On top of that, there’s a bus scene that rivals the intensity of Jan de Bont’s classic SPEED and enough scaffolding to make John Wilson proud.
SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS is “such a lovely place” that I would gladly check-in and re-watch it “any time of year.”
08. SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME – Reviewed by Mike Manalo
I will quote Mikes’ review and just say, “SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME delivers on the spectacle level, humor, action, and the heart.”
The father character in the film states, “if you can’t be good, be careful.” BELFAST is the best careful/good film of the year.
06. LICORICE PIZZA
It’s tough to sell someone on an overlong character study with two unknown leads. Yet, if I could, I would say – “See LICORICE PIZZA for the action sequence with a moving truck and stay to be moved by an indie slice of heaven.”
05. BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR – Review by Mike Manalo
Just be “like Trish” and “trust” that this is the funniest film of 2021. It deserved the big screen with an audience! However, just like my favorite film of 2020, PALM SPRINGS, you’ll have to settle for laughing at home via Hulu.
04. THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES – Reviewed by Mike Manalo
This is hands down the best-animated film of 2021 and one of the top five. Pixar may still have the brand name, but Sony Pictures Animation is catching up quickly.
03. BO BURNHAM: INSIDE –Reviewed by Jami Losurdo
Netflix kills it with an experimental pandemic film by comedian Bo Burnham. INSIDE captures what it was like to quarantine alone. From feeling like “Sh*t” to “Facetiming with my Mom (Tonight),” there isn’t a bad song in this classic one-person show.
I have a “Funny Feeling” that Bo Burnham made us some “Content” and poured his heart and soul into the defining quarantine flick that’s a love song to being alive.
02. CODA – Reviewed by Mike Manalo
Once again, Mike is my spirit animal. He wrote, “Every year, there’s a movie that sings with the SING STREETs and PEANUT BUTTER FALCONs of the world. These smaller movies come out of nowhere to unexpectedly touch your heart and make you smile while wiping a tear from your eye. This year it’s CODA.”
“I’ve looked at both sides now,” and if POWER OF THE DOG wins over this inclusive classic, I’ll be boycotting the Oscars next year.
Reviewed by Esta (Mom) and Aaron (son)
My mom’s praise is perfect for “TICK, TICK… BOOM! “It’s for all the “Jonathan Larson’s” out there. It was his love song to everyone who has a dream of making it on Broadway. It is his way of saying don’t give up. Have faith. Listen to your heart, your soul, and be what you were meant to be.”
As for me, TICK, TICK… BOOM! is about asking, “what do we do with the time we have left?” As a soon-to-be father, it reminded me to continue to lead with love. And more significantly, it connected me back to my family and theatre 🎭. If that isn’t a cause for celebration, then I don’t know what “life-changing theatre” is.