Rudie’s Top Ten of 2021
In some ways, 2021 was a much better year than 2020, in terms of actually leaving the house. With movie theaters open for business with strict COVID-19 pandemic restrictions (at least in New York City where this writer resides), a wide range of films were released that made the year a little bit more pleasant and noteworthy.
10. Red Rocket (dir. Sean Baker)
Red Rocket is a beautiful and vibrant portrait of an American scumbag named Mikey, played by Simon Rex. He’s down and out and uses everybody around him to climb back to the top, only to be brought back down again and again and again. Director Sean Baker is exceptional at delivering the underclass with no judgment and honesty with flair and excitement.
9. Copshop (dir. Joe Carnahan)
Mostly set in a police station in the middle of nowhere Nevada, Copshop is a rootin’-tootin’ shoot’em up that finally pits genre film favorites Frank Grillo and Gerard Butler against each other. Not to mention Alexis Louder’s tough rookie cop Valerie who is hellbent on saving the day, Copshop is a highly-stylized, cleverly-executed action flick from director Joe Carnahan.
8. Benedetta (dir. Paul Verhoeven)
Director Paul Verhoven’s “nunsploitation” film follows the sexual awakening of the titular Benedetta and her secret love affair with fellow nun Bartolomea, while it also examines the validity of miracles during the 17th Century. Verhoeven has an eye for sharp satire married with violent and sexual imagery, as he pokes at the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church.
7.Titane (dir. Julia Ducournau)
Julia Ducournau’s horror film Titane closely fits in the “I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing” genre that follows a young woman’s obsession with cars, sex, and murder after a childhood car accident that left her with a titanium plate in her head. While it might be warped and grotesque at times, it also has a sympathetic heart at its core when the film shifts from total mayhem to a bizarre family reunited drama.
6. West Side Story (2021) (dir. Steven Spielberg)
Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the 1957 Broadway production West Side Story modernizes the classic, while also keeping the original spirit and music with rapid and kinetic camera movements and editing from the director. Spielberg injects new life into the story for a new generation.
5. The Rescue (dir. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin)
Following the Tham Luang cave rescue in 2018, directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin assembled a heart-stopping documentary about the Thai and British rescue effort of 12 members of a youth soccer team. The footage captured in The Rescue, literally, puts you in the middle of the journey that goes from problem-solving to cave diving to high tension to relief.
4. The Worst Person in the World (dir. Joachim Trier)
Joachim Trier’s (un)romantic comedy subverts genre tropes in a delightful and sensational story of a young woman navigating life, love, work, and relationships. While it’s messy at times, The Worst Person in the World is pretty thoughtful and clever in the way it’s made and presented.
3. Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar (dir. Josh Greenbaum)
One of the funniest movies of 2021, Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar shows the real power of true friendship that can conquer just about anything from a vacation at a cheesy Florida resort to humanity’s mass extinction via killer mosquitoes.
2. The Power of the Dog (dir. Jane Campion)
Jane Campion’s return to directing is a quiet and subtle triumph that examines the evolving concept of masculinity from generation-to-generation. Set in Montana in the mid-1920s, The Power of the Dog follows cattle ranchers in the Old West making the transition from cowboys to just boys.
1. Drive My Car (dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and adapted from Haruki Murakami’s short story of the same name, Drive My Car is a brilliant film that takes a deep look at regret, attachment to the past, and ultimately, self-acceptance. Much like the film’s running time (at nearly three hours), it rewards patients.