Lockdown gave our film team the opportunity to take advantage of online viewing opportunities for film festivals around the world. Cinemas eventually reopened in the spring (and some got shut again) and delayed releases finally saw the light of day. All in all, it was a better year for film in 2021, if not a normal one. There are pages and pages of this year’s reviews here, but when asked to select their favourites, our team collectively leaned towards ones we hadn’t! Here’s our Top Five:
Frances McDormand stars in this Chloé Zhao directed picture about a woman who loses everything in the 2008 recession and takes to the road with what is left of her possessions. “This ode to a lost America presents a quietly complex picture of the decimation of industry across whole swathes of the superpower,” said The List, while The Skinny praised it as “a visually gorgeous and deeply moving portrayal of humanity under tragic circumstances.”
“Not even Emma Stone can save Cruella,” proclaimed The Scotsman about the live-action remake of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians. Other critics were more complimentary (it has a 74% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and at least some of our writers agreed, placing it at number 4 on our year end list.
Another remake at number 3, as Quebecois filmmaker Denis Villeneuve revitalised the 1965 sci-fi novel first brought to the big screen by David Lynch in 1984. “Villeneuve succeeds where Lynch struggled in his overexplained and creatively compromised adaptation,” decided The List. “We need sensational cinema right now, that we can all enjoy, and Dune emphatically delivers.”
“Set in 1980s Arkansas, Minari is the tale of an immigrant Korean family starting up their own farm, a decision which will test their love for each other and resolve to push through whatever may be thrown at them,” explained Calum Macnab in his review for us from Glasgow Film Festival back in February. “[Writer-Director Lee Isaac] Chung draws on personal experience to craft a passionate, empathetic tale of the quest for more; how planning for the future can distract you from the necessities of now.”
1. Spiderman: No Way Home
“Spider-Man: No Way Home is a film that will draw love and nostalgia from millions,” said Set The Tape about the latest in the franchise, before qualifying: “It is also an ideas-free mess of self-praise.” Audiences proved the former right and the latter unimportant as it made huge box office and broke Rotten Tomatoes records. Our writers tended to agree, pushing it to the number one spot on our year end list.