I’m still “on the trail” of the Best Movies of 2021, trying to catch up on any I might have missed at a variety of film festivals.
I really liked “Nightmare Alley,” but audiences are not responding with ticket sales. I thought it was a beautifully done, interesting film, but could have been half an hour shorter—which has been my reaction to nearly every good film this year. See “Power of the Dog” with Benedict Cumberbatch, if you haven’t.
I enjoyed “Licorice Pizza” primarily for the introduction to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s young son, Cooper Hoffman, who portrayed the lead. I also laughed uproariously at Bradley Cooper’s turn portraying Jon Peters, the hairdresser who became a film producer as a result of his romance with Barbra Streisand. (And was the model for Warren Beatty’s character in “Shampoo”).
We watched “The Lost Daughter” (trailer, above) and, as usual, Olivia Colman turned in a fine tour de force performance. It was a film aimed more at mothers than fathers, exploring the remorse a career-driven mother experiences late in life, as she is thrust into a multi-generational group of vacationers in Greece? Italy? [I actually read that the lovely vacation spot was both Greece and Italy in a variety of reviews, but that is far from the most important thing about this film.] It is a character study that really addresses the way mothers who are torn between their love of their children and their desire to succeed professionally are, indeed, torn. It was actress Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut. Critics have been raving about her debut as a director. For me, I can’t remember a film that dove into the reality of mothering and treated it so realistically since Charlize Theron took a crack at it in “Tully,” (scripted by Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate Diablo Cody of “Juno” fame).
I’m eagerly awaiting “The Tender Bar,” which begins streaming on January 7th (Ben Affleck, George Clooney), and “Coda” is another I will be seeking in the days before Oscar nominations come out.
Meanwhile, I would recommend “Nightmare Alley,” “No Time to Die,” “West Side Story,” and “Last Night in Soho.” I also enjoyed “Cruella,” primarily for the costuming.
I did not like “The French Dispatch,” but I understand that the set pieces are Oscar-worthy in their intricate detail. For me, it was a total waste of time. I’m not a big Wes Anderson fan. I liked “Rushmore” and thought “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was mildly entertaining, but this one jumped the shark, for me.
I thought that “King Richard” was well-acted. However, I enjoyed the documentary about Arthur Ashe more than that tennis movie. Likewise, I appreciated the acting in “The Lost Daughter,” but Olivia Colman could read the phone book and make it compelling; here she got to really dig into the psyche of conflicted American working women who are torn between motherhood and career.
While I liked “Licorice Pizza,” I can understand those who felt it lacked much of a cohesive story, but the Bradley Cooper cameo was so hilarious that the people seated next to me got a bigger kick out of me laughing at it than they did from the actual film, itself.
More updates on this year’s best offerings as I “catch up”