These honorable mentions are all 4 out of 4 films from my site this last year, who didn’t make my top cut of 15. We have Malcolm & Marie, Raya and the Last Dragon, Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided to Go For It, The Guilty, Encounter, The Novice, and Flee.
Also these films, that for Oscar awards counted as 2020, but as far as I can tell are 2021 movies and things got really weird for them for regular best of lists and I didn’t know what to do: Judas and the Black Messiah, Our Friend, and The Father.
Why is it on the list? Together Together is a baby surrogacy movie, but not a standard one. It is actually outside of the norm because it does NOT involve the main leads falling in love. It is perfect in that regard. A rich guy wants to be a dad, he hires someone much younger to have it, and she is going to use that money for college, and that is it. Sure it still talks about the weirdness of their “relationship” and the struggles over that time, and their boundaries. But it feels real and, I cannot state this enough, it has them NOT decide to date or marry as a result, which is super healthy for this type of movie to do.
Favorite moment? The ew moment and why Anna says ew.
Any Best Awards: Best pregnancy of 2021.
Why is it on the list? Because Will Goddamn Smith surprised me. Look, when I first saw the trailer, I thought it was messed up. A Williams sister movie that…is more about the dad and his relationship with his daughters, and less about the sisters themselves? That seems pretty messed up. But a few notes: One, Will Smith nailed it and was clearly acting and not being Will Smith. Two, it was very emotional. And three, the Williams sisters agreed to back this story and love their father’s contributions to their careers and are behind it, so who am I to judge on the vehicle for the first movie about their lives.
Favorite moment? The constant focus on education and childhood over purely sports success.
Any Best Awards? Best sports movie of 2021.
Why is it on the list? Shiva Baby makes me feel so uncomfortable! It was almost the levels of uncomfortableness as Uncut Gems, despite being way shorter and much smaller stakes. It really draws you in and makes you feel claustrophobic, with pretty swell acting as well. And let me be clear, it is funny with its awkwardness, and this is just a film I have decided to not go back and check out, because, yuck, not ready for it still.
Favorite moment? Probably one of the earliest reveals in terms of why things are uncomfortable at the Shiva, because then it just continues to spiral.
Any Best Awards? Best young life crisis of 2021.
Why is it on the list? Because Aaron Sorkin written movies often make my lists. And his directed ones make it two-thirds of the time, apparently. I love, love, love, love, love the dialogue. I do, it is true. I think the stars Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem are especially strong and extremely charismatic together. The weird beginning introduction interview, that is barely used after it is unnecessary for this story, but it doesn’t overall detract from the wonderful screen presence that this movie gave me. Hell, it made me slightly care from
Favorite moment? J. Edgar Hoover and the writer’s room banter.
Any Best Awards? Best behind the scenes of 2021.
Why is it on the list? This was one of my most anticipated films of the year, because, well, every musical was anticipated basically. But this one was directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The first one he has ever directed. Based on a famous musical creator who died tragically early. And also based on a musical he made. There are a lot of layers and different time lines in this story. And it is all swept together nicely through Andrew Garfield‘s wonderful acting and singing. God damn, this was a unique experience and it is so hard to describe at the same time.
Any Best Awards? Best theater cameos of 2021.
Why is it on the list? That is a silly question. Have you seen it? Disney had two great animated hits this year, and I also loved Raya (it was in the honorable mentions) and it was hard to find out where it would land with Encanto. I did put Encanto on the top, partially because yes it is a musical (oh hey, Lin-Manuel Miranda reference again). But the story was wonderful in that it had a less obvious villain. The movie wasn’t solved by the main character suddenly getting powers, like a lot of stories of those who lack. And damn, it is one that can make me cry.
Any Best Awards? Best house of 2021.
Why is it on the list? FOUR movies were added to the MCU this year, with only one being a Sony movie. And that one made the list. This was my most diverse year for MCU ratings (2, 3, 1, 4 were the ratings of those released in the order they came out), which is also a first. But what did Spider-Man: No Way Home do? It gave us an emotional arc that now seems like it was 21 years in the making. Obviously some of the things it did weren’t planned 21 years ago. But it gave closure to things we never thought we would get. It gave us hope that the ever churning big media machine that cancels projects that under perform at the Box Office can eventually surprise us with something new. It was an ambitious event, it could alienate tons of audience members, and yet it proved that despite that, people wanted to see it and love it nonetheless. And it made me cry.
Favorite moment? The MJ save and the Green Goblin turn.
Any Best Awards? Best Superhero film, best Fantasy film, and best nostalgia of 2021.
Why is it on the list? This was definitely a hard one to rank. It took me three sittings to watch the first time because of how uncomfortable and strange things got. I knew it deserved my highest honors, and that I would likely never see it again. But then? I did see it again, all in one sitting, months later. Annette is a visual and musical and strange-ical trip. Nothing normal about this film. Adam Driver puts his whole body into the role. Despite strange on the outside, you can tell everyone takes it very seriously, which adds to the eerie music and tunes throughout. The final scene in the visiting room? That one is so goddamn rough, but one of the best scenes of the year.
Favorite moment? The prison visit and the boat trip.
Any Best Awards? Best fourth wall breaking, best use of puppets in 2021. Also best use of really putting your whole goddamn body and focus into one strange role of 2021 for Adam Driver.
Why is it on the list? The last few years have had a lot of animated duds, so surprise surprise when two of them make my list and a third was really close. I probably would not have even noticed The Mitchells vs. The Machines coming out when it did, back in March, but I am glad word of mouth happened, because I was not ready for this (road) trip. The humor is constant, the visuals are unique, we get a lgbtq main character whose sexuality is irrelevant to the plot, and the voice acting is also extremely strong. I have seen this one a few times from last year, and it still feels refresh, and doesn’t feel like it will be that dated in the future either. Congrats, you beat the Disney/Pixar machine for me.
Favorite moment? Furby.
Any Best Awards? Best animated film and best traditional comedy of 2021.
Why is it on the list? In a year with so many musicals, one of the first I saw this year ended up as my favorite. And I mean that as a traditional musical, even though the music and sounds are anything but. Technically, two other films after this are also kind of musicals, but not in the same sense that this one or other traditional ones are. The songs from this musical were stuck in my head for months. I ended up watching this movie the most out of any movie last year, four times, twice in theaters and one of them in IMAX. But the soundtrack alone would bring my numbers up more. It was even hard to pick a favorite moment. And, of course, our third Lin-Manuel Miranda note of this list.
Any Best Awards? Best Lin-Manuel Miranda cameo, best intro, and best “real musical” of 2021.
Why is it on the list? Riders of Justice is a film that was never on my radar, until once again, it came out and had a lot of word of mouth praise. I was extremely surprised by the direction and plot of this film. Is it a standard mystery revenge plot action film? Sure, parts of it. But it also has extreme amounts of humor, heart, and based in a world that is trying to change from the macho “ah shoot those who wronged you!” cinema of the past. I was surprised throughout at how touching it was, and how on point and accurate it was dealing with these social changes and people who were unwilling to think about those change. You can go in expecting a lot, and still find yourself surprised by this one.
Favorite moment? Threats in the car and dinner scenes.
Any Best Awards? Best action film, best twists, and best “woke” film of 2021.
Why is it on the list? Speaking of movies that one wouldn’t have noticed. I didn’t even notice The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain despite it being nominated for two spirit awards. And I would have been so distraught with myself if I didn’t watch this one for this list, because it is intense, sad, and anger inducing in such a short time period. It is a true story, it is real time, and the dialogue is based on the real events as well since the whole thing was recorded on his side of the door. One of the best movies out there to really drive that ACAB motto home, even if one of them tried to stop it, he didn’t try too much.
Favorite moment? As a tragic film, this is hard, but I guess the window cop scene.
Any Best Awards? Best drama and best true story of 2021 and worst police of 2011
Why is it on the list? (Third time in a row). Oh hey, a movie that I would have never seen except…well, it was actually sent to me as a screener, as a festival movie last year. It is coming out wider this year, and Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes was the most creative movie I have seen this year. Seeing a screen that is yourself two minutes from the future, and then not too long later, two minutes in the past, doesn’t seem like a big window. But the technical skill to pull this off, to prerecord these videos, to set up the timing, it is an ambitious project for a group of unknown people, and it is the type of film that I hope is studied for its brilliance in the future.
Favorite moment? The long look into the future.
Any Best Awards? Best science fiction, best drama, best use of technology, most creative, and best foreign film of 2021.
Why is it on the list? When I saw CODA, I assumed it would actually finish number one on my list. I didn’t know what else was coming after, if anything would knock it down (and it ended up losing to something that came before it, go figure). But CODA is one of those perfect feel good movies. It has lights amount of romance. It has struggle. It has a feel good ending. It has some singing, and it is kind of like a musical but only somewhat. It involves a part of the world a lot of us normies don’t have any clue about. It does clever things with its filming technique. And it makes me cry every time. CODA should be seen by everyone, even with some of its R rated content, I wouldn’t worry too much about showing my own kids. It is sad, heart felt, and just goddamn wonderful.
Favorite moment? Hands down, (or maybe hands up?), Both Sides Now.
Any Best Awards? Best feel good story, best title pun, best “sort of musical”, and best Comedy-Drama of 2021.
Why is it on the list? I loved Inside from the moment I saw it the first time on my home screen. I was anticipated for the teaser trailer. And honestly, it was far better than I even expected it to be. It grew on me over time, from an already high standing.
Let me be clear: I think Bo did something here that has honestly never been done before. Sure, stand up specials usually have only one writer/main actor. And sure, movies have been made before by one person doing the whole thing. But this is still different. It is a chronicle of his and a lot of other people’s year, in a year unlike many others. It shows growth and change over that time, from the music and lyric choices. Its slow descent into more and more madness and apathy, starting with funny haha clever jokes to more extreme pieces of music. Bo has done a great job in the past of opening up, but he has never felt more open. I hope it is all sincere, and I feel like we as a society are better for those who have seen it and also opened up their own feelings. Inside is raw. Inside shows Bo’s inside. Nothing sexual. Just feelings.
And if anyone does anything like this in the future, it will always be compared to Bo’s. I can’t see anything similar topping this either, without standing on the shoulders of this project as a comparison.
Any Best Awards? Best stand-up special, best “documentary”, best soundtrack, best “documentary musical”, best song, best “comedy film”, and best FILM of 2021.
Thanks for reading! If you disagree with part of this list, let me know. If there is something I missed, let me know (but I probably saw it and reviewed it on this very site!
And as always, I accept hate mail via the post office, email, or tweets.