The Best movie article 2021 Movies of 2021
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The Best movie article 2021 Movies of 2021
Photo: Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock The sequel to John Krasinski’s 2018 alien-invasion horror hit is almost as nerve-racking as the first. It opens with a bravura flashback — an explosive, stomach-gnawing look at the day the sound-seeking aliens first came to the quiet town of Millbrook — but then continues from where the previous film left off. After the death of her husband, Evelyn Abbott struggles to find safe harbor for her surviving children, Regan and Marcus , and her newborn baby. They shack up with their traumatized, paranoid, grieving neighbor Emmett but wind up separated again when Regan strikes out on her own, convinced she’s hearing a radio message about where to find the rest of human civilization. Krasinski directs like an old suspense master. Because characters usually can’t talk, story beats and revelations have to be conveyed visually through cinematic language. But he also brings subtlety, artistry, and texture to the story. Beyond the many jump scares involving aliens and the terrifically terrified-out-of-their-wits performances, what makes  A Quiet Place Part II  special is the sheer joy we get from feeling like we’re in the hands of a confident filmmaker. — B.E. To try to describe a SpongeBob Squarepants movie is to flirt with madness. This one follows SpongeBob and his best friend Patrick as they go on a dream quest/road trip to the Lost City of Atlantic City, a glittering, neon-drenched metropolis where the vain, domineering King Poseidon is keeping SpongeBob’s pet snail, Gary, captive, using its slime for facials that keep his face young and healthy. It’s all a scheme engineered by the show’s primary nemesis, Plankton, who comes up with this demonic plot only after yet another of his attempts to land the secret recipe for Krabby Patties ends with him getting stuck in a French-fry cutter and having the long slivers of his sliced-up body dumped into an industrial-strength deep fryer, an image more unsettling than anything the horror genre has given us in years. Along the way, there’s a Western ghost town populated by zombie cowboys; a rolling, sentient tumbleweed soothsayer known as Sage, portrayed by a gently aflame Keanu Reeves; a whole bit where they become gambling addicts and lose their minds; an elaborate courtroom trial; and at least two covers of “My Heart Will Go On.” It’s Thelma and Louise meets The Quick and the Dead meets Inception meets Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar meets Rain Man meets Inherit the Wind , and somehow it’s also a summer-camp movie?— B.E. Photo: Disney A princess story by way of a dystopian action adventure, Raya and the Last Dragon is Disney displaying how ably it’s about to adapt its animated formula to the blockbuster era. Its heroine is both the daughter of the chief and a fiercely determined martial artist. Its requisite adorable animal sidekick, the armadillo-pill-bug hybrid Tuk Tuk, is also a trusty steed capable of navigating Raya through chase sequences. But while Raya and the Last Dragon can feel slick to a fault, its Southeast Asia–inspired fantasy realm is beguiling and beautifully rendered. And for all the trundling forward motion of its save-the-world narrative, the film still has bursts of genuine heart — many of them courtesy of Sisu, the innocent and generous dragon of the title, who’s winningly voiced by Awkwafina.— A.W. Photo: HBO There are vintage  Sesame Street  clips in this documentary from Marilyn Agrelo that provide a rush of recognition heady enough to dilate the eyes,  Requiem for a Dream- montage-style. But the film, which is based on a book by Michael Davis, isn’t interested in just wallowing in nostalgia. In examining the early years of the landmark children’s television show, it outlines the forces of idealism and public funding that allowed it to be, mixing interviews with surviving creators and cast members with archival footage of Jim Henson and Jon Stone talking to journalists. The behind-the-scenes shots are invaluable, and the acknowledgments of the personal sacrifices and pain of the production process give the film a bittersweet tinge. Mostly, though, the problem with  Street Gang  is that you might wish it could go much longer, delving deeper into the ways that values and ambition met reality on this enormously influential feat.— A.W. Thrumming with danger and eroticism, Oliver Hermanus’s adaptation of André Carl van der Merwe’s apartheid-era memoir centers on a gay South African teenager who’s sent to complete his compulsory military service. It’s 1981, a time when anti-Black and anti-communist fears are being stoked to an all-time high, and Nicholas is one of a group of young men being readied to participate in the country’s border war with Angola. It’s a coming-of-age movie that plays like a thriller, its main character navigating a brutal institution in which masculinity, racism, nationalism, and violence are all inextricably linked, and finding an unexpected connection with fellow conscript Dylan .— A.W. There are only a couple of jump scares in Canadian writer-director-cinematographer-editor-composer-visual-effects-artist Anthony Scott Burns’s Come True — mild ones at that — but the movie’s elusive sense of menace lingers for days, weeks, possibly forever. It’s about a troubled 18-year-old insomniac who signs up for a sleep study and winds up getting pulled further into her nightmares. There’s a bare-bones story there, and an insane howler of a twist at the very end, but the film’s most indelible moments come whenever Burns portrays the unnerving, spectral world of our heroine’s dreams, with their grim, surreal imagery. The movie captures something elemental, a vague but familiar terror scratching at the edge of our consciousness.— B.E. Early in her career, diving icon Valerie Taylor gained fame for being an expert spearfisher and scuba diver who also had pin-up style looks. But she soon became one of the most committed conservationists of her time, dedicating herself to visually capturing the majesty of the underwater world while also working to preserve it. Sharks were a natural area of focus. Ron and Valerie Taylor were the world’s foremost chroniclers of sharks – they even wound up shooting the live shark footage in  Jaws , which was instrumental to that film’s success. Sally Aitken’s marvelous documentary captures this remarkable woman’s life and career through the mountains of incredible footage she and Ron created over the years, but it also follows Valerie  today , in her mid-80s, as she continues to dive and cavort with her beloved shark friends, all the while working overtime to save our oceans. Theo Anthony makes films that are as much visual essays as they are documentaries, delving into history and technology in order to make provocative connections between the past and present. His 2016 debut,  Rat Film , used Baltimore’s rodent problems as the jumping-off point for an examination of redlining and inequality. His new film,  All Light, Everywhere , is a meditation on the impossibility of an objective lens, particularly when it comes to police enforcement. Anthony weaves together a tour of Taser and body-camera company Axon Enterprise, the history of astronomers’ attempts to observe the transit of Venus, and the story of a man trying to sell the citizens of Baltimore on an aerial-surveillance program, drawing a line from early, gun-inspired advancements in photography to the inherent bias in camera footage. Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos Courtesy of the Studios Theaters have reopened, film festivals are back on the calendar, and jittery studios are still reshuffling release dates for all the blockbusters that were bumped last year. In other words: Movies are back , baby! Though, of course, they never really went away. Even at 2021’s halfway point, streaming and on-demand releases have offered up a slew of treasures worth seeking out, from a tender documentary about stray dogs on the streets of Istanbul to a delirious Kristen Wiig comedy about two Midwestern women finding themselves while vacationing in Florida. Here are the best movies Vulture has seen and, in many cases, reviewed so far this year, according to critics Bilge Ebiri and Alison Willmore. When your friends tell you that you have the makings of a good murderer, do you take it as a compliment? Filmmaker Gillian Wallace Horvat runs with that idea in her feature debut, a bitterly dark comedy in which she stars as a hilariously warped version of herself who finds that killing might actually be more creatively fulfilling than floundering to secure financing for a film.  I Blame Society  is a scabrous satire about navigating an industry that parrots all the right things about wanting women’s stories, but doesn’t actually seem to have changed that much at all in terms of who has power and who gets to determine which of those stories are the right kind — a realization that’s enough to make anyone snap.— A.W. Matt Yoka’s lively documentary is about the married Los Angeles couple who transformed TV journalism — and the media landscape in general — with their use of helicopter shots to cover breaking news. In the 1980s and ’90s, Marika Gerrard and Bob Tur were often the first on the scene of dramatic events. It didn’t matter how major or minor the event was — they got incredible footage. In doing so, however, they hyper-accelerated the sensationalization of modern news. Along the way, their own relationship was incinerated, and there’s a fascinating personal story here as well. Bob eventually came out as trans; she is Zoey, and speaks openly about the toxic masculinity and aggression she was once prey to with a self-reflection that’s quite moving. Because of his access to the couple’s massive archive, Yoka is able to tell this story in present-tense fashion, with both compassion and suspense. In the Heights , directed by Jon M. Chu from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical love letter to the largely Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights, is suffused with a gentle melancholy — not exactly nostalgia, but a sense of things passing. There’s a fairy-tale retrospection built into the film’s framing device, as our hero, Usnavi , sits at an idyllic beachside bar talking to a group of kids about “a faraway land called Nueva York” and a “barrio called Washington Heights.” The film’s numbers, drawn from a wide range of musical styles, rarely follow a single emotional through-line, instead presenting entire symphonies of character, gesture, and subplot. Chu simultaneously blends the casual, the lived-in and intimate with a traditional musical’s broad gestures, precise rhythms, and dream logic. The Best movie article 2021 Movies of 2021
The Best movie article 2021 Movies of 2021
Photo: Cate Cameron/Lionsgate Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo play a pair of midwestern best friends who head to sunny Florida and find themselves in a heap of trouble. It might look on its surface like the zany, mass-appeal comedies on which Wiig has built much of her success. But make no mistake about it — this is weirdo cinema all the way, filled with non sequiturs, oblique cutaways, and an impressive level of commitment to the bit from its stars. Delivering their lines with complete-each-other’s-sentences brio, Wiig and Mumolo give off all the charming energy of a duo who have built these characters over a lifetime. Special mention must go to Jamie Dornan’s conflicted and lovesick villainous henchman Edgar, who gets one of cinema’s great musical numbers, flouncing, splitting, leaping, and twirling around on a beach, singing lines like “I’m going up a palm tree / Like a cat up a palm tree / Who’s decided to go up a palm tree” and “Seagull on a tire, can you hear my prayer?”— B.E. overnights Yesterday at 2:29 p.m. Sex Education  Recap: Not for Oneself, But for All It’s his finest day yet as a new brother , and his finest day yet as a boyfriend — until it becomes his worst. opera review Sept. 17, 2021 Review: In Sun & Sea, Econihilism Goes to the Beach It’s all fun and games till someone loses a climate. vulture lists Sept. 17, 2021 22 Straight-to-VOD Bruce Willis Movies, Ranked Let’s take a closer look at the beloved star’s lesser-known roles. the r. kelly trial Sept. 17, 2021 The Worst Things That Happened at the R. Kelly Trial This Week Like his alleged threatening of a colleague and the accuser who says she witnessed him abuse Aayliah. By Victoria Bekiempis predictions Sept. 17, 2021 What Will Win and What Should Win at the 2021 Emmy Awards You can bet on these predictions … maybe! spooky season Sept. 17, 2021 Boo! New Paranormal Activity Movie Announced on Paramount The Paranormal Activity Cinematic Universe lives on chat room Sept. 17, 2021 Chicago Party Aunt ’s Chris Witaske Is Ready for Da Hometown Feedback Talking with the comedian about the Netflix show inspired by his hit Twitter account. bachelor nation Sept. 17, 2021 100k Fewer Followers Later, Bachelor in Paradise ’s Brendan Tries to Apologize “I’m not the smartest person in the world, for sure.” covers Sept. 17, 2021 Joyce Manor Covering ‘Helena’ at Riot Fest Is Emo Perfection To tide us over until My Chemical Romance headlines next year. overnights Sept. 17, 2021 Sex Education Recap: It’s Never Just a Line Picture a younger, cooler Professor Umbridge and you have Hope Haddon’s vision for Moordale. No, thanks! now streaming Sept. 17, 2021 A Streaming Guide to This Year’s Emmy-Nominated Shows You can put all those streaming subscriptions to good use this weekend. overnights Sept. 17, 2021 Sex Education  Season-Premiere Recap: I Wanna Change The new headmistress plans to put Moordale “back on track,” but these horny teens still need help with their problems. awards Sept. 17, 2021 Katie Kitamura, Lauren Groff on National Book Award for Fiction Longlist Plus three debut novels. overnights Sept. 17, 2021 Brooklyn Nine-Nine  Series-Finale Recap: The Perfect Good-bye With so many fast-paced twists and turns and loving cameos, Nine-Nine ’s final heist closes the series with plenty of joy and humor. movie review Sept. 17, 2021 The Eyes of Tammy Faye Is All Eyelashes, No Teeth Jessica Chastain goes big as the disgraced televangelist’s wife, but the movie doesn’t know what to make of Tammy Faye beyond her outrageous style. By Alison Willmore the eyes of tammy faye Sept. 17, 2021 The Big-Screen Redemption of Tammy Faye Jessica Chastain plays the famously made-up televangelist in The Eyes of Tammy Faye , a movie that reconsiders what lay beneath all the sin and paint. By Sarah Jones my single is dropping Sept. 17, 2021 We’d Buy What Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett Have in the ‘Love for Sale’ Video Off their upcoming album of the same name, Bennett’s last. streamliner Sept. 17, 2021 Pink Label’s Trove of Erotic Cinema Is a Vital Historical Archive The streaming service is exhuming gems from the queer past. exclusives Sept. 17, 2021 Kate Beckinsale Guilty of, Well, Wreaking Havoc in the Guilty Party Trailer Watch an exclusive trailer for the new Paramount comedy. More Stories Already a subscriber? Log in or Saudi director Shahad Ameen’s grim, lovely fable is set on a desolate island in a dead sea, where a group of villagers survives by annually sacrificing a daughter from each family to a race of mysterious, mermaid-like creatures in the water. One baby, Hayat, survives the sacrifice thanks to the last-minute mercy of her father. When she grows up, she distinguishes herself by her ability to hunt down and kill the mermaids. Things get way weirder, and way darker, from there on out. Ameen’s film is mesmerizingly bleak and otherworldly: The lunar landscape, the dusty village with its dark, smoky interiors, the eerily placid sea shimmering marvelously in the moonlight — the film’s textures, all shot in black-and-white, enchant us with their spectral beauty. There’s great metaphorical power in her tale, but the director seems less interested in sending messages than in providing a cinematic experience. A close-up of a giant fin being dragged across hard, cracked earth may not explain anything, but it still says more than any expository dialogue ever could.  Scales  doesn’t give us answers because life itself so rarely does. Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing Pedro Almodóvar’s English language debut is a divine half-hour short in which Tilda Swinton gets tired of being trapped in her apartment, puts on a pair of gold lamé pants, and burns the whole place down. Relatable! The Human Voice is a loose adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s 1930 monodrama, which is entirely composed of a woman speaking and pleading on the phone with an unseen lover who has left her to marry someone else. Almodóvar’s interpretation turns the work into an ode to the deliciousness of melodramatic impulses, with Swinton pacing her home — exquisitely furnished, and quickly revealed to have been built entirely on a soundstage — in AirPods, and also downing a colorful but nonlethal handful of pills and taking an ax to her ex’s favorite suit, all in an effort to free herself from the shadow of their relationship.— A.W. Set during the ’70s in the U.K., when battles between the Conservative government and striking coal miners union led to electricity restrictions and regulated blackouts, Corinna Faith’s film features an all-timer of a horror setting. It takes place in a sprawling, underfunded hospital in which a novice nurse named Val is forced to take on a night shift on her first day of work. It doesn’t take long for frightening things to start happening in the unlit hallways and shadowy wards, though if there’s a ghost lurking, it seems to be drawn to Val not out of an urge to destroy her, but because they share something.  The Power  elegantly knits together atmospheric terrors and institutional ones, providing a reminder that it’s not always the things that go bump in the night that are the true threat.— A.W. No one makes movies like Roy Andersson, and if  About Endlessness  ends up being the 78-year-old Swedish filmmaker’s last, we’ll never see anything like it again. Andersson makes feature-length collages out of intricately composed, fiercely deadpan scenes that go from mundane moments to glimpses of sometimes dark history. In his latest, a man gets the cold shoulder from a childhood acquaintance he’d forgotten he was once unkind to, a spontaneous dance party erupts outside a café, and a defeated army marches through the snow toward a prison camp. The connections between these sequences are indirect but also profound — they give a sense of grandeur to the most mundane of struggles while finding the terrible absurdity in grand acts of human cruelty.— A.W. Grub Street Magazine Subscribe to the Magazine Give a Gift Subscription Buy Back Issues Current Issue Contents Subscribe Sign In Account Profile Sign Out Menu Menu Close Close TV Movies Comedy Music TV Recaps What to Stream Vulture Lists Books Theater Art The Gold Rush Podcasts Videos About Newsletters Vulture Insiders Vulture Festival Like Us Follow Us Follow Us New York Magazine The Strategist Grub Street Search Search Close Subscribe Give A Gift Menu Menu Close Close TV Movies Comedy Music TV Recaps What to Stream Vulture Lists Books Theater Art The Gold Rush Podcasts Videos About Newsletters Vulture Insiders Vulture Festival Like Us Follow Us Follow Us New York Magazine The Strategist Grub Street Share Tweet Pin It Comments Leave a Comment Search Search Close Every product is independently selected by editors. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission. Chaitanya Tamhane’s portrait of a forever-striving Indian musician was dropped unceremoniously onto Netflix at the end of April but shouldn’t be overlooked — it’s a slow-build marvel about someone trying to reconcile the practical with the sublime. Aditya Modak is terrific as Sharad Nerulkar, who was raised in the world and the traditions of the classical scene by his dad, a passionate but never especially successful musician. Sharad inherits his father’s aspirations toward greatness as well as surreptitiously recorded lessons from the man’s guru, a near-mythical figure who didn’t feel a need to perform for an audience or for posterity. As he gets older, though, and indignities accrue with the passing of the years, the ideals he’s been taught about purity of approach and all-consuming devotion start to seem incompatible with a contemporary, fulfilled life. — A.W. Written, directed, and edited by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, this visually striking drama became the first feature to screen at Sundance from the small African nation of Lesotho last year. It’s now the first movie masterpiece of 2021 to enter release. In the story of Mantoa , an aging, grieving mother and widow fighting a losing battle to save her village from being displaced by a dam project, movie article 2021 Mosese has created a hypnotic reverie on how death and life are inextricably intertwined, and about the ways that the past continues to animate the present. Mantoa’s actions — driven, in part, by her desire to maintain the local cemetery where her loved ones are buried and where she soon hopes to be — spur the rest of the village to action. Mosese depicts this community’s transformation in subtle, cinematic ways. But the real attraction here is the bedrock vitality of 80-year-old Mary Twala Mhlongo, who is filmed almost like an avenging angel. The veteran actress passed away last July, and now the anxious, unyielding melancholy of her character hits harder. That we as a planet have ourselves suffered through unimaginable loss adds a further, unexpected resonance.— B.E. Photo: David Reamer/NEON More Zen fable than genre picture, Michael Sarnoski’s  Pig  delights in defying expectations. A grizzled, mournful Nicolas Cage gives one of his greatest performances as a Portland-chef-turned-woodland-hermit named Rob who returns to the big city in search of his stolen truffle-hunting pig. But this is not a revenge picture. It’s a moving, metaphorical, existential journey that takes Rob and his companion, a young truffle dealer from posh restaurants to underground fight clubs to places of mourning and death. The power of food to heal, to release emotions long suppressed, runs throughout the movie – but that’s an idea that has little to do with food and more to do with connection, a sense of being present and alive in an impermanent world that food in its purest form represents. “We don’t get a lot of things to really care about,” Pig sighs desperately at one point.  Pig  is a movie about how we all lose the things we care about, until we ourselves are gone. Weighing in at a backbreaking four hours and two minutes, the so-called Snyder Cut – effectively restoring the version of Justice League director Zack Snyder wanted to make before departing the project in 2017 — sprawls, and scatters, and loses itself in story lines. There are times when you’re convinced it’s entering the final act, only to realize there are still more than two hours to go. But lose all these melodramatic curlicues and oversize narrative distractions, and you’d lose what makes the film special. There, in its great, glorious bloat, lies the movie’s heart. You can sort of understand why length-concerned executives might have wanted the running time cut in half and the story spruced up with dumb jokes and fewer subplots. But there’s nothing cynical about Snyder’s indulgence: He believes that superheroes directly tie into our ancient myths and religious symbols, and he wants to make the rest of us believe too. He repeatedly goes overboard with the ritual and the portent and the stone-faced gravity, but it’s hard not to respect the guy. The Snyder Cut has its share of problems — when you get the best of Snyder, you also get the worst — but it’s an undeniably passionate and moving work. It earns its self-importance.— B.E. A kind of companion to Kedi , that 2016 documentary about Istanbul’s street cats, Elizabeth Lo’s film is a tender look into the lives of some of the city’s free-roaming dogs. It’s also, inevitably, a dog’s-eye view portrait of the Turkish metropolis, with Lo setting her camera on the level of her four-legged subjects but also catching the human dynamics happening around them. In particular, she lets her expressive main character, a tan-colored lovely named Zeytin, bring the audience into the lives of a group of Syrian refugees living covertly on a construction site. Stray doesn’t need to push the point that the wild dogs are welcomed more freely than these painfully young men, who huff glue and sell packets of Kleenex to get by while being denied work permits. To exist from day to day is an animal’s prerogative, but it’s a lot harder on humans who can’t conceive of what their life will look like a week, a month, or a year from now.— A.W. It’s clear by now that there’s nothing that Mads Mikkelsen can’t do — whether it be performing a surprisingly athletic bit of jazz ballet, crying blood at a poker table, surviving a plane crash in the Arctic Circle, or elegantly supping on human flesh. In Anders Thomas Jensen’s revenge drama  Riders of Justice , Mikkelsen manages to simultaneously lean into and dismantle tough-guy tropes while playing a stoic soldier reeling from the death of his wife in a train crash. Rather than confront his repressed grief or console his mourning daughter, he embraces a theory that the accident was actually planned and starts working with a trio of programmers who think they’ve uncovered a conspiracy. It’s the rare action movie that concludes with the idea that everyone should have just gone to therapy. — A.W. Photo: Zeitgeist Films Initially intended to be the site of a reservoir but never actually filled up, Vacaresti Nature Park has stood in the center of the Romanian capital of Bucharest for decades, neglected by bureaucrats and slowly emerging as a rich marshland with startling biodiversity, the largest urban wilderness in Europe. It’s also the unofficial home of a man named Gica Enache, who, with his wife and nine children — not to mention a few pigeons, chickens, dogs, cats, and pigs — has resided here for nearly 20 years, away from the world in a kind of impoverished, idyllic life off the grid. Shot over three years, Radu Ciorniciuc’s film follows Gica and his family as their existence is interrupted by the growing demands of the modern world. But Acasa is not exactly a movie about paradise lost. Ciorniciuc seamlessly blends intimacy and lyricism with a clear-eyed honesty about what he’s depicting. The film comes in at under an hour and a half, but we see Vacaresti transformed and the Enache family sent into an existential tailspin. Over and over in this poisoned pastoral, the lost dream of the idyll clashes with the sad workings of reality.— B.E. Photo: StudioCanal Maud, the hospice nurse played with electric conviction by Saint Maud so nail-bitingly tense is that it’s impossible to guess the form in which it’ll come, especially as we become immersed in Maud’s warped, hallucinatory way of seeing the world.— Alison Willmore If you subscribe to a service through our links,  Vulture  may earn an affiliate commission. Photo: Courtesy of Universal Studios They  drove a car in space . It’s not easy to make any kind of dance movie, but it’s especially hard to make a dance  documentary  and still keep it compelling: All too often, the performance footage can never quite convey the energy and beauty of the real thing. But Tom Hurwitz and Rosalynde LeBlanc’s incredible film dives right in close among the dancers, moving along with them and imbuing their project with unprecedented immediacy and intimacy. These are students from Loyola Marymount preparing for a new production of  D-Man in the Waters , the monumental, AIDS-era work from dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones that took principles of ballet and modern dance and twisted them into an agile, agitated  cri de coeur  for a turbulent new world.  D-Man  premiered in 1989, one year after Jones had lost his partner Arnie Zane to the disease; he was in the midst of losing one of his lead dancers as well. By intercutting preparations for a modern-day performance – primarily by young dancers who know very little of the AIDS crisis but do have their own strong opinions about other important issues of our time –with the fascinating history of  D-Man  and of Jones himself, this film makes a powerful case for the reinvigoration of art by new generations. There’s no better reminder of the alchemical magic of film than long-unseen archival footage, which can make years vanish in an instant, restoring the past with an immediacy that’s all the more vibrant because it offers a glimpse into what was thought lost. That’s definitely the case with Hal Tulchin’s half-a-century-in-store footage of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which provides a breathtaking window into a major but underdiscussed event , featuring performances from the likes of Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, and Sly and the Family Stone. But what makes  Summer of Soul  so multifaceted is the way that Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, in his directorial debut, cuts interviews by and about the artists in with each song, providing context to the moment, to the music, and to shifting ideas of what it meant to be Black in America. This thriller from David Charbonier and Justin Powell is beautifully made and unstintingly brutal about the peril its young protagonists find themselves in. Bobby and Kevin are besties who are grabbed while killing time before a baseball game, and find themselves in a remote house belonging to captors with some very nefarious intentions. When he discovers that Kevin’s been chained up in a locked room, Bobby creeps around the dark building looking for a way to help his friend. Child endangerment can be one of the cheapest ways of getting a reaction out of an audience, but  The Boy Behind the Door  treats its characters’ fear and determination with an unaffected seriousness that eliminates any sense of exploitation, leaving only heart-in-your-throat suspense. Plus, Kristin Bauer van Straten makes for an impressively sadistic big bad. Slalom  is being billed as a Me Too movie set in the world of competitive skiing, but that does the picture a mild injustice. The film is too human for any kind of categorization. It’s a delicate, authentic look at the complicated ways in which abuse works. Much of its power derives from the performance of newcomer Noée Abita as Lyz, a 15-year-old girl studying in the Swiss Alps, where she has joined an elite ski team led by Fred , a tough coach who thinks nothing of observing and manhandling the kids’ bodies, supposedly to make them better skiers. Although we know where things are generally headed, almost nothing in  Slalom  feels specifically predictable. The electrifying camerawork of the skiing sequences might at first feel a bit off-note, but it’s important to show Lyz’s exhilaration, the intoxication of victory that pushes her and Fred closer together. Fred is not so much a scheming, serial predator, but rather a man whose confident exterior hides someone even more screwed up and immature than the young, lost girl that he’s become drawn to. He’s a broken narcissist who doesn’t understand anything about boundaries, or agency, or even trust.— B.E. Tags: vulture section lede vulture homepage lede movies 2021 movies best of 2021 lists barb and star go to vista del mar spongebob squarepants saint maud the dig acasa my home the world to come a glitch in the matrix my zoe come true raya and the last draon disney justice league the snyder cut the human voice stray bad trip best movies the dry More Comments Leave a Comment The Best Movies of 2021 Every product is independently selected by editors. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission. The first time Abigail kisses Tallie , she blurts out, with the astonishment of someone whose universe has just tilted on its axis, “You smell like a biscuit.” Mona Fastvold’s film is the latest in what’s become a trend of lesbian period romances , but it’s unique in being set in the 1800s in the wilds of New York state, where Abigail and Tallie are unhappily married to neighboring farmers — the stolid Dyer and the controlling Finney , respectively. Theirs is a difficult way of life, with the women having little by way of freedom or relief from the isolation, and Finney, in particular, becoming increasingly resentful of Tallie’s lack of interest in what he believes are her wifely duties. But the friendship and then the love that arises between Abigail and Tallie is portrayed as a delight in a world almost entirely devoid of such an emotion, something to be greedily held onto even as any future it could have is desperately uncertain.— A.W. Photo: Eric Zachanowich/A24 Films David Lowery’s sumptuous interpretation of the Arthurian tale leans into the otherworldliness of its famous tale, but also into the earthiness of its characters, with Dev Patel playing the future legend as a present-day gadabout who prefers carousing to going in pursuit of greatness. But when a mysterious, tree-like figure rides into the king’s court during a Christmas feast, that pursuit is forced upon him, and Gawain’s left honor-bound to seek the Green Knight out in a year for what seems like certain death. Lowery turns the young man’s journey into one that’s filled with encounters that appear meant to impart lessons that he can’t parse. It’s a movie that luxuriates in allegory without answers, allowing its lush imagery to carry a story that’s ultimately about how honor is not a prize to be won at the end of a quest, but a quality that comes from within. Todd Stephens’s comedy is a wonderfully bittersweet tribute to small-town gay men, and to staying and carving out communities in places that weren’t always welcoming. But it’s just as much a tribute to Udo Kier, a professional oddball of the highest grade who steps into a rare leading role as Pat Pitsenbarger, former hairdresser and enduring big personality. Asked to posthumously style the hair of the woman who was once his most important client, and whose betrayal he never forgave, Pat leaves his nursing home and sets off on a trek across Sandusky, Ohio, that manages to be sweet, funny, and deeply elegiac. Photo: IFC Films Nicole Riegel’s blue-collar drama Holler is the kind of film that can at first glance feel familiar but upon closer examination reveals uncommon artistry and depth. The festival landscape used to be littered with movies like this — downtrodden men and women trying to get by in grim, dead-end settings — at least until indie filmmakers realized their low-budget efforts were better directed toward show-offy calling cards for helming future studio products, franchise and otherwise. In that sense, Holler feels like both a throwback and an elevation. I saw my share of movies like this in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but they were rarely this captivating. Rodney Ascher’s documentary exploration of simulation theory is stuffed with ideas and stories and builds toward the kind of emotional conclusion one would not expect from a movie so immersed in abstract thought. It’s also just plain creepy: Ascher structures his journey around footage of a 1977 lecture by visionary sci-fi author and legendary paranoiac Philip K. Dick, who declares to an audience in Metz, France, that we are living in a computer-programmed reality, one of many. Dick looks and feels like a cult leader, assured in his lunacy. Significantly less intimidating, Ascher’s other interview subjects are hyperintelligent, articulate, and entertaining. The temptation is great to sit there and poke holes in their so-called evidence, but the tenor of the film isn’t one of doubt or ridicule. For the most part, these people’s stories aren’t all that bizarre or surreal; they are universal and relatable. Ultimately, A Glitch in the Matrix becomes a film not about whether we’re living in a simulation but about the many understandable reasons someone may think this. In effect, it winds up being about the mysteries of the human experience.— B.E. Norman Nordstrom, the menacing blind antagonist placed by Stephen Lang in the first  Don’t Breathe , becomes — well, not the hero, exactly, in this sequel, but certainly the avenging main character. The results, as stylishly directed by Rodo Sayagues, are nasty and tremendously fun. Madelyn Grace plays Phoenix, who Norman’s been raising as his daughter without ever letting her know he’s not actually her father, and Brendan Sexton III is the leader of a gang who grabs the young girl — not, it turns out, by accident. The film features multiple twists and turns of sympathies, but ends in the right place, with the acknowledgement that you’re watching various monsters attempt to end one another. Photo: Amazon Studios Made in collaboration with Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks, Leos Carax’s wildly melodramatic rock opera is a gloriously artificial romantic tragedy about the unlikely, turbulent marriage between a graceful soprano and a boorish, beastly “comic” , and the angel-voiced puppet baby they bring into this mad, mad world. Carax has never not made a personal film, but even by his standards, this is a strikingly naked one. The director has always been fascinated by the push-pull between divine inspiration and coarse, grotesque instinct, and in the bond between Annette ’s lovers, he has found an ideal portrait of this dynamic — one that reaches beyond the paradoxes of mere romance and into the cruel, counterintuitive magic of the creative act itself. More than anything,  Annette  plays like a rumination on what lies behind the artistic impulse: sadism or grace? Loving or loathing? Does the artist want to hurt the audience or to redeem them? What better way to contemplate that question than with a film that does both? Photo: NEON Viktor Kossakovsky’s mesmerizing, gorgeous documentary about the life of a mother pig and her babies on an unnamed farm somewhere in the world serves as a bracing corrective to the way animals are usually portrayed on film. The director wants to establish a connection between us and these creatures that we think of primarily as food, but he doesn’t want to do it at the expense of truth. To try and give these human personalities or traits would be not just dishonest, but counterproductive; it would make the whole movie dismissible as fantasy. So we don’t necessarily understand these animals. We are, however, transfixed by them. There have been lots of movies about pigs over the years, but this is the rare movie that lets the pigs onscreen just be pigs.— B.E. It may take some emotional fortitude to make it through the first half of Julie Delpy’s devastating parental drama. Watching Delpy’s single mom shower affection and attention on her young daughter, always looking out for the child’s safety, it’s hard not to get a sense that something truly horrible is about to happen. And be prepared — it does. But also know this: This film also features Daniel Brühl, and once he shows up, it gets way crazier and more entertaining. My Zoe is a strange, moving picture about how we process grief — or, in some cases, fail to — but it’s also a powerful and complex exploration of scientific, emotional, and familial ethics. And it ends on one of the most subtly unsettling images in recent memory.— B.E. Like  Chungking Express , this stunner of a debut from twin filmmakers Arie and Chuko Esiri is split in two, following first a middle-aged mechanic name Mofe , and then a pretty salon worker and bartender named Rosa , in which all efforts to get ahead prove Sisiphean, and everyone hustles just to stay in the same place. The film is a bitter set of tales about the illusory promises of capitalism, presenting a bustling city in which there’s no softness to be found when tragedy strikes — the characters’ desperation just makes them easier marks. Photo: IFC Films Through interviews with historians, authors, and activists, Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein’s documentary looks at the cult around Hitler and Nazism — but it’s not really about the 1930s and 1940s. Rather, it examines what that period has to say about the darker side of human nature, and how it relates to the rise of fascist and ultra-nationalist movements today. It’s a massive subject, of course, but Tucker and Epperlein manage to condense and synthesize an enormous number of ideas into a fascinating and engaging journey. That the film ends in the U.S., with the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, adds an extra chilling note: The political and governmental catastrophe underlines how much we’ve stopped functioning as a society, and the opening this gives to humanity’s worst impulses.
This wild animated film about a bickering family of misfits whose road trip happens to coincide with a robot apocalypse brought about by a huge tech company’s runaway digital assistant is both a takedown and a celebration of our dissonant, tech-obsessed world. Director Mike Rianda and co-director Jeff Rowe use speed, wit, and a delirious combination of animation styles — mixing variations on 3-D, hand-drawing, and even live-action — to create something frenetic and inventive and new. The film portrays a reality in which the background noise of technology often reveals our true feelings. There’s a warning here, of course, about putting all our emotional lives into the objects around us, be they physical or virtual. But beneath it all, the film also has some affection for its attention-deficit universe. It’s in many ways a love song to all the weirdos who can’t quite bring themselves to say the things they need to say and instead express themselves in other, less efficient and convenient ways .— B.E. This Australian thriller, a big hit in its native land, is filled with such an overwhelming sense of grief that you may lose sight of the central mystery for stretches of the movie. But it works as genre, too. Eric Bana plays a federal agent who returns after many years to his drought-stricken rural hometown to look into a ghastly murder-suicide allegedly committed by his oldest friend. As he investigates, flashbacks dredge up another mysterious death from years before, when they were all kids. It’s a tangle of suspicion, shame, and buried memory, article 15 movie download tamilrockers