The Best Of 2021

With the Oscar’s swiftly approaching, and my Oscar final predictions released yesterday, it’s finally time to discuss who i think actually should have been nominated in the major categories, and who I would vote to win. This list will be completely different than the Oscar list, because I am just myself, I have no guild or board of people to mess up my nomination process, and my awards mean nothing. No actor is sitting out there waiting with bated breath to see if they will be included on Mac The Movieguy’s Best of 2021.

Which is great for me, because I feel no need to pander. I feel no need to award someone because it’s been a long time coming. A long time coming from my non-existent awards?

Now, on to the little list of ten films I’ll admit I didn’t watch, that I wish either I had before this list, or were inaccessible to me due to their being foreign language, or me just not getting around to it. Starting out, these are the ten films I haven’t seen that I regret the most.

The Top 10 Regretfully Not Seen Films Of 2021

Drive My Car

Parallel Mothers

The Worst Person In The World

Cyrano

Jockey

Sing 2

Respect

Sweet water

Riding With Fire

No Time To Die (which I missed in theatres and refuse to pay for as I have Prime video, and the acquisition should give it to me free on that service very shortly)

And with that in mind, here are my Best of 2021.

The next categories will be listed with the Winner first, then the other nominees listed alphabetically. In some cases, there may just be a winner and honorable mention.

BEST PICTURE:

West Side Story (Winner)

Being The Ricardos

Belfast

C’Mon C’Mon

Coda

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

The Last Duel

Mass

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Tick Tick Boom

Movies that just missed the cut that I feel like mentioning: 8 Bit Christmas, Luca, Shiva Baby, and Swan Song.

Interestingly, only 3 of my Top 10 were nominated for Best Picture this year. I’ve seen 9 of the 10 nominees, and while I thought some of them were fine (Dune, King Richard, Nightmare Alley), I just thought there were stronger films. I’ve loved all of these films, but watching West Side Story changed my mind on everything. I actually am quite aware of the source material, and I’ve never been a fan. This version totally flipped a work I didn’t like and breathed this kind of electric life into it that blew me away. It is stacked with a great cast. I expected nothing and I got everything.

BEST DIRECTOR:

Ridley Scott (The Last Duel) (Winner)

Kenneth Branaugh (Belfast)

Sean Heder (Coda)

Jon Watts (Spider-man No Way Home)

Steven Spielberg (West Side Story)

All things considered, I think Ridley Scott directed the hell out of a film we don’t see enough of any more. his unique approach to structure and storytelling here is what really threw me over the top on giving him the honors. Having to make each story similar and unique in their own right, and make the film work, it was truly an experience that hasn’t left me, and I think that was due to Ridley Scott. Branagh tackled so much in Belfast, combining a personal story about his own experiences with a coming of age tale that is wrapped in a historically accurate moment. Spielberg proved that among other things he’s already done well, he can also direct and reinvent the hell out of a musical, not afraid at all of tackling an Oscar winning project at that. Heder took an indie cast full of deaf individuals and told one of the most relatable storylines of the year, in a film that no one can forget, yet some keep forgetting his direction. And Watts really gets props for tying together his Spider-Man trilogy in the best possible way. not since Peter Jackson has a trilogy felt so complete and perfectly planned as Watts and his Spider-Man films.

BEST ACTOR:

Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power Of The Dog) (Winner)

Javier Bardem (Being The Ricardos)

Joaquin Phoenix (C’Mon C’Mon)

Riz achmed (Encounter)

Will Smith (King Richard)

Tim Blake Nelson (Old Henry)

Nicolas Cage (Pig)

Simon Rex (Red Rocket)

Mahershala Ali (Swan Song)

Andrew Garfield (Tick Tick Boom)

So, this is exactly how much Benedict Cumberbatch blew me away. i didn’t like the film, Jane Campion didn’t make my director list, but there he is. It felt like a truly transformative performance from him in a very strong year. i really loved all of these performances.Four of the five nominees are nominated this year, I just would not have nominated Denzel. Lots of smaller performances, like Mahershala Ali’s breathtaking work as a dying man coming to terms with trying to find a way to leave his family in the best possible situation, in a film that called upon him to play dual roles. For a two time winner, i was shocked this performance didn’t gain more traction. Tim Blake Nelson, perpetually terrific and always ignored, stepped into a lead role in a historical epic, and he was fantastic. We found out this year that Simon Rex can actually act, which is a shock, and that Nicolas Cage isn’t done doing dramatic work either. And while I thought Encounter wasn’t that great of a film, Riz played a role that was compelling and difficult, and became the sole reason to sit through Encounter. It was enough to get him shortlisted for the BAFTA’s, but I kept him in my top 10. He was my pick last year for Sound Of Metal.

BEST ACTRESS:

Amelia Jones (Coda) (Winner)

Nicole Kidman (Being The Ricardos)

Halle Berry (Bruised)

Emma Stone (Cruella)

Jessica Chastain (The Eyes Of Tammy Faye)

Lady Gaga (House Of Gucci)

Olivia Coleman (The Lost Daughter)

Tessa Thompson (Passing)

Rachel Sennat (Shiva Baby)

Rachel Ziegler (West Side Story)

Amelia Jones is the heart and soul of Coda, the film that is two shakes away from a Best Picture nomination. This 20 year old actress, most well known for Locke and Key, had to master an American accent, speak fluent ASL, sing, and steal your heart. The fact she wasn’t nominated this year is heartbreaking. Also, Halle Berry left it all on the floor in her best work since Monster’s Ball in Bruised. The film isn’t very good, but you can’t deny how good she is. The two Rachel’s both broke through this year in very interesting ways, with Sennat in the hilarious and original Shiva Baby, and Ziegler singing her heart out in West Side Story. I didn’t like The Lost Daughter, but there’s no denying how good Coleman was in that film, and of the five nominees, I still hope Chastain wins this year for Tammy Faye.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Jason Issacs (Mass) (Winner)JK Simmons (Being The Ricardos)

Ciarian Hines (Belfast)

Woody Norman (C’mon C’Mon)

Reed Birney (Mass)

Ben Affleck (The Tender Bar)

Robin de Jesus (Tick Tick Boom)

David Alvarez (West Side Story)

Mike Faist (West Side Story)

Stanley Tucci (Worth)

As a reminder, I couldn’t enjoy Troy’s performance in Coda, so this isn’t a sleight on him. I just didn’t want to nominate a performance described only through audio description and Amelia Jones’s translation. Still, I find it hard to believe he’d make me feel more than what Jason Issacs made me feel in Mass. As a father grieving the loss of his son in a mass shooting, and having to talk about what that feels like directly to the parents of the now deceased shooter, he has some truly compelling scenes. The fact that Mass wasn’t recognized this year is the greatest travesty. I predicted it, but still it hurt. I only have two actual nominees here, and repopulated with a bunch of people who should have had a real shot. Birney also from Mass was incredible, as the shooter’s father, given great material to work with. Tucci was really great in Worth, as a grieving husband who got involved in the project, and gained the trust of the other families who lost people on September 11th. De Jesus had his moments to remind us that Tick Tick Boom wasn’t just all about Garfield, and broke our collective hearts. Norman, the youngest actor I’ve nominated this year, gave an incredibly mature performance as a child on a journey with his uncle. And the boys of West Side Story were so badly overlooked. As if their character’s fates weren’t bad enough, the Oscars snubbed them as well.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Katherine Hunter (The Tragedy Of Macbeth) (Winner)

Caitrona Balfe (Belfast)

Judi Dench (Belfast)

Cherry Jones (The Eyes Of Tammy Faye)

Jodi Comer (The Last Duel)

Ann Dowd (Mass)

Martha Plimpton (Mass)

Kirsten Dunst (The Power Of The Dog)

Ariana Debose (West Side Story)

Rita Moreno (West Side Story)

I know, i didn’t pick Ariana. look, these are much harder than they seem, but I didn’t really care for The Tragedy Of Macbeth. You might have noticed, Katherine Hunter is the only performance nominated from the film. That’s because I felt like everyone just read some Shakespeare well, but not necessarily awards worthy. But what Hunter achieved in a demanding role with multiple parts to it, was to steal the film from Denzel and Frances, so that all I remember is her. Her performance stole the entire movie, away from icons like those actors, and stood above the direction of even a Coen brother. Truthfully, this was the closest category. Which grieving mother do I pick from Mass? Both Ann Dowd and Martha Plimpton will break your heart no matter what. And while there is no doub that Ariana left a permanent mark on cinema with her emotionally fiery and captivating work, Rita Moreno was also breathtaking in the same film. Her Somewhere is a highlight of that film. Both Belfast actresses did some truly great work, Dunst took on a deeply troubled role and it’s probably the toughest of her career yet, and I had to make sure to mention the underrated Cherry Jones in Tammy Faye, for doing a great job of playing a very complicated mother to Tammy, as well as Jodi Comer’s incredible turn in The Last Duel. This is one hell of a category, and these actresses all did incredible work. But I can’t shake how Katherine Hunter stole an entire film in a supporting role, from legends, in a film I didn’t even really like that much.

BEST ENSEMBLE:

West Side Story (Winner)

Belfast

Coda

Don’t Look Up

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

The French Dispatch

The Harder They Fall

Mass

Nightmare Alley

Spider-Man No Way Home

How I look at the ensemble category often is how all of the actors in the film come together to create a cohesive experience. Often times, there are films where it is hard to find a lead character to nominate, yet the entire cast feels like they all succeeded. These are the ten best cohesive casts, not a film centered mostly around one or two great performances, with everyone else seeming OK. West Side Story really is that film for me, as you saw me nominate five performances, but yet I felt like it was too hard to pick just one performance to win. I’d give the entire cast awards if I could. Other films I didn’t even end up nominating anyone, like The French Dispatch, Don’t look Up, Nightmare alley, and Spider-Man No Way Home simply because who do you pick? They are all great, and they all contributed to the success of those films. Plus, I had to pick Mass, since I nominated the entire cast. But, this is another win for West Side Story.

BEST ORIGINAl SCREENPLAy

Mass (Winner)

Being The Ricardos

Belfast

C’Mon C’mon

Shiva Baby

I think these are all original, but I’m giving this to Mass, because that script wrecked me and my soul.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAy

Coda (Winner)

The Last Duel

Tick Tick Boom

Spider-Man no Way Home

West Side Story

While I loved what Tony Kushner brought to this reimagining of West Side Story, it’s the script to Coda that has stuck with me.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

Winner: A Hero

It’s hard to even find enough foreign titles with English dubbing nowadays, let alone audio description. I assure you I saw more than just this film, but not enough to warrant an honorable mention/multiple nominees.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Winner: Luca

Runner Up: Vivo

Again, while there are many films I did see that were animated, including all five Oscar nominees, I still feel like making a top five here would be about half or just less than the total number of Animated films I saw this year. Luca was my favorite, and has been since I saw it, and the underrated Netflix film Vivo, featuring a delightful Lin Manuel Miranda in the lead voice, is my number two.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Winner: Encanto

Runner Up: Dune

Two films you haven’t seen me mention a lot, but I remember the music from both being incredibly strong. The music in Encanto is the reason to love this film, and Dune had one hell of a score.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

WINNER: Attica

Runner Ups: Summer Of Soul and LFG

I didn’t go for the full five, but I loved all three documentaries, and I wish LFG had been nominated this year. But Attica is very timely, and hella powerful.

The other categories don’t make sense for a blind film critic to make comments on, and I didn’t pay enough attention this year to the Best Original Song race. So that’s what we get. That’s my best of 2021. A far cry from the Oscars in many respects, with actors winning who aren’t even nominated. What are your thoughts on my best of 2021?

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