Sunday, February 27, 2022

Movie Dearest Top 10 of 2021

Better late than never... Movie Dearest's ten favorite films of the past year.

1. West Side Story: Stephen Spielberg achieved that rarest of feats, remaking a classic that both honors the original yet still looks and sounds remarkably fresh and alive. The iconic music, dazzling dancing, an enriched screenplay (by Tony Kushner), its amazing cast (led by the Latina trifecta of Ariana DeBose, Rita Moreno and Rachel Zegler) and more all add up to make this cinematic return to the West Side, sixty years later, a classic in its own right. (Streaming on Disney+ starting March 2nd.)

2. Parallel Mothers: Pedro Almodóvar and his muse Penélope Cruz do it again with this contemporary update to the great movie melodramas of the past. (Now streaming on demand.)

3. No Time To Die: Daniel Craig's final mission as super-spy James Bond took the franchise in surprising and, as always, thrilling directions. (Now streaming on demand.)

4. In the Heights: Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony-winning, crowd-pleasing musical was brought vividly to the screen by director Jon M. Chu. (Now streaming on HBO Max.)

5. Belfast: Kenneth Branagh's loving homage to his boyhood days in Northern Ireland during the time of "The Troubles" is a bittersweet tale of holding onto innocence against all odds. (Now streaming on demand.)

6. Encanto: The magical, musical Madrigal family of Disney's latest animated multi-media blockbuster (and future franchise) are hard to resist.... even Tio Bruno. (Now streaming on Disney+.)

7. Swan Song: The legendary Udo Kier is mesmerizing as the once-legendary hairdresser Pat "Mr. Pat" Pitsenbarger in this underrated gay gem from director Todd Stephens. (Now streaming on Hulu.)

8. The Truffle Hunters: I've waited a year to put this delightful documentary — beautifully photographed and featuring a quirky cast of characters, both human and canine — on my top ten list. (Now streaming on demand.)

9. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: In a year that saw a string of highly-entertaining Marvel streaming shows, this big screen outing starring a mostly-unknown hero more than held its own. (Now streaming on Disney+.)

10. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar: Yes, there was more sophisticated fare in 2021, but I could not resist this kooky, culotte-wearing camp-a-thon from the hilariously twisted minds of Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. (Now streaming on Hulu.)

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): Black Widow, Everybody's Talking About Jamie, King Richard, Passing, Qua Vadis, Aida?, Raya and the Last Dragon, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It, Shadow in the Cloud, Tick, Tick... Boom! and Two of Us.

Worst Movies of 2021: Three overrated biopics lead my "least favorite" list — Spencer (Kristin Stewart as a pathetic, pearl-eating Princess Di), Being the Ricardos (a mean-spirited, miscast mishmash of I Love Lucy history) and House of Gucci (a veritable orgy of questionable accents, bloated histrionics and waxen prosthetics... and that's just Jared Leto). Leto joined Rami Malek and Denzel Washington in The Little Things, proving that even three Oscar winners can star in a lame, thrill-less thriller. And finally, if you ever wanted to see how badly Pirates of the Caribbean could have been, just watch the watered down Jungle Book starring Dwayne Johnson as, surprise!, an affable musclehead who occasionally says something witty.

Coming soon to Movie Dearest: My reviews of all of this year's Academy Award nominated short films, plus the latest edition of "If We Picked the Oscars".

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