The Oscars ceremony is just around the corner. As the date of the event draws near, so does the intrigue surrounding the most important nominations, among which, of course, is the nomination for "Best Picture". Filmustage can't afford to miss one of the world's major film events, so we've prepared a digest of all the most notable films of 2021 for you!
But before we continue, we want to remind you that here we promote the love of art and try to inspire you to take your camera and make a short film. Leave the boring pre-production routine to the Filmustage - automatic script breakdown - and focus on your creativity!
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Art by @nadi_bulochka
"Nightmare Alley", dir. Guillermo del Toro
The Mexican director's dark tales have always fascinated with their atmosphere and bizarre creatures. In 2021, Guillermo del Toro did not betray himself and once again staged the noir-driven thriller "Nightmare Alley", a remake of the 1947 film of the same name. Contrary to his reputation, the new film is devoid of ghosts and monsters - everything supernatural is gimmicky and therefore not real. The director not only took a detour into a genre new to him, but also poked fun at his own work with a witty irony.
Visually, the film looks great: the cropped and blue-green colour scheme and the unique camerawork by Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen create a very clear association between the film and the actual era of the 1940s. However, that's about all there is to say about "Nightmare Alley": the film came out insanely beautiful, but completely unmemorable. Unfortunately, even the charming Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe and Rooney Mara couldn't fix a drawn-out and rather boring script.
"Don't Look Up", dir. Adam McKay
"Don't Look Up" now seems to have a real claim to being the "best picture" of 2021, because its absurdist plot was literally prophetic. Not literally, but figuratively Adam McKay managed to predict humanity's hysteria and in doing so he managed to summon it up in a very funny way in the form of a difficult satire. The film hits the nerve of the times.
Don't get us wrong, of course "Don't Look Up" deserves an Oscar not just for its relevance, but simply for the fact that this excellent film is indeed one of the best of 2021. And that's what we've dedicated a separate blog to, where we answer the question of why Don't Look Up is a cool movie, as well as taking apart an entire sub-genre of satire in filmmaking (click here for the blog).
"Don't Look Up" provides a colourful and truly unique viewing experience that will elicit a wide range of emotions, from laughter to tears to actual tears. The stunning script and direction, expressive camerawork and editing, and striking acting make us believe this film will win the ceremony.
"Dune: Part One", dir. Denis Villeneuve
"Dune" is already a milestone title, the next release of which in cinemas is a remarkable event, because several directors have tried to adapt Frank Herbert's novel, and Alejandro Jodorowsky's attempt deserves a film of its own movie (our article about this story - here).
However, when it became known that Denis Villeneuve would be doing the modern adaptation, we thought it would be cool for sure. And so it turned out.
Denis Villeneuve has once again created a film that speaks such a monumental yet minimalist language that it's almost impossible to get rid of the creeps. In its essence, "Dune" is another adaptation of a heroic myth, but the director's methods and cinematographic language reveal this myth in a very direct and understated language, which only emphasises the themes of violence, cruelty and the boundaries between good and evil.
It could certainly be argued that "Dune" deserves to be called film of the year for its masterful portrayal of a large-scale space opera in 2021, when this sub-genre has already become obsolete.
"Drive My Car", dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi
A frank and intimate work from a Japanese director tells the story of a theatre director, Kafuku, who goes to stage a play they once acted in together some years after his wife's death. The film balances the present with the past as the protagonist keeps coming back to listen to audio cassettes: the voice of his late wife Oto is preserved on them.
The play that the protagonist goes to see, and partly the one on which the entire film is based, is Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya". The Russian playwright's work is quoted numerous times in Ryusuke Hamaguchi's film, and thus the work of literature itself becomes part of the film. It is no wonder, as it, like "Drive My Car", is a story of acceptance.
Ryusuke Hamaguchi's minimalist drama has already conquered European film festivals, no matter how short the 3-hour running time. So watching "Drive My Car" should not disappoint you - but should answer many of the existential questions that perpetually plague the human conscience. Perhaps the visuals in this film are just as stunning as the screenplay: minimalistic and relaxed general shots, as well as personal, close-ups, form the basis of "Drive My Car's" visual language. We'll be rooting for this masterpiece at the Oscars.
"Belfast", dir. Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh's drama about the civil war in Northern Ireland tells the story of a nine-year-old boy, Buddy, who witnesses barricades, soldiers and protesters in his hometown.
Kenneth Branagh is an amazing director, because with the release of "Belfast" he has proven that he is capable of balancing big-budget Hollywood projects and small, personal films. At its core, the story in "Belfast" is not even a story, but an autobiographical sketch about childhood during the war, which meaningfully expresses nothing original. Conceptually the film attempts to replicate Alfonso Cuarón's triumph with his film "Roma", but unfortunately Kenneth Branagh's drama does not stand up to this comparison. "Belfast" looks, in part, like a drawn-out picture that hints at the "artistry" of the picture with all its appearance. In fact, the script looks weak: the characters from little Buddy to the parents feel unconvincing. Visually, "Belfast" is also a mess: the motley shots as well as the haphazard editing do not draw you into the film, but only distract you.
Ultimately, there is a certain charm to be found in "Belfast", but we doubt that this particular film will take the statuette.
"Licorice Pizza", dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
"Licorice Pizza" is the name of the famous vinyl shop chain in the 1970s. Once again, Paul Thomas Anderson has created a film a declaration of love for the '70s era. The plot seems at times a little chaotic and the film's manner of shooting and set decoration is indeed reminiscent of films of a bygone era. However, it does not spoil the film which, above all, charms viewers with its atypical romantic story, the excellent performance of the novice actors and their virtuosic dialogues.
The main acting duo in the persons of Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim have masterfully portrayed their characters and are the film's biggest stars. Therein lies the artistry of Paul Thomas Anderson: he creates a film without leaving his own imprint on the film; his style implies a quality work with story and actors, therefore "Licorice Pizza" represents the culmination of Paul Thomas Anderson's directing style.
The film community is used to the fact that every Anderson film is a landmark event, and "Licorice Pizza" is no exception. Although the box office of the film does not pay back its budget at all, but the world media and critics predict the film to win the Oscar.
"The Power of the Dog", dir. Jane Campion
Like many of the films on today's list, this one was a success at most festivals and even won a major BAFTA nomination and the Director's Award at Venice. However, unlike its rivals, "The Power of the Dog" can be called a film without flaws.
The restrained drama from New Zealand director Jane Campion, who directed her first feature in 12 years, immediately wowed critics with its measured editing, sparing colour palette as well as a strong dramaturgy and strong performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Jessie Plemons and Kirsten Dunst.
Although the film is presented as a classic western with all its generic and average shots, Jane Campion subverts the canonical image of the cowboy and dilutes it with a very vivid portrayal of the characters' experiences and inner world.
It's an ironic, terrifying and beautiful work that we're betting on in the race for a major Oscar statuette.
"West Side Story", dir. Steven Spielberg
Actually, to describe the picture, you only have to outline a few factors: it's an adaptation of a Broadway musical that follows the plot of Romeo and Juliet. Two street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, confront each other on Manhattan's Upper West Side, and a former member of the Rockets named Tony meets Maria, the sister of the Sharks' leader. What unfolds next is the usual dramatic story.
Spielberg has not just made a film, but a time machine that transports the viewer to post-war New York. The underlying message of the film is that in a world where intolerance, hatred and poverty reign, it is love that can be salvation. Admittedly, it's not a very original message, but it's still relevant, because human beings are capable of doing terrible things out of hate.
"West Side Story" is a stunningly choreographed musical that's not just for cynics of the genre, but for all moviegoers.
"King Richard", dir. Reinaldo Marcus Green
A biopic that tells the story of the family of Venus and Serena Williams, two of the greatest female tennis players of modern times. Their place in history is considered almost exclusive to their father Richard Williams, so the focus is on the father figure: namely, his battle with the system. And this complex role of a man of perseverance and dreams has made Will Smith's work almost the most outstanding of his career. Furthermore, Smith may have delivered the best acting performance of 2021 and the mu's are confident that he will be the one to take the statuette.
The film quotes archival footage with almost documentary precision, which gives it incredible texture. Still, the film feels like a work of fiction, as many facts are omitted and at times it is difficult to understand the protagonist's actions. In fact, Reinaldo Marcus Green showed us not an autobiographical drama, but the memories of Vinus and Serena; the way the daughters saw and perceived their father. And that's where "King Richard" is beautiful: its sincerity and unconditional nature makes you fall in love with this film.
"CODA", dir. Sian Heder
The indie drama that was a hit at Sundance 2021 has now burst into the Oscar race for "Best Picture". So what is the payoff of this film?
At first glance, it's a fairly ordinary story about growing up and a happy romance. However, the conflict in the film lies between the parents and the protagonist, because mum and dad do not hear the girl. It would seem that once again we are shown the problem of fathers and children, but the fact is that they literally speak different languages: the parents are deaf and Ruby is not.
This is the pain and drama of the film: Ruby connects her family and the outside world, she can speak, which is why it is particularly hard and difficult for her in a cruel world. It's a story of finding a voice at the cost of pain.
So that's the list of the year's new films. We have been able to review each and every one of them, and we can say that it's been a busy and very interesting year. Share your predictions with us and get a month of full access to Filmustage's wide range of features for free. Hurry up before March 27th! Thanks for being with us, see you next week.