The Austin Chronicle

Steve Davis’s Top 10 Films of 2021

By Steve Davis, December 17, 2021, Screens

1) Spencer

Pablo Larraín's superbly unconventional drama about an institutionally trapped Princess Diana.

2) The Killing of Two Lovers

In his near-perfect solo directorial debut, Robert Machoian masters slow burns and long takes.

3) The Power of the Dog

Jane Campion rightfully reclaims her status as a premier filmmaker in this uneasy psychosexual Western.

4) West Side Story

Does it matter why Steven Spielberg decided to film a second version of this timeless stage musical? Bravo, maestro!

5) Stray

This tail-wagging documentary about an Istanbul street dog freely achieves something close to canine neorealism.

6) Dune

Denis Villeneuve's faithful adaptation is the epic science-fiction film die-hard Frank Herbert enthusiasts have long waited for.

7) Belfast

Kenneth Branagh's semi-autobiographical film about his troubled Northern Irish childhood is a glorious blur of memory.

8) Summer of Soul

Never-before-seen concert footage of the forgotten 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival comes alive.

9) Pig

A recluse's search for his kidnapped truffle-hunting swine is the deceptively simple story of this complex character study.

10) Swan Song

A fiercely funny Udo Kier owns this requiem for a generation of older gay men.

Near Misses

Flee, Nightmare Alley, Red Rocket.

Most Overrated

The French Dispatch, House of Gucci, King Richard.

Most Underrated

The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Respect, The World to Come.

Wild Card

Silvery, crystalline, majestic: The welcome revival of black-and-white cinematography in Belfast, Passing, and The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Acting Kudos (Male)

Colin Firth (Supernova), Andrew Garfield (tick, tick…Boom!), Ciaran Hinds (Belfast)

Acting Kudos (Female)

Olivia Coleman (The Lost Daughter), Kristen Stewart (Spencer), Ruth Negga (Passing)

Best Director

Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Steven Spielberg (West Side Story), Elizabeth Lo (Stray)

Best Original Screenplay

Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), Mike Mills (C’mon, C’mon), Michael Sarnoski (Pig)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Lost Daughter), Rebecca Hall (Passing), Tony Kushner (West Side Story)

TV Series/Event

Showrunner Mike White sharpens his claws in the cringey The White Lotus, a Hawaiian holiday with the cluelessly unwoke.

Worst Film

Two venerable movie monsters duke it out like rock ‘em sock ‘em robots in Godzilla vs. Kong, an incomprehensible mess.

The Little Film That Could

Bio-horror with vaguely Biblical overtones ratchets up the creepy factor in the atmospheric woodland nightmare of Gaia.

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