The Austin Chronicle Top 10 Films of 2021
Jane Campion’s stunning high plains drama The Power of the Dog takes a bite out of our critics
Blame COVID, and blame the Oscars.
Due to the pandemic slowing the theatrical release of films over the last two years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences extended its eligibility period for its 2020 award from year's end to Feb. 28, and most of the industry followed suit. This means that their 2021 is only going to be 10 months long (and we all know it felt much longer than that). But not around here. When we talk about 2021 releases for The Austin Chronicle Film of the Year, we mean the entire year, and any film that was available to Austinites via some form of general release, whether theatrical, streaming, or VOD.
In our critics' individual Top 10s head to austinchronicle.com/screens for my own selections, and more of their loves and hates), there are a multitude of films that you've probably forgotten came out this year. Award winners like Minari and Judas and the Black Messiah are 2021 films that buoyed us up and cut us to the core, and our team of reviewers – veterans like Steve Davis, Josh Kupecki, and Marc Savlov; newer talents like Jenny Nulf; and fresh voices Trace Sauveur and Sarah Jane – have given them the honors they so richly deserve.
But in any such annual endeavor, there must be some sort of consensus around one film. This year, The Austin Chronicle's top film is Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog, a searing and tragic adaptation of Thomas Savage's 1967 novel about internalized homophobia in 1920s Montana. With career-best work from Benedict Cumberbatch as the vile and tortured Phil and astonishing supporting performances by Kirsten Dunst and Austin's own Jesse Plemons, it roared ahead of a pack that included Nic Cage's soaring testament to grief, Pig, and Denis Villeneuve's epic adaptation of Dune.
6) The Humans
8) Drive My Car
9) C'mon C'mon
10) The Mitchells vs the Machines