Eleanor Ringel’s ‘Top Ten’ movies of 2021
By Eleanor Ringel Cater
Having spewed out 10-Best lists for almost three decades at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and around a decade or so at the Atlanta Business Chronicle and, of course – the Saporta Report (my personal fave), I could probably make a 10-Best list of my 10-Best lists.
In retrospect, I think 10-Bests are more for the writer than the reader (apologies). More a way to winnow through what you’ve seen and what a year was like than a catalogue of anything especially insightful.
Previously, I was very strict about only naming movies that Atlanta audiences could’ve seen before Dec. 31. If nothing else, it was a way to avoid the preening (look what I’ve seen) that seems endemic to such lists. A recent example: the insider-ish Film Comment published two Top 20 lists, the second being the Top 20 Unreleased Films of 2021.
Yes. Unreleased. I didn’t make that up.
However, what do they say about throwing stones? My list is suspect because there are a lot of major titles that I haven’t seen. Movies like “Licorice Pizza,” “West Side Story,” “Summer of Soul,” “Drive My Car,” “Parallel Mothers,” “Nightmare Alley,” and “The Tragedy of Macbeth.”
So, with that in mind…
THE LOST DAUGHTER – Having won an Oscar for “The Favourite” and having deserved one for “The Father,” Olivia Colman reminds us why she’s one of the most formidable actors working in film today. And Maggie Gyllenhaal, a formidable actor in her own right, makes a breathtaking directorial debut.
THE GREEN KNIGHT – Somehow simultaneously mythic and modern, this adaptation of a 14th-century epic poem takes its time – and takes you places few movies ever have. It’s part Arthurian legend, part acid trip.
NOBODY – Never mind the Marvel Cinematic Universe and whatever “Matrix” sequel is out there, here’s an action/revenge flick that’s as witty as it is bloody. Who ever thought Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”) had this kind of picture in him?
TICK, TICK…BOOM! – Speaking of the MCU, who ever thought Andrew Garfield, aka, Spider-Man No. 2, had this kind of picture in him? As the late Jonathan Larson (creator of “Rent”), he tears up the screen, greatly aided and abetted by another first-time director – wait, you’ve probably heard of him – Lin-Manuel Miranda.
THE HAND OF GOD – Paolo Sorrentino’s exquisite coming-of-age memoir, set in 1980s Naples, has echoes of Fellini’s masterful “Amacord” stamped all over it. Still, it’s an amazing piece. And don’t forget, Sorrentino is himself an Oscar-winner for “The Great Beauty.”
THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS – Maybe it’s the old men. Maybe it’s the dogs. Maybe it’s how you feel about truffles. But this under-seen documentary about, well, those who hunt the rare white Alba truffle to deliver to some of the posh-est restaurants in the world is an utter original.
OLD HENRY – Tim Blake Nelson does Leathery Old Coot to a turn as the star of this minimalist Western about a loner forced into a confrontation with some greedy bad guys. It’s more a tribute to old westerns than the Old West, with an ending that carries a whiff of frontier legend.
KING RICHARD – Probably more for Will Smith’s performance as the cunning and ambitious father of tennis phenoms Venus and Serena than for the movie itself. And maybe for Smith’s cumulative resume than for this performance in particular.
TOGETHER – A strange little chamber piece about a husband and wife (James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan) thrown together – and, as the title indicates, really together – during the pandemic. A little bit like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” meets Covid-19.
THE CAPOTE TAPES – How one of the most famous authors of the 20thcentury went from “most lionized writer since Voltaire” to “a sleazy piece of work.” All this and the Black-and-White Ball, too.