Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / When an arthouse revisionist western directed by an Australian woman and starring an Englishman dominates the Oscar nominations, it�s safe to say that the pandemic has not severely compromised the quality or vision of cinema, even if it has skewed the structure of the business towards streaming platforms and away from brick-and-mortar theaters.With the usual caveats about inevitable bias and subjectivity, here, in alphabetical order, is a defensible Top Ten for 2021.
Film & Television
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / It�s a rare movie that finds the sweet spot between storyline cohesiveness and minimal exposition as well as great tone. Lisa Cholodenko�s plangent late-nineties gem High Art � her feature debut, now available on Criterion � is one such movie.
Contributed by Paul DAgostino / Nobuhiko Obayashis film Labyrinth of Cinema is, as billed, broadly, profoundly, and provocatively about war. He is best known for his epic War Trilogy. At the same time, the storied Japanese filmmakers final film completed not long before he passed away at the age of 82 in April 2020 is also a visually dazzling, pan-historical account of the ways and reasons for which films are made, viewed, critiqued, and recalled.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / If the Cold War suppressed heroism to the point where anti-heroes came to rule culture, the post-Cold War era may have engendered such disappointment in humankind as to elevate the thoughtful misanthrope to icon.
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / The Outside Story, writer-director Casimir Nozkowskis agreeable feature debut, shapes up as a fairly typical indie shaggy-dog story: a mildly dissolute creative type finds himself in a mildly humorous jam that resolves itself over the course of the film in a mildly heartwarming way, preferably […]
Contributed by Paul D’Agostino / A few foragers gathered in a middle-grounded clearing in a forest, conversing casually as their dogs sniff and shuffle excitedly at their feet. A man in a tub in a cream-of-pink tiled bathroom scrubbing his soap-cloaked pup as he bathes himself. A lone walker in […]
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / These times demand both mordant humor and serious contemplation, which helps explain the prevalence of meticulously packaged black comedies in cinema. Two prominent and very good ones that come to mind are Emerald Fennells Promising Young Woman, a diamond-hard dissection of the extended kill-chain of […]
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / By the most salient political parameters governance, public health, the rule of law 2020 was one of the worst years in living memory. Hobbled by Covid-19, art overall seemed commensurately downbeat, but also pensively defiant. In cinema, if a dominant theme emerged, it may have […]
Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / Charles Willeford � Guthrie-esque hobo, World War II hero, pulp-fiction genius � was one of the best crime writers of his generation, influential yet under-appreciated. Among his many books, Cockfighter became a cult-classic film starring Warren Oates, Miami Blues a quirky eighties jaunt with Alec […]
Contributed by Laurie Fendrich / Boy did the otherwise on-the-mark Guardian television critic Lucy Mangan get it wrong. In her 2017 review of the Flemish detective series Professor T, she dismissed the show as �thin gruel� with �morsels pilfered from the greats� (by which she meant such television shows as House, Sherlock, Morse, and Monk). Moreover, she said, its humor is �lost in translation.� What? Did she watch the same show I did? Doth the woman not laugh and weep? Doth the woman not recognize tragicomedy? In short, how did she miss that Professor T is the best television series since The Singing Detective, the riveting 1987 miniseries starring Michael Gambon?