Joseph Palumbo, Lindsay Wynne, Samuel Albers, Jessica Garraway, Pierre Young
For nearly a century, the Oscars have been the film industry’s gold standard for deciding which of a list of writers, directors, artists and technicians will receive recognition for their work. There’s an undeniable prestige that comes with walking the world-famous red carpet.
However, for those of us who have replaced traditional television with streaming services, the Oscars no longer have the same meaning as they once did. With so many entertainment options at their fingertips, the pomp and circumstance of Hollywood award shows no longer has the same sway over the collective taste of American moviegoers.
Additionally, the corrupt nature of how these awards shows work has been made clear, including the “For Your Consideration” campaigns where studios bribe all Academy members with free lunches and movie screenings. As such, the American public is less willing to heed the opinions of Hollywood insiders, preferring instead to draw their own conclusions. Despite these Hollywood criticisms and although the Oscars have passed, our appreciation of cinema as a medium continues; so, at The Metropolitan, we’d like to share our own personal pick of the biggest films of the past year. Here are our picks for the best movies of 2021!
(Property of A24)
Shot in black and white and in the style of cinema verité, “C’mon C’mon” effortlessly weaves fiction and non-fiction storytelling into its analysis of the human condition. At its heart, the film is about relationships with each other – a sad and delightful exploration of family, fear and hope. In semi-documentary fashion, the film chronicles several weeks in the life of radio journalist Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix), as he navigates his complicated relationship with his sister, Viv (Gaby Hoffman), and nine-year-old son, Jesse. (Woody Norman). In his current assignment, Johnny interviews children about their thoughts on life and the future, as well as their fears and desires. When he agrees to watch Jesse for a few weeks of family turmoil, his life becomes one long interview, sometimes as an interviewer and other times as an interviewee.
While some reviewers hinted at a light plot, this film has heart. It doesn’t preach any definite ideas about how families should function or the true meaning of life. He simply asks each of us, “How do you feel? And then begs us all to stop and just listen to the answer.
Read the full review
“Spider-Man: No Coming Home”
(Property of Marvel Studios)
2021 ended with “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the third film in the “MCU Spider-Man: Homecoming” trilogy. Filled with action, suspense, drama and surprise nostalgia, Tom Holland gives his best performance yet as Spider-Man, facing continuous challenges as he realizes that “a big power entails great responsibility”. The movie is a love letter to fans who have been waiting years for what is now being hailed as the best live-action Spider-Man movie of all time. This film is recommended for fans of Spider-Man, from film to comics to video games.
“Don’t look up”
(Property of Netflix)
“Don’t Look Up” is a hilarious and depressing ballad that resonates with the spirit of our time. NASA scientists discover an asteroid hurtling towards Earth that will wipe out all life on the planet in 6 months. The stakes couldn’t be higher, but pundits are in a constant state of disbelief and anxiety over the lack of seriousness the media, those in power, and society at large are giving to this existential threat. The perils of climate change are clearly implied, making the viewer’s experience even more powerful. Whether you need a laugh or simply feel less alone with the climate doom, this movie is for you!
(Property of neon)
A powerful story of love and loss, “Pig” was not at all the movie I expected. Nicholas Cage delivers a tour de force performance as Robin, a man with a tragic past living in the Oregon wilderness with his beloved truffle-hunting pig. When her pig is stolen by unknown assailants, Robin begins a quest through the seedy underbelly of Portland’s dining scene to save her. In each scene, Robin gets closer to finding his pig and the audience gets a glimpse of the passionate and influential man he was before his self-imposed exile. At every major story beat, I expected the infamous “Cage Rage” to erupt into a scene of indiscriminate slaughter. “Pig”, however, is a more subtle story than many of Cage’s more recent adventures. It’s an undeniably sad story that examines grief and the different ways everyone experiences it. It’s a movie that says, “Sometimes things don’t work out. Sometimes you hurt yourself. Sometimes all you can do is learn to live with it.
(Property of Warner Bros. Pictures)
An adaptation of Frank Herbert’s supposedly unfilmable novel of the same name, “Dune” is a film of epic proportions. Set tens of thousands of years in the future of humanity, the film tells the story of young Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), a descendant of the powerful and influential House Atreides. When the Atreides are forced to accept stewardship of the remote and inhospitable desert planet Arrakis – the sole source of the psychoactive, prescience-inducing Spice Melange – Paul is forced to confront his own fate and the perils that lie there.
Directed by the brilliant director Denis Villeneuve, “Dune” is a film full of small details made for the big screen. From the set design, to the special effects, to Hans Zimmer’s expansive score, “Dune” more than lives up to the grand aspirations of its source material. The film delivers organic exposition while deftly avoiding the long dumps of information and awkward interior monologues that plagued David Lynch’s beloved but flawed 1984 adaptation. who seems grounded and human, especially Paul Atreides de Chalamet, who is (at least lore-wise) a Mentat, a genetically engineered human supercomputer.
It doesn’t take a mentat to understand why Villeneuve’s “Dune” is such an incredible and memorable cinematic achievement. Villeneuve clearly loves Frank Herbert’s books and approached every detail of the film with the utmost care and respect. I loved every part of the movie and can’t wait to see the second part. If you love science fiction and haven’t seen ‘Dune’ yet, what are you waiting for?
“Summer of Soul (…Or, When Revolution Couldn’t Be Televised)”
(Property of Searchlight Pictures)
Directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, “Summer of Soul” is a time capsule of countless faces and voices from Harlem’s black community and features lineup from some of the greatest American artists of the 20th century. These talents, to name a few, include Stevie Wonder, The 5th Dimension, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Sly and the Family Stone, and Nina Simone. The film also features interviews with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Chris Rock, Sheila E. (née Escovedo), and Lin-Manuel Miranda. I had the pleasure of seeing this film on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Film Festival in May 2021. It also won Best Documentary at the Oscars, even though it ended up sadly upstaged by Will Smith punching Chris Rock in the face, as well as all the subsequent media fallout. That said, he certainly earned that accolade by leaps and bounds, and despite the incident, I’m glad he got some of the attention he deserved.
Besides being an electrifying concert feature, “Summer of Soul” is also a riveting documentary showcasing the lives of ordinary people living and working on the streets of Harlem. Beneath the thrilling performances and breathtaking music lies a profound reminder of the fragility of marginalized communities, both in terms of art and general survival in an often unforgiving world. With recent events forcing us through some difficult challenges that we face as a country, there is something to be said for the power of music and its ability to lift us all to new heights of personal, social and witty. I hope those of you who love the music in your soul will find the time to give it a watch.