Play It Again, Tim – Best Movies, Performances of 2021


By most standards, 2021 hasn’t been a big year.

But it was rich in quality films. Usually around this time of year, I list my top 10 movies of the year, plus 10-15 that get honorable mentions. This year, because the offers were so strong, I will pick a top 10, 15 for an honorable mention, and then another 15 which would be next in line. Even then, I’ll probably feel guilty for not including something.

It has become increasingly difficult, for example, to separate movies from TV offerings. Peter Jackson’s Beatles documentary “Get Back” a movie? If it did, I would rank him in my top five. But, since it was billed as a three-part series on Disney +, I’d say no. So it’s not on my list.

Plus, I wondered whether to include “Judas and the Black Messiah,” as it qualified for last year’s Oscars (and won the award for Best Supporting Actor and Best Song original) despite opening in February 2021. So it looks like the old news… but I decided to include it anyway.

One last note: my three favorite films are foreign language films. Why? It’s not that I’m trying to play the elitist film critic. These happen to be my favorite movies of 2021, and I highly recommend you check them out.

Renate Reinsve stars in “The Worst Person in the World”. (Neon)

1. “The worst person in the world.” Renate Reinsve delivers a breathtaking performance as Julie, a young woman struggling to decide what to do with her life, in this clever and moving comedy-drama from Norway. Director Joachim Trier (“Stronger Than Bombs”) imaginatively captures the ups and downs that come through life’s compromises.

2. “Drive my car”. A theater director (Hidetoshi Nishijima) and his in-service driver (Toko Miura) find common ground in their hurt pasts and regrets in this gripping three-hour drama from Japanese writer-director Ryusuke Hamaguchi.

3. “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy”. Hamaguchi again (he has had quite a year). This time, he delivers three separate, dialogue-driven stories about (among many other things) life’s choices. Hamaguchi’s work here and in “Drive My Car” is the cinematic equivalent of fine literature.

4. “Come on, come on.” Joaquin Phoenix adds another to his growing list of outstanding performances in this heartfelt family drama from writer-director Mike Mills (“Women of the 20th Century”). Phoenix plays a radio interviewer who agrees to watch his sister’s (Gaby Hoffmann) young son (Woody Norman) while she takes care of her mentally ill husband.

5. “Licorice Pizza.” Paul Thomas Anderson’s episodic comedy, set in the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s, portrays the relationship between confident 15-year-old child actor / entrepreneur Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and the helpless photographer’s assistant Alana Kane (Alana Haim), 25. The charm of young stars and Anderson’s casual portrayal of lasting friendship make this film special.

6. “Final account”. Arguably the most important movie on this list. British director Luke Holland, who died in 2020, asks elderly Germans what it was like to live with Hitler in power. Some remember how fun the songs and parades were, while downplaying the atrocities. It makes you sick and angry, but helps you see how evil can flourish.

7. “Val.” Another documentary, this one essentially telling the life story of actor Val Kilmer through his home movies, other music videos and new footage. Known for roles such as Doc Holliday in “Tombstone” and Jim Morrison in “The Doors,” Kilmer recently had throat cancer, and seeing him struggle to speak as he goes on with his life is heartbreaking and inspiring.

8. “CODA”. Emilia Jones plays a hearing teenager torn between helping her deaf parents (Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur) and brother (Daniel Durant) with their fishing business and her desire to pursue a music education. (CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults.) A warm, fun celebration of family and music, this one will choke you before it ends.

9. “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Daniel Kaluuya won and deserved the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Black Panthers frontman Fred Hampton. Lakeith Stanfield, as a conflicting FBI informant who infiltrates the Panthers, is also noteworthy. Set in the late 1960s in Chicago, its themes of racial oppression and resistance are as relevant today as ever.

10. “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” Denzel Washington delivers a powerful performance as a Shakespearean warrior whose ambition gets the better of him. Director Joel Coen (working for the first time without Brother Ethan) presents a dark, brooding, and stripped down take on the classic, shot in black and white, with Kathryn Walker standing out as the creepy, creepy witches.

Honorable mention: “The Hand of God”, “The Werewolves Inside”, “Nightmare Alley”, “West Side Story”, “Last Night in Soho”, “Roadrunner: a Film About Anthony Bourdain”, “A Chiara” , “Together Together”, “Language Lessons”, “The Dig”, “The Sparks Brothers”, “The Nowhere Inn”, “No Time To Die”, “Together”, “Jockey”.

Next : “Red Rocket”, “Pig”, “The most beautiful boy in the world”, “Quo Vadis, Ada? “The power of the dog”, “Summer of Soul (… Or, when the revolution could not be televised)”, “Wojnarowicz: F— You F—– F—–”, “The Killing of Two Lovers”, ” Mass “,” Little Mum “,” The Memory, Part 2 “,” The French Dispatch “,” The Many Saints of Newark “,” The Card Counter “,” Only the Animals “.

Top 25 best performances

There have been so many top notch performances this year that I could go on and on. I stopped at 25.

The power of the dog

Benedict Cumberbatch delivers performance of the year in “The Power of the Dog”. (Netflix)

1. Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog”

2. Renate Reinsve, “The worst person in the world”

3. Alana Haim, “Licorice Pizza”

4. Joaquin Phoenix, “Come on, come on”

5. Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

6. Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”

7. Hidetoshi Nishijima, “Drive my car”

8. Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

9. Bradley Cooper, “The Alley of Nightmares”

10. Patti Harrison, “Together Together”

11. Ray Liotta, “The Many Saints of Newark”

12. Joanna Lumley, “Falling for Figaro”

13. Simon Rex, “Red Rocket”

14. Suzanna Son, “Red Rocket”

15. Troy Kotsur, “CODA”

16. Ruth Negga, “Passer”

17. Clifton Collins Jr., “Jockey”

18. Kathryn Walker, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”

19. Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”

20. Milana Vayntrub, “The Werewolves Inside”

21. Michaela Watkins, “The Werewolves Inside”

22. Vera Farmiga, “The Many Saints of Newark”

23. Regina King, “The More They Fall”

24. Anya Taylor-Joy, “The Last Night in Soho”

25. Diana Rigg, “The Last Night in Soho”

** Click here for Tim Miller’s previous film reviews for Cape Cod Wave **

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Tim miller

Play it again, Tim

Tim Miller is a Cape Town based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He and Tony Raine host “Tim ‘n’ Tony’s Rock ‘n’ Pop Show” from midnight to 2 a.m. Sunday evenings / Monday mornings on WOMR (92.1-FM), WFMR (91.3-FM) and (shows archived at He also teaches cinema at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore it altogether.

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