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Cinema Fanatic’s Favorite Fifteen Films of 2021
I saw a little over 200 films that I’m counting as “2021” films this year. You can see the whole list here. I also had the privilege to attend a few film festivals (online and in person) and saw several wonderful films that won’t be more widely available until next year, so any of those films will count towards next year’s list. I’m not sure there is as strong a theme connecting the films that resonated with me this year as there was last year, but I will say three movies in my top five I saw in the first three months of the calendar year. I love a year when films linger that long. Please remember this is a subjective list. This is what spoke to me. Hopefully something on here speaks to you too!
2021 in Films: 365 Days, 883 Films, and a Year Full of Cinema!
Having spent all of this year working as a freelance writer, I was privileged enough to have a lot more time on my hands again plus I attended several film festivals (in person and virtually), which in turn led towards watching an absurd amount of new-to-me films. Those interested in my rewatching habits: mind your own business! As always after the cut you’ll find all 883 new-to-me films I watched, a separate list of all the films directed by women I watched this year, and then my 24 favorite new-to-me watches of the year. Enjoy!
December 2021 in Films
Hard to believe 2021 has come to a close, and yet here we are. I’ve been blogging here for twelve years apparently! Starting in 2022 most of my non-paid writing will be moving to my newsletter, so please subscribe to that if you want to keep up with my work. On here I’ll publish my annual Favorite Fifteen Films list and my end of the year wrap-up, and then everything going forward will move to the newsletter.
In terms of writing in December for my column I interviewed Mary Lambert about A Castle For Christmas, Valerie Weiss about Mixtape, Lauren Hadaway about The Novice, Jules Williamson about Off The Rails, and Hannah Marks about Mark, Mary, + Some Other People. For The Playlist I review Nightmare Alley, Harlem S1, and The Unforgivable; I also wrote about Venom: Let There Be Carnage as a
guilty pleasure. For the Classic Film Collective I recommended Bell, Book and Candle, and wrote a poem about It’s A Wonderful Life. For RogerEbert.com I interviewed Uzo Aduba about her role in National Champions, shared my Top Ten list, and wrote about Tessa Thompson’s exquisite performance in Passing. I hopped on the Matineecast to talk about The Power of the Dog, Battleship Pretension to talk about Christmas Noir, and NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour to talk about Nightmare Alley. For Crooked Marquee I reviewed Red Rocket and The Lost Daughter. And lastly, I made my Polygon debut discussing under seen X-Mas movies and why so many romances are set on New Year’s Eve.
As always, you can see everything I watched in December after the cut.
It’s Cinema Fanatic’s 12th Anniversary!
Absolutely cannot believe I’ve been blogging on here for twelve years! My life has seen a lot of changes over those years. I really want to thank everyone who has been reading so diligently all these years. I’m planning to continue doing my monthly wrap-up posts on here, but in 2022 I am also going to be posting more frequently over on Substack. If you’d like to receive more movie recommendations, read interviews with cool people, and more, please think about subscribing. And definitely let me know what kind of posts you’d like to see more of!
No worries though, my wrap up for December, my Favorite Fifteen Films, and my year end wrap up will live here on this blog. But moving into 2022 most of my (non-paid) work will live there, so sign up early so you don’t miss anything!
Noirvember 2021 In Films
This year was the 12th year of Noirvember! Truly cannot believe how big the tradition has gotten. This year I was on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour talking all things noir, for Inverse I wrote about the noir roots of Batman, for Letterboxd I wrote about five under the radar neo noir films directed by women, for Nerdist I wrote about ten noir films based on works written by women, and for the Classic Film Collection I wrote about The Hitch-Hiker and a poem about femme fatales. In terms of reviews, I wrote about Passing and The Power of the Dog for Crooked Marquee, Eternals for Moviefone, and Yellowjackets and Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time for The Playlist. For my Moviefone column I interview Joanna Hogg about The Souvenir: Part II, Blerta Basholli about Hive, Julie Cohen & Betsy West about Julia, Danis Goulet about Night Raiders, and Tatiana Huezo about Prayers For The Stolen. Lastly, for Emmy Magazine I wrote about Women In Media’s CAMERAderie program.
As always, you can find everything I watched plus some highlighted favorites after the cut.
October 2021 in Films
I can’t believe October is already over! It was quite a month. Over on the Classic Film Collective patreon I recommended The Velvet Vampire and wrote a poem about Lon Chaney. Making my debut at Inverse I wrote about the queer subtext of Venom becoming text in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. For Nerdist I wrote about toxic masculinity in The Rage: Carrie 2, reviewed Ghostbusters: After Life, recommended some classic Japanese horror films, and the folk horror of The Wind (2019). For The Playlist I compiled a list of the best films and TV episodes about abortion access and women’s bodily autonomy, reviewed Julie Delpy’s new series On The Verge and the new YA series I Know What You Did Last Summer. I reviewed The Souvenir Part II, I profiled Leslie Jones for Emmy Mag, and spoke to Caroline Madden about her book Springsteen As Soundtrack on the latest episode of Prog Save America. For Nerdist I compiled a list of 20 new horror movies directed by women, interviewed cinematographer Marie Rusche, Marisa Silver about the new restoration of her mother’s film Hester Street, and Wendell B. Harris, Jr. about the restoration of his masterpiece Chameleon Street. Lastly, for my column I spoke to director Julia Ducournau about Titane, Maritte Lee Go about her Blumhouse film Black As Night, Claudia Llosa and Samanta Schweblin about their film Fever Dream, Liz Garbus about her latest doc Becoming Cousteau, and Joanna Hogg about The Souvenir Part II. I also launched an Instagram account dedicated to bookstores in cinema!
Now that you’re all caught up on that, as always you can find everything I watched in October plus a handful of favorites after the cut!
September 2021 in Films
I hope you are ready for a TON of links because I was incredibly prolific in September! First off, for the Classic Film Collective I recommended Alice Guy-Blaché’s Falling Leaves and wrote a poem about the late Jean-Paul Belmondo. Podcast wise, Billy Ray Brewton joined me to talk Springsteen on Prog Save America, and I made not one, but two appearances on Blake Howard’s Zodiac Chronicle. For my column this month I spoke to Núria Frigola Torrent on her new film The Song of the Butterflies, married directing duo Gita Pullapilly & Aaron Gaudet about Queenpins, Lina Roessler about her debut film Best Sellers, and dancer-turned-director Connie Hochman talks about her debut documentary In Balanchine’s Classroom.
I also covered the Toronto International Film Festival! For The Playlist I reviewed Dear Evan Hansen, Colin In Black and White, Lakewood, The Starling, The Mad Women’s Ball, and Silent Night. For RogerEbert.com I wrote about six African films. Dispatch one: Neptune Frost, Mlungu Wam (Good Madam), and Lingui The Sacred Bonds. Dispatch two: Astel, The Gravedigger’s Wife, and Saloum. For Moviefone I interviewed kate Dolan about her film You Are Not My Mother, Agustina San Martín about her film To Kill The Beast, Camille Griffin about her film Silent Night, Edgar Wright and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns about their film Last Night In Soho, Justine Bateman about her film Violet, and Anita Rocha Da Silveira about her film Medusa.
But that’s not all! For Nerdist I wrote about my favorite recent depictions of bisexual and pansexual characters in film and television. I made my SlashFilm debut writing about the irresponsible depictions of suicide in Dear Evan Hansen and Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. For Crooked Marquee I reviewed the delightfully deranged Palme d’or winner Titane. For Moviefone I reviewed the wonderfully queer Venom: Let There Be Carnage. And lastly, I made my InStyle debut profiling The Many Saints of Newark star Alessandro Nivola!
If you’re not completely exhausted (like I am), after the cut you can find everything I watched in September, plus as always a breakdown by decade and a brief sampling of my favorites.
August 2021 in Films
Even though I took a vacation at the end of the month I managed to watch a huge amount of movies *and* do a huge amount of writing. Truly a whirlwind of activity. Over at the Classic Film Collective I recommended Sandy Wilson’s My American Cousin and wrote a poem about Liz Taylor. Podcast-wise I was pretty busy: over on my podcast Prog Save America Adam from Filmspotting chatted Genesis and my old co-worker Alex Vo chatted ELO Part II, I dropped by Lasagna Time to talk Daisies, on Screen Drafts we drafted a top six Bob Dylan movies canon, made yet another appearance over at Zodiac Chronicle, talking butts in jeans and bookish women on the Letterboxd Show, and lastly talked about Ben-Hur as a queer classic on The Queer Quadrant. Also for Letterboxd I wrote a magnum opus about butts in jeans in cinema. For Nerdist I looked at the Welsh Mythology behind David Lowery’s The Green Knight, took a look at off the beaten path movies set in video games or virtual reality, did a deep dive of all the genre films that won Best Makeup Oscars. and looked at the men who inspired Barton Fink. For RogerEbert.com I interviewed Griffin Dunne about the hidden gem Game 6 and Billie Piper about her directorial debut Rare Beasts. For The Playlist I reviewed Modern Love S2, Brand New Cherry Flavor, and The Chair. I somehow convinced Vulture to let me write about aliens on Riverdale. For Moviefone I assembled a bunch of lady assassins, and for my column I interviewed Lucy Walker about her film Bring Your Own Brigade, Siân Heder and the cast of CODA, producer Cody Greenwood and director Gracie Otto about their film Under The Volcano, and Amber Sealey about her latest film No Man of God. I hope you feel as tired after all of that as I do!
But now to the movies. . .somehow amidst all of that I also watched 77 new-to-me movies! As always, you can see the list after the cut + a handful of my favorites.
July 2021 in Films
This month I watched quite a bit more films (I curbed my rewatch of The X-Files, but it’s still happening. Trust.) But before we get into the log, here’s a recap of all the writing I did this month. For The Classic Film Collective I recommended a great silent film and wrote a poem about Merle Oberon. On my podcast Prog Save America I had director Allan Arkush (Rock and Roll High School, Get Crazy) on to talk about being a teen Bob Dylan fan in the 60s and working at the Fillmore East, and I had Amanda from the podcast Discord & Rhyme talk about The Moody Blues. Speaking of podcasts, I joined Ryan from the Matineecast to talk about Zola. For Nerdist I wrote about crazy credits, the classic films that may have inspired Captain America: The First Avenger, and Arthurian adaptations you may have forgotten about. For Moviefone, I wrote about Zola & American Honey, films that inspired The Last Letter From Your Lover, and interviewed Shahad Ameen about her film Scales, Leigh Janiak about the Fear Street Trilogy, Augustine Frizzell about The Last Letter From Your Lover, and Sonia Kennebeck about Enemies of the State. For The Playlist I reviewed This Way Up season 2, The Last Letter From Your Lover, and The Pursuit of Love. For RogerEbert.com I wrote about how the doc about Anthony Bourdain is a disaster. Lastly, one of the pieces I am the most proud of yet, for Musings I wrote about how Ethan Hawke has infused autobiography into his body of work.
As always, after the cut you can find everything I watched in July as well as some of the highlights of my month in film.