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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!

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Movie Quote of the Day – La grande bellezza, 2013 (dir. Paolo Sorrentino)


Jep Gambardella: We’re all on the brink of despair, all we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little. . .Don’t you agree?

Reflecting on “La grande bellezza”

“To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain. Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.”  Céline, Journey to the End of the Night


When I wrote about this film for my Favorite Fifteen Films of 2013 post, I was brief and said the film could only be a film. This is part of why I loved it. The visuals, the sumptuousness, the pure cinema of it all.

But, really, the main reason I loved this film was how much I related to the main character Jep. Now, as many of you who follow me know, I’m quite often bored by woe-is-me stories of men. I am an advocate for women’s voices and feel they are underrepresented, misunderstood and often forgotten. So, I can see how saying I related to a story about a 65-year-old man’s existential life crisis could seem bizarre.

But I think some themes are so universal, or maybe so personal, they exist beyond gender specificity.  That’s the case with Jep’s story, at least for me.

In the film, Jep wrote one powerful novel in his late-20s and then gave up on literary glory, settling for a cushy job writing cultural columns and hosting lavish parties. Jep is a bit of a hedonist, but at his core, he’s a man who values sensual experiences, be they visual, aural, literary, edible, sexual, etc – the beauty of living, if you will.


What the viewer discovers as the film – and Jep – unfolds himself, is that Jep is not suffering because he can’t find that mysterious great beauty (that’s love, folks) – but that he found it when he was young, lost it and has yet to come to terms with his inability to feel anything as deeply again.

I’ve talked briefly about myself on this site since its inception in 2009, which was a year of great changes for me. In the (nearly) five years since, I’ve gone through a lot of other changes – schooling, location, job, etc. But, like Jep, as hard as I try, there’s a moment in my life from 2008 that changed everything about me. A feeling once felt, but (so far) never again. Will I cling to it for another forty years like Jep? I don’t know. Will I ever let go of it for good? Probably not.