With the New Year unfolding before us, what do the critics think is the most deserving fare from 2021? Entertainment attorney at Blake & Wang P.A, Brandon Blake, lays out some popular critical opinions.
The Power of the Dog
While ‘psychosexual Western’ may be an odd category, The Power of the Dog has attracted a lot of attention- including Oscar potential- for four stellar lead performances. From a realistic sibling dynamic to compelling blends of viciousness, cruelty, and resentment managing to come across as balanced and believable, it’s a work it’s well worth seeing. Benedict Cumberbatch is highly likely to see an Oscar nomination for this one, and likely many other cast members too.
Likewise, the generation who mocked Kirsten Stewart for lacking emotional range may have to resign themselves to seeing her nominated for an amazing performance in Spencer, carrying the entire movie believably. While Spencer has fielded some inevitable criticism from fans of the Royals for fantastical components, it’s a compelling performance that’s well worth the watch.
Licorice Pizza and The Card Counter
Despite a name that’s off-putting to say the least, Licorice Pizza brings a stellar female-driven performance to the table from Alana Haim. The Card Counter itself has been criticized as schematic, but Oscar Isaac delivers a soulful performance that holds attention, alongside a believable chemistry with co-stars.
Drive My Car and The Killing of Two Lovers
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s masterwork delivers an intriguing and cosmopolitan flair, while still managing to pack pathos and a deep understanding of loss, grief, and the numbness that comes with it through a captivating performance from Hidetoshi Nishijima. As a portrait of loneliness, it’s stunning. The movie is oddly still, yet draws the viewer in effortlessly. It contrasts well with the flailing desperation of Clayne Crawford in The Killing of Two Lovers, another film worth a nod in any list of 2021 greats.
Parallel Mothers and Compartment Number 6
Venturing away from English-language titles, we have two fantastic offerings here. Penélope Cruz offers us a fantastic viewpoint for the unfolding melodrama that is Parallel Mothers. Meanwhile, Seidi Harla and Yuriy Borisov deliver a stellar tag-team performance in the surprisingly compelling attack-and-retreat Finnish drama, Compartment Number 6.
The Tender Bar and King Richard
Surprising as it may be to see Ben Affleck make the list, he deserves some kudos for a delightful performance filled with quirky flourishes. Surprisingly, while Will Smith has taken his share of critical attention for his role in King Richard, Aunjanue Ellis has received more than a nod or two for her life and vivacity, and most see her as a key cornerstone of Smith’s performance, too.
No doubt we will see some of these titles find their way to Oscar recognition, while others will simply remain critical favorites. While 2021 was not the easiest year for the film industry, it managed to turn some of the frantic energy into remarkable films and performances, and you’re sure to enjoy watching your way through this list if you’re seeking to experience some of the best this year had to offer.
It’s an interesting stage for the entertainment industry. Where to from here? 2022 will doubtless provide a consolidated idea of the future of collaborative entertainment.