So half of the year is gone. With the pandemic here to stay and most people not venturing out of their households, the production houses are going to stick to the part digital, part theatre mode of releasing their films. With the streaming platforms offering good content to choose over, it becomes very important for the production houses to come up with quality content and not just atypical trashy films. The following lists out the five best films of 2021, thus far –

 

5. VAL

A superb documentary about movie star Val Kilmer, which the actor started more than thirty years ago by videotaping his life with the emerging technology of the time. Watching him evolve from an entitled Julliard grad, so pretentious and arrogant, to a fallen movie star, to a superb actor, but still a failed movie star, to struggling for work, to a battle with cancer of the throat which has robbed him of his voice, is an exercise in heartbreak. Close friendships with Cher and Marlon Brando sustained him, but the end of his marriage to Joanne Whalley gutted him. We watch a young man who could have been a prince in the town fall, and fall hard. Like Icarus, he flew too close to the sun and singed his wings, in this case, his ego, and was burned.

4. CRUELLA

Estella is a young and clever fashionista who’s determined to make a name for herself in the fashion world. She soon meets a pair of thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they build a life for themselves on the streets of London. However, when Estella befriends fashion legend, Baroness von Hellman, she embraces her wicked side to become the raucous and revenge-bent Cruella. Emma Stone in full knockout mode, bitchy, hysterical and deliciously evil. The best performance of the year. Watching her go toe to toe with Emma Thompson is a giddy delight. What else can I say?

3. FATHERHOOD

Kevin Hart surprises as a father who loses his wife the day his daughter is born and is forced to man up and raise the little girl on his own. Called “immature” by his in-laws, he makes the tough decision to raise his child without their help and proves worthy of the job. Though his mother and wildly overbearing mother in law are there anxiously waiting to help or be called upon to save the day, he is adamant he is going to do this by himself. The film traces the first few years in the little girls’ life, where the baby’s incessant crying wears him down until he learns about colic. That helps, but it seems one thing after another is thrown his way and he is the only one there to deal with it. The bond between him and his daughter is astonishing in its depth, and she grows into a strong little girl. Hart, usually a straight comedian, and a very funny one, is terrific here. Him adjusting to drama just fine, and very believable. Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy easily transitioned to drama with their respective performances in Awakenings (1990) and Moscow on the Hudson (1984) but which should have earned Williams Oscars for Best Actor and Murphy with Dreamgirls (2006) for which he was robbed of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. So nice to still be pleasantly shocked at the movies. Filed with cliche, but so lovable and warm, you forgive them.

2. PALMER

Justin Timberlake is I think a massive talent and when Hollywood figures this out, the guy might dominate major films. He was perfect in The Social Network (2010) smug enough to make us loathe him but smart enough to allow for respect. Here is a recently paroled con, the former high school football star returns home to live with his mother and try to rebuild his life. He finds there a strange little boy, Sam (Ryder Allen) frequently abandoned by his mother who lives on the mother’s property in a trailer. The child dresses like a girl, watches fairies on TV, wants to be one, is incredibly artistic, and seems to humiliate Palmer wherever he goes with the child. But after Palmer’s mother dies, he and the little boy begin to bond, and though he struggles with how the child dresses and plays, he loves him, and the child loves him. After seeing the little boy bullied in the schoolyard, Palmer comes to his rescue and sees to it the little fellow is not bothered again. Palmer becomes not only his caregiver but his protector and surrogate father. Because of this bizarre little boy, Palmer becomes a better man and he knows it. Again a film loaded with cliches, but with performances so good you just cannot dismiss it. I loved Timberlake in the film, he was sensational and has Apple the streaming company handled the film better, they might have pushed Timberlake for an Academy Award nomination. Outstanding.

1. IN THE HEIGHTS

So much was said to bring down this film that I stopped listening and went back to the film, over and over because it brought me joy. Not since ‘Hair’ (1979) have I seen a film that was filled with such joyous energy and movement. The film tells the story of a group of Dominicans in Washington Heights, New York City where the environment becomes a secondary character, seeming to breathe. Based on the first hit musical of the writer of Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda, the film explores the people living there and their desires to get out to better lives while maintaining their love for their culture. And what happens to this splendid film upon release???? It is attacked mercilessly for not having enough dark-skinned Dominicans in the main roles. Stupid and cruel attacks rained down on the film and its director Jon M. Chu, which despite the brilliance of the film drove it from cinemas in record time. DO NOT LISTEN TO THESE PETTY AND FOOLISH ATTACKS. See this film, it is the very best of the year so far. Bouncy, fun, and deliriously infectious, you will find yourself smiling through much of it.

Yep, it is THAT great.

 

 

What are your favourite films of the year, so far? Do mention it in the comments section.

About The Author: 

John H. Foote is among the best-known film critics in Canada and has been active as a critic for thirty years. His career began as co-host, co-producer of the popular movie talk and review program Reel to Real. He left the show after ten years for his first love, print criticism, he longed to write about movies. For two years he wrote for Toronto Life and Fashion Magazine, his work quote in the LA and New York Times, as well as major papers across North America. He was offered a position writing for the internet and has since written for incontention.com, thewrap.com, screenrant.com, awardscircuit.com and most recently thecinemaholic.com. In May 2018 he started his own site https://Footeandfriendsonfilm.com, which has enjoyed great success in its first few months. Foote was also involved in film education teaching film history and film genre at Trebas Institute before leaving to be Dean of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history and continued his work as a critic. Foote has written two books, Clint Eastwood: Evolution of a Filmmaker, and Spielberg: American Film Visionary. His third, American Cinema in the Seventies is due for release in 2020. 

Throughout his career, he has interviewed everyone in the business except Jack Nicholson. 

 

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