Posted January 18, 2022  /  Updated February 19, 2022

I'd love to come out here and say that my experience with the movies returned to a place of relative normalcy in 2021, but I would be hopelessly misleading you.   

That's not to say that I didn't consume as many cinematic offerings as I could in the past twelve months, but rather that - very much like I did in 2020 - I was forced to get creatively varied in my approach to seeing them (especially with our seemingly never-ending pandemic woes).  I managed to feel safe and secure enough to make a return to cinemas in the latter half of 2021 (thanks to them re-opening in my neck of the woods on top of myself becoming fully vaccinated), but a lion's share of what I screened last year remained on the home front via VOD (either because of availability or health and safety issues).  Interestingly enough, my screening and review output reached a three year high in 2021, but equally compelling was that - despite seeing a dozen more films last year than in 2020 - I truly struggled to post many holy grail 4-star reviews.  For the first time since I can remember as an online critic, my list below of the TEN BEST films of the year is not completely comprised of 4-star rated efforts as graded by yours truly.  Am I being tougher on films...or were the silver screen offerings of the past year less than deserving?  

Maybe both.   

Still, the ten picks below are nevertheless highly worthy of being on an upper echelon quality list like this, and as I've tried to do every year in posting these annual compilations I aim for variety...and 2021 had a lot of it.  Of my TOP TEN there includes: a fantasy; a 20th Century Western; a deeply strange psychological drama (involving farm animals); another deeply strange psychological drama (involving gambling); a black and white shot coming of age drama; a black and white shot adaptaptation of Shakespeare; a revenge thriller; a young adult dramedy; a super hero blockbuster (a looooooong time in the coming); and a medieval drama.  And because I just can't put out a list of just ten great films, I also offer up a greater TOP 25 list to give honorable mentions to other work that just couldn't quite crack the TOP 10. 

One last note:  There remains a few films that I have not been afforded the opportunity to screen yet in Saskatoon as of the date of this blog's posting, namely LICORICE PIZZA, KING RICHARD, and LOST DAUGHTER.  I will endeavor to seek those out ASAP and if they warrant inclusion on this list...then watch for updates!

Oh, one more last note: 

2021 was really different year for movie releases and Oscar eligibility.  Some absolutely sensational offerings like NOMADLAND, MINARI, and THE FATHER - all of which became Academy Award nominated and winning darlings - either had limited release in late 2020 or early release within the first few months of 2021.  I screened these three too late for them to make my TEN BEST of 2020 blog, but feel that they've been discussed and dissected so much during the past awards season that it would feel odd to put them on this TEN BEST list.  And depending on who you talk to, some see them as 2021 offerings, whereas others perceive them as 2020 releases.  To avoid any confusion (or a feeling like I'm moving backwards into the past with these lists), I've opted to consider them in-limbo releases caught between this year's and last year's TEN BEST compilations and have decided not to list them at all here.  But are they amazing 4-star films?  Unquestionably, in my humble mind.   

So, let the accolades begin with my number one film of 2021 followed by 24 other highly worthy candidates:






My choice for the number one reason why you should have ran to the cinema last year was a no-brainer/zero hesitation one on my part. 

Writer/director David Lowery has had such an inordinately varied career thus far as a filmmaker.  Just look at his resume; his offerings could not be anymore different.  There's the low budget, slow burn horror drama A GHOST STORY or his wonderful fact-based period crime drama like THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN or the single best of the Disney live action remakes in PETE'S DRAGON (in my mind, one of the most overlooked family films of the last decade).  No one film of his is alike, and Lowery's THE GREEN KNIGHT once again proudly displayed him as a virtuoso directing talent that never seems to settle on genre status quos or comfort zones.  Loosely based on the 14th Century story poem SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT, Lowery's medieval fantasy here was such a hauntingly surreal and dreamlike experience to sit through.  Even though he maintained a level of faithfulness to the text, he nevertheless took a calculatingly bold decontructivist slant to all, and in the process made one of the most technically dazzling and hallucinatory fantasies in an awfully long time.  The folklore contained within this film is extremely well traveled as far as the movies go, but this is precisely what made Lowery's audacious creative handling here all the more fascinatingly complex and exhilarating.  And I simply love it when a director has the headstrong nerve and consummate skill to challenge my preconceived notions of the material in question.  Once I drank THE GREEN KNIGHT's Kool-Aid, so to speak, I was addictively hooked. 



Director Jane Campion re-emerged in 2021 to remind us all of her commanding might as a bravura storyteller with her stunning adaptation of Thomas Savage's 1967 novel THE POWER OF THE DOG.  

An early 20th Century, Montana set neo-Western (such an atypical time period for most examples of the genre), this Netflix produced drama - Campion's first film behind the camera in over a decade - was a supreme gamble and game of bait and switch.  THE POWER OF THE DOG started off as one kind of Western about the toxic nature of frontier masculinity, but then as the film slowly and surely washed over viewers it became something fundamentally different about lopsided power dynamics, combating deeply rooted urges, living in complete denial, and, most crucially, dishing out revenge in the most coldly unexpected and protracted ways.  With a ferociously empowered Benedict Cumberbatch (not everyone's ideal actor to be cast as a cowboy) giving one of his most richly textured and multi faceted performances of his storied career alongside Campion's passionate and keenly observant filmmaking eye, THE POWER OF THE DOG achieved the nearly impossible of subverting some of the most well worn and established troupes of one of the oldest of movie genres. 





3.  PIG

Writer/director Michael Sarnoski's PIG was the biggest cinematic Rorschach Test that I came across in all of 2021...and I mean that as a sincere compliment. 

It contained a premise that could have been the stuff of SNL sketch brainstorming sessions:  

Let's get legendary on-screen nutbar Nicolas Cage to play a hermit that was once a celebrated big city chef that goes on a JOHN WICK-inspired revenge spree to find the crooks that kidnapped his loyal and loving truffle-hunting pig.  

On paper, PIG sounds utterly daft, to be sure, but the most utterly astounding and masterful thing about Sarnoski's directorial debut here was that he trolled our very expectations of this cockamamie premise and instead delivered a hauntingly melancholic and frequently moving commentary on loneliness, isolation, odd friendships, and how people at the lowest fringes of society find highly unique ways to connect with others.  And Nicolas Cage here - in what could have easily (like, really easily) been yet another pathetic paycheck grabbing B-movie gig for him - gave one of his most layered and compelling performances in the latter stages of his troubled career.  As an intimate character study and descend into an unlikely heart of darkness of its subject matter, PIG completely defied the odds more than just about any other film of last year.  



Back in 2018 writer/director Paul Schrader's FIRST REFORMED made my list of the TEN BEST FILMS of that year; it was a faith-in-crisis drama about a man of the cloth that was being thrust down a dark chasm of complete emotional and spiritual breakdown.  The legendary TAXI DRIVER/RAGING BULL veteran screenwriter followed that up with THE CARD COUNTER in 2021, yet another searing and intoxicating psychological drama that honed in on the darker underbelly of a traumatized character that's trying to seek some form of personal salvation...even if it seems hopelessly and tragically out of reach. 

When Schrader is confidently in his wheelhouse and thrusts viewers into the headspaces of this deeply damaged personas then there's arguably no other filmmaker that is his equal.  Like TAXI DRIVER and FIRST REFORMED before it, Schrader's latest tipped itself off early on that it was going to be one type of film, but then radically changed course and segued into something altogether more profound.  Just as TAXI DRIVER was not just about cabbies or FIRST REFORMED was not just about men of the cloth, THE CARD COUNTER was about, yes, a card counting gambler, but it really emerged as something beyond casino life and instead served as a scathing commentary of America's post-9/11 political indiscretions and how the titular gambler in question was forever scarred by it.  And Schrader could not have found a better muse than Oscar Isaac, who gave such a potent career re-affirming performance here.  If you look past his more recognizable work in tentpole franchises like STAR WARS then you'll be treated to an incredible array of his undervalued performances in films like A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, EX MACHINA, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, and now this.  Schrader and Isaac went all in with THE CARD COUNTER and won big. 



I thought that celebrated actor/director Kenneth Branagh made one of the worst films of 2020 - and his career - with the woefully wrongheaded sci-fi adventure/HARRY POTTER wanna-be ARTEMIS FOWL, but in 2021 he roared back to creative heights with his stunningly well realized BELFAST, which represented a tour de force return to form for the Oscar winner. 

BELFAST was loosely based on and drawn upon Branagh's own experiences living as a child during the worst stages of The Troubles that gripped Northern Ireland for over three decades-plus.  Shot in luminous black and white and featuring a stunningly assured ensemble cast, Branagh's time capsule drama managed to capture the relative traumatizing horrors of the era in question and homogenized that with a touching and frequently amusing coming of age story of a young child that's trying as he can to process all of the madness and violence that taints his everyday life.  As a thoroughly intoxicating memoir into a dreadful period of this entho-nationalist conflict that ravaged a nation, BELFAST emerged as a must-see work from 2021, but beyond that it also served as a stirring and endearing love ballad to the powers of family and a community that worked together to make it through the nightmarish ordeals of the day.  



Anders Thomas Jensen's RIDERS OF JUSTICE was one stealthy curveball of a film.  It made viewers think that they were getting one type of conventional and predictable genre picture, but then it cunningly and sneakily pulled the rugs out from under all of our feet to deliver something refreshingly unique and original (this is definitely a trend on this list, eh?).  That's hard to pull off these days. 

On the most basic level, RIDERS OF JUSTICE is a DEATH WISH inspired revenge picture...or one that initially seems like it was made up of the spare parts of many DEATH WISH-inspired knock-offs.  It has the mentally scarred war hero that returns home after a tour of duty to a wife that has been killed by nefarious forces and means, which then leads to the combat grunt doing everything possible to seek bloody vengeance on the perpetrators.  Yes, this sounds so bare bones, but Jensen achieved the improbable here by twisting and turning genre troupes here, leaving the end result becoming a staggeringly effective - and unexpectedly hilarious at times - Danish revenge thriller that had a lot more on its mind than just sensationalistic barbarism.  And after his tour de force performances in ARTIC, ANOTHER ROUND, and now this if you still need a reminder as to why Mads Mikkelsen is such a tremendous talent of unlimited range...then...there's simply no helping you. 


7.  CODA

Nothing about CODA - at least on paper - was fresh or new.  

It was the kind of coming of age film that we've all seen so many times before.  You know the kind: A young and talented teenage girl that's trapped and feels suffocated by her small town and obligations to her eccentrically oddball family that has lofty career/education ambitions that most likely would take her well away from those that she loves.  Oh, and also thrown in are the quirky and no-nonsense teacher/mentor that nurtures the girl's talents, the hunky love interest, and, of course, the big obligatory final competition/audition that will serve as either a make or break moment for this young woman's future. 

So, why is this Apple Original Film on my list of the TEN BEST of 2021?   

It's not the perfunctory script that made CODA truly sing, but rather the highly unique viewfinder that writer/director Sian Heder used to look not only at this genre, but also her examination of the family unit in question.  CODA stands for child of deaf adults, and the lead heroine here (played in one of the best performances of the last twelve months that not enough people are talking about by Emilia Jones) is the only person with the ability to hear in her completely deaf family of maritime fishers.  The DNA of past coming of age films hovers over CODA, to be sure, but the genius of this drama was how it tweaked clichés and conventions.  Like 2020's best film in SOUND OF METAL, Heder's film was a rallying cry for inclusiveness and understanding of the deaf community in feature films.  The more I watched CODA the less conscious I became that it was about deaf characters.  The struggles of this family became as intimately relatable as any hearing enabled family.  As a work of dramatic empathy that allows viewers to walk a mile in a character's shoes despite not having their impairments, CODA emerges as an unqualified audience pleasing winner.    




Probably one of the most well publicized director's cuts of recent memory was ZACK SNYDER'S JUSTICE LEAGUE, and one with a deeply troubled production history that would make for a deeply compelling making of documentary all on its own.  

For those living under a rock, the first cut of JUSTICE LEAGUE back in 2017 was meant to be a massive event film launching point for the larger DCEU, and one that, by Snyder's admission, was so vast and sprawling that it would have required two entries to be released.  With the polarizing response to Snyder's last film before it in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, Warner Brothers balked: Not only did they want a lighter and more quippy film than what Snyder envisioned, but also a shorter one.  When personal tragedy struck Snyder, he left the project before completion, leaving Warner Brothers to hire AVENGERS helmer Joss Whedon to come in and "finish" JUSTICE LEAGUE, and by "finish" that meant reshooting reportedly 80-90% of Snyder's footage.  The rest was proverbial history, with the disjointed feeling JUSTICE LEAGUE being released to fan and critical backlash and major box office disappointment. 

Years later, a relative miracle happened.  

Snyder took to the convention circuit and revealed that he had his own cut of JUSTICE LEAGUE in the can, but that he needed time and capital to see it through to final fruition.  The "Release the Snyder Cut" social media movement ensued, all of which culminated in Warner Brothers - in a completely unprecedented move - giving Snyder the go-ahead to finish his passion super hero mash up project (and with a cool $80 million given to him to complete it).  His newly retooled JUSTICE LEAGUE triumphantly emerged as the real deal: A boldly uncompromising four hour cut that made for a legitimately - and infinitely more satisfying - viewing than Whedon's pinch hit effort, and one that gave these iconic DC heroes - and villains - the narrative scope and scale that they rightfully deserved.  Most importantly, ZACK SNYDER'S JUSTICE LEAGUE took calculated risks and gambles with the handling of the material, many of which we never see with most other pre-packaged assembly line sameness we get from that...well...other cinematic universe.  And for what it was worth, this represented a wholly triumphant follow-through on a once near mythologized promise from filmmaker that a longer, better, and more involved and complete version of this super hero squad's story was out there. 



If you're one of the Coen Brothers and you've decided to branch out all on your own as a solo director...then why not ambitiously aim your sights exceedingly high and adapt one of the most celebrated of all Shakespearian plays? 

That's precisely what Joel Coen did with his TRAGEDY OF MACBETH to mark his feature film directorial debut after decades of celebrated work with his equally famous sibling.   

William Shakespeare's plays have been literally adapted to death for as long as there have been movies, and MACBETH just recently had a rather stunningly visionary iteration from Justin Kurzel just a few years back.  This placed Coen - and just about anyone these days trying to helm yet another appropriation of The Bard's work - in a challenging position: How does one make these centuries-old plays that have seen the light of day in so many permutations over the years feel alive and fresh?  What he achieved here with THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH was indeed lean, mean, and stripped down (it ran at just over 100 minutes), but the end result of what was left in resulted in one of the more technically opulent and robustly confident treatments of this play that I've come across.  Shot in ominously gorgeous black and white (and in a square Academy ratio of 1.33:1) and completely on controlled sets, Coen and company gave this MACBETH a dreamlike, almost surreal atmosphere of dread (think Ingmar Bergman meets Fritz Lang and you kind of get the idea).  And getting two of the most celebrated actors of their generation in Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand to play the most famous corrupt power couple in all of fiction didn't hurt either.  As both an embarrassment of visual and performance riches, THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH emerged as one of the most memorable silver screen versions of Shakespeare in years...and one of 2021's most unmissible films



How's this for a cinematic cocktail:  

Combine director Ridley Scott with Oscar winning screenwriters Ben Affleck and Matt Damon to adapt Eric Jager's non-fiction historical novel concerning the final recognized judicial duel fought in 14th Century France. 

Yes, it seems like a highly odd movie marriage, indeed, but what made THE LAST DUEL one of last year's most dreadfully overlooked pictures was in just how compellingly told its story was as a RASHOMON styled medieval drama that ambitiously and intricately told a multi-perspective take on a most horrible wrong committed on a woman.  Scott is no stranger at all to quarterbacking lavishly epic productions that tap into the distant past (see his Best Picture winning GLADIATOR or his terribly underrated KINGDOM OF HEAVEN), but his overall approach to THE LAST DUEL - thanks to an intricately labyrinthine script by Damon, Affleck, and Nicole Holofcener - was more thanklessly subdued and internalized in focus.  This was a historical epic less steeped action and battlefield bloodshed (although it had elements of that) and instead shrewdly observed how 14th Century feudal norms that governed male/female relationships of its period kind of spoke towards similar societal ills today.  Damon and Affleck (also starring here) were reliably stalwart (especially Affleck, giving one of the finer portrayals of lecherous evil in many a moon), but THE LAST DUEL belonged to and was owned by newcomer Jodie Comer, who deserves serious awards season notices for playing a woman here that was tragically trapped by her times and with very few outlets of support 


  ...and now to round off my TEN BEST FILMS OF 2021 with my selections from 11-25:  

11. WEST SIDE STORY:   A gloriously realized and stupendously directed remake from Steven Spielberg that legitimately improved upon the original in multiple ways.   

12. PASSING:  Rebecca Hall made a superlative directorial debut with this beautifully shot black and white Netflix produced period drama based on the 1929 novel of the same name by Nella Larsen.

13. IN THE HEIGHTS:  HAMILTON may have established its creator Lin-Manuel Miranda in the public eye, but it was his other stage musical that came out before it that cemented his status, and this film adaptation of it was an exemplary piece of movie escapism and a conscious social drama all the same. 

14. A QUIET PLACE: PART II:IWriter/director John Krasinski made another dread-filled nerve-jangler here that served as a very worthy expansion of his pioneering original.  

15. VAL:  A thoroughly revealing and intoxicating Amazon Prime documentary about the career, life and times of actor Val Kilmer, astoundingly made up of thousands of hours of his home movie footage.  

16. I CARE A LOT:  This ultra pitch black comedy satire showcased Rosamund Pike in her best role since her Oscar nominated turn in GONE GIRL.  

17. THE GUILTY:  Jake Gyllenhaal proved yet again why he might be the best actor of his generation to have never won an Oscar with his tour de force performance in this taut minimalist Netflix thriller from director Antoine Fuqua.  

18. BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR:  One of the most sublimely uproarious and delightfully strange comedies of the year...and one that unfairly never found an audience.  

19. COWBOYS: This delicately rendered and authentically grounded portrayal of a kid struggling with identity norms was fantastic for how it completely subverted audience expectations. 

20. WRATH OF MAN:  Director Guy Ritchie got his creative groove back big time with this criminally underrated pulp fiction crime saga. 

21. OXYGENAn unnervingly effective Netflix sci-fi thriller that did a lot with its extremely claustrophobic, mostly one setting premise.

22. NOBODY:  The rather implausible stunt casting of 58-year-old Bob Odenkirk in this kick ass JOHN WICK clone managed to pay off handsomely. 

23. STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREETThis utterly engaging documentary proved to be an unapologetic love ballad to a ground breaking and never duplicated before or since children's TV series.

24. FALLING: Featuring career defining, tour de force work by Lance Henriksen in a very difficult and polarizing role, this Viggo Mortenson written and directed family drama (his filmmaking debut) was a tough, but memorable watch. 

25. THE HARDER THEY FALL:  The second best Netflix produced Western of the year also combated some of the more off-putting legacies of Western mythology, and to its esteemed credit it succeeded at challenging them. 

  Beyond my TOP 25, here's a further selection of films that are definitely worth seeing, but just not quite great enough to make the final cut:  

THE WORLD TO COME:  Romance tales of two lost souls being trapped by circumstance and time while embracing forbidden love seem are as old as the art form, but this historical LGBT period drama was told with graceful dramatic touches and was richly atmospheric. 

MY SALINGER YEAR:  Margaret Qualley truly shined in this fact-based coming of age drama based on the memoir of Joanna Rakoff, who worked at a literary agency in the 1990s that once represented the illusive J.T. Sallinger. 

FINCH:  Think equal parts TURNER AND HOOCH, CASTAWAY, SILENT RUNNING, THE ROAD, and I AM LEGEND, but with Tom Hanks, a cute doggie, and a self-aware robot; shockingly more charming than I was expecting.  

SHADOW IN THE CLOUD:  A spectacularly inane hodgepodge of divergent genres (the creature feature, the World War II men-on-a-mission thriller, the female empowerment action picture...and with equal parts of TWILIGHT ZONE) made for a fairly well oiled ride.

THE DIG:  An absorbing Netflix produced historical drama concerning one of the most important archeological findings in UK history. 

PENGUIN BLOOM:  This Australian/America Netflix produced drama about a tormented family that rescues and nurses a magpie back to life sounded preposterous on paper, but was sensitively acted and delved into worthy themes of shared grief and a unique forms of therapy. 

THE LITTLE THINGS:   Director John Lee Handcock's throwback serial killer/police procedural thriller had definitive echoes of past efforts like SEVEN.

PALMER:  This Apple original film heart tugger proved that star Justin Timberlake can be quite good when given the right material.

THE MAP OF TINY PERFECT THINGS:  Yet another in a long and recent line of time looping films, but this Amazon Prime effort utilized this well worn genre to fairly solid effect. 

SUPERNOVA:  A superbly touching drama that dealt with the debilitating effects that dementia has not only on the sufferer, but also on those caring and concerned family members that try to tend to the needs of the afflicted on a daily basis.  

PSYCHO GOREMAN:  You'll either be willing and game to take the plunge into this film's insanely madcap and schlocky rabbit simply won't.  I was glad I did. 

BOSS LEVEL:  Yet another time looping entry from the year that was, but this Joe Carnahan affair offered up some newfangled novelty and featured a decent turn from on-screen tough guy Frank Grillo

CONCRETE COWBOY:  Netlflix's modern day urban Western tapped into and utilized familiar genre conventions while also cleverly subverting them to their core.  

LAND:  Robin Wright's assured directorial debut proved that she has the soul of a natural filmmaker. 

ARMY OF THE DEAD:  This Zack Snyder directed and co-written spiritual sequel to his DAWN OF THE DEAD was an unpretentiously enjoyable freak show and carnival of horrors.

IN THE EARTH:  A brutally macabre and memorably efficient piece of low-budget horror filmmaking.

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH:  An impeccably acted historical drama that told the story of two men and their collision course in history and at a very crucial period for the American Civil Right's Movement.

THE DRY:  Eric Bana reminded us as to why he's such a quietly authoritative actor in this enthralling and tightly constructed slow-burn thriller from Down Under. 

RUN:  A super taut 89 minute thriller that found unexpectedly nifty ways of subverting the "mad fill-in-the-blank from hell" stalker genre. 

SKATER GIRL:  This Netflix made inspirational/overcoming all odds sports genre effort was quite winning in showing the transformative power of sports on the minds and spirits of today's youth

THE COURIER:  Dominic Cooke's historical spy thriller might have flown in under everyone's radars this past year, but it was satisfyingly engaging in an old school way. 

NO SUDDEN MOVE:  The once "retired" (riiiiiigggght) director Steven Soderbergh found himself submerging himself in familiar genre territory here, but he was so damn good at returning back to the well then you could hardly fault him for it.  

THE SUICIDE SQUAD:  This reboot/sequel - call it a rebootquel, I guess - of 2016's polarizing SUICIDE SQUAD (missing the THE) was a subversive delight thanks to James Gunn's esoteric DNA running wild throughout it. 

SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS:  An extremely rare kind of watershed event picture in the avenue of Asian representation not only in the MCU, but the blockbuster film world as a whole...and it was pretty damn good to boot.  

THE COLONY:  This German-Swiss post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller contained ambitious amounts of atmosphere and world building on a limited budget.

TIL DEATH:  Love her or hate her, but there's simply no denying that Megan Fox gave the most committed performance of her career in this ghastly minimalist horror thriller. 

DUNE:  A ferociously epic and thanklessly coherent adaptation of the once deemed unfilmable Frank Herbert sci-fi novel.

ARMY OF THIEVES:  This more grounded heist prequel to the more undead focused ARMY OF THE DEAD was stylishly made, hilarious in the right dosages, and made exquisite usage of its European locales.  

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE:  This long gestating third film in the GHOSTBUSTERS trilogy mostly achieved its almost impossibly lofty goals of revisiting much hallowed cinematic ground.

tick...tick...BOOM!: Lin-Manuel Miranda's feature film directorial debut with this Netflix musical was an affectionately rendered rallying cry salute to the dream makers of the stage that paved the way for so many others. 

THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS:  Yeah, this was probably a decade too late for its own good, but this fourth MATRIX outing displayed more daring ingenuity than most other committee led, cash grabbing legacy sequels out there.  

THE FRENCH DISPATCH: Wes Anderson was at his idiosyncratic best in terms of pure filmmaking craft with his latest comedy, but the human element frustratingly took a back seat at times.  

THE TENDER BARThis George Clooney directed/Amazon Prime produced coming of age period drama hit too many perfunctory and predictable notes, but Ben Affleck's wonderfully understated and awards worthy supporting work in didn't hit a false one.

LICORICE PIZZA:  Coming after his late career masterpiece in PHANTOM THREAD, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's latest was a bit of a qualitative step down for him, but nevertheless emerged as a compelling love ballad to the California of his youth as well as a thematically challenging coming of age romcom. - Added February 19, 2022





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