Steve’s Favorite Films Watched In 2021
I love movies. In late 2019, I discovered the MUBI channel and subscribed. I have nothing against good mainstream Hollywood productions. I still feel it was criminal that Avengers Endgame was not recognized with a nomination – I’m at least half serious! More and more, via the MUBI channel I have watched mostly international films. The curation is excellent.
The benefit for me is that instead of watching actors you know very well as slightly different but familiar versions of themselves, when you watch actors you do not know, and in a language you do not know, the performance feels more authentic, natural, real. Below is a list of my favorite movies that I’ve watched from the past year or so. Not all of them are new, a few are decades old. These films are not perfect, many are deeply flawed, and yet all of them provided something to me that resonated. Instead of being entertained, they felt like art, they felt like an experience to think about some more after the viewing was over with.
I can understand where directors come from. Even a film we may see as flawed (Oh, that’s not one of their better ones …), to them was successful in something they were trying to put across. I feel there is value in trying to be open to that. Earlier this year there was a rather notorious New York Times editorial from Martin Scorsese discussing cinema vs franchise films, the gist being that Avengers Endgame is formulaic mainstream entertainment, while Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock, or Persona, by Ingmar Bergman, as examples, are unique film experiences. And that franchise films were becoming so much more popular than complex, artistic films that may not go down so easily, with resultantly fewer opportunities for viewing at the cinema.
While I saw some pushback that there was room for both, I think the real point that he was pursuing was that it is harder to create an artistic film of unique merit, the revenue numbers are so skewed in favor of mainstream movies today (artistic films do not create character replicas that are on cereal boxes and collectible figurines in stores sold as Christmas gifts), and because it is harder than ever to watch an artistic, non-mainstream film in a theater (aside from covid ramifications).
Years ago, many of the below films probably would have made it to several theaters in Atlanta. Today, nearly every theater plays the same 12-14 mainstream movies and it’s very difficult to find theaters to have a unique film experience on the big screen unless you live in New York City or Los Angeles. For that, I am grateful to the MUBI channel for reinforcing the merits of watching these types of films. While seeing films like this in theaters may not be a reality for many of us, being able to still see them at all is at least still on the table. (disclosure, I am not being compensated by the MUBI Channel in any way for this endorsement).
Regardless of all the above, my list is below, if you take the time to watch some of these and are open to a film experience that may not take you where you normally expect to be taken to, you’ll be rewarded. Needless to say, some of these have adult themes, etc. Everyone have a careful and enjoyable New Years Eve and best wishes for 2022!
Dog Lady, directed by Laura Citarella, Veronica, Llinas, Argentina
The Lighthouse, directed by Maria Saakyan, Russia
Long Farewells, directed by Kira Muratova, Russian
Bird Island, directed by Maya Kosa Sergio da Costa, Switzerland
Sivas, directed by Kaan Mujdeci, Turkey
Yourself and Yours, directed by Hong Sang-soo, South Korea
Woman on the Beach, directed by Hong Sang-soo, South Korea
For the Time Being, directed by Salka Tiziana, Germany, Spain
Monsieur Lazhar, directed by Philippe Falardeau, Canada
The Cloud in her Room, directed by Zheng Lu Xinyuan, China, Hong Kong
Treasure Island, directed by Guillaume Brac, France
A World Without Women, directed by Guillaume Brac, France
Wind, directed by Marcell Ivanyil, Hungary
Yellow Cat, directed by Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Kazakhstan, France
The Recorder Exam, directed by Kim Bora, South Korea
The Wall, directed by Julian Polsler, Austria, Germany
The First Lap, directed by Kim Dae-hwan, South Korea
In My Room, directed by Ulrich Kohler, Germany, Italy
Dear Son, directed by Mohamed ben Attia, Tunisia, Belgium
Cousin Jules, directed by Dominique Benicheti, France
20,000 Days On Earth, directed by Lain Forsyth, Jane Pollard, United Kingdom
Winter Nomads, directed by Manuel von Sturler, Switzerland
Azor, directed by Andreas Fontana, Switzerland
The Mirror, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, Russian