2021’s theatre experience has been one of late arrivals and long wait times. The rest of the world got first-hand treats to many of the best movies, with us here in Aotearoa suffering the biggest lump of movie FOMO known to humankind. Yet with normality almost restored, you have no excuse to not catch what are my top 5 movies of the year.
5: Titane (Dir. Julia Ducournau)
Not one for queasy stomachs, Titane is the wildest and most confronting movie that I have witnessed. You really sense the boldness in the way the story slowly unfolds as every frame is beautiful to watch yet full of some of the grossest things you can think of. Many shocks come out of nowhere yet the film’s strength lies in its unpredictable journey full of strong performances that are so realistic it’s scary. Go in blind, but if you can’t handle the first 20 or so minutes then I really don’t know what else to do for you.
4: Spencer (Dir. Pablo Larrain)
From its opening shot alone, it’s clear to anyone watching that this is no normal biographical drama. In short, you can call this Kristen Stewart’s Oscar campaign flick (she really is that amazing), but the aftereffect of watching Spencer really sticks with you long after the credits roll. The beautiful camera work, blissful score and high tension mood unveil a movie about simply wanting to belong in a place that is constantly judging you. It’s a strongly confronting theme that only adds to Spencer’s already amazing strengths and its immersive spectacle.
3: The Green Knight (David Lowery)
If you’re a stickler for fantasy shenanigans, or you just want to see a bunch of beautiful beards, The Green Knight is more than happy to serve that and then some. This is an epic of dense and mesmerizing images that are totally immersive, and each actor’s performance is so in touch with everything that goes on around them. You will often be shocked, sad or blown away with the film’s genius presentation. So sit back and be transported in a world where belts mean a lot more for pleasure than you once thought.
2: Dune (Denis Villeneuve)
Call it personal bias for knowing the book like the back of my hand, but nothing seen in theatres comes close to that first viewing of Dune. Take the scale of last pick The Green Knight and explode it to a world that is so fresh, absorbing and somehow loyal to the source material. You’re totally gone from your seat while you watch this and every minute of its large runtime flies. It’s such a pleasure to watch an adaptation click, and Dune pushes every filmmaking button that it’s a crime to miss this in theatres.
1: Red Rocket (Sean Baker)
And to top it all off, we have the taught, deeply confronting look of lower class America from the angle of an ex-porn star? While that may sound ridiculous, Simon Rex’s performance is far from a joke and is easily the best of the star-studded year. The movie is also a visual and storytelling beast that immerses, shocks and is highly invigorating to watch with every second that passes. Never has small town life looked as fleshed out as this. Deeply tragic, but well worth the plunge into a masterwork of indie cinema.