The past few years have been strange for movies. With the limited access to theatres, many of this year’s best films hit VOD, streaming and other services. Even with these problems, 2021 was a fantastic year for cinema. With movies from this generation’s best directors and actors, there is no denying the talent on display on screens everywhere.
From the staggering achievement of Dune and the low-key charm of The French Dispatch, to the amazing revival of a classic with Candyman, 2021 had its fair share of great entertainment. With a great mix of indie and blockbuster, along with everything in between, it was hard to narrow down our selection and lock down the best of the year. Sadly, we needed to select a top movie of 2021, but it is hard to deny how deserving of your attention every choice on this list is.
Here are CGMs nominees for Best Movie 2021:
Writer: Brendan Frye
Dune is a book that has been notoriously hard to capture on the big screen. With failed adaptations that never got off the ground, television lacking the required budget, and the unique take by David Lynch, Dune has defined adaptation. This year at TIFF, Denis Villeneuve managed the delicate balancing act of bringing the subject material to the screen while offering new takes on age-old concepts, making one of the most beautiful science fiction films to date.
If you have ever loved science fiction, this is one not to miss. Even as just the first film in a series, Dune is a masterwork. Villeneuve has done the impossible, and brought Arrakis to life in a way that is faithful to the books while being something truly unique and special. Combined with a fantastic cast including Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Stellan Skarsgård, and Josh Brolin, and you have a winning combination.
Dune is a masterwork blending complex ideas and visual storytelling in a way that brings the world of Arrakis to life in a way I never thought possible.
Writer: Lindsay Traves
It’s not often I approach reviews in the first person. I, more often than not, come at the review from above, writing while facing downward: the objective plot summary and the opinion-based analysis. But sitting here, shivering even after running a lap, I can’t fathom discussing this feature without highlighting this emotional response. More than once, I wanted to puke. More than once, I shed tears. More than once, I screamed. For who? I don’t dare say his name.
Nia DaCosta’s take on this rich tale is nothing short of brilliant. Dare I say, a work of art that might slip off the fingers of Anthony? “Masterpiece” gets thrown around often, but it’s worth slapping on DaCosta’s opus. The combination of tragedy and scares is an assault on the emotions that left my own sensibilities completely obliterated. As the credits rolled beside a paper puppet show that further developed the myth, I struggled to avoid grabbing my phone to #TellEveryone about what I’d just seen, before remembering I’d said his name four times and deciding I better not.
DaCosta’s combined sensibilities and ability to craft a stunning horror movie with no shortage of deeper themes creates a tale of tragedy, haunts, and just enough hope. It becomes an assault on the emotions that makes the movie a horrific and worthwhile ride.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Writer: Clement Goh
Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings feels like the most authentic Marvel movie to date. Only because it uses its human talent to deliver a hefty family drama. Viewers are drawn deep into a superhero’s personal struggles—just as Stan Lee intended for other properties before. The result is one of Marvel’s deepest origin stories, steeped with Chinese identity. For added measure? Shang-Chi has some of the MCU’s most impressive fight scenes that are enough to tempt second viewers.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 25th major film benefits from experience. Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a creative blend of family drama. This helped Marvel craft an adventure film that pulls viewers into a refreshing new world. Each of Shang Chi’s Chinese cast are given a proper time to shine. Through a no-nonsense adaptation of Marvel Comics’ best fighter and bringing his special background to life.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings sets Marvel’s newest hero on an exciting adventure, fueled by a scene-stealing Mandarin and the best fights to date.
Writer: Chris Carter
To say too much about Pig would strip away the magic of your first viewing, but the premise is simple enough. Nic Cage is a reclusive truffle gatherer who lives in the woods with his truffle pig. After it’s taken from him, he attempts to get it back at any cost.
It’s very easy to think “oh, so it’s another John Wick-like film,” but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I mean, initially, that’s kind of what I assumed it would be! But writer/director Michael Sarnoski turns that notion on its head and adds a quiet beauty to Cage’s journey as Rob, with a great turn from Alex Wolff as his companion/loose business partner.
There’s a quiet beauty to Pig, which goes places no one expected it to, and actually sticks the landing.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
Writer: Lindsay Traves
If the enchantment of One Cut of the Dead left you warm and fuzzy about the magic of filmmaking, Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes will reignite your fire. This isn’t about stripping down the sci-fi epic, it’s about creating something that can exist in a small space using something as simple as a message from your future self. It’s much less Tenet than it is a full extension of the meticulously planned part in Bo Burnham’s video-within-a-video bit from Inside.
What starts as a silly gag with a brilliant math-and-science twist ends up being about faith and time as philosophical concepts. Even more impressive than the planning and execution of a complex time bit is the ability for the creators to weave in a deeper story about what time and the future means to the lead. That’s what keeps Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes a magical feat through the very end.
Coherence meets One Cut of the Dead, in this charming and brilliant science-fiction tale. The story is all math and science, but the filmmaking is magic.
The French Dispatch
Writer: Ridge Harripersad
Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch can be oversimplified as a comedy-drama anthology. After thinking about how the film was primarily shot in 4:3, it’s like Anderson slipped in a little cinematography joke with the numbers four and three. The choice to have the story be told like it’s supposed to be in a print magazine is evident from beginning to end, with titles popping on the screen such as “Obituaries”.
WThe storyline can also be thought of as a full-course meal, with the introduction offering a little olive tapenade appetizer, the three stories making up the confit de canard for the entrée and finally, for the dessert, crème brûlée for a sweet ending to tie the whole dining and viewing experience together. Alternatively, the three stories in The French Dispatch can be a three-piece meal made by three different chefs to deliver a delectable dining experience independently.
With The French Dispatch, Wes Anderson masterfully paints a splendid portrait of postmodern colours and stories that set precedent for the future history of journalism through cinematic delight.
Writer: Dayna Eileen
Tick, tick…Boom! is a rollercoaster ride. There is no better introduction for this review. The film starts off at full speed and doesn’t slow down for a second, pulling you to manic heights and depressive lows along the way.
There are a few videos going around about Garfield and Miranda and how this film came to be, with Garfield not being a singer prior to this role. It turns out, he has a voice that Musical Theatre will adore (though we could do without him rapping), and I sincerely hope to see more of him in roles like this. Lin-Manuel Miranda has yet another success on his hands with tick, tick…Boom! We are sure to hear about it with awards season coming, and I’m off to watch it again.
Starting with a bang, or maybe a Boom! Tick, tick…Boom! was captivating from beginning to end with stellar performances from all involved.
In the Heights
Writer: Maxance Vincent
In The Heights succeeds where some musicals fail: it never relies on the heart and soul of its performance to make the entire production work. Without heart, a movie like this could be considered “enjoyable”, without ever being anything more. It’s clear in Chu’s intentions that he not only wants to pay tribute to classic and imaginative musicals that came before, but he’s also able to make an adaptation his own film with intricately designed choreography, stunning and dynamic camerawork and poignant performances from its lead and supporting actors, with Olga Merediz stealing the show.
There is nothing this movie won’t do to remind audiences of the power of a big (big) screen and how it’s able to pull you in its story unlike any other; a privilege that few had access to over the past year. In the Heights is not only the best musical I’ve seen since La La Land, but the best film of the entire year and one to watch for this year’s awards season. Don’t miss it and see it on the biggest screen you can find (if done safely).
In the Heights reminds us what the big screen is made of, offering a visually vibrant musical to be experienced collectively on the biggest screen Imaginable.
Writer: Dayna Eileen
Sandra Bullock takes the lead in The Unforgivable as Ruth Slater, a convict who has spent 20 years in prison for killing a cop. Of course, nothing is quite that simple, but we follow her on her journey back into society and all the trials and tribulations that follow suit. We follow her through work, friendships and parole, but most importantly, Ruth left behind her five-year-old sister, Katie, when she went away.
The Unforgivable is a devastating film in the most meaningful way. It explores loss, fear, love, protection and new beginnings in really raw ways. Flawlessly acted, and beautifully written and directed, this is a film I don’t think I can watch again, and that is one of the biggest compliments I can give. There are no words for The Unforgivable, only feelings.
The Unforgivable is sure to be seen this award season. The performances, script and direction are perfection, and it will leave you shaken and smiling at the same time.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (Winner, Best Movie 2021)
Writer: Clement Goh
Spider-Man: No Way Home is one of the greatest films based on the iconic superhero. I go in without reservations—or spoilers—on what makes this latest Marvel flick such a blast. While Marvel sings a swan song for Peter Parker’s latest chapter in the bigger universe.
Somehow, the studio celebrates Spider-Man’s best qualities without compromising. Watts and other producers pull out all the stops in creating an impactful entry into the series. This is the closest thing to a closure viewers will get from two cliffhanging iterations of the wall-crawler. In the process, Spider-Man: No Way Home burrows deep into nostalgia while changing the way any film is presented.
Spider-Man: No Way Home doesn’t hold back in shaking up the MCU with lasting impact, even if it reminds audiences about what makes the wall-crawler so iconic.