For a year like 2021, eligibility for “best of lists” is a bit of a tricky issue, so this top 10 is for any film that had any meaningful theatrical or premiere consumer distribution, more or less. Thanks again for Covid Xi Jinping.
1. Revolution of Our Times: I’ve seen a lot of Hong Kong Umbrella documentaries, but I was still shocked by the police brutality it documents and moved by the commitment of the democracy protesters.
2. Beijing Spring: Informative and surprisingly visually dynamic documentary on art, freedom, and oppression in early Deng-era China.
3. Bob Spit: Punk gets super-meta, but stays super-rude. Plus, its Brazilian.
4. Wife of a Spy: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s first real stab at legit Hitchcockian noir knocks it out of the park.
5. There is No Evil: Mohammad Rasoulof quietly but devastatingly indicts the Iranian [in]justice system.
6. PIG: Nic Cage gives understatement a try and lo & behold, it works.
7. Undine: Christian Petzold’s latest is mysterious and haunting in every sense of the words.
8. To What Remains: A moving tribute to the ultimate sacrifice of veterans and the continuing sacrifices their families keep making.
9. Boss Level: Total meathead entertainment, but also constantly inventive.
In the Same Breath: A brave early jolt of truth regarding the CCP’s Covid-cover-up, which came at a time when both China and the Western group-thinking media were determined to obscure the virus’s origins.
No.7 Cherry Lane: Questionable whether it truly qualifies, even under these loose eligibility guidelines, but it is a wonderfully sensitive animated portrait of a Hong Kong that now feels so far gone.
Needle in a Timestack: Any film that builds off the work of Robert Silverberg and Jeremy Steig is pretty darn cool.