FILM REVIEW: The Best Films of 2021
January 6, 2022
In 2021, the box-office did not disappoint with outstanding films on the big screen and streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Apple TV +. Films like Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog, Denzel Washington's A Journal for Jordan, Ridley's Scott's House of Gucci, Aaron Sorkin's Being the Ricardos, Jeymes Samuel's The Harder They Fall and the Marvel Universe's first Asian superhero film Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings have made a variety of lists as they should. I wanted to use this list as an opportunity to elevate some films that may have been undervalued or overlooked for a variety of reasons including subject matter, perceived lack of star power, genre or release date. Check out some of the top films of 2021, some of which you may not have heard of and others you may not wish to forget as we head into 2022.
Looking for global Black love or remembering what being in love feels like? You've found it in this funny, heartwarming film that takes viewers from the Dirty South to South London. Inspired by writer, director, and star Aml Ameen's life, Boxing Day follows Melvin (Aml Ameen), a British writer and former soap opera star living in America, who returns home to London for Christmas to introduce his American fiancée, Lisa (Aja Naomi King), to his energetic British-Caribbean family. Their relationship is put to the test as she discovers the world her fiancée has left behind including a superstar former girlfriend named Georgia (Leigh-Ann Pinnock). Marianne Jean-Baptiste gives an endearing performance as Shirley, Melvin's mother who is getting her groove back following a painful heartache. Ameen and King show the magic that can happen when the Diaspora comes together in life and love.
If teamwork makes the dream work was a film, King Richard would be it. King Richard is the engrossing story of a father's determination to write his talented daughters into the sports history books, 78 pages at a time. Will Smith plays Richard Williams, the father who understands his daughters' greatness and the context in which they are living, from the moment they were born. Partnered with a dedicated and focused mother Oracene "Brandy" Williams played brilliantly by the white hot Aunjanue Ellis, the Williams family endeavors to take Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena Williams (Demi Singleton) to the top of a tennis world resistant to their presence or participation. Williams uses strategy, humility and confidence to engage legendary tennis coach Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn) who helps Venus hone her skills while Brandy literally keeps Serena in the game of life and tennis. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (Premature, Gun Hill Road) and executive produced by the Williams sisters and Smith, the film offers a humanistic view of Richard Williams as a loving father who makes sure two Black girls from Compton, can rewrite their destiny, rise to the highest heights and belong wherever they choose to be.
MY NAME IS PAULI MURRAY
The life of Rev. Pauli Murray is American history that is as important to the present as it is to the future. This documentary takes you on the journey of Murray, a non-binary African American woman, who was the first Black woman ordained as an Episcopalian priest and co-founder of the National Organization of Women (NOW). The filmmakers make plain that Murray lived many lives – a professor, lawyer, poet and activist - all of which changed the course of society for the better. Murray's legal theories were so brilliant and influential, Supreme Court justices Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg used them to win some of their most historic cases. This documentary offers few bells and whistles – simply Murray telling and extraordinary story of a fully evolved human being in pursuit of justice and happiness.
In the fourth installment of the Black horror cult classic Candyman (1992) Director Nia DaCosta takes viewers on a journey into the modern-day horror that is gentrification and police occupation in Trump's America. Against the backdrop of one of America's most storied housing projects Cabrini Green in Chicago, Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a visual artist, delves into an old tale about a murder in the housing projects. Anthony, who lives a bourgeois life with his lover Brianna (Teyonah Parris) who manages an art gallery, seeks inspiration for his latest painting in all the wrong places. Researching the story of what happened to Helen Lyle leads Anthony to roads less traveled and an introduction to Burke (Colman Domingo), a dry cleaner that holds many secrets. Written by DaCosta, Win Rosenfeld and horror maestro Jordan Peele, Candyman implicates all of the characters in the conjuring of this evil presence that refuses to die. With stunning visuals including art and cinematography and DaCosta's intelligent reimaging of who Candyman is and what created him, makes the film feel more like a psychological thriller than a slasher like its predecessors. Candyman offers a smart window into the precarious world in which we're living and why we should all be horrified.