Time for my fourth annual end-of-year awards for the best (and worst) of what I was watching. You know the drill: only movies released in the past year that I saw in the past year are eligible. And since I have to wait for most of the movies I see to come out on DVD, that means November and December usually have me sprinting to the finish trying to play catch-up. It also means that no movies with a theatrical release late in the year are likely to be in the mix.
I worked hard in the last few weeks and managed to catch 24 movies out of all that 2021 had to offer. That’s pretty good for me! Unfortunately, the moves I saw were . . . well, here’s this year’s stellar line-up.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
Don’t Breathe 2
The Forever Purge
Godzilla vs. Kong
Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard
Judas and the Black Messiah
The Little Things
A Quiet Place Part II
Space Jam: A New Legacy
The Suicide Squad
Those Who Wish Me Dead
Wrath of Man
As has become usual there are a lot of sequels and franchise entries. But does that mean they were all bad? Not quite.
Best Film: There wasn’t a lot I really loved this year. Most of the movies were generic trash, but they weren’t awful. Godzilla vs. Kong was a decent monster battle. Black Widow and The Suicide Squad were passable as superhero fare. But from this list I think Wrath of Man was the clear winner. It wasn’t a movie that broke any new ground, but was a solid heist picture that I thought was better for just staying in its groove.
Worst Film: This shaped up to be a tough category. Not because there were a lot of terrible movies but because most of the bad ones were just mediocre. Three movies stood out though as being awful. Space Jam: A New Legacy was basically just an ad for Warner Bros. and LeBron James, Inc. Cosmic Sin had Bruce Willis continuing to circle the drain, with the production values of an after-school special. And I probably had the most trouble finishing Voyagers, which was depressing and grim without being credible or original for a moment. I was leaning toward Cosmic Sin just because I think it’s clearly the “worst” movie I saw all year, but I found Space Jam: A New Legacy to be the most cynical and offensive (not to mention the most expensive) failure so I’ll go with it.
Best Actor: I thought Wrath of Man the best film I saw, but Jason Statham wasn’t up to much in it. Just another stone cold killer. Neither of the performances in the Oscar-bait Judas and the Black Messiah struck me as special. So I’ll give the award to Bob Odenkirk in Nobody for successfully playing against type and getting me to buy him as an action star.
Best Actress: In previous years women have outshone men in the acting department, and that by a wide margin. Not in 2021. Again it was mostly just stars playing cartoon characters. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn (again)? Emily Blunt as Indiana Jones? Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow (for the ninth time)? No thanks. But was Jodie Foster’s heroic lawyer in The Mauritanian any better? Not in my book. I guess Emma Stone was supposed to carry Cruella, but I thought she was outplayed by Emma Thompson throughout. So why not say Thompson then? I enjoyed her. So Emma Thompson in Cruella it is.
Best Screenplay: No point in carping again about the sorry state of today’s screenwriting. Since most of these movies were pure formula there wasn’t much for the writers to do but come up with a few jokes. But the jokes weren’t even any good. This surprised me a bit, since I thought there were people out there whose only job was to punch up a script with funny lines.
So let’s go out on a limb here with a dark horse candidate: Don’t Breathe 2. Not a great movie, but the way they took the original story and changed it up was something I respected, and the dark twist in the plot was suitably weird and upsetting. A couple of the kills showed a bit of imagination, and as for dialogue, how can you beat the Blind Man gouging out the eyes of his adversary while snarling “Now you’re gonna see what I see!” Are you not entertained? Well, look over that list and tell me who you thought did a better job.
Will 2022 be any better? Will I still be here? These questions will have to wait a year to be answered. Take care and Happy New Year!